The society gives roles to people based on their gender.
The men are supposed to be the bread-winners while the women are supposed to be maternal. Anything even slightly unconventional is looked down upon and considered unnatural. This is why children who come from single parent families are almost always made to feel like their life is a big tragedy playing out. And that is exactly what puts more pressure on a single parent.
And when the single parent is a father raising two daughters, it becomes one hell of a ride.
That is the template my dad found himself boxed into when my mom left us. But if I learnt anything from this little disruption, it is how to take a challenge in your stride, and the person who taught this to me was my dad.
I remember the first time my dad sat down to make my hair. A frustrating half an hour and some 15 broken rubber bands later, he had finally learnt how to make a plait.
But more than anything, it is the support that my dad managed to give me through all his years as a single parent that turned me into a confident human being. For with him as my father, I was constantly told that I can go ahead and win the world if I really want to.
Because even if I was to fall, I knew there was my dadda to catch me.
Back in second grade, at my school carnival, one of the game stalls had a word-making contest. You pick out random alphabets from a jar and re-arrange them to make a word and if you succeed, you get a prize! Being the enthusiastic child that I was, I rushed to that very stall, knowing fully well that my spelling game wasn’t all that strong. And once the alphabets were lined on the table, I just stood there with a sad face.
I could not spell anything and the girls managing the stall told my dad he could help. My dad smiled down at me and told them I’ll manage. And that was all the motivation the little me needed at that point.
I ended up spelling ‘rose’ and got myself a mug that my dad has preserved to this day.
You see, my dad stepped into two roles: that of the father and the mother.
So, yes, it was pretty weird when he would be the only man sitting in the waiting area during my dance classes and yes, going to the PTM alone to take responsibility for my rebelliousness must have taken a lot of guts.
But he is also the man who woke up at 5 AM every morning to prepare our tiffins. He got me and my sister ready for school while we both fought over missing hairbands and belts. He learnt new recipes so that we’d finish our breakfast. And after all this was done, he’d go for his own job and return home at 7 PM.
But his job as a parent wouldn’t end there as he would come back and sit with us on our homework.
Back when I was just a kid, I don’t think I fully appreciated how much he was doing for us every single day. But now that I’ve stepped into the shoes of a working girl, I cannot imagine how difficult it must have been for my dad to do all of it without any help.
Unlike the typical masculine man, my dad had to step up to be my emotional pillar. And yet, while I used our tea time in the evening to crib about things, my dad never shared any of his problems. He knew he had to be strong for the both us but it makes me wonder what all he is going through.
I wish he knew he had the option of sharing his weaknesses and flaws with us once in a while.
And after 13 glorious years of being a single parent, my dad is still as motivational as he was when I was that second grade child who couldn’t spell. He has the ugliest drawings I’ve made preserved like they’re some big masterpieces. He now lures me to finish dinner with new recipes and still likes to pack my bag in the morning. If anyone tells me I’m a spoilt child, I tell them to blame my dad.