Fervently Fantastic

Kulsoom K. Ijaz 1

Our parents named us after Islamic figures in hopes that we would grow up to be just like them. They wished that somehow having an identical name would breed an identical character. But parenting does not work that way. You can’t just name a person Fatima or Maryum or Omar or Ali and expect them all to run their course in a devout and compliant direction.

It’s not that simple. “Children aren’t coloring books. You don’t get to fill them with your favorite colors.” Khaled Hosseini wrote that in The Kite Runner. Picking a name for some parents tends to be their favorite “go to” crayon. But children aren’t two dimensional cartoon characters.

So when they grow up throughout the years and make decisions in beautiful dichotomy of their respective parents’ compulsive expectations it should never come as a surprise. Because here is the other thing, children cannot be computer programmed either. You don’t get to input a name and output a saint. Children aren’t robots. And while robots and other objects can be possessed, a child will never be his or her parents’ property.

It’s great that two beings participated in a wonderful science experiment by putting a sperm to an egg or arranged a chance encounter between a fervent fishy and a human caviar. It really is. But they cannot treat the specimen they are responsible for putting in this world with utter lack of love and affection when they learn they can’t control him or her. A name is not a marketing label indicating the scientists’ possession of the specimen’s livelihood. And when that figurative label rubs off, scientists (i.e. parents) cannot then isolate the child because they cannot come to terms with reality.

Children will date the wrong person. They will choose the less optimal profession. Their clothes will be too tight, too short, too see through. Your daughter’s haircut will be too androgynous and your son’s style too effeminate. They will do badly in school. They will partake in dreaded extracurricular activities like cheerleading and theater. They will change their major from chemistry to fashion design. They will huff and puff illicit drugs. They will say “uff” to you and then some. They will choose more work hours over being a homely family person. Your children will be too secular. And they will not want to get married at age 22, age 25, age 30, or ever really.

I know it’s a lot to take in because parents do more than just pick and choose names. They drive us to the mosque hours away, three times a week, because the upper-middle class white suburb we live in, with the really good school, doesn’t offer a spiritual curriculum. They wipe the crap off our bums and bite their tongues so that none comes out of their mouths. They sleep far too little and work way too hard. They become slaves to biology when they harbor us in their wombs at age zero and they become victims of it when our hormones begin to want nothing to do with them at age thirteen.

But even that doesn’t buy them compliance no matter how fair it would be to give them a payday. But while children’s actions may represent defiance and opposition their aim isn’t to hurt their parents. Children aren’t evil though at times parents may feel their sole purpose in life is to exact a sort of karmic punishment on them.

Children are what they are; human beings with the capacity to act independently, reason, and reflect. They are by definition free but they are also conscious. They are fervently fantastic, faults and all.

So all parents can hope for is that their love and affection will someday encourage their children to be loving and affectionate with others. That their indication of disappointment towards their children will not far outweigh positive reinforcement so they can become confident and productive members of society. One can hope that the quotable life lessons parents preach to their children resonate in their minds for years to come.

I still remember a fiery talk my mother gave us by a New York subway station four years ago. She said, “Never say no to a beggar. You don’t know what kind of circumstances, trials and tribulations, what raw end of the deal, led him or her to this place. It takes a lot out of a person to beg. It means stripping yourself of your pride and ego. Never say no to a beggar.”

See you will never be able to control children with just a name or otherwise. No, that’s far too simple. But you can shape them. You can guide them so that come the day they set sail to achieve endeavors of their own whim and choice, they do so lovingly and affectionately, confidently, and most importantly, they do so by being good and kind.

Kulsoom Ijaz was born in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada but was raised in Dubai and the United States by her Pakistani parents. She is currently a law student at Syracuse University College of Law and copes with her stress by keeping a steady diet of gummy worms, runts, sushi, hummus and pita chips. She is an avid Snapchatter and a rambler both on paper and out-loud, because she has lots of feelings and they need some place to go. Her favorite person on earth is her kid brother, Ali, whom she lovingly calls her boob, because he is close to her heart.


6 Comments on “Fervently Fantastic”

  1. Reblogged this on pengantin pelik and commented:
    Love this! As a child, not a potential parent, that is… Wish someone told this to MY parents, even now…

  2. Zeenat says:

    Beautifully written.

  3. LilBabyTiger says:

    This is beautifully written! Thank you for this, it’s reaffirming.

  4. Anisah Khan says:

    Beautifully put. I think too many parents have this effortless optimism when their kids are born and it’s often that when grown, their kids didn’t have the right factors in their upbringing to do or behave as their parents expected of them. I love this post!

  5. omer says:

    Very well written. Although this is just one side of the story. It would have been interesting to get the other side’s point of view as well.