The Challenges of raising our Children,Farook Aman, Ottawa, Canada
I believe that we will always remember the jubilant feelings, when we first came to know that the Canadian authorities approved our respective Landed Immigrant Visa application
We would perhaps remember the very hour of the day when we got the happy news. Some may have been overseas, others already in Canada. At that time, the world of joy might have been overwhelming. Immediate plans for flights were made, attending to the smallest details were prepared. And the hardest element of all is saying good-bye to our loved ones with eyes filled with tears rolling down.
I would even dare to wager that very few, perhaps none of us planned for the future of raising our children in a ‘Non Islamic’ land. However, the excitement of landing in Canada is yet another day to be remembered. We would even remember what the weather was like on that day, and who received us at the airport upon arrival in Canada. Those memories would remain with us a lifetime.
One of the immediate challenges that we would face, after settling down, would be the thought about our children. They would face the reality of learning another language, live in an environment that is totally different from that of what we experienced before coming to Canada. Yet, this is all tolerable and our judgements for the future are those of hope and big dreams for the thriving opportunities that our children will enjoy.
Within few months, the children would have mastered the spoken language. They would manage to make new friends at school and in the residential neighborhood too. They would begin to identify the T.V. Programme that they most like to watch, and they would share their childish giggles and silly comments with their colleagues. They would also insist on throwing their birthday parties at a McDonald’s fast food outfit, just like Johnny did the previous month!
Life will however have its tight grip on the parents of these children and they would happily cater for the desires of what their children have learned to adopt regardless of the financial stresses. Many parents would work hard to ensure that ‘bread is always on the table’. In other words, they will be busy meeting the then challenging obligations of life; paying utility bills, putting the best choice of food on the table, the task of shopping for clothing, etc
Suddenly, the children have become teenagers, and a new set of adjustment will take place in their lives and in ours too. New school, new teachers and new life style. And O yes, new friends too! Some may even smoke cigarettes to display macho image, while others may stretch it further! They may have the odd glass of wine or beer, and may introduce new and naïve friends to the new uncalled for bitter realities in life. No doubt, new sets of pressures will play an important role in the lives of our children. All happening, while we may be oblivious to these new challenges; plugging away trying to meet our financial obligations. Friends would want to celebrate teenage birthday parties and other events. Our children may be in places that we, as parents, may or may not be totally familiar with.
Meanwhile, we continue to struggle with work and payment of bills. The boss at work may not be cooperative; the company is downsizing in order to cut cost. Projects are scraped. Higher utility bills, higher gas at the pump. Food prices have doubled. Shoes, clothing, etc. etc. In short, we get caught in our ‘rat race’ life style we never imagined before. Yet, we still have to meet our family and financial obligations to keep the peace at home. This is all happening while the children are still favorably enjoying their lives at school and with friends. They have now learned to use the local transportation facilities, and have become familiar with places such as downtown, youth clubs, etc. Some would venture early part-time work, and may enjoy the benefit of dollars in their pockets to buy what daddy refused to purchase.
We would then review our lives and try to re-centre our thoughts. Many of us would feel closer to Allah than when we were younger. Some would become confrontational with their children and pray harder to keep the children in the straight path of Allah. Your argument might be dead flat. The children would think that you are getting older, greyer in looks and talk; grouchier and certainly less appreciative to their life desires. You will convince one, “I did not choose that…they did!” Regular family arguments and discussions may leave you at the short end of the stick, and thereby at the losing end of the discussion. Family friction would erupt and become the menu of the day. Suddenly, you may feel that you now have become the stranger in the House. Certainly, the one described as the only remaining immigrant in the house with cheap and creepy looks in order to cut cost, have unintended attitude and have poor communications skill to communicate with the rest of the family members.
