By Arathi Devandran, Columnist@miffalicious
I have a confession and it is this: I am a memory hoarder. I’m a curator of all things long gone, sepia-toned, lost, faded and silent. I’ve kept a journal ever since I could write, and I have too many boxes filled with cards, receipts, (love) letters, movie ticket stubs, what have you will.
Memories have a huge part to play in my life because my story has shaped me to be who I am today.
Interestingly enough, my childhood memories are fainter than most. I don’t remember much, and what I do remember always come in brief flashes – memories which I then have to furiously record before they slip out of my grasp again. Yet, there’s always one stalwart character who features time and time again in these show reels. Who has always been my moral compass, and who continues to be my guiding hand. Who continues to be the leading man of my story.
Meet My father, my role model; my Daddy-O.
(Yep, we’re really that cheesy).
I’ll shamefacedly admit that I was quite the brat in my earlier days. (Truth be told, my parents might quip that I still am one, but that’s a story for another day).
I refused to go to pre-school because of some strange phobia of being trapped in the prison-like walls of my very cheerful kindergarten and I would cry. Not a sniffle, not quiet rolling-down-cheeks tears, but large
lungfuls of gasping cries that would reverberate said prison-like-walls.
This would trigger off my fellow schoolmates, and soon, my class would be a cacophony of wails. Needless to say, my teacher did not like me very much.
So what would my Daddy-O do? He’d stand outside my class window, holding my hand through said grilled contraption, while my wails would slowly quieten into sniffles. For a good amount of time, five days a week. (My mum and he would take turns because in between making sure that I stayed in class and stopped being a pest, they had to earn a living to support the family). This had to change. Obviously. Henceforth, my Daddy-O began to work his magic.
He began to teach me what respect was all about. By respecting me, and listening to what I had to say. I’d haltingly speak about what I was afraid of and why I didn’t want to go to school, and my dad would listen to me. He reassured my five-year-old self that my feelings mattered, and were to be respected. That I was entitled to feel the way I did, even if I wasn’t on my best behaviour. That was the first of the many lessons that I gained from my Daddy-O.
The meaning of Respect. The importance of being treated like an equal. The power of listening to another human being. Lessons that continue to remain at the forefront of my life till today.
To cut a long story short, conversation by conversation, my behaviour began to change. My attitude towards school shifted, I slowly stopped crying and started enjoying school.
And here I am, many years later, sharing this with you.
My father was the first man that featured prominently in my existence. He has never made me feel that my gender was ever a reason for me not to have larger-than-life dreams, or that I was in any way inferior to men. It is precisely this confidence which he has sublimely fed to my soul, that has given me the courage to pursue my goals, to keep scrambling to my feet every time I’ve been browbeaten by the unsavoury.
He’s also emphasised often that I deserve only the highest form of respect from men. Something that, as a young girl, one easily forgets when involved with the matters of the heart. He has set some incredibly high standards for the men that I continue to meet in my life, for which I’m very grateful for.
My mum has never tried to come in between my relationship with my Daddy-O. In that way, I’ve been blessed that my relations with each of my parents is independent of the other, and I have been able to communicate with them in different ways. Often, we forget that both our parents have had an important role in contributing to our personhood. Our mothers remain at the forefront of our families – the poster-ladies of love, warmth and nurturing, and rightfully so.
But let’s not forget that our fathers are just as important as well. They are the scaffolding of our homes, the friends in our times of need, the partners in crime when our mothers are being mothers (I’m speaking from experience here).
As my mother is the lighthouse of the family, my father is my safe harbour. He is the person I return to when every day life gets too overwhelming to handle. Even at the times when he doesn’t have much to say, he listens. And most times, that’s all I need. To know that my feelings are being carefully collected and stored in a heart that is much bigger than mine.
Quite like my five-year-old self, really.
Here’s to you Daddy-O. Thank you for being you, and thank you for being a constant reminder on how to be a better person. Much love from a daughter.
©masalamommas and masalamommas.com, 2016-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to masalamommas.com and Masalamommas online magazine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
Arathi Devandran is masalamommas youth talk writer. She also blogs at miffalicious.com. Currently she is pursuing a masters degree in International Security at the University of Leicester.
TEAMDAD partnered with University of Phoenix to conduct the 2103 Military Fatherhood Essay Contest in Okinawa, Japan. Students were asked to write essays to the theme “What My Father Means To Me.” In total more than 400 essays were collected from the children of servicemen stationed in Okinawa. 10 essay finalists and their dads were selected as winners.
Here is Teresa Ostrowski's Essay (Lester Middle School, 8th Grade).
One of the most important people in my life is my father, Colonel John A. Ostrowski. He shares a very deep, faith-filled relationship with me that is a very important blessing in my life. He is a very intelligent, good-hearted man who is outstanding for a variety of reasons.
I admire my dad because even though he has a stressful job, he manages to make time to talk to my family about big decisions in our life. Also, through everything that he goes through, my dad keeps a level-head and reasons logically before making decisions. How he manages to stay so calm under stress, I will never understand.
Another special quality about my dad is that he is extremely good at staying strong and brave. Recently his brother, Cmdr. Paul Ostrowski, passed away while battling Melanoma. It has been really rough on my dad, but he has been stronger than I’ve ever seen anyone. He looks at the positive side of every situation, like this one, and maintains a cheerful attitude.
The personal relationship I share with my dad is absolutely priceless. My dad is always there for me and helps me be the best at what I do. He dedicates his time to help me improve in my schoolwork and sports. He has regular conversations with me about everything that’s going on in my life and makes corny jokes that bring a smile to my face. I couldn’t ask for a better father and role model than him.
Here is John Ostrowski’s (Teresa’s Dad’s) Response:
I am very please that Teresa value our relationship. She very important to me and I try to provide her with the guidance I think she needs to succeed in life. I take every opportunity to share lessons in our Catholic faith so she grows in right relationship with God. I also share my practical experience with her and relate them to this state of her life. I realize from my own life that the “early teens” can be a very challenging time for young people, so I take advantage of teachable moments to help her contextualize events, thoughts, or emotions in her life so she can make better sense of her experiences and continue to mature in a healthy, happy, faithful manner.
In my estimate, parenting is not something based on a known checklist or cookbook recipe, but is rather a series of decisions and judgments undertaken to the best our knowledge and ability, based on the desire to provide our children an environment to love, security, and encouragement for their healthy growth in mind, body and spirit.
Military children have unique challenges, but I have endeavored to use my military experiences and skill to assist with my fathering. The life experiences and context I share with Teresa are drawn in large part from my military experiences, to include my interactions with many cultures, as well as observations of conditions, in many other countries around the globe.
I am pleased, based on Teresa’s essay, to see that perhaps some of my efforts may be bearing some fruit. My relationship with Teresa is very important, so I resolve to continue to be, as her father, a source of life-giving counsel so she might mature into a successful, confident, and faith-filled woman and citizen.
If you’d like to receive a collection of a couple of dozen inspirational essays, like the one above, please go to: www.teamdad.com and click resources. The Me And My Dad essay guide also includes a 7- Session curriculum, which is a great way for a small group of dads to read, reflect and resolve to be better dads. Proceeds from the essay guides go to support father-child programs.
From DAD To DAD, it’s very moving to read authentic messages about being a dad, especially those who are really making a difference in the lives of their kids and others.