Last night, around five o’clock, I left the house. I had some reading to do, and I knew I’d be distracted by the activity at home, so I went out to a bar for a couple of hours and made some progress in “A Time of Gifts.” Still, it felt weird: Meanwhile, Jean was feeding Sasha, changing her, playing with her—bearing all those babycare responsibilities that I feel compelled to share, and indeed enjoy sharing.
Oh, to be a dad like, say, for instance, one Barack Hussein Obama, who breaks at 6 p.m. every day for dinner with his family, health-care talks be damned! Says a certain local paper:
He squeezes in parent-teacher conferences, soccer and basketball games, and broke away from an economics briefing to call his younger daughter, Sasha [Obama, not Gross—Ed.], on her eighth birthday. (She was in London with her mother.) And when the White House announced that Mr. Obama would be traveling next month to Indonesia and Australia, the president’s press secretary, Robert Gibbs, was not shy about confirming that the trip was timed to coincide with the girls’ spring break.
On the one hand, good for him! On the other, how can I—how can we—how can anyone who’s not rich—live up to that example? (Trust me, I’ve tried issuing executive orders to my daytime editors. It doesn’t work.)
And in fact, I often feel myself pulled in the opposite direction. My work involves travel, often for long-ish periods of time, and when I’m not on the road, it’s best for me to be hermetically sealed in a room with a desk. Not modes conducive to modern fatherhood. And yet—I love those things, too, and am in a way much more comfortable with them than with raising a family. Which means that maybe I’m actually… a traditional Indian dad!
Yup, according to a recent op-ed in the Times of India, traditional Indian fathers remain quite distant from their kids, including their sons, until later in life:
The reasons for a traditional father not taking a demonstratively active role in the upbringing of his infant children are not difficult to fathom. A traditional father operates under the logic of a joint family even when his own family is a nuclear one. This ideology demands that in order to preserve family cohesion, a father be restrained in the presence of his own child and divide his interest and support equally among his own and his brothers’ children. Moreover, many a young father was embarrassed to hold his infant child in front of older family members since this fruit of his loins was clear evidence of activity in that particular region.
Okay, I can’t claim to fathom all of that (um, yeah there’s been loinal activity—duh!), and since my brother as yet has no children, I don’t have to divide my interest and support at all. What I’m saying is, we should probably move to Mumbai, where my frequent trips abroad and days of subsequent sequestration will be looked upon as upholding the rigid traditions of a millennia-old society, rather than as the whims of an underpaid wanderer. Sucks for Jean and Sasha, but I’d feel better about myself, and my neighbors the Balasubramanians would have my back.
Of course, there is one downside to this strategy: My kids could turn out like Benicio del Toro in “The Wolfman,” who—according to this review in the Huffington Post—is “haunted by his father’s distant behavior” and, after his brother’s murder, returns to London to confront his father and learn the truth. (Spoiler: They are wolfmen!) So, if I interact with my kid only once in a blue moon, we’ll eventually only hang out during full moons? I think I can live with that.