A core group of 11 from fathers@QtPSG (fathers@Queenstown Parent Support Group) catch up at a coffee shop once a month to plan activities for the school’s children and their dads. Hear their stories of how they have developed deeper relationships with their children and dedicated themselves to nurturing strong and enduring bonds.
At Queenstown Primary School (QtPS), dads are experiencing the transformative power of spending one-on-one time with their children. Since 2014, fathers have been organising camps, nature walks, kayaking, rock climbing or kite flying also known as layang-layang! These are just a few of the fun programmes that they enjoy together. Besides outdoor activities, Breakfast with Dad and Back to School with Dad programmes are great crowd pullers. In addition, they participate in various community service projects organised by the PSG.
Dads bring only one child to each activity for quality one-on-one time. Children with siblings in the school, take turns participating in the monthly programmes. Every dad has a story to tell of how he has come to know his child on a deeper level. Not only is he less distracted when spending time with his child, he finds himself increasingly dedicated to nurture their father-child relationship.
While all activities afford dads cherished memories, camping outdoors appear to be the highlight of the year for many of them.
We are Closer Now
“You get to spend the whole night out together. In a tent for many hours, you are bound to do things, like play games or just chat,” says Mr Mike Ang, Chairman, fathers@QtPSG.
“I am now closer with my son. Previously, he was closer to his mother.”
“He always spoke with her but hardly talked to me because I was always at work. However, when we went for fathers@QtPSG activities, it was only both him and me. It became something special that we share. We now call each other ‘Bro!’”
“I started out wanting to help fathers@QtPSG organise activities. It turned out that I gained more from it,” adds Mike, who has been volunteering with the group since his son entered school four years ago.
“When I go for camps with my son, I leave my handphone at home,” says Mr Vijayakumar (Vijay) Pounraj. The dad of two has been an ardent fan of camps since attending one with his older son three years ago.
“I started learning more about him. In a session, we got to ask each other 10 questions. My son’s answers surprised me. Before that, I saw him merely as a child who did not know much. Listening to him, I realised that he is a boy with career aspirations. For the first time, he shared what he did not like about me. It made me realise that I had to change my attitude towards him,” says the endearing dad.
He adds with mirth, “He watched me cook for the first time in his life. As my wife prepares the meals at home, he was amazed that I could cook instant noodles. Though it was a simple breakfast, it gave him the assurance that I can take care of him. My younger son is in kindergarten and cannot wait to join his older brother in school –for the fathers@QtPSG activities.”
Dads Learn Too
The first time they went for a camp, Mr Venkateswaran (Vittal) Natarajan wondered how his son would respond to sleeping in a tent. He was pleasantly surprised that the boy reveled in the programme. “He had double the fun than I expected, running around, getting to know the other kids.”
Vittal describes fathers@QtPSG as a community that allows a dad to learn about both his child and himself. “The activities give a glimpse of how your child is outside the home and interacts with others. Spending time together, you can help him cope better and overcome challenges.”
In addition, the activities forced Vittal to reflect on how he interacted with his son and daughter. “When my family went to the beach in the past, I fiddled on my handphone and let the children play by themselves,” he says candidly. Now, he actively engages with them.
Dads Add Value
Mr Lee Yew Wan explains why he makes time to organise these activities, “My brother-in-law was surprised at the many father-child activities at QtPS. I encouraged him to gather a group of dads to do the same. I pointed out that there’s a difference when dads are the organisers. We often inject an element of adventure in what we do, constantly ‘stretching’ and challenging our children to try something new, while having fun.”
“It’s good for kids to know that dads can organise activities, and watch their dads in action. My daughter thinks: ‘Dad is around. I’d better behave!’ It is good for a child to know that his dad is active in the school community.”
The camaraderie among the dads is strong. “Many of us are closer to the dads at school than we are to our colleagues,” adds Yew Wan. They stay connected via Whatsapp and try to encourage families under the school’s Financial Assistance Scheme to participate in the activities.
The sum of all these interactions is a vibrant school community.
“It has been said that you cannot take the boy out of the man. The activities allow me to re-live my childhood and it gives us fathers, opportunities to do fun stuff with our children that cannot be done on our own.
Some activities are better done in a group, otherwise there may not be a tipping point in term of numbers.
For example, a camp is more lively with other dads and children around. You also might not be able to go for a movie screening under the stars, unless you do it in a group like ours.”Mr Louie Tai, Dad Volunteer with fathers@QtPSG
Photo credits: Mike, Vijay, Vittal, Yew Wan, Louie and Queenstown Parents Support Group (PSG) Website and Queenstown PSG Facebook Page