Thursday, June 11, 2015

Love Letters Between My Daughter And Me

In February 2013, Focus On The Family, Singapore, asked me to write an article to offer parenting tips. I didn't feel qualified to do so. I felt that only my children could say whether I had been a good father. As such, instead of giving parenting tips, I wrote a love letter to my eldest daughter, Natalie, who was then 29 years old. After she read my draft, she decided to respond via a letter to her daddy.
With Michelle, Natalie & Samuel

The letters became the most popular reads and most shared articles on Focus' blog. Two years on, they remain as the top 3 most read articles.

As Father's Day draws near, I thought I could encourage fathers and children to turn their hearts to each other. For this reason, I am re-posting the two love letters here. The only change is that my darling princess has made me a grandfather in March this year.....our love for each other grows stronger still.

I hope that you will be lifted up and motivated to love more. 

Good lovers do have better chances of becoming good parents.


The Father's Letter 

Sentences in italics are added in this re-posting. 

My Darling Princess,

I vividly remember the day I laid my eyes on you for the very first time. 

You were not exactly attractive when we first met; you had mucus and blood all over your body. But I do remember that I had a good thought; I had never seen a more beautiful girl.  I was there to receive you when you came into this world. 

That was more than 30 years ago (it is more than 32 now).  

The memories of the times we spent together as you grew from a little baby uttering “dad-dad”, taking your first step, going to pre-school, graduating from the university, dating and finally tying the knot; they are still fresh in my mind.

I am proud to be your father. 
You ain't heavy, you're my princess.
That is not to say that we did not have any difficult times throughout your growing years. In fact, there were as many of those as we had the pleasures of being family. Such is life, the sky will never be always blue and thunderstorms are part of the ecological design. But most importantly, together we braved those storms. While we got ourselves drenched, we did well to come out of each of those storms well. I am glad that we are still enjoying the sunshine days, which has become the rule rather than the exception.

As a first time father, I did my best to care for you, teach and guide you along life’s paths. I made many mistakes because you were the guinea pig. But then, you were a fine specimen and I did not have to deviate too much from the many books I read about parenting. Still, I had to gingerly wade through those years of teaching and putting the values that I considered important, into your heart.

As soon as you had enough vocabulary to use, you asked endless streams of questions about why things were what they were and I tried to answer each and every one of those. Now, I am the one asking you the “whys”… and you have been patient answering me. Never once have you not wanted to teach me something that I had yet to learn of this new world.

A parenting book I read in your early years said that girls would grow up confident and possess self-respect if their father showed them love constantly. For that reason, I dated you often to let you know that you were so loved that you need not look for love elsewhere, until it was time for you to find the right man for your life. 

One day you came home from school crying uncontrollably because you found out that you could not get into the triple Science class for Secondary 3. Your hopes of becoming a doctor were dashed. I remember that I was there with you. My heart broke seeing your misery and I decided to see your principal. I had to humble myself and was prepared to “beg” her to reconsider the decision. I told her how much you wanted to be in the triple Science class as you had an ambition to be a doctor. She looked me in the eye and said, “Since I can see how much you and the family support her, I will make and exception. That class shall have 41 students instead of 40.”

I am so glad that you did not disappoint your principal or me – you were one of the top students for your O-Level exams. Though you did not go on to become a doctor, you did well in your Life Science studies.

We were close, so close that there was once a sales lady came up to us as we were walking with your hands on my arm, and asked if we wanted to consider buying a wedding photography session. You were only sixteen … I must have really looked young for her to mistake me for your boyfriend.

I remember the time when I used your graduation from JC as an excuse to buy you a ring to put on your middle finger. You suspected that I had another motive besides just celebrating your graduation. You were right. I specifically told you that as long as the ring remained on your middle finger, you had to stay chaste and keep yourself pure for your future husband on your wedding night.

A few years later when you were seriously dating, I reminded you to be virtuous and you “rebuked” me saying, “Dad, have some trust in yourself. You have taught me all those values over the years, surely I will keep them."
I am proud of you!

Five (seven) years ago, I pondered over the implications of answering the question, “Who gives this woman to be married?” that would be asked of me at your wedding. To put up my hand and answer, “I” meant giving up my rights over you. As soon as I gave my permission and blessing, you would become a wife to the man you have chosen. You would no longer be addressed as Miss Chan, but Mrs Goh.

