My princes and I
THIS diaper brand is much cheaper ... change the milk powder if it’s not suitable but mother’s milk is always the best....” Do these statements sound familiar? Uttered by mothers?
Well, welcome to the new millennium, where modern fathers are also frequently saying all this. I am one of them – a 33-year-old father of two boys. Life as a father nowadays is totally different from my father’s and grandfather’s time. Less common are the babies who are being tended solely by their mothers, or grandparents who live with the family to care for their grandchildren.
Having relocated from my hometown in Taiping, Perak, and started my career and family in Selangor, I am finding life as a father very different and not easy as compared to those days. In these more challenging times, both my wife and I go to work and the responsibility to jaga anak (mind the child) lies not only with her.
To be fair to my wife, she has already done the most wonderful thing for me – giving birth to my two princes, Shen Jie and Shen Hao, who are three years apart. The first few months after they were born was such a joyful and exciting time that everything revolved around them.
When we first became parents in 2007, we were so not used to the changes in our lives and tried our best to cope with them. We neither had the luxury of our parents living with us and guiding us nor a live-in maid to help out.
The first six months was quite a breeze for me as my wife breastfed the kids. I did, however, hung around to assist her in changing their nappies and bathing them.
My challenging fatherhood actually began when the six months were over and the babies Here’s a guy who embraces modern fatherhood with all his heart. were switched from breast to bottle. That was when I had to wake for my “part-time bartending” every three hours at night. To get up at some unearthly hour to prepare milk was tough. But in no time I got used to the routine.
Once when my grandmother saw me feeding my son she was startled. To her, it should have been a wife’s duty. I had to explain that the kids belong to both of us and I am obliged to share our parenting tasks.
It was fun seeing my firstborn, Shen Jie, grow although as he grew, he also became more cheeky and mischievous.
Soon, he was picking up words, habits, languages and stunts from people around him. When we first sent him to the nursery, he could only speak Hokkien and a little English. Now, not only does he still know his Hokkien, he has mastered English, loves Chinese and started to learn Bahasa Malaysia.
Our biggest challenge is to teach him to be polite and respectful of the elders. While he obediently greeted people when he was two years old, now he is a feisty and independent-minded four-year-old who’ll beat his younger brother when jealousy gets the better of him.
The challenge gets tougher when I have to confront both of them at home after work. I must admit that the pressure at work does sometimes cloud my decisions towards the kids. Fortunately, my wife is around to keep the situation under control.
Despite my anger towards Shen Jie, I never forget that it is my responsibility to guide, educate, nurture, love and take care of him. When he fell sick and appeared uncomfortable and weak, I’d wish that he was his active self.
It would be very interesting next to see how I am going to cope with two Hokkien-speaking kids by the time his brother Shen Hao is three years old!