Daddy, I want to be just like you

Alex Tee // January 22, 2020, 4:22 pm

Alex Tee and family

"Intimacy isn’t an on-off switch. It is fostered through laughter, squeals, conversations, joint discoveries, time spent that knit hearts together," muses Alex Tee, seen here with his wife Channy and their three children. Photo courtesy of Alex Tee.

Thirty something years have passed, but I remember it like it was yesterday.

They are some of the fondest memories of my childhood: Being patted to sleep wondering how my father was able to keep his hands moving rhythmically all that time; taking a walk with him by the nearby drains after a rain to catch croaking frogs to feed our pet carnivorous fish; sitting by the side of the badminton court as the only child, waiting for my turn, while various uncles and my father played; riding pillion on the motorcycle clinging onto my dad, exhilarated and blurry eyed from the wind.

In our children’s most vulnerable years … parents are uniquely qualified to be their educators.

Exposed as my siblings and I were to the various ills that sprung from our parents’ loveless marriage, one thing that I did grow up with was a father.

It was the redeeming grace in the story of our family that I grew up being a priority to my father. His embrace and pursuit of his young son would forever change the way I see myself.

Perhaps naturally flowing from that, I’m thankful for the plain way the impression has been made upon me. That in these tender ages of our children, our best expression of love and advancing the kingdom of heaven is to take responsibility to raise them up in the training and discipline of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).

In our children’s most vulnerable years, when the way they see the world is fast taking shape, when habits (good or bad) are forming, when they are gathering ideas for life, parents are uniquely qualified to be their educators.

It is when we relinquish that God-given responsibility, even with well-meaning intentions, that we risk fracturing the most precious institution there is: The unit of the family.

Our children, our magnifying glass

Statistics are clear: Children who grow up without a father are 20 times more likely to end up in prison, 20 times more likely to have behavioural problems, five times more likely to live in poverty, and one tenth as likely to score As in school.

Wide as the search is for ways to improve our societies, I wonder if the answer lies under our very noses – fathers arising to be the men they ought to be and strengthening the very foundation of our families.

A true father doesn’t simply instruct, he shows (John 5:19) … his life is values embodied.

“For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Therefore, I urge you, imitate me.” (1 Corinthians 4:15) 

The difference between an instructor (guardian) and a father needs revisiting.

I will submit to you that a true father doesn’t simply instruct, he shows (John 5:19). He demonstrates through concrete and consistent actions that transcend rhetoric. His life is values embodied.

A child will learn how to put a nail into a plank, he will learn how to honour the least in society, how to ask for forgiveness humbly upon a slip-up, what generosity looks like, how to fast and pray and seek the Lord in secret, all by watching at close range how his earthly father does it.

In essence, a father’s life yells out: “Imitate me, as I imitate Christ!” (1 Corinthians 11:1) 

Perhaps it is for this reason that the apostle Paul asks plainly: For if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God? (1 Timothy 3:5)

Intimacy isn’t an on-off switch

Our children are powerful magnifying glasses.

Yet we all have unique circumstances have hindered us from being the fathers we yearn to be.

“A child will learn how to honour the least in society, how to ask for forgiveness humbly … all by watching how his earthly father does it.”

They include growing up under the weight of conditional love, where affection was only shown when we earned it; fathers who were controlling, angry and abusive; or fathers who were not around, whom we never knew and who never knew us and built us up.

In other words, we were never truly fathered as sons, unconditionally loved for who we are.

Many of us fail to see and break free from this generational pattern. It drives us to seek the validation that estranges us from our children – a relentless strive for affirmation and security, often through career and social networks.

If only we’re humble and willing, there is always help at hand. Others of us fail to see the reality of trade-offs – we want to have it all without making the necessary sacrifices to cultivate intimacy within the family.

Intimacy isn’t an on-off switch. It is fostered through laughter, squeals, conversations, joint discoveries, time spent that knit hearts together.

The growing years of our children are tender, fleeting, golden years, and once past, are forever lost.

The miracle

I once asked the Lord what happens when, as fathers (and mothers), we relinquish this God-given mantle to rightly bring up our children. The unmistakable answer that was impressed upon me after some waiting was “everybody loses”.

The growing years of our children are tender, fleeting, golden years, and once past, are forever lost.

For fathers, we miss out on the true joy of knowing and being known by our children, of watching them grow in wisdom and courage. For sons and daughters, their biggest influence increasingly comes from the world, and their sense of security, identity and purpose are wobbly because of it.

More than that, our churches and societies are much the weaker for it.

It is one thing for those of us who have been dearly fathered by our earthly fathers to want to pass it on – that’s not the miracle.

The miracle happens when fathers who never knew intimacy growing up, who were subject to all kinds of adversity, resolve that by the overcoming power of God, they will take responsibility over their children and households. All to perhaps one day hear their children say: “Daddy … I want to be just like you.”

And from our Lord Himself: “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things.” (Matthew 25:21,23)

Fellowship of fathers

To connect with other fathers for family activities and workshops, practical parenting tools, prayer groups, counselling and/or mentorship, contact:

Centre for Fathering: A non-profit with a vision of turning the hearts of children towards their fathers by inspiring fathers to be more involved with their children.

Focus on the Family: A donor-supported Institution of Public Character (IPC) dedicated to helping families thrive. 

Duranno Father School: A school that offers guidance and practical tips on how to build a stronger family. 

The World Needs a Father: A global movement of fathers committed to building unbreakable families and healthy communities

EFOG: A community where fathers connect, grow and lead.

About the author

Alex Tee

Alex is a homeschooling father. He has been married to Channy for over 10 years and they have three children aged eight, seven and five. The deepest desire of their hearts is to prayerfully raise children who seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. He hopes to impact children from poor and marginalised families through education, believing it is easier to build strong children than repair broken adults. He is part of the Elijah 7000 group of fathers who consider fatherhood a thorough privilege; they meet every Saturday at dawn to intercede for families and the nation.