In all my life I have never heard a mother call out to her child as he or she goes off to school, “Take a lot of risks today, darling.” She is more likely to convey to her child, “Be careful, darling.” This “Be careful” carries with it a double message: “The world is really dangerous out there”… and… “you won’t be able to handle it.” What Mom is really saying, of course, is “If something happens to you, I won’t be able to handle it.” You see, she is only passing on her lack of trust in her ability to handle what comes her way. ~Susan Jeffers in ‘Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway’
I spent four years away from my homeland to get a degree. Manchester was a 13-hour journey by flight from Malaysia, and the flight ticket doesn’t come cheap. With the monthly allowance I received for my sponsor, I could only make the journey home once a year, at most. My parents are not that well-off either to make the trip to Manchester, so we only saw each other every 365 days, during my summer breaks.
But there was a summer, the summer of 2007, when I decided that I would spend three quarter of it in Egypt instead of coming home. My mother supported that decision even it meant that it would be another year before she could set her eyes on me. Only when I observed my friends – who sometimes were forced to abandon their traveling plans etc. just because their parents missed them and needed them home – that I could understand the gravity of my mother’s willingness to let me make full use of my youth (in this case, travelling and learning) at the expense of her own emotion.
There are many other instances that made me realise I am who I am now because my mother (and my father, who’s even more protective) can contain her fear and anxiety of letting her daughter live her life. Her fear and worry has never become a hindrance for me to grow, to experience life and to grab the wisdom that comes along with those experiences.
So now I intend to be the same mother, or maybe even better. I want to be a mother (and a wife) who has full trust on her ability to cope with everything that comes her way with regards to her loved ones.
And I have to tell you, it is and will be difficult.
It is difficult not to stop Isa from running because I fear he would fall down and hurt himself.
It is difficult to learn that Isa will try to do more things that will give me heart attack while he’s learning.
It is difficult, I know, to one day let my son leave me, hopefully to serve God and mankind as he should.
Elizabeth Stone puts it correctly when she says having a child means that you are having your heart wandering outside your body – you practically have no control over it, but unfortunately you still feel the same pain when it hurts.
I have always told my unmarried friend – my biggest battle these days is to not being dragged down by my emotions. I have to keep reminding myself that my child is not mine. I gave birth to him, I might be the one who nurture him, there are certain rights of mine he needs to fulfill, but he is never mine. God lent him to me – and He is going to ask me if I have brought him up as God wanted me to – to serve Him. He’s never, ever mine to begin with.
As I keep reminding myself of this reality, I have never put any hope that when I reach old age, Isa would be the one who’d fill my loneliness. Or the one who’d feed me. Or one who takes care of me. I pray and pray that should that time comes, I’d able to handle it on my own, that I’d gladly let him serve and work for the greater good.
I told my husband of my observation of the ’empty nest syndrome’ – and I told him, I don’t want to go through that, and I need to start preparing for it now. I do have some plans here and there – but ultimately I want to occupy myself goals I’d like to achieve, so when the time comes, I would not want be the needy parent who doesn’t have anything to do but interfering on her child’s marriage or getting into quarrels with the daughter-in-law.
Maybe I could be like this lady who made it a life-long quest to memorise the Holy Quran. And completed it at the age of 82.
Maybe I could be like this lady who worked to get her PhD. At 90.
That’s why yesterday, even I was so tempted to go to a coffee shop and enjoy its designer coffee, I dragged myself to the gym. I want to be as healthy as I could,so as to enjoy the present AND to not become a burden to my loved ones should I be granted a long life.
Motherhood, indeed, gives you a different perspective on life – the fear, the anxiety – oh, how much I have changed.