(EDIT - I was inspired to write this today as it’s the 15th anniversary of my daughter’s birth and in many ways she was, and still remains, my biggest teacher).
My daughter was my teacher even before she was born. While I was pregnant I learned to be patient, that I couldn’t drink coffee, or have fresh orange juice with fried eggs for breakfast without being sick.
She also taught me that my hippie desire not to take medication unnecessarily could was right. I had gestational diabetes in both pregnancies, and both times the doctors tried to put me on medication. I had to argue long and hard with them each time -- on an intellectual level -- demonstrating my knowledge of an alternative way to handle the gestational diabetes. Both times I managed the whole thing with not one tablet passing my lips. That is down to both patience, research, and knowing how to negotiate!
Even as she was being born she taught me something. When Haleema was born the cord was around her neck (it was not known pre birth) and she was born not breathing. There was no scream as she came into the world, and she was taken immediately to the baby intensive care unit. Sadly, I was left for 4 hours in the maternity room with no medical staff and during those hours I learned patience, drew on strength that I did not know, and I said to my husband that he needed to prioritise Haleema (at that stage she had no one else to speak for her other than her parents). Alhamdolillah, and with God’s help, she started to breath as she was being taken to the ICU.
As a baby she taught me that despite my education, my degrees, my ability to manage a serious budget and team, one thing I could not manage is a 3 week old baby who just wants to cry! I had to reassess my role in life.
As the years went on Haleema taught me how important it is to be an active parent. She taught me how critical it is to ensure that we parent as best we can.
Parenting is not something that comes naturally to many people, we need to learn how to do it. And at each stage of a persons life a different type of parenting is needed.
As I was learning how to be a parent I realised that there is no job description; and you never get to the stage when you feel as if you have learned how to parent so continuous, ongoing learning is required; and at the same time parenting is the most rewarding job in the world.
I have worked as a coach, consultant, and trainer, I am blessed to have talked to large audiences, and written books and delivered training. I have been involved in the building of football stadiums, luxury housing, social housing, schools regeneration. Nothing comes close to the growth that being a mother has bought me, may it always be that way, God willing.
Your first child will always be your best parenting teacher….
With Haleema I went through a phase where I took her to get weighed every month (I think Musa was weighed 3 times when he was a baby!).
Even today I learn so much from her.
Just yesterday I was explaining to Haleema that as an adult I am open to learning from those younger than me, as well as those older than me, and if she has knowledge in an area I would love to learn. I love knowing about her perspective on the planet, faith, how she supports friends, what she is learning.
And before I continue, please don’t get me wrong, I know there is plenty that she does that I know nothing about… I was a teenage girl once too…
The key thing for me in being a parent is realising that my role is of facilitator not just mother.
I like to think that I am creating a village around my daughter, one that will nourish and support her, and one that will always have her back.
This village consists of people of every shade from pale blue to jet black, from straight to gay, from Muslim to non-Muslim. And it is these people that are all helping to nurture and create a human being that I will be proud to call my daughter.
If you are a parent, seeking to be a parent, or have young kids in your extended community one of the best thing you can do is to work out how you can create a nourishing, supportive village of people around them. I know I can’t give my daughter everything. That is not my job. My job is to find people who can show her the opportunities and options available in this amazing world. And to help her develop the tools to navigate her way through life so she can make good decisions and leave the world a better place.
What do you think is the role of a parent?
What tips do you have for how you can nurture your child?
What has your child taught you?