By Osman Zuberi, University of Michigan
‘Well we missed the flight, rearranging, if it works we will let you know. Love you!’ -12:32
That’s a text I received from my Dad the day before my birthday. My parents had planned to come visit me to celebrate my 21st, but missed their flight leaving from Detroit. Two days and 13 hours of travelling later, they finally touched down in Barcelona.
I think you can never appreciate everything that your parents do for you. I’ve been blessed with two amazing people who care about and love me very much, and I consider myself one of the luckiest people in the world simply for this fact. After their recent visit, I realized just how much I had missed them. Aside from every college student’s dream of free food, I missed spending time with them and was excited to show them a city I love so much.
After they left and I was back on my own, I felt something different than I usually did when they visited me at school. I couldn’t quite place it, but different thoughts kept ruminating in my mind. Maybe it’s because I’ve been away from home for so long. Or maybe it’s because everyone in Barcelona seems to be pushing around a stroller or watching their child explore the city parks. Whatever it was, the thought of my parents stayed on my mind long after they had left.
This whole semester, I’ve been thinking about parents a lot more. I think few people get to see a parent in action that isn’t theirs in some way. I’ve been lucky enough to live with a host family these past few months, and with their welcoming me into their family, I’ve also been able to see how other people interact with their kids. In Barcelona I live with a host mom and her two kids, one who’s 18 and the other who’s 13. Every night at dinner I can see how much love she has for her children, and also for me. It all comes down to the little things too. The way that she serves me first, then her two kids, then finally herself once we all sit down to eat. This all comes after making a meal from scratch every night for us from fresh groceries that she buys every Saturday. After seeing her do these things for her children, I think I was awoken to all of the little things that my parents do for me. Call it ignorance or routine, so many things my parents do for me are just ‘normal’. I was raised with their love and their care for me, so I never expected anything different. By seeing someone else do the same for their children, and for me, I was finally able to see it from a different perspective.
Watching who was at first a complete stranger do all of these things for her children; I could see the relationship of a parent and their child in a completely objective way. So many times I asked myself would any normal person do this for one of their friends? Of course we love our friends and are generous with them, but not to the extent of what a parent does for their child. Seeing her repeated actions of generosity for her children even when they were in a bad mood or even outright angry at her really changed the way I think of my relationship with my parents. I can remember all of the times when I was furious with them and they were exasperated with me yet they still fed me, clothed me, and made sure I went to bed with a roof over my head among countless other things.
What is even more amazing to me is that no matter where you go, parents go to extraordinary lengths to provide for their children. Every parent doesn’t face the same challenges, but every parent wants the same thing; a better life for their children than the one they had. This simple desire manifests itself into all of the little things that parents do for their kids. Giving them the last helping of food instead of taking it for themselves, buying them the special bike that they wanted for so long. Or, like in my case, leaving everything they knew and moving to America in hopes of better opportunities. I think as children we tend to forget that our parents were once like us. They too had dreams for the future, wondered what kind of life they would be living, and who they’d be sharing their lives with. I think we also tend to forget that setbacks happen to everyone, and not just us. No one lives a perfect life and everyone needs to make sacrifices for those they love; most often this translates to our parents sacrificing for our betterment.
The biggest surprise I’ve had since I’ve come to Spain has been the realization that humans are the same no matter where you go. Sure they may speak different languages and have different customs and traditions, but in the end they all want similar things. All parents want their children to be successful, and all children, hopefully sooner than me, realize there is no way for them to repay their parents for all they have done and continue to do for them.
Coming abroad has been an amazing experience for me in countless ways, most often because I never knew what to expect. However, I think the biggest surprise of all to me was by flying 3000 miles away from my parents, I grew even closer to them. I began to realize how much they did and continue to do for me. As I come closer to ending my time abroad, I realized time goes by a lot quicker than you think it will. I remember flying in to Barcelona as if it was yesterday. Time is a scary thing, and as much as we hate to think about it, everyone’s time is limited. So call your parents. Tell them you love them. Ask them how their day was, and actually listen. Cherish the time you have left with the people who love you the most in this world. They deserve to know how much they mean to you.