Saturday April 27, 2013 09:21
A Father & Son Relationship
I was blessed with a son in Oct’12. While already being a father to 2 daughters is an experience in itself, I realized being father to a son was different. Yes it was the same baby-upbringing and my wife does all of the normal baby-raising stuff that I stay away from usually, there was more to it on the psychological front. I just couldn’t figure out what. Usually writing helps me think through such situations and so I thought in the process of writing a blog around it, I should be able to figure this out and maybe do a better job at it.
Usually, all psychological influences on people are linked to their own lives, to their own past. So I will start with evaluating myself. I am the eldest of my siblings and with a sister and brother that followed after me, I am the eldest “son” as well. I come from a Sindhi background and a culture where sons hold some sort of link to pride and dignity to the family name. There was a time when there were no celebrations if a girl was born to someone and the other extreme of celebrations when a son was born. So while I know I don’t support the theory, am I in denial? The deep-rooted upbringing that runs in my blood may be defining what kind of a father I am going to be. I asked myself this, and while trying to find some neutrality, I thought through my approach to life as a father to daughters, I looked through my older posts, specially the “Being Baba” category. I realized that this is not true at all. I have never been someone who wanted to have as many kids as possible just so I could have a son. Yes, I know people who have done this. I love my daughters no different than my son. Wait, that is a bit of jumping to conclusions, isn’t it? Do I really?
Parking that thought there. Let me see what kind of a relationship I had with my dad, my Baba Saeein. Hmmm…
My Baba was in the navy, the commercial and not the military kind, for his life. The years when I was growing up, he was available in thought, in weekly or fortnightly or sometimes monthly phone calls for 6 months and then available in person for 2 full months. Obviously, no Facebook, email, Skype etc. at the time. This kind of life is what both of us, Baba and I, lived for the majority of our lives. Would this have had an impact on me, psychologically? This is not about whether this was right or wrong. Everybody earns their livelihood in different ways. This is what Allah had in plans for him and for me. This is more about, whether or not this impacted me psychologically and will it change how I will deal with fatherhood, being father to a son. So, in his absence, the day-to-day issues as a child were resolved with a more motherly solution, a more womanly approach. Did this make me less of a man? Did it make me more vulnerable? Would I be a different person if I had more of my Baba around then I had in my childhood? I think I probably would. But, what I am now is not bad either. A good mix.
Trying to look at the picture from the other side, my Baba must have had a difficult situation also. The only way he could have taken care of all of us was to be away from us, earn his livelihood. Yet, the non-tangible stuff, those can’t be brought back. The physical hugs, forms of affection, the father-son talks, moments of joy and sorrow, lectures when coming home from the school fights, the lessons were missing. Peaks and troughs with the troughs lasting for 6 months and peaks of 2 months defined the father & son relationship in my life. For the 2 months, he was here, other than relaxing to be ready for the next 6 months of time away from home, he would have had to spend that extra effort to cash in on the time he had available to spend with his wife, his children, his parents etc. What a life? I don’t think I would choose such a life like my Baba. If given the choice, Not sure if he would chose it again as well. Life has a way of hitting people; decisions that follow define the life ahead.
We see western Hollywood movies and they talk about father/son fishing trips defining the time away from everybody else to be able to define the link between a mentor and a mentee, teacher and student, a leader and follower, a guide for the lost. I remember when I was in my early teens; my Baba did make an attempt on something similar. It wasn’t fishing. It was the movies. I think he may have realized that I am not getting my access to some manly movies. I may be stuck in my video games, or books. Television was also very “Drama-Oriented”. I should see a movie that only a man would enjoy. On a weekend, he said, let’s go, we are going to do something special today. While I was asked to leave my Sega on the side, something I used to wait for all the week to get to, and get ready and go out. I hated going out from the very beginning. I am more of a homey person, the stay home kind. Do things at home. So, this was out of nowhere and my first reaction wasn’t “really” excited. But anyway, during the car drive, I was curious and kept asking, where are we going? He wanted to keep the surprise hence didn’t give in. However, the traffic was too much and the kid (me) was nagging relentlessly so he gave in. We are going to watch a movie on the big screen, Cinema! I think if it was any other kid in the world, he would have been thrilled. Unfortunately, I wasn’t that kid. I actually felt deprived of my “Sega” weekend. I asked him, what movie? He said, “Empire Strikes Back”. Now again, any other kid especially if he were a boy, should have been head over heels. The name says “Macho Man”, all the way. Violence, fire, guns etc. Not me. I was trying to recall what my actual reaction was but I know it was bad enough to make my Baba turn the car around and go back home. Obviously, I think of it now and realize, how heart-broken he would have been. I am truly apologetic now in realization, but it doesn’t matter. The moment was lost and stays lost. It never came again.
