On a dark night in a Baku, Azerbaijan, your father and I hailed a taxi. We were lucky. It took only two minutes for one to pass our way. Your father spoke in hurried Russian to get us to the hospital in time for your arrival. At 3:31 am, on February 13, 2002, you entered into the world with a head full of black hair. You were my first child – your father’s sixth – and the only one he ever saw come out of the womb. You emerged small but mighty. I can tell you that you have amazed and made me proud ever since.
You are eleven years old today! Eleven! You are no longer small but you remain mighty. I also remain amazed at this wonderful, smart, kind boy gifted to be my son.
Let me tell you a secret: there are many good things I have done, and perhaps a few awesome things I will one day do, but you are now and will forever be my greatest accomplishment. You are so confident, already brave enough at 11 years old be the only boy trying out for the city chorus at your school, comedic enough to order MacDonald’s ice cream in a thick Indian accent, and kind enough to help your opponent when he falls down on the pitch. I am in awe of how you can hold an inquisitive conversation with anyone – even an adult – without fear or hesitation. All I can say is that I wish I had displayed the same amount of confidence when I was your age. With you, I have made amends for all those years lost to the follies of my own low self-esteem. You inspire me.
I already know things about you that you have yet to realize. You are going to grow up being one of those smart yet weird kids. Just let it happen. I was one of those, as well. Your confidence and emotional intelligence will make some uncomfortable. This will occur for the rest of your life to some degree, and you will often find it confusing. Don’t let it get to you. I can also tell you that over the next few years, most likely until the end of high school, there will be many kids who won’t like you for reasons they won’t understand. Forget about it. Your real success will come when you are an adult and can make your own world.
I also know that your heart is like mine (and, I must admit, your father’s, for we are similar in this regard). You will not love many people in your life, but when you do, you will love deeply and completely. I know that when you experience heartache, and you will, that it will be profound. You will hurt at a degree deeper than some men, and unlike your male counterparts, you will probably express it. (You already do, like when you tell me, “Your words are hurting my inside parts!”).
I cannot prepare you for this pain, but I also know that the women you love (and I know it will be women because you’ve told me that you know that you aren’t gay. And I told you I’d love you even if you were) will be treated right. I am raising a kind boy who likes to cuddle and talk; one that isn’t afraid to take his mother’s hand in public, even at this age. I will warn you in advance that few women will meet my approval and be good enough for you, but we will deal with that later.
I stand amazed that you are comfortable enough to ask me how you will know you’ve had a wet dream! I wish there were men in your life to answer these questions, but I also value that you come to me with this and not your father. I love you for being able to communicate these things. I hope that you keep this uncensored authenticity with all the women in your life that you will love.
I suspect that puberty will do a temporary number on you. I’ve already told you that you will probably tell me at least once that you hate me. You have a hard time believing that you will, but trust me – it is almost a mandatory rite of passage for any teen. I forgive you in advance. I will also tell you that I don’t care how many piercings you may have, or what color your hair becomes, or what God awful music you will listen to — just please never become one of those who hate others because of skin color, religious beliefs or sexual orientation.
Somehow, I think I have nothing to worry about. You do not even label yourself as white, but as brown and all shades in between. This is one of my biggest gifts to you; I’ve raised a boy who is a global citizen with bloodlines and connections all over the world. Even at this young age, you do not see the world solely with white eyes. You understand that you emerged in-between cultures even if you don’t yet know how that may impact your life. I can tell you that you are the America and the Islam of the future, and I know you will honor that responsibility well.
Finally, I want to thank you for all that you’ve taught me in these eleven years. You helped me see my good parts. I also thank you for how much you love me. You are the only child I will ever have, and I could not have asked for a better one.