What does it take to make a man a father? They say no man is ready until the little one is out and you’d just have to wing it through the diapers and midnight cries. Beyond all that, becoming a father is said to soften the hardest of characters and strengthen the weakest of hearts, and nobody can attest to this better than fathers themselves.
It takes one father to truly know what father-to-bes are going to face at the arrival of their child. With that in mind, we invited Tan Sung Lin, a father-to-be, and Adrian Cheong, father to a daughter just shy of 2 years, to a frank and light-hearted conversation steering into fatherhood and domestic life; from one man to the other, one father to the other.
An expectant father like Sung must be feeling excited and perhaps overwhelmed. What advice do you have for him?
A: I think it’s great to have that excitement. I think there will always be concerns and fears on how I’m going to be a father, how I’m going to hold him and how am I going to change the diapers. This is all part of the excitement and fear. I think you’ll learn. I don’t want to be the guy that says you won’t be getting enough sleep and you’ll be overly tired. The tradeoff is that you’re going to be happier. I’ve never been so happy to wake up at 5am to make milk for my kid. If you asked me to wake up at 5am for anything else, just kill me. But whenever Valerie asks me, “Daddy, I want milk,” I’ll happily make it for her, ’cause she knows she can always count on me. I think you learn from doing. Once you’ve done it a few times, you’ll get the hang of it. It’s going to be exciting. Having a child around is always good.
What are some of the most important values you’d want your child to first learn?
A: The value of giving. The value of loving God. The value of patience as well. I think they’re important, especially reading the Bible. If she learns to read the Word of God, understand and get to know God, then I think her future is sorted out. It’s important that she discovers God herself. I mean, we can always tell her the goodness of God and what Jesus has done for us, but she must have her own revelation. Once that’s sorted out, the fruits of the Spirit will be in her. That’s what we hope. That’s what we want.
Because of the pregnancy, we actually pray more; there are more reasons to pray.
What do you do to bond with your child?
S: The child’s not out yet as Gladys is still pregnant. We pray for the baby every night and read some Bible verses. Because of the pregnancy, we actually pray more; there’re more reasons to pray. I’ll just put my hand on Gladys’ belly and pray.
A: Nice! We will always read at night. We’ll read in the room, and I’ll put my phone and my laptop elsewhere; all my work is outside the room. We keep this moment quite sacred actually. We’ve been reading the same book all over again! Before we read, before we sleep, we pray. We make it a part of the culture in our family. I think that’s good because the bonding is in the undivided attention. When we read, we journey with her. Interestingly, now, she can finish the sentences before we do. I think that’s precious to us because we really bond.
I guess I don’t want to be out that much now. I get homesick. When I travel nowadays, I want to go back home.
How has life changed since Valerie appeared in your life?
A: For sure, we have to do things a lot earlier. Once we got Valerie, we learned to manage time a lot better. If we have an appointment, we pre-plan because there’s a lot of packing to do. Nowadays, I never go out empty-handed.
Personally, in my own life, how has it affected me? I guess I don’t want to be out that much now. I get homesick. When I’m traveling, I want to go back home. So I think that has changed for me. I used to go out and not text my wife until she asked where I was. Now I just want to be at home a lot more.
How has pregnancy taught you to prepare for the arrival of your child?
S: I think how I’m preparing for them would probably be in my finances. Knowing that expenses would be going up a bit more, we try to work a bit harder. We try to save up as much as we can. We also prepared ourselves by sleeping a bit more, knowing we won’t be getting much of that later. When we had saving up in mind, we were blessed; Gladys had a lot of gigs, and our business was a bit more stable and doing better. So we can see the hand of God over our lives, knowing there’d be more expenses, there was more income to prepare for that. We’ve also been going for a prenatal class.
A: Did they make you pinch Gladys?
S: Yes. Finally got to do that! We got to prepare in every way.
A: Very interesting thing you said regarding finances; you started your business when he was conceived, and I also started my business when Michelle was pregnant. There was a lot of uncertainty about finances as well because we came out of our corporate job security. But you mentioned God was always there, which is true. We realized we had wisdom to handle finances quite well. Some things we didn’t need—good to have but unneeded—were given up. You know some people buy strollers that look like spaceships? We bought a second-hand stroller and people just blessed us with carriers like Ergobaby. Magical. God will move so we don’t need to keep thinking about saving so much money to buy super-expensive stuff. Somebody once told me: the baby doesn’t know, it’s just us. So we can deal with it.
