When it comes to children, all parents agree on one thing: we may love our children very much, but we only understand them half the time.
If we’re lucky.
Awhile ago, my 25-year-old son sent me a link via Whatsapp to a commentary in the Straits Times about elitism and inequality. He told me I should try to be more “woke”. I understood the article (because there was no paywall), but not the other parts of my son’s text (because there was no sense).
Nonetheless I replied, “I have been awake since 7AM.”
The next thing I knew, I was tagged in his screenshot of my text on his Facebook. It had gotten 83 reactions within an hour. One of his friends commented, “Omg uncle”, while another said, “Your dad is such a dad.”
Apparently some were even “screaming” and others were “literally dead”.
I couldn’t fathom why I’d caused them to pass away. I had simply pointed out a fact of life (i.e. that I was awake since 7AM), like how the sky is blue, meritocracy is a myth, and millennials like to share everything online.
My friends with children in their 20s agree with me on the lattermost point. Even though we lead mundane lives, whenever we spend time with our children, we begin to empathise with how celebrities live. Our children whip out their phones whenever they get the chance, hoping to capture us in new social media worthy content.
Once, my friend Dave was in the middle of conversation with his daughter about her new job and ended up with a dog filter over his face and sparkles on his head. It was terrible—apparently she only received 20 likes online.
I told him it’s because he did not crack a “dad joke”, which she could have used as the caption. He didn’t understand what those were, so I told him to just be himself.
A few days later, his daughter told him she’d made dinner reservations at The White Rabbit. He replied, “I don’t eat rabbit leh.” She shared a screenshot of his reply online with a caption that read, “GOLD”, and received 234 reactions in total.
I congratulated him on finally winning his daughter’s love after more than two decades.
However, it’s an uphill endeavour. Constantly being on top of what makes millennials laugh is akin to getting a straight answer from my wife about what she is angry about: they both elude me. Thankfully, unlike women, dad jokes come easily.
One important skill I learnt from dad jokes is how to make my children cringe. This is a crucial factor in getting your children to be present when you’re spending quality time with them.
To beat them at their own game, I have started sharing screenshots of my own ‘funny’ texts to my children before they can do so. I even tag them.
Yesterday at the dining table, my son lamented, “Stop being so embarrassing, Pa.”
In response, I logged into my brand new Instagram account and started filming our dinner for Instagram Stories. I panned to my children’s faces, took 35 seconds to pick a filter, and added two gifs. My children immediately put their phones away; no photos or videos were uploaded that night and I fear they may have forever lost their purpose in life.
That was when I realised not everyone expresses their love through the same love language. Some people prefer words of affirmation, while my wife expects everyone to read her mind.
On the other hand, my children and their friends mostly share the same love language: social media validation. I notice they’d rather proclaim their love for their parents, partners, and pets online than show or tell them in person.
As much as I hate it, I understand. This lack of communication stems from both fear of rejection and fear of giving their parents a heart attack. I know it sounds extreme, but rejection is a scary thing.
For instance, when my son was 16, he told my wife that he wanted to tell her something on her birthday. In a state of panic, my wife thought my son was going to reveal that he had made a girl pregnant.
It was more shocking. My son told his mother that he loved her.
It may still be a few days before this year’s Father’s Day, but my younger daughter already posted an old photo on Facebook of me taking care of her as a child. The caption read, “There is nothing greater than your love for me over the last 20 years. Thank you for all your sacrifices. I love you Pa.”
Her friends commented that she was sweet and a good daughter. I disagree; she didn’t tag me.
That night over dinner, she complained about her friends who posted public declarations of love to their fathers on social media. According to her, it irked her that Mother’s Day and Father’s Day had become occasions for people to brag about their love for their parents and to appear as a filial child.
In that moment, I felt I had failed as a father. I couldn’t believe my daughter had not learnt the meaning of irony after 20 years.
Then just as easily as my world collapsed, it was rebuilt. My children pulled out the SAFRA Father’s Day Facebook post showing various deals that we could enjoy as a family. They had highlighted the ones that they were interested in, such as spa treatments and brunch at cafes.
As I looked through the list of activities and thought about all the time I’d get to spend with my children, I was filled with a renewed sense of hope.
I was glad my Instagram account wouldn’t go to waste.
Show your dad some offline love this Father’s Day. With SAFRA’s lineup of fun activities, from a creative bento art workshop to soccer at Mount Faber, you will have many chances to instagram the day and prove that your love for dad is real.
Additionally, get your dad to sign you (and your mother) up for a two-year Dependent Membership to continue enjoying great deals from various lifestyle vendors. At $5/year, your family also gets to enjoy free entry to all SAFRA swimming pools.
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