Trying to keep the peace, the wife may attempt a compromise that may lean toward the support of the children’s wishes in the hope that the father would eventually understand and appreciate their side of life reality. It is all happening against your wishes as a father. After all, we have to realize that the culture is not really the culture that we are familiar with. The language is certainly a twisted tongue that we cannot master as our children managed in a short period of time. The religion would seem to be a matter of the past, and may or may not appeal to the children. Girlfriend / Boyfriend are something that parents may justifiably or unjustifiably lose many nights sleep over it. Religious events would mean very little, if any and might strike a boring tune to the kids. The world around you that you confidently knew well may crumble from under your feet. Eventually, lack of proper control may set in, and gradually would take over, followed by the family’s painful breakdown of daily communications. The family would therefore seem to be drifting into an unwritten compromise where we agree to disagree. Kids will do what they wish to do, and parents, in order to keep the peace, would hold on tightly to the prayers for Hedayah (divine wisdom)
The thought of Ramadan approaching would be a sobering one. Its effect would perhaps bring hope and renewed love and understanding. You would say to yourself, “Thank god that the kids have learned to fast since they were very young.” Other kids at school however snubbed to associate with them. Why?
Well, you smell funny nowadays”, That is what my son faced at school and he confided in me.
“What do you mean by that, son?”
At first, he refused to fast not revealing why he made that decision. Upon checking further, I found out that the kids at school deserted him since he now ‘smells funny while fasting.’
He wised up and thought it was Ramadan that caused him the bad breath, and thereby caused him the agony of losing his friends. He has become bitter at that new fact of life.
He said that he would only fast if I agreed that he can ‘chew gum’, while fasting in order to freshen up his breath every now and then! That would therefore allow him to continue playing with his non fasting friends. We finally settled on ‘the bitter truce’ and that was to fast during school days by using mouthwash every now and then, instead of chewing gum. Weekends would be safer without the mouthwash at home! I had to ask a Muslim educator for advice on how to handle this situation.
We made special arrangement for Eid celebrations with the school Principal for Eid prayers and the permission for late arrival at school on that normal school day for other students, but not for ours. And my children will have the happy juncture of resuming eating lunch with their friends again. The bad breath is gone, and life is back to normal at school. Thank god!
Looking at yourself in the mirror, you see the image of an overbearing touch of grey hair that now crowns your head and that of your wife’s. The struggle of raising the children is evident, and the challenge continues while the persisting dry wrinkle lines have become increasingly decorating your face and that of your wife’s too. Suddenly, the youthful image has been replaced by a hunched back, weak eyesight and a flaring temper to name few. Yes, thirty years of our lives have passed so fast without knowing the pleasure of the laughs of life. The bill payments never ceased knocking at the front door. The lectures at home to conserve energy seem to fall on deaf ears. It is nothing but another song in a broken chain of record! The need to keep up with the pressures and the stresses of life is never ending. We would then announce that we used to have a lot of fun back home. Life would become a good memory to cherish.
When it is all said and done, one would ask
Is it all worth it?”
But then we would wise up and true reason would bounce back at us with, “and what other alternatives did we have?
Well, when we arrived in Canada, we were confident that this would be an adventure for the benefit of our children. Indeed it has. Little did we know that the road ahead might be so bumpy and certainly would not be lined with colorful roses? Sheepishly.. we thought that it would!
Yes, we did have better opportunities in life. Indeed we learned and perhaps became better human beings than if we remained at our native land which might have been riddled with many economic and political adversities. Planned Economy instead of Market Economy, etc. Many of us did leave Canada in order to re-settle back at home again, but they soon found out that the new realities there brought them back to Canada with renewed hope for better luck this time around.
However, a question would invariably crop up every now and then. The positive answer may eventually be in the affirmative, confirming that the adventure was indeed worth it. And you would look to God and say ‘Inna Allah yahdey mann yasha’a’ (God brings divine wisdom to whomever He may wish.)
As a father, I may have gone through a lot of ups and downs in life, , including the tragic death of my son, Tareq, Allah yehamouh. I may have enjoyed the challenge of raising my children, in the best way that Allah permitted my wife and I to accomplish that goal.
Nevertheless, I always seem to ask myself, “What will happen when I am gone from this life?
Will my children adhere to our religious values?
Will they raise their children in the same modest manner and the fashion that we have tried to raise them too?
What will come of the next generation and their off-springs after that, etc?
Will Allah accept my prayers, grant us mercy and admit us to Jannah (Heaven)?
I will confidently leave these questions in the hands of Allah, for He knows best what to do.
No doubt, all is in the hand of Almighty Allah for He commands us…O Slave, seek and you shall get.
In Memory of my son Tareq, Allah Yerhamouh (April 6th, 1982 – Sept 28th, 2001)