I recently binge-watched both seasons of Star Trek: Picard. Within the lore of Star Trek, there are two planetary species, the Romulans and the Vulcans, that I find fascinating. The Vulcans eschew emotion, depending purely upon logic for every aspect of their lives. As a result, Vulcans are oft times perceived as cold and aloof. Romulans are the very antithesis of Vulcans and they come across as conniving and calculative. The twist in the plot, apart from both Romulans and Vulcans being biologically related, is that Vulcans can demonstrate love and Romulans can be reasonable. Yes, I am a Trekkie.
Even though Star Trek is science fiction, I wonder what it might be like to bring up a family as a Vulcan or as a Romulan. What is fundamental is the need for family. What is extreme is, of course, how they go about raising family and building society.
Similarly, what is fundamental to fatherhood, of which we may not always be aware; and how does that contrast with expressions of fatherhood, with which we often get carried away? I ask this not because I have answers but rather, I seek them. I start this search with the premise that fundamentals are constants while expressions of these fundamentals, in contrast, should be flexible and varied. As such, would the raising of offspring be considered fundamental to fatherhood? More important, perhaps, is a relationship that is cherished and involves dependency. Luke 11:3-4 validates this premise as it calls upon us to be dependent on our Father for our daily needs as well as to restore the relationship between Him and us as children.
Colossians 3:21 states, ‘Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.’ The expression of what does not provoke your child would differ from child to child, thus for example, strictly applying a common standard or approach to avoid bias or favouritism would in fact provoke or frustrate. Being extreme and applying an overly strict standard just to err on the side of caution is equally frustrating.
Does that mean we don’t have to be perfect in our expressions? Luke 11:5-8 suggests that the fellow in bed was reluctant and annoyed at being roused when he had already retired for the night. However, because of friendship, he did not leave his friend empty-handed. Not perfect, but still an expression of friendship nonetheless.
It doesn’t mean we don’t hold our children accountable, or that we approach fatherhood with a laissez-faire attitude. It’s just that our expressions of fatherhood do evolve in accordance with the times, and they are iterative. Sometimes, we get it right, while at other times, something is left wanting. It isn’t absolute or constant. Patience, empathy and forgiveness all around, arising from an understanding that it is ‘different strokes for different folks’, are needed. Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes the same village to be with the father, too.
Fatherhood is many things to me as I continue on this journey of discovery. What is absolute is that I know I am ‘father’. What continues to evolve is how I be that father to my children.
Happy Father’s Day to one and all.
- Yeo Howe Chien