Dad-icated: The dads who are building on their father’s legacies

Salt&Light wishes all dads a Happy Father's Day!

by Gracia Chiang // June 12, 2024, 12:25 pm

Graham Choo's family

I'm Dadicated is Focus on the Family Singapore's campaign for Father's Day 2024. Graham Choo (second from right) is one of the fathers who shared about the influence of their dads on their parenting. All photos courtesy of interviewees.

While negative labels such as “absent father” and “strict disciplinarian” have often been used to describe dads in the past, plenty of fathers today are bucking the trend.

This Father’s Day, Focus on the Family Singapore honours the countless dads who have made the effort to connect with their children amid the many commitments that compete for their time.

Running from June 7–17, 2024, I’m Dadicated spotlights the lasting legacies and importance of fathers through stories of dads who open up about their own parenting experiences as well as the way they were parented.

Reflecting on his childhood, James Ong, 41, said that his father’s busy career as an army officer often prevented his dad from spending time with him and his brothers.

“Growing up, I felt a sense of discontent with our family life,” said James. “I knew he loved me and was doing his best to guide and provide for us, but I craved more intimacy in our relationship.”

It is not like there were no fun times together. However, these bonding moments were rare.

James with his wife and four children who are aged two, four, seven and nine. Always eager to create moments of play with his kids, he hopes they remember him for his presence and nurturing love. 

Now a father of four, James has channelled his longing for a deeper connection with his father to internal motivation in his own journey of fatherhood.

“I wanted to make conscious decisions to create a nurturing and loving environment for my own children, learning from both my dad’s strengths and his shortcomings,” he explained.

Seizing every opportunity to make memories with his children, James often takes the family on outings, whether it is kite flying, spending time at the beach or enjoying ice cream together. 

He also intentionally carves out time during the weekdays to connect over play, choosing to put away his phone and other distractions aside  “so they know they have my full attention”.

Another thing James practises is to “listen to the kids and hear the heart behind their questions and stories”.

The value of simply showing up

This same theme of learning from Dad was also present in the other stories that were shared as part of the campaign.

Remembering the shared memories with his father, Jonathan Cho, 37, now tries to emulate this with his three children.

Describing how his dad taught him to ride a bicycle and cycled with him, brought him along for supermarket runs, and guided him to read a map and navigate their car rides, these were small but significant moments.

“Just the joy of knowing that I am invited, welcomed into my Dad’s life. A life that seemed so much bigger and more complex than mine, but which I still knew I was a big part of,” he recalled.

As a result, Jonathan’s desire is for his kids to also “personally know and testify to experiencing a ‘with Dad’ life”. 

Jonathan (left) with his dad and brother. Jonathan draws inspiration from the way his father demonstrates love towards the family.

Offering a practical tip he applies to his own life, Jonathan said that he tries to set aside times in his calendar for his family – not because he has anything major planned but simply because he wants to be around for them. 

“I make a very intentional decision to tell other people who ask me out or whether I am free that, ‘Hey look, I need to take a step back. I can only commit to these certain things because I want to be available at night,'” he shared.

“Once I make that commitment on a mental and emotional level, even a spiritual level, then I commit physically. And I have to say that the physical part is the easiest because you just show up.

“The moment you show up, something kicks in.”

“I am happily tired because I am giving my life to the ones that I love.”

Admitting that being a present father does take a toll, Jonathan said: “It’s still tiring. I’m still often sleep-deprived. My friends say I always look tired, which is true.

“But I am happily tired because I am giving my life to the ones that I love, to the ones who are dependent on me – my children. And it brings me such a great joy.” 

Another father, Graham Choo, is also building on his dad’s legacy.

Recounting a bedtime tradition he had while growing up, the 40-year-old said: “My dad would tell me bedtime stories about his mongrel dog (Ah Heng) and the crazy adventures the dog had, where I would choose the story title.

“I had a similar bedtime ‘tradition’ with my own son, Jireh, where I let him choose a title and make up a wacky story.”

But it was not just silly stories. Graham recalled how his dad gathered the children to read through the book of Proverbs – something that he hopes to do too.

Graham and his son Jireh. The family loves spending time outdoors.

Sharing in his father’s enthusiasm for getting the family together regularly, Graham makes it a point to organise yearly trips with his wife and three children who are aged seven, 10 and 13. 

“We love the outdoors and often go on local hikes or cycling trips. We’ve done a few of such overseas trips as well,” he said.

“During these trips, we usually have lots of time to converse and appreciate nature, which God has so wonderfully made for our enjoyment and amazement.”

