70 Excuses


My dear children,

There is no love like a mother’s.
Since you came into this world, you have taken little steps, nudging at this, nibbling at that, trying here, testing there. Step by step, you learnt about your world. By your smiles and laughs, I learnt that you must know that the world is a place filled with love and trust. By your cries and screams, I learnt that you realised that, in this world, there is also hurt and disappointment – by those we love, and don’t, and by those who love us, and don’t.
A mother’s love is natural, unconditional, never-ending, selfless, all the attributes that are difficult to find in any other relationship, and so, it is an easier relationship to maintain. Mother-child relationships come with its challenges. But the true test of life and love is withstanding the other relationships. And just there, in the flaming hotness of the hurt and disappointment, that is where remembering and using the golden rule saves the day. The golden rule is the 70 excuses. And, oh, boy, how difficult it is to make ONE excuse when the heat is so high! But, if you can quickly recover and muster up enough head space to make that tiny ONE excuse, you can still save the day.
Remember, my dear children, you are saving the day for you. For love of yourself. To be at peace with yourself and to please your Rabb. For, at the end of it all, all that’s left in the room is you and Allah (Most Compassionate, Most Merciful).
With all my love,
Mommy
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Empty lunch boxes


Today I lost it.

Stink bums, pee on the floor, tired eyes and tired bones
Empty lunch boxes waiting to be filled
“Mommy, I need…”
“Mommy, I want…”
“Mommy, I can’t…”
FIND A SOLUTION!!!
Temper tantrums flying about
Today, I had the biggest one
And the clock keeps ticking
When you want it to stop
And it seems stuck when you want it to go FAST
And today I lost it
I lost it on my husband
I lost it on my children
I lost it in my early morning prayer
And that’s really where it all began
I missed my early morning prayer
And then the rest of the day feels void and miserable
And then taking out the rubbish becomes overwhelming
And putting lunch in the lunch boxes becomes that one little request that rockets Mommy to Screamville
And messages get tangled and lost
As the lunch box lids close and the kids march off to school
With lunch boxes filled yet empty.

The Men in Our World


“There is a problem with the men in our world,” she said. 

We sat
In the stillness
The final quiet 
The aftermath
Of babies crying 
Toddlers whining 
Children needing 
The attention of both parents 
We sat
As dishes piled up 
Spills grew bigger 
Food messed over the just-cleaned carpet 
Beds unmade 
Pots of food uncooked 
Our entire beings in full action 
as we sat
With babies hanging onto our breasts,
Toddlers sitting on our laps 
Children holding our hands and…
A husband not far away
Traced by the smoke of a cigarette…
“There is a problem with the men in our world.”
“It is a problem of the human condition, of communication, of intelligence–“
“No, it is a problem with the men in our world. You have to identify the problem before you can fix it. We are supposed to be the fixers.
I can’t imagine our role model, our hero, our living example ignoring the cries of a child, no matter how insignificant in adult eyes 
Yet, they say it is not in the design of a man to respond lovingly to a child’s cries
I can’t imagine our Prophet Muhammad (SAW) hitting a child (whose brain is not even fully developed yet in order to distinguish right from wrong, so much so that Allah (SWT) does not even hold the child accountable)
Yet, they argue that men discipline differently 
How have the men of our world missed the manuscript, the example of manhood from our Prophet (SAW)? 
Where did we lose that piece of the puzzle?”
“But we need to reflect on the roles and responsibilities of wives and mothers. We women are the designers of life, of moulding boys and girls into men and women, each filling out their roles and responsibilities as prescribed–“
“Prescribed by who?”
I sat there
Alone now
The noise put to bed
I sat there
Alone
Trying earnestly to understand the male and female species
The miscommunication
The misunderstandings
The longing for approval
And acceptance…
The not knowing how
Maybe it is the fault of us mothers
    Of our history
    Of our legacy
Maybe we need to step up and raise warriors
And maybe we were never meant to understand a man
And maybe they were never meant to understand us
Maybe it is all part of the test of selfless patience, of making 70 excuses, of love and mercy, of being a slave to worship.
And my Lord knows best in all situations.

