Tagged love

Teaching our kids tolerance and respect for all people.

Holiday Notes From a Muslim Mom

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Muslim women are oftentimes easy to spot. We wear a scarf around our heads as an open declaration of faith. Based on cultural preference, this head-covering varies from vibrantly colored wraps to longer, flowing styles. Not all Muslim women choose to carry such an obvious banner of religious identity, but a lot do.

Teaching our kids tolerance and respect for all people.

This, fortunately and unfortunately, has put us in a sort of spotlight. Don’t worry though, if you spot us you can rest assured we’re generally harmless, sleep deprived and pretty approachable. We may seem a little grouchy in the morning before the coffee has kicked in and sometimes very disheveled trying to haul two or more squirmy toddlers into a quiet library for story-time. Feel free to stop us on our tracks to say hello. We love the holiday season as much as the next hot chocolate addict. There are worse things you can do (and have been done) to Muslim women in the recent months. Be a proactive element in strengthening the ties of community love and humanity. Let’s teach our children how to keep those bridges of harmony and love intact as these ideals are attacked on a daily basis.

News anchors, presidential candidates, and several other spokespeople with a platform from which to eject words to larger audiences have been feeding a very evil image of the average Muslim person. As false as it may be, the waves of fear mongering have swept across the globe and unsettled everyone’s sense of safety and security.

After a monstrous attack or fatal atrocity occurs, my phone begins buzzing. Fellow moms, Muslims and not, share information about the events as they are leaked by media sources. We exchange feelings of sorrow that the world is in such chaos. That there are people out there hurting others, individually or en mass. We weep for families who are waiting for news, we pray for survivors.

Our hearts squeeze together, wondering how we can raise children in such a scary world. A world that can hurt innocent people senselessly and create dangerous rifts between people who are of different faiths, cultures, and races.

We begin conversations with our children. There are some people who say some mean things about Muslims. You can always talk to us about it. There are other kids who may be going through the same thing. It can be a little hurtful and scary if you get teased about what you believe. Don’t worry, we continue to explain, they’re only confused. People who make judgement calls on large groups of people can do very dangerous things. The important thing is to continue to have a good and pure heart. Look for the people who have kind and open hearts, too. Always smile, and be positive. Don’t doubt who you are or be ashamed. Throughout history, even grown ups have made really big mistakes about other people. A time came when Native Americans were stripped of their land and dehumanized. There are African Americans to this day who are treated unjustly. From Catholics to Japanese Americans – there has always been a time when a group of people were seen as scary when they really weren’t. Don’t worry, we remind them again, there are still good people. Be a good person so when someone mean comes across you, your goodness can create a light that may draw them closer to knowing who you really are.

There are a number of holidays that are being celebrated around this time of year. A nice list that my children learned about in school and a few they didn’t. For those which weren’t included, I’ll make a polite note to their teachers to become even more inclusive in the coming years to expose children to an even wider array of religions and cultures that are coexisting on this earth. That’s the least we can do to counter a lot of the rhetoric out there causing divisions between races, cultures, religions, and ways of life.

We had the opportunity to watch a few live-streamed sessions from the Parliament of World Religions in Salt Lake City, Utah this year. It was an immensely pleasurable experience to see people of all different faiths and belief systems come together and celebrate the unity of humanity, spirituality, and love. There was a notable session in which women came together and shared their experiences of celebrating life by highlighting their own roles as mothers and caregivers.

As nurturers, we play such a crucial role in how our children grow up to partake in society and evolve into open minded and caring adults. Let’s begin today by learning about someone who is different from those living inside our four walls and begin a proactive journey to combat the violence and prejudice that exists today.

So from this Muslim mom to all the other parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, little tykes, more – Merry Milad-un-Nabi, Khwanzaa, Bodhi Day, Christmas, Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, Omisoka, Festivus and many more holiday celebrations to you and a Happy New Year!

The voice of a child calls us back to what matters most.

