Boon Choon and Joshua – Standing Tall on Our Fathers’ Experiences

Centre for Fathering-Dads for Life (CFF-DFL), in partnership with Mediacorp, is honouring fathers this Father’s Day with Celebrating Fathers 2018. To reinforce the important role of fathers and its impact on families and the next generation of families; the theme for this year’s month-long series of activities will be: “A Dad is for Life—Honouring Fathers from Generation to Generation.” 

Read about father and son, Wee Boon Choon and Joshua Marcus Wee.

The Wee Family

After 38 years as cabin crew in Singapore Airlines (SIA), Mr Wee Boon Choon (63) retired in 2016 as an Inflight Supervisor (a position now known as Inflight Manager). But, his days remain full. A trainer and facilitator for CFF-DFL’s ICAN workshops and Breakfast with Dad programmes, Boon Choon also volunteers in the Singapore core team of The World Needs a Father (TWNAF), a global fathering movement.

To prepare for what he would do after SIA, Boon Choon began training as a counsellor at age 40, juggling work and studies, achieving a Master of Social Science in Counselling in 2006. An experienced counsellor, he has worked with couples and families in crisis.

Mr Joshua Marcus Wee (35), Boon Choon’s son, holds a Master of Social Science in Counselling too. Joshua did not complete his Polytechnic course as it turned out to be unsuitable for him. After his National Service (NS), he signed on to join the Army, completing his higher studies in his 10 years there. He has been working in the Institute of Mental Health for over five years, and will be joining the Singapore Manufacturing Federation in mid-May 2018. Joshua is also in the core team of the Fathers Group at St Hilda’s Primary, his alma mater and currently his children’s school.

Boon Choon lives with his wife, Kim Hong, and their second son, Nathan (23). Their home is just a five-minute walk away from Joshua, his wife Catherine, and their four children: Melody (11), Matthew (9), Matthias (7) and Mason (3).

“As a grandfather, I have no time to be bored. I’m more of a playmate to them,” says Boon Choon who is physically active and cycles to keep fit. Mathew’s favourite activity with Grandpa? “Soccer! I beat him the other day at it!” he beams. “Grandpa let you win,” replies Joshua with a chuckle. They also enjoy board games.

This family of foodies looks forward to birthday celebrations. On festive occasions, they savour Kim Hong’s wonderful Cantonese dishes and Boon Choon’s signature Ayam Buah Keluak, a Peranakan delicacy.

Father-Son Journeys

Candid and authentic, Boon Choon and Joshua willingly share their struggles to encourage others in the fathering journey. Both have inherited values and practices they want to pass to their children and leave a lasting legacy for generations.

Boon Choon enjoyed being a father. But, he experienced tensión with Joshua over his academic performance during the teenage years, “I had the tendency to be controlling and very strict. Initially, it was pretty strained between us due to my disciplinarian approach. The relationship took on a better slant after Joshua entered NS. We communicated in a more mature manner, respecting each other.”

“Perhaps like fine wine, our relationship has improved tremendously with age. We’ve probably entered the ‘adult’ father-son phase,” says Joshua who credits Boon Choon for consistently being there for the family. “My father belongs rightfully to the era when men brought back the bacon and weren’t always involved in their children’s lives. But, he differed. He was present whenever he could, not just physically –he bothered to ask how things were. While it did seem suffocating at times during my teens, I’m appreciative, because it took deliberate effort.”

Determined to improve his parenting skills, Boon Choon was mindful to be less performance-oriented when relating to his sons. On hindsight, he realises that navigating Joshua’s teenage years was probably tough for him because he did not experience them with his dad. Unfortunately, Boon Choon was only 12 when his father passed away.

Being Present

“My father was strict but caring,” says Boon Choon. “He was an old Raffles Institution student and a sporty person who played badminton very well. Our conversations were always about studies and the need to get a good education.” This instilled in Boon Choon a zest for physical activity and love for learning. As a dad, he brought Joshua swimming and read with him.

Joshua elaborates, “The formative years with my father were very good. Though work took him away for periods of time, it also meant that a significant portion of his time in Singapore was on weekdays. And, during these times, he made the effort to spend time and be a father, walking me to school and occasionally popping in during his morning jogs. He put family first.”

Showing Affection

One of Boon Choon’s fondest memories is sitting on his father’s lap, “He never told me to go away, even if he had to work on the typewriter.”

“Though my father was strict, he was affectionate, never failing to hug me and say ‘I love you!’ ” says Joshua. “Now, as a dad, my leave is largely used for the little things that matter, such as walking my children to and from school or having after-school lunches –being in the ‘here and now’ with them. Our presence as fathers is probably the most important thing we can gift our children. I am equally affectionate to my kids as my father was to me –hugging them, saying ‘I love you’, kissing their foreheads as they sleep.”

Humility and Respect

“As a father, I wanted them to know that friends are important –to appreciate and value them. And, to honour God,” says Boon Choon.

Joshua ensures that his kids never get too big-headed, “I am possibly as strict as my father on issues of character. There are boundaries I will not let my children cross, such as showing disrespect to their elders or being unkind to those weaker than them. To me, all the ‘A’s in your examinations will count for nothing if you have a terrible character.”

Leaving a Legacy

Values from his faith have guided Boon Choon since his youth. He hopes for his children and grandchildren to hold on to the richness of their spiritual heritage, embrace its values, and sacrificially serve God and community, “Values will have a long-lasting impact on their character. I’d like to see good values in them rather than for them to value things, or value success for success’ sake.”

“I hope that long after I am gone, my children will understand they are family no matter where life takes them –that they remain on good terms and remember they have each other,” says Joshua. “I may have gotten this subconsciously from my parents. My home was a gathering place for our extended family –reunion dinners, relatives visiting from overseas, etc. When my maternal grandmother was depressed after my grandfather passed away, my dad invited her to live with us.”

“There was always a sense of family over convenience,” Joshua concludes.

Family first.