Tag Archives: growing up

Of growing up, growing old and letting go

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Of growing up, growing old and letting go

Of growing up, growing old and letting go…..

I have no excuses for not having written for such a long time. 3 years to be precise and I can’t even blame writer’s block since I am hardly a writer 🙂 But as I read what I have written previously and I can see that it literally seems like a different lifetime. I still feel very passionately about many things and those things have changed as I have moved through the various phases of my life. I write when I have something to say, something I feel so strongly about, but I just can’t seem to get it out through the spoken word. My head has millions of thoughts that are going through and so writing to me has been about getting those thoughts out of my system – what I can’t say out loud and yet my written words speak so loudly on my behalf.

Of late and ever so often I have been thinking about what my life is all about and what the meaning of my life is. I guess when you hit your 40s you do start to question what you want from your life – after all I am perhaps in the second innings and I want to know what I have to show for it. So much is the conundrum in my head that I even named my Instagram handle (@still_soul_searching), simply putting it my soul searching state of mind. It’s the search for the peace of my soul and the passion to drive my inner being perhaps

While the 40s may have brought out the more confident me, a man who perhaps now realises that you only live once and so Carpe diem, my friends. I now speak my mind and clearly stand up for what is right, no matter the consequences. After all, I want to sleep well at night knowing that I did the right thing. But my life hasn’t got any simpler, and actually does it ever? On the one hand, your children get older and need you less and less and on the other hand, your parents grow older and perhaps need you more and more. Such is the irony of life and makes you wonder how you can be the best parent and also the best son. All the while ensuring that your spouse does not get left behind as you try and juggle what you need to do for those who may need you the most.

We recently celebrated my daughter’s 11th birthday and the more I see her, the more I realise that my little girl isn’t so little anymore. She’s blossoming into a fine young lady with a mind and a life of her own. Not sure where that leaves her old man really !!! But I always knew this would happen. We always wanted for her to be a strong person and making choices and then living through them as well. Even though, sometimes those choices may not be what you may have expected or even not be you. Perhaps one of the greatest joys and also the greatest pain of being a parent is when you can give your children the ability to make their own decisions and in the process, you are not in the final decision that they make. I hope the choices she makes now make her life more wonderful and fulfilling and include everyone around her who are important to her. I cannot make her choose what should be important to her and I can only guide her towards that. But the decision must be her own and I hope she will always remember me as the father who may have guided her but always let her choose. As the father who never forced his views on her – when many a time he may have wanted to scream and tell her to choose him!!!!! I believe in a higher power and I believe in karma and so I believe that it will all come back to us in this lifetime itself. So do your best and don’t hope for the rest. Perhaps it is now the time to let go. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t hurt when we were not her choice but then I put myself in her shoes and go back 25 years or more and think of exactly the choices I made when I was a kid – only now the roles were reversed and I was facing those choices, as perhaps my parents would have done. It’s funny how life comes through a full circle.

In the process, I have become more aware of my parents and their needs, after all they aren’t spring chickens anymore 🙂 They may have too much self-respect to say out loud that they need me – not financially but more emotionally. For me to be there regularly when they want so speak their minds or just hear someone speak theirs. But growing old brings with it, its share of challenges and requirements – both health and well-being and it’s funny how we now have names and explanations for all kinds of medical conditions that we just thought of as symptoms of ‘old age’ when we were growing up. Being forgetful was just what grandparents did at their age when we were kids but now we have all fancy names for such medical conditions. I think I liked it better when life was simpler. When I was the younger one and could look upto someone to guide me through all the tough decisions in life, when I was not the mature one, when I was not the person who everyone looked upto to decide what should be done. When I saw my parents as the guides and not as the ones that needed to be guided. Nowadays I look at my mother and I see an innocent child, a child who gets joys at the smallest of things and who can get upset also at the smallest of things. But just like a child, it is soon forgotten from her memory and she goes back to being the most lovable person I have ever met. As Carl W Buehner has rightly said They may forget what you said — but they will never forget how you made them feel. Same is with my mother and makes me realise how little it takes to make her happy and while she may not remember what I said, she will never forget how I made her feel. The loving hugs, when I paint her nails or her worries when I am unwell. But I am not her and I don’t completely know how to handle it all the time – I do get confused and do let off steam but it doesn’t get us anywhere. I know she never did that when I was a child and she would patiently make sure that she taught me the right thing, without ever making me feel small. Perhaps I have a long way to go in being a better parent or just a better adult when I connect with my mother and maybe with a lot of others as well. So life is tough and yet life is simple.

I had met a professional once who had very wisely told me that the 40s are the perhaps the most trying times of our lives – on the one hand, our children don’t need us as much and on the other hand our parents start needing us more. It’s how you balance the disappointment of the former with the responsibility of the latter that makes us better adults and more caring and responsible human beings.

I guess in this entire process, I have perhaps grown up a little. Still stumbling my way through managing disappointments in my life, to accepting the choices that my daughter makes to trying to be a better son and sometimes a better parents to my parents. I have been lucky to have a partner who has always been way more mature than her years and someone who will knock some sense into me one way or the other. I guess, somewhere I my heart I know, that with her, I can still be a carefree child sometimes, when it gets too much and she will be there, solid as a rock to pull me through. No one said life would get easier as you went along and maybe I will look back one day to all that life has had to offer and I will smile and remember that I made someone smile after all ‘SOMEDAY YOU WILL JUST BE A MEMORY TO SOMEONE. MAKE SURE YOU ARE A GOOD ONE’.

