My father taught me that fatherhood is a sacrificial love. Dad was a geologist and a very hard worker and had to travel overseas a lot. Eventually he was just over it, so he moved us all over here to Australia from Malaysia when I was six-years-old. He was constantly away for his job – working for a month, then home for a month – pretty much our whole lives. But we never, ever felt like dad was absent. Because when he was home, he was always really present.
Dad really loves music. I think the biggest part that he played in my musicality was his taste in music. He introduced me to artists like Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, and The Platters. In fact, the first song I actually learned as a kid wasn’t some nursery rhyme it was The Platters’ Only You. So it was instilled in me at a young age, to seek out soulful music. I’m pretty grateful for that.
Dad taught me you can’t control everything – sometimes you just have to let things go. He always used to say to me, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” That’s become a really valuable lesson in my life because I’m a natural people pleaser – in business, in my personal life. I feel empathy and I hate letting people down. But what I’ve learned is that I can’t change everyone’s opinion of me.
When you’re in the spotlight, people write things about you that don’t necessarily line up with your own perception of yourself. So you’re sitting there going, “Hang on, but that’s not true!” But my dad taught me that the value of not being consumed by other people’s opinions of you. You just to run your own race.
Dad lived by simple rules. Pay your bills, don’t screw anyone, look after people and they’ll hopefully, in turn, look after you. And I have this memory that will never leave me where my brother forgot, accidentally, forgot to pay a bill to Radio Rentals for a stereo system. He forgot to pay the final payment and a debt collector came to the house.
I remember that evening, I was looking for my dad and I couldn’t find him. Until I saw him outside, sitting in our old Nissan Prairie and he was crying. I’d never really seen my dad cry. He’s not the most emotional person. But it affected him that much. He always taught me just how important it is in life to be a fair person in business, in life, and in relationships.
I’ve got two boys – Hudson (8) and Archer (6). I think fatherhood is a really tough thing to navigate. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by too much information or other people’s opinions. But the thing that I’ve always tried to do is to look at what worked for me growing up as a kid. Obviously, as an adult, there’s things that I like about myself and things that I don’t like. So I look at the things I like about myself and I try and dissect: what did my parents do which enabled me to really build on those qualities?
I obviously grew up quite differently from my kids. I was one of four boys. We lived in the suburbs of Adelaide about 45 minutes out from the city and didn’t live a lavish lifestyle. But we learned to value things. Like I slept with my first pair of Nikes when I was 15 years-old because I was so grateful for them.
Then I see my kids, they leave their stuff out in the rain and they’ve had Nikes since they were literally infants. And so, I guess you’re always a bit insecure as a dad, thinking, “Am I screwing this up? Am I instilling the right things in them? And how do I even do that when they’re in a completely different environment? That’s a big insecurity, for me.
So I’m always reminding my boys of how lucky they are. I’m fairly hard on them when it comes to not being grateful and not looking after their stuff. I’ve moved on from wanting to just be their mate. As a dad, you’re there to make sure you’re shaping your kids to be the best kids they can be, and to give them the tools to navigate the challenges of adulthood.
There’s been days where I’ve been in tears over having to actually discipline them in some harsh lesson, whether it be not going to a birthday party because they’ve misbehaved or something and they spend the day crying. But some lessons you have to teach them and it’s weird because you end up actually having this closer bond with your child through discipline. They kind of gravitate towards being told the right thing to do.
My kids are very different. My second child, Archer is so sensitive that I literally don’t even have to tell him off. He can see it in my face and his bottom lip starts getting emotional and quivering – he just wants to please his parents. He’s an angel. Whereas Hudson is more difficult. He’s just got this fire and I love that because it’s a competitive fire and he’s got so much spirit.
The one thing I’m working on as a dad is that I think it’s easy to naturally gravitate more towards one child than the other because they share similar interests to you. Hudson loves cricket and I played club cricket my whole life. I played AFL and he loves AFL. He’ll sit down and watch the Big Bash with me every night. We have that bond.
But Archie is not interested in any of that. He loves finding a stick and pretending to be an Avenger for an hour in the backyard with a stick – he’s got this wonderful imagination. That doesn’t line up with my personal interests. But you just need to get into what they are into rather than try and force into your interests. Like I told him last night, I said, “Archie, when you get home tomorrow can we map out a little square in the backyard and have an Avengers sword fight? I’ll be Thor and then I’ll be Hulk.” And he said, “Yeah! And I’ll be Iron Man and Captain America.” It actually ended up being really fun.
“Neither of my kids are great eaters. Sometimes they just won’t eat certain things and you don’t have that half an hour to try and convince them and say they can’t leave the table because you’ve got to get them to school. We discovered the Vita Gummies from Nature’s Way in the grocery store years ago. And we found it a really easy way to make sure they’re getting everything that they need on top of an already healthy diet. It’s become like a treat for them after breakfast. So when when we were approached by them recently as ambassadors, it was just a really natural fit.”
Guy Sebastian is a Nature’s Way Kids Smart Ambassador. His album T.R.U.T.H. is available now, and the national T.R.U.T.H. Tour kicks off in November.