âI hear a kid in the background. Is the TV on?â my colleague Anu asked me during a conference call while we waited for the client to join in. It was late evening and I was dialing in from home.
âThatâs my three year old sonâ I told her. âApologies for the racket he is creatingâ I said while I gestured at my babysitter to take my son into a different room. I had set up my home-office in the hall and I could not move if I wanted to stay online and talk on the phone at the same time.
âOh, you have a son. You donât look like it at allâ Anu observed.
âYep, I do. By the way, I have a wife as well,â I said.
âYa right,â Anu laughedâŚ
I had accepted that becoming a parent is a âstageâ of being a procreating mortal that would happen in the due course of a majorityâs post-marital life and there should be no reason to be averse to it. I had always been unsure about when would be the ârightâ time to allow that to happen (for those who still donât know, âthatâ happening is in our control). You can fault hindsight bias, but God has his own way of going about letting us find answers to complicated questions and situations like these in our lives.
He did so to us.
There have been no doubts in my mind (and in the hundreds and thousands of parents around the world) that parenthood is one of the most fulfilling and rewarding of experiences one can have in their lives â everything else pales in comparison.
A quote from Seinfeld which in its own way gave me just a little extra strength and courage after the added responsibility and elevated status to Fatherhood went like thisâ
All fathers are intimidating. They’re intimidating because they are fathers. Once a man has children, for the rest of his life, his attitude is, âTo hell with the world, I can make my own peopleâ. âSeinfeld
But children grow up and donât remain the children as we know and want them to be. My Mom is still unable to come to terms with what I have turned into.
I got a preview of whatâs coming.
As an answer to a common question on what he wanted to become when he grows up, I had taught my son the reply “A good person”.
He changed his answer to “Papa” last week.
It is a common phenomenon that guys his age (at most ages actually) are easily influenced. I followed up. I asked him who had âinfluencedâ him to change the original answer and respond this way. I tried to dig it out of him â if it was his Grandma or his Mom or someone at his kindergarten who had changed his perspective on what he wanted to turn into â rather what I wanted him to become.
I got zilch. Nothing!!!
I concluded that he had come to this decision on his own. That it was an original decision by a three and a half year old seemed very surprising.
Why did he want to turn into me â of all the people? There was Salman (his off the screen misadventures apart) or Virat (all his cussing and swearing apart) or even one of those Ben Ten characters.
What had I done?
It did not stop at just that.
He insisted on brushing his teeth a couple of days ago. I said okay, letâs humor him. He took the brush in his mouth and started to shake his head in an eerily familiar way â it seemed that he was imitating how I brushed mine. He then spat out some foam with intent, looked at me and said âHenceforth, I will do everything exactly how you do it,â before he went back to his âbrush the teethâ routine.
I stood there dumbstruck.
Wishing to become his papa was one thing. Having plans in place and implementing them to become someone else (even if it is oneâs own father) was taking things to another level.
Things were getting from bad to worse. I had to get to the root of this.
I got a chance to dig deeper later that day. I asked him â âIf you become Papa, then what should Papa turn into?â
âMe,â he said. He did not have to be coaxed all that much for the answer. It came out of him without any hesitation.
I was at a loss for words.
In his little mind, he somehow concluded that if he turned into me, I would in-turn â turn into him. And that thought motivated him like no other.
But, why should the thought of turning into me inspire him to such an extent? He need not have to be that excited. I wasnât a Superman!!! And I hated that Ben Ten character. It was just the plain old me â just a nobody trying to survive the rat race and raise a kid.
Was there a twist in his intent?
Perhaps â just perhaps â it was his way of getting back at me, at all the discipline I had tried to instill in him, at all the refusals, at all the fun I had denied him so that he could bully me into submission as he wished to when his turn came.
It was his ârevengeâ. It was his way of getting back at me.
I started to better appreciate my parents then. I was grateful to them most for being able to bring up a problem child like me â especially after I had one of my own and did not seem to figure out the best way to deal with him.
By the time a man realizes that maybe his father was right, he usually has a son who thinks he’s wrong. -Charles Wadsworth
My biggest challenge (including those at work) was to get my offspring to become at least as good (or as bad) as I had turned out to be â and I realized that I was having a real tough time at it.
My son was plotting revenge â against me!!!
Or was there something else? A three and a half year old cannot be revengeful. Yet. They just canât be.
Did he see something in me that I wasnât able to? Was there something good, even extraordinary in me, something which seemed to be âsuperhumanâ about me in my sonâs eyes that made him want to become me?
A voice whispered from within â âDonât fool yourself. You know very well who you are, donât you?â
I just couldnât deny that line of logic â that too from a voice coming from within.
But there were questions unanswered which needed to be investigated. And there was only one person who had answers.
âSo son, what of Papa do you NOT want to beâŚ?â