Tag Archives: soul searching

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.

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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.

The pursuit of happiness

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I have just returned from work and it’s been a regular day –not very hectic or a one that would totally sap the energy out of me. I look at my watch and its 8.30PM, hmmm not bad. I get out of my jacket into a pair of shorts and one of my oldest and scraggy t-shirts. Looking at it, I wonder why I even wear it now. It’s one of the oldest and has clearly run the course of its useful life, but it is the most comfy and just feels like second skin. Casting that thought aside, I pour myself a glass of single malt and park my ass in front of the TV in my new and improved living room (I have had my house re-decorated since the split and tried to just clear out a lot of the memories from the past). It’s been my ritual now and I am in my comfort zone – surfing channels, having my dinner and crashing to bed, hoping to get up in time to hit the gym before work.

I then realize, it’s a thursday evening and my daughter comes home tomorrow and I need to wrap up everything before the weekend so we can truly spend ‘papa-beti’ (father daughter) time together doing absolutely nothing on the weekend 🙂 all together, just the two of us….. I like that!!!! But something is different today and somehow in one of my moods, and I ask myself – AM I HAPPY? Just like all the other non-simple questions – this too must be broken down and analysed.

So here goes. My life has been pretty predictable since the split. I focus on wrapping up work during the week, enjoy the evening with my single malt and some actual real live friends 🙂 (and I have a few very nice ones) and spend time with the daughter on the weekend. It’s sort of a routine but I have gotten used to it. Truth be told, I have not really dated much since the split (since we are telling truths, have not dated at all really :)) but there’s been no time. Yes, I have missed a companion and there have been some occasions when I have had this strong urge to call my ex. But I was most likely a little wasted, alone and the logical thing to do was to delve into the past. But over a period of time, realization finally dawned on me, that I did not miss my ex, as a person. I really just missed a companion. While I didn’t like being alone, those times were few and far between and the hum drum and chaos of daily life really did not let me ponder on such thoughts t too much. I didn’t want to be in a relationship just because I was alone – that’s the worst foundation to a fresh start. So I brush this thought aside and think, yeah, am not sad, life is good and if am not moping about am happy……..Logical? Well, seemed to be.

That was 8 months ago. A month later, a dear friend of mine, very reluctantly and cautiously broached the topic to trying to set me up with her colleague. My friend, who shall remain nameless, like everyone else in the blog, works in a different city and my first reaction, was to tell her that she had completely lost her mind. Relationships were clearly not my forté and long distance ones to boot…phew…But I agreed, with the clear understanding that I was not committing to anything and if it did not work out there would be no hard feeling. Finally and above all, this mystery lady would need to understand that my daughter would always be the single most, top of the line, priority in my life. That was that.

Nothing happened for the next few weeks but co-incidentally, I was travelling to the city on work fairly soon and we were officially set up. For the sake of anonymity, lets juts call her X. As I got ready to go, I picked out what I thought was my best black suit (it was a formal client meeting), nice tie and a dress shirt which everyone told me really fit me well 🙂 I had been working out, so if the lady, got a hint of the decent chest and nice(ish) arms under the shirt why not 🙂 If you are back in the ring, might as well dress to impress. I also could not help but realize how nervous I was. It was like being seventeen again. The pressure to impress, the pressure make intelligent, good conversation, the pressure, the pressure the pressure!!!! Gawd, I dealt with professional client situations better than this…. Here I was worrying about meeting X. Why?

Cutting a long story short, I really did not make intelligent conversation and was infact a bumbling idiot. How I behaved that night was clearly not something I would like to reproduce in print but all I can say was that I was looking at all the wrong places (since I am telling the truth here – I thought she was smoking hot) and saying the wrong things :). I was like a puppy with my tongue hanging out on a hot summer day and drooling to my heart’s content :). My experience (here it is mine) is that men (read I) can’t make intelligent conversation when am distracted by hot women around. And the best part was that she knew it and was enjoying this 30+ year old man make a fool of himself. But I just knew that there was something there. By the next day it was as if I had known her for a very long time. She understood me, my idiosyncrasies, my tantrums, my attention seeking ways, my love for my daughter and also made me feel like a good man. It was a great feeling after a very long time.

It was not right but it was natural for me to compare situations now and with my ex and I realized that I was in a much happier (???) place now. Life was good, I missed X and not just ‘a’ companion and being in different cities, for the first time in 3 years I stared feeling lonely when I was alone. My logical mind couldn’t really understand what was happening here and I would always try and find some fault or the other and an excuse to be unhappy (?) and go back to the time of no expectations, no other person that I needed to worry about.

It was in one of those evenings with my single malt that I really got thinking all over again. I had been there and done that. I had experienced the entire expectations that came with a relationship. Was I ready for that all over again? I had been on my own for over nearly three years now. I was used to having to deal only with my emotions, my feelings, the expectations that I set for myself and no one else. Was I ready to make space for someone else in my life and not just in my closet? Was it really worth the effort anymore? As I had realized, I was not unhappy or sad. I had my own routine and I had made my peace with it. I had no time to think of anything or anyone else. Was it all worth it? Was I ready to start all over again? And more importantly, did I want to? I would be hitting the dreaded four O in a few years and really did a man need a companion after that? Was your life really not about your children after that????

