A father is not superman. He is mostly ordinary, with an average way of life, family, and the occasional bad habit or weakness. He is mortal, and so I will not wax eloquent about the qualities of the super-dad. No, he is most likely incapable of bashing up the baddies or saving lives when the scary villain turns up. Who is he, then?
Assuming you are among the blessed ones, ‘dad’ is the man who fell in love with your mother, and committed his heart to her for life. Dad is the one who dreamed of ‘starting a family’ with your beaming mother; he is the one who was perhaps required to think of how they would manage expenses with a kid or more around the corner. He must have bitten off his nails as your mother went into labour, with the entire household fussing over her. Well, to tell you the truth, folks probably fussed over her all nine months, assuming that the would-be dad was doing fine, no tension and no sweat for him.
Your dad was the one who held you as you slept, as your mother slept. He perhaps worried that you looked too fragile to be true! Handing you over to your mother, he must have gazed anxiously and attentively while the doctor went on and on about caring for you.
Your dad must have looked into places he never bothered about before, like schools and day-care centres, to help your mother decide where the kids will have it best. He is the man who may have kicked one or two bad habits, or promised to stop swearing around the house on his rough days because the kids should not be exposed to the bad world at their tender age. While your mother reigned over the household, acknowledged by all as the parent supreme, dad fumbled around to see how he could make life more comfortable for all of you. He was often the villain disciplinarian when your mother was the loving angel, or the parent who enjoyed fooling around a bit while your mother tried her best to officially instill good principles and mannerisms.
Your dad got you a bike, or took you walking if he couldn’t get you one. You probably held on to his little finger so tight because you did not want him to leave you, ever. Dad introduced you to the world in his own way. Perhaps taught you a few things unknowingly. Maybe you started scanning the newspaper just to see why he loved to read it right in the morning, and he patted your back when you read the headlines aloud with the emphasis only a child can offer to reading material. Perhaps he caused you to win the school race just by constantly telling you that you were capable of it alright. It could be that he did not know how to prepare you for a fancy dress contest, but he was right there, cheering you when you went on stage. The poor thing must have cringed to himself when he told you he could not make it to your big event sometimes because, of course, his boss HAD to get the report that very day. How bad it must have felt for him to break the news to the eager kid demanding his attention in the sweetest way possible!
Your dad is the one who may admonish you at home all the time, but will praise you to other parents. He may have seemed distant, choosing to peek into the little aspects of your daily life only when he saw an impending problem that needed action, or was informed of a ‘situation’ requiring intervention. He might not be the epitome of patience, but he sure did repeat things to you when you tugged at his sleeve wanting the explanation all over again. He carried you on his shoulders in the parade so you would have the best view, even when he had to wade through sweaty crowds. Dad is the one who told you off if your manner was whiny, or instructed you to be brave when you were at the doctor’s for getting those nasty stitches. He probably ran pillar to post to get things done for you. Who knows, he might have planned to go catch a game live with friends, but ended up babysitting you in his time off from work, and you took the chance to throw every possible tantrum.
Dad can be part-Hitler part-Santa part-Goofy, and you cannot figure him out half the time! You often wondered if you were important to him at all, judging him wrongly on his grunting or nodding or hmm-ing in conversations, when all the while, he considered you an integral part of his soul. Sometimes you might have been embarrassed about him making jokes that only he found funny, or giving your friends the lecture about their lives when they showed up at your door. Dad just feels good when he knows he is needed, and you most certainly did not assure him of that as you grew older. You probably dismissed him in that polite yet aloof manner when he wanted to talk to you. Do you remember how he sat and admired your toddler-level drawings for a whole hour as you narrated how the accomplishment came about?
Dad honestly does not expect he deserves your 100% commitment even if he demands it aloud; he probably hopes for 10. Could you give him 5 to see the smile on his face, or hear the familiar grunt of approval? Look beneath the bushy eyebrows and the aging jawline. You will find the proud eyes of a man who is but a little child within. All he needs is you to reassure him that he did not fail as a father, that those little shortcomings did not make him less of a dad. For while mothers are the angels heaven sent down, dads are also the fierce guardians of their flock. “My daddy may not be the strongest, but he is still my daddy dearest.”