In an immigrant family of five, I was raised by two loving parents. I didn't appreciate them as much as I should have when I was growing up; but, 18 months into motherhood, not a single day has passed that I haven't thought of my parents. I have nothing but apologies and admiration for my mother. And, for my father, I have nothing but appreciation. Unknowing to him, I find myself reflecting on my dad's parenting day-in and day-out. I raise my son with the hopes that he, like his grandfather, will grow to be man of good heart and good character.
1. Say Yes
In a home where the "Good Cop, Bad Cop" parenting philosophy reigned, us kids knew exactly which parent would oblige to our irrational requests. Sure, we had our mother to set us straight when need be, but dad was always willing to sneak us a chocolate chip cookie before dinner, a second serving of ice cream and would be willing to let us stay up just a little bit longer. As children. we didn't quite understand his willingness to give in. Truth be told, our young, ego-centric minds didn't care. Now, as a mother, I get it. My father didn't give in to his children's requests because he was weak. No, not at all. He was just wise enough to keep things in perspective. After all, a cookie, an extra scoop, or another 30 minutes wasn't going to be the end of the world. He said 'yes' because in his eyes we were the loves of his life, and no rational thought could override that fact. It wasn't weakness of the heart; it was the strength of his love.
2. Hold Nothing Back
At over six feet tall, my dad is the last person you'd expect to tear up at cheesy chick flick or Bollywood movie. But, he does. He's also the first to express his frustration, his anger, disappointment and excitement. Despite his 60 years of age, my father has managed to preserve the openheartedness of a child. He expresses emotion in it's purest, unadulterated form -- holding nothing back. Instead of thinking about what others will think, I can see value in focussing my energy on simply being, and using my emotions to express myself and connect with others. I see the value in raising a child who will continue to be true to himself and not always conform to society's norms.
3. Be Generous
When I was 8 years old, we were shopping at a department store for a friend's birthday gift. I picked up two dolls, one for her and one for myself (see 1 above). I selfishly chose the better (and more expensive) doll for myself, intending to give the lesser to my friend. My father leaned in and said, "Always spend more on others than you do on yourself." These words stuck. Decades later, I began to understand the depth of his advice. The joy we experience when we bring happiness to others is exponentially greater than the happiness felt in catering to our own wants. I became a teacher and saw his words of wisdom coming to life in day-to-day interactions with my students. I became a mother and am reminded of his words every time I am graced with a beautiful, tiny-toothed smile.
There was no shortage of slamming doors in my teenage years; whatever the disagreement, my dad was always the first to knock on my bedroom door to apologize -- even if it was on someone else's (my mother's) behalf. Unknowingly, he was teaching me a very valuable lesson. Life is too short to dwell on mistakes -- bury your pride, move forward, and forgive and forget. He never saw it beneath himself to apologize to his children. He wasn't too smart, too stubborn, too prideful, or too perfect to accept his mistakes, learn from them, and be a better man tomorrow.
5. Work Hard
My father placed a lot of value on strong work ethic; like many immigrants in this country, he left a well-established career in his home country with the hopes of a good education and promising future for his children. That meant working at jobs he was overqualified for, receiving inadequate pay and putting his pride and dignity aside. Every morning when he left for work, we knew he'd much rather be spending his day with us. Every night, when we fell asleep without saying good night to him, we knew he was working hard to build a better tomorrow for us. And, here I am; two degrees later, teacher by profession, stay-at-home mom by choice, enjoying the luxurious fruits of my father's labour.
6. Be a Child
Last week, I caught a grandpa-grandson musical performance on video that would make anyone with an ear for tune or rhythm cringe. Atop my father's lap sits my son, having the time of his life playing tambourine to this nonsensical song. My 18-month-old now emphatically requests to hear "Nana's song" when he catches me with my iPhone in hand. This makes me smile. It doesn't matter how old my dad gets, he becomes a silly, playful, loving child with his children (and, now, grandchild). To me, that's the most important lesson I can learn from him: to enjoy my son's childhood. Everything else in this world can wait when there is silly, nonsensical, off-beat music to be made.
Anjali Joshi can be found telling tales of humor and lessons of love at The Adventures of a New Mom.
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