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Martin Julian Sathivadivel with his young son Thaddeus Yeshua Martin Julian. Photo courtesy of: Martin Julian Sathivadivel

Joys, fears and tears of fatherhood

JUNE 19, 2020: He’s the guy who pays the bills, fixes a leaking faucet, and kills cockroaches, rats in the house. His shoulder carry the burden of raising a family, his arms comfort his children, and in his heart he stores the memories of beautiful moments spent with them. He is a father and fatherhood is a gift from God.

To commemorate Father’s Day, we asked fathers who are Catholics on what being a father meant to them and these are their heartfelt responses.

We’ll start with Martin Julian Sathivadivel who wrote this for his young son Thaddeus Yeshua Martin Julian:

I LOOK FORWARD TO FATHER’S DAY AND WAKING UP EVERY MORNING BECAUSE OF YOU. You give me so much reason to love. Better yet, you give me so much more reason to live.

From the way you curl up and rest your head against my chest while drinking from the bottle, to the way you coo and converse with me in your beautiful babbling. Even if you don’t smile when you’re awake. In fact, you even carry a mean frown that pops up at random times.

But you make my everyday special in your own little way. Just like when you smiled back in all your gummy, unbridled glory when I said in parentese how much your mum and I love you.

I will support you in your interests and endeavours, whether that’s attending your first recital or cheering you on in a football game (no promises I won’t get over-passionate, though). I will endure your anger when I stick to my guns even though you think you know better. I will proudly tell my neighbours, other diners at the hawker centre, or anyone who’s willing to listen to stories on all of the things you have accomplished. I will celebrate you in everything you do because you are the light that reminds me of all that is good in my life, and in this world.

Until then, let me celebrate this Father’s Day a day that would not be for me, if not for you. You may be too young to actively gift me anything but even when you’ve grown, know that even if you do not get me anything, having you as my child is more than enough. No father has ever had a better gift. I love you because you are my child. And because you are my child that I can be a father. I cannot promise that I will be the best, but for you, my child, I’ll do and give my best.

This is from a loving father who wishes to remain anonymous:

On this year’s Father’s Day I would like to reminisce the blessings I had received over the years as a father. When my wife conceived and gave birth to a daughter 11 months after our marriage, I was delighted and excited to behold and carry this little bundle of joy. However, my wife and I, as new parents without any experience, had to learn a lot about childcare. We bought a book on childcare written by Dr. Spock which was popular at that time. However, later I realized that we cannot just depend on what we read from books but in real life we have to go through and learn from our own experiences.

As our daughter was growing up she often had fever due to tonsillitis. Each time my wife and I were so worried and brought her to see a pediatrician who became my friend. His advice was that in order to overcome our anxiety in caring for an only child, we should have more children. So we prayed for addition to the family but my wife did not conceive again. However, God answered our prayers in His own way. Instead we were given the opportunity to adopt a new-born baby from a financially distressed family.

So we went through another round of caring for a baby. We had to give a lot of attention to the new arrival which was not fully anticipated. So much so I was a bit worried that our own girl might resent that out of jealousy. Nevertheless I told her that our love for both of them would not be “divided” but instead be “multiplied”. Fortunately she was very sensible and loved her adopted sister as much as we loved her.

Now over the years both of them have grown up and are successful in their careers. The love among us in the family have also developed. On this Fathers’ Day I want to thank God for the many blessings he has showered upon us. I also would like to wish all fathers “Happy Father’s Day”.

Peter Barnabas wrote about his experience and how the Movement Control Order brought his family closer:

Being a father for the first time brought joy and happiness to me. We got our first child – a girl after waiting for four years (we got married in 2009). Four years of waiting in distress for being childless turned into joy when our first girl arrived on Jan 16, 2013. The second child, a boy, came immediately in the following year on May 2, 2014.

The joy and happiness that come from having children who are your own flesh and blood, and loving them is immeasurable. You can love them all you want. I also witness their love when we see them happy for the things which we have bought for them and they come and say thank you. Also we gain respect from other married couples when we have children of our own.

There is life in the house when you see your children playing. There is never a dull moment when the children are in the house or when we go out somewhere.

One of the most memorable moments was actually during the lockdown period when all of us were stuck in our homes. This period turned out memorable because I actually taught them some of the board/card games which i happen to keep with me for a long time. So I taught them the card game UNO, board games such as carrom and Chinese checkers. My wife, my kids and I played as a family for the first time and enjoyed it very much. It would have been a very boring and depressing time for me and my children if not for the board games/card games.

One of the biggest challenges is disciplining our children when they are naughty or have not done their homework. When to punish and when not to punish. Cost of living and medical expenses for our children is another challenge. Medical insurance for children is not cheap nowadays. Medical and life insurance for the whole family comes to almost RM1,000. Other expenditures include food and tuition fees.

But the most important thing is to teach my children about our Catholic faith. As we worry about out daily financial hardships and challenges, we sometimes neglect the Catholic faith which is of utmost importance, especially during the lockdown season when going to church is prohibited. 

