Monday, May 25, 2009

Mental Block

It happened again this morning, a week later! She is subconsciously blocking the "snake" and using, well, fuzzier replacements.

So, what happened when Allah swt commanded Musa to throw down his stick? What did it turn into?
Moona (without missing a beat): A caterpillar.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Headed for the Trash

I found what I thought was a great bargain on craigslist. A vintage, child-size play refrigerator for $35. It's big, almost taller than Moona, painted white, metal handles and real wire racks and bins on the inside of the door. Something that realistic would cost over $150 new. The girls loved it and it made their kitchen so much more interesting, opening and shutting the door and arranging cans and food boxes on the shelves.

They had it for about three weeks. The paint was peeling in a couple places, so I went to the hardware store to pick up a lead testing kit just in case. It turned bright red--heavy lead content! I just dragged the refrigerator into the garage to be thrown away with the trash and am sitting, a little shaken, and alhamdulillah thanking Allah (swt) that I actually went out and got the test. Lead poisoning is a very scary thing, especially on a toy refrigerator (the girls would likely put play food in their mouths, etc.).

Now I have to figure out what to say to them when they wake up in the morning and notice immediately that their fridge is gone.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Role Playing

I am trying to guide Moona and Buru into saying “Please” and “Thank you”, not only when we are in the home but outside as well. Moona struggles with saying anything to strangers, and I wanted to help her work through some of that anxiety.

So I walked out of the bedroom one day with a scarf draped over my shoulders and some cards in my hand and trilled, “Hello! I’m Miss Teresa!”

Miss Teresa is the librarian who tells the stories at the library’s preschool storytime.

The girls froze mid-action, a little confused at hearing the name. A smile started to twitch at their mouths as they watched me take a seat at the play table with much flurried animation and exaggeration.

“I wonder who’s going to come today to ask for a ticket for the storytime. I hope they remember to say please and thank you!”

And so we went through all the motions, the girls’ giggling and excited as they asked for a ticket, please, thanked the librarian, went in the kitchen and sang the storytime song. Moona got a little lost somewhere between reality and make believe, and started chatting Miss Teresa—aka me in disguise—away in English, telling her about her baby sister and that she doesn’t want mommy to cut her hair ever.

Then we switched, and Moona and Buru took turns wearing the shawl and being Miss Teresa. Buru, who hardly says ten words, dropped her guard and pronounced, “Hel-lo!” and “Ok-kay!” with serious perfection.

Over and over and over again, we went through the motions about a dozen times. Finally, I couldn’t restrain myself and, after they took the tickets and sat primly for the song, I came roaring in with the scarf over my head, “GIVE ME BACK MY TICKETS!”

The shock on their faces was priceless, and the game disintegrated into a game of shriek-tag-and-tickle, which these kinds of things often do.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Lumpy Sugar

There's this kid's song, "You're my honey bunch, sugar plum, pumpy-umpy umpkin..." It's really cute and the girls like to hear me sing it to them. You can listen to it here.

Here is Moona's version of the song that she was singing today while getting dressed:
"You're my lump, lump, lumpy sugar, lumpy, lumpy, lumpy sugar..."

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


I was seated at the computer when Moona softly tiptoed out of her room. She was supposed to be asleep, but I was used to the half-hour or so of coaxing it takes.

“فقط أسألك شيئا “ “I just want to ask you something.”

“Mm hmm, go ahead.”

She will pull anything out of her brain, just to prolong the moments before going back to bed. Maybe she will retell part of a story we read earlier, tell me exactly what color she wants for her hairpiece next Eid, or remind me that we need to call her grandmother later. Sometimes she will ask me how big Allah is, or if she can hold her baby sister when she wakes up. You never know what random question she will think up when she is dodging sleep.

“Yes, habeebati?”

She took a deep breath … and held it. And held it. And held it. She stared at me, eyes wide, mouth half-open. I watched her frozen face and realized that her mind completely blanked on her. The seconds ticked by…

“Moona, go to sleep.”

Her breath whooshed out.


Saturday, May 9, 2009

What They're Saying

و لكن يدي صغيرتان لا أستطيع أن أنظف
"But my hands are too small ... so I can't clean up!"

Me: Prophet Musa had a stick. What did he use it for?

Moona: ! كان يهش بها على الغنم
(He used it to guide his sheep)

Me: Yes! And then Allah swt commanded him to throw it down to the ground. What did it turn into?

Moona: ! تحولت إلى دودة
(It turned into a worm!)
-Moona, 4

The Difference a Preposition can Make

I’m reading ScreamFree Parenting—the title is self-explanatory. There are a few interesting points in the book, and some strange concepts as well (such as giving your kid “space”). But the first chapter gave me a leap-off-the-couch-and-shout-for-joy “aha!” moment.

I am not responsible for my children. I am responsible to Allah swt for how I give and behave towards my children. This tiny word substitution created a totally different mentality in my mind. On one hand, it relieves the stress-inducing pressure of getting my children to behave a certain way, often because social norms say they should do so, and instead trusting in Allah swt to guide them. On the other, it allows me to focus on the one variable that I can control, and that is how I behave towards them. If you think about it, this approach should create much better results in the long run, because it helps a mother be calmer, more controlled, and focused on the one factor that will have the deepest impact on her children-her behavior.

Think of any scenario with the kids—it’s 11 p.m. and we’re still struggling to get Moona to sleep. Normally, I would focus on my child’s behavior and try to change it at almost any cost. It would start gently but possibly end in arguing, bribing, yelling, or a time-out. However, if I remember that I am responsible to my children, not for them, I will stop focusing on the behavior and instead focus on the “tarbiyah” and guidance I am giving them. So, in this case, it’s not so important that she be in bed at a certain time or that she listen to me as remaining calm and patient with her, in the teaching and tarbiyah mode. This doesn’t preclude being firm and disciplining, so long as the disciplining is based on clear, calm thinking and not panic or anger.

I am struggling in trying to help Moona understand how to count. I ask her to give me five pom-poms, and she gives me six, counting "One, two, seven, eight, four, five!" Sometimes, I panic a little and think, "She's four and still can't count?!" Because I'm in a result-oriented mindset, she senses the pressure and resists my efforts at teaching. In this case, I need to shift my thinking: I'm not responsible for teaching Moona her numbers, but I am responsible to Allah swt for interacting with her in the most patient, empowering manner. Similarly, I can make my child memorize Quran, but if she doesn't enjoy it, then I may be getting one set of results but I'm missing out on something possibly more important and need to revisit my approach.

I am responsible for the words I say, the methods I use to teach and parent, my tone, my voice, my words, my perceptions. Instead of becoming fixated on getting my children to do something or stop a behavior by yelling, threatening, or offering rewards and punishments, I need to focus on myself. I must learn how to be deeply aware of the moves I make in the thick of loud, stressful tantrums and messes. In many ways, the core of this idea is connected to the Islamic concept of tarbiyah and responsibility before Allah. I am responsible for my behavior alone, and I will be held responsible before Allah for how I tried to guide my kids into being pious, self-directed adults, not ultimately how they turned out.