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Every Child's Super Hero

by Monali Kakoty
(Delhi, India)

To put it bluntly, fifty percent of a baby is made up of the father’s genes. The role and influence of a father is irreplaceable. Neither a mom nor a nanny or grandparents – rather none in this world can replace dearest daddy. Everybody will definitely have their own place but cannot take the position of father, come what may. I have seen children go crazy for their daddies. Probably most of us have witnessed it. Fathers help in the intellectual, physical and emotional growth and development of their children.

A Distant Figure

In the olden times, the father was more of a patriarch and distant figure in the house, who was feared by one and all. I vividly remember an instance during a family get together, when one of our elderly relatives in Assam after observing the kids playing around for hours shared her one of her deeply engraved memory as a child, ‘Look at the daughters today. They are climb onto their father’s back and even touch their heads. In our times we feared our father so much that we could not even look into his eyes while talking to him.’ I believe this comparison was a result of her spontaneous response to her observation of her surroundings. In the Indian context, it is very true that a father was hardly ever involved in child-rearing. Child-rearing was solely considered to be the task of the mother of the child and the other womenfolk in the house were the primary caretakers. The father was an external figure who did not involve himself physically in taking care of his children. His role was limited to that of a bread earner only. It is now time that one breaks free from the strong shackles of patriarchy.

Changing Times and Evolving roles

Times have changed and are further evolving. The family structure in India is moving from joined to nuclear, especially in the urban areas. A large number of womenfolk today engage in professional work and earn money, thereby creating ripples of change everywhere around us. The motto of ‘Share the Load’ has come to the forefront in every aspect. Today a father changes diapers, feeds a baby, babysits in the absence of a mother and that is definitely praiseworthy. But isn’t that what a father is supposed to do? Apparently, people often refer to such instances as that ‘Oh! That man helps out his wife by taking very good care of the baby and doing baby chores.’ Rather than helping out his wife, he is simply being a father to his own child. It is high time we change such mindsets. I am not even talking here about only individuals. But this is the kind of mindset that our country has always firmly held onto and it stills prevails across generations. However, based on the transitions stated previously, our progress curve in this area is definitely laudable. We are moving towards brighter and better days.

A Treasure House of Memories

The time that a father spends with his children is priceless. It is something that a child will treasure it for the years to come and hold close to their
heart for a lifetime. I cherish the night strolls with my father amidst the sweet-smelling flower garden, how he would lovingly wake me up from my morning sleep and get me ready for school, while my mother prepared our breakfast and lunch. I don’t know what memories he holds of me as a kid. But I do remember we did spend some wonderful moments together to be cherished for a lifetime and beyond. At a later stage of childhood, the physical distance may not act as a barrier in nurturing a healthy child-father relationship. He may not always be physically present and still share a very strong bond with his children. But physical closeness is vital especially during early childhood.

I call my father ‘Papa’ and my daughter too calls him the same. Even before her birth, my husband wished that our child calls him ‘Deuta’ which in our native language means father. Initially, I was a little apprehensive and wanted her to call her father 'Papa'. I always felt ‘Papa’ to be more approachable, modern, friendly and less authoritative than ‘Deuta’. Maybe it is because that is how he has been, ever since I remember. However, now I am glad because there is no confusion and Papa has become even more special and dearer to us, or rather both of us now. Since I spent six months at my home after my daughter’s birth, she too shares a very special bond with him. However, it is not only a matter of time I believe, but it is also because he spent time with her, cared for her, connected with her and more importantly for the person that he is. She is extremely fond of him. He has been her first friend.

Coming to her Deuta, I missed out mentioning earlier that this is the first word that our daughter spoke, ‘Deta’! Like most others, it was not Mamma, Ma or Pa, Tata. So that itself speaks a lot. Somewhere I read that the role of the father is very different from that of a mother as the basic nature of father children interaction is to play while a mother’s intent is to take care. Both roles are made to complement each other. But experiences prove many documented things to be doubtful.

Standing like a Rock

“I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father's protection.” - Sigmund Freud.

A number of studies conclude that a father provides a child with a sense of security, both physical as well as emotional. A child’s cognitive abilities, social skills and sense of initiative is greatly enhanced if the father is authoritative while being supportive and affectionate. Moreover, a father sets the bar for the interpersonal behavior of the child as a boy looks up to the father as a role model and a girl finds security and social support in her father. A great number of pioneers, revolutionaries, and successful people attribute their success to their progressive fathers and supportive upbringing. It is well known how the influence of upbringing and the worldview of the father have shaped personalities like Malala Yousafzai, Indira Medhi, etc.


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