It’s a father’s privilege to use play to bond with his child. In this hectic society, however, mindful bonding over fun doesn’t come easy. Centre For Fathering’s Adventure Camp with Dad may just take up 12 hours, but it is aimed at strengthening father-child relationships in that time.
“I’m not good at playing,” admits Chua Ying Hwee, 46, an education consultant. “That’s why I thought I would attend this with my son to have some fun.”
The timing was ideal: Ying Hwee’s son, who was 12 at the time, was preparing for his Primary School Leaving Examinations. “There had been a lot of focus on his learning,” says Ying Hwee. “It got quite tense at times. I wanted to have some fun with him and to encourage him about life.”
Fellow parent Andy Lee, 43, saw the Adventure Camp as an opportunity for him to spend time with his third child, Boon Yee, 10.
“Boon Yee is adventurous and big-hearted. He is trying to establish his own identity in our home, and his parents and oldest siblings are his role models,” says Andy, an IT manager with four children aged 8 to 14. “I wanted to find out more about his school life: I was clueless about his BFF (as kids call it) and his form teacher. Most importantly, I wanted to show to him that he matters to me.”
Bonding Through Play
The one-day Adventure Camp was packed with different activities and challenges that let father and son take turns leading. “There was rock climbing, high elements and rope walking,” describes Ying Hwee.
“I don’t do these things normally, but was willing to try them for my son’s sake. My son was very excited although he was a little worried about walking blindfolded on the tight rope.”
Yet the high elements presented an opportunity for bonding between Ying Hwee and his son. “He was walking on the tightrope blindfolded and I was walking close behind him. Actually, I would never even walk on the tightrope myself, but seeing him blindfolded, I had no choice but follow tight to guide him to complete the course. It was an accomplishment for both father and son, and we bonded as we went through it.”
Andy found himself practically in the hands of his son at the rock wall: the children had to keep their dads from crashing to the ground by securing a rope — a task called belaying. “I seriously doubted his ability to belay me!” laughs Andy. “Most of the dads experienced some apprehension when the little ones had to guide us down! Coaches were on hand to assist if things got tricky.”
What Makes Dads Proud
What is most precious to the fathers is discovering a new side to their kids. Ying Hwee shares that he has realised his son “could do close to the perceived impossible with encouragement from me”.
Andy and Boon Yee had to navigate the Dark Maze, which was harder for adults due to their size. To his surprise, Boon Yee volunteered to lead the way. “He confessed that he was afraid of navigating in the dark, but seeing me struggle in the tight corners, he volunteered to lead me!” says the proud father. “I had always thought he was the more laid back sort, so I was proud to see my son display initiative.”
The camp provided not just one-on-one interaction that was infused with fun, but also heartfelt conversations that didn’t often take place at home. “The fathers shared their love declaration for their child, and also their wishlist,” explains Lee.
“I declared to Boon Yee that he is always special and unique to me and mum, and we will always love him and give him our full support. I told him I just want him to be happy.”
Ready For Round Two
Andy heartily recommends the Adventure Camp to other fathers. “We parents are busy with family and work, it is very hard to create opportunities for family bonding; one-to-one sessions are even more rare,” he says, adding that going out as a family, the focus on the child is shared with his siblings.
Ying Hwee plans to bring his daughter, who is now 10, to the camp in two years. “It’s a fantastic way to spend time with them one-on-one,” he says. Similarly, Andy will be bringing his daughter, who is now 8, to the camp next.
The children also bring away fond memories from the camp. “Boon Yee remembers the obstacles which we went through together,” says Andy. “I hope he understands that once we learn to trust each other, we can achieve a lot of things together as a family.”
The one-day Adventure Camp With Dad caters to children aged between 9 and 14 years. Fee is $150 for father and one child. For more information, call 6769-1238 or email firstname.lastname@example.org