Have a bad day!

It’s one of those days again. You woke up with a stiff back and a crick in your neck. The kids are fighting over breakfast, chores are undone and the game of “he said, she said” is in full swing. The little guy is having a blast cutting vegetable tops into a million pieces as he practices his cutting skills on the kitchen floor. The dryer is choking again, groceries need to be bought and telemarketers have all randomly selected you for calls today!

Amidst the fights, the long list of incomplete chores and schoolwork that needs to be completed, one lessons screams to be taught- emotional cleanup: bringing out our emotions in front of the kids. The best way to teach our children something is to show rather than tell them about it. With that same principle in mind, here comes the hard part- showing our vulnerable side to our children. Being open with our emotions humanizes us in the eyes of our children. Since children learn from what we do more than what we say, we need to model appropriate behavior and teach them how to handle feelings and emotions. If we shy away from conversations of emotional disturbances and take a break from the kids to deal with issues privately, kids won’t see us solve problems and may have a hard time doing so themselves.

As parents of little ones will tell you, kids watch our every move and mimic our every action. They notice the frown on our faces and the wrinkle on our foreheads to know that something is not right, yet we do not open ourselves to our children and show them our emotions, perhaps because we are culturally trained to stay private about emotions. I am not suggesting that we go through an emotional meltdown in front of our children, but we need to teach them how to articulate their feelings, and where to look for help in finding solutions to problems and this can only happen if we do the same. A few days ago when things got out of control at home, I put myself in a “time out.” I gathered all my kids and told them that I am very upset at the way they were behaving with each other and with the things at home. They showed disrespect to the things, to each other and to me as their mom and teacher. I told them that I was so upset that I had to stop and take a break, hence the time out, so I don’t say or do something I will feel bad about later. With that said, I sat down with a glass of water to think of what to do next and where to begin the cleanup process. Much to my surprise, they got themselves together, started cleaning up (with argumentation, no doubt), but at a much lower volume than before. My baby kept checking on me asking, “Are you okay, mama?” while the rest of them cleaned up the place and were gleefully waiting to “surprise” me when I came out of ‘time out’. Secretly, I enjoyed my time out. It was a necessary break that helped me break away from the emotions of anger and frustration and move towards the true love and affection I feel for my kids. It also taught my little ones empathy-they felt bad for what they had done, but I think they felt bad for my state, more so.

We need to go through an emotional clean up at times and doing this in front of our children can be helpful in teaching them that it’s okay for people in charge to take a break from their roles and vent. It may also stop something potentially worse from happening to us emotionally. Our emotional cleanups though have to be expressive, clear, and concise. We have to help others see the problems but not drag everyone down with guilt and helplessness. We have to be open and honest and show respect to everyone involved. We need to keep a clear, controlled tone and voice in order to show control over the situation. If we appropriately show our own emotions and articulate them well, our children will learn to do the same. If we slip and make a mistake (use foul language for example), we need to clean it up-apologize and correct ourselves.

Culturally, we have been taught to stay in power by being strong emotionally and not showing any signs of weakness to those in our care. Dads do this more so than moms do. But boys especially need to see emotional talk and clean up within the family so they don’t pent up all their emotions and blow up when it gets too much to handle. Giving our children the opportunity to watch and learn how we handle a bad day or a wrench in the wheel of life is an extremely important life lesson to impart. Things seldom go our way and we need to know how to deal with them when this happens. Early parenting teaches us to train our young ones to “use their words”, but something turns off when kids are over ten years old. By this time, young kids often shut themselves off in their rooms and only admit to “nothing is wrong” when questioned. This demands us to watch how we deal with issues. Do we push things away to be dealt with later? or privately? or do we openly admit there are things beyond our control and turn to God for help?

As parents who often feel overwhelmed with the millions of things we have to teach our children, we often forget what we are teaching them without even trying. Our body language, our demeanor and our actions speak louder than anything we may say. So, when life throws us a fast one, we should be prepared to enlist the help of our little soldiers and meet the challenge head on. Sometimes, it may be praying together and having the young ones make dua for patience and strength for us. Their pure prayers may be answered sooner than we know it!

