Father, Dad, Papa, Pater - helping boys become good men

September 2, 2022
father showing son something on mountain
end of life planning
anticipate life
supporting others
Paul Kamarudin

Fathers... we can’t get here without them!

As we head towards the next Father’s Day, I reflect on the last one. Our younger boy (lad? young man? him? he is 19) came to visit and we headed out for lunch together. As far as Father’s Days go, I would rate this, a good one, four stars. And why? Well, I got a hug, without prompting, for starters and that always makes those times feel special. My other son and I are going through a strained phase at the moment. But I was happy to hear from his mum, that he had had a good day being a dad to his son, my grandson. I love both our boys and I hope they both know I am, and will always, be here for them.

Father’s Day...where did it originate and why? There doesn’t seem to be one person or place that created this celebratory day. I like the idea that many people and countries came up with the idea of recognising the importance of paternal bonds and the contributions of Fathers to society. It’s now a day observed by more than 111 countries worldwide.

The celebration of Father's Day reminds us about both the importance and the challenges of fatherhood.

Life and relationships never seem to travel a straight line between sons and fathers.

We all have fond, and not so fond, memories of our fathers. I can distinctly remember the smell of my dad cooking omelettes for breakfast. A little onion and sweet chilli sauce. MMmm, a heavenly scent to a kid, like me. In fact, my fondest memories are of my dad and food. It was one of those loves, we shared in common. Going to the stalls on the roadside in Malaysia for some noodles between meals. Or even after dinner, with the unspoken rule that we would not tell Mum. And then there was playing squash, or kicking the soccer ball, with Dad. However, not all memories are awesome. But unless this post is taking over from my shrink, I won’t go into details.

My parents got divorced when I was in my early teens. My mum raised us on her own from that point on and in reality, probably, for a few years before. I remember one year, we gave Mum a Father’s Day card as a joke, but it wasn’t far from the truth that she tried to be both, mother and father, to us. That said, I believe, having male role models is important. It helps guide boys to be good men, offering good, solid advice, teaching tolerance and acceptance.

When I think back, I had other father figures that took over the role, knowingly or not. Mr R was a close family friend, who would not hesitate to correct me or attempt to steer me in the right direction. My mum remarried when I was in my late twenties. I count my stepdad as someone else, who also tried to be a good role model and offer advice. These two men deserve some credit for how I turned out.

As I grew up, I discovered my dad had faults. But I found as I got older, the faults became less annoying and I saw the person, who, whilst not perfect, ultimately did care about us. At times, he may have had a strange way of showing it, but he tried, and for that I am grateful. There is no instruction manual for fathers and each person just has to do the best they can. I find I come up short myself sometimes and resort to googling when I’m not sure what to do. I might not have been the best Dad in the world but I keep trying. Persistence is one thing I learnt from my dad.

My dad and I stayed in contact, but, of course, life gets in the way. I was just flying back to Australia from work in Africa, when I got the phone call. Four flights later I was at his bedside. My immediate memory was of the last exchange we had had. Harsh words, stupid words. Meaningless words, that I sat there, apologising for. Thinking I should have rung and sorted it out before. To this day, I like to think he heard me before he passed.

What is there that we try to impart to our kids as fathers? I remember sitting at a school function around a campfire and distinctly hearing one son tell me that he loved me, as a dad, because I came to watch him play hockey. Not sure if that is a low bar or he was just young at the time and put on the spot. I am sure if I asked, I would get different answers from the boys. I like to think it is to be nice to people, be considerate. Look on the lighter side and not take life too seriously. Being tolerant and accepting of differences. Oh, and maybe sports? Isn’t that what being a dad is about - playing squash, kicking a soccer ball, and watching hockey?