بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْم
The thing with being a writer is, that you evolve with time: your thoughts, writing style, and even priorities, keep changing.
I suppose that is true for every aspect of life: the only thing constant in life is change.
As a homeschooling parent who also likes to write, I keep growing and learning in both capacities with time, simultaneously. While this implies that reading some of my past articles/content can sometimes make me even cringe, it also implies that if I make a significant parenting faux pas, I make myself ascend my “writing podium” (this blog) and endeavor to admit it to the world, in order to correct it.
So, foot in mouth, here I am.
He “Can’t Read”
Some years ago, I used to express my worries about my son to others. About his reading abilities, or (apparent) lack thereof.
That was when he was in the age range of 4 – 8 years.
Well, today he is ten years old, masha’Allah. This past year (2017), he turned 10 years old.
And I want to admit to the world that, come age ten, “the switch” flipped for him.
Just like that. He started reading!
What is “the Switch”?
I think that I’ve talked about “this switch”, which suddenly flips, before. It’s something that most homeschoolers would probably know of and experience.
It’s the sudden “lightning” moment when your child achieves a coveted milestone, or masters a skill or ability that you’ve been working at for quite some time.
Just like that. In the blinking of an eye.
It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for. Dreaming of. Praying for.
In reality, though, the phenomenon of this “switch-flip” moment is not just exclusive to homeschooling parents.
I think most parents who endure any level of worry about their offspring, can experience this moment of exhilaration and relief, if not euphoria, when they see the latter achieve, acquire, or master something that they’ve been working towards and hoping for since quite some time.
This moment – when years of anguish melt away before your eyes, and a weight of immeasurable magnitude seems to life off of your shoulders – is followed by many comforting moments of watching your child do something that you dreaded they’d never be able to do, and observe them become better & better at it.
This is when your eyes literally seem to get cooled with what seems like a torrent of sweet water. When tears of gratitude to Allah, and shame over your lack of hope in your child, roll discreetly off your cheeks. And when you experience tumultuous waves of incredulity and conviction at the same time.
It is your “Eureka!” moment.
Silence is Best (سكة سلامة)
Speaking of change, one thing that has become glaringly obvious to everyone who knows me, perhaps most of all to me as well, is that I have become much quieter since the past few years. Very quiet, in fact, both on social media, as well as in personal life. I now avoid discussing with people my achievements as well as challenges, on all life fronts: personal, professional, familial, homeschooling-related, marital, or spiritual.
It should be no surprise then, that at this point in life, I am thoroughly ashamed to admit that I’ve shared my concerns about my son’s reading progress, in the past, with the world. Not just on this blog, but also in person, with others. Even with people who turned out to be not-so-sincere to me.
A couple of those people had even begun to drop hints containing the dreaded “D” word, regarding my son.
And no, I won’t write that word here. 🙂 There are already too many labels in this world, especially for children.
I regret having ever opened my mouth. But perhaps it was for the better, because now the world will know that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel; that parents should not give up on their child. That when something is meant to happen, it just happens, in its own sweet time. Parents should always have hope for their children, and be optimistic in every situation, no matter how seemingly dire.
Besides, reading is not everything. Yeah, you read that right. Reading and writing is not everything. It is not the end of your parenting world if your child is not good at reading and writing. There are many other great things that they can, and will do, as an adult. As long as Allah’s help is there, and you have resiliently got their back.
There are many ways to shine!
I wasn’t in denial when I refused to refer my son to a speech therapist at age 2.5, just because he was “not talking enough” (according to observers’ opinions).
And I wasn’t in denial when I refused to “get him checked by a professional” at age 8 because he “was not reading”. I had no doubts about Abdullah’s intelligence. It shone out from him like son-shine, in many other situations and scenarios (particularly kinesthetic settings). Just not linguistically.
But it did bother me that he refused to read. And I used to go crazy with worry wondering why. Why did letters and symbols of any kind turn him off? Why did he not want to decipher them?
And I started to let the impatient, money-making, and pressure-putting adult world of children’s education and pedagogy make me lose hope and give up on my son too soon. Particularly because he happened to be born after a child (A’ishah) who is a naturally gifted and voracious reader.
I admit now, that I should have been more patient, as his mother. And more wise, hopeful, and reliant upon Allah, as a Muslim.
But I was concerned. Nevertheless, with time and patience, as I myself grew, in the role of facilitator in this homeschooling journey, I realized that a parent should not voice their concerns about their child too loudly, to all and sundry. Only to Allah. And this applies to every parenting stage, but more so to older children, who have passed the age of 7..
You owe it to your child, to cover their (apparent) faults and shortcomings from others, with discretion. Unless there is a beneficial purpose for discussing these with someone else. And unless the addressee is a trustworthy and righteous person, who can really help somehow.
If need be, parents can consult sincere confidantes or professionals, and that too, very discreetly. But they should never open their mouth in front of insincere people, because the latter can (and will) jump at the chance to undermine your worth as a parent, and in my case, in homeschooling as an educational choice.
Soaking Up the Rays of Son-Shine…
I pray to Allah to make me one of those rare breeds of parents, who take full responsibility for their parenting mistakes when their child falls short, and give full credit for anything that their child does well, only to Allah.
That is, I believe anything that my child does well, is solely and wholly a gift and blessing of Allah. And anything that they do wrong, is partly or in whole due to my own parenting shortcomings.
In my observation, however, parents can tend to do the opposite. That is, when their child falls back or fails at something, they resignedly say to people, “It happened because it was Allah’s will…”. But when their child does something that they are proud of, not only do they unabashedly announce the achievement to others, perhaps in order to show off, but when moving around socially, they henceforth raise their heads up and puff up their chests with pride, their body language indicating to people that perhaps they had a lot do with their child’s success.
In Pakistani culture, like I have said before, children represent one’s greatest investment and asset, especially for achieving social leverage. Your children either boost you up in other’s eyes, or take you down. There are hardly any parents, at least that I know of personally, who actually consciously avoid using their children to polish their own self-image.
Anyhow, along this vein, I have apologized to `Abdullah for having discussed (my perceived lack of) his past reading abilities with others, here on my blog, and in person.
I have explained to him that I now realize that I made a mistake by sharing my worries with others, and I even asked him if I can write this blog post about it, to set the record straight about him.
His response: “Please do as you wish.”
So here is how it is now. Even though we have our ups and downs, as he comes up to me, asks me if he can read out a book to me (without being coerced), perches himself next to me, and henceforth proceeds to read chunks of paragraphed text with up to 7-letter words in them, without any problems, my eyes well up with tears of gratitude, and get cooled at the same time.
As I lean my head back and listen to him, I thank Allah profusely for showing me this day, and bask in the warmth of my little ray of “son-shine”.
لَا حَوْلَ وَلَا قُوَّةَ إِلَّا بِالله
(Please say this dua for him: اللَّهُمَّ بَارِكْ لَهُ )