Don’t take a break from your kids

I’m not going to deny it. Some days being a parent can feel like someone drilling a jackhammer into your skull. With no off switch.

But it is some days. There are those nice moments, too.

Often you won’t get a break from your kids. And, I say this with a big sigh, you really shouldn’t want one.

I don’t mean one of those 10-30 minute “me time” breaks. We all need those. And by need, I mean like a how fish needs water.

When I say break, I mean turning off the “parent” switch and being “you” again. Once you are a parent, and blessed with a little one, you are always a parent. You can switch gears, change the topic, enjoy a new hobby, but you will always be Mom. Or Dad. Or Mama. Or Baba. (Fill in with your name of choosing).

Should one really want to turn off the “parent” switch? Some might argue, but I was “me” first. I should be able to enjoy those simple things and hobbies without a diaper falling out of my purse or finding play-doh in my shoe.

Yes, I see your point. But once you had a child, this new duty fell into your lap and to embrace it with dignity is your responsibility. To complain and run from it, is really quite immature.

I know that for my kids I am the person (along with their father, of course) responsible for turning them into healthy, well adjusted adults. Do you really want to throw that away?

I see some parents who have to work and when they finally come home, they want nothing to do with their children. In essence they want a “break.” That’s fair enough.

But what about your kids? Isn’t it fair for them to want their mom or dad to play with them? To love them? To snuggle with them? To be there for them?

Instead of taking a break from our kids we need to start considering children our priority and putting our hobbies/work/leisure activities on break.

When tired moms and dads come home from work, each should give the other a 5-10 minute space to regroup before resuming parental duties. There should not be a “blame game” or “who worked the most hardest today?” competition.

These kids are ours and a gift from God. Today they are 2, tomorrow they will be 12 – do you really want to think back to their toddler years and only remember how you stuffed food down their throats so you could send them to bed so they could wake up early for daycare?

It might seem like you have no options, but there is almost always an option. It might take some sacrificing on your end, but there is always an option. It takes some real meditation and prayer but more than anything, it takes honesty. Be honest with yourself/your spouse and your family.

Yes, we have been ignoring each other. We have been ignoring the kids. We have been ignoring our home. To build a successful society we need to realize that our future generations are here ready to be groomed. Where are we? Why are we lost behind making money and making appearances?

The children we have are in the here and now. What they will become is how we raised them while they were young. How much attention we gave them, how much love we showed them, how much time we spent with them. I know I have been guilty of not slowing down for my children, but I realize now that if I don’t make it a priority, I will lose this time in an instant and regret it for the rest of my life.

Please take a moment and really think – what matters to me? What would I do if it was all gone?

Nothing beats Nano

Mothers are such a blessing. You never really think about it growing up, and you certainly don’t think about it when you are busy in your life. It’s sad, really, how sometimes we only think about our parents and how they raised us, when we become parents, or when we, unfortunately, lose them.

Through God’s mercy and love, my mom was recently able to come and visit me. We are really enjoying her company, and my kids, of course, are over the moon. My eldest, especially, is quite close to her Nano. While I worked (full time, and then part time) during the first two years of FZ’s life, my mom was the one who took care of her.

Once I moved away from home, away from the constant pop-ins, and caretaking… it really hit me how much my parents bring so many blessings into my life and home.

Where something simple as a “dropping by to see how you are” can be (at one time) taken as: “Again? I am really busy,” to “I really, really wish I could see my mom and dad. I miss them.”

I can safely say that moving away was the wake-up call I needed to appreciate my wonderful parents. Now I don’t take anything for granted. Every minute I can speak to them or see them (thank you FaceTime), I cherish it. I really, really miss those pop-ins and casual evenings.

Now that my mom is here, though, even my kids know Nano means business. She only has to say something once. And I am learning so much more about how to be a good mom. How to approach this issue differently with this kid, because she’s more sensitive. How to organize this part of my life so I am not so burdened. Plus, she takes them out on walks. My mom is the bomb.

Dear Allah, you are so truly merciful for giving me another chance to serve my mother, learn from her, and to have her presence in my home and with my kids. I cannot thank you enough for this opportunity. But I am so grateful.

Just a small bit of advice: Please, please don’t ignore your parents’ presence. If they are near you, you are blessed. Look at them with kindness, and you will be reap the benefits. Treat them with gentleness, and you will be rewarded. Sure, parents get old, it gets hard, but tuck a small reminder in the back of your mind of those days when you were just a small, ball of flesh and bones, and your parents did everything so you could live. Just think about their lives; they aren’t getting younger. Try to help them, ease their problems. You won’t regret it. 

 

Life lessons from Imam Hussain (as)

Far away from the turmoil in Yemen, the sectarian killings in Pakistan, and from the new questions arising in North America regarding Imam Hussain’s mission, I am trying to keep Imam Hussain and Karbala alive for my children.

