Growing up with the Source
NO MATTER how complicated personalities are, we all begin the same way: Two cells that collide and fuse into one that develops over time to become self-sustaining.
Biologically, this is what we are. Who we are, however, is the product of a million external factors that shape our personality.
The only common source between our physical and personal structure is our parents. Defining what parents are is one of the most difficult tasks, not only because of their role and characteristics, but also because the view on this definition is subjective. The most remarkable impact our parents can have on us is their long-lasting influence, both direct and indirect, over our personalities.
Usually people have one or two parents … well, I had four. My parents got divorced when I was two years old and then I lived with my grandmother until I was 14.
When people first hear that my parents got divorced when I was really young, the first response I would get is pity or sympathy, which was really confusing for me when I was younger because I never wanted for anything, and the reason for that was in the form of my grandma, my Tita.
Now, to understand how my relationship with my Tita works, there are some facts that need to be mentioned. First, that I am the eldest grandchild. Second, that I was more like my late grandfather (her husband) than I was like my dad, and third that I was born the same year my grandfather died, which made me the perfect distraction from the family’s grief and also why I was named after him.
All these factors contribute to how special my relationship with my Tita is. My mum was a little too young to take care of me by herself and because her relationship with Tita was good, she was okay with Tita raising me.
Tita would always tell me that it was her destiny to spend her life with a Fouad, which I would have thought was kind of sweet in a way if I wasn’t such a rebellious kid. She was the reason why I would feel confused when people were sorry that my parents were divorced, because she made sure I didn’t lack for anything.
She modified my view on how parents were like and what makes someone a parent. I learned how to be calculative, to appreciate the value of slow steady progress rather than rapid unstable expansion, and to be very careful when it comes to important choices in life.
But most of all, I learned from my Tita that one of the greatest gifts a parent can offer a child is a stable and safe environment, the basis to enable any child to flourish and become what or who they were meant to be. She gave me an environment where I learned the blacks and whites of the world and in which my morals were formed on.
I think everybody has this fun uncle or crazy aunt that they can connect the most to, mostly because of their close proximity in ages. For me, however, that was my mum.
When I was younger, I stayed at my mum’s over the weekends. And it… was… AWESOME! I had Playstation, PC, snacks, junk food and, the cherry on top of that sundae, all my best friends lived in my mum’s neighborhood. Who could ask for more?
My mum was not cool in a normal mum way. She had street smarts, she would race on a highway with other cars, and her place was the go-to destination for her friends. When I had my first crush I asked my mum for advice, when my friends had problems with their parents they asked my mum for advice, when my older cousins or their friends needed help when they got arrested they called my mum… yeah, that’s right she’s a lawyer.
The most important thing my mum taught me was the balance between being ‘cool’ and being responsible. In her work life she is very professional, with her friends she is fun and outgoing, and in times of need she is the first one on the scene.
She would always tell me that it took her a lot of mistakes for her to be where she is and that the only way to not regret a mistake is to never repeat it. From her, I also learned that another great gift a parent can offer is the gift of experience, the shortcut to avoid or overcome mistakes.
While 30% of my personality can be traced back to my mum, 60% of it can be traced back to my dad. Genetically we are almost identical; we share the same features, the same personality traits and more often than not, the same way of thinking.
My dad fits the classic stereotype of doctors: smart, worldly and experienced, along with awful hand writing. Dad was abroad during my late childhood and teenage years, and even though we had a long distance father-son relationship, he was my hero.
Dad taught me that you can only see and understand what you know, and to avoid being limited and close-minded you have to expand your knowledge. I owe my scientific interest and my curiosity to how Dad adapted me, and through him I realise that another gift a parent can offer is the insight into passion. He is a lantern on the path of my destiny.
I mentioned I had four parents but I only mentioned three so far, the reason being that the fourth is the greatest parent I ever knew or rather a combination of all three.
My aunt (dad’s sister) has a percentage of my dad’s and Tita’s great qualities, making her the super mum.
From the ability to create a stable nurturing environment to fueling her kid’s passions with pep-talks, she was able to handle three kids on her own and turn them into well-adjusted teenagers. And I am glad I was the beta test, her first ‘experiment’ as a mum.
Observing her over the years made me realise that not only can a parent sacrifice an established career for her kids (she was a veterinarian), but also that a parent’s gift to their kids can be their own basic needs; comfort, energy and time.
The strength of parental influence
Granddad is my wizard of Oz, a being unseen but never truly gone. He is one of those parents that can leave such an impact that their influence can last throughout generations.
My Tita and dad always told me that I was more like my grandfather than my dad. He was a combination of interpersonal skills, genius and intelligence.
Just having his name and hearing the stories about him can put enough pressure on me to try to live up to the legend. Tita used to tell me about him before I went to sleep or when she was really happy or proud of me.
Just hearing about him and his influence over my dad and my aunt makes me realise how powerful parental influence can be. It’s not just a full time job, it’s a legacy.
Parenting is an impossible job with no guidelines, and no matter how many things parents do right or wrong, it’s their best. It’s natural to have problems and conflicts with parents; after all we are only human.
The important thing is to realise that there is no such thing as bad parents, just wrong mindsets.
Parents are there for a very important purpose, they can either serve as an example to aspire to or an example to learn from, either way it’s a win-win situation for you. The most remarkable quality that only a parent would possess is the need to run through any obstacle and be there for their kid in times of need, no matter how their relationship is.
I am grateful to have all four parents and I wouldn’t change anything about them, because if they were not who they are I wouldn’t be who I am today.
Fouad Alaa (also known as ‘Fox’) is a writer who brings fresh perspective to everyday life issues. A young Egyptian who has lived in several parts of the world, he now resides in Sarawak, Malaysia. With a medical background and a working knowledge of psychology, he plays therapist to his peers and aspires to be a world renowned surgeon.