Tag Archives: friendship

Of burping babies, changing diapers and sleepless nights – part Deux

Standard

It seems like ages ago when my daughter was born – I was just into my thirties, still young enough and naïve to the duties and responsibilities of being a father – a good father actually. Believing I could change the world of parenting and come up with my solution to what ails the world. It has now been seven years and I am not sure if I have been able to find the fix to all parenting problems. I, now closer to forty prepare for part deux. As this realisation dawns on me, I pause, look back at my years as a father and what it has taught me. With the benefit of hindsight, I can now make the choices to do what I did well in raising my daughter and avoid the mistakes. While I have so much more to learn, I continue everyday as I watched my daughter grow from an infant, to a toddler to a very pretty young girl with the ferocious mind of her own. Putting all this down to what I believe is sacrosanct and clearly non-negotiable, I get ready for the back nine. So what have I, the ‘wise one’ really learnt….

Firstly, always respect their mother. And I mean always. It may seem easy and maybe even surprising to many who read this, after all isn’t that the bedrock of raising a child and having a family. But life is not as simple as it seems – especially if the parents are no longer together and sometimes even when they are. You may have had your reasons to break up which you believed was for the best for everyone. You may have many moments when you both disagreed and made it unpleasant for each other and said things you regret but we are human after all. As I write this now, I realise it’s not single parent families that need to deal with this and even regular couples have their moments of disagreement. But your child need not see any of that. Your views about each other are personal to you both only. All we need to do is to ensure that we respect each other in front of them and they know that. After all, the way you treat their mother will set the benchmarks for how your son should treat women in his life or how your daughter will expect to be treated and vice versa.

Secondly, learn to let go and de-control (is that even a word). Let them be children, that’s what they are. There will be enough time for them and you to grow up and you will be very soon reminiscing about the wonder years and what they did when they were at different ages. We need memories of their childhood as much as they do and losing it by making them grow up too soon. Encourage them to stop and smell the flowers as Robert Frost would say J Let them make mistakes, after all we will always be there to pick them up after a fall, but they would have learnt so much. We cannot protect them from everything in life, and rob them of life’s experiences. Let go as much as you can, little at first and more later.

Thirdly, be their friend but always a parent first. This is a cardinal rule that I live by. I would love to be their best friend and maybe someday I will be, but I am the father for a reason. The forty years of my existence do chalk up to quite a few experiences myself and I will make sure that some lines are not to be crossed at all and there I will be the father whether they like it or not. I may not win the popularity contest at that time but I will have the satisfaction of doing the right thing – something I believe all children do inclulcate in them at some time or the other.

It may appear that I contradict myself by advising to let go and let them have their experiences and yet choose to play the father card when it would suit me. But I disagree and believe that with my experience as an adult and a father I can make a more informed decision on when to let go and when to be the father they hate. I know when they are older they will appreciate the vetos I did as much as I appreciated when my parents did it for me. Life is all about the choices we make and sometimes more experience just determines when to play which role.

Fourthly, make them sensitive to others and the environment around them. Life has changed and simple concepts that we knew so well are now so different. The family as we knew it is not the only one – there are single parents, divorced parents, step children, half children, parents of the same sex. There are people not as fortunate as us, people with special abilities or less fortunate than us materially. Teach them to understand everyone and appreciate what God has created. Let them now always say ‘Why me’ but understand ‘Why not me’. There are so many things to be grateful for and our children need to appreciate what they have and also be sensitive and aware of the world around them. Let their best friend be the girl ‘who sees with her hands’ or those who have two mommies and two daddies. The world is not what it used to be and children are quicker to understand that – if only someone would show them that.

Lastly and most importantly, the greatest bequeath we can leave our children are roots and wings. I grew up in a middle class Indian home, with an army officer for a father and a teacher for a mother. I have seen the effort they have put in to give us the best of what was possible, often at the expense of their own desires. We got what we needed and we appreciated what we got. Today I may no longer be seen as a middle class person but I live by the ethos of my upbringing – values of integrity, honesty, respect and responsibility. As a father I want my children to know where they come from and while they may have a lot more compared to me, they must always be guided by the values of the Indian middle class. Always appreciative of what we have and at the same time being fearless enough to chase our dreams.

