When Chatchai “Sam” Panuthai turned up to a Mother’s Day event at his kids’ school, his unusual outfit choice certainly caught people’s attention. However, it wasn’t his intention to stand out from the crowd. In fact, he’d hoped to blend in for the sake of his sons.
Panuthai lives in Kanchanaburi in western Thailand. There he runs his own shop repairing tires on the town’s Sai Yok Road. But Panuthai has another job that’s far more important – and that’s being the best dad possible to his two young sons.
By August 2018 Panuthai’s oldest boy Ozone was five years old. Meanwhile, the youngest, Imsone, was just three. And Panuthai had been raising them single-handedly following a separation from the boys’ mother three years prior.
After leaving the family, Panuthai’s estranged wife relocated thousands of miles away to Europe. This meant that the doting dad took on the roles of both mother and father to ensure his little ones had everything they needed.
It was this commitment to ensuring his sons never felt left out that sparked a series of events. And things would end with Panuthai sitting in his boys’ school dressed in an unusual outfit. It all began with an invite to a special Mother’s Day event.
In Thailand, Mother’s Day is celebrated on August 12 each year. That day is significant since it’s the birthday of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit. She was married to King Bhumibol Adulyadej – the world’s longest reigning monarch – and is known as “the Mother of all Thai people.”
It has become a tradition in Thailand for children to honor Mother’s Day with a special ceremony at their schools and kindergartens. During the event, children gift their moms special garlands as a mark of their respect.
In the traditional ceremony, the moms of all the children in a class sit side-by-side. Their kids then come and kneel at their feet. The symbolic gesture is supposed to be a display of appreciation from a child to their mother for all that they do for them.
Such events would be repeated up and down the country with no issue at all. But for Panuthai and his sons the ceremony posed quite the problem. With their mom far from home, to whom were Ozone and Imsone supposed to show their gratitude?
In the absence of their mother, it was likely the boys would simply have to sit the ceremony out. But for Panuthai that simply wouldn’t do. Why should Ozone and Imsone have to suffer simply because their mom and dad’s marriage didn’t work out?
With that in mind, Panuthai devised an adorable plan. He would attend the Mother’s Day event in place of Ozone and Imsone’s mom. And to make certain he fitted in with the other “mothers” at the kindergarten, he ensured that he looked the part.
Explaining his decision to attend the event in costume, in August 2018 Panuthai told Thai Visa, “I didn’t want the kids to miss out on Mother’s Day and feel inferior to the others. So I borrowed my own mum’s clothes for the ceremony.”
So when Ozone and Imsone’s Mother’s Day celebrations came around, Panuthai took his seat alongside the other moms. And it was clear to see that he’d dressed up for the occasion, as he stood out from the crowd in a lacy pink dress.
To complete his ultra-feminine look, Panuthai had adorned his short dark hair with a fancy bow. So needless to say, he certainly caused a stir among the other mothers. However, he kept some of his male traits: he stopped short of getting rid of his facial hair, for example. To this end he even earned the nickname “the mom with the mustache.”
When Panuthai’s friend Kornpat Ae Sukhom laid eyes on the doting dad at the Mother’s Day event, she couldn’t resist snapping a few photos and videos. Later, she shared her captures on Facebook. In the accompanying caption, she simply wrote, “Best mom of 2018.”
Describing the reaction Panuthai’s gesture received, in August 2018 Sukhom told BuzzFeed News, “Everyone enjoyed it and all laughed and took photos with him. His two sons weren’t quite sure what was going on and why Dad was wearing a dress.”
In Sukhom’s footage one of Panuthai’s sons can be seen kneeling at his father’s feet. After a little while, the dad pulls his boy up and places a tender kiss on his head. From the short 11-second clip, Panuthai’s love for his children is clear to see.
Given the adorable nature of the video, it’s perhaps unsurprising that it soon went viral. In a matter of days, the footage had clocked up over six million views and earned Panuthai a whole lot of praise for his parenting skills.
In the comments beneath Sukhom’s uploads, one person asked, “How many dads will love you like this?” Meanwhile, someone else said, “This is so cute. I love it,” while a third commenter wondered, “Why am I crying?”
Panuthai’s selfless actions showed how far some people are willing to go for their children. And as a single dad faced with twice the work of your average parent, surely it’s only fair that he gets double the praise. So when Thai Father’s Day swings around in December, he’ll hopefully be celebrated again. And this time he won’t have to wear a dress.