Girl Meets World


My Dear Daughter,

You are finally here, Alhamdulillah. It was not an easy journey bringing you into this world. Alhamdulillah. This world… I remember whispering in your ear minutes after you took your first breath. As the midwife stitched me up yet again, I remember bearing the pain as I whispered to you, “These are the things we girls have to go through in this world. This is where our strength goes.” This and so much more.

 

My dear daughter, this world is a beautiful place, but there is far greater beauty that lies ahead. So, be disappointed and cry your heart out when those tests come your way one day. Those tests that only us girls can pass. Cry your heart out and don’t hold back, but don’t be hopeless for there are much better things that await you.
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This world is a beautiful place but it is filled with tragic situations and people who will hurt you over and over again. Try to forgive them, over and over again. But remember the experiences and take heed of the lessons. Learn from the people who hurt you.
My beloved daughter, never compromise the peace that you deserve to feel deep within your heart. At the end of it all, your peace will be all you can depend on.
As crazy as this world is and as complex and confusing as we people are, try to always look for good. In yourself first and then in others. I promise you will always, always find good.
May the people in your life never hurt you too much, my darling girl, but when they do, as we all hurt each other all the time, may they have the wisdom and strength to say sorry. And may you have the wisdom and strength to forgive, without forgetting the lesson. Ameen.
With all my love,
Mommy

