Sunday, December 1, 2013

Daddies and their daughters



We have heard of the blessing “ May you be the mother of a hundred sons”. But I think someone ought to bless a man with “ May you have at least one  daughter”. Ask me why?

While having sons might prove his masculinity, I think becoming the father of a girl makes a man a very sensitive human being. He gets an insight into the female world as his little girl starts growing up and becomes part of it in a way no man ever can!

I remember as a little girl tying up my father’s hair and putting flowers as he patiently sat through it. I would then bring him a mirror and ask him if he liked what he saw. I guess he must have looked pretty awful but he did not want to hurt my creative efforts. So he used to tell me that it was very nice!! I suppose he must have regretted that later because the next day I got along a few friends for the hair dressing session! Appa, also sometimes played the doctor who told me what medicines to give my dolls, he was the vegetable vendor who got scolded for trying to sell things at an atrocious price and he was also at times the servant who opened doors and announced visitors ( don’t miss his slide down the social hierarchy). And more recently with his granddaughter he played the role of a stupid boy called “Ganesha” who had to say “ Yes Aunty” to any question asked! He also tolerated her ministrations when she decided that her “Tatha” was ill and needed to stay in bed. 
 
I have read somewhere that men want sons to do “man things” with them – like riding a bicycle, flying kites, fixing things around the house etc. But I think my father tried all of those with me and my sister. He tried to teach us both to cycle ( though it was she who finally learnt it) and took me to the swimming pool with him to get me to swim. But somehow I did not take to these pursuits with much enthusiasm. Kite flying is something that neither me nor my sister have any interest in. I think that is the only time he missed having a son. 

A man does not need to have a son to bond with. Bonding with daughters also happens and in very special ways. And naturally, no man can ever measure up to his standards in her eyes! 

When I see my husband and my daughter I see in many ways the father – daughter bonding repeat itself.  I see him teasing her about boys, threatening to read her text messages or imitating her when she is on the phone with her friends. She tells him things in the  same way I used to narrate things to my father ( though I never really told him about boys).  My husband also teases her about the heroes she finds attractive, the movies that she watches, her clothes and hairstyle. I think along with her, he has also unwittingly entered  the female world. And it is all the more endearing to see this because he belongs to a category of men who in his youth must have been referred to as  ‘macho” ! 

As fathers of daughters men understand problems of women from an “insider” perspective. They are more sensitive to issues like violence and harassment. Social problems like dowry, access to education, the need for independence of women suddenly begin to make sense to them. Being men, they see and spot the baser instincts in other men realizing how vulnerable it makes us women. I remember once, while inside an elevator in a mall, he pushed both me and our daughter into a corner and stood like a wall in front of us. As we got down the elevator and began grumbling about a suffocating human wall inside the cramped space that made it difficult for us to breathe, he told us both that he had noticed “ a sleazy guy” get in along with us and was afraid that he might do something to us. “ You girls just know to talk! When it comes to actually spotting such a fellow you are clueless!” he told us angrily. 

Men with daughters also become familiar with female talk..! I remember watching a TV program on the making of “Gone with the wind”. There was a discussion on the shooting of the  famous scene where Rhett Butler tells Scarlett that he does not “give a damn”. Both me and the daughter watched riveted as Clark Gable performed that scene. And when a certain man in our  family started laughing loudly we fell upon him and started punching him. “Ok, ladies.. what is so great about this guy” he finally asked us. “ You won’t understand” we chorused. “ Try me” he said!! I think that was his attempt at understanding the female mind. There are of course days when he grumbles that he cannot stay inside the house with “two hormonal females” bickering with each other.

While this is about men with daughters I am in no way suggesting that men with sons are insensitive. It is just that they are often deprived of the ability to understand women by living and observing us at close quarters. They probably carry more responsibilities in the sense that they  have to inculcate respect for women among their sons through their own behavior. 

Someone once told me that while sons are a result of passion, daughters are conceived during moments of tender love!! Probably a lot of rubbish but when I see any father- daughter bonding I am inclined to  agree. No wonder, a daughter often looks (in vain sometimes) for a dream man who shares her father’s qualities. But someone ought to tell her that few men are born with these qualities. They develop them as they bring up their daughters.

14 comments:

SG said...

Interesting post. I am glad your husband and daughter are bonding very well. I have a son and a daughter. My daughter is the first girl born in our family after 80 years. Therefore, she is adored by everyone.

With daughter, bonding and closeness will stop when she reaches a certain age or stage in her life. That is the nature. But with son, bonding and closeness will continue even when the son reaches 60 years in age or even more.

