My name is Allan Mao. I grew up in China, but Sydney has been my home for over 20 years. I have just turned 55 and my boys are 13 and 11. My wife Christine is an Australian Born Chinese and we have been married for 16 years. We have a family tradition of celebrating our birthdays in our pyjamas.
I am the Connect Pastor at Hurstville Presbyterian Church, serving a multi-generational multi-ethnic church. I try to be regular with my early morning bike rides with other MAMILs (middle-aged man in lycra). Sometimes we share our parenting notes over our post-ride coffees.
The benefit of being in ministry is that I am working from home most days, so I am around with my family. On weekdays, I am home by 7:30am after my morning ride to take my boys to school. Dinner time is an important time for us, because we talk a lot over the dinner table. I am learning to be a good listener and to ask good questions so that my boys will share their stories and reflect on their days.
2. What have been the joys and challenges of your current season of fatherhood?
I simply enjoy watching my boys grow—noticing small changes in their lives, participating with them when they are going through tough times, and celebrating with them over any achievements, big or small.
I enjoy riding bikes with my boys. During the pandemic, I rode with my older son into the city which was a big achievement for us. I have promised to do the same with my younger one, but we haven’t found the time to do that yet, but he enjoys any special father-son time.
Since the pandemic, I have found it difficult to prevent my boys from spending too many hours in front of their screens. During the lockdowns, we were trying to get connected with others online, my boys did the same with their classmates, and now I have found it hard to wean them off social media. I need to be firm while also enabling them to make their own choices through the giving of guidelines for prioritisiation.
Raising boys in their early teenage years comes with a rollercoaster of emotions. I often chat with my senior pastor who is about 10 years ahead of me in fathering. He shares with me that what my boys really need is a firm, consistent and loving father when their emotions are not stable. I am grateful for his advice.
3. How has knowing God the Father shaped the way you father your children?
When it comes to fatherhood, I often think about Matthew 7:11(NLT): “So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.”
This verse tells me two things. Firstly, the bible links the earthly father with the Heavenly Father. Secondly, while I am imperfect and trying hard to give my children the best, my Heavenly Father has already provided the best for them and for me. This verse gives me comfort and confidence. When I look first to my Heavenly Father for provision, I can gain a wealth of resources to meet my own children’s physical, emotional, relational and spiritual needs.
When I have an intimate relationship with my Heavenly Father, His mercy and grace will naturally flow through out of my life, and my children then are able to encounter God and their lives will be transformed.
4. What is one piece of advice that you would give to new dads this Father’s Day?
Each season of life comes with new challenges, and each family has their own unique situations. For me, it was very daunting to become a new dad, even though I was already 42 years old. I remember crying when Christine and I stepped out of the hospital with our brand-new baby boy in the capsule. I realised that I had been given the responsibility to raise him into a man who would one day follow God’s heart. Now 13 years on, I have learned that God is always ahead of me, He is doing the parenting work for me and through me. He provides more than enough for me to be the father for my two boys.
Besides this, we are all sons before we become dads. Reflecting on and learning about my own experience of being a son is one of the good gifts I can give to my boys. We are all able to learn from our own dads’ experiences, the good and the bad. I have often wondered how much my father’s influence on me has shaped the way I am a dad. This self-awareness of how I relate to my father is a good starting point to prepare me as a new dad.