Evolving Intentions Throughout Parenthood – 4 Ways to Teach Deen to School-Age Kids
Jan 23, 2023
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Editor's note: It's our annual #LikeYouMeanItHH beginning-of-the-year reflection time! What does it mean to "wear it like you mean it?" We invite you (and ourselves) to renew our intentions and reflect on what our hijab (and faith and other areas of our lives) mean to us.
When my daughter told me she wanted to wear her hijab to kindergarten one day, I was taken aback at her courage. But more so, I wasn’t sure how to react. My initial response was to deter her from the idea, but I had to let go of my own insecurities and fears for her and let her make this decision.
I also had to be cautious in the way I handled this news so as to not instill doubt around her idea of wearing hijab in public or to school, whether for one day or more. I knew that the way I handled this moment would have a lasting impact on her relationship with hijab for years to come.
When she made her announcement, her face was shining with innocence that was so pure and had not been polluted by the racism and Islamophobia so many Muslim women know. She was so firm in her stance and beaming with pride as she walked out of the house with her head held high, and told me, “Mama, I am so proud to wear my hijab and let everyone know I am Muslim.”
(Please note: She didn’t have to wear hijab. It wasn’t incumbent upon her at this tender age. But she wanted to wear it that day in kindergarten.)
It hit me then: In that moment, everything I have been doing to raise my children in a way that is pleasing to Allah (S) led me to this. And, I was reaping the reward of my work in front of my eyes. I cried after I dropped her off that morning. I cried out of fear for her and the unforgiving judgment of others, out of pride, and out of gratitude to Allah (S) for guiding me every step of the way on my journey to raising a Muslim family.
The best part? She came home excited at all the compliments she received, and that she got to share a part of her religion with everyone at school. Alhamdulillah.
Evolving Intentions Across the Stages of Parenting
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“The days are long, but the years are short.” This quote by author Gretchen Rubin is the most accurate description of parenthood, in my opinion. It is a favorite that I refer to often when talking about how big the kids have gotten, or when a new mother talks to me about her struggles.
In the thick of it all, it’s hard to see past the around the clock of feedings, colic, toddler tantrums, potty training and so much more. It’s only when you get a moment to take it all in do you realize that in a blink of an eye, your not-so-little baby is growing up fast.
Every stage of motherhood, and parenting, brings new challenges and responsibilities, which in turn brings new intentions about how you will parent in each stage. You also evolve as a person and as a mom throughout your motherhood journey and learn to let go or revisit certain parts of yourself to adapt to your current season of life. Going into the new year, I thought a lot about what my mothering will look like in 2023 – what my parenting intentions are and how I’d like to go about them.
My mindset has moved away from cluster feeding, baby proofing and diaper changes. I am now thinking about school age milestones, and embedding Islamic teachings and Arabic lessons into my kids schedule.
Parenting Intentions Around Islamic Education for School-Age Kids
My daughter, who is turning seven, is now in school. And my three-year-old son, Insha'Allah, is starting school this fall. Aside from their own personal growth, I see how our family dynamic has evolved. The two enjoy playing together more cohesively. My daughter has taken on her role as “big sister” and teaches her brother everything she knows. As a family we are able to partake in the same activities and go on outings the both will enjoy.
Laying a solid foundation in Quran, Islamic studies and learning Arabic has been a parenting goal of mine from the moment I found out I was pregnant with my daughter. I grew up in a heavily-immersed Islamic and Arabic teaching environment, and I knew I wanted to give that to my children. However, in entering this phase of Islamic teaching in parenting, it has looked and will continue to look, a lot different than what I have been doing so far in the comfort of my own home.
At home I am able to lead our day and schedule in the way I see fit in terms of Islamic teaching and Arabic speaking. Once my daughter started school, I quickly learned that there are many things that are out of my control and will need to be handled differently: Things like building confidence in herself and her identity because she will stand out from the crowd both in her religious views and visibly, sharing and speaking about her religion and culture in a way that she is proud of, being aware of the foods she eats outside of the home, and so on.
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While there is only so much I can control outside of the home, I know I have more control of what my children’s foundation will be and that is where my focus is as I move forward with their upbringing. Here are four ways I am building on my intention to instill faith practices and love of Islam in them.
1. Learning Quran and how to pray salah: These are a work in progress. When my children hit the age of three years old, they each got their own Juz Amma (the 30th juz) booklet of the Quran. Using stickers to mark the surahs they memorize has been a great way for them to see their progress.
Starting with Surah Al-Fatiha, the three Quls and then working our way up in the juz, my husband and I work together to weave Quran time into our morning and evening routines.
2. Adjust the learning depending on age and family dynamic: For my daughter, she listens to her verses of the week on her drive to school, and we work on memorizing them during her bedtime routine.
For my son, who is still home with me, I have him listen to his surah and verses in the morning while preparing breakfast, and then we repeat them together while we play throughout the day. Now that my daughter also attends Sunday school that includes its own Quran program, having that sense of accountability to recite to her teacher and memorize with her friends has encouraged her to continue moving along with her juz.
3. Setting the love and tone for prayer through modeling and demonstration: This year my daughter will turn seven, so I have been more intentionally thinking about how to instill a deep love for this pillar of Islam. While having her own set of prayer clothes and prayer mat are important tools, I am also making it a goal to pray more in congregation with my husband.
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Oftentimes we forget that the best form of teaching is by demonstration. During the prayers that are performed out loud, my husband will recite the surah that our kids are working on to help reinforce their memorization. The beauty of our religion is that it is a way of life, all intertwined and practiced in unison.
And during bath time, I have started to show her the steps of making wudu and the importance of cleanliness in Islam.
4. Bring language into your kids lives through intentionally speaking it (if you are fluent): As a parent of a minority, I now see the importance my parents put on ensuring my siblings and I learned the Arabic language, our mother-tongue. At a young age I made it a priority to surround my children with playing and learning resources in Arabic to help instill a love for the language from the start.
Since becoming parents, my husband and I have also become more intentional in speaking Arabic together especially in front of the kids. While there are so many tools and resources that can be used at home, I have found it necessary to supplement with Arabic lessons as well as Sunday school to ensure a proper foundation and use of the language in both reading and writing.
As I look forward to this upcoming year, with all of its changes, highs and lows, I can’t help but think about what’s in it for me. Leaving behind a phase of motherhood, and entering a new one where I anticipate more free time leaves me wondering about the intentions I have for my own self-growth. As mothers, parents, we often lose ourselves in our motherhood and parenting role. We let go of certain aspects of ourselves that we enjoyed before.
Some of us may have chosen to take a step back in our professional or educational paths to dedicate our time to our children. Entering a stage where my children will both soon be in school, I have started to think about what I would like to do for myself. I have picked up many opportunities, passion projects, and skills along the way that are helping me grow as an individual and discover new things about myself.
Saying goodbye to a chapter is never easy, but looking forward to what is to come is always exciting. I ask Allah (S) to aid us in raising God fearing, proud young Muslims in a way that is pleasing to Him and will be our means to enter Jannah. Ameen.
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