I’ve been on a leadership course recently as part of my development at work. One of the questions we were asked was who was our role model, who were we inspired by.
The first person that popped into my head was my dad. I then pushed him to one side thinking, “nah he’s not my role model” and then paused for a minute and thought, “hang on, maybe he is, he was the first person that came to mind, maybe he is but something in me doesn’t want him to be.”
Growing up my relationship with my Dad was turbulent. As a little girl I was a daddy’s girl, in fact I was THE daddy’s girl. Then as I grew older we started to clash more, as a teenage girl (that had also always been very close to my mum) it was often easier to talk to mum, after all she was a woman too. Not only that though I was angry at my dad, he hurt me. I didn’t like his excessive drinking, I didn’t like that he had an affair behind mum’s back, I didn’t like that he hurt me, my brother and my mum through his destructive behaviour and I didn’t like that he split our family up. I didn’t like him causing my mum and brother to cry at times, I didn’t like seeing them cry, I didn’t like crying myself.
However, I’ve always loved my Dad and I think after a lot of years I was able to accept him more for who and what he was. My Dad made many mistakes in his life and often got stuff wrong but one thing I always knew is that he loved us, my mum included. He always loved us, as kids we were his world-yes he made some crappy mistakes with us sometimes but he did love us. Mum even says it now, he loved us and thought the world of us.
I teach at the school my Dad once worked at and more and more as my time goes on there I feel more and more proud of it. Hearing people talk of my Dad on a professional level makes me see him in a different light. It reminds me of what a good man he could be. It reminds me of his positive qualities, his caring nature, how much he loved us unconditionally as his children and how clever he was. Shortly after my dad died, a colleague came to me offering condolences and then said that he wanted me to know how much my dad loved me and my brother and how much he talked of us and mentioned a few little anecdotes. Things that he could’ve only known if my dad had shared them and it was so nice to hear, it was proof, it was real. It showed that despite some of my dad’s negative behaviour, he loved us, thought about us and talked about us with pride.
I think in a way it’s these things that have made me forgive him for not always being the best Dad. I also look back and think maybe in later years he was trying to make up for the bad patch and harder times we went through, in small ways, little things he said and did make me think he was trying to put stuff right without openly bringing up the issues. I maybe wrong but it’s comforting to think that maybe he was.
As an adult and now a parent myself, I also don’t blame him and see him as an inspiration. My dad has a tough up bringing, he went through a hell of a lot, a lot worse and more than any of us could even begin to imagine, things that could make a decent channel 4 documentary! He left his home country, the majority of his family and moved here at the age of 12 unable to speak a word of the language. He fled an arranged marriage for a white women, going to marry her and have two children with her, totally going against his cultural background. There’s much more, but none of this stopped him from getting himself a degree, good job, then a career change and bringing up too well rounded, strong ambitious and confident children.
He didn’t let his problems stop him from striving for a better life for his children compared to his own. He may have made some mistakes in his life but after some of the things I seen and heard through my work with children, what we went through is not a patch on what some kids do (not that, that makes it ok). I see us as lucky, for all his mistakes, he’s taught me to overcome things, to stay strong throughout adversity. He’s taught me to respect myself and not let others disrespect me or put me down.
My dad has taught me to be proud and to work hard and strive for better and to be ambitious. He’s taught me to value myself but to also not be too proud. When he was out of work and seeking a career change, he worked as a taxi driver, take away delivery guy and pot washing in a restaurant. He wasn’t too proud to do any job to help contribute to the household income. Despite his intelligence and education he wasn’t too afraid to roll his sleeves up and get down on his hands and knees and do any job just to get a wage and put food on the table.
I think sometimes I’ve been afraid to admit how proud I am of my dad, I think I’ve been embarrassed to say that he’s a role model and inspiration. I think I’ve been worried about what certain people will say and think of me for holding him in such high regard after some of the things he did. But a lot was behind closed doors, people didn’t know and quite frankly what should they care anyway, he’s my dad and my role model, not theirs and it’s not the negative behaviours I’m focusing on. I’m concentrating on the good man he could be. The man that faced racial issues, that came from and Indian village and made a life for himself in western white British country raising two mixed race children.
It is for this reason I want to bring toddler P up with a strong awareness and understanding of her Indian heritage. I want her to learn about her Poppa M through understanding her family and culture from around the world. So whilst being proud to say my dad is my role model, I’m going to force myself to celebrate more of my background and heritage. Because I too want her to be proud of her Poppa M.