For Paternak

A father’s day post is sort of impromptu but the muse moves and I must obey. Its hard being a man, so many rules, so many constraints, so many expectations. The rules change right before your very eyes and your actions have such far reaching consequences it is almost paralyzing. Sometimes its easy to forget that men are human too, as flawed and weak as the women we love and care for, conceive and raise. Many are too weak to stay, some get swept away under the intensities of life. A father is charged with protecting his spawn, defending them and instilling values into them, being the voice of unwavering authority, the facilitator and fixer upper. In all this, the father is somehow expected to know that he should be gentle and kind, find a way to show unconditional love and instill so much trust in his child that nothing is too much to be shared. Some fathers are lucky enough to strike a natural balance but some fathers end up going to extremes. Having had quite a few intense friendships, I have seen first hand how hard it is to be there unconditionally without murking up your principles or becoming a yes man.

I grew up with two fathers, intriniscally the same but vastly different in their approach to life and love. And I have inherited traits from both, some which I fight and some which I emulate. But today’s post is not about me or my childhood but about the people I hold dear. There’s this girl I know, who has had to be her own father because the depression she struggles with every single day is too much for a single mother with three other children to bear. Somehow she still finds the strength to be there for others, share a smile and a word of advice for those who needs it. She has her down days when she privately retreats and fights the voices in her head, but she always come out stronger because she knows there are others who are weaker than she is, people she needs to be strong for. There’s this boy I know who has had to live through the deaths of the patriachs in his family and the void their absence created, yet somehow he still looks out for the best in others, even the self destructive ones. He gives all for his friends, never afraid to be the voice of dissent or the one who won’t toe the line everyone else is. People think of him as reclusive or elitist but he doesn’t let the chatter worry him, he is confident in who he is and isn’t afraid to live as his values dictate. I know this man who is ever cheerful and willing to make a new friend, willing to offer a word of advice from his vast experience and be a shoulder when it is needed. Sometimes his ‘cheerfulness’ irritates me and I withdraw but just knowing that he’ll listen is a comfort. There’s this friend of mine whose weaknesses remind me that people are flawed, he is so smart and insightful but has these moments of selfishness that make me realise how human we really are. How flawed men can be if we don’t check ourselves every single day we are awake. These are some of the people I consider my ‘fathers’.
I want children. I have always loved them from when I was three and forever trying to carry my much larger twin brother on my back because I was ‘older’ than him by ten minutes. I have had many opportunities to ‘parent’ a lot of my cousins and aunt’s children and I have come to appreciate the priviledge and responsibility it is to bring a child into the world. A baby is not something you can carry for a few hours and hand over when it begins to cry from a bout of colic. A child is not drycleaning that you can drop off and pick a few days later all rid of its acquired flaws. A teenager will always return home like a homing pigeon when he/she has stirred up trouble you had no hand in starting. Coupled with the horrific stories I see and hear, I am more and more humbled by what it takes to raise a child you can be proud of. I’ve seen first hand how teenagers can wake up one morning and rebel so completely they break your heart, how you can raise a child who turns out so socially inept you start to ask questions and prod them to do things you should be normally be preventing them from doing; how some children can live multiple lives and fool you so completely that when you eventually catch on, its too late to help. Being a parent is hard, but being a ‘great’ father is something few will achieve. So I salute the ones who try and I empathize with the ones who fall along the way, Fatherhood is a journey that starts every morning and is travelled every single day.