back home, back alone

After a hectic long weekend I finally return to the coziness of my home–Abdullah sleeps and Siraj is off in one of his law school classes.

And my mind is in a state of high emergency!

Throughout the weekend I was having a mental hang-up of sorts, finding nothing much to write about except an inane comment about lactating dolphins (which I will preserve below for posterity). Even my last post on mama’s milk was written long before but finally edited and posted.

And now, now that I finally return home and am fully 100% alone for the first time in days, I am strangely overcome by the cacophony of voices, thoughts, and ideas that now rush to my mind’s forefront.

It’s an introvert thing, methinks. An interesting definition of introversion that I came across one time and has resonated with me is as follows: Introverts draw energy from being alone, while extended time around too many people drains them. Conversely, extroverts are those who thrive in large groups and become energized from a great deal of socialization with others.

I loved this description from regarding introverts as it seems to fit me perfectly:

…and while an introvert may also be shy, introversion itself is not shyness. Basically, an introvert is a person who is energized by being alone and whose energy is drained by being around other people.

Introverts are more concerned with the inner world of the mind. They enjoy thinking, exploring their thoughts and feelings. They often avoid social situations because being around people drains their energy. This is true even if they have good social skills. After being with people for any length of time, such as at a party, they need time alone to “recharge.”

When introverts want to be alone, it is not, by itself, a sign of depression.It means that they either need to regain their energy from being around people or that they simply want the time to be with their own thoughts. Being with people, even people they like and are comfortable with, can prevent them from their desire to be quietly introspective.

Kind of explains my mental block over the weekend, and why my mind is buzzing so much right now.

(Not that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy myself, which I did, but that I can see how a great deal of “people time” affects me.)

I remember in elementary school that my teachers would tell my parents that one “problem” they had with me was that I was too quiet, too “shy”. Introverts often times are mistaken for being shy and quiet when in reality it’s just that quiet mental space that we crave. As a society we often times think more appreciably of louder more vocal people as being more intelligent, and the more social as being more graceful and capable.

Although, when you sit with someone introverted one on one you will realize that we can be rather loudmouthed and talkative like everyone else!

Which is all to say that maybe now that I am back to my almost-solitary day-to-day routine, I will have some inspiration to put pen to paper, finger to key, and start writing again

…that is, if king Abdullah the tyrant toddler child will let me…and since he’s up and clawing at my feet right now, I will be off!


mama’s milk rocks!

and here’s 10 reasons why:

  1. The Qur’an: It describes a complete nursing period as 2 years (although extended nursing beyond that is permissible according to the scholars of fiqh). Thus, a mama gets reward from Allah for nursing!
  2. It’s free: ’nuff said.
  3. Sheer laziness: I hardly remember to pack Abdullah’s diapers when we go out, much less milk bottles. And did I mention that I hate doing dishes?
  4. Nutrition? No worries: it’s a multivitamin, power protein shake, and extra energy boost all in one. When toddlers start eating less and becoming more picky about food (often after age one) sometimes Pediasure is recommended…but if you are nursing, you’ve got free Pediasure minus the crapola in there, and always available straight at the tap!
  5. Adapts to baby: After the first year of life, breastmilk increases up to about 50% in fat content! Another great reason to keep at it after that first year.
  6. Booboo cures: When Abdullah gets a knock on the head (from falling of course, not from us 😉 ) I tell him that I’m going to give him “dudu dava”, or milky medicine. A couple of gulps down the line and the booboo is forgotten!
  7. Tantrums: Abdullah’s not at this stage yet but I hear from others that nursing makes a great distraction for a todder in the throes of a raging tantrum.
  8. Bonding time: These days Abdullah thinks he’s too cool for babyish cuddling. He wants to just give a hug and run, or a peck on our cheeks before he squirms out of grasp to run off to his toys or jump around. He doesn’t even like to be carried in a sling for too long anymore. That leaves nursing as pretty much the only remaining cuddle/bonding tool at my disposal.
  9. Sick-time cures: Mama’s milk has got electrolytes galore for rehydrating sick babies. And it’s a great nasal decongestant (spray it up the nose) for stuffy noses.
  10. Distraction: Keeps baby still for medical procedures, nail cuttings, anything uncomfortable and irritating (I found this quite handy during a recent middle of the night ER visit). 

