Several days ago I posted the lessons Motherhood had instilled in me this past year. When I saw how many people were reading it and sending me e-mails, a thought occurred. What did being a first time Father teach my husband, Tapas? After all, it wasn’t just me who became a parent. I wasn’t alone in this trajectory. And so I asked him.
Below I share with you his words in his very own writing. I didn’t change it. How often do we hear a man express what’s in his heart? Here are raw confessions from Tapas for you.
Hey Dads! This one, you won’t want to pass.
In his own words.
I Love you Ishaan!
People in India, the religious sorts, typically start writing something auspicious, something important by first praying to God, whoever it is they believe will provide them the strength and courage to write what they are about to write. Hence, I initiate this post with the one that gives me the strength and courage – my son – Ishaan.
When my wife asked me to write something about parenthood I felt honored and nervous at the same time.
Honored because who has ever asked a dad about their opinions,their feelings on parenthood? The common daddy question you hear is – “Have you learned how to change a diaper?” Which is often followed by a big laughter by the person asking the question before the question is even answered. Have you ever searched for books for new dads? The most popular books that will come up are going to be quite jocular – more diaper stories, big messes, etc. Or something titled the “new dad survival guide,” with a picture of a man who seems to be going on some kind of mission up the mountains with his newborn.
Really? Why does everyone worry about the mother’s emotions, love and care for the baby? – While for the dad, it’s pretty much like people want the dad to be less useless! Why don’t fatherhood questions pertain to matters of the heart?
So to be asked by my wife to share my thoughts on parenthood with an audience beyond her or our immediate family is definitely an honor.
I am nervous about writing this because well I have never written for an audience this big (that’s under the serious assumption that there will be a large audience of course). To add to that I am writing about something very close to my heart. Let me correct myself – I am actually speaking about my heart!
I have always wanted a baby. Let me correct myself yet again – I wanted 12. 11 for the “team” and 1 substitute – just in case you know! That number was obviously a single guy’s dream (what’s not possible in that dream?). Whenever the topic came up after I started dating my wife I settled on a more humble 4. After marriage that number was very realistically set to 2. Then my wife got pregnant and we went through nine months of pregnancy and then 1 year of our son’s life and well I am quite happy with my current situation. One is quite enough I believe now. It really is. Less is more or other such quotes are quite applicable here.
Through this journey I have learned a lot – a lot about parenthood, about marriage, about raising a child, about my wife, about my son’s mother, about my parents and most importantly about myself. I am humbled to be given this opportunity to share bits of this journey with whoever is still reading.
Mother: Who is she? Why so much importance to the mother? Why are there so many Indian Goddesses and for all of them there is Maa inserted in front of their names while only a few of the male gods have the Father title? Why do we hear about single moms all the time (single Mom seems to be an identity) and not single dads except maybe on match.com where they have the “have kids” box checked – if they are honest? Those questions always confused me until I saw Ishaan in my wife’s arms.
The most important thing I have learned in this very short parenthood stint is that “The Mother” is the strongest person alive. The person that goes through so much pain to reproduce you. Who goes through labor (what could be a more appropriate name than labor for this very laborious task?) for you. The person that loves you more unconditionally than anyone ever will. I am blessed to be married to a Mother. I was lucky or maybe I should give myself a pat in the back for knowing my wife would make a wonderful mother. I always saw it in her. Always. My singular most important advice for anyone about to get married (and of course only if they want kids) would be to marry the woman who will make the better mother not the better wife. A better mother is a gift of lifetime for your child (well it is kind of complicated – you get the gift for your child before you get the child) more precious than any other gift you will ever give them. Once you have children you will realize that it feels like (I’m quoting one of my wife’s first tweets after Ishaan here) “I have my heart roaming the Earth now”. I don’t think you could put it in better words than that. So to be able to trust someone to love and care for your heart is probably the most important decision you will ever make.
I have always been afraid to hold babies – lest I fumble. That’s a very costly fumble – more than even the top fantasy running back in your first place fantasy team can make in the fantasy playoffs (did I say fantasy enough times?) . Seriously! So before Ishaan was born I was always wondering how I would carry him (or her – it was a surprise for us) and how I would make sure to not fumble. I practiced different grips (yep they recommend the running back style grip for daddies too in parenting classes). I had decided I would never be off a soft surface with him in my arms. Then came Ishaan. I never thought about all those ridiculous practice sessions again, never had an ounce of fear when holding him. And that really has been a theme for me all these months ever since he was born – I am not afraid. Not of anything. Ishaan gives me the courage and will to go through anything in life with a smile on my face and a smile in my heart. I feel blessed every moment I spend with him.
It is not easy however, none of it is. Don’t they say you have to work really hard for the good things in life? Definitely true here. Here are some of the random thoughts and experience I have had.
- I wish someone would write a book about “How to best support your wife,” in regards to parenthood. That’s the role that I have seen myself playing – the supporting role. You trust the driver (your wife), you get the gps right and take care of the snack situation. Too much pride to be a support cast? Well guess what? Even the Academy has an award for best supporting actor. Be the best at what you do!