Three Marbles

“We are looking for the treasure the fairies left for us!” explains an enthusiastic boy from under a bush while his playmate with soft blonde curls carefully opens her fist to show me the bright, colorful treasure of marbles they’ve discovered in the little green patch behind San Francisco’s Presidio branch library. The library won’t open for another hour and since I have time to kill and a three year old to entertain I venture to the back of the library where we run into this little preschool class of active four and five year olds, enchanted with finding fairy treasures. As the group of little treasure seekers crawl under trees, climb branches and comb their fingers through the little patch of grass looking for fairy treasure, their seasoned teacher encourages them, shares their exuberance at any find and goes about covertly dropping more treasure along the way.
My three year old was hesitant to join the group of strangers at first, but as shrieks of joy exploded when someone did find a “fairy treasure”, my little guy’s curiosity won. While staying close to mom, he looks for his own treasures. At the end of the hunt, each child has a collection of colorful marbles and my own little guy has three! As the treasure seekers wind up to go back to their indoor classroom, it was just me, my little guy and his three marbles left on this little patch of green. This is when I realized that I have been given a challenge- to entertain my three year old without a park or play structure, without games, toys, books or electronics, without friends or play buddies and without his usual three entertainers around! My older kids were out with their uncle and my little one was with – just me.
It’s amazing how I had become dependent on devices and descendants to entertain and teach and this hour before the library opened forced me reconnect with my own creativity. Sometimes our park days, playdates, circle times and storytimes get so routinized and so well planned that there is little room for creativity or impulsivity. A break from the regular implores us to think of ways to get creative and do things differently. That’s when three marbles conjured up uncountable games. Three marbles lent themselves to a game of marble soccer, marble bowling, marble hide and seek, marble rolling, marble carrom, game of colors and a host of others! It wasn’t how many games I could think up that impressed me, but how well my three year old adapted to them and enjoyed them that did. Moms of many will tell you that it is easy to dismiss our little ones as the “baby” and never challenge them enough, only because we get so caught up with the older ones and their challenges (which I must say are more pressing), but this little bit of time with my little boy reminded me of the beauty and simplicity of a three year old’s company. His enthusiasm and his excitement with every little game and his readiness to try everything that mom thought of, including making and wearing a daisy chain and a daisy watch was refreshing!
Perhaps the three marbles reminded me to reconnect with my baby who seems lost in the shuffle of older siblings, or perhaps they helped me reminisce the quiet times when our phones and electronic devices did not entertain us while we waited or perhaps it just gave me some time to diffuse while sitting on a lawn of green, but whatever the lesson, the hour was well spent and I actually felt a little sad when the library opened its doors and we had to go in.

Building Blocks

In looking at a picture from our recent trip to India, I reminisced witnessing the beauty and majesty of the Qutub Minar in Delhi. For those who aren't familiar with the Qutub Minar, here is a quick history lesson from the annals of Indian History.

The Qutb Minar was commissioned by Qutb-ud-din Aibak, the first Sultan of Delhi, and was completed by his successor - Iltumish. This 72 meters high red sandstone and marble tower has a base diameter of 14.3 meters and tapers to 2.7 meters at the top. As the name suggests (minar is the Arabic/Urdu term for minaret), this UNESCO World Heritage Site tower was made to serve the purpose of a minaret from where the adhan (call to prayer) could be called in India's first mosque. Most important to note here is that the Qutub Minar was constructed in parts, one cylindrical column at a time, with the final one completed 172 years after it's inception.

The beauty and magnanimity of this tower is shadowed only by the farsightedness of the Muslim builders. At the time when Qutb-ud-din Aibak asked for a Minaret to be built, the builders and architects built with the future in mind. They made a base so strong and a foundation so deep that the following leaders could keep building on it even over a hundred years later. In this lies the lesson for us- to give our children a foundation so strong that they can build their own towers as high as they desire, whenever they desire.

Education is not based on the memorization and regurgitation of facts and data. It's about gathering the tools of learning to be able to educate oneself for as long as one desires. If the foundation of education is built upon these true tools of learning, the mechanics of learning will come with ease. Teaching our children to think for themselves, to think critically, to analyze, to synthesize, to understand, to read beyond the words, to get to the deeper meanings of the written or spoken word- these are just some of the skills that are imperative in a highly competitive and dynamic work world.

Therefore, we must prepare with the end in mind. It's not about a plan and execution for right now, but for the future- not just for one generation but for every generation that follows. If we are to do it right, then we can leave a legacy, like our ancestors did. It's not about raising just one generation or just our children, it's about raising the bar so that every child can reach his potential.

May God grant us the wisdom to do what's best for now and the future.

Why I homeschool

Why I homeschool

Recently a question about homeschooling sparked a lengthy, and somewhat heated, conversation on an email list I belong to. It was good that it made all the noise that it did because I usually don’t notice much on this list. But this question made me think about my own reasons for homeschooling and articulating my reasons was a good exercise, as it’s important for us to all understand and review why we choose to do what we do.

"Children, children, what do you see?"

"Children, children, what do you see?"

While visiting the Emirate of Dubai, we saw vast expanses of brown desert all around us with tall skyscrapers and gigantic shopping malls dotted along highways. This was what we saw, until we arrived at an enclave right smack in the middle of the Dubai desert. Here, the temperature instantly dropped as we entered a man made tropical haven.

Happy Left-handers Day

Happy Left-handers Day

When I first read this on my newsfeed, I chuckled a little. Then I realized that in America we have a day dedicated to almost everything. From ‘Fruitcake Toss Day’ to ‘Talk Like a Pirate Day’ (no, I’m not making these up), we tend to celebrate inane things. Celebrations for the first time a toddler uses the toilet successfully to the time a senior citizen decides to “celebrate their life”,  have become commonplace.

Almost that time of year

When the intense heat of summer goes down and and number of isles of stationery in a store go up, it can only mean one thing: back to school is just around the corner! While most parents begin back to school planning with supplies shopping, uniform re-evaluation, schedule development and carpool assignments, homeschooling parents began their back to homeschool planning before the school year ended. 

Make art, not mess

Make art, not mess

Unlike the hands on moms who can pull out the many utensils of art and let their children explore and find themselves, I’m one who pulls her hair out when art time rolls around. Don’t get me wrong, I provide plenty of art supplies and art exploration activities for my young ones, but, the activities are usually constrained to space, material or at the very least, clean up time.