The Musaafir Diaries: Plazas and Palaces and Churros…oh my!

[This post was written by our newest team member Mariam Alavi. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and is a Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist. She was  raised in Connecticut and has traveled around the world (12 countries and 20 U.S. states.) Mariam loves trying new recipes,  traveling and crafting.]

“O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another.” (The Holy Quran, 49:13)

One of the many things The Mister and I love to do together is traveling. There isnothing like diving into a culture and exploring it as the locals do. Our travels this past November brought us to Spain as we celebrated our first wedding anniversary alhumdolillah! We began our travels in Madrid, the largest city in Spain. The Mister and I had an amazing time exploring the city on foot and by Metro . We saw beautifully built government buildings, cultural centers, and century old plazas, along with stories from the past, at every corner. We also enjoyed shopping, strolling the large boulevards, and stopping to eat a snack or two at the many quintessential European sidewalk cafes that I love so much.

The Prado (Museo del Prado), Madrid’s famous art museum, is one of the highlights of the city. Although the Mister and I are not big fans of art museums, we figured we’d make an exception given the status of the place (plus we went 2 hours before closing time so the entrance  was free :)). From an art perspective, we appreciated the realistic depictions of fabric, fruit, and people, as well as the historical value of some works that outlined the horrors of life such as the Spanish Civil War. But I certainly wouldn’t go again. “Art” in the Western world consists of inappropriately (un-)dressed bodies and vulgarity which is just unacceptable. Anywho, it was an experience 🙂

If art is not your thing, there is plenty more to be enjoyed in Madrid. Walking through the city’s flourishing downtown and towards Puerta del Sol, the center of Madrid, savor the liveliness of Spanish life. Streetside vendors and performers, roadside cafes and international shopping all await in this area of the city. Just minutes away, you’ll find yourself in Plaza Mayor, a square built in the 1600s that was the site of many social and historical events, such as markets, bullfights, and even the persecution of Muslims and Jews during the Spanish Inquisition.

Today it is home to many cafes and restaurants,  along with a market on weekends. After dinner at a halal restaurant, the Mister and I returned to a café near Plaza Mayor to have our first authentic Spanish churros. We opted to sit outdoors on iron chairs/tables, complete with outdoor heating lamps above each table! Here, we indulged in the “deep-fried goodness” of Spanish churros dipped in chocolate (that’s what the Mister called them), enjoying the conversations in Spanish around us

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The “deep-fried goodness” of churros dipped in chocolate at an outdoor café near Plaza Mayor. Photo Credit: Shahzeb Jabbar

Make time to visit the Royal Palace (Palacio Real), which is still the official residence of the royal family of Spain (although they don’t actually live there anymore). It is one of the three most famous palaces in Europe, and is built on land that was once occupied by a Muslim fortress. Across from it is the Almudena Cathedral. Although we didn’t go inside the cathedral, we could still see (and hear) the remnants of the San Isidro Festival, which celebrates the Catholic Saint Isidro, the farmer, who is considered the Patron Saint of Spain. It was really interesting to see the fervent Catholicism in this country, especially in comparison to some other European countries. And as we know, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella took their beliefs to an extreme level by enforcing the Spanish Inquisition, which forced Muslims and Jews in Spain to convert to Catholicism, burned books of knowledge that had been translated by Muslims, and of course tortured and killed those whose conversion they did not accept.

