“Last time Daddy had a chance to be a hero. Now, kids have Google”: Darren Lim shares fatherhood anecdotes with a new dad
Salt&Light wishes all fathers a Happy Father's Day!
by Christine Leow // June 18, 2021, 7:02 pm
Celebrity dad Darren Lim (right) with his actress-host wife, Evelyn Tan, and their four children. Darren says being a dad has given him a deeper appreciation of both his earthly father and his Heavenly Father. Photo from Darren Lim's Facebook account.
Though it happened 17 years ago, actor-host-entrepreneur Darren Lim, 48, can still recall in vivid detail the moment he discovered he was going to be a father.
“I was in the car when my wife called to say, ‘The doctor says I’m pregnant. You’re going to be a dad.’
“Every single day, I feel like I’m a new father.”
“Suddenly, I had tunnel vision. I could hear ringing in my ears. My car was in reverse gear and I stepped on the accelerator without looking back and there was a car behind me.
“I had to apologise to the other driver. I almost tripped and fell flat (on my face). It was very dramatic, very dramatic.”
This was among the many things the celebrity dad shared with first-time father Daniel Lim, 28, on a Focus on the Family Singapore Facebook Live chat about fatherhood on June 10.
Defying the stereotype of the strong but silent Asian dad, the men spoke at length about their feelings as fathers and shared insights into their fathering journeys.
The two dads revealed things they are experiencing as fathers that do not often get talked about.
1. Dads get excited too
Women are not the only ones who get excited about babies and children. Men do, too, especially when it is their own.
“According to her, I jumped around the whole room, a few rounds.”
New dad Daniel has a six-month-old daughter who is just learning to crawl and there is “something new every single day”.
For him, the excitement of fatherhood began the day he found out his wife Joy was pregnant, which happened to be the first day of the Circuit Breaker last year – April 7, 2020.
“She did the (pregnancy) test and she showed it to me.
“And this is the part that is being disputed by her: According to my story, when I saw the result, I got very excited and I jumped one time. According to her, I jumped around the whole room, a few rounds.
“That was the beginning of the whole journey. We were really excited.”
“You will never know if you are a successful father until you see how your children bring up your grandchildren.”
For Darren whose children range from eight to 16 in age, the initial excitement of fatherhood has never faded. Being a dad remains “exciting, rewarding and humbling”.
“I’m still in the making. I’m still evolving every single day. I have new sets of challenges, you know.
“As you can see, the age range of my children is very wide. So they all have different needs. Every single day, I feel like I’m a new father.”
Though his oldest child is “almost a young adult”, he believes he still has a long journey ahead.
“You will never know if you are a successful father until you see how your children bring up your grandchildren.
“Only when they carry what you have imparted into their lives into the next generation can you really say, ‘Okay, I think maybe I’ve done a good job.’”
2. Dads feel the weight of responsibility
Perhaps more than mums, dads feel the burden of being the one in charge.
Said Darren of the birth of his first child: “When she was in my arms, wow, you know, it was like, this is my baby and I could actually feel a pressure coming over my shoulder.
“We are supposed to be the heroes of our family.”
“It was like, you’re different now, you’re a father, you have to be responsible. You have to love, give her all you can, risk your life just for her because she’s so precious.
“And you know, tears just came down. Even as I talk about it, I can still feel it.”
With children that span the childhood, tween and teen years, Darren said remaining a source of influence has been a challenge.
“We are supposed to be the heroes of our family, our children, someone they can look up to.
“But nowadays, they are looking into their handphones. So, the challenge is how to get them to disengage from that and then engage with me? Yeah, so that’s what I’m learning and what I’m trying to achieve now.”
3. Dads want to be around
As a research analyst, Daniel used to work long hours. Being in the office till three in morning for weeks on end was not uncommon.
When his baby came along, he was allowed to accumulate his leave and take it alongside his paternity leave so that he could have a whole month to spend with his newborn.
“My boss said, ‘I hope you had a good break. Now you can just let the mum take over and take care of the child.’”
But when he returned to work, it was back to the same punishing schedule. In fact, there was the expectation that, as a man, he should continue to devote as much time to work as before.
“My higher-level boss actually said, ‘I hope you had a good break. Now you can just let the mum take over and take care of the child.’
“But for me, I wanted the option to spend time with my child to bond with my child. I think more can be done for young dads to really look into more family-friendly work arrangements.
“I feel there is an unspoken need. This needs to come up more so that employers can rethink certain things.”
In the end, Daniel quit his job and is now working as a research co-ordinator, a position that allows him more flexibility and time with his family.
“Don’t be ashamed of wanting to be an involved dad.”
After the live chat, Daniel told Salt&Light: “One thing I wished others had told me about fatherhood is how hard it is to balance work and family.
“My own emotions and thoughts about my career and being able to spend time with my family were on opposite ends.
“For now, it does look like society and economic structures have made it so that you have to choose between the two. There is a need to recognise the value of care-taking.
“I would like to tell other dads, ‘Don’t be ashamed of wanting to be an involved dad.’”
4. Dads are important
As children grow, said Darren, the importance of a father increases.
He has found that, past the age of six, as his children became more ready to explore the world around them, he had to be more available to guide them and help them make sense of things.
“Since God gave me a daughter, we are called to be stewards for life … Work should not be prioritised over her.”
