December 10, 2013

Muslimah Musings: Remembering Our Other Children

Umm 'Eesa is a Muslim mother of two, plus one bump, currently living in the USA. She loves poetry.

Having children comes with its fair share of mess… Spit up, spills, stained clothes, food in hair, crushed Cheerios, scribbles on walls… the list is endless. Now, I deal fairly well with poop, diapers, snotty noses, curious yellow puddles in the potty training phase but my parenting peeve and mess-nemesis is vomit. It looks, smells and just is, gross. I always wonder why that mess can’t find a more conventional way to exit the body. The painful, unpredictable, expansive, explosive nature of it all is just too much for my sensibilities.

My husband had a bout of food poisoning a few months back and whilst as a grown man, he can take care of himself, I psyched myself up to do the wifely, nursely deed of cleaning up after him. I made a mental list of required apparatus: Rubber gloves, paper towels, Lysol wipes, bleach, hijab to serve as gas mask, air freshener. All this for a contained mess. Alhamdulillah, I was spared the ghastly task as my husband took care of everything himself, saying he wouldn't expect anyone else to deal with it. I considered that a huge mercy from Allah.

A few weeks ago, I was tested with the same predicament, except this time, my son was sick. My son who up until this point, hadn't vomited once since milk spit up as a baby, mashaAllah. He woke up feeling very thirsty and immediately after gulping down a cup of water, threw it straight back up. Twice?! I dealt with it with minimal effort. It was just water you see. He insisted he felt better and was hungry for breakfast and so that part of a mother t? and I met again, ten minutes later.

My dear boy had the foresight to jump off the couch, away from the rug and onto the wooden floor, where he then barfed to his stomach’s content. The mess spread far and wide in smelly, curdled, congealed puddles and splatters. I held my son, explained that I needed to grab things to tidy up and then quickly took care of business.

It wasn't exactly pleasant but in that moment, my parenting peeve vanished and all I could think of was my poor, pale faced, suddenly frail looking baby. All I wanted to do was alleviate his discomfort and lift his spirits.

He had managed to place himself smack bang in the middle of the aforementioned puddles so needed a thorough clean and change of clothes. He was too feverish for a bath so we soaped and toweled only what was necessary. I filled a tub with warm water and soap and had him stand in it so we could clean his feet. By this point, he was feeling a little more settled, cleaner and warmer and subsequently, I felt better. As I washed his feet, he asked me not to rub a small cut he had on his toe (it was hardly a cut even, more like an only-just visible line on his skin). I obliged and carefully avoided this ‘injury,’ out of mercy and empathy for his situation. I watched little soap bubbles collect around his toes as he then requested that I don’t tickle his feet too much :)

In that same moment of relief and comfort, my heart plummeted. The realization of how incredibly easy it had been to take away my child’s unhappiness filled me with guilt. I cleaned a floor with disinfecting cleaning products, I washed my son’s feet in warm water that ran from a tap, I dressed him in clean clothes and offered him words of comfort without any other care in the world, as if this morning of sickness were the only time of worry we had ever had to deal with.

I thought of the mothers of this ummah who are faced with far, far worse situations and can do little for their children. Those faced with poverty, war, oppression, illness. Not too long before this day, I had watched a video interview with some children in Syria. There was one boy who looked straight into the camera, eyes filled with tears, hands raised, asking ‘Why?! Why is he doing this to us?!’ And then he ran out of the room, unable to face the camera anymore. Another child was asked what food he missed and he replied, cucumbers. Not candy, not cake, not anything exotic. Just cucumbers. And earlier that week, I had thrown out a cucumber that had gone bad in my fridge, aothoobillah. My heart genuinely feels sad whenever I think of that little child’s face and his hurt, suffering and longing for something I discarded without a second thought.

As I cuddled up with my son on his beanbag, with dry snacks and unlimited TV at his disposal, I made dua for his good health, as any mother would but I also found myself making equal, if not more dua for my other children. Our other children. The beloved children of this beloved ummah.

We know we’re all supposed to care and most of the population who were raised with some sense of morality, will care. We make dua for the ‘less fortunate,’ ‘the ummah,’ and ‘the oppressed,’ but what are those words without the same love and mercy we show to our blood relatives?

Our Rasool, saw, said ‘The similitude of believers in regard to mutual love, affection, fellow-feeling is that of one body; when any limb of it aches, the whole body aches because of sleeplessness and fever.’ [Sahih Muslim]

Its all too easy to find ourselves (albeit unwittingly) living in an ignorant bliss and allowing life’s little bumps and hurdles to consume our concerns. The truth is, the ummah the world over is facing bumps and hurdles every single day and that should concern us as much as our children do. Some people prefer not to watch the news because its too depressing or makes them feel sad for the rest of the day. I for one, need those images and horror stories because I’m all too aware how easily I can become distracted and numbed to reality. I need to feel depressed and sad for a day because I want to fulfill that hadith. I want my heart and mind to ache for my brothers and sisters so that I’m lead to try and do something about it.

That moment of caring for my sick boy will forever be tainted with the thoughts of all those children who’s tears need wiping, who’s cries need soothing and who’s hearts need healing. I for one, hope that my every dua is tainted with those thoughts.

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