It’s Father’s Day! While the holiday isn’t formally celebrated in the rural area of southern India where I live, I still have to tell my dad how much I appreciate him, love him and how thankful I am for all he has done — although I’m a little apprehensive about how he will respond to my mushy affections.
It’s not uncommon for fathers to struggle with expressing their love for their children, but also with loving their children equally. Some rejoice at the birth of a son and grieve when a daughter is born.
I decided to go out and ask a trio of dads in my village to share their thoughts about fatherhood with me.
Some people in India may grieve when a daughter is born, but not Mayilsami. The 67-year-old retired factory worker says he tries to raise his daughter in the “jolliest” way possible.
“Whatever she asked, I would give her,” he says, “so maybe that was the way I expressed my affection.”
But he acknowledges that, like other fathers, he’s often so busy earning a living that “we lose touch with our children.”
His advice to younger fathers: “Work less and invest more in your family. Try to speak more to your children.”
Rajagopal, 76, raised his daughter as a single dad after his wife’s death at a young age.
“I had to make sure I let her know that she was loved,” he says. “Expressing love is usually easier for the mother.”
When it comes to boys versus girls, Rajagopal says that it’s part of the “culture” to favor sons.
“If I had a son I would give my house and land to him, not my daughter,” he says.
Regardless of the child’s gender, he says, discipline is key.
“If you do this when they are young,” he says, “then you won’t need to discipline them when they grow older and get into family feuds.”
The 62-year-old former mill worker has four daughters, all of whom are married.
“I did my best to help my daughters in their schoolwork and to get them married,” he says.
But he does wish he had had a son.
“You have to see it from the perspective that boys will be the ones to lift you up when you need help,” he says. “With the girl, you have to pay dowry to get her married and then she belongs to her husband and in-laws. This is embedded within our culture.”
It wasn’t easy being a dad, he says.
“I struggled a bit to share my feelings, and things got even worse after my daughters got married,” he admits. “I could not even talk to them, and they treated me terribly — maybe that is because of the lack of communication and affection I showed them as a father.”
Now, Ganesan spends a lot of time with his grandchildren. The most important thing a father can do, he says, is “show our children that we are capable of love, just like their mothers.”
Credits: Wilbur Sargunaraj for National Public Radio (www.npr.org)