Thursday, 29 August 2013

To blog or not to blog -that is the question.

I started this blog about 2 years ago to give expression to my thoughts and feelings and, more importantly, to keep a record of events and special moments in the lives of our kids. I wanted to capture and savour as much as possible about their childhoods because at that time already, I was becoming acutely and painfully aware of how rapidly they were growing up and changing.

In addition, my inability to answer questions like, "Mommy, at what age did I start walking?" (due to my awful memory) prompted me to try to find ways of recording the significant events of their lives - and woe betide me if I'd remember the details of one child and forget those of another. I'd then have to deal with accusations of "This just goes to show - you love So-and-so more than you love me!" No amount of explaining or truth (that their mother is just a sieve brain who never recovers from the compounding effects of the porridge-brain phenomenon from which she suffers with each pregnancy) - no such explanation convinces them that the reason I am unable to remember every little detail about their formative years is anything other than the fact that I just don't love them enough.

Then there is the issue of lost pictures. Oh, thinking about this does cause me pain - especially of the fact that my poor poor Nuha (8) - who finds herself stuck (in age) between two outspoken and demanding older siblings and a tantrum-throwing and, even more demanding baby sister - only has about two baby photos to show of her cute chubby adorable first 2 years. The reason for this is that the older 2 were born at a time before digital cameras became widely used, so all their pictures are carefully stored in albums and picture frames. Then, in 2004, Nuha's birth coincided with our purchase of all sorts of digital technology, allowing us to take hundreds of pictures of our precious little newcomer. But, sadly, thanks to a burglary a few years ago, which saw our laptop and video camera being snatched from our home in broad daylight, all our baby pictures of Nuha were lost. Upon little Aisha (3)'s arrival, we'd learned our lesson (sort of) and we are trying to back up copies of our precious memories.

But I have not been doing too well with uploading our precious memories onto the Google Drive. It is time consuming and tedious, especially due to the sheer volume of the pictures I consider to be important. (I'm the mommy who uploads 8 pictures of her child doing exactly the same thing in almost exactly the same pose for fear of not capturing an important moment in his/her life).

So that's where blogging came in. I was able to capture significant and seemingly insignificant moments using pictures and then providing context to these pictures through the use of words. Going back into my blog archives recently, I was overcome with nostalgia and joy, as I came across events which hold no particular significance whatsoever and about which I would most definitely have forgotten had I not recorded their detail. But despite their insignificance, these events had brought us joy and, therefore, just looking through those posts made me happy.

Shuffling with Maama

Kite making with paper and party streamers

The day our pet bird flew away

Drive out to Paarl

Not forgetting the tantrums

Nor forgetting our other babies

Aisha checking out her new school 

Sibling cuddly time

This reminds me - I should hide my lipstick!

Random morning visit to Mouille Point

Early potty training days (on our Paarl visit)

Girls day out with my two older girls

Another Sunday afternoon at Deer Park

And just another day at Sea Point Park

At Eastern Food Bazaar

Expecting a visit from the Tooth Fairy

Grade 7 (sporting his prefect and library monitor badges) - oh, my heart aches - I can't believe that this was a year ago - he's grown up so much since then.  Boo-hoo!!!

Impromptu midweek after-school visit to Du Kloof  Resort

Chilly Sunday at Hout Bay

Snapping away pics on her toy phone

Looking back on these seemingly insignificant moments made me smile. And cry. But mainly, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the little moments we shared. 

And that is the purpose I want this blog to serve for my kids as well. I want them to look back to the morning we went to Sea Point, which - although  it was a morning like so many others - its memory will bring them so much joy as they are able to reminisce about the special moments they shared and especially about the amazing bond they had (which God-willing, will never be lessened).

But in recent months, I've found blogging to be more difficult. My kids are growing up and, sadly, are becoming more self-conscious in many ways. Shakeel (14) will no longer run around in a park with free abandon - he will first look around to see who is looking. This saddens me, but this where he is in his journey into adolescence and I should respect that. It is for this reason that I am becoming increasingly conscious of what I write - I constantly have to consider how the information I share on my blog will affect not only him, but also his sisters when they reach this stage in their development. Perhaps this is the type of sensitivity I should have been showing them all along. After all, I have been exposing much of their lives - good and bad - for all on the interweb to see.

