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 nearly 30 years ago.
The memories of the times we spent together as you grew from a little baby uttering “dad-dad”, to 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.
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 pleasure 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 our utmost to come out of each of those storms well. I am glad we are still enjoying the sunshine days, which have 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 to put the values 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 them. Now, I am the one asking you the “whys”… and you have been patient with your answers. Never once have you not wanted to teach me something 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 being there with you. My heart broke seeing your misery, and I decided to see your principal. I humbled 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 because of your 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 an 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 package. 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.”
Three 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 my hand up 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 because 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 on 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 insist 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 moved on to better days 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.
I love you, always!