I had always heard growing up that one of the goals of Ramadan is to bring out the best in a Muslim. In addition to praying more regularly we attempt to show more patience, less anger and negative speech. That’s when the true spirit of fasting is supposedly achieved, right? Truth be told, since I became a mom seven years ago I have found that more and more difficult to accomplish.
This year my son is seven and my daughter four, and they seem to have only one goal in life: to fight with each other. Being one of three sisters myself, I never remember fighting; my fondest memories are of braiding each other’s hair and sharing clothes. So this sibling rivalry or whatever the experts call it is unknown territory for me. And it drives me insane.
Each year when Ramadan rolls around I feel optimistic that perhaps this year I’ll be able to keep my cool with my kids. When they were younger it was more of a struggle keeping up with toddlers who would interrupt my prayer or wake up in the middle of suhoor and make me late. I took them as little personal struggles even as I simmered with irritation inside. Thank God those issues have resolved themselves as time has passed. But this year it seems to me that my patience is being constantly tested with protests of “she’s staring at me” and “he’s touching my stuff” as if the world has ended. Everything seems to elicit a blood curdling scream from my drama queen of a daughter’s mouth, and every minute something “not fair” occurs according to my older and therefore better son.
This Ramadan however, I’m not alone as I sort through my typically conflicted feelings of motherhood. With my family reunion in full force, there’s an interesting mix of mothers in the house. My grandmother, now close to 85 and having buried more offspring than anyone should have; my mom, still younger at heart than anyone I know half her age (including me); myself (no introduction needed); and my younger sister with her two-and-a-half year old daughter. I had hoped that the presence of so many people would diffuse the normally tense fasting situations in my house. What I didn’t expect was how much I’d learn from everyone’s differing parenting styles, even the older ladies with no young children anymore.
My grandmother has a habit of asking people to do little things for her in such a nice manner that the children have never even thought of refusing. For me that’s a major accomplishment, and I’m slowly learning the right and wrong way to ask my children to do something so that they forget their automatic “no” or “why don’t you ask someone else?” My mom, bless her heart, has shown me that children are children no matter how old they become. She can take time out to build Lego with my son, tell stories to my daughter, and fuss over me about not resting as if I’m still ten years old. It’s an amazing feeling to be in your thirties and have a mom asking about your headache after a long day of fasting. I haven’t experienced that for fifteen years, and it’s made me realize that as my own children get older, I should continue to express my love in little ways that make them feel special.
My sister, poor thing, is at that stage of motherhood where her daughter often prefers to stick to her body like an appendage. Perhaps because she’s a working mother, or maybe because her nature is more tender than mine, she has figured out which situations stress her daughter and has devised distractions to deal with them. Yesterday at Wal-Mart she began racing games with the little ones in the aisles to prevent them from getting bored and tired. I on the other hand, tend to shout first and ask questions later, which is why fasting for me presents an enormous struggle from the anger control aspect.
More than anything else, witnessing my sister’s patience with my niece has motivated me to try to show more tolerance for the infuriating antics of my own children. Perhaps I’m just trying to compete, but isn’t that the best way to make use of sibling rivalry? Thanks to my family gathered around me in this sacred time of year, I’ve received the opportunity to learn from some amazing women how to curb my exasperation and deal with the vagaries of childhood in a positive manner. Here’s to hoping for much calmer Ramadans in the years to come.
Tune in next week to see Saadia’s Ramadan round up.