As a Geography undergraduate at the National University of Singapore, Daniel had learnt about how fathers contribute to the formation of a child’s identity. That lesson stuck for life.
“Children with involved fathers have a more positive view of themselves, more confidence in their body image and better relationships with someone of the opposite sex.
“I wanted all these benefits for my child. So, of course, I am more willing to be an involved dad.
“Children are also a gift from God. I believe this is a calling in my life since God gave me a daughter. We are called to be stewards for life. I jolly well take good care of her. She is my priority. Work should not be prioritised over her,” Daniel said.
5. Fatherhood is a learning journey
Father does not always know best and the dads wanted to underscore that.
In an interview with Salt&Light, Darren confessed: “Being a father is a humbling experience.
“It makes you wonder if you are adequate and whether you are doing a good job. I have had to ask myself this again and again, and re-check myself.
“You know you are incapable. But the Lord gives you the strength, energy, patience and love.”
“My prayer every day is to ask God for His wisdom, strength and anointing because without them, I can’t pull through.”
As a home-schooling parent, he has found that he did not always have the answer to his children’s questions. It has taken humility for him to admit that to them.
“I tell them, ‘I don’t know. Maybe we can research this together.’”
Parenting Gen Z and Gen Alpha children has presented more humbling challenges.
“These children are digital age children. We were brought up in a very different way. My wife and I find it so difficult to relate to them and communicate with them.
“Growing up, when I had a question, mum would call dad and say, ‘Son is going to ask you questions. Maybe you can do some research on it?’
“Daddy had a chance to be a hero. Now, they have Google.”
This has led him to humble himself before God.
“You know you are incapable. But the Lord gives you the strength, energy, patience and love to go through fatherhood day in, day out.”
For Daniel, fatherhood has taught him much about himself.
“I have a tendency to be less relational. I am very much a task guy. I’m also an only child and, growing up, I learnt not to be dependent on people.
“But I have learnt that collaboration is very good. Sometimes, you need to ask for help especially when, as a first-time father, I didn’t know so many things.”
He has also become more mindful of his words and actions in an effort to set his daughter a good example. He told Salt&Light of a time when he had a heated disagreement with his mother-in-law about childcare.
“I noticed my daughter was looking right at me. That was when I realised: Oh man, what am I doing?
“It made me better appreciate the love of God and His provision.”
“It led me to become very convicted that I cannot do this. I now have a young daughter.
“I have to watch my actions because what I do will have an impression on her. It was a moment that I won’t forget. It made me want to change and become better.”
Fatherhood has also taught Daniel about God.
“Isn’t it amazing that, before our daughter was born, we were already preparing things, putting in place everything she needed and making sure she had everything she needed to grow well and be safe?
“It made me better appreciate the love of God and His provision. He knew the things I needed before I realised it and prepares them for me and ensures that I will get whatever I need to fulfil His purposes.
“That reminded me of what Jesus said about how even we, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to our children. How much more God will give good things to us (Matthew 7:11).”
6. Fatherhood makes fathers more understanding of their dads
In their Salt&Light interviews, both dads talked about seeing their own fathers in a new light now that they are fathers themselves.
“My dad was not the most expressive towards me,” said Daniel.
“I knew God had forgiven me, forgiven my dad. Whatever hurt or pain in the past had all been forgiven.”
“But I understood that he cares deeply for me because I noticed the effort he had been putting in throughout my growing-up years.”
Though his father worked night shifts, he would attend every one of Daniel’s school performances, sports competitions and award ceremonies.
“He liked to take photos and videos to record those moments. Even today, I have seen him taking them out to look at them.
“He doesn’t say anything. But I know it is important to him and he likes to relive those moments.”
Daniel has picked up his father’s habit. He is the one who records his daughter’s milestones on his handphone.
“I see value in recording the moment to relive them later.”
Darren, however, grew up with a father who travelled a lot because of his business.
“In a year, I would see him for only about a few weeks. I was a rebellious kampung (village) kid. I was naughty, didn’t like to go to school.
“So, every time he came home, he would hear complaints and I would get caned. Chairs would fly. I had weapons used on me – golf clubs, sticks, belts.
“My relationship with my father was always bad.”
When Darren was in his mid-20s, his father became a Christian and invited him to church.
“Every child yearns to get acceptance from his own father. Despite the relationship I had with him, I still wanted love from him.
“So, when he invited me, I just went with him without a doubt.”
Darren became a Christian. It changed his life and his relationship with his father.
“If not for his corporal style of training and punishing, I would have gone astray even more.”
“I knew God had forgiven me, forgiven my dad. Whatever hurt or pain in the past had all been forgiven.”
Father and son now have a beautiful relationship, said Darren.
“We see each other once or twice a month but our communication is so different. Now, we can sit down in front of my fish tank and drink whiskey and chit chat. It’s so nice.”
Though he did not like it then, Darren has adapted some of his father’s parenting style.
“If not for his corporal style of training and punishing, I would have gone astray – even more because of the kind of people I mixed with. I give credit to my heavenly Father and my earthly father.
“So, I believe if you spare the rod, you spoil the child.
“But I do it differently. He used to cane me in anger, like he was taking revenge on me. I constantly remind myself that this is a mistake that I will never repeat.”