Then I looked at the little girl lying next to me and I wondered – as a parent was it not my duty to think of her before I thought of myself? Isn’t that what being a parent is all about? I was now a father and was that not it…… How would she comprehend the entire change in my personal life and how would she accept or understand it? Was it not my duty to see what was best for her? And I would always have her….. She needed me, even if it was only on the weekends. Was that not enough? Should I not make her the sole focus of my life and make sure my being is really revolving around her. After all, I was her father???? I could never be ‘the mother’ but that’s the least I could do as her father……

I just could not figure out how to analyse this entire situation that I was in. In was torn in the need to be the best father possible and also embrace the woman who really made me feel alive all over again. It was really tough, dealing with what I felt was the guilt of at some level ‘betraying’ my little one of trying to have a life that had something more than just her. She would always be my little girl and would always need her daddy. Could I really risk trying to focus on something else? What if she were to need me at the precise moment that I was busy with my own feelings? What if she never understood why I was not there for her? Would she forgive me and more importantly, would she understand? And I just had no clue…..

I spoke with X and always told her of the dilemma that I was going through and she just told me one simple thing – to just go with the flow and see where this led. Why create the pressure of significant expectations and try and find fault and convince ourselves we could never be happy? Hmm… seemed like a logical thing to do.

But it was not the easiest thing to do. To top it all, how soon was too soon? It had been less than 3 years since the split? Was there not a required waiting period before I threw my hat into the dating ring and sounded out that I was ready all over again? Aren’t men expected to wait longer to ensure that they are not labeled as cads? When did this period really end and when would it be ok to be seen with a woman other than my ex? Would there ever be such a time? As always I never had any answers…

I did mention that my extended family (my friends) had really been very instrumental in keeping me together. Infact my ‘bro’ once told me ‘dude, whenever you are wasted and have the urge to call your ex – just call or text me….I will be your 2AM friend :)” sounded perfect. The one time that I did call him, when I was wasted and needed to avoid making a fool, he did not take my call and it was only midnight 🙂 Very sheepishly, he told me next morning “dude, I fell asleep. I must be the worst 2AM friend ever” The guy had good intentions and knowing that was good enough.

Coming back, X made such an effort for the things important in my life, my daughter, folks, my friends (see above :)) and just about all that I cared for that I just knew she could not get away. And the fact that my daughter got along with her like a house on fire really sealed the deal.

A funny ritual that has developed over the last few months – we had just started dating and X sent me a text at 1PM saying ‘lunch?’ I responded with a very cool ‘yup’. This went on every day and now it’s become of our daily ritual. Same time, every day. Now I don’t even respond and I feel she does not expect a response either. But if I don’t get the text I am as surprised as she when she gets a response 🙂 Life is good, it’s comfortable, and I seem to be a relatively calmer and dare I say a much happier man?

But it is also due to my realization that not everything is controllable and sometimes you have to pick your paths and make your own decisions and live by them. They will determiner greatly your own state of mind and happiness. It’s weird now, when I see my ex these days and I don’t feel anything other than a small amount of regret. I used to feel angry, hurt, frustrated and now it’s been replaced by just a tinge of regret as I think I don’t see her as anything more than the mother of my child. It’s really sad, since at one point in my life, she was my life!!!! I have moved on, made peace with the past, accepted my mistakes and hopefully never to make them again. Life has a strange way of making one see perspective…….

I remember reading recently, where a woman said that she hated the movie Jerry McGuire. The whole idea of someone else completing you just did not make sense to her. After all, we are all ‘whole’ individuals, so why did we need for someone else to complete us? We should be with someone because we want to and not because we need to or because they complete us. A very interesting take I thought…..

So what’s really been my take from all of this? Just two things really.

Firstly, that we need to be happy personally and that will spread. Are we just so caught up trying to find our happiness through others – be it our children, our friends, our spouse, our family, whoever it maybe that we forget that we are individuals too? My daughter needs me now but in a few years she will have a life of her own. Can I really live my life around her completely? Children will soon have lives of their own and can we ignore our individual needs at the risk of being a bad parent? My personal happiness makes me a better father and I think my daughter does notice that. Don’t we owe it to ourselves to find what makes us happy as individuals and make us better people? Just because I am happy as an individual does not make me any less a father.

Secondly, the absence of sadness is not necessarily happiness……… I could go on with my life, the absence of change and potentially realize that there would be a day when I would have none. My daughter would still love me but have her own life to lead. She will always need her father and just because I have a relationship outside of her does not diminish the bond that we have.

So as I ask myself the same question today, I think I have a definite answer, yes I am happy and it’s not just the absence of sadness. The only catch being that we all have to take out own paths to find this happiness. Sometimes, it may take us days and sometimes it may take us even months or years. But don’t we owe it to ourselves and to everyone we love?