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.