Raising children requires constant attention, just like a garden really – if you take your eye off the ball for too long you look back and find a vine winding its way up your sweet peas and smothering the life out of it. Snip! You cut the bad away to let the flower bloom and bear fruit.
With children it’s constantly correcting bad habits, wrong assumptions, pruning back. If they’re acquiring a bad trait you are the one who helps them to balance it.
I’m also a firm believer in rewarding right attitude and effort rather than outcomes.
This Ramadan my children have tried so very hard to fast in the afternoons, and cultivated a love of going without. It is true that they’ve had one eye on Eid since LAST Eid and Ramadan for them was a countdown to this glorious day. But at the same time, they deserved a day of ease and happiness and giving, after a whole month of stopping, waiting, with-holding. “For every hardship there is relief” as the Qur’an promises. And they do so love Eid these boys of mine.
Children deserve to be happy. It is their absolute right to be so. Their future is an unknown quantity, but for sure it will be filled with their share of sadness and loss, pain and fear, growing and letting go. And it will find them whether they like it or not. But this, the years they are sheltered from that harshness should be one of utter contentment; when they look back they should remember their childhood as a glistening jewel of reprieve in a hard world, and perhaps shower their own children with the same.
I remember one line from a Dr. Who programme which sums it up nicely for me, “Why should you let them be happy today when they are going to be sad tomorrow? The answer is – because they are going to be sad tomorrow.”
Unfortunately I saw the diametric opposite of this in other people this Eid. I have seen into the pit of festering human ugliness and the poison they pour onto their children. I have seen children cower in fear at the sound of a voice – a voice that should be one that offers protection and one that the children should have sighed in relief at hearing. There were two Eids in my house this past week – a Tale of Two Cities, as it were, juxtaposing to offer a panoramic snapshot of the two sides to humanity. My children saw it too; and I think they understood that what they take as normal, as their right, is actually a blessing too.
Give your children a childhood and do not withhold, for tomorrow tears will fall.