What are the benefits when a father develops a deeper relationship with their daughter?
Dr. Madhu: Relationship with one’s own offspring can hardly be classified as superficial or deep. In saying this, I am thinking of the general behavioural scenario in most societies. Relationship denotes bondage and mutual support between individuals. Love underpins the bondage. Support is the benefit. My two daughters support me: physically when they discern that I am weak; emotionally when they find me bogged down by certain issues, and materially when they see the need. This is what I do to them. This kind of behavioural pattern, I believe, is determined partly by the upbringing and the established social norms and partly by the biology. To put it in simpler expression, most fathers benefit emotionally, physically and materially by their relationship with their daughters.
Prashant: I don’t think benefit is a suitable word to be used in this kind of relationships. It is definite that in any kind of deeper relationship there is understanding. Most children are more attached towards their mothers due to various reasons. Having said that, I and my daughter bond very well. We are like friends and share everything with each other. When I get to know about her likes and dislikes and interests, it becomes easier for me to guide her on the right path and I think this part serves as a mutual benefit for the both of us.
Aman: I don’t know about others but for me a deep bonding between me and my daughter has helped me understand the responsibility of life more. It helps me understand the mentality of youngsters like her. At large, it helps me construct or design youthful content in my TV programmes.
Sanup: I think it is not about benefits whatsoever but understanding of oneself, one’s childhood, personality and everything that one has had been doing during his/her childhood and seeing all that through one’s offspring. I keep a very different rapport with my daughters. I believe it’s not that deep nor too shallow. It’s aligned in such a way that I see them as a different entities altogether.
Chetan: Being a father, I think that the bonding between father and daughter is a precious relation. Less insecurity, sharing of personal problems, and not lacking deep secrets are a few benefits that a father gets.
What are some life skills or qualities that you helped engender in your daughter?
Dr. Madhu: I have tried to inculcate certain values in their lives. Some important ones are:
• That all human beings are born as human beings with more or less the same biology but with their individual brains (mind to reason), and heart (emotional make up). We should respect both in equal measure. Ruthless disregard of these two elements divides humanity and invites social disharmony and if this goes on unchecked, the very human existence on this planet may become an insurmountable challenge. So, learn to view every human being as your equal and find yourself equal to every other person that crosses or walks the path in your life’s journey.
• My daughters do not observe casteism and do not discriminate by creed, class, religion or region.
• Faith in God has to be entirely under the individual’s personal domain. I inherited a faith but as I do not see too many problems with it I have stuck to it. You need not inherit faith. Perceive the society you live in, think and make your own choice. Faith and religion are in fact two different concepts. Faith is individual but religion is a partisan concept. It has divided humanity into certain religious sects and fragments. Religion lays down rules and laws. It is a power game, it imposes; faith does not. So, have faith if you like but think hard before you associate yourself with a particular religion. If you are menstruating but wish to pray in a temple, or a church or synagogue or a masjid, go ahead and do it. Do not allow your normal physiology to hinder you. My daughters are believers but they belong to no particular religion. They do not feel restricted during menstrual periods.
• Seek reason, logic and relevance at every new step you take in your life’s journey but if your heart compels you to do otherwise at a certain point, give in. Sometimes, heart’s dictation can bring you a more lasting success and happiness. If you fall, you will learn from that fall what I cannot teach you and what your own mind could not direct you. My daughters have taken this to their heart and on certain points have given in to their heart’s demands.
• Seek happiness and be happy but do not enforce happiness unto yourself when life events have pulled you down. That would be more detrimental to your life. Learn to accept unhappy moments with equanimity. Most human lives have been a mixture of happiness and sadness; not always in equal measure. DO not insist on receiving justice from the Providence or the Nature. They too play games with human lives and we have to accept and deal with the injustice as best as we can. My daughters have understood this and have assured me that they will practice this in their lives as best they can.
• Do not seek material opulence out of moral penury. A meaningful life is not about being overly rich, being highly educated and acclaimed by the peers, or being perfect. It is about being yourself, the real. Be a human; humane in every way. That will bring you moral opulence which gives you much more happiness than the material opulence. Acquire material wealth by keeping your moral health intact. My daughters have assured me that they will never engage in corruption.
Prashant: She is very honest and disciplined, be it in school or at home. She has this habit of not repeating the things in which she was wrong. But, she seeks reasoning. And if the reasons convince her, she certainly won’t do it again. She is also very good in writing and has an inclination to the fashion field. She is studying International Business. We communicate a lot about how this profession can be converted into business as she wants to do business in fashion.
