Friday, December 30, 2005

You don't know POOR

I didn't know what poor was until I went out of the US. I think anyone who has been abroad for anything other than a vacation knows what I am talking about.

Now that I am in Wyoming, I can say I NEVER see anyone who is truly destitute. Actually what I see is mothers with kids from three different men getting housing, food stamps, medical care and assistance with their utilities from the Wyoming government. What I see is people quitting their second job so their income is low enough to have government housing.

In contrast, in Egypt I saw the porter in the building I was in making somewhere around 100 pounds a month to support his entire family. Here was a guy hauling trash, washing cars, carrying bags for people, and really WORKING... And he couldn't afford the basic necessities. I thought to myself that family is on the edge between survival and being on the streets. If that man lost an arm, became paralyzed, had a heart problem... His income would be gone and so would the housing his work provides. I don't think I have ever seen anything like that here in the US.

I am not saying that the US is superior, or that other governments should do more to help their people; because I don't think that. Egypt for example has government hospitals and Drs who work out of clinics at Islamic centers for nominal fees. In ways Egypt is succeeding in a way that we are not in that area. What I am saying is that America is unusual in this respect. In a way we are spoiled. We don't even worry about the level of poverty that exists in other countries because we know the government will be there if we are ever that poor.

But, contrary to that being good thing I wonder if this mentality isn't hurting us in the long run. How many of the mothers here in Wyoming are ready to go away from getting everything from the state and work to pay the same bills? Why are young healthy people living off the state when they can work (and though the jobs aren't all glamorous they are there)? I guess I just see this increasing reliance on the government among people my age and younger... And this weird mentality that they will be paying it all back sooner or later when they get a "real job" and pay taxes. What happened to the self reliance that people in the US exhibited in the past? When did that get replaced with a grab what you can approach to government services? How much longer can the government keep up with the increasing demands?

These are the things that go through my mind when I am in Egypt and I get stuck in traffic and I see the vegetable cart being tended by an entire family complete with naked toddlers running dangerously close to the traffic. You are looking at their entire fortune there in front of you. Alhamdulilah, I guess I just never knew poor growing up here in the US.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Hat tip to "Nice Guys"

I was watching a stand up comic the other day and he said something that just spilt my sides because it is sooooo true. He said he was reading a woman's magazine that had a poll on what fantasy man women want... The answer? 70% said a "Dangerous Man". The comics comment on that was "Well, they must be thinking of James Bond or something because in reality when you marry the dangerous man you are that woman on an episode of cops hanging out the trailer door in your tank top screaming, "Lock his a*& up!" while they haul your husband away." How true, how true... And yet I see young girls chasing after these bad boys all the time. I can only hope that they will have the sense to settle down with a "Nice Guy".

This leads me to another subject entirely... How American women seem to give "Nice Guys" the cold shoulder. "Nice" is the kiss of death for guys looking for a spouse. Now, you may think I am talking only to the non-Muslim world... That this only applies to dating situations... But NO. I have seen really great brothers get turned down cold because the sister isn't impressed when she sees him. HUH? Are we window shopping here? And the same goes for brothers looking for a wife. Remember the advice of the prophet on choosing a wife, the best criteria is the religion.

Now before you dismiss me let me give you the case of a brother who I know who I think is a really wonderful guy. He started with the traditional through the community meeting sisters eligible for marriage. Now he is Middle Eastern, so he started with sisters from this group. One time he went to a house to meet the daughter of a man he knew from the masjid who seemed to be approving of the idea of him seeking one of his daughters. The sister saw him from the other room, and never went into meet him. After an awkward dinner the young brother was informed that the daughter was not "ready" for marriage yet, she still had a year of college to finish. On another occasion he was told the same thing after only a few minutes with the father this time he left with the impression that they thought he was not wealthy enough because of his car... Long story short, this brother gave up on the ummah. He started trying to meet women at the university. They thought he was too "nice" and were confused by the whole not wanting a physical relationship thing. In the end he married an American convert years later... But how crazy is it that this brother so clearly ready to marry had to wait?

