When I am a father

It’s one thing to like a girl only to find out she doesn’t feel the same way. It’s quite another for her to actually like you back but still not want to go out with you. And so continues my fruitless quest for love.

I recently met this wonderful Sikh girl – we’ll call her S – and we instantly hit it off. She admitted she liked me. We went on a date. We kissed. And she said she couldn’t see me again. The reason? Loyalty and guilt.

She came from a really close family with parents who loved her and had spent three weeks by her side in hospital as she’d drifted in and out of consciousness in a fight against pneumonia. Her father, whom she loved dearly, wanted her to find and marry a Sikh. I already knew this but had somehow persuaded her to go on a date. But the thought of letting her father down, and lying to him, was too much.

S was visibly upset by the decision she’d forced herself to make. She apologised profusely and kept asking if I was angry. I wasn’t. Frustrated? Yes. Disappointed? Maybe. Upset? Perhaps. But not angry. You can’t be angry about how someone feels. You can only accept it and try to understand it.

After all, it wasn’t S’s fault that she felt guilty. We can’t control who we fancy or how we feel. We can’t use logic to make someone love us. We can only use reason to come to terms with a relationship ending, or to help to end it. Love itself is illogical.

Perhaps I should be a little angry at her father for putting S in this position. I can’t. Like all fathers who love their children, I assume he only wants what is best for his daughter. And for whatever reason he believes he knows what is right. I think he wants to protect her.

My own father was strongly against my sister going away to become a ski instructor. He didn’t express himself very well. He told her she was making a mistake; that she was being stupid. He was certain she had a boyfriend who was making her leave a successful career to do this against her will.

After an emotional pub chat one afternoon, it became clear that he was scared for her safety although he couldn’t bring himself to say it. The very comfort of routine, the knowledge that she was in safe and familiar surroundings, made him happier. He wanted to protect her and didn’t know how.

It must be hard, but fathers can’t protect their children forever. To do so requires control, a control tantamount to possession. And possession is a pernicious expression of love.

And I hope that one day, when I am a father, I’ll be possessive, too. I hope I’ll worry about my children’s safety. I’ll want to control their lives to protect them from harm. Because then I’ll know I love them.

But I also hope I’ll have the courage to let them spread their wings, take risks and make mistakes. Parental love is unconditional. It shouldn’t demand respect, and neither should it command obedience. Parents should want what’s best for each son and daughter; should want them to be happy. But they shouldn’t assume to know how.

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One Response to When I am a father

  1. I think it’s an innate thing that we have in us that gets expressed in that way. Love crosses the line of being overbearing and possessive all too often but being that its a fine line, we can almost consider it excess love right? But the opposite party won’t ever fully understand till they have a daughter of their own. I guess its different with a son but the idea of “giving” your daughter to another man is in its own way quite a big deal. Although you aren’t really giving her to him, you feel like this little girl you’ve held on to for so long has all of a sudden grown up and is deciding to leave. I also think that’s something fathers, or parents as a matter of fact, get caught up in many times. Their children grow up way too fast and before they know it, all this time has passed and they’re getting ready to leave the nest.
    So yes, I definitely agree with you on the fact that we want to love them to the extent where it crosses that fine line but also be brave enough to take a step back and hope they’re ready to fly when they jump. Great post!

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