The exterior view of Palacio Real, Madrid. Photo Credit: Shahzeb Jabbar

FOOD

Muslim tourists will be pleased to hear about the many halal options in Madrid. In each city, we simply did a Zabihah.com search and found quite a few options. We then used Google Map to figure out how far the restaurants were from our hotel (don’t you love technology?). In Madrid, there is a halal fast food chain called Doner Kebap, which sells Turkish style pita wraps and other yummy items, and can be found in many easy to reach areas of the city. Of course, if you’re like me and Mister you will want to have an authentic Spanish experience and try tapas. The Spanish tend to eat a light breakfast and a heavier lunch in the late afternoon. Dinner usually starts around 9 or 10pm, so a typical Spanish dinner consists of a variety of appetizers called tapas. But beware folks! The Spaniards love hamon (ham) as well as alcohol…so you will need to be careful about what you’re eating, especially if the menus are only in Spanish (as was often the case in the places where the Mister and I ventured).  Honestly, we found it easier to opt for the halal options throughout our trip, even if we ended up consuming non-traditional foods. But don’t worry—there are still plenty of authentic traditional foods you can still enjoy…including seafood paella, tortilla patate, and of course, the deep-fried goodness of churros.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Visit the local masajid even if it’s just to pray 2 raqah sunnah prayer! We were lucky enough to be in Madrid for Jumuah, and joined the jama’a at The Islamic Cultural Center (Centro Culturo Islamico). It is a truly Iman-lifting experience to witness the Muslim communities all over the globe! Every society, culture, and language has something to offer that we can learn from in order to improve ourselves. Traveling reminds me that Allah (swt) made us into different ethnicities and cultures, and created different languages, not as a way to divide us, but as a way for us to learn from each other. I don’t know where my travels will take me next, but I do know that no matter where it is, I’ll come back home knowing much more about the world than when I left.

 

Centro Cultural Islamic, (Madrid,) the masjid where Mister and I prayed Jumuah. Photo Credit: Shahzeb Jabbar

 

 

 

 

Transitioning from Stay at Home Mom to a First Job

 

 

I landed my first job a few months ago, prior to that I had been a SAHM (stay at home mom) for about four years. Like many other SAHM I had graduated from college and immediately started my family.

I had no idea what I was supposed to do in the real world, my liberal arts degree in  communications was  vague and didn’t give me much direction in applying for jobs. What  I did know was that I really loved working with nonprofits and have always been drawn to that type of environment. So with virtually no experience except for a short stint at a well known Muslim non-profit organization. I started applying to every organization that I could think of. I had a really genius way of doing it (not really) I googlemapped organizations that were closest to me and started sending my resumes to the HR departments.

After a couple of days with no response from various non-profits in the area I started fishing for government jobs on USAJobs.com. As I read about the various positions I dreamed of working in the state department, so I  filled out lengthy applications and thought to myself what a perfect fit I would be.

Unfortunately the State department didn’t see my urdu speaking skills as enough of an asset to hire me. And as many applications that I filled out I got that many rejection letters. My morale was at an all-time low. Nothing seemed to be pulling through for me. I looked for jobs on Government sites, craigslist, Monster and even tried to look into interpreting jobs. This was an incredibly disappointing experience for me. I remember finally applying for a retail position at the mall.

My mom encouraged me to look into volunteering and that’s when I started talking to a non-profit group in the area.  It went well and I  got an  volunteer position to be a liaison for  refugee families that they house in their shelter apartments.

Excited with this new development I called my attorney friend in DC to tell her the good news. She was happy, but gave me some great advice and urged me to volunteer in the office with the communications director, so that I  could use my skills and build up experience in my field which would eventually lead me to a paid position.

I decided to go and talk with the volunteer coordinator to switch my position as my friend has advised. But even before going back to discuss change of plans with coordinator, I ran into a community member  from the Mosque. I enthusiastically told her about  the new volunteer opportunity that had landed my way.

She looked at me perplexed and said, “Why are you volunteering there? We could use you at FAITH Social Services,” a group that  she was affiliated with. Intrigued about a Muslim social service so close to me, I immediately  scheduled an interview with the director and became emerged into a world of social work that has made me both humble and grateful.

I volunteered for FAITH for about 5 months before becoming an employee.  I followed my friend’s advice and started volunteering in the office. Initially I  worked on flyers and little write-ups. Over  time, I  began to get a feel for the organization and started to see how I  could contribute with my communication’s background. I saw that there was a need for a newsletter and I started working on creating a newsletter every month for FAITH.

I began to plug myself into more projects going around in the office and brainstormed ideas with the staff. Finally my youngest was ready for school and I mustered up the courage to ask the director if I could work as an employee. She agreed and I’ve been the Public Relations Coordinator for FAITH for four months now.