So, I just want to say to the "Nice Guys" out there that there are those of us out there who appreciate you... Don't get discouraged. There are sisters out there who are looking for someone just like you. And I also want to say to sisters if you dismiss a brother because he isn't devastatingly handsome, or seems a little awkward the first time you meet him... You may just be passing up the kind of man who will give you a loving home and a fulfilling marriage for many years to come... So think twice, and look deep when you are meeting a potential spouse. And brothers,that applies to you too.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Your results may vary...

I am a big believer in the no quick fixes, no firm answers school of life. I try to look at things from this perspective. I find this to be especially true of parenting. When my daughter is having a "bad day" I find myself looking for an overall pattern that might lead to an answer...

Well today was one of those days. And I am sitting here accessing the situation to the best of my ability and wondering what is going on. I can honestly say I have no idea. What can I do about it? No idea again. She certainly can tell vocabulary wise... She just lacks the emotional maturity to verbalize her feelings. My only inkling of an idea is that it has something to do with the leap she is making in her reading and becoming a more independent person.

It seems as if every major phase in our development can be accompanied by such frustration. Or not. My son has weathered these changes well. Masha'Allah, he seems to be an even tempered boy. My oldest and my youngest are prone to emotional thunderstorms of frustration whenever they are growing developmentally.

I guess my question is, what do I as a parent do about this? DH is inclined to be strict, to set more limits... I am inclined to give more room for error, let more things pass unnoticed... And then I think of the book Kids are Worth It and I try to imagine a way to give her structure and limits without becoming a "brick wall parent" and how to let her make her mistakes without being a "jellyfish parent". I can definitely say that having a six year old is the hardest task I have faced so far in life. And it makes me seriously wonder about my ability to cope with a teenager!LOL

I guess I am just in awe of the whole experience. I am overwhelmed with the sense that I will have an impact on her future and I have to deal with everything in the right way. I pray for strength I pray for guidance, and I just take it one challenge at a time. Subhan'Allah. And people think having a new baby is hard... I tell them "I already know what to do with a new baby! You can't really put a six year old in the sling and walk around until she sleeps, can you?"

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Battle of wills

So yesterday DH freaked out and decided that he was most definitely not for having a home birth. He did the same with homeschooling the first year... He just called me while I was in Denver rambling something about sending Layla to school in a neighboring town where she could enter Kindergarten early. We sent her to a half day program at a private school here in town that year. Sometimes I think he should've married someone more conventional... He sincerely doesn't understand why I don't just have another c-section... He really doesn't know why I am so set on homeschooling.

I am tired of locking horns over things that are important to me... And I am tired of always being the one who compromises. This time, I don't know if I can back down... So it looks like I will either be fighting hospital staff or my own husband about this birth. UGH

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Various thoughts today...

Well, I have been seriously lacking in time these days... I feel like the day just fly’s by. Yesterday I went to a meeting in FT Collins about a midwifery course I am planning to take, insha'Allah. I also ran all over the area after the meeting looking for affordable living room furniture, only to discover that there is no such thing. I guess my standard of "affordable" is unattainable. Huh.

In other news, I am trying my best to stick to the Brewer diet... And after reading a thing about adequate weight gain during pregnancy yesterday, I have renewed my resolve to eat well. I have stayed at 5 lbs under my weight when I first discovered I was pregnant. Probably due to an aversion to food in general when I am pregnant. I had a favorite of mine the other night and found myself forcing it down. I will never understand why I only have an appetite when it isn't useful or healthy for me. Ya'Allah!

Also, it seems like things in Egypt have gotten crazy... Which means we have started saving to go, insha’Allah. Of course this is a big headache/stressor for me since now I get to play financial gatekeeper (aka big meany who says no to everything) for the next few months. Not to mention I don't know how I am going to get things straightened out here in time to go in March/April like we want to. Planning to be abroad for an entire month or more is overwhelming. I wonder if it wouldn't just be easier to move!LOL The problem is finding ways to pay ahead, or shut off services we won't be using for the month or two we are gone. It seems easy, but the truth is since everything that involves time and frustration seems to fall to me I will be doing all of it... Which makes it a pain in the neck. And then of course there is finding an affordable plane ticket without having to connect 10 times and spend 7 hours in the airport in Amsterdam or something, and I don't even want to discuss that!LOL

Hmmmm, that all sounds really negative doesn't it? Well, on the good side I have been spending some time and $ on the house getting it in some reasonable semblance of order. It is slow, but alhamdulilah it is looking better. Now if I could only motivate myself to tackle the toys and school supplies...