free yourself

“Muslims have to dislodge themselves from environments which shackle them; in such surroundings trivial problems are made to seem as part and parcel of a larger more intractable whole, against which any effort is useless. Such individuals ought to believe in their own abilities and efficiency through which they are capable of grand actions.”

-Muhammad Abdah, On Contemporary Da’wah 

for my friend s.k.

For my friend S.K. (if she’s reading), who is leaving me soon for new places and people, the following:

by Marge Piercy

Being together is knowing
even if what we know
is that we cannot really be together
caught in the teeth of the machinery
of the wrong moments of our lives.

A clear umbilicus
goes out invisibly between,
thread we spin fluid and finer than hair
but strong enough to hang a bridge on.

That bridge will be there
a blacklight rainbow arching out of your skull
whenever you need
whenever you can open your eyes and want
to walk upon it.

Nobody can live on a bridge
or plant potatoes
but it is fine for comings and goings,
meetings, partings and long views
and a real connection to someplace else
where you may
in the crazy weathers of struggle
now and again want to be.

Children are people too!

SubhanAllah, just as I was looking for some parenting inspiration (for my mental exercise called the Islamic Parenting Project), came out with an article titled: The Youth Outreach Program of Muhammad (sal-Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam). I could go on and on about all of the points, but this one struck me because it is the one hadith that I constantly come back to when I think “gentle discipline” and it is the main hadith that serves to remind me that gentleness is truly the Prophetic path:

Anas was a small child when he was given as a servant to the Prophet (s). About his time there, he narrated that, I served the Prophet for ten years, and he never said to me, “Uf” (a minor harsh word denoting impatience or displeasure) and never blamed me by saying, “Why did you do so or why didn’t you do so?” (Bukhari)

The author of the article goes on to say:

SubhanAllah. This is truly amazing from a number of angles. We normally see this hadith as a testament to the truly noble character of the Prophet (saw), however, there is another perspective here. That is the lasting effects of this on a 10 year old boy for his entire life. What kind of person will he become when he was raised upon this methodology? [Radi’Allahu ‘anhu, we know what kind of great man he became] This is the lasting memory of a lifetime that this child will have. He will remember never being criticized, never scorned, and always being treated with kindness, compassion, and patience.

Anyone who has a child knows how difficult it would be to go even 10 hours (in some cases 10 minutes) much less 10 years without scolding their own child about something. What then, about someone else’s child, one whom you have even less patience to deal with? We should compare our own parenting methods, our own ways of interacting with kids in light of this example.

I take this first and foremost to my heart when I say that this truly shows that one can raise a child without harshness (I didn’t say without firmness, mind you). And I remind myself first that it shows that “children are people too.” This, along with the hadith “Do not get angry, do not get angry, do not get angry” is my mantra when I lose my patience with children, whether it be my toddling son or a student in a classroom. I know how easy it is to “lose it” and respond with scolding, threats, and anger. I’ve been there, done that, to the point that as a teacher in the classroom I became a person I did not want to be. I became a person who forgot that those children in front of me were people, with feelings and emotions just like myself.

Perhaps it is because we are older, wiser, have more experience of the world, and have experienced it ourselves, but somehow as adults we feel complete license to shame, berate, threaten, and manipulate children. Does might make right? Our authoritative position turns us into authoritarians? I may not know exactly why, but I know that the impulse is there and I have to strain mightily hard to restrain it. I often fail miserably, too.

