Life Lessons My Dad Taught Me

Nuggets of wisdom from my hero - in honour of Fathers' Day


The first thing you should know about my father is, he’s not your typical dad. He’s a hippie at heart (curly afro and bell-bottom jeans ruled his adolescence). He rode a motorcycle for most of my childhood. His retirement dream resembles an episode from Life Below Zero (a BBC documentary about hunters living in remote areas of Alaska), in which he can be completely self-sufficient in nature – fishing, hunting and making stuff with his hands.

As cheesy as it might sound – I have a Cool Dad. And here are some life lessons I’ve picked up from him over the years.

Don’t be afraid of falling.

My dad taught me to ride a bicycle without training wheels. I remember asking him why he was taking off the small wheels from my first bicycle (a red BMX with matching tassels), and he said: “You’ll have to learn to ride without them someday, why not now?” Of course, my first cycling lesson ended with scraped knees, tears and a very black face. But I also remember waiting for him to come home from work the next day, so we could go riding again.

Girls can do anything a boy can.

My dad is a feminist (he just doesn’t realise it). He taught me how to climb a tree. He beamed proudly when I caught my first fish. He spent hours teaching me how to ride a motorcycle. He gave me my first beer.

A few years ago, I came home with second-degree burns from a motorcycle accident during a backpacking trip in Laos, and my mum said to him: “Your daughter thinks she’s a boy.” He laughed and replied: “No, she’s better than boys.”

Family comes first, always.

When I was young, my dad was offered a once-in-a-lifetime work opportunity that required him to relocate. Years later, my mum told me that he avoided a potential ultimatum by rejecting the offer right away, as he didn’t want to be away from his wife and young child.

Be adventurous. 

Especially when it comes to food. My dad gave me my first taste of raw oysters during a camping trip (he plucked them right off the rocks by the sea). He hid wasabi in the first piece of sushi I ever tried (another episode that ended in tears). He convinced me that frogs’ legs were chicken (I only found out many years later, when I told someone I’d never tried frog’s legs and Dad said, matter-of-factly: “Yes, you have”).

“Don’t diss what you haven’t tried” is my father’s food philosophy – and it applies to everything else in life.

Kindness and humour matter.

My dad can talk to anyone – taxi drivers, cashiers, aunties at the next table in a hawker centre – and make them laugh. And he taught me that if you’re kind to people and make the first move to start a conversation, people usually respond to you in a positive way.

Love exists in the smallest details.

Every morning, there’s a cup of hot Milo waiting for me on the kitchen counter – made by my dad. He has never failed to pick me up from the airport after every trip I’ve come back from. I’ve never heard him say “I love you” to anyone in my life, but I am completely sure that he loves his family, very much. And I’m even more certain that I love him back, way, way more than I can say. Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

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