Aman: I think I gave her freedom and confidence to just follow her heart and dreams.
Sanup: Humility, that’s the cutest skill and most important of all the virtues in today’s time. Yes, I have also tried instilling musicality rather than teaching too much music which I believe will nurture as they grow.
Chetan: Acknowledging her about the dos and don’ts of life, what is right or wrong, skills in musical field like guitar, ukulele lessons are some specific skills and qualities that I have engendered in my daughter.
What are some important ways fathers’ roles change?
Dr. Madhu: Fathers will always remain fathers and daughters will always remain the daughters. In saying this, I am excluding childhood and adolescence. Up until adolescence, the father’s role lies in observing and guiding the child’s or adolescent mental and physical growth and instituting and facilitating corrections when aberrations are observed. Often the child’s individual idiosyncrasy is taken for aberration and correction sought. I think that should not happen even though it is often very difficult to differentiate one from the other. If uncertain, seeking professional help would be the appropriate step. Counseling of adolescent daughters by both parents is crucial but I missed on it partly because of my busy professional schedule and partly from my own ignorance at the time. Fathers need to deal with the security issues that crop up in an adolescent daughter. There is a risk of physical and emotional distancing between a father and his daughter during adolescence and that must be prevented by every means. Fathers must reach out to the daughters and be as open as possible about her physical and emotional growth. Discuss them with her.
After adolescence, and when the daughter reaches adulthood the relationship should attain the level of a peer with another. Father finds that he has much to learn from his daughter. Knowledge store in the world is ever expanding and the young ones are often more abreast with it than the middle aged or the elderly parent. The elderly parent’s experience is also of equal import to the daughter who has a more up-to-date knowledge base but much lesser life experience.
Prashant: It gives me immense happiness when I get to be a teacher along with a father. I have been there for my daughter since day one and it feels really good to be able to witness every moment of her growth. We as parents have to understand that our children are not always in the same phase. It is certain that their priorities change during adolescence as they feel more comfortable to share things with their friends which is natural. We have also gone through that phase in life so I don’t invade her privacy. I don’t think it is necessarily relevant for them to share each and everything with their parents. Some personal things have to be kept private.
Just because we have had a certain experience in life while growing up doesn’t mean our children need to have the same. We were brought up in a comparatively traditional environment and I believe we should change according to the times. There are so many things we had no idea about but got introduced to it through our children. For instance, learning to use TikTok and Instagram. If I don’t learn how to use these, I won’t be aware about what my daughter is doing. So, we have to learn to adapt in certain things. This will also make it easy for me to efficiently communicate with my daughter while keeping her in the comfort zone she wants.
Aman: Of course it changes through the years. I was a father to her when she was a toddler, now I am her friend. It’s not just about a father adapting with daughters changing needs but it’s also about a daughter trying to figure out who her father really is.
Sanup: I am not sure about the roles but if I have to list some, daughters shouldn’t be any different and should be equally seen as anyone else. Not only fathers, I am sure that everyone around should be consciously aware about the adaptations with times that’s changing everything around us. I can’t be centred with daughters here as I see this as a challenge for all of us to adapt to the changing needs of time as this can change our overall perspective. Be it for daughters or sons or anyone else.
Chetan: Fathers obviously need to change according to their daughter’s changing needs because human wants never end and is ever changing. When a daughter grows old, a father’s role naturally changes. A big change occurs especially when his daughter is going to get married. A father needs to adapt to his daughter’s changing needs, not only for the daughter but in general. All human beings have never ending desires that need to be fulfilled.
What are some cultural trends fathers should be concerned about and address with their daughters?
Dr. Madhu: Culture is a dynamic phenomenon and no culture in the world has remained static. To have knowledge about as many cultures in the world as possible tends to, I believe, broaden a young mind. Amalgamation of cultures can only strengthen humanity and not divide it. It is the suppression of cultures that need to be discouraged. This is what I teach them. I am sad to see that in many middle and upper class Newar families they are forsaking their own language and speak only Nepali in their homes. We do need to preserve our own cultures too, not throw away our music, literature, costumes, etc.
