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Lessons I Knew I Would Teach My Daughter – A Father’s Present, Wrapped With Love

From the moment my wife greeted me at the door with two pregnancy sticks in her hand to the time those antenatal clinic visits were done and my daughter arrived, as is her habit, fashionably late, I had been a little scared, a tad bit nervous but on the most part, a whole lot excited about fatherhood.


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I knew it’d be daunting, but I was, I do not know why, Santa-on-Prozac ‘bout it. I knew it wouldn’t always be easy to understand the inchoate jumbled jabber and burbly babble of my tiny little ball of love or attempt to get back to work when she wouldn’t be okay with being set down on the floor with her Lego bricks alone or even have body fluids dripping all over me – all the time, but I was ready – ready to change diapers, administer Tylenol, rock her to and fro, sing lullabies, and even wait for her to begin to crawl and change all of this into something else entirely.

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father and baby

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It was strange and wonderful how feeling responsible for another life had made me plan not one or two but a lifetime worth of years ahead. I often lay in bed, thinking of the countless things that I’d want to teach my princess – but would never tell her. I recalled my own childhood when my parents decided to control my life, instead of guiding me through it – and I goofed up, a lot! I had a fierce independent streak and wasn’t easily swayed to go against my own grain, but parents have a way of getting around to you and I often caved. I regretted most such instances immediately after (and this isn’t to say that my parents were bad parents or did not wish the best for me – I just think they didn’t and couldn’t adapt to the shifting models of parenthood), realizing that in allowing most of my decisions an agency outside of myself, the lessons I needed to learn passed me by! And I knew I’d not do this to my darling, she’d learn through living instead of living by learning, whilst I stood by her side to support her, love her, care for her, and be there for her, in all ways she’s ever need me to be.

father and baby1

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And today, as I write this, I am fairly certain she is lying in her own warm bed, her husband by her side, thinking of the ways she’d teach the same to her daughter, who is due next month. Time flies fast, you see! And this Father’s Day, as she spoke to me on the phone, about how she felt nervous about arming her own child with all the defenses she’d need to enter her own battles in life and win, I smiled and said, ‘Hon, the best you can do is lead by example. She will pick up all the lessons from there and enter the battle zone, armored with all the equipment she needs to win. You can stand back, a trusting parent, confident in your child’s ability to brave all the storms, and hear your unwavering belief in her resound far and wide in her battle cry! But you know what’s more – even if she loses, she’d know you’d be right there, waiting for her with open arms, ready to nurse her war wounds (the proud badges of a brave fight), comforting her in her momentary defeat, but building her up in a stronger and braver avatar!’ I teared up, by the time I got to the end and could hear her muffled sobs too – and we didn’t have to tell each other how much we missed each other.

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So, on this special day, I write this to tell her how she, too, became the woman I am so very proud of, picking all the life lessons I had strewn along her path by herself, just like I picked the plastic knickknacks she’d throw about the house, some twenty eight years ago! Here are a select few:

As my little bundle of love:

father and baby2

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1. When in doubt, take the next small step: When she became capable of sitting on her own and holding her head up, and grabbing things larger than her chubby skin bracelet-laden wrists could hold, I could see her eyes sparkling with excitement for the next big step. Sometimes, her look was one of sheer determination to begin crawling, sometimes a threatening one, when I’d put her in a position where she could no longer move, and sometimes, displaying the frustration of why she hasn’t been able to do it yet. But either way, her nervous excitement didn’t deter her. She wondered if we’d inch forward and hold her when she stumbled but never succumbed to the doubt. That eleven-month-old toddler carried her first-step lesson to reflect on everything!

2. Determination can get you where you want to be: Even as a baby, my darling would throw those cute angry looks when we fed her Tylenol or brush us aside when we used to stop her from chewing into our shoes, clothes, bags – anything at all. Of course, that was silly and adorable but her li’l self remembered that if she could get into the fridge and the Nutella jar without anybody’s help, she could pretty much get her hands on anything she set out for!

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As my princess who’d never get tired of pretend weddings:

daughter bride_young

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1. Enjoy your own company: As a young child, she was friendly and cool and rode a bike with the kids on the block, visited their make-believe tea parties, invited them to some of hers, was a teacher’s pet, and a favorite with everybody, but had also learnt to cherish her own company. Whether painting the tree house on her own or scribbling love notes for mommy on the garage door, dressing the barbies in something out-of-the-box or just reading by herself, she had learnt to embrace herself, and that I believed was a sign my wife and I took to be a great one!