It also meant that as much as you would continue to love me, from that moment on, you had to give your first love to my son-in-law. And we wouldn’t see each other daily, as you had to move to your own house.

I struggled. But I did the right thing. I raised my hand and said, “I give her to be married.
Finally my darling princess has become someone’s wife, and a daughter-in-law of his parents. I am so proud that your parents-in-law speak fondly of you as you pour your love to them and your husband. In that, I felt that I have left a worthy legacy.

During the years of  “father bringing up child and child bringing up father”, we made many mistakes. You could not understand why I had to ground you or insisted that you be home before a certain time at night. You argued but lost each time, you disagreed and cried and yet you abided by my rules. But finally, you understood. I am so glad that we learned to say sorry to each other and move on to a better day after.

Darling princess, continue to love and let love rule your speech, action and life. Be that noble and capable wife described in Proverbs 31. Now that you are a mother, work deliberately and consciously to bring your children up in the ways of the Lord - help each of them to live godly life. 

I love you, always and stronger still, especially now that I am the grandfather of your lovely boy. 


The Daughter's Response 

Dear Daddy,

You were the first man I ever knew and loved.  While I certainly do not remember meeting you in my blood filled, mucousy glory, I do remember a loving and patient father who was (and still is) always there for me, no matter what.  More importantly you were the first man I knew who would love me unconditionally, for who I am, in spite of what I do or say.

As a young child, I remember being very playful.  I never wanted to wear pants, choosing to run around the house in my t-shirt and underwear.  In an attempt to incentivize me (I’m sure you got it from the parenting books), you told me that if you came home and saw me wearing pants, you would give me a star.  Multiple stars would equate to a treat of my choice.

I never liked the idea of wearing pants but really loved the idea of having a treat.  Hence, I learned to recognize the sound of the gates opening and your car driving into the garage so that I would always have enough time to run upstairs, wear my pants and greet you with loving arms.  I suppose I wasn’t very honest then but I can truthfully tell you that one of the highlights of my day was running into your arms at the end of the day to greet you and give you a huge hug.

Your belief in incentivizing good behaviour continued even when I was in primary school. I remember your “treat” cards where if I behaved, I would get the opportunity to choose from a deck of cards with treats written on them.  It could be something as trivial as an ice-cream treat, to a day at the zoo, and the most awesome of all, any activity of my choice!

While these small but thoughtful gestures were highly appreciated, what I am most thankful for was the fact that you made the effort to spend quality time with me.  Thank you for the solo trips including that trip to the zoo (I still remember the picture with the organ utan), a boat ride along Singapore River with my brother (I still have the tickets!) and the daddy & daughter date to Disney on Ice (I still have that photo of us with Donald Duck)!

We had joy & fun in the sun!
I really enjoyed those precious moments and now, having grown up and having friends who have children of their own, I appreciate your efforts even more as I now know that it takes a lot of courage and effort for fathers to agree to bring their children out, alone (with no maid and no wife). Not all fathers (that I know of) bothered to do that but you did.

I now tell my husband that when we do have children, he must be comfortable with spending quality time with our children, with me or without me.

I am truly thankful for holding closely to the belief that girls would grow up confident and possess self-respect if their father showed them love constantly.  I truly believe that I am the woman I am today, the woman that my husband loves so deeply because of the time and effort that you have spent on me.

More importantly, you taught me the importance of owning up and having the security to admit that I am in the wrong.  You were one of the rare parents who were actually comfortable with apologizing to a young 12-year-old girl when you were in the wrong.  Most of my friends’ parent refused to admit they were wrong or even apologize because “I am your parent”.  

I believe that it was values like these, and others, which have enabled me to be successful in my career today.   

Thank you for making the effort to invest your time, prayers and love in me.  I am truly where I am today because of the love that both you and mummy have showered on me.  You can say that you have a legacy in me (not just my values but my mustache too!) =)
Passing on values to the next gen!
Lastly, thank you for the sweet letter and for being my father.  I cried when I read it because I know that life on earth is temporal.  And the thought that you and mum will one day no longer be around never fails to bring tears to my eyes.  But I know that at least we can all one day reunite in heaven again.  While this part sounds like an eulogy, I figured that it makes more sense telling you such things when you are alive rather than doing so when you are no longer there to hear it.

I love you.


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