Lately, I’ve started to have these fleeting feelings of jealousy every time I saw a child running, smiling or crying. It’s illogical and mad, I know. But I can’t help it. In fact, it got so bad that I’ve taken to challenging children as young as two, to counting competitions! These competitions are not even for the children’s benefit. I play to win. If they count to four, I count to five. If they throw a ball five meters I throw it fifteen.
My own children get the worst of it. We have eating competitions, singing competitions, reading competitions and even a ‘who woke up first in the morning’ competition, you snooze you lose. Of course when I oversleep, the competition automatically turns into who slept the most competition. Needless to say, I’m the undefeated, undisputed, world heavy weight champion of all these competitions.
Still, even though I’m winning them easily and shall continue to win for a long time to come, I can’t help feeling that a real defeat is just around the corner. These children will soon grow up and run faster than me, eat more than me and possibly read and spell better than me. If I were to lose my crown, I’d rather lose it now when I’m in the prime of life. I don’t want to get defeated when I’m old and withered. I really don’t think I could stand the double whammy of old age and the loss of my undefeated trophy all at the same time. It’ll be the end of me, I tell you.
These children know nothing about me. To them I’m just daddy who sits by the TV, reads books, plays with them, disciplines them and takes them out. They always tell me of their exciting school days and all the funny things that take place in there. What do they know about exciting? If it were not wrong, I would have told them about my own school days and how I once stuck a fish in the school air-conditioning to get the boring French lesson cancelled (it was cancelled by the way and so were all the lessons for the rest of that week). I could have also told them about the time I and a couple of friends caught a snake in the school backyard and gave it to our biology teacher who was so impressed he passed us with flying colours (even though snakes were not even part of any of our lessons). What is more, seeing a snake in the school backyard (discounting the headmaster of course) was very rare, never mind CATCHING one. I did that! But will these kids ever understand the significance of that? I really doubt it.
When they become teenagers and start having interests in people of the opposite sex (or same sex) they’ll think such things never happened to daddy. Ha! Only if they knew about the days and months I spent grooming myself and trying to look good so that I could impress the Sri Lankan maid that used to live across the road from us. Only if they knew of my fiery love affair with the Filipino cashier in our local supermarket. All my friends were jealous of my amorous skills. Can my offspring manage to entice a Sri Lankan maid? Not likely.
Do they know that I once heroically almost rescued a drowning man? I let him go when he failingly managed to get hold of my head. But that takes nothing away from my initial courageous act of jumping into the deep water to rescue him.
Do these kids know that in my nursery school I was egg and spoon champion for three years running? We’re yet to have an egg and spoon champion in our house.
I would tell my kids all of these things and more but I don’t want to come across as being a self-indulgent naval gazer who is also pathetic and very needy. Because I am not. Pound for pound and when compared to my development when I was their age, I am and shall forever (I hope) remain the undefeated world heavy weight champion of my household. These children with their disgustingly happy laughs, extravagant cries and endless energy really do not know what kind of hero lurks amongst them. It’s a shame, a real shame.
It’s amazing how as the years go by one finds that one’s opinions, positions and some of his principles change. When I was a young child I blindly believed that fathers were the most evil beings on earth. Take my father for instance, as a child, he never wasted a chance in criticising me and finding faults in everything I did. When I did my homework and got something wrong he would lecture me on concentration and tell me that without it I would never amount to anything in this world. Whenever I fought with my siblings, he would lecture me on family unity, goodness and love. Whenever I went out with my friends, he would warn me of bad company, wayward friends and the childish pursuit of nonsense!
I was always on my guard whenever I was in my father’s company and always were ready to be contrary to anything he told me, even when I knew he was being nice to me. Why was this old man on my case all the time? I knew what I was doing and didn’t need him to tell me anything.
When I was a young child, I strongly believed that my father was a two-faced hypocrite. For whenever I made a new friend and his parents found out who my father was they would commence to praise him and say what a nice man they thought he was! Of course, I would receive some of his reflected praise but I always resented that and never responded to their admirations. I always wondered how deluded these people were. I mean they were talking about my father here. The man I knew inside out. Mr perfect. The man who thought he knew it all! That’s really when I concluded that my father was two-faced. I was sure that nobody in this world would praise him had he acted around them the way he did around me! He never picked on them, never pointed out their faults and never grounded them for trivial reasons like he did with me.
Don’t get me wrong. I was not an evil child and did not really hate my father. In fact, I loved him dearly and always tried to give him the benefit of the doubt and tried to reason with him. But I could never accept the fact that he was in charge and always had the final word. I longed to challenge him to a boxing match to once and for all prove that when it comes to a test of manly strength I had the upper hand. After all, I was more agile and even if he turned out to be stronger than me he couldn’t catch me when I ran away from him.
Still, as I grew older a change came over our relationship! At the time, I reasoned that his lenient attitude towards me was as a result of my manly resistance and his final realisation that he could not break me! We were nice to each other and he even allowed me to hang around with whomever I wanted. He stopped pestering me when I had a disagreement with my siblings and he toned down his criticisms about my style of study. However, I soon worked out that he was still the same old domineering father but with a different strategy! Now, he resorted to advice about the future and how I propose to run my life. I was a fully grown teenager and I could have easily given him a bloody nose in a boxing match, without having to run. So I suppose that forced him to change his approach and attempt cunning and deviousness instead. But, ah! I knew all his tricks and manners and I was as resistant as ever to all his attempts.
A few years later and he changed that strategy too and started acting like my best friend! But even then I kept him at arm’s length and never fully trusted him. I couldn’t really. I had too much to lose. What if I believed him and listened to everything he said only to watch him return to his original colours and ground me again! A twenty something year old grounded? Preposterous!
When I was about to get married, I had to swallow my pride and kowtow to him. It was painful, humiliating and almost made me change my mind about the marriage altogether. I was half expecting him to criticise my choice for a partner or tell me that I was not mature enough to be married. But he surprised me with his ready approval! I wondered if he was being kind to hurt my pride and shatter my ego. In fact, I almost petulantly cancelled my marriage plans just to spite him. I’m glad I didn’t.
When I became a father I swore not to follow in my father’s footsteps or replicate his idea of parenting. How could I inflict such dictatorial treatment on the child I love! It was impossible. I’d sooner have no children than copy my father’s methods. However, as the children grew and as I tried to teach them about life, struggles and manners I often caught myself repeating some of my father’s lectures! I recently had to refuse to allow my toddler daughter from wearing her Cinderella dress to school and encountered a look of pure hatred in her face as a response to this refusal. It broke my heart to see it and I didn’t know how to behave. Have I really turned into my father? Is it possible to teach her right from wrong without making her hate me? How will I cope when she grows up a little and starts mixing with friends I don’t approve of? Will I have the heart to ban her from seeing them? How will I act when we have one of those inevitable confrontations that parents and children have?
There was only one person in this whole world to turn to for answers to these difficult questions. My father!
When I went to see him this time, I didn’t see the man I always despised. Instead, I saw the man I used to love as an infant. The man I used to brag to my little friends about with the words 'my father knows EVERYTHING’, and he DOES. He knew exactly what my ailment was and had the right words of encouragement and advice to guide me in this new and unpredictable world of parenthood.
If it were not for the fear of embarrassing him, I’d sit on my father’s lap right now and ask him to tell me a story. I’d hug him tightly like I did when I were five years old and shower him with kisses. My dad is the best father in the world and he, though many people might question it or accuse me of bias, really knows EVERYTHING.