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It’s hard for these dads to talk about love … but they do

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My proud father beaming as he holds little Wilbur.

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.

Mayilsami, 67, is a father of one daughter.

                                                                   Mayilsami, 67, is a father of one daughter.

Mayilsami

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, is a father of one daughter.

                                                                  Rajagopal, 76, is a father of one daughter.

Rajagopal

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.”

Ganesan, 62, is a father of four daughters.

                                                              Ganesan, 62, is a father of four daughters.

Ganesan

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)

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Child’s Health Also Impacted By The Father’s Exercise Routine

The researchers also found that exercise helped even with a poor diet.

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Infants, baby, WOmb
Winter care for your little ones. Pixabay

Many people know that a woman’s health, including her diet and exercise habits, can impact the health of her baby even before she gets pregnant. But, until recently, little was known about a father’s diet and exercise choices.

Matthew Hurt is teaching his young sons how to hit a baseball. He wants them to enjoy sports and exercising.

“I want it to be just natural for them. I don’t want it to be a chore. I want them to just want to go outside, want to be active and enjoy life to its fullest.”

Impact of exercise

A study at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center looked at the impact of fathers’ exercise habits on their offspring.

Kristin Stanford is a member of Ohio State’s Diabetes and Metabolism Research Center. She co-led the study. The results showed that even moderate exercise before a baby was conceived “resulted in an improved metabolic health in their adult offspring. Essentially, it improved their glucose metabolism, decreased body weight and increased their insulin sensitivity.”

The World Health Organization says 1 in 4 adults worldwide are dangerously inactive. That increases the risk of obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes.

Child, baby, father
A man twirls a young baby on a waterfront park as downtown Seattle disappears in a smoky haze behind, Aug. 19, 2018. VOA

Inactivity also has social and economic consequences.

The research at Ohio State was done in mice. More work needs to be done to see if it applies to people as well.

“The idea would be that if you have a dad who wants to have a baby, if they would exercise maybe just a month prior to conception, that would have a really dramatic effect on their child’s life.”

Child, baby, father
Exposure to smoking in childhood thickens arteries’ walls which, in turn, ups the risks of heart attack and stroke. Pixabay

Poor diet? Just exercise

The researchers also found that exercise helped even with a poor diet. Sedentary mice fed a high fat diet passed along negative health issues like obesity and insulin resistance, but those effects were completely reversed by exercise.

Also Read: Top Health Habits Which Parents Can Teach Their Children

“A high-fat diet, even mild high-fat diet, in this case it was only three weeks, changes the profile, but exercise kind of restored it back to normal.”

More work needs to be done to see if the same applies to humans. But in the animal studies, exercise for the male mouse was key to the health of his offspring.