If there’s one thing we all have in common it’s that we all experience times when we just don’t get our parents.
From dad jokes that are way more ‘dad’ than jokes, to extremely different opinions on our career paths; the differences can be frustrating, amusing and every emoji in between.
No matter your religion, race, creed or whether you call it soccer or football; making sense of your parents is something we all share. Parental cringe doesn’t discriminate.
To unpack this universally known and rarely discussed topic, we sat down with Ramis Ansari and Ejaz Ansari, and Omar Soufi-Sabbagh and Hanadi Soufi-Sabbagh from Rapt’s latest ‘Never Have I Ever’ video series to get their thoughts and hear their stories on how to make sense of your Mum and Dad.
Father and son, Ejaz and Ramis
Ramis Ansari is 23 years old and a full-time Accountant. All other times, he is a TikTok and Youtube superstar. For this interview, he was joined by his proud Muslim father, Ejaz Ansari.
Rapt!: Ejaz, your son is an accountant by trade. Is that a career you encouraged Ramis to pursue?
Ejaz: Hmmm, no I left him alone. Even from the beginning, when I wanted him to play cricket, but he wanted to play rugby league, which I knew nothing about, I always supported his decisions. I don’t want to tell him or push him, it’s totally up to him you know? That’s what my father did for me, so I did the same for him.
Rapt!: Would you say this open approach is common or rare amongst fathers of your generation?
Ejaz: Rare I think. Most of my friends are very strict with their kids. Do this, learn this degree. But there are a few who are very open.
Rapt!: Ramis, do you think you’ll have the same approach when you have children?
Ramis: Yes. I feel there’s a lot I can take from both my Mum and my Dad that will help me raise a child. They’ve given me a lot of freedom and since day one have set the boundaries, so that makes it easier to do what you want to do in the correct framework.
While my decision to become an accountant may come as a surprise, it was my choice. I wanted to study it to learn more about business, and I was always good with numbers.
Rapt!: Growing up, how did you deal with your parents’ expectations for you?
Ramis: Well, it wasn’t that hard actually…
Ejaz: Yeah, there’s wasn’t any expectations (laughing)
Ramis: Yeah they didn’t expect anything (laughing).
Ejaz: Put it this way, he always performed well. If you expect too much, you’re always going to be let down, but if you expect very little then you will always be happily surprised.
Rapt!: Even so, we are all capable of letting our parents down. Have you ever felt like you’ve let them down? And if so, how did you deal with that?
Ramis: Well towards the later years of high school, I sometimes felt that I was letting them down by my character. I was in a bad phase where I wasn’t as good as I should have been. I was going out a lot more and hanging around a bad crowd. But that never changed who I was fundamentally, I dealt with peer pressure pretty well.
In your teen years, you can sometimes let your parents down, but now, we’re all so open and transparent. When we do hit our struggles the family is there to help out.
Rapt!: Sounds like you have a strong character then. Do you credit your character and upbringing to your father?
Ramis: Yeah 100%.There have never been certain rules set for me. He never said ‘Don’t do this’ it was always more ‘Here’s why you shouldn’t do this’. For example, in our religion drinking is wrong, but my father never said ‘Don’t drink’ it’s always been ‘This is why we don’t drink, you get intoxicated, you lose your mind and make bad decisions…’
Rapt!: Speaking of religion, how does being a Muslim in Australia 2020 differ from 30 years ago? Have you seen any big changes?
Ejaz: The biggest change I’ve seen is that we can practice more freely compared to about 20 to 15 years ago. Especially after 9/11, Muslims everywhere went through a tough time. Back then, there was that famous saying ‘every terrorist is a Muslim, but not every Muslim is a terrorist’. But now people are very understanding. Even a few of my non-Muslim Australian friends read the Quran, people know more about Islam and that it is not a religion that promotes hate. There is no religion in the world that does that. Especially Islam, it’s all about creating a good environment.
Rapt!: What about you, Ramis? Have you noticed any changes in the last 5 or 10 years?
Ramis: I feel like I’ve grown more into and appreciate our religion. Back in the day, growing up through the teen years, it did have a bad image. It felt bad to pray in public. But now, as my father said, people look into it more. And that’s the same with all other religions, people are more accepting.
Rapt!: Do you think the internet has helped with that?
Ramis: For sure. Back in the day, the only way to get your information was through mainstream media and news channels. Now that social media is in play, you get a lot more raw and authentic information. There is still negative information out there but positives far out way the negative.
Rapt!: Is there a big technology gap between both of you?
Ejaz: Well, I’m only on Facebook and Whatsapp. Twenty years ago, you didn’t have mobile phones or any social media, so that’s enough for me.
Ramis: Yeah, I’m on all social platforms. But I don’t think there is really a gap between me and my Dad because he’s still very much involved in technology. Using it for business and this and that. There is only the odd occasion when I need to help him add a formula in Excel.
Rapt!: I’m sure he returns the favour and gives you advice from time to time, what’s the best advice your Dad has ever given you?
Ramis: Dad always told me to work for what you want and never give up on it. I’ve seen him work incredibly hard for all his businesses and the success he’s had. That’s why I work hard with all my social stuff, sometimes I work seven days a week or cut hours from my sleep editing content. That’s probably the best advice he’s given me.
Rapt!: One last question. Don’t get embarrassed because he’s sitting right next to you, but what’s the best thing about your parents?
Ramis: They are such “cool” parents (laughs). No, but seriously, both Mum and Dad are great. There’s always banter around the house… we always joke.
