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Papa Don't Preach...
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I was raised by two hard-working, risk-taking doctors who gave me the gift of a strong self esteem, a growth mindset and a resilient personality by the lessons they taught me on how they lived their lives. With Father’s Day just gone by this weekend in the US, I want to take the opportunity to recognize my father who passed away twenty years ago. I am who I am because I am his daughter.
Whether you realize that your parents were amazing or terrible or somewhere in-between, there's value in reflecting on your relationship with them. It's the first chance at human connection we get on Earth... It's not just an exercise in feeling gratitude or resentment. This introspection expands our capacity for emotional awareness, which Dorfman notes is pretty important in good parenting. In other words, not only can it help us become more satisfied adults, it could equip us to be better parents one day.
My father lived his life from a set of values that defined his attitude every day and his interactions with every person. As his daughter, I got to see him in action in many different cultures - he worked as a surgeon in hospitals in India, UK and Oman. I got a first row seat to the care he showed his patients when they would call him for advice and the humility with which he rose to become a well respected doctor in his community.
He taught me the value of hard work and perseverance - I don't know how many times he would say the phrase “Where there’s a will, there’s a way” to me. He taught me to believe in myself. When I struggled with bad grades after my first semester as an international student at MIT and was scared to go back to school, he didn't minimize my fears and instead built my confidence back up with his gentle reassuring words. He taught me to forge my own path. Even though both my parents were doctors, he never once suggested that I become a doctor and instead cultivated my varied talents and skills that led me to pursue an engineering degree and a career in business.
He is no longer around today but I feel his presence every day. The way I choose to lead my life and raise my kids is a testament to the way he raised me. I feel blessed to have the good fortune of having supportive understanding parents - something that is not to be taken for granted.
...she [psychotherapist Dr. Dana Dorfman] describes what good parenting might feel like to a child. "Almost through the cells of their body, they're taking in the experience of being loved, being appreciated, of being nurtured, of being supported, of being soothed," she says. It creates an aura of safety, the emotional equivalent of being wrapped in a snug blanket. And, it lasts.”
And as the mother of two sons, I am grateful every day for the role that my husband plays in their lives. While I wish they would listen to every word I say, I know that as they enter their teenage years, as boys, their father is the “cool” one that they will try to emulate and that he is the role model that they will look up to.
If kids are overhearing anything, they’re hearing how someone interacts with someone else,”…This means it’s essential for fathers to be a bit more overt about the things they — hopefully — say already to boost their children’s emotional intelligence, emotional regulation, and general treatment of others. Apologies. Declarations of someone’s talents. Issuances of love. Expressions of vulnerability. Descriptions of friendship. Acceptance of blame.
I have always wanted more time with my father. During my childhood he was busy with the family business - coming from a family of six siblings, his extended family always needed his attention. Times were different back then. I grew up believing that fathers were not expected to put in time with young children in the eighties in India. Whenever my father was home, he was happy to spend time with me even though it was often limited to dinner table conversations. I always felt his love as well as his high expectations of me.
However, I rarely got a pat on the back or any words to show me that he was proud of me. My father believed it was not the role of a parent to praise their children - praise should come from others. Perhaps that's what left me always wanting to do things that would make him proud. While he may not have had the time or the right words to express his love, I have always felt his presence when I needed it. Growing up in Mumbai, the expectation was for me to go to college close by and get married after. It’s largely because of my father’s support that I was able to come to the US for my undergraduate studies.
Children pick up values from watching their parents. All of the extended family business decisions and deals fell on my Dad's shoulders as the most capable, business minded sibling. There were times when I saw him be understanding and patient with his brothers and other family members and other times when he would rage from the stress. Through it all though, he always picked the position that was most fair to all the parties involved. I have now done deals for Google for 15 years, taken courses on negotiations from world-class experts but it was those early days, watching my Dad, where I picked up the value of fairness, and doing what was right for everyone involved in the deal.
With little A, I get a front row seat to my husband being a loving, attentive and nurturing father. I loved my husband before we had our child but that took on a new depth after witnessing him be a father to our little girl. There is nothing he will not do for her. From spending tons of time taming her crazy hair, to cooking her gourmet meals, and teaching her to roller skate, swim, play tennis, ride a bike etc. He's both nurturing and firm - making her feel loved while also teaching her discipline. When she wakes up in the middle of the night, it's her "baba" she calls out for.
So here’s a toast to the incredible fathers in all of our lives. The ones that love us, stand by us and always want to protect us. The ones that are always trying to be better fathers for our children. To all the dads reading this - I encourage you to take the time to write a letter to your child. It is a gift that they will cherish forever. For tips on getting started this article lists 10 things to write in a letter to your daughter but is applicable to both sons and daughters.
Your coming has turned me upside down and inside out. So much that seemed essential to me has, in the past few days, taken on a different colour. Like many foreign correspondents I know I have lived a life that on occasion has veered close to the edge: war zones, natural disasters, darkness in all its shapes and forms.
In a world of insecurity and ambition and ego it’s easy to be drawn in, to take chances with our lives, to believe that what we do and what people say about it is reason enough to gamble with death. Now, looking at your sleeping face, inches away from me, listening to your occasional sigh and gurgle, I wonder how I could have ever thought glory and prizes and praise were sweeter than life.