The legacy of fatherhood


DOTING DAD: Milos Tanasic with his seven-month-old daughter Sofija
DOTING DAD: Milos Tanasic with his seven-month-old daughter Sofija

They're the rock of the family, the wellsprings of wisdom, the relentless providers for all your needs. No matter the generational divide, much of what you learn about the road ahead undeniably comes from these patriarchs. This Father's Day (the UAE celebrates it on June 21), four Dubai dads talk about why all the love and life lessons they shared with their fathers is everything they're hoping to pass on to their children too

By Karen Ann Monsy & Sukayna Kazmi

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Published: Fri 21 Jun 2019, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Fri 21 Jun 2019, 2:00 AM

Personal trainer Milos Tanasic has the kind of Instagram profile that one can only term 'aww'. Not because of the plethora of buff workout shots he's got on there, but because they're interspersed with super sweet snaps of him with his seven-month-old baby girl, Sofija. You could say the kid brings out a whole other side of him. "Ever since she was born, I've become more patient and mature," admits the 30-year-old. "My priorities have changed and I try to finish work as quickly as I can, so I can rush home to be with my family. I also find I've become more productive and responsible now, even though I have lesser time. She's definitely bringing out a lot of positives in me!"
A funny story he loves to share is from the days immediately after her birth. "In the gym, I can easily deadlift 200-kilo weights. When Sofija was born, she weighed just a couple of kilos, but I was so scared of dropping her, that my back was killing me due to all the tension of potentially hurting her as I held her. It was nothing compared to lifting weights." Seven months on, Milos laughs about how he's "now a pro".
Ask the Serbian expat who his role model is and he immediately cites his own dad. "I don't have famous celebrities or athletes as my role models. My dad is the one who taught me how to treat my family, my friends, how to be hardworking. Everything I've seen in him is what I try to emulate."
Interestingly, Milos even followed in his father's footsteps where career paths were concerned. "My dad used to be a professional soccer player; he was the one who taught me how to play ball, and I did so professionally in three countries - Iceland, Serbia and Norway - for a while. He went on to be a trainer and, today, so have I. A lot of what I know about how to train people and approach them - both professionally and psychologically - has come from him. So, I've a lot to be grateful for."
Despite all that, the thing Milos is most thankful for is the lesson of how to care for his family. "My dad taught me the value of family and marriage. When I weigh successes in life today, I don't think how much money one has counts for much. What your relationship is like with your family is infinitely more valuable."
When it comes to being a good father, being a good husband is right up there on Milos' list. "After a baby is born, it's normal to give so much attention to the child that the relationship between husband and wife takes a toll. But in a family, when the husband and wife share a great relationship, that in itself will have a great influence on what kind of human being a child grows up to be. Kids are sponges, so what they see is what they will replicate in their own lives. If you have lots of love going around, then even if things aren't perfect, the energy in the family will make up for everything."
Although he's feeling the added pressure that becoming a parent brings, he feels they cannot compare with the sheer joy of seeing his daughter grow. "She loves pool days and has no fear of the water at all; she's starting to crawl and eat solids. Every couple of days, she crosses all these new milestones that it's almost like seeing a new person."
The new dad has many hopes for the kind of father he will be to Sofija. "I hope to teach her to respect other people, and be hardworking and patient. I hope to make her as happy as I can. And I hope my wife and I will be able to project the best example that we can be to her by the way that we live," he says.

Azad Mohammad Ali Hansraj is 72 years old, but he can still recall times spent with his own father with clarity. The Pakistani expat remembers his dad - who passed away 10 years ago at the age of 81 - as a "genuine man with many abilities".
One of his dearest wishes was to see his great grandchild before he passed away. Azad is glad that wish came true, when his grandson was born shortly before his father's passing. It was a memory he says he can never forget. Another memory he remembers vividly is of his father sitting down with his children and grandchildren on Eid or other special occasions to narrate old stories from Africa, where he was raised.
"What I learnt from my father is to be honest, to always help people and not forget one's values," says Azad, who lives in Dubai. Those lessons clearly struck home for the UAE resident, whose company - now run by his son - began an initiative to provide education for all its employee's children. "We've helped around 300 children so far. It's become an on-going good deed that my parents taught me to do. Our employees are very appreciative and we only ask them to remember us in their prayers."
As a father, the dad of three says he didn't differentiate between his son or daughters and supported them all in their interests, making sure that his children grew up well-educated. Comparing the evolution of parenting approaches over the years, he believes the advancement of technology may have brought in a lot of conveniences, but parenting was "much easier" then compared to now.
"Children would come home from school, you'd sit down with them and look over their homework, meet with their teachers to see how they're doing. Today, however, kids spend less time at home and more time with friends or on social media platforms. In our time, we would ask our parents if we had any doubts or needed help. Today, kids turn to social media and friends - which can be problematic," says the septuagenarian, who sends his granddaughters emails once a month, asking about them and offering plenty of advice about life.
Throughout the now-long-gone sleepless nights to the constant health checkups, Azad says fatherhood didn't just teach him how to get through struggles - it made him realise that he wasn't just bringing up three kids with his wife, but a whole generation.
Today, his kids work to instil the same moral values they learnt from him over the years in their own kids. In fact, they come back to him and teach him things he didn't know before. "I've been learning so much from them of late," he says. "Even if my time comes to leave, I think I will be happy that I have taught my children the basics - and they have not only picked up on them, but taken them higher."

