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Parenting

The first time my infant daughter prayed alongside me

It was just another normal weekday. Every night, my daughter and I have a routine. After dinner, it will always be her bath time, one she happily embraced as a very long playtime if I do not coax her to end the session. Most of the time, it is another training ground for my mothering patience.

As for me, I usually get her settled first – dinner and bathe. Then only I can do my thing in peace, like having a nice shower and preparing for Isha’ prayers. In “peace”, I mean less interruption from her while I am doing my business.

After a quick shower and getting dressed into my pyjamas, I spread my prayer mat and started donning my praying veil.

My little girl has this thing about dictating where I should pray – she loves to pull my prayer mat and position it at other spots instead of the fluffy carpet. Bossing me around has become her second nature, but that did not happen that night.

While repeating the same question of “Mommy, you praying?” she also got busy preparing herself for prayers. I always have one little prayer mat for her, put together with mine and my husband’s.

I also used to tuck in a little praying veil in the mat too, but it was no longer there because she was never a fan of it.

When we first bought her a veil, I remember asking her to wear it every time she wanted to pray with us. But boy oh boy, I had a really hard time convincing her to wear it. She was so freaked out of the monstrous size and the claustrophobic white cloth. She hated it.

She took her little mat and spread it beside me. Everything was pretty much the normal thing she would do, until I noticed that she was asking me a question instead of proceeding with her thirty seconds cute little prayer act.

With her quirky vocabulary, she asked for her own praying veil. Of course she did not blurted out the words, but after a few seconds of deciphering her question I finally understood what she wanted.

As soon as I realized what she wanted, I dashed to the drawer where I kept her veil and gave it to her.

“No high hopes, no high hopes,” I chanted in my mind and braced myself in case she freaked out again.

To my surprise, she immediately tried to put it on. She even let me help her out.

I asked whether she’d like to follow me in prayers. She smiled sheepishly while positioning herself on the mat, waiting for me.

As I turned away and prepared for my prayers, I inhaled a deep breath and could not contain my excitement any longer. I did not see that coming and it took me by a pleasant surprise. My eyes watered with joy.

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Well, it was just me being melodramatic with all the tears, but in retrospect, I think my delight was due to two things.

One is the fact that my daughter has managed to overcome her fear of the veil, all on her own. Neither my husband nor I forced her to put it on (after all, she was only 3). Perhaps she has finally realized that the cloth was not a huge white monster that will consume her whole.

Second is the fact that I did not give in to the “parental race” and I decided to let it go with the flow. To be honest, I did have some hard time resisting the peer pressure from looking at other parents posting on social media. Many shared how their little daughters are into wearing their veils and reciting basic prayers, and how proud they are about it.

I felt like my daughter has been lagging with that milestone.

I had never been so wrong.

The truth is, each child develops at their own pace. As a parent, we are guilty of comparing our children to others, and sometimes we forgot that they are special, unique little beings.

The key is to continuously build and nurture the right environment for them to grow and develop a positive personality, regardless of their pace. In the context of educating them about Islam as a way of life, I believe that it should start from home, where the parents walk the talk and be the utmost example.

In our veil case, I figured that my persistence with involving her in my daily prayer routine has indirectly taught her that prayers and veils are just part of our daily lives.

Even though she rejected it in the first place, I did not stop including her. I did not force her into it either. I just leave the options open for her.

It’s a matter of building the concept, and getting her to understand things before moving to the next step – doing it.

At the end of the day I guess my persistence pays. There will be more similar instances with my daughter in the future, but one thing for sure – I know that it’s easier to cross the bridge if I lay the right foundation and guide her in every step of the way.

by Ayuni Ayatillah

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