“What’s your favourite day of the week”, I asked Alakh*, one of the children I was counselling after the Mumbai terror attacks of 2009. Like most kids, I expected him to say SUNDAY.
“Thursday” piped up the 6-year-old!
“What’s special about Thursday?” I asked
“That’s the day papa has his weekly holiday and mummy is at work. I love having soapy, bubble bath with papa and eating pizza.”
Alakh’s innocent response still stays with me and it’s a remarkable observation of how times have changed. A
decade or more ago, kids wouldn’t have had such memories their dad. Most childhood memories of kids born in the 70s and 80s may have been around an exasperated mother threatening, “Wait till Papa gets home!”
Anyone can be a father but it takes a special person to be a daddy.
Since time immemorial fathers have played the part of a distant task master whose main role was ‘setting kids straight and earning the bread'. These ideas seem to be undergoing a dramatic change in recent times.
A study by Anjula Saraff and H. Srivastava (2008) on “Envisioning Fatherhood” questioned several urban Indian fathers about their perceptions of an Ideal Father. Their findings were surprising; dads viewed “caregiving” as one of the most important attributes of a model father!
In fact, in the past decade or more there has been a dramatic perception change around fatherhood. “Child Rights Initiative for Shared Parenting” (CRISP), is an organisation recently formed to fight against unfair Indian laws which lean heavily in favour of the mother, granting her custody in over 90% of divorce cases. Most fathers are only granted visitation rights. The organisation aims to fight for the equal rights of the fathers in gaining full custody of their kids.
Unfortunately because traditional mindsets still view “mothers as caregivers, fathers as caretakers,” men find it difficult to fulfil their need to cherish their children. Despite that, several men fulfill all the parenting roles of care-giving, care taking, nurturance and discipline.
Here are some practical ways for you as a father to create a loving bond and contribute to your child’s upbringing.
A baby on the way:
- See the baby grow: Going for scans during the pregnancy is a good idea. Moms can feel the baby kicking inside; a dad will need visual contact to get an idea that an actual life is developing inside the womb.
- Birthing: Studies show that father-child attachment establishes much faster when the father is present during and just after the birthing.
- Baby care: Fathers can lend a hand in almost all aspects of newborn care. They can bottle-feed the baby, change its diapers, bathe it, play with it and soothe its tears. Fathers can also take turns with their wives during night awakenings. This has a two-fold benefit as it gives the father an opportunity to bond with the baby as well as giving the harassed mother a break.
- Be the record keeper: The sleep deprived, harangued mother usually finds it difficult to remember when the baby is due for shots, medical visits, feeding times etc. The more alert father can take on this responsibility and would probably enjoy the role a lot.
With older kids:
- When a newborn arrives: Older siblings usually feel more secure when they have daddy around while mummy is busy around the clock taking care of the newborn.
- Play: Kids typically prefer playing with dad. Playing indoor board games like scrabble or monopoly and introducing the child to sports like swimming, cycling and football can be immensely enjoyable for both father and child. Moreover the father can help the child learn positive attitudes related to team-work, winning, losing and persevering.
- Applaud them: Make it a point to attend the child’s school events. A child loves to see both parents by her side, whether playing a sunflower on stage or participating in class drill. Few things soothe stage fright more than seeing both parents cheering on.
- Holiday is daddy day: Holidays are good occasions to bring father and child together. Bathe your toddler, bike with your tween, or ask your teenager to give you some tech tips.
- Office- office: Taking your kiddo to work for some hours can be a fun thing for both father and child. Your child will love the attention showered on him by office colleagues, will get an idea of what daddy does and can be a grown-up “working” with others for a day.
As you can see, parenting need not be a dull task of only caring for the child’s routine needs. Create a win-win in which dad and child do what both enjoy. So this Father's Day think of some creative ways to step out of your role as caretaker!
HAPPY FATHER'S DAY TO EVERY AWESOME DAD!
*Name changed to protect identity