2. The world will change you, if you let it: My girl was a little, opinionated woman who questioned everything, sought out reasons and learnt to take the crests and troughs in her stride. As such, she was always confident about who she was growing to be until some of her friends told her how ‘cool’ it was to be doing this and that. She caved for a while but the repercussions were visible in her behavior. From shouting on Bruno (our dog and she loved him!) to throwing away food, she was being molded into something she wasn’t. One night, on the swing, I told her about my peer pressure stories. The next morning, she headed to school in the dress her friends had asked her to throw away!

3. Be YOU, unapologetically: My brave li’l girl couldn’t understand why Paul was ridiculed for playing with dolls! And when she asked me I didn’t know how I could teach her that gender had nothing to do with biology, that there wasn’t a manual or a definite set of rules. But I did ask her to ask Paul about what he’d like to do in life, what his hobbies were, and if he’d like to come over and play. Paul was happier than my girl had ever seen him and things were good. Until the kids on the block decided to peek in with their nasty comments. My li’l girl recalled how I’d told her to treasure herself and never be sorry for being the way she was, shot me a knowing glance and stood up for Paul. Thereafter, Paul learnt to use his voice too!

As my crazy teen darling:

father and daughter

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1. Comparisons steal your happiness: Teenage is one of the most crazy phases, and crazy it was! Not okay with middle school politics, my daughter was increasingly growing disillusioned with herself and huffy about how she wasn’t X or Y but could be. I guess the ‘Be YOU, unapologetically’ lesson needed to be drilled in well. A simple school play about learning not to compare yourself with others but value the unique beauty you bring to the world did the trick! Voila!

2. Your body is a miracle, choose it and love it: When you start hanging out with boys ever-so-more, you start getting worked up about how you look, dress, and behave. My daughter went on a crazy diet routine. When it didn’t help, she tried all sorts of homemade remedies – didn’t work. Tired and angry, she went to mommy and you know what my wife told her – ‘Pumpkin, daddy and I met when we were in high school. He has seen me through my hundred-pound days to the mom you have known, and the pregnant demonic woman, with insane bouts of morning sickness, swollen ankles, and a crazy temper right before that! And he has seen me through all of that, without breaking a sweat. Fit is all you should aim for, beauty is what someone should find in your heart!’ We ate cheese burgers right afterward!

2. Your real friends make you a better version of YOU: Running up a different number of circles is okay until you are a teen. Then, it becomes sort of fashionable to have a gang you are an indelible part of! Only, my darling did everything she wanted to fit in with her group – but just couldn’t. The poor grades, the rebellious outbursts, and the manipulative tricks were all reflective of the circle she ran with. I called Paul and asked him to accompany her on morning jogs. She recalled the instances when she taught him how to be HIMSELF and not be sorry for the same – and lo, she was sad she had forgotten to implement it herself. The next day, she was making some new acquaintances at the canteen who soon turned out to be her best friends for life. And oh, by the way, they not only motivated her to take up her doctoral thesis but also taught her to make cheese omelets! What – every bit counts! FRIENDS!

3. Saying sorry is a sign of strength: Owning up to mistakes and accepting your part in them whilst stringing together a sincere apology is always a sign of strength. My daughter knew when she found it incredibly hard to apologize to me after forgetting to text me when she was out, getting into trouble and having the cops call me! I hugged her and told her that she better remember to cue me in about her whereabouts at all times!

4. Broken hearts heal: Oh yes, locking herself up, crying like a baby, skipping meals, and losing sight of anything else that she could possibly want from life – it has all happened. Teenage love … er … heartbreak, they call it! I have only been by her side, comforting her, and showing her how I loved her mom – and she gradually understood how love was much more than being boyfriend/girlfriend – it was a CHOICE of choosing and re-choosing who your heart beats for!

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As the woman who made me proud:

daugther-in-law with her father-in-law

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1. Kindness is the best default mode: I guess she has picked this more from her mom than me, and for good! I am so so proud of the gentle, loving, caring, and kind woman she has become. And that is not to say she has let go of the ‘so-her’ streaks of opinionatedness! Only she is kind and empathetic to one and all! I should use more of that too!

2. Keep going, no matter what: There was a time in her life when she was too scared about the next big step in her career. But only when she got the most scared, was when she found out the opportunity to be the most brave she could be! She took it and it was the best thing she ever did!

Life, as she keeps telling me, lends a million chances to learn and grow in every moment, and I know that she has availed of the maximum, whilst keeping me in the loop! After all, you know you get to learn a lot from your kids too, whilst they take to you by seeing how you’ve lived and setting out on the path to theirs!

Love you hon, come home soon!

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Article Name
Father's Day: Lessons I Knew I Would Teach My Daughter
This Father's day, a father looks back at some of the lessons he taught his daughter to live! Check out the LOVE-ly gift, wrapped in love!
Sejal Parikh

Sejal Parikh

"I'm a hurricane of words but YOU can choose the damage I do to you..."