The Inuit spent every winter passing down the oral history and legends of elders to the next generation. When hunting was at a lull, the storytellers spent time with the children, guiding them and reminding them that they are the torchbearers of tomorrow. I was not born in those times or those lands, but I have spent many days learning from their wisdom; be it over Iqaluk or reading a great book. One of the lessons I learned is to spend quality time with children. As summer frees up the time for our children from regular school learning, it presents an ideal opportunity for me to try and set the right growth conditions for them.
As a child, I feared nothing more than the Parent-Teacher meetings, perhaps because I was never an ideal student. Twice a year, when the time for report cards came around, I found myself talking less, praying more and volunteering to carry out chores that usually would require bribes no less than a new video game. Fast forward a few decades and couple of kids later, and I’m happy to report that my perception of these meetings has become more positive. I attribute this change to the shift in strategy; from the Mortal Kombat style reviews to more politically correct “I’m going to tell you how bad things are in a really nice way.” The confusion, however, at Parent-Teacher meetings is still, well, confusing!
My youngest son decided to impress me with a video demonstrating the ‘toy’ he wanted. It was a news item about hovering shoes with a link to a website that sold the product. Needless to say, I was impressed. Shoes that hover two feet off the ground, given you avoid puddles and dirt, with forward propulsion and ability to last almost an hour are not only perfect but practical for getting around town. Intrigued by the possibilities, we decided to investigate further with intent to purchase. It was only after reading customer reviews, product specifications and other marketing material that we discovered a line, buried deep in the text: “This video is intended as an April Fool’s joke.” Truly a disappointment!
Well past his bedtime, I found my ten-year-old intently focused on the objects that lay before him. Glue, scissors, paper and tape gave away the story. Not meaning to disrupt his mission, yet needing to assert my parental responsibility, I cleared my throat, hoping for attention. He turned around, victory pouring from every ounce of his tiny being, holding a complex paper model of the Empire State Building. Instinctively, I reached out to hold the paper model in my hands, amazed that a young child had completed a task intended for much older and mature audience. As I examined the marvel he had created, a rush of memories flooded me, and I found myself standing atop the Empire State Building, watching the sun, setting far into the distance.
We live in a world where children are increasingly being taught cheating, deception, and violence as a result of them playing games and using applications on tablets and smartphones. In this atmosphere of fear and distrust, how is a parent to pass on a tender heart to their children? How can I teach my children to be compassionate and caring? Such is the dilemma I faced.
She stands firmly against a linen white wall, an odd shaped red chair with swirling shadow stripes, making it come alive. She beams with radiance, waiting patiently for someone to be seated. Waiting for someone to tell her story. Waiting… Continue reading The Red Chair
For the first time in almost a score of years, my wife and I found ourselves looking at each other – without any distractions. No errands to run, no dishes to wash, no mess to clean up. With kids safely with their grandparents, we found ourselves filled with joy, like happy teenagers whose parents are off to Hawaii for a month!!
The UK just left the EU, Mr. Trump wants to keep Mexicans and Muslims out of the US, and Little Billy just got sent to the principal’s office for a mishap in the sand box. Can you guess the common thread? Here’s a hint: I’m right and you are wrong, I’m big and you are small. It would appear that we are living in interesting times. Continue reading #BREXIT, the American wall & kindergarten
In the past decade or so, a horrendous word has become part of our common language; terrorist! Islamist and Jihadist have taken root in about the same time. Putting the two together, we find ourselves facing a term that is awesome for the economy yet fearful for you and I. It allows nations to steal natural resources to their hearts desire, it allows wolves to sell guns, bombs. It sells news and makes the world go round, at least for those left standing. It is fearful in terms that our lives may be cut short by those who subscribe to such horrors.
Today, we find ourselves facing this apprehensive term: Islamist Terrorist. What is an Islamist Terrorist? Put simply, this is a term attributed towards people who claim to commit murder in the name of Allah. Allah being Muslim name for God of Abraham, of Ishmael and Isaac, of Buddha and Krishna, of Moses and Jesus.
Some claim that Allah told them to do so. Some claim that they are defending the honour of the Holy Prophet of Islam. Some point out that they are merely protecting their right to bear arms. All have one thing in common, they kill. They take away children from mothers and destroy peace, annihilating all that is good for mankind!!
I too fear these barbaric people, for I am a Muslim. I raise my children on the principles of Islam, the very fundamentals of Islam. Does that make me a terrorist? Am I raising warmongers or peacemakers? You may wonder, what does Islam teach? In a nutshell, Islam teaches that God created everything and He is the Most Gracious and the Most Merciful. He does NOT desire ill for us. Islam teaches that all life is precious and killing a person is like killing the entire human race! My elders have taught me that being unkind is equally bad, so be watchful of your covenants and relations; your word is your promise, so honour it. That is what I teach my children. All humans are equal, they all deserve respect and they all deserve love. Harmonious living is not a dream, it is a reality. Let’s embrace it. Let’s live it!!
