In the time I have taken to slowly rebuild my life after divorce, I can confidently say that I have always kept my children and their emotions well within my radar.
I believe mothers have been blessed with an innate ability to go into a kind of defence mode and protect their young. It is true of perhaps all species in this world. Alhamdulillah (praise be to Allah), even in the early days, I never lost sight of the emotional roller-coaster my children were themselves reluctantly riding. “Roller-coaster”, though cliché, is an apt expression since it denotes the surging highs and lows and the breakneck speed with which they were trying to figure out their new reality. It was only by Allah’s grace, they all held on to the white-knuckled ride. Perhaps I can be bold and even dare to suggest that we have since come off the roller-coaster and have boarded a smoother ride in life Alhamdulillah. Yet all that was not without a lot of introspection and a simultaneous outward expression of pain.
Perhaps because I myself had experienced the better part of my life without my father, I was well-prepared to understand the inevitable challenges that lay ahead for my boys….and Woah! Challenges I did have! As much as I wanted to reassure them life would find its balance again, I was dealing with my own inner contradictions and volatility. I was not in a healthy place to preach to others. I was poised only to intervene if I saw their effervescent emotions were to begin to erupt uncontrollably. Alhamdulillah, that situation didn’t present itself very often except with my youngest son. He was only 11 years old when life took us down a completely new road. He suffered the most being so young. As such, my energies were exponentially invested in securing his mental stability and wellbeing. I cannot begin to describe the wildly swinging emotional pendulum he had clutched onto, out of confusion and anxiety. It zapped a lot of energy from me to slowly loosen his grip and help him climb down and restore his trust in people and life.
It is an unimaginable pain of a mother to be unable to break the fall of a child into a deep dark hole. Although my boys’ distress never manifested itself in an irreversible manner, there were definitely expressions of anger and frustration, e.g., being victims of bullying at school. Even when they could not discern the difference between simply readjusting to life in England from Saudi Arabia, I understood they were having to deal with the added layers of readjustment to the new normal. They had been catapulted from one continent to another; from one culture to another; from being home schooled to going to mainstream British schools; and most importantly, from having two parents to one. It is a lot for anyone to take on.
However, my boys have not disappointed me, Alhamdulillah. They have dealt with their lot admirably and with a maturity not commonly seen amongst their peers. I have seen a genuine humility in the acceptance of their situation. The best outcome is arguably that, together, we have nurtured an even deeper and mutually respectful relationship between us. Our collective and individual journeys mean we are each able to read the other’s overall mood and know when not to transgress personal boundaries. They have become my confidantes as I have theirs. I have always made it a point to talk to them and with them. I have always made it important for them to be heard and to express their thoughts without retribution. It is absolutely necessary that they are given a safe space to air their grievances and know they have the confidence and trust to be respected. I have never belittled their pain or grievances but I have tried to channel hurt into positive energy. This is where my role comes in. To dismiss them (the boys) is to lose them.
Our thoughts and actions are circumscribed by a deep faith in Allah, knowing He will not abandon us even if others have. It is that knowledge that gives us our security and comfort – not the bank balance in our accounts, or the cars we drive, the home we have or the academic achievements to date. My plea to any parent on a new solo journey with their children is to listen, love and learn.