While it’s easy to shower our mums with love and affection, the same can’t often be said about fathers, which is a crying shame. Dads too often seem like the opposite ends of a spectrum: the tough disciplinarian, or the one we turn to with puppy eyes and crocodile tears when Mum won’t let us eat more than a cookie before dinner time. But somehow, when it comes to actually showing our Dads that we care, we stoop to giving him a prized toolbox or the new BBQ grill he’s been eyeing and we forget that sometimes, all they want is just a bit of time with their loved ones as well.

I grew up with six girls and a Dad. For the longest time, the only familiar male figure in my life was my father, especially since I’m also the eldest in my family. Perhaps that’s why I grew up rather gender-neutral in terms of my interests; I’d climb up trees and run around in muddy fields, and I’ll wreck my mother’s makeup in an attempt to have pretty red lips and pink cheeks. (That usually ended disastrously, though.) But as I grew up, I realised just how fortunate I am that my Dad is who he is, and how fortunate I am that he was the man I’d grow to compare to other men that came into my life.

One of the things I learned from him is how the transition between being a child and an adult is one that’s awkward and rewarding all at once. There have been many late night conversations between the both of us, where I’d see my Dad as more than just a father: he’d talk about his own past, about what was going on with his old colleagues now that he’s retired, and that was when I realised that my father is actually seeing me more than just his own daughter as well. And it’s a little scary, but, well. Everyone’s gotta grow up sooner or later.

But even then, he’d keep his youth, especially now that he’s retired and has too much time on his hands. One thing I’d probably inherited from him is perhaps how we lean on the arts as a way to express ourselves: him through his woodwork and me through my words. We’d get lost in honing our crafts, and that’s how I learned that there was more to life than hustling.

Don’t get me wrong, though. My Dad is a hard worker; he’d have to be, to provide for all of us.

Perhaps the workaholic streak is something I’d inherited as well.

However, above all, the one value I’ll always cherish is how he taught me to walk to my own beat; to stand my ground and reach up high for my dreams. Both of my parents were instrumental in helping me to learn how to create worlds in my head, but they had different approaches as to how I would use that ability when I was all grown up. My Mum was meticulous in teaching me to be prudent; to save up and look for a future that would carry me, and she was right. There’s no way I’d be able to look after myself with mere passion and no cash to pay the bills. But my Dad had told me to create a future I can carry as a legacy.

I learned confidence from my Dad in the way he’d push me to my limits, and I’d reach the point of make-or-break on my own. I learned strength from how he’d allow me to work to my bones, when I’d finally be exhausted from sheer stubbornness and that was how I’d know how far I could push myself. I learned to care in the way my Dad looked after each and everyone of us girls in different and equal ways, always aware of how incredibly different we all were.

So, here’s to you, Dad: Happy Father’s Day, and thank you for being the teacher, the friend, and the hero that I never knew I’d needed.