I learned that children treasure both their father and mother very much. Children are most disturbed or distressed when their parents quarrel in front of them. My daughter is the one who will try to unite us parents when we quarrel. 

Children learn by observing their parents. A good example is when my car broke down. I started to pray and and waited for a while in silence. After a few minutes I turned on the ignition switch and the car started. Later I asked my son if he was sleeping when the car couldn’t start. He said no and he said he saw me praying. So this is a very good example for him as children will learn to pray when faced with hardship. 

Children learn to pray much faster and better when we pray as a family daily. This was true especially during the lockdown period when we prayed the rosary together as a family everyday. Children learn from their parents. Also we can correct them instantly when they are praying wrongly.

For some fathers like this one, there are still some unresolved matters:

Mine is a long-drawn and complicated Fatherhood. One girl aged 24 from my earlier marriage that ended rather disastrously and two younger ones aged 11 and 9 from my current marriage made in heaven, but which has taught me mixed lessons I thought I was smart enough to handle.

I am an old-school type of fellow who thought there were sure guidelines in parenting and assumed the rod was the way to go in disciplining and asserting authority over children. In the early days I used to “raise my voice” to as my older girl was growing, if she went out of line and even had smacked her a couple of times in her teenage years thinking that was the way to make a statement to show who was “boss of the house” a stupid mistake I shall regret all my life because about that time my marriage was on the rocks. Perhaps it was a pent-up frustration of all that was going wrong in our home that I resorted to punishing my eldest. How wrong I was cos from then on my daughter withdrew herself and avoided me any time from the many carefree chatter and hugs we used to have since she was knee high.

When the split actually happened a year later, I had lost her completely, only to be greeted occasionally first with short small talk and pleasantries and as the months turned to years she started with WhatsApp greetings and messages. I now know I had failed her both physically as a parent and emotionally not understanding her completely in her teenage struggle for attention. She’s all grown up now and lives on her own and has done everything without my consent and perhaps it is her way to getting back to me in punishing me for not being there for her all these years. Now its my turn to seek her attention. I still try.   

Regrets is for those who repeat. I hope I won’t make that same mistake with my two younger ones. I sometimes feel guilty of the way I treat these younger two, wishing I had had the sense to do it right with my eldest but this time there is no guidelines and rods to yield that I care to follow. I learned to hug them more often and love them but most of all I learned to listen to them and allow them to ask me anything without fear.   

A father from Kuala Lumpur who wishes to remain anonymous expressed himself through prose and poetry:

There is a diversity of thoughts in the privilege of being a father, It is incomprehensible in encapsulation of words and almost indecipherable. A son or daughter is a priceless, and a father is nothingness in comparison. One will insensibly, irrationally, and illogically abandon and forsake all that he has or will ever be, for his real treasure who one is, what one is and what one will be. It is a reckless love, to love another more than one’s own life. I have to break my life that another’s life may be more complete.

The spiritual awareness that one has an entrustment of gifts- as such one is a life debtor, knowing that each child’s life is un-repayable gift. There are snippets of life experiences at various times that are offered in this sharing. There are waters of thoughts pouring out from a father’s soul in moments described:

For a Father
The greatest Discovery and Adventure
Is not travel to an exotic land
But meaningful immersion
In the magnificent treasure
Of the immortal magic of a child
Running free and unencumbered
Not chained by any weight
Of unrealistic expectations.

A father will challenge and combat his offspring
“Do you exist for an impenetrable love that cannot be breached by arguments of rational and is beyond any opinions of conceivable logic? “

A father’s thoughts on a irrepressible mischievous daughter
Is it not such a delight
When you are tearing and twisting
Through the house, helter skelter
Leaping and running recklessly
Unrestrained like a tornado
With confidence, carefreeness
And joyfulness without
A shred of concern for the future.

Is it not such a marvellous thing
To experience your irrepressible spirit
In your bravado, defiance and face pulling
Throwing the gauntlet of love
To love you as you are.

A father’s advice on how to address the youngest
Some families will use
The strength of discipline
Which is force and submission
On fears account which
Destroys the mind and breaks
The spirit of the soul.
It is far better that she is
A nasty little imp, gremlin and goblin
That needs to be taught, touched
And shaped in a different way
With patience and perseverance.

A father’s counsel and exchange with his young daughter
The memory in the treasure of our love
May be the last feeling and thought
In the parting of the dying
Who will be incontestably blessed with
Such Immeasurable and immense love
To not even feel or know the
Sting and fear of deaths passage
As this fearless unconquerable love
Vanquishes, destroys and decimates
In defiance and deference even death.
WILL YOU BE THIS LOVE? MY LOVE?

A father’s thought seeing his daughter in a hospital bed
I am witnessing a withered and wasted life
Abandoned and forsaken
To the wilderness of the world
To survive in a barren desert devoid of dreams
Yet I her father nailed by sorrow
Must in spiritual defiance
Smile for her

We wish all fathers a Blessed Father’s Day.