It’s tough being the only male child in your family; tougher when your father is hardly around; toughest when even if he’s around he doesn’t get you.
As a child I’ve had terrible issues dealing with my father. My father, an electrical officer in merchant navy was someone who only made his appearance somewhere in the middle of the year (read when my school results were declared). On seeing my results he would have only one comment, “You were bad last time, this year you have become worse”.
I somehow could never get my father. What he wanted and how he wanted it. Things had to be done his way for it to succeed. Even if you didn’t and still succeeded, there was still something to hear. The rule was simple, in order to not hear those words you had to do things his way. It was his way or no way.
Where academic performances didn’t take centre stage, my upbringing always got on his nerves. No fixed time to wake up, to sleep, for meals, snacks and TV was my style. After all, it was life not school where things had to be done as per the clock. Yet my father didn’t agree. Overcoming abject poverty in his childhood and living most of his life by the disciplines imparted on board of the ship, he made sure he brought that home too.
Seven in the morning was the time to wake up whether you had work or not. The entire family had to have breakfast together. You come late and there you go, you would tune in to the All India Radio (name I gave to my father’s rant). There was a fixed time for lunch, prayer and dinner. What was even worse was that there was a time for the family to sit together and talk with each other.
Throughout the day you had no right to tell anything to anyone, you had to hold it and share it with everyone at the daily family get-together. Even if it was at the cost of the excitement it was okay. But it had to be told only then. A casual discussion always turned into a formal one, often resulting in only my father speaking and we kids just listening. Even if we spoke, there was no interest. We only spoke using minimal words to make our presence felt.
Did I mention about my father’s “Hello” policy? I guess not. The policy states that whenever anyone enters the house, s/he has to say a Hello to my father and when my father enters, the ones at home have to say a Hello to my father. Sounds confusing? Let me make this simpler. In all the cases, irrespective of the fact whether you have just come in or not, you have to say Hello to my father on seeing him and that too at first glance.
As I grew up and scored lesser than my father’s expectations, I started feeling his absence in many places, be it dealing with peer pressure, talking to females, shaving, dealing with sexuality, etc. The only man in the house whom I could look up to was missing. Things that I should have been taught by my father, were taught to me by life. An evidence of that is the way I shave; it’s not the right way with the shaven part going right above the cheek bones.
My mother too, unable to deal with such a disciplined man chose to play safe and followed rules as compared to protesting. In my father’s absence she would restrict us from indulging in any activity other than studies. If it was not study related she wanted none of it. After all, getting good grades was the only way of maintaining peace in the house. I, caught between 3 women always, had a tough time explaining things.
But to my good luck, I learnt sweeping, mopping, washing clothes and dishes and hair styling including French plats and cutting hairs in steps. I also know the difference between an A-line salwar, churidaar, leggings and jeggings. The knowledge of which at this stage of life is simply said, priceless.
Over the years, especially after my father retiring from merchant navy, living and dealing with us, he has become a more liveable person. The expectations have dropped and the patience has increased. He now even has a mobile phone, something he used to detest. As I see him now, he is more relatable, approachable and has a better control on his anger. Though not completely changed but there is a big difference from what he was, to what he is now. If it’s because his children are now well settled and have lessened his worries I don’t know, but I would like to believe so.
At the end, I would like to say that my father was never a bad person but unfortunately he compared things and especially his children by the yardstick of his own years. He rushed for the outcome without even waiting for the beginning. If he had just believed his kids would succeed come what may he would have been the lovable and approachable father every child dreams of and not the Hitler of the family, which somehow just eclipsed the love he had for us.
Parents, if you’re reading this, stop parenting your child. It’s only good up to the age of 5, after that befriend your children. Let them come and tell you what’s on their mind irrespective of the time and place. Before you pass a judgement on anything see how your children perceive it. Be a partner in crime with your children. Guide them through the path of life. Let them make mistakes and fail.
In fact, instill in them the confidence to follow their instincts, no matter if you know they will fail. Failing and learning is their part, supporting them if need be, is your part. Most importantly, be there for your child. The formative years of your child’s life are very special, don’t miss them. You too have gone through this time. A rock to hold on to is the best gift you can ever give your child.
Nelton D’Souza is a BI Developer at Capgemini. He describes himself as a writer who writes code by the day and in his leisure time writes short stories on relationships, love and life on his blog ‘Just A Minute’. He will soon be debuting as an author, fulfilling a long cherished dream. You can connect with him on Twitter at @neltondsouza or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/AuthorNeltonDSouza