The point of this post is to give women who have been SAHM hope that they can work when they choose to. It might take some time to build up your resume and gain that courage but inshallah with these tips it should be a smooth transition:

1. Get the word out – Tell everyone that you’re looking for work: friends, neighbors, community members.

2. Fix your resume – If the last time you  did your resume was in college, it is definitely time to revamp it.

3. volunteer/intern  with the organization that you think you want to work at. Specifically in the department you want to gain experience in.

4. Make your mark while you’re volunteering (establish networks, make yourself an asset  to the organization) ex: don’t just shred paper – think of ways to reduce the paper in the office –> digitalize files and get the okay from the department head. The leadership will applaud your effort and will value your initiative.

5. Don’t get disappointed if you’re not hired after volunteering. The end all is not to get a job, but it is to learn new skills, build up resume and experience. This will be invaluable and will help towards the next place that you go to.

Good Luck, and don’t despair if things aren’t moving as fast as you want them to its all part of the master plan from above 🙂

Aunties in Denial

Say salam to Abeer Khala”, a 1.5 year old came and said salam to me.  At the time it was only my third time meeting this cute (but still random) kid and I had known his mother for hardly a month, yet I became a khala.  (Khala: title given to your mother’s sister in the Urdu language)

How do you become a khala?

1)   Mother’s sister(s)

2)   In the South Asian culture, your mother’s female cousins are also known to be ‘khalas’

3)   In my book my children also call my close long lasting friends khalas as well.

 For that 1.5 year old kid I didn’t fall into any of those categories.  So why call me khala?

 I’m noticing this growing phenomenon of girls my age (ahem late 20s) referring to themselves and their friends/acquaintances as khalas to their children.  I find this  extremely annoying.

 Khala is a major title, growing up we would always hear that your khala is like your mother.  I used to think this is just another one of those Desi notions that probably stemmed from Hindu traditions.

 WRONG.

 This notion actually has Islamic roots, our beloved Prophet (PBUH) gave maternal aunts a high status.

“A man came to Allah’s Prophet (Peace be upon Him) and said: ‘O Prophet! I have committed a major sin. Do you think that I can atone for it?’

He asked: “Do you have a mother living?”

The man answered in the negative.

The Prophet (Peace be upon Him) asked the man: “Do you have a maternal aunt living?”

The man answered in the positive. Allah’s Prophet (Peace be upon Him) said to him: “Be good and kind to her.” (Tirmidhi 1904)

 “The sister of the mother has a status similar to the mother.” (Bukhari #2552)

 After learning that I realized that our Khalas should be given great honor and respect.  Hence the reason why I think to toss around the word ‘Khala” for any other average jo-lie, seems almost degrading to the title.

I think the reason why we end up resorting to khala is because we have a problem with the word Aunty.

Our generation of folks growing up here have given ‘aunties’ and ‘uncles’ this comical yet negative connotation.

We think Aunties just like to sit around gossip, watch dramas (or create them) and drink chai.  Well, I try to avoid gossip, and I love my Pakistani dramas BUT I don’t drink chai.  I guess I’m a semi-aunty, but nonetheless still an a-u-n-t-y.

Even if I didn’t do any of those things, I’m a married woman with children and their friends will and should refer to me as aunty.  I don’t take offense to that and neither should any other person.

I would not want my child calling an acquaintance ‘khala’ for no reason.  It may just be a title but to me that word means a lot.

If my close friend’s children refer to me as khala then I take it as an obligation to try to live up to it.  To make it a point to ask about their well being, their new hobbies and to acknowledge big milestones in their lives.  I wouldn’t do that for just any kid.

Granted, some of my “aunties” have over time become more than aunties (but less than Khalas).  I still refer to them as aunties but would treat them with love and more respect simply due to the nature of my relationship with them.

Aunty is not a bad word nor does it mean you’re the ‘old’ ‘nosy’ and ‘annoying’ lady from the community whose going around causing havoc.

There are a number of cool aunties out there and I plan on being one of them insha’Allah, or I just might be a typical  aunty in denial

Cutting Off the Umbilical Cord

You think you know yourself…till you hit motherhood.  Motherhood is the ultimate test of your love, patience, wisdom, emotions and of course your sanity.