Yet even so, even as I may fall far short of the ideal, I still maintain: there is never a need to treat children in such a way. Firmness? Yes, youth and inexperience do often need a firm hand. Yet I see nothing to indicate that this ever needs to translate into harshness. As an adult I have nothing to gain from shaming a child into obedience save the erosion of my own character, because if I need to resort to such tactics, it reflects more on my lack of creativity and kindness rather than on the child’s character.

There is a saying in Arabic: “Faaqid-ush-shay’ laa yu’teeh”…”The one who does not have something cannot give it.” I cannot possibly instill the virtues of gentleness and mercy in a child if I do not show it myself. I cannot possibly teach a child patience if I do not model it myself.

I remind myself how it would feel were my spouse to treat me as we often treat our children. I remind myself how it would feel if a friend scolded me upon making a mistake. Just as my feelings become hurt if a loved one raises their voice, scolds, or becomes harsh, so too do the hearts of our children and students ache when we, the loving role models, put them down with our harsh attitudes.

I pray that Allah heals our hearts, instills in us patience, and guides us to noble character…Aameen!

is this overprotective?

After finally finishing the Car Seat Safety 101 post, I couldn’t help thinking that perhaps a person might read that and think, “All this nit-picking is overprotectiveness” especially when it comes to things like extended rearfacing and harnesses, and booster use for “older” kids. I think the almost laissez-faire attitude that most people have about car safety is perhaps a throwback from the teenage years when it was “uncool” to wear a seatbelt.

And of course no one wants to come off as that worrywart, overcareful, hovering parent who is constantly tagging behind little Johnny to wipe every drip from his nose and kiss every miniscule boo-boo.

I don’t buy that, honestly. I have the choice to get in the car and buckle up or not. I know the risk of traveling in a high speed hunk of metal and no, I really don’t want to end up ejected onto the sidewalk. So I buckle up. My kid doesn’t have the luxury of this decision making process, ya know? So until he’s living in his own house with his own car, he’s going to have to deal with his car seat warrior mamabear. ‘Cause at the end of the day, I and his father will be bearing the lifelong burden of responsibility of what should happen to him should our car crash.

The ironic thing is that I’m actually rather less protective than average otherwise. Like when he was younger and the toy he was slobbering on dropped on the sidewalk, my mom would pick it up and give it to me, not him. “It fell, it’s dirty.” I on the other hand would be like, “Eh, no worries,” wipe it on my hijab and give it back to him. Eww, gross, I know. Or I’d let him crawl around on the grass with nothing but a t-shirt and diaper on so he’d muss about in the dirt with his hands, pull out plants, and his pudgy little knees would get all dirt caked and grass streaked. C’mon, life doesn’t get any better than this!

As he gets older I’m sure he’s going to do daredevil stunts in the living room, he’ll probably strap on his gear and play tackle football and I know that my heart will drop to my stomach with that one. But being his father’s son I’m sure he’ll be out there running the ball and taking the hits, but that’s part of being a kid.

But there’s one thing where I will be protective, even overprotective if necessary, and that’s in the car. Because car accidents won’t stop just because I’m a bit inattentive about his seat, the laws of physics will not cease to be just because he screams his head off every time we strap him up, and because at the end of the day, accidents simply do happen. Hmm, maybe I am insanely overprotective. But this mama bear doesn’t mind one bit.

Car Seat Safety 101

“Tie your camel and put your trust in God.”

–Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), to a bedouin who was about to leave his camel untethered

* * * *

Child passenger safety–it is a subject that I am pretty passionate about, so let’s cut to the chase:

  • Motor vehicle injuries are the number 1 cause of death among children in the US.
  • In 2005, there were 1,451 car accident deaths in children under 14 and about 203,000 injuries. That’s about 4 deaths and 556 injuries a day (Source:CDC)

The tragedy is that many of these deaths are preventable. Ask any ER physician working in a busy hospital, or any policeman who deals with traffic deaths, and they will tell you how many of these dead and injured children were either not in car seats or were in improperly installed seats.

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