It’s Tough


My Dear Sons,

It’s tough. Parenting is tough.
I’m sitting here now, waiting for you, Z, to fall asleep. It’s taking forever, but I can see that your eyes are nearly closing. It’s been nearly closing for a while now. I don’t know what it is that you’re fighting. I’ve been trying to make nap time an uncompromising part of the day. Everyday, around 11:00, after having spent real time playing with you and your brother, T.
T has already been in Dreamland for the last fifteen minutes or so, after insisting that he wants to sleep in my arms. Of course, you also want to sleep in my arms. And then, of course, there’s A as well, who seems to be the least demanding many times.
You’re finally in Dreamland now, Z. Alhamdulillah. A big Alhamdulillah. Only a few minutes out of sync with T. So, inshaAllah, you’ll wake around the same time and not end up waking each other.
I don’t always know where to draw the line, especially with you, Z. It seems you have always been needing more of my attention, but, since our move to Oman, you are even more clingy, emotionally and physically. You seem to have this constant need to touch me – it’s very hot in Oman – especially when you must sleep. You’ll put you legs on me, your arms, sometimes your body parts land in awkward places and I have to tell you to please respect my personal space and that there are certain parts of my body that I do not like you to touch. You never seem to really hear me or your needs are just so big that you can’t process what I’m saying.
At night, the whole situation is at its worst. It’s tough.
T, you follow everything Z does. You even pretend to be scared, saying “I’m scared”, when your brother says it.
Yesterday, at the supermarket, a more experienced mother noticed how demanding you and your brother can be, as both of you were insisting that I pick you up. Z, you had just had a small fall. I think you were taking too long to walk through the automatic opening, plastic ‘gates’ type thing and they closed on you as you wanted to walk pass. You had been a bit scared to go pass, getting confused between when they opened and closed, I think. You fell, and gave a big cry. I picked you up and comforted you. After a while, T too wanted to be picked up. You were okay now so I told you that I would put you down and pick T up. You didn’t insist. I picked T up for a bit and then put him down. Later,  T, you again wanted me to pick you up. I don’t know why exactly. The older, Egyptian mother was telling you no, in Arabic, and trying to playfully distract you. She was saying, “problem, problem”, telling me that your and your brother’s demanding dependence  is a problem. You were not pleased with her at this point, though you are fairly fond of her. Both you, T, and Z expressed your upset with her as she was trying to distract you from wanting my attention. It didn’t take long, T, before I picked you up again. She then pointed to me, saying that the problem lies with me. This left me baffled.
It’s tough.
You are so scared of so many things, Z. You worry –  like stress – about so many things too, like when we go out. You’re so so worried that someone might take T, or that he might run away. You hold his hand so tightly, almost battling him because he wants to be free. You then beg me to keep his hand. You also worry frantically, when we are in the supermarket too long, that they will lock us inside because they will be closing soon. Later, after chatting with your Dad, I discovered that you had concluded that we will be locked inside the supermarket because I had said, “Come, we have to hurry up now because they want to close the supermarket now “. How I have to watch my words all the time. It’s tough.
At the same time though, you pleasantly surprise me at how you do sometimes – I don’t know what the distinguishing factor is – overcome your fears. I then applaud you for how brave you are, mashaAllah. You did end up going through those automatic doors again, Alhamdulillah. And you have been brave about quite a few things in Oman, Alhamdulillah.
I try to always be empathetic and understanding with all three of you. But, these days, sometimes I have to grit my teeth out of frustration, annoyance and exhaustion, as I pick you up yet again. Often, I have to silently scream and roll my eyes when you’re not looking as, in that moment, I cannot believe the extent of fear and neediness you have. Sometimes I have to desperately count till ten as I accept your hot leg on me, Z and T. Sometimes I have to restrain, with everything in me, from not screaming at the top of my lungs, having a tantrum myself and setting the whole situation on fire as you, T, and you, Z, once again, communicate your needs to me in different ways. Your needs. Your valid, rightful needs. But it’s tough. And, time and time again, I do have my own tantrums. I shout. I make big eyes. I complain about how unfair this cycle is. Sometimes I remember to say salawat and a dua.
……
About thirty minutes into nap time, T, you come walking into my room as I’m breastfeeding A. Z soon follows, crying. Everyone wants to be in my arms, on my lap, on my whole body!! It’s FLIPPIN TOUGH!!!!
I ended up with A on the breast, Z on my legs, a very unhappy T next to me. Z, you woke up twice before sleeping again. Whenever you sleep, you wake up distraught and the only thing that seems to help you is lying in my arms. Now, T is following suit, with his extra bit of strong-willedness. Body and all on me. The sweat! T is nearly asleep again. Alhamdulillah. After a LOUD awake. T, you really struggle to be quiet, but sometimes you’re just on purpose. I had to swallow a big groan and cover up my frown of annoyance again.
…….
Nope, T, you didn’t nap again. Z, you woke up soon, probably due to T’s screams. A, you slept. Alhamdulilah.
It’s tough, but I understand. It’s nothing unusual or abnormal. I just need more patience. May Allah (Swt) give me the patience and forbearance, and the guidance to raise you in a balanced, healthy way. Ameen.
With all my love,
Mommy
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So many questions


