Fathers are often underappreciated for their contribution to their family mainly because most men follow the belief system: “strong men don’t show emotions”. So it makes it tough for most men to connect to their kids. However, they sacrificed their entire lives for one and only one thing – to offer a quality life for their kids on a golden platter.

My relationship with my father took me on a journey from a joyful child to waging an uphill battle with my life, and back to becoming joyful again. He was strict, yes, really, really strict. My childhood was so traumatic that I still remember the belt whipping I took from him when I was age 4. Such experiences repeated until I was age 12. When I was in high school, he freaked out when I was hanging out with friends whom he perceived as losers, he would yell when my grades went down, and he grounded me when I was partying after 10 PM. While the stringent childhood helped me earn a college degree, prevented me from becoming a drug addict, and opened the world of opportunities, it also took a toll on my adult life as I was constantly afraid to make a mistake fearing punishment and society’s judgment.

There is an unconscious fear that stopped me from making friends and talking to team members at work as I worried how others would perceive me. So I became lonely. Also, when I experience anything that resembles close to a rejection from another person, I would respond with bitter anger as the person reminded me of my father. All these experiences lead to further loneliness, anger, and hurt.

However, all that changed after I met my wife, who saw the best in me. Her transformation with coaching inspired me to hire a coach Neil Goldstein, an MIT graduate and now an executive coach who helped me gain awareness of my thoughts. I was able to reverse the negative impact my stringent childhood had on me so I could experience freedom again, caring less about what others think and instead followed my heart. Coaching shifted my perspective and helped me see the light within the darkness. Today I see a life presented in front of me on a golden platter just like my father wished for, and none of this would have happened without my father’s fierce protection in my childhood. I could have easily become a drug addict, alcoholic, rapist, murderer, or suffered depression as an unloved child. These qualities are not easily reversible as an adult, but he did not let that happen.

While my Dad was tough majority of the times and never expressed his love, in retrospect he ALWAYS cared and loved. Even as a kid I never questioned his steadfast commitment to my well being. At age 14, I remember my Dad fighting with my teacher for giving me a low grade when I came home crying. I remember the pain he felt when I became sick with flu. I remember the times he would take me to shopping to buy new clothes during Indian festivals. At age 16, I remember the 4 hours drive he would take on his scooter through rugged roads under hot sun to bring me yummy food when I stayed in a dormitory. In short, I felt safe knowing I can count on my Dad to protect me.

To this day, I cherish the self-restraint skills that my father helped me cultivate by being strict, which helps me stay disciplined in areas I choose to practice self-restraint. Fathers are unsung heroes, and it is true in my case. I have until now underappreciated my Dad only because he loved me fiercely. If you love your Dad and haven’t recognized his greatness and love, he showed for you, acknowledge him before it’s too late. Happy Father’s Day Dad.