Many moons ago, I was afraid of African friends, of folks from First Nations. I was fearful of those who had tattoos, shaven heads and pierced bodies! I would cross the street and take the long way if I saw such folks walking my way. Till one day, when I read the last message of the Prophet of Islam, I realised, that we are all equal. Children of the same God. My first step was to learn, to get to know the ones I feared. Today I have friends who are proud to be African, who are Cree and Mikmaq, who have Tattoos and body piercing. I’m not afraid. I take my children to diversity festivals and encourage them to be friends with minorities, with those whom they fear. Alas, that cannot be said true of many other parents who are fearful. Fearful of colour, of clothes that are different and languages they do not understand, of food they do not like. It is this fear that they do not understand and it is this fear that they instil into the hearts of their offsprings.
Children are born of innocence. It is our job as parents to help them grow, to nurture them, to groom them, to make them a citizen of this world. They are unafraid. As our children learn from us, we can learn from them. They can help us grow! If you are afraid, hold their hand and let their energy flow through you. Let them guide you to open diverse doors, each colourful and exotic with its own story.
On one hand we talk about freedom of choice, freedom of words, schools free of uniforms, of religion, and children free to do what they please, yet we complain that ‘they’ are not like us? There are too many of ‘them’ and ‘they’ are taking away our lifestyle? What lifestyle are you preserving my dear? One of fear, of distrust? Isn’t that what killed 50 people in Orlando? Isn’t that what has killed Millions in Syria and Iraq? Do you stand proud of Adam Lanza and Seung-Hui Cho? Do you find yourself echoing words of Arnaud Amalric “Kill them all. For the Lord knows those that are His own?” Syndicates like National Rifle Association and Islamic State thrive on this fear. Don’t let them grow! Don’t become a means of prosperity for the ones who are out to destroy peace.
I spend countless hours with my children, guiding them towards humbleness, towards meekness. In moments of uncertainty, I seek energy from them and let the words of the Prophet mentor us. He advised us to ask the learned, speak with the wise and associate with the poor.
There is much to be said, much to be learned, much to be heard. Fear will only leave you standing where you are today. Grow with love, grow in peace.
I leave you today with a thought that we live and breathe everyday. Love for All, Hatred for None.
Till we meet again, stay in peace, and grow in diversity!
Many moons ago, I had to stress about exams. That was all. Never had to stress about money, rent, food, no, all those things, by the Grace of God, were looked after by my parents. It was just exams. So, I did what every studious student does. Played on Atari till last day, then studied as if my life depended on it … resulting grades left much to be desired! Eventually I learnt that it was better to balance the two. Consequently grades improved, as did the quality of life. Stress, however, remained constant.
Fast forward to post school life, marriage, job and all the fun that goes with it, stress has been a constant companion. My children are old enough to embrace this companion, wonderful or not. And I, wiser to understand this companion of mine, am able to change focal point and embrace it differently.
Sometime ago, my son encountered exams for the first time. “Welcome to the world of stress,” he was told. I reflected upon his situation and concluded otherwise. It was time for discussion, but not until after the looming sword had fallen! I worked with him throughout his exams and encouraged him, gently reminding him of the privileges bestowed upon him by Canada. All praise to God who has given us shelter from fire that rages from the sky and bullets that pierce the barrier of sound and life. This of course, is a discussion for another day.
After his exams were over, we went out for a drive as we usually do and spoke about the ordeal. I wanted to understand his perception of stress. Pressure, ability to understand, comprehend and recall, wanting to stay in the top 5 percentile and other usual suspects emerged. I am sure you have been there. Then I offered a different perspective. I asked him to think about stress as an opportunity to grow, to make a difference. If the desire to grow was there, but lacked the effort, how would you grow? A blank look followed.
Addressing the blank look on his face, we spoke about how diamonds are formed. The diamonds that exist amongst our bazaars were sculptured over a period of billion years. Oil has taken millions of years to form and is now our central force for growth. Humans are similar in this regard. The more pressure, guided appropriately, better the result. If you cannot withstand pressure, you will only grow so much. If you dodge every curveball life throws at you, you will grow as far as you stand.
Stress, in my humble opinion, is a tool put on this earth by God as a gift for us to engage with and harness its ability to commence greatness. I encouraged him to ponder how he could have improved his previous experience and we discussed a few changes. Perhaps sleep earlier and wake earlier to meditate and study with the first burst of fresh oxygen pumped in the air. Well, okay, that is not happening. We discussed importance of managing time, and I welcomed the ‘aha’ look. Managing time is of critical importance, a lesson I learnt while playing PacMan one night before Physics exam. Ability to manage your time and priorities amiably can lead to great things. In my humble and very limited experience, time management + ability to focus on one things at a time = stress management.
I have now begun to apply this principle in everyday life and have watched stress and anxiety facilitate my growth towards becoming a better person, a better father, and a better husband. While too early to gauge, repeated doses of such discussions with children would result in similar outcome.
I leave you with the wisdom that was parted on my children and me by Master Oogway. In his words:
“Your mind is like this water, my friend. When it is agitated, it becomes difficult to see. But if you allow it to settle, the answer becomes clear.”
Till we meet again, speak kindly, love always, stay in peace.