I often feel guilty when it comes to my kids. I know I don’t spend enough time with them. And when I am with them, I still feel that guilt because despite my initial spike of excitement at seeing them, I realize I don’t actually want to spend time with them. I prefer to sit on the couch and surf the web. I mean there is a lot of really important research that needs to be done. Should I get the Galaxy s3 or the iPhone? And, of course, I need to catch up with my friends on Facebook and see what they ate for dinner or how many of them are distraught over what is happening in Syria. Really important stuff!
My time with my kids looks like this:
Minute 1: Baaaaaaaaaaaba’s home!!
Minutes 2-4: Hugs, kisses, and 3 minutes of very fun playing.
Minutes 5-60: Changing and discussing something half-heartedly with my wife.
Hours 2-5: Eating, yelling at the children for fighting and disturbing my important research, checking my Blackberry, and pretending to listen to my wife.
Yes, by many standards, I’m a pretty crappy father. But, hey, I’m the provider, the hunter-gatherer. That’s what I’m meant to do. I bring home the turkey-bacon. Men are not here to entertain children and listen to their wives! At least that’s what I tell myself to feel better.
So this past New Year, I made a resolution: I will make a real effort to spend more quality time with my children.
This got me thinking about my role as a father. What does it mean to be a “good” dad? What is my job description? What am I actually accountable for?
Am I just supposed to make sure they are fed and are in the best schools? Or that they also memorize Quran and pray?
Logically, this led me to think about my wife’s role as well. I came to my own conclusion: the way I see it, the father is the visiting professor and the wife is the teacher’s assistant. I do some lecturing now and then, and she does all the real work. It’s clear that I can’t function in my role without her presence.
Back to my computer. This time I started doing some useful research. I read blogs, articles, and watched YouTube clips. I wanted to define fatherhood further, but wasn’t getting the answers I was looking for. Finally, I did what I should have done from the beginning, return to wisdom left from Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings upon him.
The Prophet described his role simply and elegantly: “I have been sent to perfect the character of all people.” Is this then not my job as a father?
I realized that although the other stuff is important, it isn’t the most important. It is like the person who insists on praying but backbites: they’ve missed the point.
It seems I have missed the point as well. My wife and I obsess over many things with regards to our children. Are they are drinking out of plastic bottles? Do they need to eat more kale, are they falling behind?
My role is not to entertain the kids, any more than my wife’s role is to dress them like Gap models. Our role is to help perfect our children’s character.
Now the hard part: in order to improve my children’s character, I need to fix my own. I can’t teach my child to pray with khushoo (serenity) when I’m running to pray in the last five minutes., or to be patient when I lose my own temper.
So what’s my role as a father? Quite simply, it’s the same as my role as a human being, and that is to be better.
The Quran says, He Who created Death and Life, that He may try which of you is best in deed (Chapter 67, V. 2)
This is my ultimate test; and my children, who are my mirrors, will show me in time if I’ve passed.
Abu Hamza is the professor of 3 aspiring Einstein’s. He enjoys research, web-surfing and above all just wants peace and quiet, if not in this life, then in the next.