One of the most beautiful experiences in life is seeing your child grow up. Seeing his first gaze, his first clasping of hands, his first crawling, first standing up holding the bed, first step and an eventual fall-every new thing he learns bring joy and euphoria in parents as if a new world has been conquered. Every day is a new journey, every month is a new discovery, and every year is a new epoch –from crawling to walking, from walking to running, from reading to writing.
And then anticlimax starts setting in- when a neighbor or his cousins come to you with their complaints- he hits, he fights, he even -who knows where he learnt -says bad words -your kid starts losing his innocence. Your baby starts losing his innocence. Your innocent baby.
The dynamics of the relationship starts to change when you start to expect from him–expect that he goes to bed in time, finishes food in time, goes to study in time, comes back from play in time or doesn’t watch too much cartoon.
As your rightful commands are eventually violated you start to see in your own world you baby is growing and he is losing his innocence- your innocent baby. And that’s a new journey nobody prepared you for since his birth when you had a wonderful journey of unbound joy he offered. You get to see, it is now time for him to learn ethics.
Time to teach him what is right what is wrong. You can’t leave it to the forces of nature, to his society or to his own natural discovery or to schools. You feel you must pass on your own values to your child, your bloodline, the heir of your accomplishment and failures in the world- the values you yourself failed to live up to- you feel he must now own those-with perfectness, in full. He must not make the same mistakes you made. He must not violate the same rules that you violated. So you double down on him.
For those who are sure, this is an easy journey. You know what you want to teach. Earn don’t steal, don’t take what is not yours, don’t beg-control yourself-you don’t get everything in life, work harder, don’t lie-don’t be afraid of consequence of telling the truth, obey elders in the family-they have the wisdom of experience which you don’t have, follow seniors-because they are senior- oops.
Listen to seniors? Every senior? Why? Why he has to follow all the seniors? What if his senior cousins teach him the wrong things or ask him to follow something unjust?
Some of the things start not making sense to yourself as well, things that you have been taught in your childhood, never confronted-why would someone has to follow seniors- have you not seen many of the seniors go wrong, why a child has to be taught that he has to follow seniors, all the time. How would he learn to think critically when he only learns to comply?
You start questioning yourself the values you were taught and you start to pick and choose the values that you learnt yourself in your own childhood. And you start discarding some. And then you face the hard truth. Just like you can’t get a horse to drink water, you can’t really teach a child any value. You start to realize, you can’t teach, you can only show him by example, the values you want to imbibe in him. You realize you need to lead by example. That is the only way.
Else, he will see the obvious contradictions and will start questioning himself and will not follow through and the worse- he will come to you and say “if you fail to keep up your own promises, why would I?”
You can’t ask him to quit the cartoon when you are engrossed in Facebook, if you are late for dinner, he will ask the same right? He thinks, he is equal. So you want him to keep your promises. But, you can’t quit smoking. He will catch you lying to her mother, he will catch you failing up in your own promises, to him and to yourself.
So, every day you will commit to yourself that you will wake up sober next morning and become a different person to show him that you can. You would promise to yourself that you would be more ideal, a more committed father and a husband, a man of his words, a slayer of the dragon-with obvious fail in the end of the day.
So, you both will start becoming comfortable in a status quo-where as a father even if you fail, you have your right to exercise authority over him. And, with or without example being set he needs to obey to you- only because you have told him so. That should be good enough for him and you don’t need to justify or lead by example. Just follow as I say. You would find a better excuse in religion if you are the believer like me.
As he grows up and starts to fathom the concept of a divine authority in Almighty Allah or God or creator whatever you want to call- you would find a better route to teach morality. You can now say, you got to follow certain instructions as Allah said you so.
You say to him, if he does not follow what Allah has said he has to suffer in a horrendous flash burning eternal hell to encounter. Staff like saying truth, listen to his mother, listen to your father-yes Allah has said that- never break promise, never hit other. If he follows those instructions, Allah will reward him with heaven a place of divine happiness and endless chocolates and ice-creams. You will find that route to religion an easier path to teach morality.
Now you don’t have to justify to him anything by setting an example which technically is very hard. You can now just say that he needs to listen to you because Allah has asked to obey parents. That is actually a pretty comforting thing when he starts to figure out the concept of Allah, heaven and hell.
So, you would bring him a religious teacher, a Hafez who will teach him Al Quran and who will also offer him some sermons of right and wrong- values. You would slowly hand over some responsibility to teach value to the religious teacher to guide him about Islam. But, then one day you would go to a friend’s house, where in a boy’s talk one of your friends will assert that your religion allows going to brothel through a religious loophole. As per him, it is widely practiced in the Middle East.
For that one needs to do get into marriage agreement while entering the brothel and before departure, all he has to do is sign the divorce paper. This is called mutha marriage. You will quickly check internet and find that this mischievous doctrine has little acceptance in Sunni jurisprudence and it is only practiced by some obscure Shia offshoot but your friend who is Sunni, does not have any problem supporting it. You would not ask if he exercised it.
You would clearly see, for him, Islam is a bureaucratized way to justify unethical sensual pleasures. He does not have to follow Qur’anic orders of preserving one’s own eyes and thoughts and purifying the mind. As if one can have his way if one wants to through religion itself. Any moral code can be broken with a loophole or through certain explanation.
You start to realize, what many other scholars have said before. There is no one Islam. In your mind, you have one Islam, which you have been taught from your childhood, in your friends mind there is another Islam and in the mind of the religious teacher you have appointed there is another Islam-which you have little idea about. You can’t control which version of values your child will pick up as he grows up.
Then, you would want to intervene and take control. But, you don’t have all the time to devote to him. You have to invest time to maintain your livelihood, the writings, and the guilty pleasures-your own mischiefs.
Now, your child is left alone in a mishmash and hodgepodge of your own imprints, the religion, the society, the school, the religious teacher, his friends and cousins, his cartoons. And little you can do to control who he would become but this for sure, he will not become a perfect version of you that you failed to become.