Tuesday 25 February 2014

Valuing Children in an Impatient World.

This article about mothers caught my attention recently.  It is about parents who feel that they and their children who can behave in any way they want because they have priority over anyone else:

“The inconvenience of others, it appears, is now a small price to pay for empowering one’s toddler.”

The article upset me a little and the comments even more.  Firstly it serves me right for ever even reading anything in a “newspaper” like the Daily Mail.  Secondly, I should have known better than to even think of looking at the comments, having previously seen the vitriolic response anytime the word Muslim or Islam is mentioned in an article.

This article seems to think parents and their small children have turned into some kind of public enemy: barging over old ladies, stealing disabled parking spaces, queue jumping, using their prams as battering rams and changing nappies on restaurant tables.

To be fair the article doesn't say that every parent is like this, just that there are a new breed of parents who are emerging who are very entitled and expect the world to revolve around their child.  The commenter’s seem to agree with numerous anecdotes and comments about horrible children, horrible mothers, parenting being a lifestyle choice and not anyone else’s problem.

I have to say I have only witnessed this behaviour once or twice.  Once on holiday in the Lake District, where my mum-in-law stepped in front of a lady whilst getting onto a boat and she huffed and barged past with her children, probably thinking we were going to jump the queue.  The other example I can think of is a relative whose kids we were always careful not to tell off in front of her because she would take offence.  I think most people probably know someone who is like that.

The article came at an opportune time for me.  Last weekend the children were on school half-term holidays and on one day I decided to take them into town to pick up a few things.  As usual with four children, including one very rowdy one (Gorgeous), I spend a lot of time asking them to watch where they are going and to be careful lest they bump into someone.  Sometimes I got cross looks and rude comments from people about “controlling your children” or “these people”.  Often  on this kind of trip out I spend time apologising to people whose way we have gotten in, waiting for people to go past so that my pram doesn’t slow them down and getting my kids to hold doors open for me and for other people, because usually no one else will and because I believe as Muslims we have to set a good example.

Last week was something else though.  Darling is usually good and falls asleep in her pram, but on this occasion she got excited and let out a few screeches.  An elderly couple passing by yelled at us to “shut up!”  I was a bit shocked and replied “but she’s only one”, only to be told to shut up loudly by the lady again.

I decided to ignore them and walked off.  In the next shop we went into, I set my pram to one side and asked the kids to stand there, so they were not blocking the sale rack.  Darling decided to let off a few more shrieks.  I tried to distract her and a middle-aged lady smiled at me sympathetically, a moment later I looked up to see her rolling her eyes at someone else.

Part of me thinks I am too sensitive to other people’s reactions and should just develop a thicker skin.  Part of me is just sick of what feels like people’s impatience, rudeness, mean spiritedness, and frankly I think racism (“these people?”).  I have come to believe that people love dogs better than children in this country.  Children are an inconvenience, an embarrassment and a problem that parents are supposed to keep in approved child-friendly spaces.

I feel that children are not allowed to be themselves, that they are not allowed to make a noise or play without being told to be careful and that certainly many places I have had to stop going to because they are so unfriendly to children.  Children can’t play outside on the street or go and explore the neighbourhood, they have lost so many of the freedoms of past generations and every time they are outside they have to be tightly controlled by wary parents.

It’s a shame that mothers are often made to feel this way and that the future of this country is so undervalued in this way.  I completely believe it takes more than just the mother and father in isolation to raise a child:

“It take a village to raise a child” ~ African Proverb

It takes a host of interactions, experiences and environments for the child to become a whole person.  Every kindness, every good word and every ounce of patience that we show children, I believe will yield some good at some time in the future.

Certainly most elderly people are split into two camps for me now when I go out – there are the ones that look at you angrily or make nasty comments and there are the numerous lovely elderly ladies who coo over your baby or say something sweet to her (usually about her thumb-sucking).  For every kind person who smiles, says something nice or interacts gently with my children, I am grateful each and every time.

Picture of the Day 21.02.14 - Creature Comforts

Last week the kids were on half term and there was little for us to do a part from art and crafts at home, a trip to the library  - oh and the full day I made them help me with the housework when they complained they were bored.  Little Lady complained that all of the other parents were taking their children on holiday except us.  I told her she was being ridiculous, who in their right mind would take their children out anywhere in this blustery rain?

Anyway, it meant I spent most of the week off work listening to endless fighting, wrestling, complaining ("she/he said she's/he's going to fart on my beeed" seemed to be a common complaint all week) and occasionally crying when the fighting got too rowdy.

It was nice then towards the end of the week, to catch a moment of peace and quiet.  It seemed that the answer to all of their problems had been their nan's sofa, a blanket and Tom and Jerry.

Saturday 15 February 2014

Updating My Wardrobe on a Budget

I don't usually buy a lot of clothes for myself, apart from work shoes and occasionally replacing my black abaya's (they seem to rip at the shoulders and get threadbare at the bottom where I tread on them a lot). After a few years of wearing gifted clothes however, I started to feel really dowdy, so I thought I would update my wardrobe a little with things that are to my taste and not blingy, or baggy, or too bright.

