Crimes of Parents: December 2010

My wife asks me to pick up our fifteen-year old from a football game on a Friday night. When I arrive, my antenna goes up and I am terrified to think about her security in this dark neighborhood. When she comes into the car, I scream at her that she should not be in such a neighborhood. She is (now) forbidden to cross I-95 without us going with her. She looks at me perplexed; “but, this is one of the best schools in town” she says, “I get extra credit for going to these games”.

I let her know that I just don’t care. 

When I look at her, she maybe all tall and grown up, using slang, carrying on full-length, semi-adult conversations, but to me, she is still that little girl I carried back from the hospital.

I cannot get over the fact, just a few years ago, I held her the first time, at Toledo Hospital, where the doctor slapped her face to make her cry; I felt the pain, when the nurse pricked her feet to test her blood. The first afternoon, when I let her tiny 19” body sleep on my chest, I felt what people meant, when they said that they could “jump through fire” for someone. Since then, with all my energy, I have felt the need to protect her.

Recently, my mother reminds me, of an incidence some 27 years ago.

One evening, I fought with my dad, about our cassette player, and in utter anguish, left home. I didn’t go to my best friends’ place down the street, knowing that that’s where everyone would look for me. I just walked the streets of Dhaka all night and didn’t come home till the early morning. 

At home, I found my Mom, asleep on her prayer rug. She had searched everywhere she could think of and surrendered to God. I was exhausted and hungry; she saw me, made me some eggs, paratha (bread) and hot tea.  I ate in silence and went to bed.

This is what parents do. Their crime is: they worry about their kids. They worry about health, happiness – how the world treats us and how we treat the world.

Every time my fifteen-year old travels somewhere, I worry about her safety. Sometimes, she has the IPod blaring in her ears and does not hear the sounds of cars. Will she pay attention to the road? I wonder about her stepping in with wrong friends and getting hurt.

I know, I have to let her go.

She is like a young bird with new wings. She wants to go and hang out with her own friends. But the parent inside me, just cannot stop the worries.

In less than three years, she maybe in another town, starting college, with new friends in a new environment. Will she make it to class on time? Will she remember to have her breakfast? Carry snacks around with herself for when she is hungry? I know that there are million other serious things to think about. But having enough food around her, overtakes my worries. When I go grocery shopping, my first concern is always to make sure that I have enough snacks for the two kids.

Recently, a friend had a beautiful, new baby girl. My wish for them: let them have the sobriety of patience with a worry-resistant mindset. These worries really don’t have a sound basis.

Children will make their mistakes and learn from them. They will have to get hurt and build their own cocoons. As parents, one can only pray that whatever the children do, wherever they end up, they have the semblance of happiness in this complicated world.

The rewards of being a parent overwhelms the punishment of this constant worry that lingers in your mind, from the day they are born – till maybe as long as you are capable of worrying. The crimes of parents are tough.

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6 thoughts on “Crimes of Parents: December 2010

  1. Great ! some common feelings shared across parenthood. I read somewhere that one needs to find ones own sense of happiness and content that comes from within…anything else external and that includes children we should not depend on for deriving happiness..as we have so little control on things, that are not “in” us and have less control on…

  2. Very true Zain, been there and done it but once you have raised and nurtured your children you learn or force yourself to see them blossom and fly high. In it you find joy , happiness and peace. The string is still attached to you however far or high they may go. The cord cannot be severed totally.

  3. Very thoughtful article. We parents are often having a tough time letting go and giving the children the chance to have their own experiences without being too sheltered and protected. Interesting you would emphasize food as much. I am more worried about my kids not getting the right “mental food” (education). As a former colleague of mine told me when I first came to the US some 15 years ago: “There are only two things you need to give your children: Unconditional love and a good education.”

  4. Worried for what? yourself or for the children? We all had the anxious behaviour in past for our teen age children, my old friend , just try to ” Trust” show your kindness and show them you love them more and more,don’t let them observed your Bengali , anxious behaviour,teen age is intersting and exciting.Don’t worry everything will be ok.

  5. I have a daughter too. They will leave home, and in more than just a literal sense; they will ignore the lessons they’ve been taught, ignore the values, and travel out as far as they feel they need to, in order to put this world to the test. (Or, they won’t, but those ones usually don’t amount to much.)

    Why does this happen? Pizza and ice cream for breakfast, that’s why it happens. Society comes up with some really good rules for living, but it comes up with a lot of nonsense, too, and a person needs to learn the difference before adulthood can really begin. So, kids leave home, they wander off, and they get lost. Parents do not have the power to stop this.

    What we can do is arm them. Rather than shield them from dangers, I believe it may be smarter to teach them how to respond to danger. For example, when my daughter was 5, we had campfires in our backyard, and (under my supervision) I let her get as close to the flame as she wanted. She’d find a long twig, set the end on fire, and run around the yard. We’d get down on our bellies and crawl under the cloud of smoke that the wind blew our way. For her these were games, but they taught her how fire behaves. I let her play with fire, and she’s safer for it than her friend, who was always held by her parents at least six feet from the fire at all times.

    Whatever dangers lurk on the other side of I-95, there are defenses for them. Imperfect defenses, perhaps, but your daughter will venture over there someday. Better teach her what you can. She will venture very, very far, and for a time will be lost to you. But if we arm them properly, if we outfit them with a good moral compass and accurate ideological maps, then our children stand an excellent chance of eventually finding their way back home. Oh, they’ll try to toss out the compass and the maps, but those never really go away. Once they see how dark it actually is on the backside of the world, they’ll rebuild that compass and dig up those maps, pencil in the corrections that they’ve learned, and start plotting a course for home.

    T. S. Eliot —
    “We shall never cease from exploration
    And the end of all our exploring
    Will be to arrive where we started
    And know the place for the first time.”

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