The meaning of fatherhood

Yeay! Another celebration which means another day I don’t need to cook. I have been cashing out on these celebration as an excuse to not cook and eat out. Ahhh….the joys of eating out; no cleaning and washing to worry about.

It’s father’s day today, so my girlfriend and I decided to treat our big boys. We started off the day with some swim wear shopping, technically this was more for us for our upcoming beach trip but a little (2 hours long!) detour never hurts anyone, right? Bit we made sure we rewarded them well for their patience and support in picking up the right one; an early scrumptious dinner with the kids.

It was definitely a day spent well.

So what’s the big deal with this day or any day is usually the discussion on such days. We aren’t cynical. It was just a healthy debate.

So the topic ‘How fatherhood has changed you’ came up and some very interesting issues were discussed because my husband had written and shared some clever points with (an online magazine) Here are some of the points that were originally written for an  online magazine:

Q: How fatherhood has changed you as a person?

A: Well, for one, I’ve sort of become my own dad. I’ve started to be more responsible about how I handle myself as a person, no more slacking about and certainly no more taking things for granted. Why? It became naturally obvious that I’ve got to respect myself before the persons I love the most would respect me as one of the 2 adults in their lives. This was a gradual change but still a change that I can see for myself.

The second change, which was hard for me to admit, is that I’m far lesser of a misogynist than before being a father of 3 girls, or hopefully not one anymore. I’ve always thought myself to be a bit of a fair person with the fairer sex but it wasn’t fully true. I would be lying to myself if I never thought that I was better than the girls in my class or the women in my workplace. But having 3 girls as my beautiful daughters have taught me about how strong they are spiritually, mentally and emotionally.

My wife and I have made it a conscious decision to ensure that our 3 girls will never feel as if they are weaker than the boys in the lives. The fact that they play a male dominant sport like football is a testament to that.

Q: What were the most challenging times of fatherhood while your child was growing up?

A: Initially, coming from a society that celebrates the male offspring more than the females, I found it extremely irritating or even angered when reacting to consoling relatives or the odd elder at our prayer grounds. “2 girls? Oh, hopefully the next will be a better result.”
But closer to home, my biggest challenge as a parent is to check my temper when dealing with my kids’ tantrums. Patience is a virtue and you learn a lot of that being a parent.

We wanted to bring our girls up as strong willed and vocal ladies, brave and confident. But we also wanted to make sure we don’t neglect discipling them, about following through with their commitments, about being fair, about not taking things in life for granted. It’s a fine balance, and I tend to raise my voice a lot. Being a calm and respectful father can be very challenging for me.

Q: Describe the joys of fatherhood

A: The biggest joy is seeing my child realize, bit by bit, on what’s important to them, and that they need to grow up being passionate about the important things. My most vivid memory about this is seeing my eldest save her whole lunch (she didn’t touch a single bit) in a fast food restaurant so that she could share the food with some children beggars (which she’s never seen in her life) outside the restaurant. She sincerely cared for them and begged to buy more food for them.

The other joy is seeing them growing up showing the characteristics that we had wanted them to have since there were born. Brave. Opinionated. Caring. Sincere.

Happy father’s day!

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The Soundtracks to our lives

by Jagdesh

The CD amazingly didn’t look like it was stashed away for a good half a decade ago. The filament of dust was easily cast aside with a simple blow of my breadth. I smiled because I just knew there were some memories waiting to be unlocked by playing anyone of the 15 tracks on it. It was one of those compilations CD, adorned with classic soundtrack theme music from some of the movies I grew up with. Some of these movies were even before I was an appreciating movie aficionado, or so I would like to think of myself rather unashamedly.

I was a bit of a weird teenager growing up, because my taste for music was completely formed around my imaginations of being the small bit roles in the movies I devoured through countless videotapes we had in the 80s. Mind you, for the uninitiated and young, videotapes were rented from rental stores in Malaysia mushroomed in all towns across the country. It was a completely affordable pastime, especially for the middle class wage earners with families growing in small towns. And because it was so cheap, the videotapes were also very easily accessible, and easily played repeatedly at home, at your own leisure. That’s when my imaginations would leap into the world created by the movie makers, the directors, the actors, the animations, and most importantly, the soundtracks.

