“Never compare your child to another child, compare your child to the vision you have for him.”
My friend Heba has always inspired me with beautiful conversations and powerful quotes. My journal is full of sentences like Heba said… The above quote is one of them and it is one that resonated deeply with me. I don’t remember whether or not I had my son Imran at the time, but this quote really helped me stay grounded in my parenting experience. As a relatively new mom, like many moms, I often find myself debating whether or not I should jump on the new parenting trend being advertised. Trends and advises that often come from well-meaning people in our lives with the belief that it is what they did for their child and it is communicated with the intention of urging you to do what they did. If this resonates with you at all, I’m sure you too have felt confused at times and inadequate at other times and doubted your wisdom in raising your child because your gut maybe didn’t want to take that next new advice or trend. This is definitely not to discredit the advice as useless; I have received advice that truly benefited me in ways I am forever grateful for. This is more about assessing whether or it is for you. What this quote does for me is that it forces me to stop, to be still, to have a check in with myself and ask myself:
“How is this act taking you to your vision for Imran, Kaltun?”
I’m writing this to stay rooted in my deepest parenting values and I’m hoping it will serve me as a reminder when I need it and as in inspiration when I feel like I have steered off the path of being present and in the moment with myself.
If I desire to raise a child that will be a leading example of excellence to humanity, I have to first give him the gift of becoming the best version of myself.
As a Muslimah, I know the best way to show gratitude to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala for blessings He has given me is to take complete care of this blessing and realize the full potential Allah intended it to reach. That potential is what Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala describes as becoming a leading example of excellence.
وَاجْعَلْنَا لِلْمُتَّقِينَ إِمَامًا
And make us a leading example for the righteous.
One of my dearest students Rania once asked me if I ever felt like having a child limited me from doing things I wanted to do. She wanted to know if I felt tied down by my son and I was amazed at her deep question but as I reflected I realized that ever since having my son I had unconsciously become so ridiculously purposeful and aware of my dreams and actively seeking them. And for some odd reason my shortcomings were perfectly highlighted to me and it became a matter of strategy and will to overcome them. Some days my will is strong and some days weak, but my thought process has been:
“If I want to raise a child who is ____(fill in the blank)_____, then I must be ______(fill in the blank)_____.
While the journey of growth and parenting is extremely difficult, this added so much bliss to it. As a leader and influencer in my home and relationships, I realized that the first step of becoming an awesome mother was to be an awesome person and ain’t nothing easy about that. Being aware of our true state and making amends with ourselves requires courage. It requires facing our past and reflecting on what contributed to who we are today? How did it serve us in the past and how is it serving us now? Are we satisfied with this state of being? When we visualize the future and how beautiful we want it to be, does this state of being lead us to easily make that beautiful image a reality? When we actively do this, in whichever way best works for us, we realize that the first step of change comes in the form of connecting the past and the future and then infusing the present moment with the lessons and wisdom you learned from your reflection.
Let me elaborate with an example from my personal experience of being a mom. When my son became a toddler and started to show normal annoying toddler behaviors, a side of me came out that I didn’t even realize was a reality for myself. I caught myself yelling at my son to control his behavior. There is nothing I despise more than yelling at children but here I was doing this to my poor baby who only knew me as that caring, loving and soothing mother. When I reflected on the past, it was clear to me that this was a learned and observed behavior from my cousin who helped care for me when I was younger. What my cousin did when my mother wasn’t around was yell and scream in the most horrible way, I hated being around her and sadly till this day I can’t be around her for too long. I’m grateful for this realization that helped me see how the beautiful image I had of being a peaceful mother raising a content child was not going to be realized with this ugly reality of mine.
A realization alone doesn’t help fix a deeply rooted problem; we need support and we need to create an environment that makes it easy for us to be the way we dream to be. We need to unlearn behaviors; it needs to be so painful that an alternative and more positive behavior must be sought. What made it painful for me was knowledge about the effects of yelling on children and how it used to make me feel when I was a child. The urgency to stop was real; I must regulate myself if I want my child to learn how to regulate himself and peacefully get what he wants in the long term. Of course I have not perfected it, and I know other amazing parents who struggle with this but the struggle of becoming the best version of ourselves is what Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is measuring and it is what our children are witnessing and learning from. This is why I believe that the most effective dua to make for our children is the one that asks Allah to transform us as parents from within.
If I truly desire to be successful at parenting, this image says it all…
When my son was born and I talked to my Quran teacher who herself was an amazing mother of five successful adult children; she made this deep sigh and repeated to me to always make dua for him. She repeated it twice or three times and there was silence in between her advice to make dua for him. I felt it, it was real. Her tone carried the desperation of a parent to experience nothing but happiness and joy when it comes to their children. The reality of Dunya, like Allah tells us, is that it is nothing but a test to see who will come with the best of deeds. We have stories in the Quran of Prophet Ibrahim whose father refused to accept the truth and the story of Prophet Nuh whose son refused to accept the truth. We also have the story of Prophet Zakria and Prophet Ya’qoob whose sons were also noble prophets of Allah. What I learn from these stories is that it’s not the results of whether or not the child is righteous and successful that matters; it is the process of offering the best that makes a blissful parenting experience in Dunya and reward in the Akhira.
“Ya Allah, Ya Rasheed, gently lead me to the path of excellent parenting and protect me from the evils of my own self.