Jun 15, 2018

Being a Dad or a Father: What's the Difference?

With Father's Day around the corner, it got me thinking:

What is the difference between being a Father and a Dad?

Both titles may mean the same thing on surface - Both Father and Dad go to work to provide for their families. Both of them play, talk and discipline their kids. Both of them bring their families out to the malls, parks and try their best to bring them on holiday trips.

But yet, there is a difference... because if Dad and Father were the same, why then bother with separate words?

Personally, the word "Father" sounds more formal and serious. When you fill out a form, it is always "Father’s Name' or if a kid gets in trouble, it is always "Wait till your father gets home”. In fact, the term describes more of a biological role than a relationship. Fathers need only contribute the biological components necessary to produce the child.

A father doesn’t need to be present to have a child.

A father doesn’t need to be present to be a father.

Dad (or Papa), on the other hand, conjures up the element of fun. Being a dad means being in a relationship that spans time. Being a dad is a position of responsibility, one who is the role model and contributes to the life, growth and feelings of his child. Being a dad means being there for them, in good and bad times, physically and spiritually and even beyond in memories.

Because anyone can be a father.

But being a Dad?

One can only truly become a dad with years and years of hard work, commitment, sacrifice, love and action.

For me, even before I assumed the title of ‘Dad’, I had resolved to be there for my children wherever and whenever I could. From diaper-changing, bathing to playing and putting them to sleep, I was there. And I can tell you it was well worth it for sure.

I still recall the time when I had asked a then 5-year-old Ale to practice writing her numbers and while she did complete her task, she gave me an added bonus.

Obviously, she did not have to practice anymore after that. Heh.

Of course, life does change after children but I have found that the delight that comes with being a Dad to three monkies far outweigh the sacrifices. The first time they grab my finger, smile at me, take the first step, say the first word and then “I love you,” write their name, go to school, sing the alphabet, use the potty and many, many others. If someone were to tell me before the birth of my children that I would willingly change clothes for Barbie, serve tea to Hello Kitty, Dora and my daughter, I would have LOL-ed.

Today, I do all of that willingly because I am a Dad.

Because being a Dad enriches me, and makes me learn something new every day…even those from my own monkies.

When I hear music I love, I self-consciously sit still to listen as I will probably be too embarrassed should I go out of tune, or rhythm should I sing and dance. My monkies love to sing and boogie to the music, and even if they don't know the lyrics, they make up their own words.

When I see a puddle, I go around it. I see wet shoes and dirty carpets in my car. My monkies jump into it. They create splashes, get their shoes wet and squeal with laughter. Because it is harmless fun.

When I find empty cardboard boxes lying around in the storeroom, I see piles of junk and envision cockroaches having a field day scurrying through them. My monkies see tons of fantastic art and craft materials and celebrate these little things in life as the best days in their lives. Ever.

When I feel wind on my face, I feel it messing up my hair and making my eyes squint when I walk. My monkies close their eyes, spread their arms and fly with it.

When I see a pile of twigs lying in the park, I see ants, dirty hands and accidental poking of one's eyes. My monkies see swords, guns and other creative stuff one can only imagine.

When I hold my monkies' hands, usually it is because we are crossing the road or in a crowded place. My monkies simply long for the sense of comfort felt through the touch of someone's hand.

Truth is, I am often humbled by the lessons that my monkies dish out. They stop me in my tracks, make me appreciate the moments in life and remind me to embrace the relationships and all other blessings that come along with it.

So what does being a Dad mean to you?
To me, it is all of the following:

A Dad smiles in the face of adversity. Even though he hasn't put on his running shoes in years, let alone run 800m. Even though he will pant and run after you like a bumbling elephant past herds of children. Because you ask him to.

A Dad does not always know the best or the right way to do things. In fact, his way is downright embarrassing sometimes. But he is always there to figure it out together with you. Because you expect him to.

A Dad makes the difficult look so easy. He may be in pain or just plain wilting in the heat, but he will put on a facial expression that makes him look like the coolest and meanest cowboy on this planet. Because you inspire him to.

A Dad gives you a little push, picks you up when you are down and carries you up on his shoulders - despite his aching back. He is always there for you. Because you need him to.

A Dad wants other people to ask his child, “What on earth does your dad do for a living? How is it that he can be at school to watch you perform every time? How can he drop you off at school every day? How can he bring you out to places every weekend? Doesn’t he have to work?”

For the record, I do have to work.

But being a Dad is work too. It is hard work, but it is rewarding work.

Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there who get the job done, grit their teeth and wait till the kids are asleep to apply the Deep Heat cream.

You guys are awesome!

This post was written in partnership with Hey Baby SG.

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