Having advocated for amalgamation of cultures, I, however, detest borrowing cultures like dowries and extravagant wedding expenses from the South. I consider these bad trends in culture amalgamation and waste. I’d rather see my daughter well settled and comfortably placed in the community the very next day after she holds someone’s hand as a life partner. That is what I work for and not for wasteful extravaganza. I discuss these things openly with my daughters so they understand me.
Prashant: Not only my daughter, but I think each youth should follow their culture and tradition and every parent should also accept and adapt to changing culture. It is not just parents who have to teach children. Even children teach us many things. There are many societal taboos, especially for daughters which they have to face. Taking menstruation as an example, I don’t find it necessary to restrict my daughter to enter the kitchen when she is on her period. I even go and buy sanitary pads and support her through her discomfort during this time. Even in other situations, I don’t force her to do anything. I try and explain why it should be done a certain way and if she agrees, she follows it.
Aman: I think my daughter was raised with freedom to express her wants and desires. I believe in giving exposure to every possible aspect of life and give her freedom to choose wisely on what she wants to do in life. I don’t believe in controlling and addressing her.
Sanup: I like to call it a conventional dogmatic trend instead. The evility of our society to keep a girl child out of the sight of male members or send her to maternal place just because she menstruates for the first time is very inhumane and extremely impractical. It is time every father in our society take this matter in their hands now. I am saying this because mothers in our society are still encouraging this practice. Also men should understand how difficult it is to live in a girl’s anatomy altogether. None but only male assertiveness can bring this to an end. It is not about men becoming a feminist here, but it’s about humanity and how differently yet harmoniously we can live.
Chetan: Being in a society, it is always important to speak out and put your opinions and perceptions in front of others. Socio-cultural rules and expectations surely will enhance the child’s ability to come across people around the world.
What are some ways fathers can build trust and connection with their daughters during adolescence?
Dr. Madhu: Spend as much time with them as possible, which I confess, I could not do. Get to know their concerns and fears and help them mitigate those fears by showing solution pathways but not by solving specific problems or by mitigating specific fears for them.
Prashant: Due to various hormonal changes, it is likely that their mental and physical status won’t be the same. Their priorities tend to change during this time and we have to accept it. It is very important for us to trust our children. If she plans to go abroad, it is trust that is going to hold us together. In this age, they might also get into relationships which I think is completely fine. But, it is my responsibility to guide her regarding the dos and don’ts. Like every father, I am pretty strict and protective towards my daughter in certain things. If she is taking any kind of new step, I make sure it is the right one.
Aman: Trust and connection is built when you build an open environment in a relationship. You just have to accept the fact that your daughter might be more mature than you in certain aspects of life. You have to accept the fact that you will not always be right. Giving her respect will definitely build a friendly relationship and that will enable daughters to come and share anything and everything.
Sanup: Freedom is trust, there’s nothing more than one’s inner freedom. As a parent we often try to take charge of everything on our children just because it didn’t work out with us. Adolescence is a crucial stage, a time when children tend to choose everything against parents. In my opinion they need a friend, not parents.
Chetan: A father must always keep his word and follow through with it. At the same time, he needs to give opportunities to his child and should make time for the relationship to talk about trust, freedom and limitations.
Are there lessons fathers are better able to teach than mothers?
Dr. Madhu: Yes! I think fathers are still better at imparting on to the offspring a sense of self-reliance and independence as an individual in this vast world. Unfortunately, in families with both sons and daughters, sons get to spend more time with their fathers than the daughters and the transmission of this trait to the daughters tends to be weaker. I have been fortunate that I only have two daughters.
Prashant: Mothers and fathers have their own importance in every child’s life. I raised my daughter as a single parent. However, she must have learnt certain things from her mother. Besides, the closest female figures for her are my mother and sister. She is growing in their guidance. I haven’t ever compromised to mentor her in every possible way. I have been involved in each and every moment of her growth. I was, am and will always be there to stand by her side. I don’t want to compare any kind of relationships. Good friends, teachers and family environment are also equally important.
Aman: When she is old enough to go out with a guy, you can certainly sense whether or not that guy is portraying his true self (laughs). I believe while mothers are God for a child, fathers are protectors.
Sanup: No lessons as such. At the end of the day it’s about holistic parenting which requires agreement of both.
Chetan: Fathers tend to leave their daughters to experience the outer world whereas, mothers fear to do so. And it is quite the same in my case as well. To add to it, fathers help develop self-confidence and fearlessness to their daughters while teaching them to compete in the real world.