We come with burdens

In this time of post-truths, truths, gas-lighting, mindfulness, and manipulation, it can be arduously difficult to navigate our own paths let alone guide our children. We spend so much time getting them tutors, ferrying them from club to club, buying them the most up to date devices, always wishing and hoping to create happy, kind, intelligent individuals. I think.

Yet we forget. We forget we come with burdens.

We come bearing the weight of what we have known, learnt, and lived in the years before us.

We walk paths trodden many, many moons ago by characters only known to us from stories told across dinner tables, or names whispered by the side or our beds.

We wear the skin forged powerful beings who were better, stronger, fiercer than any of their contemporaries.

Yet we forget.

We forget when we come with these offerings we hand them over to our children. We wrap them up in skins woven with our threads now. We place on them bags without questioning how heavy or light, without the guidance of how to bear them.

We show them the map of where to go, without telling them how to look out for the stars, how to watch the tracks of those who have gone before.

A few days ago, I sat beside an MRI scanner as my little boy lay inside. My entire heart trembled, my breath felt so hard to still. Not from fear, not out of uncontrollable worry. But with the realisation there was so much I still had to show him. There was so much he still had to learn. I have seen the joy in his eyes over the simplest things. Watched with fascination as he insisted every pair of shoes he has ever owned were red. How he cannot contain his excitement when something positive happens, no matter how trivial. The concern and anxiety he feels when he sees hardship and inequality anywhere. The inane chattering about his latest obsession. The hole in his left knee of his trousers, always the left knee. No one knows how: a secret James Brown in the making?

But had I shown him? Had I guided him? Had I given him all the tools needed for this life and whatever comes next? Were my parents right, in raising my children outside of the norm of my Muslim upbringing, or were they destined to be lost?

When he came out, and we wandered home he gave me the tightest, longest hug I can remember. ‘Thank you mummy.’ I was quick to answer, ‘It is ok. All parents would do that. I love you ’. ‘NO,’ he said, ‘Not that. My friend told me his mum speaks about you, and how strong you are, how hard you work for people’s rights, and their voice’. I stopped, and looked at him stunned.

This was my baby. My little smooth faced, glistening eyed boy, standing almost as tall as me, a mane of hair, and shoulders suddenly so much broader. Eyes suddenly so wise, he was the one who when born I had said looked like he had been here before.

‘Thank you for always telling us the truth, and not what people think we should hear. For working through the night when we are in bed to make something for us, to have a safe future with everything we need.’

‘I am proud of you for not being scared of standing up for people, that you are doing what you always wanted. You are not just my mum – you are a warrior princess.’

Maybe, just maybe, we should spend more time living our lives as truly to ourselves as we can. Maybe that is the dearest, strongest, most precious gift we can hand down to them.

A gift that gives them the strength to throw away the map, to tread their own steps, with the stars of our truths blazing in the sky to guide them.