I’ve been through my share of cross-generational challenges, but lately I have met a place of rapprochement as I remember the things my parents have taught me, directly and indirectly, about relationships. Their wisdom has its roots in a land and culture so far away that the advice doesn’t always translate to the millennial ways of the Starbucks-drinkers and instant-satisfaction seekers. It is a wisdom that cannot be found in HuffPost articles, Buzzfeed lists or Facebook shares.
We can read all the self-help or self-actualization articles we want in this day and age, but the words and admonitions of our parents stand the test of time. I can finally say that I get it. The following three items are probably the best pieces of information to know and embrace for the possibility of a lifetime of Valentine’s Day moments.
Flexibility. We’ve heard it before: we have to be flexible in life. Family settings served as classrooms to show me the importance of accommodating others, for throwing selfishness out the door and working with, rather than fighting against, the situation we find ourselves in. Don’t sweat the small stuff. When hubby dearest switches meetings around in order to squeeze in an important errand, I’ve learned to be okay with shifting things my schedule as well. Compromise might be a suitable synonym here, but if one is flexible, perhaps compromise doesn’t have to happen?
Forgiveness. On some days our inner curmudgeon comes out more than others and petty arguments follow. But in the end, we have to get off those ego-saurs and forgive. If my parents hadn’t forgiven me for my mistakes over the last three decades, I would have never learned what it means to forgive and move on. Like the time I came home late…okay, the many time I came home late. Or when I went a little…okay a lot over budget on my back-to-school shopping sprees. OR when I came back from store with a scratch or two on my dad’s car. Yikes.
Selflessness. Our parents emphasized an open-door policy to guests; their hospitality came from the mind frame that it is an honor to welcome and serve (even if just a cup of tea) to family and friends. This was especially true of family elders. Watching and helping my parents and extended family care for my grandmother showed me what unconditional love looks like. That care includes never missing or being late to even one doctor’s appointment, making sure she has a delicious home-cooked meal ready even if we all decide we want to go out for dinner, or taking care of those seemingly small errands that mean the world to her. For those of us in our 30s and 40s, we already see our parents crossing over from middle-aged to old age, and one day we will watch our spouses succumb to the wears and tears of time. It is easy to love and enjoy life when you both have health and vigor, but how will you stand by and tend to one another when you are frail? My parents showed me how.
My family, much like many South Asian-American households, did not express feeling and values through words. But the actions of my parents spoke volumes and after nearly three decades of observing my parents’ marriage, I feel I have the building blocks for a happy relationship. Reconciling two cultures- that of my immigrant parents, and my own American upbringing—is a balancing act. Ideals and advice may conflict at times but if we are to move towards a better, more civil, more diverse Muslim society, we need to keep in our treasure chests the best of all worlds. When I think about the future of my kids who will carry even more identities than I ever negotiated, I will offer them these relationship gems from ages past.
Shazia K. Farook is an Associate Editor at AltMuslimah
(Photo Credit: Boians Cho Joo Young / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)