But where does this leave me - and this blog? I find that having to censor my posts makes writing more difficult for me. Previously my thoughts and feelings would just flow as I typed whatever entered my head (and heart). Now, having to exercise some sort of sifting process, I am finding writing about my family to be more difficult - which is a problem for this blog, since they are its main focus.

But l love blogging. I love the feeling of finishing a post of which I am proud. I love that it makes me look at the world in a different way - especially when I have my camera with me. Ordinary moments are transformed into the extraordinary. I pay attention to little details in my children's lives, which evokes in me feelings of gratitude for every small moment. It prevents days, weeks and months from passing by without the tiny seemingly insignificant moments being acknowledged and appreciated.

So, through writing this post, I've just decided - I shall continue with this blog (while paying heed to how its content affects my kids); the doubts and uncertainties which I felt a few minutes ago have been allayed through me having processed my thoughts and feelings right here in this post - which, once again, reminds me of how important this blog is to me.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Nuha's turn to receive a prize for "Fasting for the love of Allah"

Every year, for the past 14 years, the Islamic Unity Convention holds an award ceremony for those people who succeeded in fasting for the entire month of Ramadaan FOR THEIR VERY FIRST TIME. The men, women and children participating in this event, which is known as "Fasting for the Love of Allah", receive a certificate, a medal and a goodie-bag as small tokens of recognition for the accomplishment of this remarkable feat.

Last year Nuha (8) fasted for the entire month of Ramadaan for the first time. She however did not want to have her achievements acknowledged at this event, as she was too shy to go up to receive her award. This year however, for some reason, she built up the courage to claim her prize belatedly. This could very well have had something to do with the fact that her darling cousin, F. too was participating in this event and that spending the morning with her sidekick while they stuffed their faces with the delicious contents of their goodie-bag prizes, was well worth the unwanted attention she'd have to endure in going up to collect her prize once her name was called.

The event was lovely and there were some touching moments as the new Muslims' (especially the adults) names were called. The Imam (I forgot his name unfortunately) emphasised that although parents might sneak their little darlings small gifts to show pride at their accomplishments (fasting) and despite the fact that prizes were being awarded at this event for those who fasted for the first time, it has to be emphasised that Muslims fast 'for the love of Allah'.

Imam Achmad Cassiem voiced his displeasure at the use of the word 'revert' to describe people who had just embraced Islam. He said that once they took their Shahada, they became Muslims (like any other) and that giving them any other label implied that they were on some sort of probation before they became Muslims.

He also cautioned people against the use of the term non-Muslim, likening it to the use of the inherently biased term 'non-white' during apartheid. 

Here are some pics of Nuha and her darling cousin receiving their prizes (the pics were taken with my phone with my very shaky hand, so the quality leaves much to be desired)

And here we have my mum and my niece, anxiously awaiting little F's turn

But before I get into trouble for having done a special blog post on Nuha's turn at this event, I'd better show you a photo taken 2 years ago when Tharaa (then aged 9) took to the stage at the same event

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

So it appears that 2013 is not my year - or is it?

We find ourselves in the latter half of 2013 and I've not done anything I'd planned to do this year.

I knew that 2013 was going to be a big year for us. Shakeel (14) was starting high school and Aisha (3) was going to creche for the first time.

I was supposed to use my newfound freedom (from Aisha) to embark upon the journey I'd been fantasising about for some time now by doing a course in magazine journalism. In addition, I'd hoped to be running a small sideline business because, let's face it, at age 40, it's unlikely that I'll ever end up making my millions as a freelance magazine journalist.

