It seems that each year’s Ramadan brings a new set of challenges and opportunities to raise the bar, up the ante, and climb a little higher. On one hand, we consciously made the choice to stay in Nizwa—in spite of the imprisoning heat—so we would have no major interruption in our rhythm. For the last few years, we’ve spent Ramadan in various places, trying to make the most of our family time in the US but then making it back to our “home” to spend the last days of Ramadan in solitude and solace. This year, we postponed our summer travel plans until later for personal and professional reasons, so we’ve enjoyed being cozy in our little nest this month. Urbndervish’s work schedule is shortened from 8am to 2pm daily in observance of Ramadan, which has been great for our family time and energy conservation. And, thankfully, overcast mornings and cloudy afternoons have given us welcomed breezes of mercy throughout the month.
On the other hand, we’re learning to share Ramadan with our daughter. She has finally grasped the idea that the much-awaited Ramadan is not a person or thing but a special time with special habits. Sometimes, she offers us food throughout the day, to which we reply “We’re fasting”. Then she affirms “I’m fasting too” as she finishes her meal. As the sun begins to set, Lil’ Z turns on the Ramadan lights, counts out three dates for everyone, and carries them to the dining area. Sometimes, she turns down afternoon snacks, insisting that she’s waiting for the call to prayer, whereas other times, she can’t resist sinking her little teeth into the freshly dried dates.
Making our calendar, decorating the house, and sharing our fast-breaking meal give us an opportunity to see Ramadan through our child’s eyes—making the festivity more palpable and palatable. However, the rest of the day is mostly long and hot. Lil’ Z sleeps less than in past years, so the opportunity to worship without her is rare, giving us the new challenge to worship with her and remember that our care and nurturing of her is worship itself.
While Lil’ Z is too young to comprehend Ramadan and its significance at a cerebral level, we still have fun singing about Ramadan, making Ramadan cards for our dinner guests, and making Ramadan garlands to hang on our front door. Then all of our Ramadan creativity ran out, so we had to come up with other ideas—low energy ideas that we can do with her without exhausting our stamina or patience.
We started an alphabet book which combines all of her current favorite things to do—cutting, using glue sticks, and talking about letters and phonetic sounds.
Also, with the encouragement of one of my sister friend, we started finger painting. There’s also a lot of reading, cooking, and playing that goes on too. We didn’t get around to as much “traditional” cooking, as is characteristic of Ramadan in many other cultures, but we did make two Jamaican delights: festival dumplings and plantain tarts.
We’ve been fortunate to have some quiet moments early before dawn and during Lil’ Z’s naps but things don’t always go according to schedule. If she wants to pray night prayers with us, wake up for pre-fasting rounds of water, or take her nap on our laps while we read Qur’an, we’re learning to just roll with it. As long as everyone’s needs are being met, why fight it? Our sleep schedules have shifted a bit but we’re all sleeping enough…eventually. Our Ramadan goals have been pared down, but we’re still stretching ourselves a bit. Ramadan is not exactly what we thought it would be, but it has still been very blessed and merciful. It’s difficult seeing the ugly parts of yourself that surface while fasting, especially when reflected in the eyes of your offspring. But even this is a mercy in its own way as recognition is the precursor to rectification.
As with every Ramadan, we’re reminded to relearn good habits, rethink how we spend our time, and realize and rectify our shortcomings. So, in these last blessed days, we’re planning to dig in a little deeper, pray a little harder, and be better than before. Hopefully, the most significant Ramadan lesson Lil’ Z will take from this year’s experience is that she is not a barrier to our worship but an integral and welcomed participant in our life of worship.