I am the one that shall give them the confidence of being grounded yet daring to fly.

Advertisements

Can you see with your hands?

Standard

I walked up the steps to my apartment on a Friday evening and knocked on the door where I was greeted by my daughter and our dog. As I put my hands on her face and kissed her forehead, my dog kept tugging at my pants wanting his piece of attention of ‘papa’s time. I drop off my things and go into the room and have just about sat down on the bed when my five year old comes scampering into the room. She has just come from her mum’s place and I ask her how her week has been in school, how are here friends and what she’s generally been upto. In the middle of this conversation, she nonchalantly cuts me off

Kiddo – Papa, you know in our class, there is this girl, she is my friend Sagarika

Papa – oh, is she a good friend

Kiddo – tch, tch Papa, don’t interfere. You know, she can see with her hands…..

For a few seconds, I am stumped and can’t figure it out, but before I have time to react and actually assimilate what has just been said, she continues

Kiddo – papa, you know, Sagarika can’t see with her eyes and our teacher told us that she can see with her hands.

I am stumped again and finally figure out that she is talking about Sagarika’s ability to read through braille. I stare at her for a few moments and she goes onto to tell me that her friend has the most beautiful laugh and without wasting a second starts clapping her hands from way low as she throws her head back in gay abandon, flicks her hair and continues to laugh with her hands now raised high above her head, clapping and laughing with reckless innocence.

I look at her and can just smile at the beautiful and innocent moment and she goes onto say

Kiddo – Papa, you know, whenever I go away and come back to Sagarika, she always asks me what my name is

Papa – but sweetheart, that’s because she can see with her hands

Kiddo – ya, she always touches my face and starts laughing, as she says, that she knows me…

I was just getting sucked into this innocent yet beautiful conversation and could not help thinking of the immense contribution of the teachers here – who chose not to highlight the lack of a certain ability but instead chose to highlight the heightened ability of the child and make the other children see the same. It was pure genius and hopefully the start of a confident start of a really beautiful life for this little girl.

I couldn’t help myself from brining this up when the met the teachers the next time at the PTA and I told them how great it was for them to have educated the children in that way – not many people would have thought of it, atleast not me. I could feel a lump in my throat as they talked so passionately about the child and her abilities and it just made me realise how lucky we are to have all our abilities, in the most traditional sense.

This one incident took me back to my days at school when in the 11th grade, my teacher came upto me and told me that we had a new student joining our class and she wanted me to initiate and guide him through the classes as he was visually challenged. She told me I would need to be there to assist him through classes, help him with some assignments and just make him feel comfortable in the new surroundings. I didn’t think too much of it readily agreed. When we met him (my friends and I) we were surprised at how normal the kid was. While we clearly had no expectations, his ‘normalness’ surprised us. The initial time was tricky, helping him through but before we knew it he was part of our group as if he had always been and we could not imagine how we didn’t know him earlier.

He appeared to be sweet but he was a bad ass like everyone else 🙂 and was cracking dirty jokes as good as anyone else…..He and I got very close over a period shared a lot of stuff, infact, he was not the good boy everyone thought he was. But it was to be our little secret.

Well, we finished school, and moved on with our lives, being regularly in touch initially and less and less as time moved on. I got a job, married, had a kid, divorced and married again while he kept up his education ending up with a PhD and being a professor in a local university. He is independent, travels to college everyday, prepares his lectures and comes back after a very fulfilling day. I understand he is also a very popular professor at the college. His life would be a great book which I hope someone will write someday – just for the sheer grit and determination he has shown and how he has fought against the odds and the googlies life has thrown at him and emerged better that any of us ‘normal people’.

We are still very good friends and when we catch up I am just so happy for what he has achieved professionally. I am not sure I could have done it had the higher power dealt me the same hand he was.

I come back to the present and see how things are still the same, the system (atleast the one I am in) is giving everybody a chance to succeed and my daughter is also making a friend whose abilities are different from hers yet she is being taught to appreciate the uniqueness of every individual.