These soundtracks were played on my walkman (go google what this was in the 80s) as life went on, and as I grew through the throngs of puberty, puppy love, crushes and embarrassing moments of trying to be that weird sidekick of the hero of the movies that I loved. I figured I wasn’t good looking or athletic enough to be the hero, but I could be that rather intelligent shy nerdy best friend who meant the best for his hero friend and who helped him out get the girl. The one that the hero usually saves from being bullied in the beginning of the movie. It was rather awkward because these soundtracks played in my mind as I role played whatever my imagination conjured up to make up the almost multiple personalities I had as a teenager. Imagine playing the March of the Imperial in your head as you walked across the hallway passing by that girl you had a crush on to maintain that ungeeky look for her. Can’t be suave or handsome, just be normal and not disgustingly idiotic. Yes, that was the right soundtrack to cool the nerves down.

I never grew out of this habit of playing internal music in my mind while I experienced every bit that life to offer as I grew up to be the man I am today. It was my own secret, it was something that I was ashamed to share with those close to me, but it was something I was a bit proud of to call my own all by myself.

This CD that suddenly popped up back into my life had a few melodic themes that fit quite nicely into my life soundtrack about 5 years back.

My other better half and I had decided rather unsurely to become a single income family, the 2 girls were at the age that would perhaps gain some attention from their mother as they maneuver through primary school. And both the girls were also getting ready to welcome another addition to the family in just a handful of months later. It was a big decision to make and the uncertainty of how our lifestyles, individually and collectively as a family, would change was getting heavy on my shoulders. My darling wife resisted this decision sternly when it was mooted, but she never outwardly insisted that we would be doomed from the get go. She understood it, didn’t agree with it wholeheartedly, but decided give it a go, seeing that we were already struggling with the few caretakers we had to watch over the girls. She loved her teaching job and leaving it was the scariest thing she ever did. I knew this and the weight on my shoulders grew heavier just seeing her trying to dignify our decision as a partnership. No outbursts, just silent and strong willingness to make it work.

There was this wistful sad rendition on the CD, from a love story I’m sure, about torn lovers and their passion through the sands of time. It had the sort of flashback feeling whenever a movie wants to flesh out the history behind the story. And it played out rather fittingly into a scene I imagined myself, of me 10 or 15 years older, all grey and creaky, and well rather cranky. In the scene, I’m sat with my three adult daughters, they are laughing among themselves unashamedly displaying their love and affection for each other, no more squabbling young girls. I’m there rather relaxed, in a reminiscing mood, as the wife is somewhere in the background, perhaps cooking a feast or writing her novel, and I’m reminded of the decision we made for her to be a stay-at-home mother. The soundtrack weaves it’s way into this scene, and it tugs at the heart strings of a time where my shoulders don’t seem as heavy as they were. This was the soundtrack of that chapter in my life at that point. That point where life was changing rather drastically but never catching us off guard. And that’s how I remembered it when I played the CD very recently.

But, as if there was some cue in my head, a new memory came crashing in, completely overwhelming the memory of those heavy shoulders, like waves wiping out sand castles, wiping out the memory of hope that it would all turn out for the better. This newly registered memory was more precise. It was of a holiday we took, as a family with much lesser to spend from our monthly income. We could hardly afford it but we wanted to make the best of it. Borrowed apartment from a family friend, food at the stalls, the not so glamorous and not so clean beaches of Penang. And then a laughter came in, further adding another layer to the new memory. It was her laughter while doting over my two very young daughters, cleaning them and hugging them as they tried to run away from her playfully to the small waves on the beach. Mom’s voice was crystal clear as the memory took a firm grip and played itself out while I concentrated more,  while the same soundtrack weaved in and out of the imagery, the sounds, and the feeling of sand at my feet. The grip was strong, as I felt tiny droplets of warm tears at the sides of my eyes. It’s vividness was alarming for a few seconds, further making sense of the phrase ‘a blast from the past’. And so strong it was that the soundtrack that was playing now has become the soundtrack of this memory of Mom. The scene is of that holiday when she was there with us and I think it’ll be that soundtrack for a long time, for me to cherish a wonderful and pleasant time when Mom was with us all. The heavy shoulders I had then was so much more trivial than being there with her, hearing her laughter, and of her affection with my family. I can’t help but feel how apt this piece of music is to commemorate this very chapter in my life.


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