The world I live in today is not the same one my children live in. How is that even possible? I would argue it’s all about perspective.
My reasoning is this: I see the world sometimes from my desk at home where I work; I see the world sometimes from my kitchen window when I’m washing the dishes; I see the world from the driver’s seat of my car.
Young people might see the world though from the seat they occupy on a bus; from the classroom table set amongst many other tables at school; from the flurry of social media sites which aggressively bombard them with so much unnecessary information in this crazy, fast-pace and selfish global community.
What I have come to know is that my children are dealing with a very different existence to my own. We may live in the same time frame but we live in parallel worlds. I am fortunate enough not to be directly exposed to elements of society which are less understanding of the differences that exist between people and the fact that humanity is not one homogenous block. Admittedly, my lifestyle is more sheltered these days and it has protected me from encounters I’d rather not have. My kids – less so. They are still very much obliged to engage with people around them in a more direct manner.
Alhamdulillah, I believe I have raised my sons to be confident of who they are. The obligation to explain to others why they subscribe to certain belief systems is one they know they never need to worry about. That being said, when living and interacting as a minority member in a wider social group or community, that self-confidence can sometimes wane. It’s not that they have doubts about why they believe in the things they do, but it’s exhausting to simply exist whilst having fingers being pointed at you all the time. I am very deliberate in saying that my sons know they don’t need to ‘prove’ or ‘explain’ themselves to anyone. That’s because they – and I – know their beliefs are rooted in Islamic teachings, Alhamdulillah. There is nothing to justify about that.
All the above makes it seem that I have raised my sons to be an arrogant bunch. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. That’s because when a person has lived a life as a minority member in a wider society (such as we have), be it in terms of religion, race, ethnicity or culture, arrogance is a characteristic which is knocked on the head right from the start. Rather, I have taught my sons that humanity is made of composite parts. It’s about being respectful of others, even through our disagreements with them. This makes for a truly functioning society. I just wish the rest of society would reciprocate that understanding. But I know that’s a lofty ideal.
Today, watching my sons contend with so many unprecedented scenarios in their social settings, I don’t envy the world they occupy. At their age, I was dealing mainly with racism in the public domain and cultural hangups in the personal domain. Young people now are having to deal with that and so much more. There is a torrent of issues they face from Islamophobia, gender issues, sexuality and the list goes on. It’s not that those issues didn’t exist when I was young. They did. However, the political stage nowadays where all these things are played out is much more potent.
It’s at these times that I can’t even pretend that being a mother gives me the tools to help my sons navigate their way through this battlefield. My experiences will never mirror theirs. The world I grew up in is not the same one they live in. I can only promise to be here, if Allah wills, should my sons need to offload. I can reassure them that all the abrasive encounters they have had and will have, should only make their resolve in turning to Allah for guidance, comfort and answers, stronger. My job is to point them in that direction, inshaAllah. Somewhere on that shared path, they will probably find me up ahead having had a head start.