The Things Your Dad Does

We Were All Kids Once

Dear Xander,

As you may have experienced by now, your dad isn’t perfect. I mean, sure, I have some level of authority on certain issues. Like how you need to eat over your bowl so if bits of your food drop out of your spoon/fork/mouth, the bowl will catch it and you can try again. Or if you’re going to bounce a ball in the living room, don’t hit the TV, or your mum, or for heaven’s sake, don’t aim for between my legs.

You know, that kinda thing.

But your dad was a kid once, too. And kids sometimes learn things the hard way, or they learn how to get away with learning things (which in itself is a very handy skill for working smart). Your dad’s done his fair share of both:

  • When I was in Primary 5, I was called up to stage by my discipline master during an assembly hall talk for talking too loudly and making a nuisance. After I got on stage, he took out a metre-long wooden ruler intending to carry out an impromptu public caning on me as punishment. I realised what was happening, and proceeded to run all over the stage with him chasing me for a good 2 minutes until he gave up and shouted at me to sit back down with my class. I no longer know nor recognise any of my primary schoolmates, but from the number of encounters I have with some of them, they sure do remember me.
  • By the time I was in my 3rd year of secondary school education, I had a chain of crushes for a grand total of 23 times, with a plethora of girls I never had the guts to say hi to.
  • I once tried skateboarding down a 30-metre road on a 25-degree slope on my way to school. I didn’t make it to school that day.
  • When I was doing my A-levels, I would always reach school between 9.30am-11am; school starts at 7am. I’d avoid the discipline master by jumping across a large canal that flanked the right side of the school, and then scale a 3-metre high wire fence to get in. One time, I got noticed by a class on the 3rd floor as I was climbing the fence, and didn’t know I was being watched until I dismounted – I was suddenly given a round of applause by the entire class watching me from their classroom window – together with their teacher.
  • When I was still living with my parents, I once had to hide my girlfriend in my wardrobe after she spent the night in my room because I didn’t want your grandparents to find out I was dating a girl. Your grandparents found out anyway.
  • In my secondary school graduating year, our English teacher made us keep a journal of our daily experiences which she would mark at the end of every week. I made more than a few entries describing my English teacher in many colorful terms of endearment, as “uptight”, “sorry excuse for a human being” and a “spawn of Satan”. One week my English teacher called me up to her office and said she read everything – and loved it. She made it her mission to groom me in speaking, writing and thinking in English.

Sometimes we might forget you’re just a kid – you are just growing up so fast – and kids can do things that are stupid, brash, and unthinkable. Sometimes we forget that we were once kids, too. I can’t quite speak for your mum (you and I both know she’s always right, right?), but I know I’ve done stupid, brash and unthinkable things before.

But you know what? It’s okay to be stupid. It’s okay to be brash. It’s okay to do the unthinkable. It’s taken your father 34 years to realise that this is a learning process we’ve all experienced, are still going through now, and if we’re fortunate, never grow out of. Because if we survive, we can learn from our mistakes, become more courageous with every leap of faith, and when we set out to do the unthinkable, more often than not we can end up achieving the impossible.

Enjoy your childhood,



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