You sit on the floor, your back against the wall. The baby is on your lap, one girl on your shoulder and another by your side. I stand at the stove slaving over curried vegetables. Your voices serve as backdrop to the multitude of things racing through my mind. I turn back occasionally, scanning Laddu for signs of distress. Vegetable done, I turn my attention to the rasam simmering on the stove. One hand holds the phone and my focus. Your voice breaks through it and I turn. This time you are in the living room. The girls at the mini table working with paper. Laddu is hoisting herself on to the sofa using you as a prop. You are reading from a book. Your voice modulating up and down as you feel for the under-used pink crayon. The girls giggle and nod their heads. Next up is the peach crayon decrying the fact that it is n.a.k.e.d. Fresh peals of laughter ensue. I close the pan with the rasam, trapping the scents of coriander in it, turn the stove off and move to the living room. I seat myself under the fan enjoying the story as you read it. I am taken with you. I love the kind of father you are. Watching you with the children makes me happy. It reminds me of all things good and kind.
The evening passes. Over dinner we talk about the following week when the kids will be done school. You initiate the conversation. The one about day trips. To the beach, the amusement park, the zoo. We trade quips and decide a checklist will be better. You do not bat an eyelid when I propose I take a day off to spend with my girl friends next week. Sure you say and your attention is on your plate and we move on to the next topic.
Laying in bed in the last few mins before sleep overcomes me, I feel love for you wash over me. While the days of coupledom are long behind us, I realize I like you in this father avatar. One that includes the children in all that we do. One that puts their needs above ours, always. One that ensures you play the good cop to my bad cop. One that is not afraid of getting deep and dirty with diaper changes, oil baths or cleaning up vomit.
So, when the girls prefer you to me, I know you have earned it. Some day, when our daughters set off to lead lives of their own, I can only hope they will be half as lucky as I have been.
Happy Father’s day to an amazing dad!