As I have mentioned a few times in this and previous blogs on certain not-so-happy occasions, the relationship between my dad and I borders between estranged and forced. This is rooted by the fear and respect that I have for my dad. Ironically, he is my inspiration. There is so much to know and to learn from him, how his head works and why he somehow is most often than not, one step ahead. Couple this righteousness with a ferocious temper, he seems to take on a role as a ancient age wartime general, where slight mistakes will meet with fatal consequences.
How did our relationship boil down to this situation? That, will be another story for another day.
Today's story is about understanding my father, more accurately, his pedagogy style in teaching children and loved ones. Also, about seeing in my own eyes the very things I failed to trust before. All this just because of a different vantage point.
If I dare say, my father have always had a brash attitude, as far as I am aware. When he has a point to make, or something to teach, there is no method that he won't use to get the message across. In fact, his style is captured more or less with this phrase, "what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger". His words are like venom vaccines, inoculating it into your system, hurting you in the process, in hopes that you (or in the case of an injection, your body) will learn. The more he cares, the stronger the dosage.
Me, being an overly sensitive child (and the multifarious mistakes and wrongdoings that I am guilty of), I just could not take the words he said and the expectations that he sets. Thus, this hostile relationship began when I was 16 or even earlier. What tipped it off? Math and physics (my dad's favourite subjects) tuition.
It did not mean that I did not love my father, it was just that fear and ignorance engulfed everything else. It also did not mean my father did not love me, which was something that I learnt later on.
Having my nephew around this week really changed and cemented my perception of dad. With my rambunctious nephew around, all the uncanny remarks, for now, were aimed at him. Ben, my 6 year old nephew (with strength probably comparable with a Hulk of similar age) is still a child, so most would make leeways for his attitude, especially my mom. But my dad is strict, although miles less than how he treated me as a kid and lightyears less than my sisters'.
This is what I noticed, my dad is incessantly naggy. He uses every chance to try to imbed a certain lesson or warning into Ben, whether it is while he is eating or while he is playing. Secondly, my dad prefers to use the most effective and thus, stinging method. Also, he loves exaggeration: extrapolating a small mistake into a life-destroying problem. For example, Ben, like all kids, love to play. The problem is, he doesn't know when he should stop. To him, life revolves around playing. If it is not fun, it is not worth doing. And when he refuses to do something, he can be such a nuisance.Ben is no angel (especially when he doesn't want to be), he is pretty difficult to handle, with his boundless energy, massive strength and obnoxious attitude. He tends to not listen, especially when it comes to my mother. In a shopping mall, when he runs too far and mom screams, "Ben! Come back." He runs even further and more yelling only makes him run further and further away. Classic scenario, the bully-able grandma.
So yesterday, my dad said this to him, "Ben, there is only one monster in this world and that is you." Ouch! It certainly made my usually unaffected nephew feel something. If I were in his shoes, who knows how I would have reacted (crying would probably come close). I am not here to comment on the psychological effect of it, or whether it is the right thing to do, but this is just to explain the situation.
However, for all his mean and painful words, most of the time, he doesn't mean it. Even after saying all the things he says to my nephew, he still spoils him with trips to fast food (two times in three days!! Unheard of for a person who used to force "illegal" sweets and carbonated drink out of my sisters' mouths) and excursions to the rock climbing gym. This obvious and direct act of love, I could only see it when I am the observer, not the subject. I guess I have always taken too many things for granted.
This does not necessarily mean immediate reconciliation between my dad and I. That day will come, I hope. However, it makes my dad more human than anything else. I have always looked up to my dad. To me, there is no God, and my dad was and still is the closest thing to it. That is how much of an inspiration he is to me. I have done my wrong in this prolonged episode of hostility between the two of us. Only when I amend those wrongdoings, can I hope to make everything else right.