By Saira Inanli
(August 19, 2009) – Lately I’ve been thinking about the business of babies, since I found out two friends are now expecting, and a third is enjoying the trials and travails of having a two-year old.
When you become a parent, what exactly does that mean?
Sure your whole world as you know it is never the same again, and there are many upheavals as well as joyous milestones to experience … but what does it mean to be a parent?
To be responsible for not only bringing a child into existence, but also for making sure the child doesn’t merely exist and survive, but lives and thrives, and, hopefully, makes life better and easier for others occupying this universe, as well.
Ultimately, it seems, you’re in charge of nurturing a good soul which they can take with them when they return from whence they came (for me and my beliefs that means a return to God).
The nurturing of a good soul starts even before the child is conceived.
First and foremost, it starts with choosing the right partner to form the team that allows for laying the foundation of a happy and loving home – a home that would be properly prepared to welcome any new additions to the family.
In my case, it wasn’t so much that I consciously chose the right man to be my husband and future co-parent, as he choosing me, or Providence putting him in my path so there was no way I could miss or ignore him.
I still marvel at how it all came to be, and girls, let me tell you, mothers are
right on this one … when Mr. Right comes along it really doesn’t take long to know deep in your gut that he’s The One and to want to get married soon after.
It all just happens so naturally, but you’d never know it till you’re face to face with it, which is, of course, the singularly frustrating thing of searching
for one’s soul mate – you can never know in advance where he might be lying in wait, or when you’ll turn the corner and run smack-dab into him.
So then, every worthwhile opportunity must be sought and every available corner turned.
One time, soon after my father’s death, which took place soon after we were married – a tumultuous and agonizing period to say the least – I asked him how he had the capacity to love me in the way he does, so freely, purely and unabashedly.
He just looked at me and said, “I am just a messenger, just a vessel from God through which He gives His love to you”.
I’ll never forget him saying that to me and I’ve never heard of love, True Love, Soul mate Love being interpreted in that way.
This was, in no way, to suggest he was endowed with superior or divine qualities, but rather that this love that he gave to me, that came forth from him, was really God’s love, compassion and mercy towards me.
It was then that I knew he would make an excellent father and teacher for our children.
Down the road when waiting for the baby magic to begin, one has to take care (or start taking care in my case!) of one’s body through good nutrition and health in order to lay down the building blocks for a well-developed, healthy baby with a sound mind and agile limbs.
Nurturing the baby through its first 12 months with highly attentive care and love, varied cognitive stimulation, soothing touches, warm cuddles, restful, and plentiful sleep (but not for the parents!).
Then it’s on to the first 5-6 years of the child’s life, when the real work of soul nurturing begins.
I would even say it extends to the first 10-12 years of a child’s life, especially in this day and age where children are tempted more and more, and at an increasingly young age, by toxic influences such as violent video games, sexually suggestive advertising and just plain old peer pressure.
When I was growing up, my father (I can never say this without a lump in my throat) would meticulously gather us kids up after dinner and we would say our prayers together and then read a page or two from the Qur’an, first in Arabic, then discuss the translation in English, making sure we understood, as much as our little brains could handle, just what we had recited earlier on.
We would also practice our surahs (Qur’anic chapters) from heart, committing to memory all those verses.
It was a big pain for us in our childhood; most days we couldn’t understand why we couldn’t just relax, watch TV, play outside or finish our homework after dinner.
It was a chore, a hardship we couldn’t get out of, no matter how hard we might have tried some days.
Looking back, I realize that was the biggest gift he could ever give us; the little time he had for us at home (he was often away on week-long, month-long business trips) he would devote to nurturing our souls, our consciences with the reminder of God and faith in our lives.
Even now I can recall those Surahs from memory, one by one, even if months have passed since I last recited them … it truly astonishes me.
I am only now fully realizing the immense handbook on life my father gave us, through the disciplined teachings of our faith.
It all really comes into effect when you’re truly on your own, building your own family and starting the groundwork without the safety net of your parents in your life, as their presence in adulthood is never the same as in childhood.
Years ago, I would question if I could provide the same dedicated faith-based and moral guidance to my own family and children.
Seeing my husband and his unshakeable faith, disciplined spirituality and positive approach to life’s hardships (it is slowly awakening my own long dormant prayer and Quran-reading muscles, and I still have a long way to go of course), I am now confident that with his help, we can go forth and create strong ambassadors of conscience and kindness in this world.
I’m writing this as a reminder to myself when the day comes for my own baby magic to begin – a reminder that, above all else, I have a duty to God to nurture and maintain good souls in this life, here on Earth, so one day they can return to Him in good order.
Saira Inanli is a thirty-something Muslim woman residing in the west-end of the GTA. She looks forward to further nurturing her long-dormant writing muscles.