My Dear Sons,

Z, you have been asking me a lot about Jannah lately. Nearly the whole morning today consisted of questions and talk concerning Allah (Swt) and Jannah. Sometimes I wish I could instantly press the record button when you ask the questions you ask. I’ve tried to record what I can remember of our conversations…

This morning, you asked me:

Mommy, where is Salallahu alayhi wasalm?
In Jannah, with Biscuit Naani.

Then you asked me:

Mommy, where is Jannah?
High up in the sky.

Will we take an aeroplane to get there?
No, special, magical angels will come fetch us.

When Mommy?
It could be a long time from now. You might be a very big boy already. Big, like Daddy.

You began packing a bag full of all the things you’d like to take with to Jannah, despite me trying to explain to you,  again and again, that it won’t be anytime soon (inshaAllah).

Mommy, can Allah count? (as you took out your Monopoly money that you got in the aeroplane)
Yes, Allah can count.
I’m going to give Allah my money in Jannah.

Mommy, do I have to bath in Jannah? (again)
Only if you want to. In Jannah, you can do whatever you want to. Whatever makes you happy.

Somewhere in between, I overheard you telling T something about going to Jannah:

T: I’m scared
Z: Are you scared for Jannah?
….
Z: Don’t be scared, Allah will look after us. Allah will take care of us.

……

Mommy, why does Allah make people die?
Everything belongs to Allah. We are all Allah’s children. You are my child, but me, you, Mama, Papa, all of us, are Allah’s children. Allah put us here to see how we will be with each other, if we will be kind to each other and so on. And then, Allah will call us back.

Will Mommy shout at me in Jannah?
No, my angel. Everyone only talks nicely in Jannah.

SubhanaAllah.
May Allah (Swt) guide me and you towards a clear understanding of His miracles. Ameen.

With all my love,
Mommy

Our move to Oman


My Dear Sons,

Z, you are nearly 4 and a half. T, you are nearly 2 and a half, and, A, you are already 5 months and 6 days old. How quickly you’ve grown! MashaAllah. A lot of your time is spent practicing rolling over (and getting your left arm out). You seem eager to start crawling soon, inshaAllah. When you’re not gearing up to crawl, you’re busy staring at me lovingly, mashaAllah. Your gaze seems to be permanently fixed on my face!

So much has happened.

We are now in Oman. All of us – Mommy, Daddy, Z, T and A. We have been in Oman for just over two weeks now. Daddy first left for Oman alone about a month and a half earlier. He then came back home to fetch us, Alhamdulillah. In the meantime, we were staying with Mama and Papa where you, Z, and you, T, spent many fun days playing with your cousins, running around the house, on the grass, playing pretend games in the Wendy house and in the house that Papa is building. T, you would help Papa build by passing on bricks to him. He was quite impressed with you. And, Z, you were so fascinated by the whole building business that you too started keeping yourself busy building with the bricks, and saying that you want to be a builder like Papa.

T, both you and your brother had many fun days at Mama’s house, Alhamdulillah. Your nights, however, were restless and sometimes consisted of teary eyes and screams, especially you, Z. I wasn’t sure if you were missing your Daddy or if something else was disturbing your sleep. I never know the depths of your thoughts and just how much goes on in your head. You’d mentioned to Mama that you cry in the night because you’re missing Daddy, and nearly everyday you’d ask to speak to your Daddy. Once or twice, after a video call with Daddy, you sadly said, “I can see Daddy, but I can’t touch Daddy”.

Now we are finally with Daddy, Alhamdulillah, but, Z, your and your brother’s sleep are still disturbed, causing everyone else’s sleep to also be disturbed. It’s been a tough few days in Oman, especially as bedtime nears, frustration and impatience heightens and calm is so far away. In the morning, we wake with two extra bodies in our bed that somehow found their feet to our bed in the midst of the night, and I, for one, do not feel rested. My understanding and empathy has been thinning and has been replaced with impatience, annoyance and commands.

But-
in retrospect, finally, as I recollect my thoughts and reflect on the last few months of changes, transitions and instability in your little lives and in your tiny view of the world, Z and T, MashaAllah, you have managed okay, and continue to embrace all the changes so well. I am grateful.

After reading up and reflecting on children and transition, there are so many things I neglected to consider in this big transition. As I reflect now, I am so grateful, Z, for how you and your brother have adapted to all the changes you have experienced recently.

