I teach my children a lot of things that I think they should know, like kindness and generosity, how to hem a shirt or crochet a hat, when to plant tomatoes and when to harvest potatoes. I teach them how to cook and clean in a way that is healthy for both them and the environment, and when to ask for and offer help. They each take to what I teach them to differing degrees, depending upon their interest and ability, but they can all learn at least the basics of everything I teach them.
The other day, though, I was thinking about things that I really, really enjoy doing, that I think are important enough to try to fit into my life in one way or another. Writing- that’s a no-brainer. Knitting. I find my mind lives a life of its own when my hands are busy, and I love having beautiful, useful creations when I am done with each project. Working with my herbs and making soap. These are ways I can give to my family and to the community, insh’Allaah, in so many different ways. Studying and learning- I could happily be a lifelong student, and my three favorite areas of study are Islaam and Arabic, Permaculture and growing things, and herbalism, all of which go beyond self-gratification into the realm of family and community as well. I could have listed ten, but I limited myself to five so that I could really see how I might manage to fit those things into my life on a daily or, if necessary, weekly basis.
Then I got to wondering about my children and how much of what they like to do is dependent upon what I like to do. Have I just been teaching them the things that I enjoy and think are important, assuming that they are things that they will enjoy and think are important? I think, possibly, yes, more often than not. I decided to see what they would choose to learn about and do if they had the chance.
“Write down five things,” I told them. “Five things that you really want to do, or to learn to do. Just five, to start, and we can go from there.”
Because I pay close attention to my children, there were no real surprises in their lists. I knew, for example, that Juwairiyah loves to draw and paint nature scenes, and that Sukhailah likes to journal. I knew that Mu’aadh could spend hours working with Legos to come up with amazing creations, and that Maryam was whizzing along with her crocheting. I knew these things, but now I also know that they don’t just do them because I encourage them, or because there is nothing else to do.
I did learn a few things, though. Mu’aadh would like to learn how to swim and rock climb. Maryam wants to study history and try her hand at cooking, and Sukhailah would like to make candles. Baby Asmaa wants to make a doll like Maryam’s doll, Zakkariyyah.
So now I look at how I can encourage and support them in the things that they want to take on, without being “that mother.” You know the one, the lady who micromanages every moment of her child’s life, looking over her shoulder and correcting every move she makes instead of giving her the tools and knowledge she needs to create and learn on her own, and then providing encouragement, support and guidance as necessary. I’ve gotten pretty good at this over the years, but I do find myself falling into the “The sun is NOT purple!” category on occasion. I learned this lesson from my sister Patty, who never forgot the time that my brother Michael, a very literal person to this very day, punched her in the stomach for coloring something a color other than that which he felt it should be. From that day on, Patty colored however she liked, and if her noonday skies were bright purple, well, then, that was fine with her. She taught me the value and beauty of coloring outside the lines, something I still do to this day if the mood takes me. Here’s hoping I can pass that on to my children, as well as the understanding that I care about and value what they care about and value, and that I will guide and support them in any way I can as they stretch, grow and explore new directions.
Listen to yourself. Listen to your children. See what comes of it!