GrowBaba spotlights provide a space for Muslim fathers to share their voice, reflections, and insights with our community.
We were crossing a busy Los Angeles street together. Half-way through the intersection, he held my hand and we calmly crossed the rest of the intersection. I was 38 and he was my father.
A few years have passed since then, yet that feeling never went away. Folks, I actually liked holding my father’s hand. The problem is that it bugged me that I liked it. It bugged me that it felt so strange. It bugged me even more that I was bugged by liking it.
With three boys of my own, this issue has been nagging at me for the past 18 years, since my firstborn. When each of my sons was a newborn, I savored how his entire tiny hand wrapped around my finger. When he was a toddler, we held hands as a matter of routine and safety so he wouldn’t wander off. When I was driving and he sat in his car seat, my arm reached back and his hand stretched forward… just enough to lock hands while I answered life’s most burning questions: “Why are garbage trucks green; why do clouds move; where does milk come from?”
When he was in grade school, we held hands as we approached his classroom. I held his hand and kissed his forehead when he had a fever. We held hands during movies, on boat rides, plane rides, and roller coasters.
Then it all stopped. Middle school hit and hand-holding was off limits. We had one summer overseas and took long walks. During those fleeting two weeks, I held hands with my then 10-year-old. We came back home to no more hand-holding.
Today, my youngest son (7) is home sick with a fever, and once again I held his hand as I kissed his forehead.
He is sick with a bug that shall pass.
Our society, however, is much sicker, with an illness that this father of three has had enough of. I am tired of being forced to give up the unfairly circumscribed joy of holding my son’s hand. We live in a society where males are not allowed to freely express normal, healthy feelings to any other male, much less our own sons, fathers and brothers.
I am not a child molester, nor a member of the man-boy-love-association, nor does the sensation of my son’s palm touching mine arouse anything more than pure and deep parental love. In a society that prides itself in tolerating and even protecting nearly every conceivable form of PDA, the disturbing extent of our paranoia and insecurity remains in the picture what we are NOT allowed to do or see: holding my son’s hand.
Folks, don’t you find it odd that no one would blink if I hugged a female coworker on her birthday but they would certainly do a double take if they were to see me with any one of my sons walking down the street, holding hands?
I want this society to know that non-sexual, honest male expressions of love have a wholesome place in our life. Our lives are actually out of balance without it. Stop the emotional repression. Get over the sexual insecurities. Stop teaching and taunting American males not to show love.
I’m not the sick one here, folks.
Thank you dear Baba, for holding my hand that day in downtown, and for awakening the fact that our wholesome and natural joy of holding hands is indeed NOT an affront to our masculinity nor an indicator of perversion nor a challenge to our sexual orientation.
To my dearest three boys: While I plead with our sick world for my right to hold your hand, please know that whether you see it or not, my hand is always stretched out for you. May God Most-Loving keep our hearts connected even when our hands cannot be.
Yaman Kahf migrated to the US as an infant with his parents. He is the second eldest of 7 siblings, growing up in Utah, Indiana, and New Jersey before settling in southern California with his wife and three boys. Yaman’s MSA days and bachelors are from Rutgers University, NJ. He holds an MBA and works in the field hospital patient financial services. Yaman is currently active with the MAS-GreaterLA chapter.