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Appreciating Daddy


Each of us has been blessed with a very special man in our lives. Usually a remote figure of strict authority, he may melt into tears at the wedding of his ‘little girl.’ This most trusted friend, philosopher and guide stands by us as we grow up and moulds us into the people we are.

Social conditioning plays a major role in distancing traditional Indian men from their children. Through our growing years, many of us confide readily to our mothers, but shy away from our stricter and more distant fathers. Here are some tips for understanding that white haired, stern disciplinarian.

Seek the heart of gold beneath that craggy surface. Mandira’s father, a former police official, was the strictest disciplinarian. He worked hard to provide a comfortable life to his family and relentlessly pushed his children to higher achievements. As a thirty year old bank manager and mother of two, Mandira still remembers her humiliation and sorrow when her father pulled her up in front of the entire joint family for not getting a First Division in her school board exams. She felt he never really appreciated her.

As she grew up and began asserting her independence, she felt resentful and angry with him. With the years, she realized that neither of them could change. How could she learn to understand and appreciate him, and have him reciprocate? The arrival of Mandira’s first child, Bunty, changed their lives. As the tot took his first steps and lisped his first words, he became ‘Ajja’s pet. When her father thoughtfully set aside a sum from his hard-earned retirement fund for Bunty, Mandira realized that her father’s way of showing love was different from her own. This stern man showed his affection by practical deeds, not words. She now saw the pattern in his past. Though he spoke little and was sparing with praise, he had always somehow made arrangements to fulfil her dreams, saving money to send her abroad when her friends weren’t even permitted to study in a college in a different city. Her feelings towards her father changed, and she found it much easier to sincerely appreciate and praise him.

The happy-go-lucky sportsman has his own way of loving and caring. Ritika’s father, lived in the present moment, believing that time could sort out many issues. He pushed her physically, enrolling her for lessons in swimming and judo when she would rather have played with her dolls. As she grew older, Ritika wanted to plan ahead and finish her work early. Her father would advise her to take it easy and let things take their own course. Ritika began to feel that her father was too casual and unreliable, since he often made her wait for the last minute for every little thing.

He loved to play pranks, which Ritika found embarrassing and childish as she grew up. After moving to a new home with her husband, Ritika met her strict and remote father-in-law. She began to appreciate that her father was a flexible man who loved surprises. Those once hated judo lessons saved her life when she was attacked by rowdies while returning after a late evening at her office. Her father beamed with pride when she told this story, and she then realized how he had supported her early in life. He had taught her, without her knowing it, to believe in herself, to be physically fit, and to learn to take risks in life.
Some fathers are naturally more nurturing. They consider parenting as an opportunity to help their children to realize their full potential. They can easily be in tune with their children emotionally, and be the growing child’s friend and companion. Jaya’s father played a great deal with her as she grew up. She loved the way he would read to her from picture books, acting out the parts with dramatic intensity. He persuaded Jaya’s mother to allow her to play in the mud as a tot, and experiment with clothes and makeup as she grew up. As wonderful as such a parent may sound, they can also be over emotional and embarrassing at times. Jaya would never forget her college farewell day.

Jaya’s father actually turned up in person to the party, to her eternal embarrassment. He did leave in peace, but when her classmate, Raghu, came to escort her home at a late hour, his grilling angered her deeply. As the years went by, Jaya realized that her father actually offered her a great deal of support and encouragement in life, and rarely made her feel stupid or inadequate. Clearly a bit of over wrought emotion was worth putting up with since he was generally so considerate and understanding.
The rational ‘robot’ can have a human heart. Some fathers are taciturn and highly logical by nature. They may seem emotionally distant, but they tend to treat their children as serious equals and encourage independent thinking. Cynthia’s father was a brilliant man, and constantly encouraged her to sharpen her mind with quizzes, puzzles and debates. As a child, she felt resentful that she could never outwit him in an argument.

She sometimes felt that he was an arrogant robot who didn’t really care for her, but was bringing her up as some sort of showpiece. When Cynthia grew up to be a successful lawyer, she realized that her father had taught her to think logically and clearly because he loved her and wished to invest in her personal growth. Her father wanted her to follow his footsteps and become a journalist. But when the time came, he overcame his initial blocks and encouraged her to choose for herself because he loved her. Cynthia realized the benefit of her upbringing, for her thinking and arguing skills were unbeatable.

Fathers are only human. The difficult task of disciplining falls more heavily on them, and it can breed some misgivings in the growing child. It is up to us to reach out and appreciate their good intentions and affection.
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