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

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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.

Home

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Ahhhhh home.
You and I grew up together.
You saw me learn my first alphabet
You saw me learn to ride a bike
You saw me have my first drink
You saw me watch my first dirty movie bunking school
You saw me with my first girlfriend
You saw me break her heart
You saw me have my heart broken
You saw me make my closest friends
Yow saw me become a painful teenager and a mature man

We have been through so much together
Yet whenever I come to you, it’s like I never left
It’s like I am that young boy again even though I now come with my little one.

Part time father, full time daddy

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The alarm goes off sharp at 6AM on the Monday morning. Lazily, I turn around and hit the snooze button. Ten minutes are precious and with that I turn around and drape my arms around the little bundle that is rolling all over the bed.  I finally hit the shower at 6.30 while my daughter gets her milk and my wife begins the ritual of getting her ready for school.  We need to leave at 7.30 and its always a mad rush with us just about make it to the car, after the customary goodbyes and ‘see you on Friday’ routine……

The school bus picks her up from her mother’s place and the mother and daughter catch up over the next ten minutes before we get her onto the bus – her mother goes off into the apartment building and I drive off to work…. Well that’s the culmination of the weekend that I have spent with my kiddo until the next weekend.

I lose track of the day and get home later in the evening to what seems like much quieter and emptier house – there is no noise of small feet coming running towards me, ready to jump on me with a hug or a visibly upset little girl boxing me with all her might when she her daddy does not understand her :).  Yeah, it is much quieter and an evening that I clearly dread every day of the week.  I realise, that its amazing as I have been used to this routine to over three and a half years now and yet every Monday seems like the first.  I am not a man to exaggerate, but every Monday morning leaves a void that slowly gets filled as the week moves on only to split wide open the next week.

My wife and I sit, discuss the day, watch some TV and invaibly end up laughing at all my daugter’s antics over the weekend. Yeah, Mondays are depresessing for the world and for me even more so.  I have a shorter fuse, I don’t have time for anyone really and I just want to sit with my drink at the end of the day and not have to worry about anyone else. Wishing to drown away every other thing that surrounds my existence right now….

Every Monday I keep wondering whether I could have done things differently, been a better husband or a better parent to have avoided this dual life that my child now needs to lead.  She clearly associates weekdays with ‘mumma’ and weekends with ‘papa’.  As she has grown over the years, I have tried connecting with her during the week so she knows that I miss her and love her through the week. But not even being five years old right now, she clearly has other priorities when daddy calls her in the middle of play time with friends.  Even then, she will come speak with me, tell me what she’s upto before she runs off to play.  The girl’s a sweetheart and breaks my heart even more.

So what do I really do on the weekend – hmmm… I make sure I feed her atleast two to three meals myself, give her one bath atleast, help her select her clothes (but with her sense of fashion she doesn’t need too much help from daddy :)), help her with her homework – we agree on a schedule of what needs to be done and when, read her a couple of stories at bedtime (if she has already not passed out with all the activity over the day), take her to a mall where daddy and kiddo play games together (she does bring out the kid in me as we race cars and zoom on bikes in the gaming arcade :)).  In between, she will run off with her young friend, who she calls her little sister, go play with my bro’s pet beagle, catch a nap together, top up daddy’s drinks with ice and also watch an overdose of ninja hattori…

We make sure she gets to bed on time on Sunday night so she is bright on Monday morning and by the time its Sunday night, both my wife and I are sombre – not always because we are tired of having done much but just dreading the quiet that would descend on the house next week.

In such weekends, I have often had a conversation with my daughter which goes something like this

Me – So sweetheart, papa is really going to miss you during the week. Will you also miss me?

Kiddo – I will miss you too papa

Me – so sweetheart why don’t you stay back with papa – after you go papa will be all lonely and so sad…..

Kiddo – but I will back no papa?  Hmm… When will I come back????

Me (smiling ) – on Friday

Kiddo – see papa, I will be back on Friday, mumma also must be missing me no ?

So much of sense is a body so small is crazy and amazing. I just hope I can be level headed enough to match this pint sized person.  I can’t argue much with that and more often than not I will end up giving her a kiss as we move back to whatever we were doing before that.

So it always brings me back to the question as to whether I am really doing enough to make a lasting and positive impact on my child’s life?  I remember recently reading many articles which stressed on how fathers should spend atleast a couple of hours a day with their children, understanding their day, having a conversation, reading them stories and just connecting with them at some level so that they build that long term relationship with their child.  Well, I really don’t have the option do I?  All I can do is make sure that I connect with her during the week as much as I can or she permits with the hope that she will be more willing as she grows up and yearns for more daddy time…..

And this situation does drive me a little to paranoia most of the time – to ensure that I really get enough face time with her and yet she has fun when she comes over. After all, after a few years, she will most likely choose her friends over her ‘fuddy duddy’ daddy anyways and unless she has fun here this face time is likely to reduce even further.  So trying to be involved and maybe doing many of the things that regular dads do over the space of a week I need to sometime cram into the two precious days I have with her.  My biggest fear and also my biggest driver being that I will look back on my life and realise that I really don’t have a bond with my daughter. That is by far my greatest fear……

I recently read a proverb which I had long since forgotten – “Any man can be a father, but it takes a special person to be a dad”

I became a father nearly five years ago, but I hope I make a dad at some point in my life and there will really be no proof other than the bond I will share with my daughter.