Having been raised in China, Father’s Day was initially a foreign concept to me. We didn’t have holidays that celebrated such a role and when I moved to this country, I found myself fascinated by this country’s annual tribute to Fatherhood.
My father was very traditional and we had a typical Chinese father-son relationship. He celebrated me and showed me he loved me through actions rather than words. He celebrated all of his children (me and my two sisters) by bringing us into a world, in a country, that at the time, was known for its one-child policy. I will be forever grateful for his bold action and sacrifice. I credit him for leading by example and pointing me to my new life in the United States.
It might seem strange that someone would be so excited about what some refer to as a Hallmark holiday but I look forward to it every year. When I first became a father a little over three years ago, my life completely changed. Fatherhood had new meaning and I took on the role with gusto. While my father was a wonderful man, I knew I wanted to do things a bit different. My father did a lot but said little. When I became a dad, I decided that I would build a relationship with my son that was filled with self-expression. I felt a strong protective need to be my son’s mentor, friend and partner but also wanted to openly express how important he was to me.
I recently relocated to Phoenix from Los Angeles for the opportunity to work with Southwest Behavioral & Health Services. However, because my young son is enrolled in a preschool program and navigating his way through two languages and two cultures, my wife and I decided that it would be best if they join me after he completes the school year. I drive back to Los Angeles every two weeks but for someone that relishes in personal connection and wants to build a father-son relationship built on expression, it’s tough. I’m missing our talks and the opportunity to witness the monumental advances he is making on a daily basis. Our conversations during daily school commutes and trips to the local park have been replaced with FaceTime chats. So, for now I parent from a distance. And because I don’t want to miss any important moment in my child’s life, I’m thankful for technology.
I believe it’s my duty to raise a good son. One that knows the importance of living a life with meaning. I think it’s important to teach him to do the right thing, make the right decisions and be a good person. But for the time being, I tell him, “be good and listen to your mom.”
My son is my biggest motivator and the reason I want to stay in the United States. This great county affords opportunities I didn’t have growing up in China. As a citizen, he will know what it means to have a quality education. I will teach him about his heritage and culture while sharing our beautiful language and traditions but I am going to make sure he knows and has the best that both worlds have to offer. He will know and respect the importance of hard work and privilege of citizenship and his duty to pass his lessons on to his children.
So, this year I’m really looking forward to celebrating Father’s Day. It affords me the opportunity to reflect on my relationship with my dad and what he taught me as well as celebrate the fact that my wife and son will be joining me in our new home.
Dong Liang is a public relations specialist for Southwest Behavioral & Health Services.