Eesa was going through a terrible three’s tantrum phase.  He became quite difficult to deal with especially with me being pregnant.  I decided he needed to go to a daycare type program where he can socialize and interact with others.

Since he is a bit behind in speech and comprehension I didn’t think he was quite ready for pre-school.  Daycare seems to be a nice transition from home-to-school. I thought  circle time and play time with snacks in between would prepare him well for pre-K.

The thought of him being gone from anywhere between two to five hours seemed amazing to me.  It would be my break time, my “me” time.  I can concentrate on my part-time job, get my cooking and cleaning done, finish errands here and there and hey maybe even pick up a hobby or two if I managed my time well.

I was drooling thinking about all the time I would have, if you’re a mom then you know how much you can accomplish in a few hours.  The world was waiting for me.

My mother thought it was ironic how ecstatic I was about Eesa starting daycare.  I guess a full time toddler and a rough first trimester really drains you.

The night before his first day of daycare, I was just looking at him sleeping.  When kids are sleeping, they look so innocent.  I instantly started to think, what if the daycare provider didn’t understand him and his own unique language.  She wouldn’t know that “mankin” actually meant “napkin”, “gadget” meant jacket, and “munk” meant kumbul (urdu word for blanket).

I started to get worried and wondered if I was rushing into this. The other part of me told me it is a part of life and this is actually good for him and would give him something to do.

The following morning went by smoothly, he was quite excited to carry heesabackpackis Skip Hop monkey back pack.

As I was driving, I told myself the plan would be to bring him in and stay awhile till he gets settled and then casually leave.  It would be smooth and easy on the both of us, or so I thought.

Well first off, that plan was not how day care protocol worked.  I walked in and the DCP (day care provider) told me that I should make it fast and leave.

I looked at her astonished.  “leave in front of him? just like that?”

I know he’s going to cry a little bit but he’ll be ok, thats the best method,” she exclaimed!

I began to panic, he would cry and I wouldn’t be able to do it.  I desperately began to look around the room and saw ABC magnets, I quickly pointed them out to Eesa.  As soon as he went towards them, I made a run for it.  I could hear him turn around and follow me but I didn’t look back.

One of the most difficult things I have ever done.

I walked out of there extremely upset and could not believe I just left my son like that.  All I could think about is how long he would cry for and would he be ok?

I called my sister for some comfort and of course she didn’t pick up, I call my mother and lo and behold Bob picks up (Side Note: I call my parents Amy and Bob, short for Ammy and Baba).

I told him what happened and his response was

yeah yeah been there done that, what you think we didn’t get upset when we used to drop you guys off? especially your sister, she used to cry and cry, it would break our hearts, but they get over it, its a part of life, you can’t keep him at home.”

Count on Bob to tell it like it is.

I was tempted to text the DCP and ask about Eesa, but I didn’t want to be one of those moms.  Psh, well why not be one of those moms? He’s three for crying out loud!

Needless to say I did end up texting and he was doing fine, he cried for a bit and then started playing–Alhumdulilah.  The DCP was super sweet and understanding.

I, then realized this was the first step to letting go. For two hours that day I did not know what Eesa was doing.  To go from knowing their minute by minute schedule to not knowing what they’re up to for 120 minutes is a pretty big deal. Right now he’s gone for a few hours, then next year it’ll be six hours, then extra-curricular activities, then they might go away for college and you don’t see them for days maybe even weeks.  Lastly, they get married and then you’re officially out of the loop.

At that point, I would like to think I’ll be travelling the world and sipping on some virgin strawberry daiquiris in Sicily, but seeing as how being away two hours is tough, I can’t imagine more than that.

As Bob puts it, it’s a part of life

The Rise of Hijabi Bloggers

A phenomena of halal celebrities is beginning to arise and is taking the Muslim fashion scene to new levels. Women that we had never heard of are now common names among Muslimahs. These women have mastered social media, display unique fashion sense and some of them even maintain a side business.

Admirers of these various blogs and Muslim Fashionistas have said that they finally feel they can be fashion forward while still maintaining their religious identity.

