…..Closeness…..

A few months ago I was having a conversation with my sister in law. She said “do you know I read something?” I enquired what it was, she said “I came across a post on Instagram and it said ‘spend time with newborn children as they have spent the most time with God.” The words really struck me as I had been contemplating the ups and downs of motherhood (as you do and never stop.) I was feeling as though I had reached somewhat of a plato. On the one hand I am aware of the tantamount of blessings associated with motherhood, but at the same time there are other things I want to explore and aspirations I want to fulfil.

Then at the same time I do have the usual ‘mum guilt’ that accompanies me and I’m sure accompanies other mothers too. I think about the dichotomy and try and do a balancing act. It usual begins positively but I encounter obstacles sometimes and then it dissipates. Hearing this did give me a renewed vigour for motherhood. It was something small and I am not the type of person who seeks compliments or reassurance but having this perspective is nice at times. It helped me in that moment as it drew upon spirituality which is equally as important as anything else in parenting I believe.

Are there any mothers who also feel like this please leave your comments below.

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……Moving away, coming back……

From young age I’ve loved writing, reading and studying. I’m a self confessed geek who enjoys note taking. I am someone who always carries notebooks and is drawn to stationary. The moment pen hits paper and you form words and your brain starts processing ideas is joyful for me. Growing up and being the daughter of first generation immigrants I was not read to *well not in the traditional way.* My parents were not heavily involved in my schooling as parents are now. BUT I was immersed in literacy and learning in a different way; which has had an impact on my desire to learn.

I have memories of creating things with my mum and transcribing things for my dad as soon as I learnt to read and write. It may not sound innovative or exciting, however at that time it felt like I was progressing as I was practicing things I had learnt at school. My parents were never told to do this it was just something they did naturally. I do not think they would think about this and give it any significance but these small things had an impact on the way I coded things in my brain. Being exposed to different languages at home also made a difference. At school we were taught in English. When we came home we spoke in Sylheti. We were taught to memorise in Arabic and then attended a Bengali school at the weekend where we learnt standard Bengali different to the vernacular dialect we spoke at home. In addition to this we would watch films in Hindi thereby being exposed to Urdu as well as both languages can be understood if only one language is knows.  All of these different elements contributed to the passion I have for linguistics, literacy and study-which I am hoping my children also benefit from. However, it was never a conscious choice that was made to ‘boost’ our literacy skills.

I recall being told stories in our native language and imagining kings and queens in gowns. I would conceptualise their attire in our traditional cultural clothing. That would be saris draped across the main female protagonists and the male protagonists sporting Sherwani’s with brocaded cloaks and a turban on their heads.

I reflected on this after I attended a conference about Literacy. It was attended by many professionals who discussed the achievements made in the area. Unlike other parts of the UK here in Bradford literacy professionals are attempting to raise levels in ways that I have not seen whilst working as an English teacher. The event began with an overview of pupil achievement in the core subjects which has improved massively over a span of ten years. During this time the economy has faced many changes. Education itself has had many changes. Schools becoming academies, curriculum’s being overturned, subjects being collapsed, targets being altered, new qualifications being introduced, beaurocracy increasing- to mention but a few things.  Amidst this teachers have ploughed on (sometimes begrudgingly.)

A quote that resonated with me was when the organiser of the Bradford Literature Festival said ‘literacy has to be brought out of the classroom.’ This was reinforced with the speakers of the Literacy Hub who working with the National Literacy Trust have developed new projects that they are piloting here in Bradford. It was refreshing to see organisations working together as opposed to reinventing the wheel. Moving back to the aforementioned quote I do think this is essential if we want to raise a generation that does not have homogenous literacy in my view. It seems that now in classrooms all pupils young or old are expected to excel. In contrast to this I think it is the process that should be appreciated-although results are important-they are not the sole goal.

My daughter has recently started reception and they are laying the foundations for her learning. These early years are important but the family plays a large part in this too which I think goes unnoticed. It was reassuring to hear someone else echo my sentiments about literacy being brought out of the ‘classroom.’ This in combination with the ‘Men in Early Years’ project lead by the Literacy Hub will hopefully encourage greater participation whilst drawing upon that which is familiar to families.