Mother and Son, Omar and Hanadi
Omar Soufi-Sabbagh is a 29-year-old software engineer and Youtuber from Melbourne. He was joined by his mother, Hanadi Soufi-Sabbagh for this interview.
Rapt!: Omar and Hanadi, thank you so much for sitting down with us today. How do you think growing up Muslim in 2020 is different from when you first arrived here from Lebanon?
Hanadi: When I first came to Australia I didn’t feel comfortable wearing my scarf. I didn’t feel comfortable being identified as a Muslim.
When I did finally build up the confidence to wear it [my scarf], everything changed… I copped a lot of stares and I felt like I was being judged all the time. It was really tough … I cried a lot.
What I realised, is that the majority of people wanted to help me. They told me not to worry and gave me the confidence to live (as I am), and now I’m happy. If I wear an abaya I’m happy. I have regained my Muslim identity.
Rapt!: How about you Omar?
Omar: I think right now, in 2020, it’s easier because of the efforts of the previous generation. If you think about when my Dad first came to Australia, there were no mosques, no Halal food, there was pretty much nothing. Those before us put in a lot of effort. So for my generation, we have that privilege. We can all go to a mosque or restaurant and enjoy Halal food. The challenge for the community now is understanding our identity. What does it mean to be an Australian-Muslim, how do we fit into society? Once we’ve worked through this, the next generation will have their own challenges they will need to work through.
Rapt!: Speaking about generations and challenges, is there a technology gap between you and your Mum?
Omar: It’s not so much using it, I think the biggest gap is simply understanding what the technology is. For Facebook, it’s simply a tool I can post stuff on and connect with people. For older generations, I think they see it as something more. For instance, when someone tries to argue with me, I know they’re probably just doing it because they like to fight online. Whereas older people may take it more personally and feel like they’re in an argument. But my Mum is on Instagram and Facebook, she’s added me on everything, so that’s great.
Hanadi: Yes, Omar teaches me of course. There’s still a lot more to learn. But for me, I know what I want. Facebook, Instagram, Viber, it’s helped me stay connected with a lot of people.
Rapt!: As a parent, why do you think the three professions of doctor, lawyer or engineer are encouraged more?
Hanadi: It’s not really about money or the exact career. The study and education that comes with those professions will set you up for life. It will make you much more knowledgeable. I’m very proud of all of my kids regardless of what profession they have.
Rapt!: Hanadi, along with being good with numbers and wanting to be an engineer, Omar was interested in being an actor. If you had known that was something he wanted to do, would you have supported him?
Hanadi: For me, I would have pushed him to do something for himself first, then later on, he could do whatever he wanted to do. I believe life is hard, so sometimes you can’t always do what you want to do. Build something for yourself first, then you can do whatever you want. That’s why I pushed him to study.
Omar: It’s about cementing your fallback, then you can do whatever.
Hanadi: Yes, exactly. There’s a lot of people that do that.
Rapt!: Why do you think your Mum had such high expectations for you?
Omar: It’s about having a good future. We didn’t grow up with much. We didn’t know it, but there was a lot of financial hardship. I think pushing me to study engineering was a way for my Mum to ensure I didn’t have the same struggles.
Rapt!: So your Mum went through hardship and has done so much to give you a very different life. Did you ever feel like you’ve let your Mum down, or you weren’t grateful?
Omar: I probably wasn’t grateful in my younger years. I may have taken a lot for granted. Letting her down, not so much. It was only when I wasn’t getting the marks I needed for my education.
Rapt!: How did you deal with that? Did you withdraw or did you open up?
Omar: Yeah, I withdrew and burdened myself with it…
Rapt!: Every family goes through a little conflict at some point. Do you think that conflict can sometimes help build and strengthen your relationships?
Hanadi: Not talking about my son specifically, but if we thought or did things exactly the same then it’s going to be a boring life. No two people are the same. We have differences of opinion over generations. So it is healthy for us to have some arguments… What about you, Omar?
Omar: When you grow up, your parents are generally superheroes and perfect. Our rifts started when I hit 18, 19 when I was trying to define myself. Around that age, you begin to see your parents as normal people just trying to do their best. For me, it was a very defining moment and helped me understand who I was. When we butted heads, that’s when we started to understand each other’s boundaries and no longer saw parents as dictators and really discovered our relationship.
Rapt!: What do you think the best thing is about your parents?
Omar: My Mum’s life has been all about us. She’s taken care of all of us so much. Even though we went through some financial hardships, we were always sheltered from the realities. For my Dad, he has a very big heart. He jokes around a lot, it’s something that’s influenced me as a person now. When I meet someone and begin to enjoy their company, I tend to tease a lot more and joke around, it’s how I show affection, which I totally get from my Dad.
To Rapt! things up…
We often think we are world’s apart from our parents and that our situation is unique to us. However, you can see that there are so many similarities between family members even when they’re from different generations.
Your parents may be more or less strict but what they think they’re doing is looking out for your best interests – if that’s something that doesn’t align with your own goals – talk to your parents about it.
Check out more from our featured life commentators in our ‘Never Have I Ever’ video series to see what happens when different generations come together over things that they’ve never admitted to and how that can bring people closer together.
This article was part of our Never Have I Ever series. Check out our other interview featuring Instagram boss, Tasnim Alam here.
Mastered the relationship with your parents? Dive into our A+ advice on what makes a mate here.