But critics of these personalities say that the Muslim bloggers are in fact slaves to the fashion industry and are promoting the objectification and sexualization of hijab and modest fashion

Let me take you back ten years when I first started wearing the hijab. Triangular gray, black and white scarfs pinned at the neck with the two ends tied in the back. Anyone remember that one? That style and design was neither appealing nor attractive in any manner. It really was a struggle to wear it in high school when all the other girls looked so put together.

At that point had I seen some of the Amenakin (Pearl Daisy) hijab tutorials in which she beautifully incorporates the tikka, (decorative jewelry that hangs in the middle of the forehead) I wouldn’t be awkwardly stumbling around Pakistani weddings wearing a grandma style dupatta.

I know of many girls who take off their hijabs either before or after marriage, and in some cases may even feel hijab is the reason why they aren’t getting proposals. As Muslim women we have a fine balancing act, between modesty and beauty.

Having access to muslim bloggers who can offer creative ways to style modest clothes and hijabs  can be an asset. They are not self-proclaimed experts but normal Muslim women who usually have been approached by their fans to tell them about their skincare regime, weight loss tips and how to get that smokey eye right.

I may not agree with everything that Muslim fashion bloggers promote but I do think there are many ideas and tips which are creative and inspiring. The hijab and the act of dressing modestly is a personal journey for each women and it is something which each of us can improve on.

First Cousins-First Friends

First cousins are some of the first friends you have.  It can be a wonderful relationship that is made up of countless memories. Cousins are probably the only ones who know how crazy your family is, all the drama that takes place and the inside gossip.  You don’t have to be embarrassed in front of your cousins when your parents are yelling at you because chances are they are getting yelled at as well.

Both my parents are the eldest in their families, which means my sister and I are one of the oldest amongst the children on both sides.  I even have cousins who are younger than my  3 year old son.  They call me what the rest of my younger cousins call me, “bajo”.  I treat them just like I treat my son, like babies! I would consider them more of my son’s cousins than mine.

Then theres a group of cousins who fall into the ‘cool-young’ category, the group that you actually feel young and hip around (or at times the opposite).  It was even cool to see the younger ones transform from cute to annoying to super cool. (i.e becoming class president, having meetings with NYC mayor etc)

What  makes cousins even more special is if they are close in age.  I had a few cousins that were very close in age and with them we have had the best of times.  There was this one time where the five of us (4 girls and 1 boy) wanted to watch a movie, we all rented a movie of our own choice and had a grand movie marathon.  Turns out one of the movies was ‘adult-rated’, of course we immediately turned it off and ended up getting stomach pains from the non-stop laugher.

For me, my cousins were the only people who I had childhood slumber parties with.  Our slumber parties would consist of quietly listening to bollywood music, watching movies, Monopoly, Kings, Antakshari, Name-Place-Animal-Thing (such a long name for a game!), and of course card games such as spit, rummy and spoons.  We also recorded ourselves doing silly dances and singing songs.

Unfortunately one thing i’ve noticed is that these ties between cousins often get damaged because of family drama. Parents should not let their issues get in the way of their children and nieces/nephews.  Making cousins feel that they are competing against each other leaves children/adolescents feeling jealousy, bitterness and hostility towards each other.  Creating this distance means your children won’t get to experience some of the best times in their lives with some of the best friends they will ever have.

I feel it is more important for us to be closer to our cousins now a days since we have such small families. I know in our parents generation we had four aunts and three uncles which meant big family bashes.  But since people are having less kids, this means our family Eid get togethers would only consist of one other aunt or uncle.  This is why we need to maintain our ties of kinship, so our family get togethers consist of 1st 2nd and even 3rd cousins.

This past Eid was one of the first Eids after a very long time that all the cousins were there.  Due to marriages, colleges, work and conflicting schedules Eids aren’t always spent together.  This Eid there was a total of 19 cousins ranging from the ages of 10-31.

There is a special bond between cousins and I would hope that Eesa gets to enjoy with his cousins the same way I have. I can already foresee my son and his two cousins-Hasan and Ali having a blast together insha’Allah, I can also foresee a lot of trouble, ruckus and mischief.

