A co-worker of mine recently said goodbye to her 18 year old son for six months, as he went off to National Guard boot camp. While I know she is proud of him, I know it cannot be easy having your child leave home for the first time. My teenage son is only two years younger and while I don’t think he will be leaving home at 18, as his plans are to go to school and live at home, I still wonder what the world has in store for him. Less than two years, he will be an adult and I wonder if I taught him enough that he can survive the current cruel world we live in.
Times have changed. College is expensive. Jobs are hard to get. Young adults graduate with debt. There is more evil and hate in the world than ever before. And he really isn’t an all American kid. I raised an American Muslim child who sees the world more innocently than I do or ever did. I raised him to be tolerant in an environment that isn’t necessarily tolerant of differences. I raised him to be strong even though I was and continue to be a hovering mother. I taught him the importance of independence and I tell him every day never to rely on anyone while making sure his needs are met. Despite my examples, it scares me the type of world he is becoming an adult in, one where people associate faith with evil.
And I have learned a lot of from him as well. He reminds me to be kind even when there is cruelty. He tells me to forgive even when I have been terribly hurt. He is a big old teddy bear, hovering over me by at least six inches and he is getting taller. I have to look up to talk to him, and I don’t always see a child in front of me. I think being raised by a single mother makes a young man softer, kinder, smarter, and more accepting of the world. I pray that he has picked up on my strength, my willpower and determination. I know that he sees how hard I work to keep a roof over his and his brother’s heads, but I don’t know if he is prepared the real world – the one that is unfair, unkind, and sometimes intolerant.
What I do I want him to know as he ventures out there in the world? How do I prepare him? Do I just pray that the values I instilled in him help him to be the person he needs and wants to be? And how in the heck do I prepare him for the cruel world out there?
There are so many things I really hope he understands as he makes his way in adulthood. Maybe he already does or he doesn’t but I am trying my best to make sure he survives out there. Because from a mother’s perspective, the world sometimes seems like a zombie apocalypse.
Here are five things I hope he understands as he makes his way into the real world.
I Hope He Understands That There is Unfairness
This generation of children has been told that there are no losers and that we are all winners. The sad reality is that in real life there are losers and not everyone is a winner. And there is plenty of unfairness. People get their way in life because of who they are and what they are have, and sometimes, no matter how hard you work, it might not matter. It is just the way life is. Everyone experiences unfairness at some point. And bad things happen to all of us – things that make us feel that life is harsh and very unfair – death, divorce, breakups, illness, job loss, etc. Unfairness has no prejudice, as no one is spared. And it doesn’t mean you should give up trying. You grieve, grin and bear it and move forward.
I Hope He Understands That There is Evil in World
I read this line in an article somewhere: “Being Middle Eastern is the new being black.” It seems like it has been the case since the September 11, 2001 attacks on our country. A bunch of crazies professing they are Muslims (i.e. ISIS or Al-Qaeda or whomever) have decided they speak for all of Islam. And every time there is some act committed by a crazy Muslim, the entire faith has to apologize. Christianity doesn’t apologize for the KKK or crazies like Timothy McVeigh so why should all Muslims have to apologize for ISIS and the attack on an Orlando nightclub by some lunatic professing his allegiance to ISIS and some other radical group. Yea, there is evil out there and I have to have to explain to my children that these people are not Muslims. They are killing innocent people, including Muslims. I have to tell my teenage son to be careful out there anytime one of these so-called crazy Muslims commits some horrific act and that people will judge and be hateful and that scares me as a mother. It scares me that it will get worse before it gets better. And he is oblivious to all this right now and that scares me even more.
I Hope He Understands That There are Good People Out There Too
There are good and kind people in this world. They preach kindness and not hate. They won’t judge him because of his faith or because of his background. I want him to be one of those good people. I want to accept everyone despite their differences. I want him to help others less fortunate and stand with goodness and against cruelty. I want him to never look down at anyone unless he is helping them up.
I Hope He Understands that Not Everyone Will Like Him
The older I get the more I realize how important it is not to care what people think, even family. It took me 40 years and a lot of heartache to figure this one out and I hope he figures it out much quicker than I did. I hope he learns that it is okay to be different and that others don’t like him or his choices. He shouldn’t get worked up or feel hurt or try to change for anyone. He should be himself and do what makes him happy and that those that truly love him will accept him no matter what. I know I will.
I Hope He Understands That No One Owes Him Anything
Teenagers generally struggle with the idea that their parents and the world owe them. I guess it is a teenage thing and the sooner they outgrow this idea, the better. Although, some people never outgrow this. You have to work for what you want because no one will ever hand you anything on a silver platter. He has watched me work two jobs for at the last seven years trying to give him and his brother a good life. I don’t believe anyone owes me anything and I pray that my teenager learns from my example. And failure can also come with hard work and I hope that he understands that success does too. We just have to keep trying, be brave, take risks and put ourselves out there if we expect to get anything out of life.
As I said before, when it comes to my children, I often see the world as a zombie apocalypse. I can only protect them for so long before it is time for them to do that for themselves. I have pray that I am teaching them all the things and giving them all the tools to make it out there in the world. Because they will venture out whether I am ready or not.