What we’ve been up to


My Dear Sons, 

It’s been crazy, lovely, nerve-wracking, joyful, sad, adventurous and much more since the last time I wrote. I actually had to check what was the last I had written and how much catching up I have to do.
A lot has happened since my last post.
Regarding school, I resigned teaching as it was becoming too difficult for me to balance the roles of teacher and mother/wife. I was becoming obsessed with lesson plans and stuff. Also, the school objectives/vision/principles/politics were not exactly aligned with mine. So, that too made teaching there full-time more difficult. And, also, even after one month, only A seemed to like being there, at the nursery (which is a room on the school premises) with about four other children around his age and two nice and friendly Omani ladies looking after the kids. When we’d come home, after school, though A would become very naggy and clingy, demanding I carry him all the time, screaming at me the instant I put him down. I understood that it must be from the stress of not being with me whole day, even though he seemed so content there. Z, neither you nor T liked the school. Every morning it would be, “I don’t want to go to school!” “I don’t like school”. I basically had to dress you both while you were sleeping. I even had to put your half-asleep body on the toilet, Z,  as your will-power just wasn’t there. And then, when we got to school,  you would both look for me all over the school, ask any teacher who could understand English where I am, find me and then ask, “How many classes still?” And so it would go throughout the day. It became quite annoying for me. The day I told you that the ‘promise’ is done, Z, you looked a bit sad though, like you were just starting to like the school. It wasn’t like you or T were having a horrible time. It’s just that you were used to having my attention all the time and there was nothing really at the school to take me off your minds, there were no really engaging activities for you. All in all, I weighed the pros and cons and decided that it wasn’t worth it. But I still liked being out and about with you boys (as opposed to how it was in Ras Tanura, Z, me and you all cooped up in the apartment most days) and I still liked teaching, and I still had so many ideas that I wanted to put into action and I still wanted you to pick up Arabic. So, I proposed that I come to school to teach twice a week. And they accepted, Alhamdulilah. So that’s where we’re at now regarding the school situation. Every Tuesday and Thursday that we go to school is pretty much the same for you as the days when I was teaching full-time though. You both still nag about going and you both still look for me all over the school and then ask, “How many classes still?” Most of your day is spent waiting outside in the playground for me to finish my day, sometimes playing with each other on the slides or jungle gym thing and sometimes playing with the other kids. Even though you both (T just picks up on your moaning, Z. Still copying almost everything you say and do) still complain about going to school on those mere two days a week, I can see it’s beneficial for all of us to be there, Alhamdulilah, as opposed to being home whole week, not practicing any social skills or any other skills. At the school, I get to have a bit of intellectual stimulus (of sorts) even though I’m around a class of eight-year-old most of the day. I get some adult company and we all get to socialise and see different faces, Alhamdulilah. We’ve met some very nice people we would not have met had we not attended the school, Alhamdulilah. So, while you moan about it still, I am happy that we are still going to school. While I am always right there, you get some nice outdoor play time, which includes physical activity, communication and negotiation skills and, hopefully, inshaAllah, you’re picking up the Arabic language as well. Ameen. And it’s all for free, Alhamdulilah. 🙂 Win, win all round, Alhamdulilah.
So, moving on to other updates…
About a month ago, your Daadi and Phoepoe were here for three weeks. Z, you and T were excitedly counting down the days for them to come.
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How lovely it was to have them here, Alhamdulilah. We had so many adventures and long road trips together. We saw many different towns in Oman, like, Nizwa, Sur, Muscat. We played games at the game centre in the mall, visited a castle, climbing many steps to reach the very top, picked up beautifully designed shells and pebbles at the beach, dipped our feet in the water at the beautiful Bima sinkhole (while wishing that the little fish would just nibble at our feet already), and camped under the stars at Wahiba Sands. Z, you were quite excited about sleeping in a tent. All of you really enjoyed playing with the silky sand. It was such a clean, smooth feeling to have the sand run through my fingers. I even managed to stash some sand in a used ziploc bag, an empty Pringles tin and a used plastic bag, as that was all I could find to store the sand in. You now enjoy playing with it at home :). Z, you and I rode a lovely camel together and spoke about the camel that took Nabi Muhammad (pbuh) on his journeys. You were very scared to get on the camel at first, but you were so brave and you felt so proud of yourself for riding the camel, Alhamdulilah. T, you and AA were brave to touch the camel. We then greeted the camel and the people of Wahiba Sands and moved on to the boat ride in Muscat. Again, Z, you were a bit scared but then so brave as you even accepted the invitation to sit in front, right next to the man steering the boat. We (or, rather, your Dad. Shame. So much driving for one person) drove for many hours. He enjoyed it, though. We saw four different places in 5 days (I think? I might have the numbers wrong).
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It was really sad for all of us to say bye to Daadi and Phoepoe and it took some readjusting once they had left, more for me than for you kids, it seemed.
    Aside from all that news…
Z, you’re growing up so fast and becoming such a big boy. You’re becoming so confident and self-assured mashaAllah.
T, since your birth, I’ve learnt so much about your strong personality and how to help nourish it and I’m continuously amazed when I see you trying to manange your emotions. We don’t battle so much anymore, Alhamdulilah. I just had to learn how to communicate with you.
A, you have about 6 teeth now. The teething is ongoing. At the moment, you have a slight fever.
Yesterday (29 January 2017), you took a few steps on your own! Alhamdulilah. Today, I think the fever has got you down (even though you’re still smiling, Alhamdulilah) so no footsteps in sight. Maybe tomorrow, inshaAllah.
May Allah, in His Infinite Wisdom, always be with you, my boys, and may He guide your every action. Ameen.
With all my love,
Mommy

It’s the beginning again


My Dear Sons,

The beginning of change is always tough.

