My father has never traveled to or read books about America. Neither is he a fan of American culture and values espousing freedom, independence or individuality. But what he did know was me.
As my personality began to form in the teen years, he saw a curiously adventurous, brave and open character that’s just his opposite. He also saw a stubbornly inquisitive temperament that often drove him wild. His standard response was – “Why do you ask so many questions? I don’t know!”
But what he didn’t know didn’t turn him off. He tuned into what I cared about from the questions I asked about college, and about my future when I grow up.
My father once told my older brother and I that he would be very proud and happy if his children would become medical doctors. That’s his style of expressing what he wanted for us, and for himself. But He did not impose. He did not instruct. He simply stated his dream. That gave me room to rebut.
“Dad, that’s a tall order.” I still remember him nodding with a grin. “I’m scared of blood!”
“Oh, in that case, you cannot be a doctor!” He began to laugh as if that would be a cure to his disappointment. His liberal laugh and detached attitude about what he wanted for me turned out to be the greatest gift he’s ever given me. Freedom.
Freedom from his personal dream. Freedom to find my own. Over the years whenever I return to Hong Kong to visit my father, he grins whenever I tell him how grateful I am to his liberal parenting style. To this day, he still says, “the most important thing is you are happy. I am happy because you are happy.”
As Father’s Day approaches, I want to salute him and all the fathers who allow their children the freedom to laugh at their limits and create their destiny.