The Real Orphan

My wife and I try to make it a routine to have a brief reminder session every now and then. Usually after Maghrib prayer, we would sit down as a family and read something from one of the books we have in our collection.

Our latest pick was the book “Tarbiyatul Aulad fil Islam” by Dr. Abdullah Nasir Ulwan. It is a brilliant book about parental responsibilities in raising a good child, and I highly recommend all parents and would-be parents to buy it and read it as a family.
Last night, we read some passages about the factors contributing to misbehaviours in children. One subtopic in particular caught my eye: The Neglectfulness of Parents in Educating the Child. My heart shivered as I read the title because I was afraid that I could be one of those neglectful parents. 
I flipped to the section and started reading. From words to sentences to passages, the section was a must read for all parents, would-be-parents, and eventual-parents. We really felt the effect of the message conveyed.

In that section, the author quoted a poem that has stuck with me, and it is the inspiration of my blog post today:

The real orphan is one with a careless mother and a busy father.

In no way the author was conveying that forever losing a mother and/or a father is a light matter. It is not an experience any of us wish to endure. Having said that, the author is raising an important question to an important and real issue:

What if you have parents, but it feels like they are not there?

The question was raised, in one of the emails I have received. The sender was devastated to be in a situation where his emotional distress wasn’t heard. He felt like talking to a brick wall. The parents weren’t emotionally responsive to his emotional needs. Hence, although the parents were physically there, it didn’t feel like they were there for the child.

Reading that email, I was in a dilemma. Which is worse: losing a parent physically, or emotionally? For people who lose their parents physically (i.e. their parents passed away), eventually they will come to terms that their parents are gone and they have to move on with their lives.

But what if the parents are right there in front of you, but you don’t feel their presence? How do you move on in that situation? It might take a great deal of denial and emotional disconnection to come to a conclusion that you don’t “have” your parents anymore at that point.

Imagine the emotional torture experienced by a child in such a situation. You want to express your feelings, but they don’t respond accordingly. You don’t feel like your voice is being heard. They might hear you, but they don’t listen to you.

Hearing is a sensory experience, purely physical. It requires minimal attention. Listening goes beyond the physical senses. It requires maximum attention, because you are not simply hearing sounds. You are listening to the words and how they are said, to the emotions accompanying each word, and what each word means to the person and not to you.

When people don’t listen to you, you are left feeling alone in a place full of people. It is a strange feeling, but it is definitely real.

Humans don’t just operate on a physical level. Food, clothing, and shelter are all important aspects of a parent’s responsibility as each is crucial for the physical survival of the child. However, a child is more than just a physical being. A child is also an emotional being.

Meaning, the child has emotional needs to be fulfilled by the parents. Physical needs like hunger are easy to identify and easy to overcome. They require relatively less effort. Emotional needs are more complicated, hence more effort is needed.

Taking a step back, lets try to understand the parents’ side of things. Being a new parent, I can sympathize with other parents because despite unique circumstances, our challenges are similar when it comes to raising a child. Among many things, one thing is for certain: parenting is tiring.

If you don’t have a child, perhaps you might have heard the expression before. I have and I believed it. However, I didn’t have the slightest idea how tiring it will be until I have my own child, Rayyan. You might get some help once in a while, but for the most part, the child is your full responsibility (understandably so, he is your child after all).

Taking this into consideration, we can understand how fatigue might be one of the key factors that can lead parents to emotional numbness. It takes a lot of emotional stamina to be able to maintain a good emotional connection with a child, especially during the early years of childhood.

But it is during those early years that many foundational elements are being set. A baby is born with zero knowledge of life and the world. So, his parents are his primary reference point for what life and the world are.

You are responsible for painting a picture of reality to your child, whether you are conscious about it or not. Fatigue, unfortunately for you as a parent, is not good enough of a reason to neglect your child. It is an understandable problem, but it is not an excuse to emotionally abandon your child.

So, by hook or by crook, you have to find a way. You have to find a way to fulfil the emotional needs of your child. It would be nice if your child could understand your situation, but he is just a child. The one with the capacity of understanding is you, not him. He doesn’t even have the capacity to properly express himself, let alone trying to understand your parental challenges.

This part, nobody can prepare you for. This is something that you have to face and adapt, as it happens. The only thing you can prepare for is yourself. Meaning, to prepare yourself physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually for unexpected and unimagined things to happen in a marriage.

The fatigue of parenthood is most probably unexpected and unimagined. But you have to be prepared for it no matter what. Your child needs you whether you are energetic or fatigued. No doubt, this is a hard thing to face but it is not impossible. Having a strong enough motivation would certainly help with the experience.

Why do you get married, and why do you want a child?

The answer to those questions might determine your level of enthusiasm, passion, and commitment. If it is a strong answer, then you will have the strength to power through the tough times and be there for you child. If the answer is not strong enough, you might be tempted to give up too easily.

So, what’s your answer?

Hopefully, your answer will save another child from being an orphan, emotionally severed from his parents.