Holding your child for the very first time is a moment filled with emotions. You feel a surge of happiness but you're also overwhelmed. That's exactly how Somit Jenna felt when he held his son for the very first time. "Realising that the child in my hands was a part of me was a heart-touching moment that I can never forget," he recalls.
His kids, Shubh and Siddhi, are now 20 and 15 years old respectively, and he says a lot of how he is raising them comes from how his dad raised him. "The time and situations may differ, but the moral values my father instilled in me are what I'm trying to pass on to my children." Following in his father's footsteps has been important to the 44-year-old, who remembers his dad as being very dutiful. "My father taught us to never give up on our responsibilities. Whether it was feeding us or giving us an education, he made sure to fulfil them all."
The Indian expat has many memories of his dad - including times when the latter scolded him, such as the time he'd manipulated a mark sheet. Regardless of the upset such scoldings might have caused back then, Somit has reason to hold his dad in high regard today. "I am who I am because of my father," says the Dubai-based entrepreneur. "We faced many hard times, but he never let us down, never gave up on our family and worked hard to give us everything."
According to him, the parenting game has definitely changed over the years. "Back in the day, kids were more inclined to blindly follow parents' instructions. But today, it's almost like the tables have turned and parents have to listen to their kids!"
Somit describes fatherhood as a package of challenges and unforgettable moments. "The most painful thing for a father is to hear people speaking negatively about his kids, and his greatest achievement is when people speak well of them." He hopes that his children will take lessons away from his hard work and do the same for their own progeny some day.
He cannot stress enough the role that fathers play in developing their children and preparing them for the real world. To date, it is the advice that his own dad gave him that lingers in his mind and guides his decisions. "My father once told me that, no matter what I do in life, I should always have good intentions. If your intentions are good, he said, your life will prosper. It's a piece of advice I've never forgotten and that has helped me every step of the way till today."

People say no matter how much you read up, you can never really know what parenting is all about until you have kids. Lithuanian expat Albinas Kontrimas couldn't agree more. Although he and his wife had been trying for kids, neither of them were expecting the surprise doctor's report that said they were expecting - not one child, but two!
The rush of emotions that followed was a mixed one, the 35-year-old recalls. "It was a girl and a boy - in one shot - which was great, but also pretty scary, as they are our first children." He takes it as particularly ironic that the duo decided to arrive on April Fool's Day, instead of 10 days later when their C-section was scheduled. All that Albinas remembers now is trying to familiarise himself with the necessary as well as he could. "It was scary but you try to get your head in the right place and not panic too much."
Becoming a new parent is overwhelming for anyone - so one can only imagine there's no shortage of sympathy votes for those who become parents twice in one go. Nevertheless, despite the difficult beginning ("you can never be ready for sleeping at random half-hour intervals!"), Albinas says the "bad times are easily forgotten - you only remember the good ones".
And there are several of those, he adds, noting how quickly time seems to be flying of late, now that the twins - named Olivia and Kai - are a little more than 14 months old. "You should see how quickly they're growing," he says. "At one point, they were completely dependent on us; now, they're beginning to do things on their own and it's getting difficult to grab them." They're not always beneath the phrase 'double trouble' either, he adds, good-humouredly - "especially when we're shopping and each one decides to run in two different directions"! But, on the positive side, because there are two of them, Albinas says they can also entertain themselves.
The twins have completely different personalities, so he knows there are tricky times up ahead. "They still don't speak that much, so it's okay at the moment. But I think it's going to be trickier to parent them as they grow older. My wife and I are going to have to think about how we're going to handle that."
Recalling his own relationship with his dad, Albinas - the youngest of four in his family - tells of how his dad was 44 years old when he was born. "He's a great parent and he was always there. The thing I learnt from him is to always be composed and not panic in any situation, to instead be the one that calms the situation. That's what I'm hoping to do for my kids as well: be a good example to them, regardless of the situation. I want to teach them all I know, give them all the time I can, and raise them to be good people."

PATRIARCH: Azad Ali (second from right) with his son’s family
PATRIARCH: Azad Ali (second from right) with his son’s family
LIVING LEGACY: Soumit Jenna with his wife and children
LIVING LEGACY: Soumit Jenna with his wife and children
DOUBLE JOY: Albinas Kontrimas with his twins, Olivia and Kai
DOUBLE JOY: Albinas Kontrimas with his twins, Olivia and Kai

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