If you could choose one of your wife’s trait to pass to your baby, what would it be?
S: Everything! I would pass everything.
A: One, bro. It says one trait. Not every trait
S: Looks. We are really praying that baby’s eyes will be big. Very important for the kid’s future.
A: It doesn’t mean only facial traits, could be personality traits.
S: Maybe her character. ‘Cause mine was messed up when I was a kid. And I only got saved maybe ten years ago, and that’s when I started experiencing all that change. But before that, I was really naughty. So hopefully our upcoming baby will have Gladys’ looks, traits and everything.
A: I just wanted Valerie to have big eyes. And she has big eyes.
I really hope that my kid will love church as much as I love church. Love people, going to Connect Groups, going for activities, Bible studies, prayer meetings…
If you could choose one of your traits to pass to the baby, what would it be?
A: I always tell my wife, “There’s a fine line between stubbornness and determination.” I choose to see the determination. I would want Valerie to be very determined in what she wants to do.
S: If there’s any good thing about me, it’s loving God and loving people. Not boasting about myself, but I really hope that my kid will love church as much as I love church. Love people, going to Connect Groups, going for activities, Bible studies, prayer meetings…
A: So the path for your child is that you want him to be a Connect Group leader?
S: Yes, Connect Group leader. No, actually, Zone leader. Connect Group leader brings dishonor to the family. (laughs)
Which is your biggest challenge at home? Cooking or cleaning?
A: Actually, if you say cooking, you’ll need to clean as well. So cooking and cleaning comes together. For me, I think it’s cleaning. The mounds of rubbish you need to throw because of diapers is next level.
S: I have not realized that. I cook and I also clean. Not complaining about my wife, but doing both at the moment is a challenge.
But I think time spent with the kids is the challenge because both parents are working. How much time are you able to spend with the kid?
Do you think today’s fathers have it harder, easier, or just different?
A: Hmmm… today’s fathers. I wouldn’t say harder or easier because I don’t know. But I think it would be slightly different. Because the problems we face today are very different from what they used to face. I mean, today there are so many things to worry about. Last time, some fathers had 20 kids, 30 kids, and they seemed to be okay. Now we have one kid and we’re all like, “Ahhh! Help me!” The problems we see today, like finances, are quite a big thing. Back in the day, I don’t think it was as big, not that it’s not important. Just not as “crazy big”.
S: I would say financially, it’s probably easier today, because both sides, mom and dad, will work and provide. But I think time spent with the kids is the challenge because both parents are working. How much time are you able to spend with the kid?
If you had your way, what would you name your son or daughter?
S: I always wanted to name my son either Titus, which is my alter ego’s name, or Victor, after my dad. None of these names were approved, as you can tell.
A: I wanted to name my kid Emmanuelle, but my wife said, “Thou shalt not use God’s name in vain.” So that was thrown out.
Did you have a preference for a particular gender?
S: At one point we really wanted to build a generation of strong men who’d love God. And then we saw how monstrous a little boy can be
A: And how beautiful a little girl is.
S: And how beautiful a little girl is. So nice to see. They don’t make a lot of noise, they’re not very active. That’s what we thought. But now that we know our baby is going to be a boy, we’re continually trying to renew our mindset. Receiving the conviction again.
A: I don’t think it’s a big preference for either of us, boy or girl. I mean, we’re happy. No preference, but hopefully the next one is a boy.
What is the most embarrassing thing you would do to your son or daughter when he/she grows up?
S: I want to go to school and pick up my kid in front of his friends, probably topless.
S: I don’t know. Just to embarrass my son. This is just one of the things I’m thinking about. There are a lot more.
A: I think hang out with her first date. When she has a boyfriend, gotta bring me out as well. I mean, they get a seat, the guy needs to think of uncle. Uncle needs to get a seat in between so she can hold my hand. He can hold my hand too, if he wants, but I won’t let him. If any guy comes and asks me if he can bring my daughter out, I’ll ask, “Can I come along?”
S: I’ll be there to support you.
A: I’ll be there to support you too. Let me get my knife.
As requested by their wives, we pitted our young fathers against each other to find out who knows how to better take care of their baby! Boba wrap, baby swaddle and mixing milk, these are the essentials every father has to learn. Check out the video below to see their attempts!