The baddest father in the world
Photo by Ahmet Sali / Unsplash

The baddest father in the world

There were no bad fathers. Now, we all are.

Tanmoy Goswami
The past two weeks were harrowing. My son was very sick. I spent a lot of time giving him cold wipes and force feeding him yucky medicines, triggering much screaming and crying and many bouts of 'I HAAAATE YOU'. I also found myself lying wide awake in the middle of the night and introspecting about fatherhood. It made me dust off a piece I started writing sometime last year, which is just as on-point today. It addresses a unique agony many fathers of my generation live with. This is the first of a two-parter. This week: I rant. Next week: I serve up a solution (in line with my promise that I'll centre joy more and more in my work).

Psst. This week: You pay to help keep Sanity alive. Next week: You get a friend of yours to come on board. Because nothing like Sanity exists anywhere else, I promise.

I've been a bad father. Worse, I've brought this shame upon myself within an hour of starting the day feeling like a champion dad.

6:50 am: "Good morning! You woke up before the alarm today, awesome! Shall we play that song from Gupi-Bagha that we danced to yesterday?"

7:00: "Wow, your breath smells so fresh. You really pounded those stinky germs (we call them Hoko, Poko, Loko, and Jamjam) in your mouth into a chutney, didn't you?!"

7:20: "Yay, we got dressed already. High five!"

And then...

7:50: "You've STILL not finished breakfast?!"

7:55: "Look at how much food you have spilled everywhere, A-G-A-I-N."

8:00: He wants sugar in his tea but I've unknowingly poured jaggery instead. "I wAAAAAAAnt sugar. I hAAAAAte jaggery in my tea. GIVE ME SUGAAAAAR."

"You are always rude to me," I bristle. "Next time you take that tone with me, forget sugar, I am not giving you any tea."

8:15: "You are always throwing your snot-smeared tissues on the dining table."

8:25: "You never clean up your own mess."

8:50, half an hour late to leave the house: "You never check the clock in the mornings. You are always making Mr Balasubramaniam (the auto driver who ferries us to school) wait. You will again be late for school. "

The more accusations and threatening consequences I throw at him, the more he freezes in his chair, chewing his breakfast so slowly that following his jaw movements hurts my eyes. We are going to miss assembly again, is all I can think.

The school – a lovely, happy place with the happiest looking kids I've ever seen, unlike my school where happiness was actively discouraged – has not complained about A missing morning assembly. But in my head, I can hear the stern imaginary principal going, "Mr Goswami, we are disappointed that your son is breaking school discipline. It is not his fault. It is yours."

Humiliated by this imaginary dressing down, I let my face break into a grotesque, teeth-baring scowl. A sees it, then yells for his mother, complaining that I am being rude and asking her to sit next to him while he nibbles on the five peeled almonds on his plate for the fifteenth minute running.

My face often degenerates into that scowl in moments of rising anger and frustration. But one look at his small face turning smaller with fear shocks my muscles into relaxing. I was merely making a funny monkey face, I lie. A's expression turns from startled fright to baffled amusement. The tears forming a bulging film above his bottom eyelid rest tantalisingly there, and his lips quivering with a half-formed cry morph into a weak smile confused about its place in the world. He pushes me away with a grunt, unsure whether being around me is safe right now. "You are the baddest papa in the world. Hmmph," he roars before stomping off to put on his shoes.

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