I must confess I had a superficial role in bringing up my children and, in the same breath, I am proud to have discharged my primary duty of being a provider as a pro-active, concerned, and responsible caretaker. My wife has been a more involved parent, balancing my idiosyncrasies and the tantrums of the kids. She seemed to have done an excellent job, when I look at the unfolding of the bygone years and two superb citizens and human beings that my children have turned out to be.
The army is a challenging profession. Long absences, difficult schedules, and frequent transfers of the parent, besides tight budget and a disciplined way of life can be cruel to the army children.
Only mature management and turning negatives into positives can give them a normal growing-up. My role in this endeavour was inadequate. I remained the good-old "father saab", egocentric, intolerant, and dictatorial.
A huge fan of Animal Planet television channel, I was enamoured by the ageing tiger that still went for the kill. It may be the fading years, and young tigers may have taken over the pride, but it will catch own prey until it can no longer hunt. It dies an egocentric. I aspired to be like that tiger. I started losing my pride the day my son started earning four times my last pay. Those missed calls and the soliciting of return calls stopped, so did the demand for branded clothes and items. The family holidays were all paid for. The daughter was married off and replaced suitably with a loving daughter-in-law. The children now were self-sustaining and engrossed in own first families.
The first thought was that I had become irrelevant in the role of a material provider, and so had my erstwhile payoffs. I got thinking about the future course of action. My father, whom I always looked up to, worked on the philosophy "act your age to narrow the generation gap". Watching the football world cup, I was reminded of his favourite advice: "Start your married life as the glamorous striker (forward), in the forefront, in pursuit of goals. In the middle age, when the children are busy finding their feet, become the centre-half midfielder, and help the new forwards accomplish their goals. After retirement, be the defender that provides the team with assurance and depth, and moves out of the sidelines ultimately. Now you can be either a grumpy, avoidable extra, or a sought-after mentor."
Eyeing the ultimate role of mentor, I strive to shift gears and get into the appropriate slot my team, my family, assigns me, with the onerous responsibility of ensuring that my children achieve greater heights of accomplishment, and they in turn do it for the generations to follow.