When I buy clothes I have to make sure they are comfortable because I am always on the move, semi-smart because we often have people coming and going though the house and I want to look nice for my family and also modest.  They have to also be accommodating for when I make wudhu (ablutions) and do my prayers - so sleeves that are easy to pull up and trousers that are long enough to cover to my ankles when I pray.

My idea of updating my wardrobe is by no means going on a spree, I am on a strict budget.  So I was quite pleased by what I found in the end of sale racks last week.

This dress was from M&S's Autograph range which I really like.  It was reduced from £45 to £18 and has ruching across the stomach to hide some of the baby weight I have yet to shift.  I really like the print of this.

I found these trousers in the same shop reduced from £35 I think to £6.  They are a super comfortable warm fabric with a herringbone print.  I normally never wear prints with prints, but these trousers went really nicely with the dress above.

These very wide-legged trousers were also from M&S and were reduced from £35 to £7.  They are nice and light for summer with a satin waistband and go with the upcoming trend for shorter tunics and very wide palazzo-style pants that is coming though in Asian clothes.

It has been ages since I bought a new coat.  I have been wearing hand-me-downs from my sisters (which I very much appreciated and didn't mind at all), but they are all slimmer than me, so this is the first coat I have had in about two years which lets me close the buttons - which feels a bit strange (I can stop telling my husband when he asks why I don't shut my buttons, not to worry because it's not that cold).  It's also from M&S and was reduced from £100 to £48 and is a cashmere mix.  It's a little boring, but it is nice and warm and it's kind of  a classic shape.

This week I found this lovely dress which was reduced from £30 to £18 (the website says £20, but I found it cheaper in a local department store).  It's warm and comfortable and I like the houndstooth check print on the sides.

In the same shop I found this David Jones clutch reduced to £10.  It's quite big (almost the size of my weekend cross-body handbag and I like the colour.  I've never heard of the brand before but there is a black version here for £30.

In all I'm quite pleased with my buys and I have been enjoying wearing my new clothes.  The other little find that I have made that I would share is the hair serums from Hask that I found for £2.50 at Primark.  The Argan oil smells pleasantly of oranges and really helps to make my hair manageable. 

This is the Keratin Protein version and doesn't have the scent and is very, very light when you pour it out.  If you have slightly dry hair like me, I would definitely recommend these.  There are Macadamia and Monio oil versions too, but I haven't been able to find these.

Book Review: Peadar Ó Guilín – The Inferior

One good thing came out of feeling quite unwell recently; I picked up a book to distract me.  I needed something easy to follow and not too pretentious or deep.  I picked this up because of the review excerpt used on the front that said it would remind the reader why they loved sci-fi in the first place.  I am a fan of sci-fi and fantasy, but I find it can be challenging to work though all of the mediocre to find the best books.  Although the book was dumped in the adults section, I noticed in the inside cover it said “teen”.  I decided to get it anyway, some of the children’s and teen literature in English is amazing, certainly in comparison to the reams of uninteresting adult literature I find myself having to trawl through to find something that will hold my broken attention.

The book is set in a future version of what appears to be earth inhabited by numerous species alongside man which survive by hunting each other.  Each inhabits its own section of the land and makes forays into that of others to hunt.  When unable to hunt, species trade members of their own group with those of another to eat.  Amongst humans, those who can hunt and work and valued and those who start to age or become disabled in any way are encouraged to volunteer to exchange themselves with other species as food for their tribe.

In this world we are introduced to Stopmouth, a young man ridiculed because of his stammer and seen as a potential volunteer for his tribe unless he can bring back significant amounts of food.  In the midst of one such hunt for food, a beautiful young woman falls out of the sky (or roof as it is called), bringing with her knowledge of healing and tantalising hints of the origins of the tribe and of a more “civilised” tribe of humans beyond the “roof”

I find that the best sci-fi takes something recognisable and familiar and mixes it with elements that are completely new or alien.  In this way we buy into the world and can bring ourselves to believe the strange elements.  In The Inferior, the world we are introduced to is almost completely unrecognisable.  It took me quite a way into the book to get an understanding of the way the tribe worked and understand a bit more about the woman – Indrani.

The book starts by establishing the state of the world and then turns into the story of a journey.  It is very creative in the range of species and their characteristics and details about the customs and lives of the tribe.  I found this an easy read that I got through in a few hours.  In my enthusiasm for the tribes back story and of Indrani’s origins I raced through the book. 

By the end I was keen for the characters to survive and to do well and I had gained some insight, but still was left with far more questions than answers.

This book raises some uncomfortable questions about who can really be described as civilised, how far we can go to protect our tribe and our lives and about the eating of flesh of other sentient species.