Even though I know about the internal elements of education becoming familiar with phonics has been a journey for myself. Other families do not have access to English so to hear that work was being conducted in family homes in mother tongue languages showed encouragement. The fact that parents were not expected to write rather tell a story in their own native traditions I believe will improve children’s literacy. This shows to me that it is not resources that are available that make differences rather it is how we execute resourcefulness.

Whilst waiting for my transport to arrive I saw that outside the conference there was a statue of a child taking it’s first step. On the plaque it was noted that it was created by a number of children from the primary schools based in Bradford. For me this symbolised what these professionals were doing by shifting away from the homogenous models of literacy and taking the first step- after all this is the hardest.

 

Mindful minutes

With the era of high paced technology, the influence of social media and convenience at our finger tips you would think that people would have peace of mind. I do not not know about anyone else but I myself feel as though it can be a cause of isolation and give rise to unknown worries that you did not know you had especially in the new generation of teenagers that are growing up.

I remember growing up and my cousins share little snippets of gossip they had heard. Celebrities were inaccessible except through TV and websites that you had use dial-up connection to access. When you came home from school MSN was THE way of communicating with friends. I even remember writing letters to cousins who resided in London and looking forward to a response. Yet at this time I felt secure and confident. I did not feel as though there was a need to ‘be’ a certain way. Of course there was peer pressure. Growing up in a predominantly ethnic-minority less area came with its own obstacles. Now it is different (this I will expand upon in another post.)

I am not condemning social media or technology I think they are great tools and have many advantages. You can see your beloved ones on FaceTime, share pictures on whatsAPP, update events on snapchat and express yourself how you want. It would be ironic if I was to do this as I am using this platform myself to engage with people. I guess a part of me misses the proximity of the old ways. Another part of me is a worried mum. I have two young girls and do not want them to be consumed by the ‘idealistic’ (I say loosely for want of a better word) images presented on these social media sites.

I have been thinking about it for a while and encourage my eldest daughter that she is beautiful just the way she is and also encourage her to be confident. At the same time I see my adolescent nieces and my heart churns when I see the turmoil of pressure there is. I was recently teaching past exam papers at work and the sample text was a letter written to a daughter from a mother. The advise she gave echoed my own thoughts.

I am just a bit skeptical of the exposure to ‘perfectness’ (I know this isn’t a word.) With the way APPs are developing I think the social media is only going to escalate. What does that mean for parents who just want their child to create a secure identity? If anybody has any further thoughts please share 🙂

Something ordinary

We awoke today at around 08:00am. Given that I only slept for a few hours after the dawn prayer and its Ramadan I wanted to desperately retreat into my bed. Alas! my daughters thought differently. Whilst lying down I remembered that my eldest daughter was given a project to complete. It was centred around a story called ‘Jasper and the Beanstalk’ and she was asked to make a flower that could be placed upon a display.

Reluctantly, rising from the bed I decided to make this into a lesson about growth and related it to Ramadan. However, as we began preparing, drawing, tracing, cutting, gluing, sticking, taping and finally painting (long list I know) subconsciously my mind had already made other links. My husband clambered down the stairs and sat down beside our youngest daughter and I could not wait to inform him of my analogy.

So I began explaining. When I came downstairs I looked in the storeroom for miscellaneous items that could be used. I thought it would be good to do this to encourage the use of materials at home. I then asked my daughter what does a flower look like and she found a flower hair slide to answer my question. Then the three of us went about preparing the items we would require for the activity. Similar to this we are recommended to prepare for this month, not just spiritually but physically and mentally. Although, we may not prepare in terms of gathering items like my daughter did, we do prepare for the meal after we break the fast and this is a blessing that Allah has given us.

Once we sat down we began to draw around the shapes that we had found. Now going on a tangent when I do things with my children I like to encourage autonomy. I do this for their own sake but recent research into child development promotes child lead activities. This is also promoted in Islam. As we are encouraged to raise our children with independence, be it through attempting the salaah or praising them for doing a good deed (this is another topic I will write about in another post inshallah.)

Anyhow going back to what I was writing about. As my daughter drew around the shapes to create the petals (which were in an array of colours), she started to cut around the lines and then we assembled them. In the process my daughter could not wait and was eager to simply paint. On seeing the final piece she smiled. It made me think of Ramadan. This is because just like my daughter cut the paper to make the petals the first fast (for me anyway) is like a sharp cut- as we struggle. Some struggle as they have work, some struggle due to ill health, some struggle as they have young children and there are unknown struggles too. By the end we hope that our souls are rejuvenated and our spirituality is assembled (or reassembled in our case) like the flower its just that like my daughter we are eager to see the result and undermine the process which is not something ordinary.