It is the beginning of a new chapter again, Alhamdulilah. I am excited about the possibilities that lie ahead as we all head off to school every morning. Perhaps in a year you will have picked up some Arabic inshaAllah. Perhaps, in a year, inshaAllah, we will see you, Z, being less scared and inhibited as a result of your current environment. Perhaps, in a year, T, we will see you being more aware of natural consequences and actually learning to put some consideration into your actions. Perhaps, A, within in a year we will hear some Arabic words come from your mouth. Ameen.
While these are all my wishes and thoughts as I wake you up early every morning to go to a school that is not Montessori (which is always my preferred choice), every day, at school, where I also started teaching English at the same time as you started attending there, my expectations come to a halt and I am reminded that the above are all MY wishes and, as much as I would love to see them come true, it might be that Allah, All-Knowing, has a different direction for you, my children. Perhaps the environment in which I have you in at the moment is not suited to your personalities, especially you, Z, as you stand one side every morning as the rest of the school participate in the morning assembly physical exercises and scream out some Arabic chants in response to the teachers. As I was standing close to you in assembly one morning (you seldom move two steps from my side), wishing that you would just do something as simple as raising your arms or moving two steps to the right or SOMETHING, I came to a simple realisation, but it was like an awakening moment: I was like that at school too – so inhibited and self-conscious. I think you are actually less so than I was. I think you just need to find security in your environment before you loosen up. Sometimes the time on adult watches goes faster than children’s time. You just need time to adjust, in your own time, your slow time, your gradual time, not in adult time. It’s not always easy to remember this when I’m trying to teach a class while, Z, you’re hanging onto my dress and, T, (oh, T) you’re busy demanding my attention, “Mommy, open this. Mommy, pick me up, pick me up”. I must say, I struggle to keep frustration at bay at this point. I must remember, work and Mommy are foreign combinations to you kids, as I have never really worked since you were born, Z.
Alhamdulillah, A has adjusted very well at the nursery. The first few days, A, you would cry as soon as you saw the nursery lady, I was then able to pick you up and carry you with me, Alhamdulillah. I don’t know when or how it’s changed, but, Alhamdulilah, you have no issues being at the nursery and it was a quick transition, Alhamdulilah. T, you are also supposed to be at the nursery, as you are still too small to start KG, but you outright refuse, instead following me around everywhere. Z, you have made a few appearances in your KG2 classroom, and when it becomes too long or too overwhelming for you, you start crying. Eventually, you too end up hanging onto my dress. I know it’s very different to Montessori (what you’re used to) and there aren’t often things to keep you engaged in the classroom.
I have committed to giving this new endeavour a chance. We will see which way it goes inshaAllah. Z, one morning you told me, “Mommy said I must give it a chance and so I gave it a chance and now I don’t want to go to school anymore”. I told you that we will give it a longer chance (it’s been less than 2 weeks so far). I am prepared for whichever way it goes, as Allah has planned, Alhamdulillah. We will just give it a chance and walk the way we are steered. Alhamdulillah, despite the odds, it has been nice meeting new people, as opposed to being cooped up in the apartment.
It’s almost Eid again. And all 3 of you are sick. Alhamdulilah, Z, you were only sick for about one day, yesterday. You then passed it on to T. Now T is very feverish and not well, as well as A, but he seems to be coming round, Alhamdulilah.
T, yesterday, while I was out buying ice-cream with Z, you were screaming and crying for me so much that you ended up vomiting. When I came back you told me, “Mommy, I swallowed out all my food.” 🙂 Lol. I just felt that that needed to be a recorded quote to remember.
Z, yesterday, you also said something I thought I must record. At school, for Eid, the kids received a small bag with some nice things and two notes of money. As sick as you were, Z, you were very taken with your little gift. When we got home, you slept with the one note in your hand and kept asking me when we can go to the shop. You said, in all seriousness, “This money (the one in your hand) is for me, the other one is for Daddy and if someone gives me more money, I will give that to Mommy.” 🙂
You also asked why you got a gift. I replied that it’s almost Eid so the teachers gave the children gifts. You then said that you would also like to give your teachers gifts.
Yesterday, in an attempt to get T (and you, Z) more comfortable at the nursery, I spend most of the day there with you as the school had planned Eid activities for the kids for most of the day, so I had very little teaching to do. MashaAllah, T, I saw how nicely you interacted with the other kids, sharing your lunch and encouraging them to pick up after themselves, as you sang the song, “Pick up the toys, put them away…” while picking up the colour pencils that a little toddler kept throwing out onto the floor.
MashaAllah, may that innocent and precious nature of yours, Z and T, always be nurtured. May Allah, Most Loving, help me to protect it. Ameen.
Z, I think these are the starting days of you beginning to read, Alhamdulilah. You are constantly trying to identify the beginning sounds of words, often getting it right, Alhamdulillah, like, the sound ‘c’ is for car, etc.
A, you are still trying to crawl properly. Sometimes you pull yourself up while leaning on whatever you can get hold of, causing us to think that you will start walking before you crawl properly. InshaAllah.
May Allah, Most Compassionate, guide my actions as I guide you through life, and may all experiences ultimately add positively to your individual personalities. Ameen.
With all my love,
Mommy

