I have been blessed. The women in my life have been strong, nurturing and supportive. Not only will they never tell where the bodies are buried, but they will bring the GPS and the shovels in case I ever need to move those bodies. But this past Father’s Day, I began to think about how the men in my life have shaped the person I have become.
First, Dad, you taught me about unconditional love. You also taught my sister and me to be cynical and critical. Faced with the prospect of raising two girls in the new and scary Western world you had emigrated to, you taught us to question EVERYTHING. If someone told us it was raining your advice was to ask ourselves, “Why is this person telling me this? What is his motive?” and finally you wanted us to go outside to actually check if it was raining. For a girl who grew up in a small Canadian town and attended a small all-girls private school, the real world was made more navigable by your teaching.
In contrast, however, to your harsh world view, you also taught me the power of kisses and cuddles. Whether it was running by you and having my hair ruffled or being pulled into your chair as I passed by, given a quick kiss, and sent about my way, the message was that I was loved. Kids are stupid and I may not have remembered how much you loved me when I was being punished or in the midst of an angry teenage funk, but I could hardly discount the countless hugs and cuddles my sister and I were showered with. For this and everything else, I am thankful.
Then there’s my husband. You taught me about unconditional love. You also taught me the value of a sense of humor. Negotiating who does the next diaper change, who is going to deal with the dead squirrel in the garage, and who lost the only working TV remote is not pretty, but conducting the negotiations with a sense of humor can make the difference between a golden wedding anniversary and the divorce courts. You know this well and can diffuse any situation with humor. It’s why the years with you have passed by with lightning speed in a blur of happy memories.
You have also taught me the value of sharing burdens. Two years ago we went on the religious pilgrimage, Hajj. I started crying while boarding the bus that would take our group to Kennedy Airport because I realized I would be away from my babies for the next few weeks. On a pit stop en route to the airport you looked at my tear-stained face and gently asked if I wanted to turn around and go home. You were willing to abandon months of planning, a hefty deposit, and the religious obligation of performing the pilgrimage because I was freaking out.
Again during this trip, I was reminded that difficulties are meant to be shared. After starting the ritual walk around the Kaba, I realized I could not finish because of a persistent pain in my foot. In my eagerness to perform the seven circles around the Kaba, I had underestimated the pain that my problematic right foot could tolerate. I was devastated. Taking a break or leaving were not options as we would be moving against the tidal force of a million pilgrims intent on performing their own sacred journeys. For a few seconds we looked at each other with a, “What now?” panic in our eyes. Then, without a word, you turned around, hooked my arms around your neck and pulled me – pulled me – for the remaining five navigations. For this and everything else, I am thankful.
Then there are my sons who have taught me about unconditional love. From the time the first little penis showed up on the ultrasound, you’ve kept me on a roller coaster ride. You have shattered every notion and every theory of parenting that I had ever espoused. You have taught me the lessons of flexibility. I can love the idea of Kumon classes and lacrosse, but if you are not interested then you are not interested. You are two people I cannot bend to my will, and trust me, I have tried. I always expected my sons to change my world because that’s what kids do, but I never expected to struggle to keep a straight face while one of you explained the female reproductive cycle. I didn’t expect the smells, the massive grocery bills or the joy. I never expected to use the word beautiful in connection with both of you. But you are, both inside and out. For this and everything else, I am truly thankful.
To my father, husband, and sons, I love you.
Nausheena Ahmed was born in England, raised in Canada and is currently living in New Jersey. She is busy raising three kids whose names she never wants to see on a front page with the words “serial killer” or “psychopath” beside them.
(Photo Credit: Sam Whited)