Life Lesson Learned Through Kids: Miscarriage

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Almost 5 months after my miscarriage, my children continue to discuss the subject of the baby brother that passed away. Their discussion usually emerges when there’s chatter about who the oldest is (and therefore, the boss) and who the youngest is (and therefore, nobody’s boss) and each time, without fail, they’ll include Danyal at the bottom of the sibling hierarchy.

The voice of a child calls us back to what matters most.

Danyal – the Arabic version of the Biblical name Daniel – was delivered 16 weeks into my pregnancy. He weighed a little over 1 ounce and fit into the palm of my hand. There was no heartbeat detected at our latest appointment and since I saw little hands, feet, and limbs frozen on the  ultrasound screen, my husband and I decided to respect his miraculous growth and prepare for a proper burial.

My children visited me at the hospital after the induction and varied between being a little creeped out to just plain enthralled with this tiny human being that just recently had been cuddled inside their mother’s (very comfortable) tummy. Fully shaped miniscule features invited us to imagine what he would have looked like had the pregnancy progressed.

My 6 year old had a number of hidden concerns on the concept of death. He worried that he wouldn’t know anyone the next world (akin to a new classroom or a new school) or how long he would have to wait for someone else to join him in Heaven if he died first. My 4 year old daughter, on the other hand, had an itemized list of people she wished to play with (including a set great-grandmothers who are supposed to be just as sweet, if not sweeter, than her living  grandmothers). Her whimsical desires included eating a mountain made of ice cream and exploring with a handy sidekick named Boots (thank you for sharing, Dora).

Their innocence generated more conversations. Their resilience to a situation as stark as death and positive energy in the light of an often hushed and ignored experience centered my healing process. As they radiated confidence, acceptance, and contentment we, too, shed many clouds of anxiety, anguish, and sorrow. Our broken hearts regenerated with pronounced vitality.


“We have another brother, but he died.”

“My mommy had a baby in her tummy and he lives in Heaven.”

“Does he have diapers his size?”

The idea that there may be no need for diapers in Heaven caused in eruption of gleeful, roll-on-the-floor laughter.

Friends and neighbors offered their help and support, while sharing personal experiences of losing a child, during pregnancy or after. They mentioned numerous women they knew who had tread the same agonizing path of trying to channel grief and find acceptance to an abrupt end. The number of little souls that are remembered, mostly in private, seemed to grow with each conversation, and learned that the finality of a child’s death had visited almost every person I encountered.

Somehow, a child’s questioning can shift the perspective about something that we as a society have neglected. This negligence makes it more difficult to allow room for grief to run a natural path, and a lack of conversation makes seeking solace a difficult path.

Some eyebrows will rise and an awkward pause may interrupt a casual conversation – but continuing to acknowledge the existence of someone we cherish and love who left us sooner than expected may promote another’s understanding of just how often miscarriages occur and how possible it can be for both children and adults to move forward without forgetting.


Resources:

Misconceptions about Miscarriage

Pregnancy Complications

Conflict Resolution

Conflict Resolution: How I Stopped Worrying And Embraced The Fight

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Conflict ResolutionBeing a parent is not easy on a normal day. But then, there are those ‘other days.’

If you have not had a day where you wanted to take an ice pick to the ol’ retina, then my friend, you have not been tested like I have as a parent.

And, trust me, I am a proponent of parenting. It is the best thing that has ever happened to me. Sure it’s also the most challenging thing. But, nothing is quite as good without the challenge, or at least, that’s what the inspirational memes say on Google, the ones I seek out at 11:30 at night to reassure myself.

If you have multiple kids, then you know all about conflict. There are conflicts, many conflicts within a day.

Conflicts can eat you alive if you don’t have a plan. I can’t tell you what is best for you, but I do have a plan, and these next words may seem crazy, but stay with me:

EMBRACE THE CONFLICT

It is going to happen, as sure as the sun will come up tomorrow, as sure as we need nutrients to live (unless you’re a 5-year-old that can live off a strict diet of graham crackers and peanut butter), it is known that my son will snatch my daughter’s favorite possession right from her hands (which then becomes the only toy in the house and the last toy ever made) and run. I know my daughter will chase after him, yelling and screaming. It will happen.

