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Lessons from my father

6 years ago / personal

Life lessons from the greatest man I know

My father and I attended a wedding together recently, and we had a good 20 minutes of father-daughter time in the car as he drove me home. Not unlike how he used to send me to school, tuition lessons and ballet classes everyday without fail.

My father's the typical Asian parent - Chinese businessman, man of few words and definitely not into hugs and kisses. In fact, I still remember when I came home from primary school with a "My Family" composition that I was really proud of, the first thing he said was actually, "Why is your handwriting so horrible?"

That was my introduction to knowing that my father doesn't do compliments. So while I've never had any "Good job!" and "Well-done!" (even when I scored a pretty decent 7 points for my O levels), I realise that what I have received from him instead is a bunch of life lessons - so potently etched in my mind - that have and will take me through life.

1) Education is numero uno

My father's a brilliant man, but being the eldest of eight children, he stopped schooling to provide for the family.

While he speaks well (oh how I wish I have that confidence he has when it comes to addressing a crowd), his grammar is a mess and he can't do algebra to save his life.

And he didn't want his daughters to end up like him.

He wanted us to learn, and learn well.

For the first 10 years of my life, because my father was still building up his business and while we weren't lacking, we didn't exactly have a lot to spare either. He would refuse to buy me toys and Barbie dolls ("Do you really need it, Flora?" he would ask) but never once did he deny me any books, even when I was reading easily more than 10 books a week.

2) It's better to be a king of a small country, than a soldier in a big country

His exact words to me after my PSLE results were out and when I was choosing my secondary school. I didn't exactly understand what it meant back then but that statement imprinted itself to my 12 year old self.

I'll later realise that this mantra is what will guide me through life and all my major decisions.

3) Girls can, too

My father doesn't have any sons but I don't think he missed out on anything lol.

He taught me how to ride a bike by putting me on top of a slope and just letting go wtf, but I sure as hell learnt how to ride my bicycle faster than any of the other kids in the neighbourhood. He taught me how to swim, brought me to the driving range and told me that I can be anything I want. If there're no women in that field, then you can be the first ("You're born to be a leader! Not a follower!").

While unfortunately I'm no Tiger Woods or Michael Jordan, I'd like to think that mentally and emotionally, I'm just as tough as any boy.

Or perhaps even tougher.


4) Look after your appearance

Perhaps a little chauvinistic here, but my father believes that a woman ought to take care of her appearance.

He was the one who brought me to the orthodontist and dermatologist during my awkward teenage years and ten years later, nagged at me to get my teeth fixed AGAIN because my smile still ain't perfect enough.

A woman should always look groomed and polished at all times.

And then you can conquer the world.

5) Give back

No matter how busy or how much we have on our plate, we must ALWAYS find time to give something back - to society, to your community, to your country.

He often tells me that monetary donations isn't enough, that charity comes from the heart. And he leads by example by volunteering at various old-age homes but yet he has never once forced me to join him - if you can find that kindness in your heart, you'll make time for it.

He taught me to be kind and I too, will teach my children to be the same.