This Father’s Day, PREEJA ARAVIND talks to dads to find out what gives them joy and what worries them about their children in this world
It’s the third Sunday of June and some of us might or might not remember it is Father’s Day. But there is one category of people who would definitely not remember its significance: The fathers!
Even mothers who remember Mother’s Day in May and get all huffy when children — or even the fathers do not remember it. The same fathers, on the other hand, could care less for their own special day. “My wife has been wishing me every year since I became a father. I just smile and nod. It doesn’t matter to me. It’s not like it is a fixed date. I think it is just another way of making money by boosting a Western holiday and market it well,” said Ugran Menon, father to a four-year-old.
This kind of lackadaisical attitude, however, does not seep into their fatherly duties. Unlike the older generation, where the fathers were only responsible for putting ‘food on the table’, nowadays they are the ‘hands on’ kind of people, who participate in the child’s day-to-day affairs as well.
Fathers too pitch in
As the world progresses, bringing up children is not just a woman’s domain — it is equally the man’s job as well. “My wife demands it of me. According to her,” Menon added laughingly, “just because I go to work does not mean I can shirk my duties to our son. He is, after all, half mine.”
Menon’s wife works freelance, which means she is there almost all the time, yet she insists that Menon participate in their son’s day-to-day affairs as well. “Unlike our fathers, I don’t just want to teach him, I also want to know him, talk to him; understand who and how he is,” Menon said.
Sreejith Nair, who has a nine-year-old boy and a one-year-old girl, explained that today the generation is quite different from what it used to be. “Our mothers were educated, but they either chose to be housewives, or were forced to, because our fathers would have taken some job overseas and she had to stay back to take care of children. But today’s women would not do that, and they expect us to be equal partners in child-rearing, too,” he said.
A different generation
Ashok Sarath, whose daughters are now 18 and 15, said he learned about being involved in his children’s lives from his father. “He was an extremely busy man, and quite a workaholic in a way. Yet, his level of involvement in his children’s lives was unusually high for a man of his generation,” he revealed about his own childhood. “I used to think it was perfectly normal for fathers to get on the floor and make models with us—but apparently most did not.”
In comparison, he recalled about his own fatherhood. “I don’t think my father ever bathed us, cleaned us or fed us in that sense; I have done that for these two. Cleaning bottoms, changing nappies and that kind of stuff my father never did. I don’t think he was particularly competent at it. But that was something that I did lot of,” Sarath explained. “A lot of caregiving of that nature was quite different from the way my father would have done. But things like the emotional aspect has been quite similar. My father used to tell us stories, sit with us, play with us — and that is something I do with my girls today.”
Just strong, not stoic
Menon has a similar opinion about being a father in today’s world. Nair added to that, “The nine-year experience of being a parent made me a much more confident in handling a new baby. From really small things to bigger decisions, I am calmer in the thought process and decision making. The feeling second time around is like zooming down a highway after driving a car with a ‘L’ board for a long time.”
And all three of them had similar views about fathers not being allowed to show emotion. “It is a notion. More than that, it is a matter of condition-ing. Earlier, in our fathers’ times there was this call for a ‘strong silent man’. If you ask me it is about the balance—it is the right amount of emotional strength within and calmness outside,” that would help you be a vital part of your child’s growing years. According to Sarath, the joy of seeing your children growing is something incomparable. “I mean what is the point of having children if you cannot enjoy them while they are young and with you?”
To the future
“Unlike before, we can’t plan our child’s life for him. From the day he was born, he has had a personality of his own. So for that, framework is all you can have,” said Menon.
Nair’s views are slightly different. “Kids committing suicide because of video games was unheard of thee-four years back and now there are so many occurrences of such incidents. That is the pace at which the world around us is changing. As kids, our parents used to tell us to prepare for a future world. I don’t think any amount of preparation will suffice for the current generation and that is worrying.”
Being a father however, is all about being there. “No matter what I am willing to … nay … I will listen to them,” said Sarath. “I will help—if at all it is in my ability—as there are so many other people out there who are only semi-involved with their kids.”
“I don’t want to be the father who only takes the children out for a trip to a mall or b” uys them things when they need,” said Menon. “Usually in my generation affection for fathers went through phases. Initially, your father is a hero and he can do no wrong. The second phase is: I know everything, and my father knows nothing. The next phase is where my father is slightly an embarrassment to me. And it is only in the later years, which is also the last stage, that we have the feeling that ‘he is my father; he is who he is and I might as well love him for that.” “I just don’t want my son to go through these phases. I would rather just have him jump to the last phase: being loved for being a father,” Menon concluded.