What to do? Take it all in. This is really what having a sibling is after all, and the kids relish it, so why shouldn’t I?

APPROACH CALMLY

After I hear a conflict, I first check to see who’s going to be the adult to mediate, if I hear the wife’s footsteps, then I back out like a dump truck on a crowded street. (beep, beep beep).

But, if it’s me, I approach willingly. Take a deep breath, hold it in, and gently breath out. If I do that before I get involved, two things will happen:

  1. I will not burst out laughing at the (occasional) absurdity of the situation.
  2. I will keep my own emotions in check – allowing their emotions to be at the forefront, and leaving my own frustration back on the couch where I belong.

ACKNOWLEDGE AND VALIDATE THEIR FEELINGS

As easy as it would be to set up a judicial system, with myself as the supreme overlord, it would not help my children understand why they’re fighting, and it teaches them nothing about how to handle an argument down the road, when they are adults.

Most importantly, I want my kids to know that their feelings matter. I want them to learn empathy, so model it I must. Therefore, at this point, the only questions is “You look really upset, what happened?” I really try to feel the feelings of my child. This shows them that they are entitled to whatever emotion they are having. Young children don’t always recognize their especially powerful emotions, so once we can suss out the emotions being felt, I try to label those feelings for future reference.

Many of these feelings, I, as an adult, don’t have much anymore. Try and imagine the last time you actually cried because someone at work had something for lunch that you wanted and you will see what I mean. It’s important to try and be in touch with these feelings, for their sake.

GATHER MORE INFORMATION

Once the emotions have been appropriately labeled and validated, the children are more likely to be forthcoming with further information. So I listen closely, then restate what I hear “So, your brother put your cereal bowl on his head and wore it like a hat, is that what made you upset?” This is called Sportscasting and a quick Google will give you further examples. I try to be as impartial as I can be. I don’t want to take sides, or lay blame. I try to direct all the dialogue to the other child, “tell your brother, not me.”

HELP THEM FIND A SOLUTION TO THE PROBLEM

When I was a child, the solutions to conflicts with my brother were easy. There were only two possible solutions:

  1. Run for my life and find my parents
  2. Run for my life and not find parents (be pounded by big brother)

As a parent, I want better (and more) solutions for my own kids, and I want my kids to learn to be the ones to find these solutions.

This requires the largest commitment in this process: Patience. You may feel the urge to quickly drop down some solutions so you can move on. Fight this feeling – remember – you’ve embraced the conflict and here is your reward: you get to hear your kids come up with some ways to fix it – and here’s the beauty – It doesn’t even have to be fair. Nope, you don’t have to look out for the underdog. If they both agree to it- then you’re golden!

Finding a solution may take time in the beginning, depending on the severity of stubbornness of your child (My son is at a nuclear level) and that’s OK. You can suggest ideas after they’ve had time to come up with your own. But eventually, it will be fast: “Take turns.” “Set a timer!” – to referee the length of said turns – and oh the glory of it!

BE PREPARED TO BE A LIFELINE LATER

When are you most likely to get a speeding ticket? 3 blocks from your home. What is the hardest part of your Everest adventure? The way down.

When is it most likely to have a reoccurrence of a conflict? Within 1 minute of solving the problem. So, don’t go screaming “home free” yet. Stay around for a minute –or-2, and consider yourself a resource in this time. This is such an important time, where the solution goes into practice. Try to regale in this victory, and congratulate your kids on their victory in problem solving. Live in the moment, because guess what? The conflict will return. Only in time, you’ll love it (see step 1) and your children will be a bit more prepared for it each and every time.

{The teaching application of conflict resolution via HighScope can be further researched in the book: You Can’t Come To My Birthday Party!I think this is also a great resource for parents.}
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