I had the privilege to share my experience of fatherhood during Father’s day at our church in Melbourne, 7 September 2014.
Thank you for the opportunity to share with you my experience as a father. I believe as parents, we have all experienced how God has blessed us, and our families. This is our story.
We were married young. I was just finishing my master’s degree, and Janice had been working as a primary school teacher for a short time. Shortly after our wedding, Janice became pregnant with Timothy. He came as a surprise. We married early because we wanted to further our studies together. We had big plans for our future; plans that didn’t include children yet. We certainly weren’t ready to be parents.
At around the same time I was accepted into a PhD program at the Australian National University with a full scholarship. We decided that we would try to request for a deferment of my PhD studies till after Timothy is born. I was afraid I would lose my scholarship; thankfully the university agreed to wait.
What appeared to be an “obstacle” in our plans turned out to be a multiple blessings. I had to provide for our young family, and managed to secure a good job in the civil service. We also managed to afford our first home. I commenced my studies when Timothy was 6 months old, and Janice had started her studies soon after. It was only in retrospect that we understood why God has blessed us with Timothy. We believed He wanted us to be more financially secure.
Juggling our studies with a child is challenging. It was not easy but we managed to get by.
However we were in for a bigger surprise. A year and a half into my studies Janice fell pregnant again with our twins. The news came as a shock. Our plans were once again thrown into disarray. Janice was unable to cope with both her studies and the pregnancy, and had to suspend her studies. I am sure she remembers how she struggled with morning sickness and doing her exams.
It also became clear that we cannot afford to feed our family of five on my scholarship.
Our twins were born in 2008. Then I was still doing my PhD. Once again, I knew I had to get a job.
I applied for only one job, and amazingly I got it. This is the research job that I currently have at the Melbourne Institute. Being forced to work implied that my PhD would take longer to finish. By His grace I finished writing my PhD thesis in a year, and finally completed my PhD.
Children are always blessings from God, and especially twins, but we never understood God’s timing. It was until the financial crisis in 2009 that a number of my classmates could not find work when they graduated. And I would likely be like them if I had not been forced to start work early.
Indeed, God sees our tomorrows before they become today.
Yes, as you can tell, we were lousy when it comes to family planning. Thankfully we had God who did His divine planning for us.
Like all fathers, being a dad to four has its ups, and downs. My favourite part is coming home after work, welcomed by my children, screaming excitedly for they had not seen their father since he left for work in the morning. Janice has always been envious of the reception I get; my reply is usually “mothers get a song (Mothers are the best in the world; 世界只有妈妈好) but not fathers”.
I often wished I can divide myself into four, to offer them the individual attention that they deserve.
On the other hand I often worry about providing for our big family, especially when we are on a single income given Janice is a full-time mother. This has taught us to be wise custodians of the resources that God has blessed us with. We teach our children to value everything they have. They have had to share in everything, from ice-cream to TV. We hope this would be a valuable life’s lesson.
Amazingly we never felt we were lacking financially. Never more and never less. Just sufficient.
Often I ponder about my children’s future: their studies, work, faith, and life. And I remind myself how God will take care of them, as He has taken care of us.
Some of you might be aware that we will be leaving Melbourne soon. I will be starting a lecturing job at the University of Adelaide next year. This has been something we have been praying about for a few years and we believe God has called us to Adelaide, as He called us to Melbourne 5 years ago.
We have been touched by your love and support, and thank you for accepting us into the Burwood family. I thought it is fitting to leave you with a something that you would remember our family by.
First, we are family of six: a father, mother, big brother, big sister, younger sister and younger brother.
Second, we are a family with four seasons. Following our birthday months, we have Spring (Janice), Summer (Terence), Autumn (Tim, Joseph), Winter (Joan, Joen).
Finally the bible contains interesting number patterns, such as 7s and 8s. Our family has a set of number patterns too: 13+13. 3+3. Timothy’s birthday is 13 days from Joseph’s, and Joan and Joen 13 days from Timothy’s. And they are born 3 years apart. Incidentally Janice and myself are three years apart as well.
God the divine planner. He must be a mathematician too.
Finally I would like to express my gratitude to my wife Janice. For her hard work in bringing up our four children, and for taking such wonderful care of our family. She certainly deserves five PhDs for all that she has done.
Happy Father’s Day.
-Terence C Cheng-