It really bothers me when I read about youth in the West now raising questions about whether Imam Hussain “failed” or “succeeded.” Did it ever occur to those same youth that the only reason you are able to talk about him at all is because he succeeded.

But my children are young, and I try to teach them the basic life lessons that Imam Hussain taught us while fighting Yazeed and his army in Karbala 1,400 years ago.

  1. Importance of prayer – While Imam Hussain and his army were fighting, time came for the noon prayers. Imam and his followers asked for a break in fighting to pray to Allah. Yazeed’s army did not pay heed and continued fighting. A few of Imam’s comrades guarded him and the others while the rest prayed. No matter when the going got tough, Imam Hussain taught us that remembering to show Allah gratitude is of utmost importance.
  2. Importance of faith/Tawheed (oneness of Allah) – Imam Hussain taught us to do everything purely for the sake of Allah. His mission, his stand against Yazeed, his inviting others towards good deeds and telling them to refrain from bad deeds, his traveling to Karbala – it was for Allah and all to save Islam. For this faith, he and his companions were rewarded with shahadat.
  3. Loyalty – It is said that Imam Hussain had the best companions. There is hadith that he claimed “I have the best followers, even better than the ones my grandfather, the Holy Prophet, and my father, Imam Ali, had.” The night before Ashura Imam Hussain sat with his camp and told them that by coming this far and intending to fight with him they had already been assured Paradise. But since Yazeed’s army was really after him, they could leave now and save their lives. He blew out the lanterns so as to save anyone from embarrassment. But when the lanterns were lighted again, everyone remained.
  4. Sacrifice – In their own ways, each member of the camp of Imam Hussain (as), even the women and children, sacrificed something near and dear, with the understanding that this was all for a higher purpose. If not their lives, then their peace and comfort, children, were sacrificed to keep Islam alive.
  5. Standing up for what is right, no matter what – When Qasim, nephew of Imam Hussain (as), was asked how he saw shahadat, he replied “I find it sweeter than honey.” When Hazrat Zainab (sa) faced the enemies of Imam Hussain and was asked “What do you see in how Allah treated your brother and your family?” She replied: “I saw nothing but beauty.”

I don’t have to indulge my kids in the horrific details of the Battle of Karbala. Unfortunately most of the time we mostly dwell in these issues – how Imam Hussain was killed, how Imam Hussain’s brother Hazrat Abbas was slaughtered, how the enemies shot an arrow through the 6-month-old Ali Asghar’s neck, how the tents were burned after the battle, etc.

While it is important to know about these tragic details, I like to focus more on the lessons. I like to reiterate important concepts with my children, like the importance of living with dignity and not selling away our beliefs for material gain. Or the importance of sacrifice, be it small even. Learning how to live for the higher purpose. I want them to see how the actions of those in Karbala saved Islam.

In the end, I want my children to see the same beauty that Hazrat Zainab (sa) saw on that fateful day, and be confident in their beliefs.

 

Who wants a spoiled brat?

I admit I may have been late to the “doling out chores” game. 

You might wonder why. Do you actually enjoy doing all the work? 

No, I don’t. But I have a problem. And that problem is that I like my things done in a certain way. Kids, and my husband, don’t understand this (itty bitty) problem. 

So, I just have been folding, picking, cleaning, arranging… and now I can’t take it. 

While I may be late (my eldest is 8 now), at least I’m trying to right my wrong. And I feel bad because to tell you the truth, FZ has been begging to help me out in the kitchen and with dusting, etc. 

I complied and put on my patience pants (is that a thing?), and let her do small tasks and make the mistakes that come with learning, and it’s actually been a great experience. I’ve had to step back, let go of my crazy OCD tendencies, and let my daughter blossom into a helpful, hard-working child. And also I get to relax a bit now!

Was it so bad? What was I really worried about? 

I really have had to stop and take into account my priorities when it comes to parenting. Before it used to be good food and bedtime. But now that I look back, those things pale in comparison to what it really takes to raise well-balanced, emotionally healthy kids.

It takes parents who take time to understand the needs of their child/ren. Sure we all need food, water, and shelter, but that isn’t it. In my quest for the clean and organized home, I ignored my daughter’s need to grow up. 

It’s interesting how God has instilled these traits in our children. Just a year ago this girl had no interest in the kitchen or any chores, and now she’s happily dusting away.

And to think if I kept on I wouldn’t have just raised a girl who would lack proper housekeeping skills, more importantly I would have raised a spoiled brat who would think she was entitled to having everything done for her. 

Such a beautiful relationship this is between parent and child. Parenting really is about becoming the person we want our kids to be. 

Yes, one more lollipop does matter

We love visiting home for the summers. We love hanging out with grandparents, aunts/uncles, and cousins. But I’m not going to lie – the routines going upside down, soda up the wazoo and the spoiling makes me want to pull my hair out. 

What happened to 8 p.m. bedtime? What happened to no soda? What happened to limited screen time?

