If I were 15 and my dad asked me out on a “date”, I’d be skeptical to say the least. Even at 25 and being a volunteer at Focus on the Family Singapore‘s Date with Dad event, I had my reservations — cue a few hours of awkward interactions and laboured bonding, I thought.
As it turns out, I couldn’t have been more wrong, or more happy that I was so wrong. Date with Dad, in truth, was one of the most meaningful (non-church) events that I’ve been to — you can tell because I actually bothered to write about it! Not to mention make a customised header photo.
But what makes Date with Dad so meaningful?
In all honesty, seeing a ballroom full of fathers – about 200 in total – willing to take the time off to spend an afternoon there with their daughters was heart-warming and tear-inducing enough. Such a simple gesture and yet in the time-valuing, fast-paced society that is Singapore, such a rare one too.
I don’t have many friends who are fathers, but to those that are, here’s an invaluable gem I picked up from watching the joyful faces of little girls excited to be out with their dads: what your children need more than nice trinkets & pocket money is a dad who knows that work is only the means to an end, and that supporting your family consists of a lot more than just bringing in the dough. If time is money, be sure to spend it on your kids.
But back to the event.
As mentioned, a mix of Asian-stoic-father types and tween daughters does not usually make for the smoothest of dates, but if anything, that awkwardness served as a contrast to the building of new bonds that would follow. From the moment they stepped into a retro-style photo booth to take candid shots, through a programme of fun quizzes, bonding games, conversation starters, letter writing, and culmination with the father’s pledge, it was a near-seamless process of eliminating awkwardness and building better relationships.
In particular, I found the conversation starters – where participants had an envelope of questions to ask each other – and letter writing exercises to be extremely valuable. It’s not often a girl of 11 gets to ask her father why he chose his job, or even how he met her mother. In America, they have a whole TV series about it; in Asia, fathers generally don’t talk that much.
The exchange of heartfelt, hand-written letters to each other was a beautiful moment — more often than not, we find it easier to express our thoughts and feelings through the written word, as this blog is evidence of. A letter is also a lot more enduring than a spoken word. My dad wrote me a letter once, when I went to Sydney for exchange in uni, and suffice to say that particular note is safely tucked away in my little drawer of precious things!
Well, we don’t get many opportunities like this these days, so if you are a father, a daughter, or even a mother reading this on behalf of her husband, I’d strongly encourage you to mark down Date with Dad 2014 on your calendars (actually, not sure if the dates are out yet, but you can ask to be put on the waiting list!) and in the meantime, make your own dates & create your own special moments.