To be a great leader, we must first learn to be a great follower. Likewise, to be a great dad, we must first learn to be a great son. What if we don’t have a great leader or a great dad to emulate? Then, it’s important that we seek a mentor who can be a ‘father’ figure to mentor us into maturity. Very few can become great on their own without the positive influence of a good father figure. The harmful psychological effects of the absent father are many, such as depression, crime, suicidal leanings, drug use, low self-esteem, quick temper and poor performance in school.[1]

In this article, I would like to shed some light on my own journey of learning to be a great son to my dad. I left my hometown, Sibu, Sarawak, East Malaysia at the young age of 16 to further my studies in Australia. Since then, I have been living on my own. My birth father was with me only during the first 16 years of my life. However, growing into adulthood and in different seasons of my life, I had several mentors who were father figures to me, and from my relationship with them, I learned how to be a great son. Let me share 12 lessons on being a great son with aging parents, who are individuals manifested with honor and respect. Let’s begin with Part 1 of our article:

  1. Listening and answering patiently. Our parents may repeat the same stories or questions to us many times over. However, each time I listen, I do so as if I am listening for the first time. A good parent listens attentively and answers gently a child who repeats the same question. One day, I too will grow old and then, I would need plenty of patient listening and answering from my sons. In fact, they are learning every day from the way I model being a son for them. In my younger days, I often argued with my dad and disagreed with him on many things. I have learned since that it’s more important to understand him and answer him with a gentle tongue every time.
  2. Cleaning up the mess. When we were young, there must have been many occasions when we wet our pants, pooed on the floor or messed up our room. When our aged parents are not so mobile or having difficulty controlling their bowels or bladder, that’s when we need to remember how they took care of us when we were young, and show them love and forbearance as we clean up after them without grumbling or complaining. Someday, it might be our turn to depend on such love and forbearance.
  3. Calming their fears. I recall when I was seven years old, on several occasions, I saw evil spirits hovering around me. My dad never failed to protect me, pray with me and calm my fears. In fact, to protect me, he even sent me away from our village to live in Sibu with his friend before joining me later with the whole family. Our aged parents do have fears of not having money, falling sick and, especially, having no one to look after them when they are very old. As great sons, we should resolve to be with them through thick and thin.
  4. Spending time on ‘play’. When we were young, our parents always made it a point to take the whole family for movies and annual holidays. We didn’t have much money but we truly treasured the many precious moments we spent together, captured in the photographs we took. The hobbies of our aged parents may not be the same as our own, but we can surely find hobbies or interests that are common to us to warrant spending time together. Beautiful memories must be co-created. A few months back, my wife and I gave a big surprise to my dad by flying back to my hometown and suddenly showing up on my parents’ doorsteps. We blessed my dad with an exclusive birthday dinner attended by a few close relatives. Whenever my parents visit me, I will always make time to share a meal and have a meaningful conversation with them.
  5. Creating common projects. I define ‘retirement’ as doing what I love in my own leisure time, not because I have to but because I want to. This is something that we should start to think about when we are young, not when we are old. There are different seasons in life, each with a different focus and emphasis. In spite of the age gap between my parents and me, I look for common projects that would engage all of us that we can be involved in together. For example, my dad and I both love to give motivational speeches. From time to time, we compare notes and share our speaking points with each other. My eldest son’s wedding is just around the corner at the time of writing. This is a common project that my dad is very excited about, and he is eagerly looking forward to witnessing the big day of his eldest grandson.
  6. Keeping no records of wrongs. No parent is perfect. No childhood is ideal. Our home was filled with sorrow mixed with joy. Yet, I kept no record of wrongs about my dad, whether it was an unjust scolding or beating. I love him and appreciate him for all the good things he did to raise me. More than 10 years ago, we even learned to hug each other and end our tele-conversations with “I love you,” as our new family culture. In a close family setting, we often do or say things that hurt one another, yet we must learn to practice forgiveness and keep no records of wrongs.

In Part 2, I will share with you the remaining six lessons on how to be a great son.

[1] For a more detailed treatment of this subject, see here or do a search on “The Absent Father”.

Author: Dr Peter Ting

Reposted from old website 17 July 2017

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