This article may not make a lot of sense. You have been warned. It is an emotional (perhaps nonsensical) piece inspired by my son, as well as by a poem of Khalil Gibran's that my sister shared with me earlier today. The poem entitled “Children” actually gave me goosebumps and is a must-share (I should add this is probably the first thing I have read by him. I know, I am ignorant).
Children by Khalil Gibran
“And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, 'Speak to us of Children.'
And he said:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.”
Every day my son, HRH, asks me one question which leaves me speechless. Today, on the way back home after a long day of various activities after school, I thought he felt feverish and asked him how he was feeling. I also said, “I hope you haven't got a fever..”
HRH said to me 'Why don't you pray to Allah that I don't have a fever'
Agreeing that this was a good idea I said aloud 'Allah please don't let my son fall sick.'
HRH asked me, “What did Allah say?”
I replied that he had not said anything in reply.
HRH said to me “Why doesn't Allah answer back when we talk to him?”
I told my son that Allah does not reply in the way humans talk to each other.
HRH said to me, very matter-of-fact-ly, “Why? Is he rude?”
I tried to explain no that's not how Allah communicates. Neither to his (nor my) satisfaction.
My son is four and a half. Today while looking at him I was amazed to see how he was a tiny actual (starting from a cell) part of me not so long ago. It amazes me that he is now a proper human being. Yes, I know he was one 4.5 years ago, but now I realize he is his own separate human being. With his own thoughts and his own feelings and his own way of expressing himself.
HRH has been sleeping in his own bed, in his own room for the last six months or so. Each night I have to lie with him till he falls asleep and every night he has a routine he goes through.
“Ammi, are the windows and doors closed?”
“Can any cats or dogs come in my room?”
“Are there any alligators here?”
“No, there are not.” (Exasperation setting in.)
“What about bugs? Are there any mosquitoes or flies?”
“No.” (Needless to say we have a religious Mortein-spray routine going on a few hours before bedtime along with a Mortein socket-plug-in device on all night. And no I am not a Mortein ad but seriously it seems to work for us.)
“My quilt looks like a dinosaur.”
“So take it off.”
“Now the quilt looks like a Brontosaurus. Can you flatten it?”
After flattening his quilt and asking him with clenched teeth if he is comfortable now, he announces, “I am scared.”
That's when I get him to start reciting whatever prayers/surahs he knows.
When we are done, HRH seems secure enough to stop talking and fall asleep.
Tonight, my husband and I were going out for dinner and had his aunt over to babysit. I had told him before he went to bed that she would be babysitting and we would be back soon. He asked me if he could sleep in our bed and we could shift him to his room when we came back. I agreed. When he was about to sleep, I asked him to say his surahs/prayers.
He said to me “I don't need to say them today.”
Asked why, he said “Because today I am sleeping in your bed.”
The sense of confidence and security he gave just by sleeping somewhere where he felt safer was overwhelming. I still made him say his prayers. He went to sleep without our usual conversation of cats, dogs, crocodiles and so on.
I stared at him when he was asleep. It amazed me that this 4.5 year old had come out of me not so long ago (ok I lie, it feels like a LONG time ago). But that he was still so much a part of me that I still cannot tolerate any sort of pain he feels, whether emotional or physical. When he is sick, I feel like I'm the one who can't function. When it's emotional pain, I feel frustrated that I can't fix it for him.
Maybe all those (infamous) desi mothers-in-law are just the same, who just can't tolerate the thought of their son being unhappy (seriously though, come on, your son's 25/30/45 years old...let go already!....Perhaps easier said than done?)
I think of all the parents I know and know of, who have lost sons and daughters of various ages. There is the 18 year old who died in a car accident. There is a 30 year old, who died a month before his wedding. There is the 24 year old, with a 4 year old child, who died of cancer. There are numerous other cases.
I have met some of these parents who have dealt with such tragedies. From meeting them, I know this.
You never get over it.
Yes, you go on with your life.
Yes, you breathe, you eat, you sleep, you meet people, you smile, you laugh.
You act like you are alive and you behave the way (apparently) normal people behave.
But underneath all the mundane things you do, the truth is a major part of you has died.
Children are strange things. You give birth to them. You tolerate their night time bawling for months on end (the unlucky ones perhaps years on end). You do the proper-child-raising readings. The toilet trainings, the disciplining, the educating and so on. You may or may not forget the pain and torture of it all (considering the number of people who have more than one kid, I'm assuming a lot people have more short-term memories than I do), but at the end of the day that child is the most important thing in your life. Whatever decisions have to be made, are made around him or her. Suddenly you don't matter. Neither do your needs or desires. What now matters is what the bawler wants, and you are happy to give it to him or her(ok, not necessarily 'happy' but feel is more important than what you want anyway.)
Kids change your life. In ways you never knew they would. Or always assumed “I'M not going to be like that.” I was like that anyway. I was the obsessive paranoid parent I never thought I would be. I assumed I would go back to work 3 months after HRH was born, and I couldn't. I thought I would do all my socializing and traveling just like I had done before him, but I couldn't.
I look at HRH and my heart aches. For all that he is going to go through while growing up. Which is what we all go through in order to 'grow up'. I also know I am going to have to let him fight his own battles (I bought him a punching bag with little gloves for that very reason to practice for the battles right now). I am also going to let him make his own decisions. Right now these only go as far as 'I don't want to wear this shirt. I want to wear those shoes' etc.
It's hard for parents to let go. It's especially unfair since they are the ones who get the least amount of credit from their offspring, when they deserve the most. (That is until the offspring have offspring, which is when said-offspring become suddenly thankful.)
I think I should just end on a heartfelt 'thank you' to my parents. And a hope that I can make my son feel as secure, safe and loved as they have made me feel through out my life and still make me feel today.