[Exclusive Interview] Ryan Kwak Seong Hoon on the beauty and chaos of parenthood
"I’m far from being the most devout person. But that day, I truly thanked God from the bottom of my heart that everything went smoothly. I’d never felt so humbled and grateful before..."
Earlier this month, Korean principal Ryan Kwak Seong Hoon earned hero-dad status in Singapore parenting circles, after dramatically delivering his baby girl on a Pasir Ris pavement.
Over here at theAsianparent, we were super-excited when Ryan, who runs the SEJONG Korean language school here in Singapore, agreed to have a chat with us about all things related to parenting and life in general – and of course, more exclusive details about his gorgeous wife’s road-side delivery!
Korean Principal Ryan Kwak Seong Hoon on Parenting, Dramatic Deliveries, Love and Life
With movie-star good looks and a picture-perfect family, at first glance, Ryan comes across as a dream husband and dad. And he remains so, even at second (and third!) glance.
What is strongly apparent about Ryan is his absolute devotion to his stunning wife Valerie Cher Goh, and his gorgeous kids Joseph Alexander Kwak Tae Jin (two years), Jacob Aaron Kwak Tae Yang (one year), and Avery Rose Kwak Tae Ri (newborn).
Like every beautiful love story, of course, we start from the very beginning, including how Ryan met Valerie.
‘She was my first love…’
Ryan tells us that he first came to Singapore when he was just six years old. His father was an architect for the Hyundai construction company. And he was posted here for the construction of Suntec City.
The young Ryan spent several years in international schools before finally transitioning to the local school system. And it was there that young love blossomed.
The rest is history and now they have three beautiful children, and a lifetime more of memories to build and cherish.
As you know by now, Ryan and Valerie are parents to three kids under the age of three. Their boys are feisty little toddlers. So, we wanted to know what a day in the life of this household is like, and their strategies (including discipline) to tackle their tiny, cute army of little ones.
Managing two zany little boys is not an easy task.
‘Our house is a constant war zone!’
As only to be expected, and in Ryan’s words, their house is a “constant war zone.” He describes, “there are balls being thrown around, trains crashing into each other, superheroes leaping off the couch, all the time.”
To make things even more fun (and chaotic!), the two boys feed off each other’s energy! Their doting dad describes them as “extremely rascally and active”.
He also explains, “although having two toddler boys in the house drives us mad sometimes, the great thing about having such a close age gap is that they really are the best of friends. No one makes them laugh like each other does!”
What about discipline? A must in this household, primarily to ensure the boys’ safety, explains dad. Ryan describes himself and Valerie as “pretty strict” when it comes to parenting.
Explaining, he says, “we never thought we’d be strict parents but when you have two boys, they play pretty rough/dangerous sometimes. That’s when we need to show them we are serious about important things like safety.”
He bemusedly points out that his boys have also learnt to comfort each other after one gets a scolding from mummy and daddy. Cute!
‘It was the first time I really felt true fear in my life…’
It’s not every day that you deliver your own baby. And it’s certainly not every day that this happens in the wee hours of the day, on the side of the road in the rain. But this is exactly how Ryan and Valerie’s little girl was born.
Once you get past the “just like in the movies” quality that the birth of Ryan and Valerie’s third child had, you realise just how scary the whole situation must have been for the couple.
We wanted to know what thoughts ran through Ryan’s head when he realised that his wife was about to have their baby then and there. Did he panic? How did he stay calm? We’re sure you want to know too!
Ryan tells us.
It wasn’t like labour for her other births, Valerie told her husband. “My wife kept telling me that this feels different, it’s not normal contractions and that the baby was coming, but I didn’t believe her,” explains Ryan.
And even though their gynae had warned them that subsequent children are born faster, it didn’t hit them just how fast this could be.
As they set out from their home to go to the hospital that morning, with Valerie already experiencing contractions, Ryan tell us that he thought her contractions were just progressing faster than usual, therefore the pain was much greater. He was confident that they’d still be able to make it to the hospital.
Despite Valerie’s protests, Ryan convinced her to make her way down to the car.
“It wasn’t until I saw the baby’s head coming out that it really hit me that she was giving birth right then and there. I felt immense guilt for not believing her earlier and would not have been able to forgive myself if anything went wrong,” he says.
It’s clear that Ryan felt immense guilt at how the events panned out that day. “She could have had a home delivery instead of having to deliver on the pavement. I spent the day feeling extremely guilty, despite everyone’s reassurances that I couldn’t have known it would happen that way.”
Thankfully, everything went smoothly (yes, yes details coming up!), but the grateful daddy never felt so thankful in his life.
“I’m far from being the most devout person,” he says, “but that day, I truly thanked God from the bottom of my heart that everything went smoothly. I’d never felt so humbled and grateful before. It was also the first time I really felt true fear in my life, as well as the immense pressure of being responsible for a life and death situation, of my own beloved wife and child no less!”
‘She was so fragile and a small shivering thing in my hands.’
So, did Ryan panic? He most certainly did.