Parents aren’t perfect but they certainly try their best. For some parents, their best is the reason we’re privileged enough to be at UCT.
I recently plunged myself into a moment of deep introspection after watching a surprisingly profound YouTube clip from the talk show The Real. One of the celebrity panelists, Jeannie Mai, shared that her biggest fear was ‘not being able to provide for her family.’
She recounted some of the sacrifices her father had made in order for her family to live a comfortable life. Each week her father would bring home fast food chicken. He wouldn’t eat any of it, claiming that he’d already eaten lunch and would allow his wife and children to eat as much as they wanted. One night, Jeannie saw her father digging through the garbage in the kitchen, searching for leftovers he could eat.
Sadly, Jeannie’s story is not a unique one. We live in a world where millions of parents have to make profound sacrifices for the well-being of their children.
In fact, it’s not the most epic tale, but I’d love to share a bit about the sacrifices my parents have made for me.
When I was three years old, my mother began working as a nurse in Saudi Arabia. Nurses weren’t (and still aren’t) paid the best of salaries in the nineties and my mother wanted the best for my brother, sister and I. My father agreed with her decision and took on the role of both mother and father and raised my siblings and I while she was away. I won’t share much more about my father, he’s a private man.
My mom frequently wrote letters, called home and sent gifts, so it never felt like she was miles away. My mother stopped working abroad in 2014, but during her employment there she came home once every 5 – 6 months.
Only recently has she been honest enough to tell me how lonely and unhappy she was. She would always share stories about how difficult it was to live in a strict nation like Saudi Arabia and she would often tell us about some of her female colleagues who were detained or put to death for offences they had committed (often unwittingly).
The fear of losing her was always present. It grew intensely post 9/11 and the onset of the war on terror. In my mind, the Middle East was one giant country and my mother lived in it, so if a bomb exploded in Iraq, my mother was a potential victim even if she lived in Riyadh (excuse my logic, I was only seven).
My parents aren’t perfect, but they certainly did their best, and their best was good enough. We never lacked anything. We went to good schools, we always had someone to take care of us and through it all their marriage has survived. I’m eternally grateful for their sacrifices and oftentimes I wonder how I’ll ever be able to pay them back.
For some of us, the term parent is awarded to an aunt, uncle, grandmother, cousin or even a brother or sister. My definition is that it’s any person who raises you and invests in your well-being. For them to have stepped up to care for you, when others couldn’t, is a sacrifice on its own.
If you’ve never taken a minute to think about the sacrifices your parents have made for you, now’s the time. Better yet, how about saying a big THANK YOU to them, they’ll certainly appreciate it.