The thoughts of an American Muslim and mother of four raising her children in small town USA with her Egyptian husband.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
The Evolution of Ramadan
I was thinking (as I often do in the quiet time I have eating suhoor in a home with the children all sleeping and my husband at work) how Ramadan has changed for me over the years. I converted a decade ago… And it seems like I am so far from the place I started I wouldn’t even recognize my old self if I bumped into her on the street!
My first Ramadan I was teaching kindergarten at Crescent View Academy in Denver, CO. It was a great time for me, and I was really into the deen and it surrounded me in all aspects of my life. My work, my friends, and my free time were all tied to Islam. I will never forget making little paper lanterns with my class and filling the ceiling of the room with them. And going to work very early… Even eating my suhoor at my desk and praying fajr in the little musullah in the school so I could turn in all my paperwork by the end of the school day and have time for iftar with friends or tarawih at the masjid... It was a blessing to be in such an environment for my first Ramadan, alhamdulilah.
Then, I married my husband. It was during Ramadan, and people told us we were crazy… We told them it was a blessing. People broke their fast at our meager wedding party in December and we all prayed magrib and ate iftar together. And, that was my last Ramadan in a large community. I moved from Denver to a small town in Wyoming.
I would like to tell you now about Ramadan as a young married couple that was still getting to know each other… But I had our first daughter before the next Ramadan, alhamdulilah. We were new parents during that time, and I can’t say that I remember much about it… Other than my husband taking the baby with him when he got up for suhoor and me grabbing much needed minute of sleep while he prepared the food.
From the birth of our daughter on, I have missed many months of fasting due to pregnancy, or having a young nursling. So, Ramadan changed for me. It became about decorating the house, cooking, and trying to get the kids involved in the month. And I started to feel more and more isolated here in the Midwest. And every year I felt Ramadan slipping from my grasp. I felt the spirituality of it just sneaking away from me… All I thought of is what to cook for my fasting husband, and what activity to plan for the children that evening. Many nights I left my husband watching Al-Jazera while I went to tarawih with the kids and concentrated more on the grumpy old people in the masjid being annoyed by my children than the prayer. I came home from an Eid gathering crying one year..
This Ramadan my littlest is 15 months old, and with no other babies in the plans for the next few years I have started to fast again. So, I was excited for Ramadan to begin. But, I knew this year it was up to me to help it have some meaning in our home. I wanted to get the spirit back by force if I had to. So I went all out. I threw the TV into a storage shed and pulled out all sorts of games and crafts for the kids. And I put copies of the Quran in strategic places in the living room and our bedroom, so we can read it when we are relaxing or feeling a little tired. I have also decided that tarawih will be a family affair. We are praying tarawih here, where I don’t have to wonder what the kids are doing or who sees them doing it. And we are planning a vacation for Eid. And you know what? I feel more connected this year than I have in a long time. I feel the joy of preparing food for my fasting husband, I have achieved a calm and even state when dealing with the children… I feel like things are back in order.
It’s like those little geometric puzzles… You have to work with the pieces you have to make the shape you want, and there is no one shape that is right. I was looking for the pieces to fit together in the old way… But I have added so much to my life over the years that I had to make a new picture with my pieces.
I guess what I am saying is that I am doing my best to help myself evolve and adapt with my life. I have realized that I have been missing what I experienced my first Ramadan and it’s holding me back. I have to accept that as my life changes the experience of the ritual of Ramadan will change with it. There are new blessings, new opportunities and new joy… It is up to me to find it, and make every Ramadan the spiritually uplifting experience it should be.
I am a mother to four wonderful kids and the wife to one wonderful Egyptian! We live in a small town in the Midwest and work in our small businesses. I am also a Waldorf preschool teacher and childcare provider, a backyard chicken lady, a part time homeschooler, and a generally crunchy mama (think hijabi in birks).