It’s a terrible world to raise the kids in, but it’s always been this way.
When I went online today, the first things I read were about teenagers killing one another, trees being cut, shootings, bombings and all kinds of tragedies and I felt my shoulders tightening. Then I was informed that my husband Hum’s flight back home had inexplicably been diverted back. Then the kids refused to each lunch because ‘Baba is coming at lunchtime! Where is Baba? When will he come? When? When? When?’ I had to bite my lip to keep myself from lashing out “Argh! Right now, can you, will you, No! Stop! And just eat!!”
I think the next hour was spent checking the airline obsessively for updates to calm the drumming in my head, preparing for the worst, wondering how I would survive if someone told me the plane had been hijacked. I thought “Is all this happening right now? Are we really living this brutal life?” Worried and exhausted, I wondered if this is what Emery Austin meant when she said “Some days there won’t be a song in your heart. Sing anyway?”
Although technically, I am on ‘holiday’, visiting my parents, I have found it very difficult to relax. I want to try to focus on all the positive stuff but my zen seems to have become a victim of all the suffering, political drama, media consumption and the discordant jangle of all the different noises around me and I want to yell over the din. I do want to know about all the tragedies, all the senseless losses, all the convoluted politics of this country but I also really don’t. I want to understand but I cannot understand. I want everything to be alright. I also just want my kids to eat their lunch!
When things like Hamza Ahmed’s murder happen, a common refrain can be heard amongst young mothers that we are bringing our kids up in a terrible and terrifying world. It is worse and harder than ever before and no place to raise a good child. Perhaps the thing to remember is that every parent in the history of parenting has probably raised their children in a bad world. There has always been hate, hurt, fear and evil in this world and we have to embrace that — because this is just the bittersweet symphony of life. This is what it feels like to have children and raise them in a troubled country and to love that country too. We must remember that for every child who did something wrong, there are a million others who did not. Whether we are Hamza’s parents, or Shoaib’s parents or anyone else’s, we are all in this together; we are all trying to raise good children who do the right things and eat lunch when they are told to do so. We are all just trying to sing anyway.
Pity is a waste of time and despair is a place best for very short visits only. Feel it, sit with it but then move away. Move to where the music is so that you can be part of the chorus. All this confusion, grief and terror is real but remember, so is beauty, love, laughter, kindness and hope and like Emily Dickinson said, “Hope is the thing with feathers, that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops at all.” Hope does not stop singing!
My Beta and Beti spent the rest of the day, enjoying the rain and eating ice cream on the steps outside. The sun was shining upon us again. Karachi sparkled and smelled in that delicious manner which only a good rain shower can provide. Baba’s flight had landed safely, Beta and Beti had finished their lunch and ice cream seemed like a good way to celebrate. (It is always a good idea to have ice cream.) Every few seconds, Beti would tap Beta on the shoulder and he would give her a spoonful of his ice-cream. Then a few seconds later, she would lean over and feed him a little from her own bowl. They went back and forth like so for a while, all the while chatting in their own special mix of English, Urdu and gibberish without any tears or fights or misunderstandings. It was magical! And I, after capturing it on camera, just stood there and relished it, thinking “Is this really happening right now? It this beautiful life happening?” I could hear the music again and my heart knew what to do next, what it should have been doing throughout: a little tappity tap, clappity clap, a whirl, a twirl and then it started singing.
Hiba Masood is a stay-at-home mother to four-year-old Beta and one-year-old Beti. Writing about parenting affords her time away from actually doing it
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Published in The Express Tribune, Ms T, May 5th, 2013.
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