Falling in love with parents as they grow younger

We live in a society full of scripted relationships, with clear expectations on how we should interact with each other

M Bilal Lakhani April 20, 2016
The writer is the recipient of the James A Wechsler Award for International Reporting and a graduate of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. He tweets @Mbilallakhani

“Iinjured my shoulder while riding a roller coaster,” my mother shared on the phone, as I scrambled to understand why she was in pain. “There was a jerk during our ride and I got injured,” she told the doctor, who I believe had never treated a woman in her 50s for injuries on a roller coaster. “What did you do after the ride?” he asked. “I took a few more rides,” she shared, with the guilty innocence of a young girl who was in trouble for getting into a fight on a school playground. It’s funny how life always becomes a full circle. There comes a time in everyone’s life when their parents turn into children. It’s an unnerving but beautiful time to discover new sides to your parents, which were invisible before.

We live in a society full of scripted familial relationships, with clear expectations on how we should interact with one another. Take the elder brother keeping a check on younger sister cliche. Similarly, parents and children in Pakistan have a certain set of scripts to follow in terms of moral policing, discipline and mutual respect. Relationships with parents mature eventually but children still look up to their parents as people who can do no wrong. It’s interesting how we’re never able to see our parents as individuals independent of their relationship to us, until much later in our lives. This is where the magic begins to happen. This is where we begin to see our parents for who they are, rather than the value society assumes onto this relationship at various phases of our life. To borrow an analogy from romantic relationships, this is the moment when an arranged marriage transforms into a love marriage. It’s the moment we fall in love with our parents not because of what they’ve done for us but simply because of how cool they are when you get to know them without our childhood biases.

As parents grow older, they become the most uncensored version of themselves. We learn things about them which we may have known but unable to fully appreciate till we grow older ourselves. For example, my father, like many Pakistani fathers, dedicated his whole life to his family. Sacrificing his health, happiness, time and wealth to see his children and wife flourish. This seemed very ordinary while I was growing up but now, that it’s time to make a fraction of similar sacrifices in my life, I finally understand how genuinely extraordinary it is for a man to fully spend his life bringing joy to his family. Millennials, like us, want to change the world. For our parents, their children were their world.

Our sense of humour also improves with age. My dadi, who has a flair for the dramatic, is a case in point. Coming from a memon household, my dadi has somehow managed to amass a treasure trove solitary tissue papers and tooth picks in her cupboard, which would otherwise go to waste, unless rescued and protected by her. A few years back, when she wasn’t feeling well and was hospitalised, my taya and I were sitting by her hospital bed whispering the doctor’s comments so that she wouldn’t wake up. Next, a scene out of a Zee TV drama transpired. My dadi suddenly woke up and said you guys are talking to each other about money (inheritance) aren’t you. “Yes,” I replied. “We’re deciding which one of us gets to keep the tooth picks and who gets the tissue papers.” All of us started laughing, despite the grimness of a night in the hospital. No matter how much pain your parents (or grandparents) might be in personally, all they want to see are their children smiling and happy.

In many ways, the more we learn about our parents as they begin to rediscover their childhood, the more we learn about the men and women we will become. If we become half the parents they were to us, we will live a life worth living.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 21st,  2016.

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