Married Life: For parents, Ramadan is a time to think about values that are passed down

I worry that my 22-month-old baby will grow up thinking Ramadan is all about the food.

It is not going to be easy to teach Baby A that Ramadan is not just about starving all day and bingeing at night. We’re only into the second day of the Holy Month and already I have 20 tabs of recipes open on my laptop and a fridge full of food taunting me all day and night.

I spent the days leading up to the Holy Month planning the elaborate menus I would be serving and the guests I would be inviting, rather than focusing on the spiritual importance of the month. It’s always a struggle to get into the right mindset when your stomach is grumbling and your throat is parched, but it’s a duty I have to live up to – for my own reasons and my responsibilities to my daughter. She is not even 2 and obviously can’t grasp the month’s significance, but I figure I can get some practice in so I can set a better example from here on out.

I was hoping to make a big deal of Ramadan and get Her Dictatorship as excited about it as she gets when she sees a Christmas tree or a big man with a white beard in a red suit. Her association skills are excellent; snowman equals Santa equals presents. No problems in comprehension there. But with Ramadan, so far, I’m failing.

Baby A is like a parrot; she’ll repeat any word we ask her to say, although her pronunciation is often wanting. But ask her to say “Ramadan” and she just giggles and shrugs. No matter what we do, she’s not taking the bait.

There is so much to teach her about this holiest of months in the Islamic calendar, about this month of giving, praying and caring. It’s up to Mr T and me to explain to her that we are meant to remember those who are less fortunate, those who are fighting hunger and poverty, and to find ways to share our bounties with them. We should be exemplifying these attributes to her all year long, but we also want her to feel the beauty of Ramadan.

These are lofty aspirations, certainly, and especially so for a 22-month-old baby.

I worry that she’ll grow up thinking Ramadan is all about the food. Countless hours are spent in the kitchen each day during this Holy Month, and at iftar time, so much emphasis is placed on the mountains of food weighing down the table. It is a challenge for us, as adults, to focus on the true meanings of the month, but with a child in the house, it becomes imperative that we make the effort and we have to start somewhere.

This year, when decorating our home for Ramadan, I got Baby A involved. We made a big deal of the Ramadan moon and Ramadan stars as we placed them around the apartment. I am making more of an effort to pray, so Baby A can watch and mimic. Mr T has promised he would take her to the mosque soon, where worshippers look kindly upon a toddler attempting to wreak havoc.

As much as I am obligated, as a Muslim, to observe the rites of this Holy Month, I am also obligated, as a Muslim mother, to instil the values in my daughter that allow her to grow up into the kind of woman who loves, appreciates and looks forward to Ramadan.

Fasting, however, is the one aspect of the month that we’ll take our time explaining to Baby A. Considering how difficult it is to get this kid of mine to eat, there’s no need to plant ideas of abstaining from food in her little head. We’ll hold out a little bit on that one.

Hala Khalaf is a freelance journalist in Abu Dhabi

Published: June 29, 2014 04:00 AM


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