Darkness, Dogma and Everything Else: The Fears of Parents

When I was a teenager, my mother had an absurd rule; I had to return home before sundown. You could leave in the next hour and be out late – but you have to be home at sundown!

I always wondered what was her fear – was it the darkness of the night, or some sort of superstition of the Jinn? Or is it just a lack of spatial awareness in the dark.

This week, for the first time, Daiyaan, my almost eighteen-year old, is off on her own – far away in a foreign land. On the first evening, I sit on the balcony of my high-rise condominium and feel like crying as I watch the sunset. I wonder how she is doing, is she safe, did she eat her meals properly. Now, I know how my mother must have felt, when I first didn’t return after leaving home.

Such is the nature of parenting and a parent’s inner fears.

Some fears are inherent in us – unique to us – while some have been passed to us from generation to generation. As we grow older, our fears get embedded in us and we try to implant these in our children.

My father had some fear about children having their hair wet. Even in my teens, he would come out with a towel trying to dry my hair, just a bit more. He was convinced that we could catch a cold, if our hair was wet! This habit now has passed on to me and I keep running after Shania, comically, drying her hair after she comes out of the shower.

All irrational, unexplainable fears – but also part and parcel of who we are and what we have become!

Don’t go out after dark!

Don’t eat (bone-in) fish at night!

No Bananas to be eaten at night!

Don’t draw attention to yourself!!

Don’t enjoy life too much, and, if you choose to, don’t put it on your Facebook profile for others to see!!

We grow up with all sorts of dogma – all sorts of fear; often that fear takes over our day-to-day activities.

Once, some twenty-two years ago, driving through the New Mexico desert, as the sun was setting, in all its glory, I heard my mother weep at the back of the car; I couldn’t quite understand why this super-strong Principal of a High School was crying in this beautiful setting. I didn’t understand her fear of the dark – nor did I realize that it was something that was embedded in her, most likely at childhood.

Today, my fears are around my children – and them possibly getting hurt. I know there is just not enough time in the day, nor moments of sheer lucidity, to simultaneously keep track of every movement of a teenager, on a foreign trip – or a eight-year old who is just learning to spread her wings.

I think, the only thing a parent can do, is try their best.

Since we have very limited capabilities, the goal is to give them those values and decision frameworks that allow them to make the right choices to avoid a dangerous path – or try to make a decision to not associate with all that’s evil around us. Some of us try to give them everything we have (and sometimes what we never had); once we have given them our best, we just have to learn to take a deep breath and sigh.

The children have to make their own mistakes; take their own “road less traveled”.

The best we can do is not to install our dogmas and fears in their lives. Allow them to live on this beautiful earth – sampling everything with the fearless abandon of life.

Shania gets ready to go to bed; she reads her book for twenty minutes, says her prayer, clutches her stuffed toy and turns towards her pillow. I kiss her forehead and say a silent prayer so that she gets a restful night of sleep. That’s all you can really do. You can’t be there watching over them – or give her all your fears and dogmas. She deserves her own fears and her own new dreams!

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7 thoughts on “Darkness, Dogma and Everything Else: The Fears of Parents

  1. I loved this one Zain. So much of what you said rings true for me too. I tried so hard not to become my mother, but it keeps me close to her and provides comfort now that she is gone… I found her little prayer that she’d say to us each night and now my daughter, son and I say it together.
    Incase you haven’t heard it lately, you seem to be doing an awesome job raising two lovely girls!

    1. Edna: Thank you so much for sharing! And thank you for the wonderful affirmation. It’s those small prayers and little “scary feelings” that make us human and make us want to protect (the best that we can) our most valuable – our children! Please keep commenting!!

  2. This is another lovely essay I enjoyed reading first thing Zain. I share Edna’s comment about the wonderful job you have done raising your 2 daughters. You sure are the most caring person and parent that I know of. I have 3 grown up boys and 7 from little newborn to high school going grand children. I still fear when their hair are wet. I still worry if they are not home by sunset. Your essay is straight from the soul and most heart warming. Keep writing my friend..

    1. Thanks, Mr. Singhal, for your kind comments. Have a wonderful weekend. Seems like the Sun Gods are going to be kind with us again!! 🙂

  3. This is the price we pay for being a parent. The only consolation we have is that they will also have to go thru this as well. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Jorge. I view parenthood as a gift! I know it’s tough – but still its the most rewarding experiences in our lives. Not everyone gets it – but those who do, have a unique point of view! Have a great weekend!

  4. Salaam Zain. definitely touched a familiar nerve, especially with Atef appearing for his O’s, i suspect he wont be around for much longer. As for the rule of ” coming home before sundown”, in my household, the cut-off time was the prayer call ( adaan) for maghrib, as I had to come home to say my prayers….then go out again :). nice one.

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