Oh. My. Gawd, you are such an uncool Dad! Why can’t you, like, be like other Dads? Exclaims my twelve-year-old daughter Maaha Zainab once more, rolling eyes to the heavens. I have heard her use this expression several times now, consequence of middle school peer influence obviously, but it never fails to irk me to temporary insanity. I immediately recall when I was her age; this behavior would have been rewarded by a tight smack across the cheek, at least. This utterance and accompanying expression has taken over her waking hours. I am beginning to wonder how ‘cool’ dads look or act.
Teenage girls can be your greatest joys and a royal pain in your behind. Well, at least Maaha Zainab is, for me. I now really wish she had stayed the cutest ever toddler all her life, never mind the milky barfs on my freshly donned clothes at regular intervals. I realize new generations have always been different, with the older ones complaining Aaj kaal na baacha, uuuf! This lot however, anyone with teenage kids must concur, are a handful. It’s a struggle, yaar, on every subject I am to care of a child, from salaat, acceptable Islamic behavior, acceptable attire, to friends, peer pressure, homework...it’s endless. Why, this can make a grown up shed tears of uwazeemu.
Take this kid I am trying to befriend at HIC the other day. I sit outside waiting for the program to begin. A nice kid, about ten or eleven sits next to me, glued to a cell phone, playing some sort of a game.
Sallam aleykum, I say.
There is no response, except his fingers move at frightening speed, chasing some sort of a monster on the screen.
Sallam aleykum, I try again.
Uh...salaam, sallam, he responds irritably, but alas, loses concentration and the screen monster zaps his prize. He looks at me accusingly for a flashing moment before folding arms and hugging himself in defeat, a glum scowl on his developing face.
Lost the game, eh? I say in sympathy. You can try again. Don’t look so sad, it can’t be so bad.
That was so wicked, I almost got to the next level. You distracted me! That was soooo wicked.
I feel terrible. I am so sorry, I apologize promptly.
No, says he, the game is so wicked...
If the game is so wicked, why play it? I am sure there are other games not so wicked?
The kid turns his face to me with a look of incredulity on his face. His eyes, lake Maaha Zainab’s, roll up to the heavens; he giggles.
No dude, sorry, I mean Uncle, he says, the game is wicked, get it? As in good? The game is soooo good, it’s wicked! Hahaha.
I feel my face color, in embarrassment and ire. First, I am very allergic to people calling me uncle, even ten year olds. Second he has just made me feel even more out of touch with the new crop of kids on the block. It is my turn to fold arms and sit with a glum cross look on my face. The boy gets company his age and moves away to try the next level of his wicked game.
I return home determined in educating myself on current age teenagers and their lingos and mannerisms, perhaps. Google takes me to an Ustad Nauman Ali Khan, a brilliant speaker on the subject of teenage upbringing on Young Muslims website. The Ustad points to the example from the Glorious Quraan of excellent relationship between Prophets Yaqoob (A) and his son Yusuf (A). Fine, but it is an example of infallibles; what about a poor mortal like me? Well, be friends, says the Ustad, make your teenager your friend, talk to her, take interest in her school activities, know her friends, find out what makes her tick... Hmmm, make my daughter into a friend? I have seen the relationships between ‘progressive’ parents and their children of recent era; I am not impressed. Or amused, either.
I can only empathize with the balancing act my widowed Mama must have walked during my teenage era, not that I could ever think of rolling my eyes or calling her ‘uncool’; my elder siblings and madressa teachers ensured an iron clad respect to not only parents, but anybody elder to me. But outside influence and an unruly nature did play a role in giving Mama heart palpitations, be it peer or Bollywood pressure.
Especially in the choice of clothes; I have a constant tussle with Maaha Zainab about the appropriate tightness of her jeans, one that can justify an acceptable Muslim dress code. She always backs away and complies with my wishes, bless her, but not before something like this:
Oh. My. Gawd! Papa! This is nothing! You will not believe jeans others girls in my school wear! You’d freak out!
I know, I say. I see them every day when I drop and pick you. Yes, I do want to freak out. But you are a Muslima, you must dress modestly, we all must don modest clothes.
I get an eye roll to the heavens, a resigned sigh and a barb for this. Yeah, you by wearing shorts all summer long...
I think I will struggle as my Mama did with me, balancing the need for my daughter to flourish as a Muslimah. In this new age of eye rolls and O. My. Gawds. And strive to be a ‘cooler’ parent.