Monday column: The roles we play

Opinion Sunday 31/March/2024 16:51 PM
By: Saleh Al-Shaibany
Monday column: The roles we play

We play many roles but few of us ever realise the importance of being a father, husband, or even a friend. We confuse duty and responsibility with parenthood or friendship.

We often say “it’s my duty to look after my children” without really understanding what we say.  Sometimes you need fate to slap your face to put things in their proper perspective. It happened to me many years ago when I had to send away my son to school for a year and I felt we needed to spend some time together.

That we did and as we walked home after a few hours of fun and games, he said something that he had never said before. Well, let me put that properly. It was not what he said but how he said it that made the difference.

“Dad,” he said, “Thank you for the good time.”

Perhaps it was the timing or even the guilt in me but I couldn’t trust myself to respond because I would have choked on my reply. There it hit me like a blow and where it really mattered. Tears stung my eyes and I had to walk with my face down - not in shame - but because of a sudden realisation that my son was growing up and he realised how precious a couple of hours of being with his father meant to him.

It shook me real badly, because up to that point, I hadn’t realised that spending time with my son meant so much to him. Believe me, it did shake me to the very roots.  It was also that slap that I needed to wake me up. Until then I had taken the role of a parent for granted fooling myself that just being there was enough. I think the question that went through my head was “Why should he thank me for something that was part of my duty as a father?”

I didn’t realise that I was using the cover of responsibility and duty when all my son wanted was for me to spend time with him doing something he enjoyed. He didn’t just need my mere physical presence but the whole package that goes with it. He needed to know that I cared enough to take some time off for him whenever I could. He didn’t thank me for where we went but for the fact that I had demonstrated that I could find it in me to give him my undivided attention.

It was a pity that it had to happen in a situation when he had to go away for some time. Maybe I thought it was my way of being apologetic for sending him away for a year. Whatever it was, now it’s not important. What is important is that I am glad it happened. I now have a clear picture of the role of a father and maybe other roles that I assume every day of my life.

As the clock ticks by and the day wears itself into the night and the night re-­energises itself to conjure up another day, we find that we can never take anything for granted. You are what you were before you went to bed.

And that is a parent, a son, a daughter, a friend and a host of other things.