From the way Harry Soepranoto describes his three children in his introduction to this interview, it is clear to see that this father is deeply involved in his children’s lives and knows each one innately. Of his firstborn, Jonathan, 22, Soepranoto describes as “the gentleman leader of action but few words.” His daughter, Nicole, 20, is a “God-loving and people-loving young lady with the heart of a servant.” His youngest, Justin, 18, is the “inquisitive and tenacious young gentleman who always wants an explanation for everything. He is married to his wife, Shirly, whom he describes as “a God fearing, capable and selflessly loving woman.
As Father’s Day approaches, CityParents caught up the Indonesian businessman, and member of City Harvest Church since 2006, who shares some of his thoughts on being a father.
CP: Aside from being led and guided by God, what governs the way you live your life as a father?
HS: As a father, I have learned that I should be more mindful of three aspects of my life, namely, my Actions, my Words and my Conviction. Here are some illustrations …
- Back in late nineties, when I used to smoke, there was an incident whereby our eldest son, Jonathan, tried to mimic me smoking by holding his “Pocky” (chocolate-coated biscuit stick) as if he was holding a cigarette, and that gesture truly shocked me. When he was proudly telling me that he was “smoking” just like me, my heart sank and I decided to quit smoking shortly after. The saying “Monkey see, monkey do” rang deep in my heart until today.
- Since I was a little boy, my father always taught me the principle of honoring your words because your word is your bond. As a man, we can be caught up in our work, and we may unintentionally forget our promises to our little loved ones – promise to take them to arcade, promise to go to the park as a family, etc. These broken promises may not seem so important, as we may think that these children are still too little to understand. However, if done very often, these disappointments can severe the father-child relationship, because the “trust factor” may break down between father and child.
- Because fathers are called to be the priest of the house, our faith and conviction in God need to be shown in our daily living. I still remember when I first heard of how Jewish fathers (not mothers) pray and bless their children everyday, my thought was “No wonder Jewish people are so blessed.” Even though the routine may seem like a chore at times, I believe that it has significant impact on our children living out God’s will in their individual lives.
CP: Can you share some struggles that a typical father might go through and how should he try to overcome these struggles?
HS: As fathers are typically the main breadwinner of the family, we usually don’t have the luxury of time to spend with our loved ones. Therefore, we need to put in more effort in bonding and spending more time with them on our off-days. There was a period of time when I used to golf two to three times a week; the kids were between 4 to 8 during those days. I kind of regretted it because I had missed my bonding time with them. Later on, I decided to limit my golfing to just once a week. I felt that my priority on my off-days should not be golfing or doing my own activity. Therefore, I endeavoured to organize family outings that involved all five of us—be it eating out, watching a movie, cycling, etc. The sacrifice is worth it because there is a bond that has been built; whatever challenge may come, in whatever season in our lives, as long as we stay connected with one another and with God, we can overcome any struggle.
CP: Please tell us a memorable incident in your journey of fatherhood.
HS: My family and I used to live in a very small city in Indonesia and we had to travel an hour to church every Sunday. In those days, there were a few occasions when we would travel to the bigger cities (three to five-hour drive) right after church service for a meal and an outing (arcade, amusement park, etc.). On one of those trips, when it was time for us to head back home, our two older children (who were 6 and 8 years old at that time) tried to persuade us to stay for the night. Because we didn’t pack extra clothes and other necessities, we weren’t too keen to do that. However, we saw their pleading eyes, we couldn’t say no to them. Once we agreed to their “suggestion”, they jumped up and down and their faces beamed with so much joy. Honestly, to see such happiness in our children’s face was priceless, and it was truly one of the most memorable moments in my life as a father. That’s what we fathers live for …
CP: Which is tougher, being a father of young children or being a father of teenagers?
HS: Each season of fatherhood has its own uniqueness and it is an unending yet enjoyable journey. For me personally, fathering young children was easier because they readily listen to and obey you. So our role is mainly to be their teacher and care giver. As they grow older and become teenagers, they develop their own ideals and independence, and they tend to form their own opinion, to the point that they sometimes question or challenge directions and instructions. I am not saying that it’s a bad thing, rather, it is a different stage of life. As a father of a teenager and adult children, I embrace them as my friends and equal now, and I love watching them flourish to become the men and woman that God has created them to be.
CP: What are you looking forward to as a father in the next 5 to 10 years?
HS: In five to 10 years time, I would imagine that Jonathan, Nicole and Justin will have their own family and children. When they become parents, I look forward to them imparting and teaching Christ-like values to my grandchildren and carry on the legacy. As it is said in Proverbs 22:6, we are to “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”