Our baby girl is now seven. We’ve been prepping her for this new phase by drumming up the new responsibilities and opportunities awaiting her. She initially retreated from the idea, saying she wished she could remain six but as the new privileges came to light, she could no longer wait. I casually mentioned that in the Islamic calendar she’s already seven and from there, she was resolute in her readiness for life as a seven year old.
Practically, we had been discussing what might shift in our parenting, home education, and family expectations at the age of seven. We wanted to celebrate the significance of learning to pray (great article called entitled “Planting the Seeds of Prayer in Our Young Ones” here), express our academic, household, and personal expectations in a seven-point checklist, and tag on a whole new, unprecedented incentive—staying up late for a monthly movie night, on the condition that the weekly checklist is completed week after week.
Birthdays are not a huge celebration for us. We usually have a quiet, introspective time to reflect and express gratitude for another year of life and growth. For Z (because we can no longer call our big girl Lil’ Z), we usually ask her who she wants to share her birthday with and what she wants to prepare for her guests, so service and appreciation are valued more than self-centered adoration. The first three birthdays were spent with family. Four and five were play dates with homemade snacks that she prepared. But when she started attending the birthday parties of others, she wanted one of her own. For six, we had a costume party after spending autumn in the United States piqued her curiosity about costumes, but she still helped prepare and served her guests. Leading up to seven, we told her that future parties will celebrate a milestone or accomplishment, not just the passing of another year.
Our Turning Seven party was simple. I’m not an artsy person and had little time to plan, but we managed to pull off a memorable evening for her and her girlfriends between the ages of 6 and 8. We started with a welcome and invited her friends and their moms to share what they love about prayer and any advice for Z as she begins properly learning the daily rite. Then the younger girls were assigned to match prayer times to a diagram that Urbndervish designed and write a poem about prayer. The innocent spiritual awareness that comes around this age is so refreshing. Their little poem turned out like this:
I love to pray in the day
And if I don’t fight, I can pray in the night
I love praying. It keeps you close to Allah
And I like saying “Ma sha’ Allah” (what God wills)
It helps me be close to Allah
And when you’re praying you say the words of God
I like reading Qur’an. It’s good for you
It’s the word of Allah. God’s saying the words too
Maghrib (sunset prayer) is lovely. I love it so
I like all the prayers and I’ll never let them go
I love it because it helps me grow
The older girls had to prepare a skit on how to advise a friend to pray properly. It began with one friend praying improperly and the other two gently advising her on how to focus and pray appropriately. While the formal prayer may seem rigid, it’s one form of worship that doesn’t negate the sincere overflow of supplication from the heart. Ritual is part and parcel of our spiritual experience, with sincerity being the most important prerequisite.
After gathering for snacks, I recounted the day Z was born, we sang traditional songs of praise and poetry, and wrapped up with henna applied to our hands and smiles of satisfaction in our hearts. Parenting a seven year-old is a new phase for us, but we’re looking forward to the new joys and challenges of the next seven years of childrearing.