Toilet training, school, road trips and everything else…


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My Dear Sons,

Ramadan came and went, Alhamdulilah, and so did Eid, a very quiet and unusual Eid. Your Dad and I tried to make it exciting nonetheless, but Eid is not the same away from home and, especially, away from family. So, it was just very different.

Z, you and T had fun putting sweets in plastic cups as Eid gifts for the kids in the building. T, you and Z loved your doctor’s kit Eid gifts that Dad bought you. It was a simple, quiet Eid but, inshaAllah, I hope it was meaningful and memorable to you boys. And I hope you learnt the subtle lessons of generosity and gratefulness. Ameen.

We’ve been taking many drives to nearby towns in Oman, Alhamdulillah. It’s been really nice. We all love the long drives. Sometimes it does get a bit out of control in the car – the drives are between 90 minutes to three hours long, depending on where we go. One day, without any pre-planning and very limited packing, we just kept driving. We saw three towns in 2 days, Alhamdulilah. From Ibri we went to Buraimi to Sohar to Muscat. Lovely, Alhamdulillah. We stayed over in Muscat at a hotel right on the beach and all three of you enjoyed the warm beach water and the silky Omani sands. It was short but it was nice and memorable.

On that visit, in the hotel restaurant, T, as to be expected, had to test the waters in his quest to affirm his presence, independence, influence…
There were big wooden animals in the restaurant in display of its African theme. Perhaps I used the wrong words in telling you, T, to NOT touch the giraffe. But, you just had to succumb to that urge. So you touched the giraffe in that split second that I was not looking. The giraffe fell and broke his nose. I panicked – that’s going to cost a heck of a lot! Alhamdulillah. It didn’t. The kind lady at the restaurant assured us that the giraffe was already broken before you pushed him to the floor. Alhamdulillah. Shoo! Alhamdulillah! Thank goodness for your cuteness, and charm too, that I’m sure plays a role in getting you out of trouble so many times.

T, your independence and big personality comes in many forms. After a tiring and frustrating day of unsuccessful toilet training, initiated by me, I decided to put off the idea for a little longer, until I was ready for potty training. A week later though, you woke up very resolute and announced: “I don’t wear nappy. I’m big boy.” And, very determined, to my horrified and still sleeping head, you simply began taking off your nappy. I was too tired and just let you be, knowing all too well that battles with you can be like knocking my sleepy head against a wall again and again. So, I just breathed in and let you be as you went to the toilet all by yourself and placed your two-and-a-half-year-old bum on the toilet in my en-suit bathroom. No one else was awake. What a strong personality you have, mashaAllah. And so it went. It went very well for a while, you initiated going to the toilet, taking off your pants all by yourself. And then many accidents. And then we remembered, “Pull-ups!” And that’s the end of the many successful trips to the toilet. At the beginning, we had to really try hard to convince you that pull-ups are not nappies and that big boys wear them. I remember the silent look of relief on your face when you let the pee go and then realised your pants is not wet. Lol. Initially, you only peed in the pull-up, but number twos were done in the toilet. But now… Eish. No reservations. But it’s okay. We’re taking it in our stride and learning to, and trying to, relax when our expectations aren’t met. Alhamdulillah.

Until a few days ago, the structure and routine had, once again, gone out the window here. Late nights, late mornings, your bedroom is a deserted place, lonely and forlorn, as every night, Z, you and your brother, T, bring your blankets and pillows and camp out on the floor in Dad’s and my room. We don’t necessarily love the arrangement but we let it be. Every night.

