The Heretic’s Son!

My son, Mouhannad (14), is afraid of the 9th Grade exams: he’s afraid he won’t pass. Yet, his father is too busy courting “death by media,” among other means, to give him the attention he deserves.


Mouhannad is, in many ways, a typical product of the Syrian school system, a system based mainly on rote memorization with minimal interest in developing analytical skills. As a result, Mouhannad knows all the rules of Arabic and English grammar and all the rules of math, but, and no matter how many private tutors we assign, he does not know how to apply them. He simply does not know how to analyze. 

But Mouhannad is artistically gifted and as well as a great communicator, at least when he meets the “right” set of people. He can spend hours immersed in his drawings, and will be so completely engrossed as to be oblivious to the world around him. Here, he takes after his father.

He also enjoys chatting, especially with his Mom, his father is simply too busy chatting with strangers. But, recently, his Mom too began to get busy. A heretic’s curse is that he always manages to export his problems and worries to all around him, beginning with the people dearest to him, with his wife, son, daughter and mother.

It’s been a year now since the passing of my father, and I still cannot forget the vacant look in his eyes as he took his last breaths. Death is ugly, but my father remains beautiful in my eyes. How would I look to Mouhannad after I die, I wonder? – I, the forever absent father with the vacant look of otherworldly unfulfillable dreams in my eyes?

My Mouhannad is getting depressed as he enters in the final few weeks leading up to his exams. But last week, I gave more than thirteen interviews to journalists from around the world, and we just opened our new offices and are busy expanding our Tharwa Team. When am I going to have time to be there for him?

When am I going to have time to be there for me?

Mouhannad cried today. And I choked. I am sorry, son, but I am wasting our present so we can have a future, which is why we will most likely have neither.

But I will try to pull on the brakes, son. I will try to pull on the brakes. Can’t you see the skid-marks yet? Is there still time for us?