Picture of the Day 13.02.14 - Rainbows and Daffodils

It has been very wet and grey here for some time.  I am grateful for a number of reasons - the weather is much milder than usual for this time of year, last year we had snow until April.  The kids have kept well apart from the usual runny noses alhamdulillah.  The abundance of rain has meant I've been spotting rainbows on the way home from work every couple of days.  This one from a few days ago was exceptionally intense and had another behind it that was very faint.  It's rare to be able to see the whole bow as we could with this one.  The beauty of what Allah (SWT) creates put an enormous smile on my face after a difficult day at work.

I also caught my fist glimpse of a great swathe of daffodils planted along the road side every year, signalling hopes of spring (I couldn't take a picture because we sped past too quickly).

I would say I love the rain too, but I keep thinking of all of the people around Britain at the moment faced with their homes being flooded.  On a very windy, wet and cold day like today, there is nothing lovelier than snuggling down at home with blankets and warm food and a good book.  That thought keeps turning my mind to all of the people who have lost everything and can't get back to their homes.

It's heartening to see United Muslim Association UK (UMA UK) have stepped and are offering help:

“It is important that organisations work together on coordinated relief effort. With the number of charities joining UMA UK, I am sure we will make a big difference when we activate all of the volunteers.

“It looks like we will be getting involved in the clean-up operation. We will also need to go out to our local hardware suppliers to see what we can get them to donate to help with the clean-up.”

You can find out more from their Facebook page here.  I really liked their note to keep an eye out for elderly neighbours.

Dua when it is raining:
 اللَّهُمَّ صَيِّبًا نَافِعًا
allaahumma ṣayyiban naafi‛a
Allah, may it be a beneficial rain.

Narrated by Ibn Umar (May Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (pbuh) said: "The best friend in the sight of Allah is the one who is good to his companions; and the best neighbour in the sight of Allah is the one who is good to his neighbours."   [Tarmizi]

Tuesday 4 February 2014

Testing the Waters and Learning My Lesson

A few weeks ago Shutterbug Sister asked if I wanted to take the kids to Sea Life London Aquarium.  Both Little Lady and Little Man had been there on school trips and Shutterbug had been there before and taken some gorgeous pics, so I was really keen.  I have taken the kids on a train once or twice before, but not Darling with her pram and not without my husband’s help.

Reasoning that two of my sisters and my sister-in-law would be there to help, I decided to brave public transport with the aim of testing how hard it would be.  If it felt manageable then we could make regular trips to some of the amazing museums and attractions in the city.  Ahem... I think that’s called getting ahead of yourself.

The trip there went fairly well.  There were couple of train changes, which meant carrying the pram up and down the stairs numerous times.  Thankfully the pram is a very light one, but the back of Kooky Little Sister’s trousers got covered in mud.

Once out of the station, there was quite a walk to the Aquarium, but the surrounding area is a nice one to walk through, with part of it along the embankment.  I have good memories of strolling along here with my friends in my student days and there are always performers as well as the view of parliament, Big Ben and the London Eye.

The attraction was enjoyable (review to follow), but the trip back home was a learning experience.  On the morning of the trip Little Man has said that he didn’t want to go because his friends were coming for his party.  My children often agree with their friends to visit each other’s houses but as its playground banter, they don’t actually turn up.  I told him he couldn’t possibly have a party as I hadn’t written him invites.  He said that he had written his own invites and given them to all of his friends.  I thought he was being silly and didn’t think anything of it until on the journey home I got a call from one of his class-mates mother asking where I was.  She was standing outside my house with a cake and balloons for the party...

I was still half an hour away and absolutely mortified.  She had knocked on the door and on getting no answer saw my husband’s number on our van outside the house.  On calling him, he gave her my number.  I just happened to be about an hour from home.  I apologised, explained I hadn’t given permission for a party and grovelled some.  This was the first of three calls from three different mothers standing outside my house.  Little Man had the sense to look embarrassed by this point.

We all got onto the train as I grovelled to the third mother and as I hung up, I turned around to find I could not see Gorgeous!  We had left him on the platform.  While I panicked and my heart dropped into the pit of my stomach, my sisters had the sense to get off at the next stop, take the train back and find him sitting with the station guard.  In the meantime, I had another call I didn’t recognise, which I ignored as I was panicked to speak to another irritated mother of disappointed children.  I later found that Gorgeous had memorised my mobile number and given it to the guard who tried to call me.  I felt like a BIG, BIG, BIG failure at this point, but sooooo relieved that I had my son in front of me.  I later asked him why he hadn’t got on the train; it was because he was engrossed in his new book about sharks.  Well I couldn’t really argue with that, I often used to miss my train stop during my commute into the city because I would be lost in my book.

In any case, by this point I was shattered, a nervous wreck, embarrassed and very clear on the idea of regular trips into the city.  They were not going to happen any time soon.  I will be sticking to walking to the local library, visits to friends and getting hubby to take them to the park.  Once the weather improves, we can plan some days out to places OUTSIDE of London in the car like we do every summer insh’Allah.