You said they are often deprived of the ability to understand women by living and observing us at close quarters. Daughter is not a must for this. A male can bond with his younger sister to understand women by living and observing women at close quarters.

mahabore said...

This was such a lovely post which resonated so well with me. I have realized that I am better able to understand my wife and women in general, only after I have become a father to my now 2 yr old girl. Agree with all the points you mention here, especially around how being a father to a daughter makes men that much more sensitive to women in general.

Purnima Prabhu-Kamath said...

this is so true, Meera. From my experience - my husband has a younger sister. yes there is a bond very strong there. when we got married, and since he was living exclusively with me, he got to see the "woman" side of life closely. he admits to me that he has never seen this perspective. I thought that was that. But with the arrival of a daughter, his world has changed yet again. They bond wonderfully (even though she prefers me over him sometimes) i see her interaction with him is more tender than what it is with me.

Divya said...

I had a smile on my face while reading this :) To be honest, it isn't something I can completely relate with - my father was mostly away while I was growing up and the only memories I have of him are those moments my brother and I eagerly waited for him to return from one of his foreign trips so that we could grab the toys and chocolates he got for us :)

However, I do know that whenever I have needed something, my father has always given it to me - and I've never had to ask for it! I think we get each other at some level where both of us get the other person even though we may not talk for days :D :D

I think we bond more as adults but reading this post made me a little sad as I felt like brooding over the missed opportunity of father-daughter bonding during childhood :D

KParthasarathi said...

Hahaha who said that one proves masculinity by having sons.I think he proves even by getting daughters.
In our patriarchal society where everything revolved around men including 'kolli podaradhu', and when men alone worked to earn,it was considered an asset to have male progeny.All such ideas are irrelevant these days and are old nionsense.A variety of sons and daughters will make the home merrier.
As a friend who had three sons and no daughters and was shuttling four months at each place rued to me once'Sons are ours till marriage;daughters are for ever"
Daughters are more concerned and affectionate.Sons may not be so demonstrative.These days I find more people living alone in senior homes even though they have both sons and daughters..

Meera Sundararajan said...

@SG your daughter is indeed a lucky one ! But I disagree with you about losing the closeness when they reach a stage in their lives. I still am very close to my father ( probably more than I am to my mother). At every stage there is a bond but it is slightly different! Unfortunately in India we think of daughters as "guests" in our families who will get married and leave and so there is always a feeling of "trusteeship" when it comes to them. Even brothers are sometimes asked to give their sisters whatever they ask for because they are only .. as they say in Hindi "Char din key mehmaan" ( a guest for four days). The brother sister bond is there but it is often marked by sibling rivalry and when brothers and sisters marry the bond usually breaks because sisters can be overbearingly possessive of their brothers which may annoy his wife.

Meera Sundararajan said...

@ Mahabore, glad that you are enjoying being your father's daughter. Having one daughter makes a man very different but having two ( like my father) completely changes him into something else :)

@ Purnima my daughter was also very close to me when she was younger but as they approach their teens , dads are their heros. You may feel rather hurt when they ignore you for their papa !!

Meera Sundararajan said...

@ Divya it is the quality time that matters. My mom was a stay at home lady while dad was a workaholic but somehow both me and my sister bonded more with him.

anilkurup said...

I do not know if a man becomes sensitive when he has a daughter. But as I mentioned in the FB on your post there is something special about a daughter and that do not in any way take the son out of the equation. I longed to have a girl first while it turned out to be a boy. And when the second child was confirmed a female it was pleasure.
All said and done and reading your life growing up , yes indeed father has more patience for the daughter .

anindita said...

I agree totally with your post. It is a beautiful experience to raise a daughter. Talking of Gone with the wind, I remember when Nanny was in doubt about Rhett's reaction thinking his first born is a girl. But the bonding Rhett had with Bonnie is beyond words. No, closeness does not narrow down as girls grow..it always grows and takes different colours and blooms in many ways in different seasons of life...

Meera Sundararajan said...

@ Anil the question is what makes daughters special? It is something wonderful that girls share with their fathers.

@ Ani, I remember Rhett and Bonnie he was devastated when she died and in a way lost his will for life!!

anilkurup said...

I guess it is the same feeling men have to their mother. Why should mother be special above the father? There is something that cannot be fathomed. I guess it is the same with daughter.

ashok said...

what a beautiful post Meera. i can relate this with myself and my little daughter here...

Ashwini C N said...

I guess men who have a strong bond with their moms, sisters, or friends who are girls will respect women more than people who dont get along well.

The bond between a father and daughter is equally heartfelt and inspiring as is the bond between a mother and her daughter :-)

Post a Comment

 
;