May Allah SWT make our bonds of kinship strong and everlasting.  Ameen

Armed Guards Don’t Belong in School

After the senseless tragedy that occurred in Newton, Connecticut at Sandy Hook Elementary the entire nation has been engulfed in a conversation about gun control, school safety and mental illness. In my own Islamic school community, parents have  debated and had heated conversations about our kids safety. The school our kids attend is in the basement of a Mosque. It was decided that an armed guard would be the best short term solution in beefing up our schools security.

But that very notion of having an armed guard at school makes me extremely anxious and I don’t think he will keep our kids any safer. To invite a stranger with a gun into such close proximity of our children seems counterintuitive on every level.

My feeling on having an armed guard align closely with Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy who said:

“Let me say this: more guns are not the answer. Freedom is not a handgun on the hip of every teacher, and security should not mean a guard posted outside every classroom…”

In my head the math just doesn’t add up: Gun+Gun= safer school!

Having an armed guard at school introduces a whole new dimension of problems that we must be aware of. First  and foremost, the armed guard can be a potential threat to our kids and the staff. I understand that the guard would be trained and there would be a background check, but what guarantee do we have that he would not in fact use the weapon against us? We do not know what his intentions are and neither can we judge how he may feel on a given day. Why are we willing to take such a big risk?

The second problem that can potentially arise is the higher risk of accidents. If the armed guard  had a judgement lapse and mistakenly identifies someone as a threat he could potentially injure or kill an innocent person. That is also something that we can’t control and we are putting a lot of faith in a person who our community knows virtually nothing about.

The third problem is that we may become satisfied with the armed guard and not feel the need to consider other security options. The security issue is an ongoing dilemma that needs to be consistently improved by long term solutions such as adding video surveillance and bulletproof windows.

The hiring of an armed guard may make us feel more secure, but we are working under a lot of assumptions.The first assumption being that the armed guard is in fact a good and sane person who will not ever misuse his power. The second assumption is that he will never have an accident in regards to his weapon. The third assumption is that in the event of an emergency he will in fact put himself in harm’s way.

Our childrens security is paramount and an armed guard is great in theory “if” he performs as we would like to imagine him to be. But lets be honest he is a guy working a 9-5 job like the rest of us and we cannot put our childrens lives at risk because we are under the false pretense that the guard will put our kids first and will become a hero if an emergency type situation occurs.

The truth of the matter is that the Newton was an isolated event. Yes we should be proactive about our students safety, but we shouldn’t do that by bringing a gun into a gun free place. We should as a community seriously think about the potential problems and consequences that can occur by  bringing an armed guard to our schools.

The Day I Met the Tiger Mother

I came across Amy Chua’s book “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” during a time of my own parenting crisis. I had gone into the library on a mission to find some parenting book which would help me navigate the world of toddler boys. My boys were fighting each other, me and the boundaries that I had erected.

I needed a strong tool. Destiny…kismat…karma… took  me straight to Chua’s book. The tiger mom was my answer, war had been declared.

I had been struggling with my two boys. Everything lately seemed like a fight and I was beginning to lose the connection and joy I used to get with them.  Instead I was frustrated, unhappy and was going through the motions of being a parent while constantly looking at the clock counting the hours they were going to be in bed.

I first heard about the Tiger Mother a year ago. This is when Chua, the petite Asian professor, wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal titled   “ Why Chinese Mothers are Superior.” It seemed like overnight people were rushing to attack or defend her parenting style. Hailing from a South Asian family and having parents that were quite strict (my mom would give me a look that would stop me in my tracks) I felt like I could already relate to the Tiger Mom model.

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is Chua’s journey of Chinese parenting in the West. Chua made a decision to follow the chinese model of parenting in which she had been raised in. To her the regimented parenting style meant that her daughters were never allowed to: Attend a sleepover, have a playdate, be in a school play, watch TV or play computer games, choose their own extracurricular activities, get any grade less than an A, not be the #1 student in every subject except gym and drama, play any instrument other than the piano or violin.

She was committed to following through on her rigid  parenting style and expected her daughters to work hard, excel at academics and to not take anything for granted. Chua wanted her daughters to have a strong work ethic and believed that childhood is a training period for the rest of their lives.  She summed up the Western and Chinese parenting by saying:

“Western parents try to respect their children’s individuality, encouraging them to pursue their true passions,  supporting their choices and providing positive reinforcement and a nurturing environment. By contrast, the Chinese believe that the best way to protect their children is by preparing them for the future, letting them see what they’re capable of, and arming them with skills, work habits and inner confidence that no one can ever take away.”

