The Birth of Fear

Bismihi Ta’ala

Has it been a year already? I was a little shocked when I saw the time-stamp on my last post.  I’ve been so close to writing a new post so many times, I think I had convinced myself that I actually had succeeded in doing so.

The tagline on my blog says ‘A Fresh Look at (Muslim) Life’ and my life has definitely been refreshed in the past months while I have been away.  Perspectives have been altered, experiences have widened and everything looks just a little bit different.

People say life moves on unexpectedly in a moment.  It does.  And sometimes it doesn’t.  So much is no longer the same since I last wrote.  I now have managed to settle in one place that I can call home, I have someone new in my life (and she’s part of the reason why I didn’t know what to write about most of the time and the few times I did, I didn’t have the time to!) and my life is changing every day.

The journey to parenthood has been interesting for me. From the moment I discovered I was on the brink of entering the hallowed halls of motherhood (a discovery that took me so much by surprise that I remained quite unconvinced of it until I actually held my baby – and about which I am still in denial on some days) to the day she was born, I have felt as if everything was happening around me and I was merely an actor in a script – doing what I was supposed to, when I was supposed to, but hugely disconnected from the actual reality of the situation.

It has taken months for me to begin to accept that this is a lifetime commitment, to realise that life will never be about just me ever again and to understand that this is a journey that will bring out the best – and the worst – in me.  Suddenly, my relationship with my own parents is beginning to make sense in a way that it never did before.

I now look at my daughter and feel a sadness when I realise that she will never know me as I am today, that she will never have a concept of my youth, of my innocent ideals and my impossible dreams – until she has a child of her own to look at. She will never see me at my best as I will see her at hers. And while I will be able to empathise with all her experiences and challenges of growth, she will not believe or appreciate my capacity to do so.  She has missed the start of my life just as I will (God-Willing) miss the end of hers.

I will never be only her friend, because that is not the path of my choosing. Instead I will be- I already am –  ‘the parent’; the one who will be there to guide, to direct, to point out the right from the wrong, to repeat, to remind, to preach.

I will be the one who will put up boundaries that she cannot cross until she is ready; the one who will seem unfair, unreasonable and even tyrannical; the one will always remind her of the boring, realistic side of things; the one who will see the hard ground below when all she will want to do is catch the wind and sail upon the clouds in the open sky above.

Even though she will believe that she broke free and ran out into the fields of her dreams, in reality it will only be because I opened the gate and let go of her hand. And until the day she does the same for her children, she will never realise how far the truth is from her perception of it.

I am destined to be the ‘bad guy’ as long as I want to be a good parent.

My mother and father are good parents.  They are flawed human beings who made parenting mistakes, but they are good parents, because they did the best they could in their circumstances.  Was it a conscious effort or simply instinct?  I don’t know.  I often try and figure out how I learned a certain principle or adopted a particular value and I can’t remember who taught it to me or how.  It seems to have been a part of me for as long as I can recall, which makes me think that perhaps the deepest lessons we learn are those we absorb unconsciously rather than those that are taught to us.

I can make a list as long as my arm (and then some) with all the things I want my daughter to do and become, but with every passing day I am beginning to see that teaching her all this will be impossible if I try to make lessons out of them or talk to her about it.  I have to become the kind of person I want her to be, to make all the lessons so much a part of our practical daily lives that they become second nature to us.

Which brings me to the other thing I have learnt since her birth: fear has no limits.  I used to be afraid of things: bugs, small spaces, too much darkness.  Now I am afraid of possibilities: What if I take her to the mall and someone tries to kidnap her while I turn away for a moment?  What if I close the door and her finger gets stuck in it?  What if I feed her and she chokes on a morsel?  What if she grows up and something tempts her away from her faith? What if she marries and her husband turns out to be a monster? what if… what if…?  The thoughts are random, endless and often illogical.  They catch me at any time, from the moment I wake up in the morning and check to see if she’s breathing to the middle of the night when I wake up and can hear her snoring and her innocence warms the air, enriching it and at the same time filling me with dread of the day she will begin to see how cruel the world is.

I can no longer see a smiling baby and not smile along, all the while thinking how much cuter and sweeter my daughter’s smile is.  I can no longer see the photos of suffering children and not feel helpless and frustrated, haunted by their faces for days as I pray for someone to be a ‘parent’ to them – even for a few minutes.  I can no longer think of all the children being abused by the adults they trust and not want to strangle those criminals with my bare hands, one at a time.

I can no longer let a day pass when I don’t desperately pray for the re-appearance of the Mahdi (atfs) so that all the children in the world can know love and peace once more.

And yet…

I live in fear of that day as well.  What if I don’t manage to fix myself before then?  What if I don’t manage to teach my daughter all she needs to do before that day? What if I mess up as a parent and she (God Forbid!) veers away from The Path?

I live in fear of “the day that you will see it, every suckling female will neglect what she suckled… (Qur’an 22:2) because it is on that day that I will fail my daughter in every way, when I abandon her despite all my promises and seek out my own selfish salvation.  It is on that day that what I teach her will most count the most, because I want her to know growing up that no matter how much I love her and will be there for her, there is One Who Loves her even more and who will not let her down when I will.

I live in fear not loving her enough to keep turning her face towards God whenever she turns it to me.