Being Women

The Iron Hand Of My Father – Understanding a Disciplinarian Parent’s Unconditional Love

The author describes her strict and cold father's touching sacrifice for his sick child.

My Father – A Distant Figure

My father was a strict disciplinarian. He was handsome but rarely smiled, unlike other dads. We would think Dad was very principled, and that did not make him a very popular man. As I grow older, I notice that I hold some of his traits and, hence, involuntarily isolate myself from others. Anyway, coming back to my father’s strict ways and cutting a long story short, it rendered him an unpopular parent. Perhaps it was no fault of his. That is the way he had been programmed. But the damage had been done.

Distance Coupled With Fear

Thus, his fear was so greatly instilled in our hearts that we felt he was incapable of love. We cannot be blamed entirely, as he never expressed his feelings for us. Therefore, we were quite satisfied to view him as the main provider of the family, whose words were final on most occasions.

We could never be late anywhere. His permission was important for common daily tasks. Since we were girls, he had special restrictions in place for us. Again, he was so unlike other dads. As we stepped into our teens, his stern measures started to make us more and more uncomfortable. Why couldn’t he behave like our friends’ fathers did?

Understanding Him Through Experience:

I believe this question tormented me, at least for a great part of my adult life, until I became a parent. Of course, I won’t say things have changed dramatically for me to accept his ways, but time and experiences have taught me to understand him with more kindness. I tried to discover gaps in the solid armour that he wore to protect his inner world, which didn’t allow him to love the closest people in his life the way he should have. There were several instances when he did try to be more vocal with his emotions but had failed, or should I say his overpowering presence had dulled our senses and hearts.

A Glimpse of Love and Sacrifice

In this regard, one incident comes to mind where we have all seen the softer side of my not-so-soft father. My younger sister, as a baby, was often sick with bronchitis. The spell would bring with it coughs, colds, and long days of high fever, followed by diarrhoea set off by the strong medicines. At that time, my father was a chain smoker. He couldn’t live without taking a drag. When the doctor noticed this, he was very upset with my father and asked him to give up the habit at once. In all the chaos surrounding my sister, nobody noticed that my father made a major lifestyle change overnight. It was several days later when the shopkeeper who sold cigarettes to my father informed my mother that his business had suffered a major setback due to my dad’s decision.

Forgiveness and Appreciation

As a mother of two children today, I can understand the tremendous amount of strength it must have required to sacrifice the thing he liked so much. Yes, before I move ahead, he was also a man who wasn’t attracted to too many fancy things in the world. So the pack of cigarettes must have meant something to him. Never did I see my father touch cigarettes again in his life. Thankfully, his sacrifice bore the desired fruit, and my baby sister could be nursed back to health soon.

Carrying the Torch

As I look back on the years, I realise that, although my younger self wouldn’t have agreed, I have learned to be principled and disciplined from my father to a great extent, and I am proud of it, to be honest. Yes, he wasn’t like other fathers, but it is never possible to get everything in one lifetime. Whatever good I have inherited from my father, I am happy with that.

So now, when my children are disobedient, I tell them, “If your grandfather had been around, he would never have allowed you to mess up.”

Gratitude, and Letting Go

However, I don’t complete my sentence because I don’t want the grandchildren to carry the same image forward of a person they barely had time to know and understand. He was my dad, and the way I picture him stays in my heart.


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