“There are two fathers and two sons, how many people are there?“, shouted Tanav, my eight years old son, to overcome the volume of TV news.
Dad and I were watching TV, holding our glasses of Whiskey, as he said that.
We both looked at Tanav, our attention going away from the evening news.
We looked at each other, our eyes made a mental agreement to not steal Tanav’s thunder. Then we looked back at Tanav and said, both at the same time, “Four?“
Tanav bounced back, “It’s three. Count the people in this room, there are two fathers, Grandpa and Papa, and two sons, Papa and me. How many are in the room? Three, right?”
“Oh yes”, I said. “Didn’t strike us at all.”
As Tanav danced out of the room, there was silence in the room. TV had been switched off now. The silence was asking us to speak with each other!
“Now that you are a Dad yourself, would you bring up your children any differently than how I brought you up?”, Dad asked me sounding proud of himself.
I took a larger sip of my drink, let an ice cube enter my mouth, bit it, chewed it and then said, “Nothing at all Dad! You did very well as a father and I will do the exact same as a Dad myself.”
His question had come suddenly and besides, I didn’t want him to feel bad. I did think, after all, that he’d done fine as a Dad in my growing up years. In fact, I had always thought of him as my Hero!
But his question stayed with me after our conversation ended. Perhaps because in the subconscious, I did think there were certain things he could have done differently. However, it was not clear what and I didn’t want to delve deeper into it since it was past.
That night, I had a dream.
I saw the growing up child I once was, speaking about what all he expected from his father. I tried to look closer to infer the age of the child in the dream. He was smiling at me and I realized that his age was the age where all my growing up years converged!
He looked seven at one point and looked fifteen at another. He looked at me in the eye and said, “I am here to teach you The Great Dads ABCs or as you might understand better The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Dads”:
THE GREAT DAD’s ABCs:
- A: Accept me for who I am– Clearly, I am different from whom you expect me to be. I am not merely an extension of you!. I am not as strong, or as clear as you. Please accept me for who I am. If you do, it would tell me the person who I trust the most accepts me for who I am. Once I know that Dad, I can conquer the world!
- B: Believe in me – Don’t quash my dreams before they take wings. Don’t cut me off when I tell you something. Listen more and talk less. That, Dad, would boost my confidence to a totally different level.
- C: Care for me – I am not a task to be checked off. You pick me up from school but please don’t keep me waiting those endless hours when you try to get your other work done on the way – mixer repair, business purchases or visits to stockbrokers. And, if you really have to, please ask me how I felt while I was waiting – Did I feel hungry or thirsty or under the weather or did I miss my favorite TV program. It would make a world of difference if you ask.
- D: Let me Decide– Don’t stop me from seeing Grandpa or Aunt just because you had some temporary discords with them. Don’t decide for me that I don’t need those books to read. That may save you money but you’d not win my heart. Don’t say, “Have you finished reading the previous one yet?” It will make me a far superior decision maker when I grow up if I am allowed to start making these small decisions as I am growing up.
- E: Don’t take the Easy way – I want to know more from you about those taboo topics – what it was all about – sex, drugs, smoking, and boozing. You are someone I trust and look up to. I won’t understand all that by you taking the easy way of not talking about it. My curiosity will push me to seek out and learn from the school of hard knocks – talking to friends or looking up those CD or trying out what it feels like to have a puff.
- F: Be more Fun – Please take out the time so we can have more fun together, more 1:1 time, more outings! I want to play more table tennis which I know you love to play too but you never have the time. I have the fondest memories of the one or two times we played Carrom together. But, we don’t do that enough. I wish we do
- G : Be Good – Don’t just be good with me, but with everyone, especially the person who means the world to me, my Mom! I wish you don’t quarrel so much with Mom. I try to stop you but you don’t listen. Please do. Don’t consider me too small, and ignore me. Please don’t say, “Now you are going to teach me how to behave?”
“Despite all that, I love you, Dad”, he said.
“I always have and I always will. You are and will be my Hero always. But this, Dad, would make you my Super Hero Dad.”
This dream was full of learning for me. When I woke up the next morning, I jotted this down and decided to use this as a checklist in my current role as Dad.
So, all the Good Dads, what else would you add to this checklist to become Great Dads?
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