I’ve been meaning to write this post for a long time now, after all it’s been over 13 years that I became a father. But I can safely say that today I may be in a better position to talk about it than I was earlier, and a few years from now would be an even better time to talk about it… you see, it’s an ongoing job and the process of learning and evolving never stops. And it’s you who’s learning, not your child.
We weren’t planning to have a child soon after marriage so it came as a shock when my wife announced her pregnancy. Though she had made up her mind about it she wanted to know my views. I had a multitude of thoughts going on in my head – We aren’t ready. We don’t have any savings. I wasn’t prepared just now. I thought we had decided to make it happen 3 years into our marriage. – and so we fought. Later that day I was going over my feelings and thoughts and everything seemed to be pointing to only one thing, even 3 years later I wouldn’t have felt ready. And there was no knowing that financially we would be better off then either. So I decided to take the plunge and jump into this new role called FATHERHOOD. And I haven’t regretted this decision ever.
When you get this tiny thing home you don’t even know what to do with it. You let the mother take over. Somehow she knows, instinctively. So you stand helplessly on the side and watch. Of course you don’t just sit back and enjoy the cute, cuddly child in your arms like they show in movies and ads. You do your bit – for the mother, since she needs help. Heat food, boil milk, get water, take out fresh sets of clothes….
A few days later a father’s duties start. How many of you enjoy cleaning your child’s ass when he’s through with his potty? And it goes on for years. All the while waiting patiently for him to start teething, take his first steps, say his first words and then start forming sentences… You go for outings, movies, parks, drives just to make the child happy, no matter if you are dead tired back from work and you drove back through various traffic jams. The child wants to go out, even if he doesn’t know how to say it yet. You can see the twinkle in his eyes when you take him out and adjust him in the car. For him, it’s a vacation. A change of scenery. After all, he’s just spent most of the day lying on his back getting all excited over the ceiling fan playing with his favourite rattle, teether and teddy in his pram.
This all sounds like fun. So what do you mean the ultimate test of being a man?
Ever been challenged by a child? Questioned endlessly about the various thoughts that his little mind keeps thinking? Ever had to own up to a child that you made a mistake and you are sorry? No? Why not? It’s not that you have been a perfect father. And all your justifications to yourself are just that. Justifications. To avoid feeling guilty. My solution has always been simple. I conjure up as many memories from my childhood and growing up years and see where I believed my father went wrong, and where he actually went wrong. See, these are two different things. Every father faces this. So does every child. In any event in their life at times the father is wrong and at times he’s right. And even if the father doesn’t admit he’s wrong, the child knows… and learns… and stores the information. It doesn’t make a difference if the matter was important or trivial. It’s a matter of who was right. It’s happened between you and your father. Right? Now it’s happening between you and your child. And if you are behaving like your father, you haven’t learnt anything from that experience. And what if your child is wrong? Will he admit? If you push him too much, maybe he will, but chances are strong he wont. Reason? EGO. Even if inside the child knows he’s wrong he won’t admit. He might work on that behaviour silently but won’t say he’s wrong, because he knows that you might use it as an opportunity to lecture him someday on it. We fathers never fail to take up this opportunity. And as children we hardly said sorry either. So even when you are seething with anger at the moment you have to remind yourself where all this comes from and, most importantly, WHY. If we can end up being even close to the mark of being the father that we had wanted our own father to be, I believe we have passed the test. Of course, the tests will be different and in this increasingly competitive and insane world, even tougher than our parents had faced – but standing up to it all and coming out a winner will make more of a MAN of you.
Am I there yet? Not by a long shot…. still trying on a day by day basis… still evolving.
And the rewards? Just picture this. If you love and respect your father after all his flaws and all the fights you’ve had with him while growing up, how manifold would this love and respect be if he had been THE father you had wanted him to be. He might as well have been your own personal God. That’s the ultimate reward you get when you understand your child’s little and important or even trivial requirements, demands, temper tantrums and make the decisions that somehow need to be right most of the time, even if you don’t know which decision is the right one.
Till the ultimate reward gets bestowed on you in your old age, you take pleasures in the small rewards – seeing a part of yourself eat a burger by himself for the first time, stand on a stage in his pre-primary school and take part in a play, wears his school uniform for the first time and cries little tears on waving you good-bye, comes back home and sets up shop of his tiny toys and gets happy when you purchase something and give him air money. A fulfilling life is made of small pleasures. Your child will ensure you never have a shortage of that. That in itself is the ultimate reward.