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Competitive parenting rant

My DH had a brother over for an early lunch yesterday while I was out with the kids... And somehow (probably thanks to mini underwear lying somewhere on our floor!LOL) the subject got to potty training. Our youngest is currently potty training (he will be three in January. My husband had the experience that I have had 1,000 times... The brother started talking about how his son was potty trained before two. Brothers, have you been dragged into the world of competitive parenting too?????

I feel like Barbara Streisand and Dustin Hoffman's characters in Meet the Fockers... You know the part where they are showing the new in-laws the wall with all the mementos on it? When did raising children become a contest? I hate to be the one to constantly restate the obvious... But all children go through different stages of development at different times. There is no better or worse.

I want to get away from this false sense of accomplishment that some people have about these things. I would argue that kids are suffering from it. No child should be pushed to do something before they are ready just so the parent can feel a sense of accomplishment.

Take the example of potty training. Children are ready to learn bladder and bowel control at different ages, the sensation and the muscle control are a developmental stage. Now I know someone out there has done the potty training a 6 month old thing... And I believe you, but you have really trained yourself to respond to your child’s subtle signals and cues. That aside, kids will simply reach an age where the signs tell you they have reached that stage. No amount of reward or punishment will help them to get there sooner. And you will only make yourself and your child miserable trying to force it. I would say it is right up there with tying to get your pet fish to sit up and beg. If your child potty trained at 1 1/2... (I know I'm going to ruffle some feathers here) Don't pat yourself on the back, they were just ready.

And starting solids at an early age is another one (which you will see reversed to starting solids late in some groups where BFing advocacy is big). Once again, either your child is ready to eat and digest solids or not. You can't force it early because the tongue thrust reflex and the digestive system readiness are something you can't control. Nor should you. I know baby dishes and spoons are cute, but starting solids will not give your child more nutrition, help her sleep through the night or make her gain more weight. And yet this is another one I hear women comparing all the time...

And my favorite and the one that I am most likely to snap if someone tells me about it... Sleeping through the night. Yeah, it really irks me to hear,"Yeah, Mahmoud slept through the might ever since I brought him home from the hospital, masha'Allah!". No, sorry Ferber and every other scheduling nut job out there... The only thing a little baby who is "sleeping through the night" is doing is learning that no one is coming to get them, so there is no reason to cry. Sad and once again some people get all mad when I make that analogy, but that is the fact. And even an older child who does sleep for a longer stretch probably only sleeps for 6 hours or so. Sleeping though the night just happens, it is a developmental stage. Once again, sorry folks... Not a mark of superior parenting.

And finally... Big babies. I am just shy of five feet tall... and for many years hovered around 100lbs. My husband is a bigger guy, and he was athletic in his youth. We have had both small and big children. My middle one, big baby. My first and third were both small. That's genetics kids. And the most ferocious nurser of them all was the smallest. Yeah, go figure. So, when people praised me for my middle son's size... I was always a little irritated. I was happy he was a big boy, masha'Allah, but I never thought I had anything to do with it. Besides, my first child elicited the opposite response since she was small, so maybe I was a little jaded. PLEASE, don't stress about your child's size!!! And this is one even Drs put you in the competition on, "Yes Ms Abdelmalik your son is doing well, he is on the 90th percentile! Keep up the good work!" or "Ms Abdulrahman... I think you should consider supplementing your son's diet with formula, he is only in the 10th percentile." Hmmm, did a Dr ever look at the whole thing and just say, must be this child's growth pattern??? How I would LOVE to show some of the people who thought I was starving my daughter today now that she is a normal height.

Now I know that everyone has their own style parenting... And I am willing to allow for that. But sisters, and apparently brothers too... Can we please stop comparing our children on these archaic and useless things? Maybe you should think of it like this... Would you dare to look at another person's child and boldly proclaim that your parenting was obviously superior due to the perfection of your child's nose? Yes, it is the same. Allah made all of us differently, with little internal clocks running at different paces. No parent is better than another because their child is taller, potty trained earlier, slept through the night from day one and ate solids foods from birth. Give your child space to mature at their own pace. If you want to rush something's development go plant a garden and punish the tomatoes for not ripening fast enough.