 On the plane, Alhamdulillah, both of you were cooperative and listened as well as could be expected. Z, you asked sooooooo many questions after each other. “Mommy, why is that light on? Mommy, why is that curtain closed? Mommy, why is there no TV on this plane?” and wouldn’t stop talking. As exciting as it was for everyone, the world must have been so much for your eyes to take in. Towards the end of the journey, it was difficult for me to calmly and patiently explain (and re-explain) all the answers to your questions. T, you became very clingy as the world also must have been so overwhelming for you all of a sudden. It sure is no child’s play travelling with kids! Shoo! But, Alhamdulillah, with Daddy as the captain, we worked together as a team.

Another thing that I am really grateful for, Alhamdulillah, is that we have really nice neighbours in Oman, Alhamdulillah, and both of you, Z and T, have befriended them quickly and easily. Maybe you’ll learn some Arabic from them, inshaAllah.

So far, we’ve been to a few places in this little town, like, the very quiet and nearly empty amusement park, where a huge ride is switched on for just one person. Z, you went on the train rides. The rides were quite long and you had had enough of it soon so, on the third ride, the man in charge of the switches stopped it for you, the only person on the ride. Quite a funny park. T, you went on one ride and then you were a bit scared. Z seemed to be quite delighted that he was braver than you in this regard.

Aside from lots of shopping, we’ve also visited the pet store down the road. There were mainly just birds and cats there. Z, you were particularly fascinated with the animals and felt quite comfortable being there. You even introduced yourself and your brother to the animals and had a chat with the cats. I was very happy to see your interaction. You didn’t want to leave. We promised to return, inshaAllah.

Z,  T still copies everything you do. Everything. Alhamdulillah, most of the time you just go on with your thing, not phased about it at all. Sometimes, though, especially when T seems to sabotage your things and your space, your frustration, that you must have been building up for some time, looks like it wants to explode. You’re now starting to fight back, pushing, hitting and biting your brother. Shoo! My nerves! Your Dad says it’s completely normal and that it gets more brutal as you grow. He just sits back and enjoys the fight. I try to intervene very minimally, allowing both you and your brother the opportunity to develop the skills to sort things out on your own before it becomes physical, but shoo! I’d much rather prefer to not be there. I’m trying to help you talk through conflicts. It’s not always easy as the teacher obviously has to be completely calm, neutral and emotionally balanced at that exact moment that conflict arises, otherwise, obviously, the lesson is in vain. I battle with this emotional balance. InshaAllah, we’ll get there.

Aside from the transition of Cape Town to Oman, there have been quite a few changes happening before then. For one, one of your Dad’s dearest aunt’s passed away. You and T really loved her, Z. Everyone did. She passed very suddenly, not having been sick or anything like that. Your Dad and I explained death and Jannah to you. T is still too small to understand. You had a lot of questions but accepted it quite well and seemed to understand the gist.

Once again, I neglected to remember how a child’s brain works, as I did not again consciously bring up the topic of your great aunt’s passing. But I should have. I should have checked in with you again what your thoughts were about the happening and what questions you still had and what explanations you wanted repeated. I should have brought it up with you again and then again later on and then again… But I didn’t. I’m glad though that you brought it up on your own, Alhamdulillah, and so randomly, as you often are. One night, as I was struggling to get you and your brother to bed in Oman, you asked me, out of the blue, “Why did Allah take Biscuit Naani, Mommy?” I quickly got my thoughts and words together, and, once again, explained to you that everything belongs to Allah. Allah wanted Biscuit Naani back. Biscuit Naani is in Jannah. Jannah is a beautiful place with all things nice, like chocolates and sweets. As many as you want. Jannah is a place where there is only happiness and you never have to do anything that you don’t like. If you don’t feel like brushing your teeth or bathing, you don’t have to. That is Jannah. That is where Biscuit Naani is.

That night wasn’t the end of it. Another night, you asked me if Biscuit Naani can see us. I later recalled that you were probably linking this to the fact that she was blind. We talked about Biscuit Naani a bit that night. I asked you what you remember about her. You remembered the biscuits of course. You remembered that she would ride horse with you on her feet, like Mama, you said.

Alhamdulillah, in retrospect, Z, you and T are doing just fine in Oman. Whatever few hurdles, fears, clinginess there are is completely normal and I should have expected it and been more prepared for it. Alhamdulillah.

May Allah (SWT) be with all three of you always as you move through the world. May Allah ease the journey and help you adapt to the changes in your life now and the changes in years to come, inshaAllah. May it all serve as a means for you to remember that nothing is ever-lasting in this life and nothing belongs to you eternally. Everything is temporary and will come to an end, except your Rabb and your relationship with Him. May you always remember. Ameen.

With all my love,
Mommy

And we get to relive them through their eyes.  Thank you, God, for the innocence of a child.: