My Father Was Smarter Than I Thought
By: Faraz Rabbani
While growing up, fathers can seem rather annoying to their children. My father didn’t really seem to do all that much, but expected all these seemingly unreasonable things from me. Why, I’d wonder, why?
Now, with children of my own, my father seems a much smarter parent than I thought he was. Maybe he was on to something.
It would annoy me to no end, especially when I was in high school and later in college, that anyone who was home was expected to have lunch and dinner — and on weekends, breakfast — with the family. Non-presence was a non-option.
We had been raised to listen to our parents, and this expectation would be enforced without recourse to any disciplining (besides the fatherly frown when my sister or I tried to opt out).
It would annoy me to no end that there was usually no opting out of less-than-exciting “family outings,” some of which were just bland trips to boring uncle-types with their predictable conversations (and, yes, great food).
It would annoy me to no end that the entire family was normally expected to go on “family shopping trips” for nothing more exciting than buying the weekly groceries.
Some other things weren’t so annoying, but they didn’t seem related to good parenting in any way — at least back then.
My father, known to both friends and family as a lover of good food, would take great delight in “cooking once a week” to give my mother a break. Of course, not being known to know how to break an egg, or for that matter, how to turn on a gas stove, this meant that he would take the family out for a meal at a restaurant — usually one he’d discovered the week before during one of his business lunches.
My father and I were also members of the Madrid Cricket Club, and in the summer months, much of our Sundays would be spent on the cricket field with the rest of the family, including my grandmother, in attendance.
In all these activities, I thought my father was just being annoying, unreasonable, or, in the case of the restaurant trips, just doing what he himself wanted to do. But these activities were really examples of concerned parenting.
As children grow up, there is an increasing tendency for them to drift away from their parents. Activities, such as those my father was so insistent upon, keep strong bonds between parents and children. This is particularly true when certain activities are done on a regular basis.
Studies indicate that children from families that engage in such regular activities are far more likely to be emotionally balanced and successful in life.
So my father was on to something, I guess.
Recognizing Our Parents’ Efforts
It is a central Islamic virtue to be thankful to one’s parents, for everything they have done and continue to do for us. Allah Most High says,
“And We have charged man concerning his parents — his mother bore him in weakness upon weakness, and his weaning was in two years — Be thankful to Me, and to thy parents; to Me is the homecoming.” (Qur’an, 31:14) Thankfulness arises from recognizing another’s favor upon one. Allah emphasizes in the above verse that, like Allah’s favor, the favor of one’s parents simply cannot be repaid. After all, they were the reason for our existence and took care of us when we were helpless.
This recognition of parental favor entails both being thankful for what our parents did for us and also to learn from their positive points. It isn’t easy being a parent in these rushed times — where so many matters vie for our precious hours and minutes. But few matters are more important than our precious children and their proper upbringing. There are invariably positive lessons we can learn from in how our parents raised us.
So, what about our parents’ mistakes? Inevitably, they must have made at least a few. They must have failed, erred, or even been wrong or unjust in some way or the other. A believer looks at the faults of others — even their own parents — as lessons they can learn from, for a believer seeks nothing but benefit in this life. Thus, one shouldn’t think ill of one’s parents because of some (or many) shortcomings they may have. Rather, we learn from their failings as we learn from their strengths; and we should beware of the same tendencies and traits being manifest in us. Finally, we should remain ever-thankful to our parents, because we owe them our very life.
Yes, my father wasn’t quite a perfect parent, but he was certainly a concerned parent who did many things that I could learn from.
Originally published in Islamica Magazine.