But none of this has come to pass. Instead of freeing up my energy and time as my eldest and youngest took these huge steps away from me toward independence, I found them needing me more. Shakeel had a very bumpy start to high school - I only feel comfortable sharing this now, since things have improved considerably since then. He was extremely unhappy and, I'd even go as far as to say - depressed. He was not making new friends easily and his friends from his primary school were moving on happily without looking back (or in his direction). I coaxed and comforted, preached and prayed (both for him and with him). I felt helpless - my child who had been so confident as a senior at his previous school was completely lost and alone while all the other Grade 8s seemed to be adjusting effortlessly. I felt helpless - I wished there was something I could have done to make the adjustment easier.

Everyone said that he'd be fine. "It takes time; he'll be okay. Don't worry so much," I was told. But I did worry. A lot. Because I was watching my darling son relive my entry into high school. All those awful emotions came flooding back to me and I wanted nothing more than to shield him from them. I felt guilty - if I hadn't been such an introvert, if I had taken him among people more often, if he hadn't witnessed my steadily-worsening social phobia, he'd be different. He might have grown up to be as easy going, spontaneous and socially well-adjusted as the other kids his age were.

But, as it turns out, everyone was right. Things got better - although the process was slow and painful. He now has friends and seems to have adjusted to the school. I just wish that the confidence that he feigns, he actually feels. But Alhamdulillah, I am just so grateful for the progress he's made thus far.

My other main focus this year has been Aisha's adjustment to school life. Again, I only feel comfortable writing about this since enough time has passed. Up until the beginning of this year she was extremely attached to me (as I was to her). She had breastfed for months past what would be considered socially acceptable and even when she stopped, she clung to me day and night. I knew that our mutual clinginess was unhealthy, but I so enjoyed being close to her. I pushed the idea of her attending creche to the back of my mind until the day it happened.

On her first morning, she reacted as we'd expected. As did I - I burst into tears in her classroom and then Mo drove me to Sea Point where we sat overlooking the ocean while I sobbed uncontrollably for another 40 minutes. These traumatic (and dramatic) partings continued for the whole of the first term and then, when she finally stopped crying in the mornings, the school holidays began. As expected, once the new term started, we were back at square 1. (Don't worry, by this time, she was the only one crying - it's not as if Mo and the teacher were having to pull crying mother and daughter apart every morning).

And she remained teary in the mornings - up until the beginning of this week when, after giving Mo and me our ritual greeting (three kisses and three hugs each) she smiled and waved goodbye. Alhamdulillah. I pray that this continues and is not just a short-lived respite from our agonising morning drama.

So, as I was saying - I had planned to focus on my own personal development this year. Instead, I spent so much more time focused on my family's needs. The funny thing however, is that I don't feel frustrated by this. For the first time I am actually enjoying doing exactly what I'm doing right now, which is being there for my family while they need me (as they seem to be needing me more this year). I don't expect that this will be the case for too long - as these challenges too shall pass. Last night I sat reflecting upon this year and I realised that I have grown/developed somewhat - I am coming to realise that these day to day challenges are temporary (which brings to mind the verse, " "Verily, with hardship there is relief" (Qur'an 94:6) ) , and I should stop viewing every obstacle as an insurmountable challenge. I'm learning to keep these day-to-day challenges in perspective by looking back at 'problems' we dealt with a few months ago and how these did not signal the end of the world - instead here we are, still facing life's curve balls and still (with the help of the Almighty) knocking them out of the park one by one Alhamdulillah.

Again, I digress. I was talking about the fact that I've not accomplished what I'd set out to do this year. Mo pointed out that I have never been able to achieve inner peace and contentment when it came to 'what I should be doing with my life'. For years I felt that I should be doing my articles because I'd done my law degree. Then when I eventually moved past that, I was never contented in my jobs - I always thought there was something else I should be doing.

But funnily enough, for the first time I have not been feeling that restlessness and discontent for a while now. I think that this is because I realise what a huge difference my role as a stay-at-home mom is making to the kids right now. They really need me this year and Alhamdulillah, by the grace of the Almighty, I am able to be here for them. I know that this will change, as life is ever-changing and won't always be as tumultuous as it has been for the past few months. Maybe then I will focus on the plans I had for myself at the beginning of this year. But for now, I think I am exactly where I should be.

Grade 8 Natural Science project (in case you were wondering)