Dearest Syafina Fasya,
Happy 24th birthday Syafina Fasya. This will be such an exciting year of change and growth for you that I particularly want us to keep in close touch with one another. Both of us are undergoing major transitions, so I hope we can understand and empathize with each other.
I have lived 30 and 1 month more years in the world than you have. I will be delighted to share any of my experiences with you, well aware that you have to find your own path. Sometimes I will forget and try to turn you into a newer, better me. I want you to point out what I'm doing when I do that. As you grow older, I identify more and more with you, so I will have to struggle not to force my old aspirations on you. But I have tried very hard in the past to respect your individuality. You were a distinct, dynamic individual from the moment you were born. I remember looking into your gorgeous, alert, intelligent eyes the day you were born and wondering if you would be too much for me. And sometimes you are. I am trying very hard to grow up enough to be a good father to you. I have always loved your spirited determination to be your own person, what Cikgu Siti, your nursery school teacher, called "your considerable sense of self." I want you to continue to feel free to tell me when I am making an obvious mistake with you or a not so obvious one.
I am glad you are so close to your Mak. My own teenage years would have been far happier if I hadn't been so intimidated by my Mak, so afraid of arguing with her, so afraid of getting close. You never have to choose between us; we will try to give you opportunities to be alone with each of us. You already know what very different people we are, but we are equally proud of our beautiful, brilliant, spirited daughter.
Women need not become like men to succeed in life. Women need to support and understand one another. I would never go so far as one psychologist did when she wrote a book entitled, "Men Are Just Desserts." But don't ever neglect your girlfriends for some boy. I think that is particularly important because you have brother or male cousins you see regularly. Peer pressure still discourages men and women from being "just friends," but I hope you can withstand that premature emphasis on pairing off. Mak was my friend before she was my lover and my wife.
For most of this century fathers and daughters have been at odds with each other. That has been a tragic loss for women in general. Ideally your father should be your most ardent supporter and confidant. No one, except your future husband, will probably ever love you more. In fact fathers have an even better track record than wife. I hope we can continue to be friends. I know we will fight, but fighting doesn't diminish our closeness. Look at me and Mak. When you were born, a friend of mine said, "Good, Saiful has a daughter he can fight with. That should make he very happy."
I hope we can continue to share books with each other. That might be one of the best ways for you to teach me lessons that you think I need to learn. Find me the right book to read. I often learn more from books than from my own mistakes. And you can always write notes to me if you find something too difficult to say. I can express myself in writing far better than I can face-to-face. I don't know if you're the same way, but you could try. Wouldn't you have loved to see a letter from me to my daughter at age 24? I would love to see it too. Recently I have remembered more of my teenage years. I'm glad. Getting to know teenage Saiful Anuar again will help me to be kinder to teenage Syafina Fasya.
More than anything else, I wish I had kept a journal when I was a teenager. It would have helped me so much to mother my teenagers. It would be a priceless legacy to had down from one generation to another. So much rich human experience is lost when women don't write down the details of their lives. I've only recently rediscovered journal keeping, and it has helped me clarify my own life more than anything.
You seem so much older than you did a year ago. I know you will change even more this year. Being a woman is wonderful, Fina. All human experience is open to you. Men are denied many of the most wonderful experiences. You should never regretted being a woman. Don't ever be afraid of your feeling. It's God's most glorious creation. Own it and glory in it. Don't ever be afraid to ask me any questions . I might know all the answers, but I almost certainly will have heard of the book where answers can be found. I believe knowledge never hurt anyone. I would far rather you know too much, stuff you never need to know, then know too little. I have always tried to be open with you, so never stop bringing your questions to me.
Syafina Fasya, only three months from now you will be finishing ur study. The last 23 years seem but a blink of my eyes. I have made many mistakes, expected too much, haven't been patient enough, haven't listened enough, haven't spent enough time alone with you. How rarely have ur Mak and I spent an evening alone with you like we are doing tonight. Too often you have gotten lost in the shuffle of our chaotic family life. As you undergo so many changes in your life, we need to find more ways to spend time together so we don't become strangers to one another. Maybe I should write letters to you more often--not just once a year on your birthday, but whenever I have something important to share with you. Keep this book for my letters to you. Whenever I have something more to say, I will leave this cute letter under my blogs saifulfromslim.blogspot.com and social link Facebook update.
I remember 23 years ago so vividly. Someday I'll share with you a paper I wrote about childbirth with a detailed description of your birth. I hope I can spend every birthday with you, that you won't move so far away that I can't make it to your birthday party every year of my life.
Syafina , you have been such a joy to me--so beautiful, so brilliant, so talented, so observant, so spirited. I love to love the same writing you love. I enjoyed being made over, but you have been making me over for 23 years since that glorious moment in the middle of the night when I first held in my arms the most beautiful baby I had ever seen and she stuck her tongue out at me. I don't have words to tell you how joyous I am to have a 24 years old daughter Syafina, who will make me over all my life.
Saiful Anuar Safian
10th April 2012
Happy Birthday to Syafina Fasya
Abah & Mak
Nurulaina Fasya, Suhaifaniza Fasya & Noratiqah Fasya
Slim River Perak