I think I’m pretty flexible when it comes to my kids. On vacation mode I let many things fly. Bedtimes are the first to go. I start mixing water in their sodas. You get the picture.

But there are a few red lines, and I think I’m not asking for a lot if I stand by a few rules. Like sweets before dinner. Or getting what you want after throwing a tantrum. No way.

I think some in my family might see me as a meanie while denying my child ice cream at dinner time, but to me it’s unacceptable to give in. It means my child is hungry and he/she needs food, not empty calories. 

And as parents I think we can’t always be strict, especially among extended family. We have to pick our battles. And I don’t mind letting elders spoil my kids, within limits. 

But I should be there to supervise and step in. I’d like to just hand over my duties so I get a vacation, too. But then I’d lose my title as Mama the Great. 

We’ve been entrusted with taking care of and raising a generation, and I’d hate to screw it up because I was lazy.

I like the power I have to deny a lollipop or another cookie. I just hope it doesn’t go to my head….

Running from reality

I sit bewildered in front of my computer as I scroll down my Facebook newsfeed and see post after post about adults “catching” Pokemon. It’s pretty wild to think that grown-up people are obsessing over a ridiculous game.

But that’s just the reality of the world we live in today. Things go “viral.” “Likes” matter. “Comments” and “followers” are counted. Everyday “selfies” are a must. We are constantly bombarded by mindless “obsessions” to keep us moving farther away from reality.

I can’t forget the story about the couple (or a person) who fell off a cliff while taking a selfie. Or the accident caused on a major highway while a driver was playing Pokemon Go. What kind of world is this? 

As kids I remember ads running over and over again with baby dolls that pee and playdoh sets that made ice cream. When asked what we wanted for our birthdays, we just blurted out exactly what we saw on TV.

But back then, that seemed to be the extent of our obsession. Once we grew up, we didn’t care about those things anymore.

Why do we constantly feed into these activities that seem to have no limit? And no real goal, if you ask me.

It’s worrisome to me, as a parent, if I see my child constantly obsessing over something. In my opinion, we must teach our children about limits. Sure we’ll limit soda or sugary cereals, but a room full of princess-themed decor? No problem! 

I find my children are less demanding when they learn to live to deal with anything. 

Currently my middle baby, Marium, is obsessing over ponies and cats – no characters, just the animals. So I might buy her something cute with a different animal, just to get her thinking away from “only cats or ponies.” 

My son loves cars, and sure, for his birthday we bought him cars, but it’s not the only thing I’ll buy for him or let him buy every one he sees.

You might say, “Well kids have favorite animals or colors or toys, what’s wrong in indulging them?” There’s nothing wrong in getting your child a blue backpack if they like the color blue. The problem, I find, is when they think everything they own must be blue.

And once we indulge, they think they are entitled to get exactly what they want, when they want it. Because we pretty much trained them.

And, whether we or they like it or not, reality is that you won’t get exactly what you want how/when you want it. 

(Which might be a reason why so many people today can’t compromise in their marriages – but let’s leave that for another day.)

I don’t mind my kids having an imagination, but I don’t want them running away from reality. Which unfortunately, has become a big problem in our world today. Social media enables us to pick and choose how we show ourselves to the world. Our friends “like” everything we post, even if they don’t agree. And, again, we are being indulged.

If we want our kids to succeed, we must give them the tools to understand and deal with life’s ups and downs. Unless you want to give them the guarantee that you’ll always be there to pick up the pieces.

I’d rather not.

Ramadan Mubarak! And some news!

The blessed month of Ramadan is here again! It’s a little different this year for me, because this year I have been trying to plan on how to make it more of meaningful for my kids. Especially FZ, since she will be fasting full-time come next year.

But before I go into that topic, I have exciting news to share! I have finally finished my first children’s book! When FZ was 5, I remember her millions of questions about everything under the sun: Why is the grass green? How to airplanes fly? Why do we die? Who is God?

And I told myself that I would always entertain her questions and try to explain them in a way that made sense to her. At least as much as her little brain could hold, anyway.

So that got my mind rolling into writing kids’ books in a language kids understood, with questions and discussion topics for parents to help engage their kids, as well. For me, the more important thing was to have my kids see how these issues affect them in their own lives. Sure lying is bad, but what would you do?

Long story short, I started writing short stories on important life lessons, and I have finally finished my first one! I have started a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds to help fund future books. I hope with the support of you all, that I can get two more books out by the end of summer.

Back to fasting

So back to fasting and Ramadan… Now that FZ is turning 8, I am more focused on making this life change a positive experience for her. I have a few ideas on trying to make each day different, but I am working on this as I go along, so wish me luck! And please share your ideas as well! I’d love to hear about things that you all have tried.

In the meantime, I pray all my fellow Muslim brothers and sisters get the opportunity to reap the full rewards of this holy month. And I pray Allah accepts your fasts and worship!