بِسْمِ اللّهِ الرَّحْمـَنِ الرَّحِيم
Years before ever having children, I made myself a serious promise.
I would NEVER turn into my father or my mother.
I recall expanding on my mental list of the many things I would do differently when I had children of my own. I would be a modern, intellectual parent. Not the unfashionable kind of father or mother I was raised by. My generation had google and of cource books telling us “What to Expect…” which explained everything I could possibly need to know.
My mother thought it was kind of foolish. “You don’t need a book to be a good mother,” she said. “It’s the most natural thing in the world.”
When I talked about a birth plan, she was bemused by the concept.
“You just go to the hospital,” she said. “The doctors know what to do.”
“But, maa,” I replied. “It’s the era of 2000’s. Things are different now.”
I thought I heard her mumble something to the effect of “No. Babies still come out the same way,” as she walked off.
I restated my solemn promise. “She just doesn’t get it.”
When my firstborn arrived, I developed a false sense of confidence, although she was not an easy delivery. She slept through most nights. She stayed clean all day in her color-coordinated outfits. She was potty trained at 19 MONTHS. I remember one day thinking, “This is easy. And so much fun. I really don’t understand what all the fuss is about.” My mother and father must have had a hard time controlling themselves back then. My husband and I rolled merrily along with Baby #1 for nearly two years.
One easy child. Two modern, enlightened parents. We had it covered.
The firstborn was inquisitive and curious. She asked a lot of questions. A LOT OF QUESTIONS. Most days I answered them patiently, giving her all the facts. Encouraging her to ask me more questions. But that one day, when her baby sister had kept me up half the night , the day she wanted to know how the clouds stayed up in the sky – my patience was waning.
I had gone through the explanations of tiny drops of water hugging together to make a cloud. That the drops were so light and tiny they didn’t fall to the ground until enough of them had gathered together to turn the clouds gray and then make rain. I thought it was a really good explanation.
But she couldn’t wrap her 3-year old mind around that, and she pushed for a more plausible explanation. After a few exasperating rounds of this, modern enlightened mom gave up.
My mother’s daughter spoke instead.
“Waise hii / Just like that,” said I
“Just like that?” she questioned.
“Yep. Just like that.”
That was something she could wrap her 3-year old mind around. And the questions stopped. I felt a little guilty for taking the easy way out. But something about the simplicity and effectiveness of that strategy stuck with me.
My mother’s daughter had won her first round.
As time went on, and I had more children, my mother’s daughter spoke more often.
She had entire categories of phrases stored up somewhere in her subconscious. The very ones she swore she’d never utter.
“Because I said so,” came out every now and then, when she was just too tired to explain things.
“Because I have eyes in the back of my head,” she would say while driving.
Which was often followed by “Don’t make me pull this car over.”
Some phrases were used when she wanted to avoid explaining something, or when the truth would be over their heads.
She would say “Life isn’t fair,” when one of them was having an existential crisis.
And some just made no sense at all. Like “Stop crying or I will give you something to cry about.” And “If you break your legs doing that don’t come running to me.”
My mother’s daughter had plenty of advice for social situations. “If everyone else jumps off the hill, are you going to jump to?” And “Don’t do anything you wouldn’t want plastered all over the internet.”
Or my father’s famous statement, “Someday you’ll understand, long after I’m gone” when the real explanation just couldn’t be offered.
And yet another one, “Give me an account of the pocket money you took last month”! Sigh!!!!
Every time my mother’s daughter rose in me I realized that with every annoyance I spoke, every facial expression I mimicked, every cliché of hers I took on, I also gained a little of my mother’s grace, my father’s wisdom.
As I grow older, and the lines on my face deepen, I see more and more of her as well as my father in the mirror. The light brown strands I now wear seem to make her big brown eyes stand out on my face in a way I never noticed. Miss them LOTS!!!
Allah swt has blessed us with the most important gift, “our parents”, just like we have been the most precious gifts to them.
وَاخْفِضْ لَهُمَا جَنَاحَ الذُّلِّ مِنَ الرَّحْمَةِ وَقُلْ رَبِّ ارْحَمْهُمَا
كَمَا رَبَّيَانِي صَغِيرًا
“And, out of kindness, lower to them the wing of humility, and say: ‘My Lord! Bestow on them your Mercy even as they cherished me in childhood’” (Surah Al-Israa:24)