While, what’s done is done, “I was a child, give me a break” is one approach I could take to what happened. I think about it and realize, that things were never the same after that. My Baba didn’t really try as hard as he, or for that matter I also, would have liked, letting me be as I was and letting things remain as they were. He may have realized that I have crossed over to the other side. I have already become who I am supposed to be. My Dad may have realized that he is going to be a proud father of a geek, who likes to stay home, play video games, hit the books, the nerd…. basically a sissy. Our relationship may have become more distant than a 6-month trough in our physical nearness even when he was here for the 2 months. We may have changed statuses from a potential-to-be-close Father & Son to a more happy-to-be-distant Father & Son.
This post has gone sad, I am not sure if I will continue publishing this. Let me at least finish the thought though and decide at the end.
Obviously, things changed when he retired from the navy. He was no longer away for 6 months. He was there all day, available, accessible. However, I had grown up. He had grown older. However, he had to still support the family. I was still not done with my studies hence not quite ready to support the family. These were some tense times. He, stretching himself more than he had thought he would need to at that age of his life. Me, still figuring out how to deal with this Father & Son relationship while all this being very different from the first 18 years of my life. I am sure he was going through the same; it couldn’t be the peaks and troughs anymore. It had to find its way towards more consistency, a straighter graph. None of us were used to this. I don’t know about him, but for me, I can remember only this that it was probably the most difficult phase of my life.
Eventually with differences and arguments taking the forefront, we did eventually figure a way out of this. Obviously, regardless of what type of a Father & Son relationship it was, it was still a Father & Son relationship. I know we both wanted to make it work and hence we eventually did. I think we both realized that we have to make this work for all of us, everybody around us. Obviously, the trouble was, I was hitting the early grown-man age. That comes with its confused situations. Crossing over to the other side. There were just too many things happening in my life for my comfort, too many changes and I don’t think I quite did it right. Looking back, I would have dealt with things very differently than how I did. Some regrets, mostly life lessons.
As I see it now, we had to artificially create the physical distances that we had been used to. My relationship with Baba right now is probably the best it has ever been. I am married with kids, living away from my parents in a different country altogether. We visit occasionally, twice a year. The irony of it, this is very similar to how Baba used to visit us when I was young. Is this the secret? Is it true, that the only way we could make this work was to go back to how life was in the wonder years for me? This is something for me to really think about. We had to re-create that same environment we had to be able to make this work or… maybe I just grew up. I learnt to deal with and build probably one of the most important relationship that a guy needs, the one with his dad.
I don’t regret any of this. It is just the kind of life I was destined to have; I have a lot of good things in me because of how things happened. I think I grew up much quicker mentally than physically in the wonder years. I think I took more responsibility much earlier than others but I guess everybody feels that one way or another. Whatever happens to you in life makes you who you are. It was supposed to turn out exactly this way. I couldn’t be thankful enough for the life I have now. No complaints whatsoever. So whatever happened in the past, had to happen. I had to go through the tough times to be who I am today.
As I look at myself now in my Baba’s shoes now. A son of my own to bring up. Bring up in the way I want. I would have to be careful. I would have to be responsible. Depending on my actions, he could turn out to be completely different, something that I may not like too much. I can’t give up anywhere along the way. So what, maybe he does not want to spend time with me at a particular time of his life. That doesn’t mean I stop trying. Only when he grows up and realizes what he missed out, like I do now at times, would he regret and I don’t want him to regret. I don’t want me to regret.
Every dad wants to be the best dad to his children. In that pursuit, they try their best and that’s all that should be expected of them. Nothing more, nothing less. Every dad also wants their children to be the best children in the world. However, while they have complete control on their own potential, they don’t have that kind of control on their children’s potential. All they could do is, try. Try to nourish it, try to be around, try to be accessible. I will be the best dad I could be and leave the rest to Allah. The only thing I don’t want to have when I grow old is regret. Regret at old age is a killer. More dangerous than any old-age disease. There is no turning back the clock once the time passes. The only thing that remains is the regret. I fear that.
Here is to a great father and son relationship to all fathers and sons of the world. Cheers!!