Ramadaan


My Dear Sons

It’s nice and quiet in the apartment now, Alhamdulilah. T, you are asleep. Z, you’re still coming to my room, trying to either avoid a nap or to get me to sit with you. You keep coming to me saying, “My eyes closed. I took a nap.”

And I respond, “You have to keep your eyes closed longer.”
A, you’ve just fallen asleep in my arms.
Now I’m just waiting for Z to doze off before I head to the bathroom.

MashaAllah, yesterday all of you slept at the same time. In your room, on your beds. Alhamdulillah. There’s a routine in place now, Alhamdulillah, and I can feel more structure and less stress, and more cooperation. Alhamdulillah.

You even sleep in your own beds for most of the night and, while bedtime is sometimes more chaotic and stressful than other times, it’s okay, Alhamdulillah.

May Allah (Swt) continue to guide me and your Daddy, and to help you fall asleep peacefully at night. Ameen.

Ramadan started yesterday. Alhamdulillah, we’ve been busy getting excited for the blessed month. I think I’ve been more excited than you though. I’m trying to let you experience the joy of this miraculous month, especially you, Z, as you are older and at an age of better understanding. But your excitement is mediocre most of the time, or pretty short-lived. I’ve still got activities planned for you throughout the month though, Alhamdulillah. InshaAllah you will enjoy doing them.

Yesterday, after putting your hand in the Ramadan Acts of Kindness jar, you took out a piece of paper that read, “Make Dad a glass of lemonade”. You were very excited and ready to do this and quickly began squeezing out lemons that I cut up and placed on the table for you and T. It becomes challenging to get things done smoothly with T in the equation. I have to find a different way. Alhamdulillah, the lemonade was made. You were very proud and excited for your Dad to have it when he breaks his fast. We have to see after nap time what act of kindness is in store for today inshaAllah.

A, you’re still practicing getting the hang of crawling. You’ll be 6 months soon and munching your first banana, inshaAllah.

T, just when I think joyful, pleasant playful days between you and your brother, Z are near, you go and slap him hard and bite into whatever flesh you can gnaw into. Sometimes, when we try to correct you, T, you respond with an angry, “I don’t listen to you!” or you scream “I don’t want to!” Sometimes I need to bite my tongue to stop myself from laughing at the things that come out of your mouth. You’re really like a little man. So cute, mashaAllah. May your feisty, strong-willed nature prevail and help you in your teenage and adult years. Ameen.

Z, you have learned to stand up for yourself quite a bit, Alhamdulillah. You now fight back, most of the time. Sometimes you just couldn’t care, or it’s just not worth the effort.

Still, it’s not easy to watch or mediate. But, this is training grounds for time to come inshaAllah.

Despite the fighting, you have a loving relationship, mashaAllah. When you are sad, Z, for any reason other than T, T would sweetly ask you, “What’s wrong?”

And if you are out of sight for a minute, T’s only concern is, “Where is Daada?”

MashaAllah.

May Allah (Swt) protect and strengthen your bond. Ameen.

With all my love,
Mommy

PS. Z you did end up taking a nap, Alhamdulillah.

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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

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.:

And then there were three


Z – almost 4 years old
T – almost 2 years old
A – almost 3 weeks old

My Dear Sons,

There’s three of you now. As I sit,  breastfeeding you, A, the newest member of our family, my mind switches from your eldest brother’s shouting and T’s crying to your recent circumcision. I think back to when T, not so long ago, had his circumcision, by the same doctor, and Z as well.

A, you had been so passive throughout the whole procedure, not a single cry, Alhamdulilah. But, as we left the doctor, just as we climbed into the car, you started feeling the unbearable pain. I could only gauge the measure of your pain by your heartbreaking cries that were so difficult to hear. And that familiar feeling once again settled in me; that familiar feeling of utter helplessness, as I called on Allah, The All-Hearing, to help you.

That familiar feeling that I know is a reminder and a taste of all the many more occasions of helplessness I am yet to feel as you and your brothers go through Life. May Allah, The Most Strong, help me to be strong.

My dear boys,  I’m realising and experiencing more and more the importance of emotional strength and emotional control. And while I discipline you, guide you and often unfairly expect you to be in control of your emotions and actions, Z and T, as small as you are, I must admit that I have not been in good control of mine, since the welcoming of A.

I’m finding it so difficult to divide my attention fairly, to accept, appreciate and handle your different temperaments. Z, you often need my reassurance and become very clingy if I don’t give you the right attention, from the time you demand that I get out of bed “because the sun is out” till bedtime when you insist that I, as opposed to your Dad, put you to sleep because you love me too much. If I don’t start the day right, by getting up, giving you breakfast and paying attention to you, our day is bound to not go well. Your listening ears suddenly don’t work anymore and you become very uncooperative. T, you have a very loud personality, besides really not being able to whisper. You demand attention by literally screaming and making yourself heard, acting up hugely and loudly if I don’t give you your fair amount of attention throughout the day. And then there’s, A. At the moment, A, you just cry non-stop until I pick you up.