 

Toddler immersion

IMG_3471 If anybody has read one of my previous posts you will know that I wrote about immersion.Parenting I think is quite arbitrary. I remember in year eight when my PSE teacher asked us to ask our parents what they learnt before becoming a parenting.  When the teacher asked us again one of the students responses was that her parents said “nothing it was like a walk in the park.” It is just that. You learn as you go along and you find directions that suit you. A theme that echoes within my posts is that I wanted my beliefs to be central. I wanted everything to emanate from this. Alhhumdulillah (praise be to Allah) there is an abundance of resources available around us that we can utilise. This brings me to the bath book. I think these are absolutely amazing. There are many available in story book versions from supermarkets and retailers but I was taken by this one produced by Shade7. It is a simple way in introducing kids to wudhu (ablution required to perform prayers by Muslims.) It also changes colour to signify which parts you need to wash. I came across the organisation on Instagram and it would be great if others could also show their support.

Its great for bath time. I was happy to see that the organisation had taken the concept and used to retail an aspect of the religion that is so integral. It makes immersive parenting that little bit easier. Not only this it has much more to offer. As it is written in English it helps them to read and me being a linguistics geek can go and on.

To my daughters

IMG_3462  Dear Safiya and Amanah,

I write this whilst one of sleeps and the other plays. At times its great at times its difficult. At times your wonderful at times your a handful. At times your a bundle of joy that I do not want to let go. At times you make me angry for reasons you do not know. You both are small now but growing everyday. To have you both I did pray. I prayed at night, in the morning and the time when everybody was asleep. Thats why I wonder sometimes why I weep.You see I become overwhelmed and cannot express- the thoughts in my head so I get into a mess. But I do love you and do care. I care about your wellbeing. I care about your spirituality. Thats why I want to strive hard to make the akhirah a reality. Its not as easy as I pondered in my youth-sometimes I feel the torment of ‘mummy guilt.’ Then I realise that Allah’s mercy is like a comfortable quilt. So I keep trying, perserving taking  one step at a time-knowing that through this I am being watched by Al-Latif the most Sublime.

Anaphora and Cataphora

 

IMG_3283

I snapped this shot when Amanah’s ears were examained at the ENT department. Both sisters played in this small play area designated children whilst the parents waited. Its amazing the games young children can come up with. Safiya decided she wanted to play school’s , whilst Amanah took the decision to climb on and off the tiny chairs and tables. My husband and I sat back and watched them. I do not know what my husband was thinking but I was silently supplicating at this time. It had been a turbulent year after having my second daughter. She was a blessing but with my health deteriorating unexpectedly I felt I had only reached this point with the aid of Allah. He had placed people in my life that I feel I owe much too. Their kind words and physical help with my eldest, and assistance with appoitments was very much appreciated. It lead to a quicker healing I believe I even said to my mum and mother in law at one point that without their supplications and tears I do not think I could have recovered (I say this sincerely.) My husband too was great (though he had his moments.) After I began to heal I began to be pro-active. I took up writing once more and small creative projects. I visited friends and parents more and made a silent oath I would prioritise more. Lo behold after a few months Amanah got an ear infection. No sooner did she get over her first one she got another one. In total she had nine consecutive infections which subsided just before Ramadan then came back after the month was over.

The nights seemed long when she had them and I was consumed by guilt. People would ask me how she got it and what caused it and I would think they had an undertone of blame. It took me a while to gain confidence and realise that I should not be giving as much importance and value to what they were saying. Spiritually it was only knowing that I was giving my children their rights that mattered the most. Alas it has taken me time to fully comprehend the tarbiyah of what my beliefs hold and it is difficult. Beliefs aside (not that I can really detach them) mums really do not discuss the emotions they feel and how lonely it can be. Admittedly I would be in tears in my room and then leave and put on a brave face and carry on with my daily tasks.

I have discovered that there are other mothers who feel like this, so I want to them to know that there is a way forward. Marriage, parenting are like the title they are anaphoric and cataphoric.