Let’s face it: even as adults, we still have problems with our parents. My entire life, my dad has pushed and shoved me in one direction or another. While setting boundaries is crucial to our emotional development and becoming health adults, it is only recently that I’ve started to set some with him.
Despite all that, I’m aware that I benefited in big ways from his direction. Who I am today is because of his direction and I’m happy with the result.
Because of my father I have:
1. Broken stereotypes. I was not raised like most South Asian women I know. My dad made a conscious effort to keep me out of the kitchen and glued to my books. As a result, serving guests and setting the table comes unnaturally to me and I’m far more comfortable listening to the men talk politics in the living room.
2. My resilience. Fear of spiders or mice? I’m not the girl who jumps on chairs screaming. I’m not saying it’s easy, but I know how to be brave to deal with difficulties and keep moving forward.
3. My education. My father made a big investment in my education, more so than my brother. He saw my potential at every stage of my life and pushed me when I could have cared less. The result? I will never have to rely on anyone else – man or woman – to get by in this world. It makes me powerful, versatile and smart enough to find opportunities no matter what dish I’m served.
4. My independence. Not sure this was his intention, but as a result of my education in different parts of the country, I have learned how to survive alone and far away from any family support. I enjoy my alone time, I am comfortable in my own skin and I’m a fully developed human being.
My dad had four older sisters whose educations were neglected. They came from a generation where women were not expected to make an income and were obligated to be housewives. One sister in particular was denied her dream of becoming a teacher. He was very close to her and I believe seeing her disappointment motivated him to raise me in a much different model.
While I didn’t have a lot of South Asian friends growing up to compare to, the friends I made in college help me realize how different, and fortunate I was, that my dad is who he is. The pressure my girlfriends felt from their families about getting married and when and to whom were problems I had the luxury of avoiding until much recently. My dad was always turned off by what he termed “cliquish” groups in the Indian community and I am so grateful that I remained isolated from most of this my entire life. It allowed my beliefs to develop unencumbered which is the root of my strength.
He’s not perfect and his reasoning is not always consistent. But I’m very fortunate to have been the raised by a forward-thinking man who opened doors for me that have been otherwise denied to many women of my background, both past and present.