Meet Fairul Ghani, a father of two sons, Adam and Aidan, who he proudly raises to accept themselves fully. Fairul takes the time to share with us his parenting journey and the ways, in which his faith and upbringing have shaped his role as a father.
Tell us a bit about your upbringing
I grew up in a town called Petaling Jaya in Malaysia, the youngest of five siblings. I lived with my parents and aunty. My aunty was like a live-in nanny who taught me everything. Growing up, I found that whenever I needed to express myself or talk to someone I’d turn to my aunty. If I was punished by my parents or needed a shoulder to cry on, she was always there for me.
My mother and father were a key part of my upbringing. Over the years and as I grew older, our emotional connection grew more, particularly with my father. My parents truly shaped who I am and why it’s so important to be present with my boys.
How does life differ in New Zealand to Malaysia?
I'm a Muslim that was raised in a country with Islam as the dominant faith, and now I live in a country where it’s not. I’m not a deeply religious person but I find that as I get older, my faith grounds me.
For me, Islam is part of who Fairul is. I didn’t realise how much that meant to me until the Christchurch mosque shooting. My faith is important to me, it completes me. I used to think that I needed to mould myself to fit in. Now, I know that being myself and feeling comfortable with who I am is what’s important—a feeling that completes my soul.
How do you help your boys explore their identity?
I understand that my boys need to go through their own journey of self-discovery. I’m curious to know what fills their cup. What is it that fulfils their soul? I know I can help guide them as a father, but it’s not my role to control them. Staying curious helps me know what is important to them and helps me guide them well.
Sometimes my approach goes against my cultural or family beliefs. For example, when Adam was a toddler, he was the rare boy who loved to wear pink tutus. I remember that was a real crossroads for me. I had to decide whether I was going to discourage or support him. I chose to let Adam explore himself. Not everyone agrees but I want him to be able to explore himself freely and fully. Adam loves dancing and I love seeing him participate.
Being a present father to you is important. Why?
When I look at my boys, I know as their father, I represent safety, security and protection. We need a strong father-son relationship to achieve that.
When I look back at the relationship I had with my own father, I remember him being busy and working a lot. As a child and young adult, we didn’t sit down to talk, discuss problems or the emotional things I was feeling. To me, dad was the authority, he sat at the head of the table, paid for the things that I needed and worked hard. I think that unintentionally created a barrier for us and meant I couldn’t talk or share with him, even though I wanted to. This experience has helped shape my approach to parenting. As a father, being present is important to me, and I want to create a strong connection with Adam and Aidan.
What areas do you work on most as a father?
I wear my heart on my sleeve and keeping my emotions in check takes practice. I’ve learned that when I react in the moment it doesn’t work out for anyone. Sometimes it’s better not to engage or let my boys figure it out for themselves.
I must remember to be kind to myself and forgiving too. Sometimes I get it wrong and yell or get frustrated. Then, on reflection, I’ll realise that could have gone way better. I could have taken a moment, a breather. It’s in these times, I am reminded to be forgiving towards myself.
What mindset shifts have you needed to become the father you are today?
Recognising that I’m not the head honcho of the family and I don’t need to have all the answers. I work in a parenting team. I have to remind myself that I need help to be successful as a father and my wife is a source of inspiration for me in that regard.
I’ve had to learn to listen to my wife more and understand that we will have different views from time to time. When we work together, we are able to come up with much better solutions.
There's humility in being able to accept that sometimes I am not right. I think that makes me a better person as a man, as a father or even as a mate to Adam and Aidan.