That night, as my daughter goes off to bed, by habit, I clear the hair off her forehead and kiss her goodnight. As I am walking away I look at her and have the same lump in my throat as realise how lucky I am to have me and my loved ones to have been blessed with all the gifts and not having to work against all odds……

A few days later as we are driving in the car, my daughter looks out of the window and pointing to a man standing at the side of the road says

Papa, why is that man acting funnily.

I looked around and very simply tell her – sweetheart he’s not acting funny, it’s just that he can’t see with his eyes but he sees with his hands…..

Brothers in arms

Standard

Friends tend to play an integral part in one’s life and I may even stick out my neck – as much as family.  With family, many a time, one has to really consider that you don’t burden them when thing are not going right. No matter what they say, they will always worry and sometimes the pain it causes them is really not worth it. Friends, on the other hand, will always be concerned and be there for you but they also can be pragmatic and distance themselves emotionally from the situation.  As a dear friend puts it ‘sometimes you need to be transactional in your approach with a situation or person” devoid of the emotional baggage that may have been there. And family maybe cannot do it coz they are just so involved with you.

I believe that a fundamental difference between men and women really comes from their need or desire for friends. While a person’s circle of friends is largely driven by their personalities it is also, to some extent, influenced by their gender.  Without offending anyone, I think I have seen that women would tend to have more friends – the uplifter, the travel buddy, the truth teller, the girl who just wants to have fun etc. (truth be told – there’s some bit of Oprah and Cosmo in this profoundness :)).  So how many friends does a man need?  Well, a guy may have a lot of buddies but there will always be a ‘brother’ or bro…… There’s so much about the ‘bro code” that I will leave that for later.

I have been lucky enough to really have 2 bros in my life.  While they shall remain anonymous, like me, they entered my life at very different times and stages.  Yet today I cannot imagine my life being really complete without their individual contributions.

I met my first bro in school and we went onto become thick as thieves.  He was the cool dude who had a way with the girls. He could sing and very honestly there as not much that 16 year old girls wanted other than a boy to serenade them.  I never had that talent and we would always look upto him for juicy tid-bits and ‘lessons in smoothness’.   From 15 years old to now over two decades later, we have seen each other through relationships, marriages, kids and professional changes.  Today our lives are busy and we don’t speak as often but when we do – we pick up where exactly we left off – maybe a few weeks and sometimes a few months.  When we are together, we are still 17 year old ‘boys’ discussing the ‘girls’ that got away, the girls now and laughing at dirty jokes we found funny as adolescents .  He and I are living proof that boys are dirty boys, age notwithstanding.  We still laugh about how the higher power has gotten back at us by making us fathers of very pretty little girls :).  There are no expectations to continually be in contact or really keep asking what we are upto.  But we both know that the other will always be there when we need each other. I don’t see us any different even 20 years from now.

I met my second bro more recently, when I was going through a vulnerable stage in my life. I credit him for introducing me to the wonderful world of single malts. On that pure joy alone – he would qualify as a bro 🙂 but he has been so much more than that.  From giving pragmatic advice to counseling me to just beating sense into my head when it needed to be done. He was always there.  We met in the most unusual circumstances (which is separate blog in itself) and our friendship developed over some bar hopping, and half burgers in the wee hours of the morning (after all men in amazing physical shape as ourselves, could not afford the calories of a complete burger :)).  We’ve taken a road trip, got completely wasted and yet not been embarrassed the next morning…. Ok so it was more me than him…but that’s what bros are all about.  We can talk about sensible stuff (he talks more and I listen soaking in the knowledge being dished out) or just go back into the past when we were younger men, our school, the life and just be bumbling young men.

Funny story, that I was actually friends with his wife before we became bros….. She was my agony aunt and would listen to all my nonsensical rants and yet would give me common sense advice.  We have often laughed over her taking credit for connecting us and I can imagine her at some level being a little (just a little) jealous that I am actually writing about bros before I write about our friendship.  But she’s a sweetheart and would totally understand.

So I stand here today and realize that most men get through life with lots of buddies and maybe a bro and while I may not have many buddies but I have two totally cool bros who I would not trade for anything. So gents, take a bow for being such an integral part of my life.

If I had a hall of fame, you’d be the first on that!!!!!!!!!