These trips also frequently give rise to teaching moments, where each family member learns what it means to relate to one another.

“For example, we have different walking or cycling paces, but we try to accommodate each other nevertheless,” he pointed out.

Learning from the perfect Father

In addition, all three fathers shared that their own walk with God has helped them to better love their children.

Whether it is being inspired to sacrifice their lives for their kids or learning how to discipline in a loving way, looking to their Heavenly Father has given them the wisdom to face various problems.

“I remember us having a challenging phase with one of our kids. She was expressing discontentment with various things and not responding well to our instructions,” said James.

“For a while, we pursued behavioural corrections but realised, as God prompted, that we really needed to reconnect with her and fill her love tank again.

“As we followed God’s leading, our hearts were turned to our child and her to us, and we were able to communicate better with each other.”

“I realised the weight of what God meant when He describes His love and affection for us as long-suffering.”

For Jonathan, having young children comes with its own set of challenges. One of them is the feeling of being taken for granted.

“It may not be true, but it tends to feel that way when we have to clean up messes, deal with disobedience or lack of proper responses, and basically give our lives over to them from morning to night, with what feels like little left for ourselves,” he said.

“My kids are wonderful, but I definitely have moments of feeling sorry for myself and my wife on these trying days and grapple with the question of why we keep giving away our lives repeatedly when it doesn’t always feel reciprocated.”

Recalling a rant he had, Jonathan confessed that the moment he referred to himself as “long-suffering”, what came to mind was different verses of Scripture where God describes Himself in the same way too.

Jonathan with his wife, four-year-old and six-year-old. He also has an eight-month-old. Becoming a father has taught him more about the heart of God.

“I realised the weight of what God meant when He describes His love and affection for us as long-suffering.

“He gives Himself over to us, again and again – only to be rejected in painful ways. And yet, He remains fully committed to us, faithful, non-complaining.

“It doesn’t make the difficult parenting moments easier for sure, but this revelation tended to my soul in a way that gave my inner man strength to continue loving my family sacrificially.”

Echoing this sentiment, Graham said: “I’m always amazed at how God has remained faithful to His covenant people even though they complain, rebel and reject Him time and time again.

In the same way, this has encouraged him to show sacrificial love to his children despite their disobedience.

“We are still learning to love unconditionally, while still addressing the wrongful action and attitude,” added Graham. 

Making an impact

Despite whatever limitations they have, it is heartening to know that the efforts made by these fathers have already been felt by their children.

“I enjoy playing games and going on outings with my dad and the rest of the family because he can always think of ways to make things more fun and interesting, and to get everyone involved,” said Jireh, Graham’s son. 

“He is like the ‘glue’ that bonds our family together because he is always willing to do the activities with anyone and ensures that we all bond well with one another.”

James, on the other hand, shared that he was particularly moved when his eldest son said that his life’s aspiration was to be a father.

That moment was significant for me because it showed that the love and care I tried to provide were valued and seen as a worthy pursuit in life,” he said.

“I hope my kids remember me for the love, presence and nurturing I provided.”

James getting a ride from his daughter in her school, much to the delight of his four-year-old.

Recognising that fatherhood can be tough, Focus on the Family Singapore hopes that this year’s campaign will encourage and equip fathers who are committed to leaving a positive legacy within the home. 

“Balancing work and family life is a monumental challenge for fathers, who often struggle to find the time to bond with their children amid demanding schedules,” said Marcus Cheong, Family Life Specialist, Focus on the Family Singapore.

“Yet, the moments they do spend with their children create lasting impacts that echo through generations.”

A 2023 survey by Focus on the Family Singapore also revealed that 74 per cent of those surveyed wish for their dads to be more involved in emotional development, a role that has been traditionally associated with mums. 

“I hope my kids remember me for the love, presence and nurturing I provided.”

To help fathers reduce the mental load of coming up with bonding activities, the local charity has prepared a digital resource, The Busy Dad’s Playbook, which is packed with ideas on what they can do with their children. 

Activities are arranged by time blocks of as short as 10 minutes to an hour, coupled with fun facts and tips.  

To hear and read the stories of James, Jonathan and Graham in full, these can also be found on 

“By dedicating themselves to this essential role, fathers not only shape their children’s futures but also cultivate a legacy of love and support that benefits our society as a whole,” added Marcus. 

“Through this campaign, we hope to affirm every father’s dedication to this profound and meaningful journey!”


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About the author

Gracia Chiang

Gracia used to chase bad news — now she shares Good News. Gracia's different paths in life have led her from diverse newsrooms to Living Room by Salt&Light, but her most difficult and divine calling to date is still parenting.