Ramadan Reflection Day 16: The Father That I Am
|Photo by Thomas|
I don’t have kids. I’m not even married, yet. So the title might throw you off a bit. But the title is not a gimmick, it is a statement. Rather, it is a question.
"What kind of father am I?"
Being unmarried and consequently having no kids, it's kind of a weird question to ask. It's even weirder to ask such a question in the present tense as oppose to the future tense. But my question is based on a principle that I'm trying to live by and it is this:
"Parenting starts before marriage and the first child you’ll raise is yourself."
I have learned enough about childhood, adolescence, and adulthood in my psychology classes to convince myself that the principle rings true. A lot of the psychological malfunctions can be traced back, partly, to the family and in essence, to the parents. Of course, I have to emphasize that there is no one specific and exclusive cause for a malfunction. A human being is influenced by so many factors. These factors are like pieces of a puzzle, and I have no doubt that parenting is a huge piece of the puzzle.
It is a personal conviction of mine that I think that parenting shouldn't start on the day that I got my first child. Parenting should start even before I am married. But then, who am I parenting if I'm not married and don't have a child?
I am parenting myself. I am my own "child".
How I take care of myself will reflect how I will take care of my future, unborn child.
If I want my child to love Allah, shouldn't I love Allah first?
If I want my child to love the Prophet, shouldn't I love the Prophet first?
If I want my child to pray 5 times a day, shouldn't I pray 5 times a day first?
If I want my child to show compassion to all people, shouldn't I show compassion to all people first?
If I want my child to take care of his/her physical health, shouldn't I take care of my physical healthy first?
If I want my child to read good books, shouldn't read good books first?
It all starts with myself. A child is more in tuned to what the parent does than to what the parent says. A child is always observing and learning from the parent. Always. The parent is the child's lifelong teacher, starting from the day that the child is born, and the world is the child's classroom.
The teacher can't start the class without any preparation right? So I have to start my parenthood now.
This conviction stemmed from an advise given by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to those who want to get married:
“Choose carefully for your children; marry the suitable and give in marriage to them." (Ibn Majah 1/633, graded hasan by al-Albani)
It is clear to me that the Prophet wanted me to think beyond myself; that I should carefully choose a marital partner that isn't just good for me, but also good for my unborn children. I shouldn't just choose a potential wife, but also a potential mother.
The first right of my unborn child is that I choose a suitable and righteous spouse. Keep in mind, someone's God-given right is no joke. It's a serious matter.
So I should choose carefully and wisely.
The Hadeeth goes both ways; it applies to me too. I have to work on myself to make sure that I'm fit enough to become not only a good husband, but a good father as well.
Becoming a parent is a big deal. It is one of the biggest roles that I will play in my entire life and once I start playing that role, it will not end. When I become a parent, I am a parent 24/7, 365 days a year until the day I die. There is no vacation for a parent.
But that's not what scares me the most.
What scares me the most is that, whether I like it or not, my children will look up to me. I am responsible for the upbringing of another human being. Children will reflect their parents, one way or the other. That's scary because what my children will become has a lot to do with how I raise them. If I do a bad job, I will be responsible for that in front of Allah.
At the same time, it's also exciting. It’s exciting because I have an opportunity to build an awesome generation, from my own home. I will be responsible for that in front of Allah too, but in a good way.
Responsibility. That is one heavy word.
I am well aware that I can't be 100% ready to be a parent. No matter how many books I read, how many courses I take, and how many hours I've spent taking tips from experienced parents, I will never be 100% ready. I can't wait until I'm perfect to get married or to have a child. That's impossible. I can spend a lifetime and still I will not be perfect.
I don't, in any way, claim that I know better than people who do have kids. That would be arrogant of me to think that way. I would take any of them as my teacher any day because I know that I will learn something from them. I am aware that being a youth, I can be hasty at times so I need the wisdom from my seniors to keep me sound and grounded.
The point of this article is to say that having an awareness of the weight of this God-given Amanah (trust) and doing my best to prepare myself to take that Amanah on my shoulders, is my best strategy at being the best father that I can be.
Even after writing this article, I am not sure if I am good enough to become a parent, or a husband for that matter. But I see that as a good thing, because that gives me the push to keep on improving myself.
I am not a finished product. I will never be a finished product.
I am always a work in progress.