In about a week’s time, we all head off to school, inshaAllah. Dad’s holiday ends and he goes back to work. Z, you will be starting school (KG 2) and I will inshaAllah be teaching at the same school, while your brothers, T and A, play in the nursery at the school, inshaAllah. We will just give this arrangement a trial run and see if it works for us as a family inshaAllah, considering the dynamics and transitions involved. We’ve made istikhara about this, Z, and, Alhamdulillah, you were very happy about Allah’s direction. May Allah, All Knowing, continue to guide us. Ameen. So, bedtime is back to 19:00. Ameen!

I’m still trying to figure things out regarding whether conventional school is the best thing for you, Z, and for your brothers. I love the idea of homeschooling and I’ve gotten so used to and fond of the Montessori schooling that you had in Cape Town, Alhamadulilah. I’m still trying to figure out whether I should really be working again or still be staying home and dedicating all my time and energy to the family until you boys are older. To my surprise, Arab women that I’ve come across so far tend to think that, in order to be the best version of herself, a woman should not dedicate all her time to her family. She should work, be independent, be a businesswoman and so on. I’m finding learning about different cultures, people and perspectives to be interesting and delightful and am hoping to get back to my study/survey on ‘The Secrets of Raising Well-Balanced Muslim Children’. Ameen. May Allah always guide me to make the right decisions. Ameen. Travelling and living among people of different cultures and languages really opens up one’s mind and ideas. I hope that you boys will fully benefit and learn from this experience, and may it strengthen you in character and personality. Ameen.

A, you are now about eight months old, eating well, loving water, Alhamdulilah, and still getting the hang of crawling. At the moment you move very fast by sliding forward with your tummy on the floor.Your personality definitely is developing, and you make it known, as you scream to be heard and demand that we look at and acknowledge your presence. You were always a loud baby, but it seems your loudness has increased in a more demanding way. Fair enough. You had been given the least amount of attention before. You are entitled.

T, still as boisterous and strong-willed as ever, you are slowly learning about negotiation as you play and learn to share with your Daada. Everything in the world still belongs to the one and only you though, even gifts that Daada received before you were born. I don’t know when the change happened, but you seem to be more attached to me and somewhat demanding more attention, like, insisting that I look at and “make better” the many sores you get throughout the day, while still insisting that you’re a “big boy”. Maybe with every age comes the need for a particular kind of attention. And, of course, I MUST look at you when you talk to me. I’ve come to see and appreciate another part of your personality, mashaAllah. I’ve read that strong-willed kids are not just strong in their ‘stubbornness’, but strong in their emotions and sensitivity too, feeling strongly, giving selflessly and wearing their hearts on their sleeves. And I have found that with you. When you mean it, your “sorry” is really heartfelt. You’re already teaching generosity and empathy at a small age. mashaAllah.

Z, your Dad and I are enjoying watching how your confidence is developing, mashaAllah. I’m not sure if it is since/because you know that you will be attending school again or whether it is a mix of different things. Or maybe you’re just becoming a bigger boy before our eyes, yet, I sometimes feel like we’ve missed the actual transition. I am grateful for this change though, Alhamdulilah. The other day, after reassurance from your Dad, you so proudly came to me, announcing that you had gone in the elevator by yourself, pressed the buttons yourself and, “I wasn’t scared. I just talked to Allah.” 🙂 MashaAllah. May you always talk to Allah, The All-Hearing. Ameen.

I know it’s tough being the big brother sometimes, sometimes you’re forced to be selfless, you’re only four and a half years old, but, mashaAllah, you’re doing a great job. The other day, after T, once again, grabbed something that you had, your response to your Dad was: “It’s okay. That’s what big brothers do” or something like that, as you just let T, once again, have his way. I love silently observing and/or hearing how your and T’s relationship is forming mashaAllah – like bickering friends who can’t do without each other. You’re trying hard to manage your emotions. You definitely have your difficult moments, as is to be expected, but, Alhamdulilah, I’m truly grateful for the way that you respond to most situations.

May Allah continue to guide us all along this path and may we all continue to learn lessons from each other. Ameen.

With all my love,
Mommy