While pondering over how I am raising my son here in Sweden, in a home away from home, I wondered if there is any strategy I am using. Turns out, I am just going with the flow. What else could you do? Even though he is a planned baby, I realize that no matter how much you prepare yourself, you will not be ready for what is about to come your way. Sure, you can plan by buying the best stroller, car seat, custom crib, bibs, clothes, bathtub, and the list goes on. But even with all this, there is a part of this new life coming to you that you cannot possibly plan.
During the first 9 months of Ibrahim’s life, we were in Pakistan where we had the endless support of our families. So as a parent, I feel, that in that part of his life I was only spending time with him after work. That is not a lot. I was not feeding him, bathing him, changing him, burping him, etc. etc. etc. There was always someone willing to lend a hand and I was like why not? How typical of me now that I think about it.
When he was 9 months old, we moved to Sweden so I could pursue my master’s degree here. I remember in the first week I cried because my baby was literally shaking with fear, wondering where the hell were all those people who used to spoil me so much. His eyes searched around for his Dadi and Dada with whom he slept almost every other day, had meals with them. Dadi used to sing to him, massage him with oils, all that gone just like that. Now I am in this strange new place with just 2 familiar faces compared to the army at my command back home. Even though they are just babies, I am quite sure because of this experience, that they have developed enough cognitive sense to feel that “o shit something is up”! Seeing him like that made me wonder if we have done the right thing.
Once we slowly settled into our lives here, I realized that there was no way I would ever have been able to spend this much time with him if we had not come here. As a student, you have a plethora of time with which you can do whatever you want. Guess what I was doing? Cooking, cleaning helping around the house, and of course, being a full-time father to my son who had become the center of our lives. At this point, I feel I would be incredibly selfish if I were not mentioning the fact that none of this would still be possible without the support of my parents (financial and emotional).
From the million concerns I have about raising my child, the one that is always at the forefront is how do I raise him with good values? First of all, what even are good values? Values of our time (lol I am just 30) I think are not relevant now. Or are they relevant? I know what I want him to grow up as but how do I get there?
I want him to grow up to be a responsible human being who is caring, kind, sensible, generous….the list goes on. But who am I kidding, do I want to raise a saint who is selfless, and always devoted to others’ wellbeing? No. I want him to put himself first without sacrificing his dreams, ambitions, and his own self. I want him to be strong in what he believes in and be able to defend that in front of everyone. I want him to stand up to Karens and Kens and put them in their place, elegantly and eloquently.
I want him to have strong religious values as well by the way (I do not want much do I? :p ). I want him to be curious about religion and be able to answer any questions people ask about Islam. I want him to be able to make it relatable and understandable for them. How do I do that here as a minority here in the west? (This is a genuine question to everyone who has been living in the west, I would be so grateful if you could leave some tips in the comments).
I have started praying and the biggest motivation for me is that my son will watch me and learn. We make a big fuss about Eid so that he knows that like Christmas and Easter he also has festivals that are to be celebrated. But what will I say to him when he asks why aren’t his Swedish friends celebrating it? What do I say to him if he is aware next time someone is being a Karen to his parents?
One thing I realized in this whole parenting thing is that kids absorb and learn so much from their surroundings, from their parents basically. The foundation of their character is almost always based on the characteristics of their parents. The way they behave is further molded by how they see us behave and act.
So, I guess I have to be all that I want him to be and hope against hope that he’s watching and learning? Good luck to me!