T, you are battling so much with your emotions at the moment. I’m not sure you know whether you like A or not. It must be very frustrating to not yet have all the words to tell me how you feel, so you hit and bite and scream and throw things. Patience. I need patience, but it’s been thinning out lately.

T, besides your struggles with your new brother, you have your daily quarrels with your Daada,  Z,  too. Shame, you must really admire him. You want to copy everything he does but at the same time you want to compete with him and always be a step ahead. I tell him he is your hero and that you love him so much that you have to do everything he does and be everywhere he is. MashaAllah, your Daada has a lot of patience with you. He smiles when I tell him that. He is getting to be a bigger boy though and I can see that he needs space away from you at times. Before, Daada didn’t know how to defend himself against your frequent hard hits, scratches and bites. He tries using his words and being firm but sometimes he forgets or just doesn’t have faith that it will work. So, now, your fights with Daada have become very physical, as he fights back, sometimes even being the instigator. Your Dad thinks it’s a great thing; my nerves struggle to handle it. T, as small as you are, you’ve still got the biggest personality in a room of kids. Even if you are the youngest in the group, you are not intimidated. MashaAllah, you have a very big and powerful personality. Despite hitting me, biting me and generally making it difficult for us to get along, underneath all that, you’re still my little baby, and I know that all you want is my unconditional love and care. I ask Allah, The Loving, to help me to nurture your temperament, Ameen.

Phew! I’m emotionally tired and not doing too well in the emotional strength department, which I do believe is where Mommyhood stems from. But I can feel things easing up and the days getting less heavy. Alhamdulillah.

May Allah, The Protector, continue to love and look after my boys. Ameen.

With all my love,
Mommy

The Best Mommy


My Dear Sons,

It’s been too long since my last letter. So much has happened.

We’re all in Cape Town together again, alhamdulillah. As I’m writing this, I can feel your new little brother’s first movements in my tummy. Yes, inshaAllah, Z and T, you will have another brother soon. Ameen.

Right now, Z, you are sitting on the couch in your Daadi’s lounch, watching Fireman Sam on Youtube, your most favourite thing to watch. It allows me to be busy with other things for a bit, while the guys of Fireman Sam keep you entertained. Who would have thought I’d be so grateful for kids’ TV? Ever since your cousins introduced Fireman Sam to you, everything is all about being a fireman. You even introduce yourself as Fireman Z!

After about an hour, if not more, of eating your bread, Z, you just now suddenly exclaimed to me, “I’m finished!” It took me a few seconds to realise that you were referring to your bread. Ai. I don’t know when you will start eating better and faster. And then you so sweetly ask me, “Is Mommy proud of me?” And I say, “Yes!” enthusiastically, “I’m so proud of you that you ate up all your bread.”

T, you are still asleep at this hour of 9 a.m, alhamdulillah. You are now officially weaned off breastfeeding. And I actually think that you are now finally sleeping much better, alhamdulillah. It took two nights of extreme crying, shouting, agony and hitting. On the third night you fell asleep in the car on our way home and when you woke later in the night, you were quite content to fall asleep again in your Dad’s arms, and that’s where you stayed for the rest of the night. Alhamdulillah.

T, you’re still so feisty and head-strong. Though your physical strength is amazing MashaAllah, I think your strongwilled nature outweighs even that. You certainly have a way of challenging everyone around you. Sometimes you walk around literally just looking for mischief or something or someone to challenge, as if thinking, “Mmm, what can I stir up next?”

Despite your ability to rile people up, especially me, to quickly just hop up again after a fall, to take on a new challenge-  physically and mentally- your little heart melts and your adorable eyes well up should someone dare raise their voice at you.

You have a way of softening people’s hearts when they look at you. MashaAllah.  Despite all the mischief you get up to and the challenges you throw my way, you also have the ability to warm my heart at the end of the day. Alhamdulillah.

Z, the other day you said something so sweet, MashaAllah. And that’s what I’ll end off with. We were sitting in the car, waiting for your Daddy to get back from the shop and I had just gotten off the phone with your Mama (my mommy).

I said, “I have the best mommy in the whole world!”
You looked at me and responded simply, “You’re MY best mommy in the whole world!”

That must be the sweetest thing you’ve said to me yet. Alhamdulillah.

May I live up to that. Ameen. And when you’re eighteen years old, inshaAllah, may you still think that you have the best mommy. Ameen.

With love,
Mommy