- There is just never enough time. Before we had Ishaan we had time to discuss our days, what we had for lunch etc. Now a lot of those things are assumed. Well she had a long day and I hope she had lunch and who cares about the stupid salad I ate anyway.
- You are always late. Before, whenever I had to go somewhere, to an event for example, I would always trust google maps. It never failed me. I was always there on time (or at the time I wanted to be there). That app hasn’t been working for about a year now. “Expected time : 30 mins” it says. You get there after an hour with no traffic. What happened? I guess the app needs to be revised for parents. Needs to factor in the forgotten diaper, the forgotten wipes, the hat dropped along the way, the mittens which never seem to find each other and of course the completely out of schedule poop!
- You learn a lot from your child and the whole parenthood experience. Love. Unconditional love – the purest kind there is. If you saw Ishaan cuddling with his Ma-ma (as he calls her) or Baba (as he calls me), I wouldn’t need words to describe it. If you saw my wife picking up my son from his crib at 12:30 am – 30 minutes after she reluctantly watched Game of Thrones and went to bed hoping for a good night of sleep – again I wouldn’t need words.
- You should try to listen and learn from everyone. I have always believed in my life that you can learn a bit here and there from everyone. I have found this to be true even more since we had Ishaan. I once came across a preacher on the F-train, one of those really passionate Christian ones who get so carried away with their speeches that they basically start screaming. He said something to the extent of “If you curse when your kids are sleeping and then they wake up and you tell them cursing is bad – that’s hypocrisy”. That rang a bell for me and a larger thought appeared – I need to conduct myself at a higher level – at least at the level I aspire my kid to be. Not doing that would mean being completely hypocritical. Separately, one should also learn from others’ experiences and especially others’ mistakes.That can often help in preventing gross errors and save a lot of time.
- This one is for the mathematically adept. When I was single my life was a simple quadratic optimization which I could solve in my head. Once I got married the optimization reached higher dimensions. Then when we had Ishaan the number of objective variables and constraints that got added made the optimization even more complex. Guess what? You can make it all linear and let the constraints pretty much lead you to the solution. Or to put it simply – Keep It Simple, Stupid (Kiss).
- You will find relaxation in the most unexpected circumstances. The other day my wife’s uncle asked me, “What do you do to relax?”. My immediate answer was “Well, when on the couch, Ishaan sleeps on my chest and I fall asleep with him thanks to that – that is deeply relaxing”. Then I wondered if that was a conventional relaxation method – clearly not. But it really is for me. I reach a state of trance which I have never experienced before.
- I have always believed in God and/or a higher power. Someone beyond us who just has a little bit more control over our destiny than we do. Having a baby increased my faith manifolds. Just the process of creation itself (although I had seen birth before it is just very different to experience it first hand) seems incredible. Then you add to it the concept of the baby growing up and reaching milestones and it is just nothing short of miraculous to me. I have also been to able to see God in more ways than before.
- I miss my son more than I have ever missed someone. When I left home to go to college and then came here to the U.S. for grad school, there were a lot of tears shed. My parents cried. I cried.But I always felt my parents cried a bit more. I never understood it until I had Ishaan and I had to go to work. I understood that although he loves and misses me very much he has (and will definitely create a bigger one in the future) his own world. For me it is just him – my world and I miss him like I never thought was possible. This process has further increased my respect for my parents for letting me go, letting me live my life, letting me realize my dreams. Letting go is not easy, as I now understand, especially someone you hold so close to your heart. Thank you Maa-baba!
- One has to go through their own share of troubles to gain something. Ishaan has been teething for well about all his life now. The pain seems to be bothersome at times too unbearable at others. I always wish I could bear that pain and he could grow the teeth. Then I realized one day that it was probably one of the biggest lessons in life – you have to undergo Pain yourself to achieve whatever you have to achieve, you have to pay your dues in life.
- I love nursery rhymes. I really do. I have enjoyed reading to my son more than I ever enjoyed reading. Although I am not much for rewards but to see him identify different poems and the actions associated with them (he is a champion at “Jill came tumbling after“) is one of the most rewarding things in life.
- I finally found out why I love my wife so much. I found out why an expert procrastinator like me wanted to marry her within a few months of our first date. There were the obvious reasons of course which I will not go into. I also knew that she loved me a lot. However, THE reason appeared to me a couple of months into Ishaan’s life and how she was with Ishaan. I realized that I am married to a person who can Love. And I mean pure love – the selfless sort. A kind of love that is so rare in this day and age. I am thankful for every day that I get to spend with her and share this journey of Love!
- I had a lot of dreams for Ishaan – I still do. Only difference is that before they were quite specific – specific to the minutest of details.Then I saw him and held him and the only dream I really have for him (quoting Shri Ramakrishna Paramahansa here) – “Be as deep as the ocean and as broad as the sky”. When he realizes this dream and more importantly realizes himself, I can rest in peace.