Chua talks in detail about the challenges of this type of rigid parenting. Her husband who had  been raised in the Western style was often not supportive of her parenting method. That isolated her during the periods when her daughters hated her.

Chua made her daughters practice their respective instruments, the piano and the violin for hours each day and did not let them take any breaks even when they were traveling or on vacation. Chua was headstrong, arrogant and relentless but what I admire about her is her persistence and patience. She actively was involved in every step of her daughters lives and pushed them because she believed they could do better.

It is that dicipline that I want to cultivate in my own parenting style. It is easy to let our kids be average and to let them just rot away in front of the television but to take that time and spend hours with them to help them master a skill is certainly commendable. After spending a half-hour of one on one time with my kids I feel so drained. One lesson that the Tiger Mom has taught me is that until the mother doesn’t put the time and commitment into her kids than it will be very hard for them to reach their potential.

Another story that Chua tells us in the book is when she rejected her daughters handmade birthday cards for her birthday.

“I don’t want this, I want a better one – one that you’ve put some thought and effort into. I have a special box, where I keep all my cards from you and your sister, and this one can’t go in there…So I reject this.”

This story has resonated with me because of recent  research that shows that over praising children can do more harm than good. I have in the past lavishly praised my kids for scribbling on a piece of paper, but now I take time to actually examine their art, give them some pointers and set some goals (like color inside the lines, lets try to make a square, can you draw a spoon) The results were fantastic. My three year old was more enagaged more excited and was actually learning the praise that he deserved for being creative instead of just scribbling!

Although Chua believes in the Chinese parenting style, she doesn’t particularly advocate for it. Through her journey as a parent we see the successes and failures of her extreme parenting. We see the good, the bad and the ugly.

I found her book to be extremely honest and it was an entertaining and interesting read. Chua’s book motivated me to be a more involved parent who spends quality time with their kids. Although I don’t agree with everything she did with her daughters I feel that Chua’s book is a breath of fresh air with insight into a  parenting style that we often don’t get to read about.

Halal Pumpkins…What?!?

As the holiday season is in full swing with glittering christmas trees, cooler weather and festive holiday lattes at starbucks I am reminded why I love this time of the year. As adults we enjoy the atmosphere but kids may not understand why we don’t have a christmas tree, or why Santa didn’t visit us this year. This may be  a challenge for families who have young kids and who are trying to build their Muslim Identities.

As a first generation American Muslim with a South Asian heritage, defining our family’s Identity has been an interesting process. As a mother of a curious three year old I am now faced with hard questions about traditions that I have grown up around but never thought as my own. This becomes particularly tricky as the children go to school and learn about different holidays. Although going to an Islamic preschool has made things easier it also means that I have to decide how to frame things for my curious toddlers.

A few months ago I was pushed into a sort of an identity crisis when Humza went to the fall festival with his school and came back with a grin and a pumpkin which would cause more trouble than I could have ever imagined As Humza excitedly jumped out of the mini-bus that had transported him from the Farm back to the school, I could see that he was clutching this little pumpkin like a shiny new toy, “Momma, see pumpkin.” He proudly raised it  to show me.

I nodded excitedly and wrestled the pumpkin from his hands to get him into the carseat, which caused the pumpkin to roll underneath of a parked mini van. The tears were streaming down Humza’s face and Hassan his younger brother joined in also now wanting that same orange pumpkin which was now somewhere underneath of that van. I quickly strapped the kids in and told the lady who was speaking in Arabic on her cell phone that I was going to go under her van since my kid had dropped his pumpkin. She nodded enthusiastically and I hoped she was nodding to me and not just agreeing with the person whom she was speaking on the phone with. Saying a quick Bismallah I got down on my hands and knees (ahh this reminds me why all my jeans have rips in them) and grabbed the pumpkin.

