It Started with a Parenting Seminar
Mr Abdul Hadi Bin Mohamed Salleh (Hadi) and his wife, Mdm Salmi Bte Idris, got to know about Bapa Sepanjang Hayat (BSH), the Malay-Muslim community in the Dads for Life (DFL) movement, when they attended a parenting seminar in September 2017 organised by Centre for Fathering-Dads for Life (CFF-DFL) and the Association of Muslim Professionals Singapore (AMP).
Hadi and Salmi are parents of four sons and a daughter –Muhammad Muhaimin (23), Muhammad Nurhakeem (21), Muhammad Raihan Syahmi (19), Muhammad Elias Syahmi (17), and Kaisah Nurin (14). Hadi (50) is Director and Principal Consultant at Ariel Protection Pte Ltd, and Salmi (52) is a homemaker.
On a two-year study break before embarking on his University studies, Muhaimin works at Yayasan Mendaki. Nurhakeem is in National Service and Raihan is in Ngee Ann Polytechnic. Elias and Kaisah are in secondary school.
At the seminar, Hadi was pleasantly surprised to bump into his former college-mate, Mr Jamsari Bin Ahmad, an active BSH volunteer. A few months later, Jamsari encouraged Hadi to participate in Jamming with Dad (JWD) Season 2 on 25 February 2018. An annual singing competition organised by BSH, JWD gets fathers and children to bond over music.
Then, There Was Jamming With Dad
Having watched Hadi and Raihan perform at an alumni gathering, Jamsari knew that they would have no problem taking to the stage.
“I’m grateful that my children are all musically inclined. Though none had formal lessons, they play the guitar, ukulele, keyboard, and drums. They can sing too,” says Hadi.
“Signing up for JWD 2018 was one the best decisions I ever made. It forced me to take time out and chill despite a hectic schedule. Jamming with Raihan and Elias was truly therapeutic,” he adds. “We absolutely enjoyed ourselves! Everyone in the family including my in-laws, and friends from college, came to support us. It’s a memory that I’ll cherish especially.”
A FGD and ICAN Workshop Followed
Appreciating the JWD 2018 experience, Hadi decided to return the favour to BSH by contributing to a focus group discussion (FGD) on father absenteeism led by Dr Mohamad Shamsuri Bin Juhauri from the Institute of Policy Studies. Additionally, Hadi attended an ICAN Workshop at Madrasah Al-Maarif Al-Islamiah. “It was thoroughly enriching. Knowledge shared among the participants was positively priceless.”
“Having been to various BSH activities, I’ve come to realise that there’s still lots to learn. I’ve also come recognise that, for me, it’s not fulfilling to merely gain knowledge. I want to practise what I learn and share about it with other fathers. Little did I imagine that I’d learn more as I share and listen to those willing to tell their stories,” Hadi explains.
It’s About Empathy and Connection
Armed with knowledge from BSH programmes, Hadi now finds it easier to empathise with his children on issues they are passionate about, “They no longer have to listen to me dishing out directives. Rather, we spend time looking at alternative solutions and making compromises to achieve a win-win situation.”
In regards to connecting across generations, Hadi shares, “I’ve learnt that it calls for me to grow with my children. It’s easier for us to ‘learn them’ rather than for them to ‘learn us’.”
Whether it is a father or grandfather trying to bridge the generation gap with a teenager, Hadi reckons that an elder has a better chance of understanding a youth as they are both living through the same time period. The youth, on the other hand, may not be able to identify with the elder because he has never lived through the latter’s times.
Pizzas, Sports, Music, Hugs!
At this stage in life, Hadi appreciates that he can be both a father and a friend to his children, “I can be strict when need be. And, I can be like a buddy on most occasions. I can take the boys out for pizza and talk about anything from sports to music and girls. I offer advice when I deem fit, but mostly listen to their anecdotes. I deeply value their willingness to share about personal things.”
“But most of all, I’m grateful to be still able to hug and kiss them every day like they are five-year-olds. Hugging is in our family culture. It flows naturally.”
Kindness and Compassion
It has been said that values are caught, not taught. As his children mature, Hadi is immensely concerned about their social development, especially their ability to care for others and show kindness.
From 2015 to 2017, Hadi and Salmi welcomed a teenage girl, Zoe, into their home as her mother battled and eventually passed away from cancer. They journeyed with Zoe and her family through that difficult season, sponsoring her studies until she completed her O-Level examinations.
“I did what I felt was the right thing to do. And, it paid off too. Kaisah and Zoe are now like sisters,” says Hadi. “My greatest hope is for my children to grow into God-fearing individuals with strong family values embedded deep within them…I hope they find ways to contribute to society and stand to be counted.”
Fatherhood, a Lifelong Commitment
For Hadi, the term ‘Dads for Life’ is not a slogan. Rather, it is about lifetime commitment.
“When I was 16, my mother had a stroke on her birthday. She was only 37. My world came tumbling down. I was the oldest of three, and only son. My mother was my confidante and pillar of strength. Before that, I had never seen my dad as more than a provider. In the years that followed, I came to realise that fathers play many important roles, especially in circumstances similar to mine.”
“My dad did his best to care for my ailing mother, while raising my sisters and I. He put us through college. But most important of all, he did not abandon us. The term ‘Bapa Sepanjang Hayat’ resonates because fatherhood is about commitment regardless of how the cards are dealt.”
It’s Been Rewarding!
“I love my children. They’re my inspiration. And, I love being their dad. I love the challenges and the commitment that come with being a father. It’s not a bed of roses but I’d do all over again, without hesitation.”
“It’s been a rewarding year with the BSH community,” says Hadi. “Salmi and I have purchased the tickets for this year’s seminar, Membina Keluarga Yang Berkekalan (Building Families that Last) on 16 September 2018, and look forward to it!”