Family comes first

Published February 5, 2022

Daddy was visibly in a bad mood as he called Fariha and Azhar to the living room. His parents had invited him, his two siblings and their families to spend the Sunday with them. He had asked his wife to tell the children to be ready around noon. He was looking forward to the family get together and a day full of feasting, fun and relaxation.

Mummy came back with a disappointed expression on her face, because both the kids had refused to accompany them.

“May I know why you two don’t want to go to your grandparents’ house?” father asked in a cross tone. Their father was a very gentle person who was rarely angry and, sensing that he was cross, Fariha lost the confidence with which she had said no to mummy.

She replied in a meek voice, “Daddy, I have to complete my science assignment.”

“What do you say Azhar?” the father turned to his son.

“Daddy, all my friends are going to watch a movie. I want to enjoy an outing with them,” Azhar replied, sounding a bit nervous, although he was trying to appear brave.

“I will listen to none of your lame excuses. Fariha, instead of staying for hours on your cell phone last night, you should have completed your assignment. As for you Azhar, you knew very well that daada and daadi had invited us, so you shouldn’t have made a plan with your friends. Do you have an idea how disappointed they will be when they see only me and your mother? You can go out with your friends any other day. Go get ready both of you! I do not want to be late,” Daddy’s tone was so decisive that both the siblings scurried to their rooms to fresh up and change.

“Always remember that family comes first,” they heard their father’s retort as they were leaving.

Life without a family

Friends, we all know that it is impossible for a plant to grow without sunshine, soil and water. In the same way, we cannot survive in this world without our family. Our family is an inevitable and most important part of our existence.

Only our family members can fulfil our physical, social and emotional needs with their care, love and compassion.

School psychologist Lisa Weed’s beautiful quote about family touched my heart, “Being a family means you are a part of something very wonderful. It means you will love and be loved for the rest of your life.”

What is a family?

A family can be defined as a group of people who have an unbreakable bond of blood relationships. The nuclear family consists of a father, a mother and their children. Extended family widens its circle to include grandparents, aunts, uncles and sometimes some other relatives. In a joint family system, several married brothers share the same roof with their parents and children.

Above is only a verbal definition of a family, but in reality it is much more. Our family is the most important influence which shapes our life and personality. It provides us with security and unconditional love. It is a support in difficult times, a source of comfort in an uncertain world and a God gifted cushion which shields us from the ups and downs of life.

Lessons learnt as a family member

Only being an active member of a family teaches us important values of life — devotion, learning to share and care, character, honesty and sincerity. We take advice/inspiration from the elder members of our family in shaping our futures and choosing our careers.

“Families are the compass that guides us. They are the inspiration to reach great heights, and our comfort when we occasionally falter,” says American politician Brad Henry.

Our family is our social bank

Our family is our social bank, where we deposit our blissful and distressing moments, our achievements and worries. It is with our family that we save our experiences, both happy and sad. They are the ones who proudly celebrate our accomplishments and who move in quickly to hide our weakness in moments of failure. Later on in life, we draw courage, reassurance, solace and often a much-needed smile, from these treasured memories.

According to Friedrich Nietzsche, a German philosopher, “In family life, love is the oil that eases friction, the cement that binds closer together, and the music that brings harmony”.

Family comes first

Let’s now come to the main point of this article. I feel that with time and the huge influence of technology in our lives, our family bonds have taken a backseat. Though I would not say that we don’t love our family members as we should, slowly and without even knowing it, we have all started to live in a cocoon, where no other person has any significant importance anymore. Or, in better words, we prefer our lifeless gadgets to human company.

Covid-19 has also changed our lives to a great extent. Time and again we hear the phrase, “The new normal”, which is supposed to be a drastic change in our lifestyle. Online classes for school-going children and online work for parents or other working members of a family, have totally altered the day-to-day routine.

Although, life is limping back to normal, we still haven’t gone to our previous lifestyle. Parents, who had a control over the screen time of their children, feel helpless as the children have got more attached to their gadgets and have more legitimate reasons to use them.

Time to reflect

May I take the liberty to ask you all a few questions? Do you think our family lives are moving towards the right direction? When was the last time you had a heart-to-heart conversation with your siblings? When did you last sit together and play any indoor game?

Do you communicate properly with your parents, discuss your activities with them, and share your dreams and goals in life? Do you and other members of your family give importance to dinnertime, which, in my opinion, is the best part of the day when you bond with each other, discuss common topics, share a meal and make family plans? Do you like to accompany your parents to visit grandparents or opt to stay at home with your cell phone or tablets, browsing aimlessly or chitchatting with friends? How often do you call a grandparent, an uncle or aunt, without any special reason and just to make their day?

We all should ask ourselves these questions and also give honest replies to them.

Life moves on

Time does not wait for anyone or anything. At present, you may not value the time you spend (or do not spend) with your family, but before you know it, the time to move away will arrive. Like branches from the same tree, you all will grow in different directions.

You may shift to different cities or even country, yet your roots will always be the same. When you will look back on these days, you will cherish the happy family get togethers, the shared jokes, the outings together, or a family crisis in which you stood strong with each others’ support.

My young friends, I hope you all have got my point. Ours is a society where family has a great importance in our lives and comes above all other activities, entertainment and commitments. Give importance to your family members. Make eye contact when you talk to them and show interest in family discussions instead of just grunting “Huh”, “Hmnn” or “Yeah” while your eyes are glued to your cell phones. Have meals with them, read together, play games together and share common activities in your free time.

Keep the time you give to family activities on the top of your priority list! Believe me, the time you spend with your family is the most precious part of your day and much more fulfilling than the hours you spend on your laptops, cell phones or video games. You may feel that hanging out with friends is more enjoyable than sending time with parents, grandparents or your siblings. But you may not realise what you are missing out in life.

In a subtle manner, our elders transfer to our minds the wisdom they have acquired over the long years and the traditions the family’s foundations are based on. With our siblings, we learn the power of unity, support and healthy competition.

Like most religions, Islam values family ties as the most vital bond which shapes our lives. According to Islamic teachings, family is the foundation of human society, which provides a secure, healthy and nurturing environment for all its members. The best place to pass on and develop human virtues, such as love, kindness, cooperation, mercy and compassion, is in a family.

In a Hadith quoted in Sahih al-Bukhari, our Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) said, “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him uphold his family ties.”

Published in Dawn, Young World, February 5, 2022

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