Tired kids, worn out mother and a little pumpkin in tow, we finally headed home. After the novelty of a little orange pumpkin wore off I had to decide what to do with that thing. Would I display it proudly outside my front door? Put it on my mantle on top of the fireplace? Make a Jack-O-Lantern? What do I do with a pumpkin??

I eventually put it on the fireplace it was so odd but I figured it would be out of the kids reach, I wrestled with the idea of putting it outside my door like other people do as part of the of their fall decorations. But then I didn’t because I was hesitant that I would be acting to “white.”  “Desi people don’t put pumpkins outside of their house,” I thought to myself. After some time when the pumpkin craze died down and the kids forgot to fight over the poor little pumpkin who was probably very thankful for the decision I had made to put him on the fireplace, I approached the subject of the final resting place for the pumpkin again.

After a few strong chai’s and some moments of clarity  I’ve finally made peace with the pumpkin. It is finally at rest on my dining table with some other fall folliage decor and my  little glittering rickshaw.

I haven’t figured out all the answers to how I want to balance and incorporate traditions from Pakistan as well as our American culture but I have a feeling that i’ll figure it out. Now I just need to break the news to the kiddos that the lights my neighbors have put up are in fact not Eid lights. One baby…step at a time.

 

 

Raising a Damaad

Damaad is the word for son-in-law in the Urdu language.  In the South Asian culture damaads are often treated like royalty. From my observation society treats the roles of a daughter in law (bahoo) very different from the son -in-law (damaad).  My thoughts derive from experiences, observations and maybe Pakistani dramas.
Although  this post may not describe everyones experience, I know that many people know of cases or can empathize with the double standards in our culture (at least most bahoos)Traditionally South Asian mothers raise their daughters to fit into the new family she goes into, and to treat her new family the way she treats her own.  However, when it comes to a son, I don’t think the mother instills those same values in him.

We mentally prepare daughters to embrace going into their husband’s new home which is their “real” home.  They must win the hearts of every single creature living inside the house, yes even the Jinn.

As the new bahoo in the family you are expected to delight your in-laws with your cooking, amuse them with your personality, be the first to help out and the last to sit down, beautify yourself with the finest clothing and of course adorn the gold with the newly wed-bride look.  You are expected to keep them before your plans and sometimes even before your family.

Expectations for the Daamad? Well lets just put it this way:

Do not swear/abuse/degrade your wife
Do not start arguments with your in laws,
Do not have a bad mood in their presence
Exchange a few smiles here and there
Show up to family dinners every now and then
= BAM you have yourself a great son-in-law.

Virtually no effort is required and all they have to do is meet the bare minimum requirements for a decent human being.  They do not have to go out of their way for their in-laws or even make an effort to take part in family discussions nor stay in touch for that matter.

They have to ‘not be bad’ in order to be considered good whereas a daughter-in-law has to be outstanding in order to be considered somewhat good!

I have a son, which now gives me the added responsibility of raising him to be that one heck of a darn good SON-IN-LAW.

Insha’Allah, I will teach him to make an effort to fit in with his new family, help them and maintain a high level of akhlaq in their presence. He should get involved in family discussions and find solutions to their problems and dilemmas.  It is not just about giving their daughter the bare rights but rather giving her the utmost happiness alongside being a good person to his in-laws.

He should be thankful for the hospitality his in-laws provide and not assume it is expected.  Sometimes in-laws may go above and beyond to please their damaad and  as a typical guy’s personality he may not even realize that, hence limiting his appreciation for the amount of effort put into pleasing him.

He too should know that his in-laws miss their daughter/sister and that she is still an integral part of their household. Just because she is married does not mean she no longer should contribute to her family.

Rather a good damad will not only appreciate the vital role she plays in his family but encourage her to provide any sort of support for her own family as well.

Does your husband fits the description above? If so, then please message me your mother-in-law’s contact info so I can get some pointers.

As for the rest of the boy-mamas, I say we dust off our akhlaq books and sit our boys down and drill it into their tiny brains.  Our upbringing may serve as a means to attain Jannah, Insha’Allah.

Meanwhile I am accepting applications for daughter-in-laws. (My son’s two but gotta start early these days!).

Something for boy-mamas to think about….