Written by: Kendall A. | Umm Iman
I have had the wonderful opportunity to participate in a year-long, parenting program that centers around creating “family bliss.” Each month has a specific theme with tons of videos, resources, guest speakers, and live sessions to diver deeper into the objectives of that theme. The month of July focused on the theme of “Creating Culture.” What I loved about this theme is that it felt liberating to consider that each family has its own, unique culture and that we–as people who biologically or by place of origin or current living–belong to certain racial, ethnic, or geographical groups, are not bound to the widespread interpretation of that piece of our identity. For me, diving into this work was really interesting, because I hold many different factors that play a role in who I am and the cultures that I identify with, as well as the culture that I am working to intentionally create for my family. What is interesting, is that sometimes, I feel that my cultures are contradictory to each other when simply looking at them from the dominant expression of each culture in our society.
I was highly intrigued by this topic and the sub-lessons within it, because we do each have a culture in our homes; yet, when we take the time to sit down and think intentionally about what that culture is and how we want it to manifest itself in our homes, there becomes a greater possibility for the values that we are trying to instill in our families to become actualized.
Some of my takeaways from this theme and considering how to make my dream culture more evident and tangible in my home are as follows:
- Making Allah and Islam the foundation and beginning of everything we do through: setting our intentions for each day, starting with a “bismillah,” having salah and dua be visible in our home, engaging with the Quran daily, etc.
- Having a value for diversity and seeing the beauty in all of Allah’s creations by: making it a point to have friends from differing backgrounds, exploring other cultures, and reflecting diversity in the books, toys, and programming that we watch.
- Feeling connected to and pride in our own ethnic heritages, and seeing those with beauty despite what the world may try to impose on us about our heritages.
- Instilling a sense of love and respect for nature, literature, and fine arts/expression by consistently spending time outdoors, caring for animals, having books and audio books always available, encouraging creativity with art supplies and open-ended toys, and exposure to theater, cinema from other places, poetry and spoken word, etc.
- Maintaining a positive, peaceful atmosphere where we bring out the best in each other; encourage helpfulness toward others in any way that we can; value simplicity, minimalism, and sustainability; a home of generosity where we are happy to give to others; and instilling wisdom around decision-making, finances, etc.
When my children look back on their childhoods as adults, in sha Allah, I want them to feel that they derived from a home of love, intention, spirituality, and a space that emphasized their holistic growth and development.
Another aspect of this theme that I loved was the invitation to develop family rituals. I think that to some degree, prior to this series of classes, I had some rituals that we partook in; however, after the course, I decided to be more intentional about this and select certain activities that we would do weekly, monthly, and yearly. Below are a few examples of that:
- Thursdays are “Quran Night,” where everyone in the family gets to share and recite an ayah or surah that s/he has been practicing or working on. I feel that this is a beautiful way to bring in Jummuah or Friday.
- Fridays are “Movie Night.” This actually usually takes place a bit earlier in the day, given how early my children go to bed, but nonetheless, we have been enjoying this time to watch documentaries on animals or appropriate, family movies, sometimes in other languages.
- Saturdays are “Game Night.” This is great fun where we all come together and play some board and card games. Over the summer, we’ve had a chance to do this outside, which adds to the fun!
- Saturday from 6pm-Sunday 6pm is “Tech-Free Time.” We started this last weekend and it was absolutely beautiful. I highly recommend it. My time felt so quiet, relaxed, and peaceful that I did not want the 24 hours to end. It has been a time of true connection with family where the phone, television, computer, whatever else, are away, and we can just be together. Time felt slower. I could hear my thoughts. I can’t even describe fully in words how necessary this time is for all of us–the children appreciated it as well. I’m ecstatic about incorporating this into our weekly routine, in sha Allah.
- We have made it a monthly norm to take a hike on the second Sunday; however, we have been fortunate enough to hike or be outdoors more than just the time allotted for it. However, it is nice to know that time has been intentionally set aside for that.
- There are some holidays and months that are special in Islam and so, knowing that they come once a year, it gives me time to plan for it so that these times are meaningful, memorable, and we can appreciate the lessons behind them by learning ahead of time. In addition to the Islamic holidays, months, and special days in the calendar, there were some other days that I wanted my family to pause and consider, such as: Grandparents’ Day, Mothers’ Day, and a Day of Gratitude. For me, its less about the actual holidays assigned to the calendar and the societal practices that go along with them. Similarly, my choosing of these days is not about disregarding that these principles should be lived in our daily lives. On the contrary, I just think that it is nice to stop for a moment and consider why we value the people in our lives by dedicating some time for reflection and making others feel noticed, appreciated, and loved.
Coming out of this set of classes on creating family culture, I feel optimistic, empowered, and excited about what can and will potentially come out of this for my family, in sha Allah! I invite you to think intentionally about the culture of your home at present, as well as how you can move more into your vision for what that culture looks like.