Father’s Day is a day honoring fatherhood. In the U.S. the day is celebrated on the third Sunday of June. The bond of fatherhood comes in many forms. This year, in honor of fathers, we focus our Wednesdays for Women posts on sharing two perspectives of fatherhood. The first this week is from a Blue Yonder dad raising two girls. The second next week is written by a Blue Yonder daughter. Both posts will tug at your heart and show us the importance of the man we call “dad.”
Hi! I am Desikan, Blue Yonder associate and proud father of two fabulous young women. I have been immensely lucky a few times in my life – being born to loving parents who valued education over any other endeavor, and marrying a fantastic woman who allowed me to pursue my dreams. But the real jackpot of my life is my fatherhood journey. In honor of Father’s Day, I’d like to share a few thoughts about my parenting experience.
Before I go further, let me introduce my two daughters: “S,” my 15-year-old, and “A,” my 9-year-old. I should perhaps begin by saying that my two daughters could not be more different.
“S” strives to delight her parents and every other person she comes in contact with. She is a straight arrow who sets aggressive targets, outworks even my very high expectations, and takes failures in stride. She tried to get elected to her school ethics board three times unsuccessfully before winning her fourth attempt. And, in true Bollywood style, she is very predictable in her objectives and her approach, despite all the drama that may come along.
“A,” on the other hand, is a free spirit who chugs forward like a steadily churning train, making unscheduled and unexplainable stops near uninhabited corn fields, unflappably accepting of the natural order she finds herself in. But while this description may imply a certain laidback attitude, she actually excels quietly in her areas of interest with the guile of a mischievous master plotter with results that far outperform what her modest habits and ambitions may suggest.
Raising these two young women has taught me some very valuable lessons in breaking two types of stereotypes. Firstly, I have realized that implicitly guiding my daughters to play it safe and eschew risk puts them in direct conflict with their own aspirations of achievement. A few days ago, while we were spending some quality time as a family looking at old pictures, my elder daughter amusingly recalled how she learned to ride a bike. The whole exercise involved 30 minutes instructing her to carefully put on her knee and elbow pads and tightening every strap on her helmet. She would then wobble onto the street, stiff with fear, while I tracked right behind her to catch her just in case her training wheels failed. She recalled that her experience was driven more by caution and anxiety than the excitement of learning a new skill. No doubt, both my wife and I felt a deep sense of shame under our forced smiles. Women deserve the same opportunity to take disproportionate risks to achieve disproportionate rewards and, as parents, we promise to learn and improve here.
The second stereotype is around what makes a good student. Pushing our daughters to take all the AP courses that the school would offer and then ace them, to stockpile club memberships and other extra curriculars all in an effort to appeal to every opportunity that an unpredictable future may hurl at them is a deeply flawed pursuit. My daughters have shown me that there is no single ideal student formula and the process of exploration followed by the experience of success and failure is what makes them ready for an unpredictable future.
Finally, no essay from a parent is complete without some pieces of advice for their children. So, here are a few pointers I would like to convey to mine – and all young adults — as they experience these deeply troubled times.
- Follow your passion. History is replete with examples of deeply passionate people reaching great heights in spite of obvious severe disadvantages; you would be hard pressed to find a single example of sustained success driven purely by mechanical effort.
- Listen to every opinion but make your own informed decision. Do not waste your life living someone else’s dream.
- The most valuable resource you will ever have is time. Once you lose it, you can never buy it back and there is no other resource that is quite like that. So be very careful how you spend it.
- Risk is no longer meant only for the reckless. Go ahead and take some risks.
- For young women in a competitive world, there is no substitute for self-advocacy. Go ahead and demand what you deserve.
- Finally, and perhaps most importantly, do not measure success with a purely utilitarian compass. The pursuit of acing every test and achieving peer admiration should never be promoted at the expense of true character built around a strong sense of right and wrong.
As a parent, it is critical that I spend time with my daughters to encourage humility, empathy, and a focus on addressing weaknesses, especially in a world where shallow boasting of one’s strengths is considered a virtue. And all the time we are spending together during the COVID-19 shelter in place looking at old pictures or on long walks around our neighborhood gives us a great opportunity to do just that.