Remember this

Najma Shamsi and Abbi
May 28, 2019

Mami Jaan was 16 years old when she was selected for the Girl Scout Roundup, from Pakistan, and invited to attend the international gathering in Denver, CO. “The whole family, all the elders, were against it,” she tells me, “the idea of a young girl from our kind of conservative family going all the way to America on her own, my grandparents were particularly upset.”

But Mami Jaan’s mother put her foot down, as she says, and announced to the family that she would go because it was a unique opportunity that she had earned on her own merit.

Just before she left for the U.S., her father pulled her aside and said, “I’m going to say one thing to you, and I want you to remember it.”

“When you are about to do something, and you say to yourself, ‘oh I can’t tell Ammi and Abbi about it, I have to hide this from them, then you know it’s wrong. If you can tell us what you did, or where you went, or what happened, then you know it’s ok.”

Mami Jaan says she has remembered this all her life; and she’s passed it on to her kids, and now to her grandkids.

She remembers very clearly telling her son Saad the same thing when he was 18 and heading off to the U.S. for college: “Saad, if you want to hide something from me, then it’s not right; if it’s ok that I know about it, then go ahead.”

Reflecting on my own kids and what they may or may not be telling me as they navigate early adulthood, I said to Mami Jaan this sounds like an awful lot of pressure, especially today as kids straddle such a stress-filled environment.

“It’s not going to stop you every time,” Mami Jaan concedes, “but if you have this at the back of your mind, it does make you think.”

Day 18 Wisdom 18: If you can’t tell us, don’t do it.

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