Finding the Balance
As I prepare for Eid this year, I am thinking through how to teach my kids to love our traditions while balancing those outside of our home. A religious mom at Diari’s daycare requested that her child be excluded from the Easter egg hunt. While all his classmates got to paint and play and run around, he had to sit in the principal’s office. Diari was one at the time so they were just babies. I make no judgments on that mom, but it broke my heart. I want my kids to have only good memories when they think of religion.
For me, I want to make sure that I am raising emotionally healthy kids who are conscious of themselves and the world around them.
Imagine telling your four-year-old she can’t participate in a fun party at school with all her friends because of her religion. That’s just going to leave her crushed and confused about this religion. I communicate with Diari and I tell her simply, “Diari we’re Muslim.” But I still let her take part in the events at school. We just don’t celebrate them at home so that she knows it’s not something we do. I make sure that she doesn’t associate these holidays with religious beliefs. If you tell a child a party is just a party, then that’s all it is.
But if she grows up being pulled out of every fun activity at school, how is she supposed to embrace Islam? What if she grows up thinking, “Oh this religion kept me from doing all those fun things in my childhood?” I don’t think she will have a positive relationship with Islam if it becomes a symbol of restriction for her. I think rules and communication are important as children get older. But I’m also a strong believer that kids should be kids.
Eid Back Home
As most of you know, I grew up in Africa and came to the U.S. as a teenager. So I spent most of my formative years back home. Eid in Guinea was the best time of year! Some of my favorite childhood memories are Eid memories. Traditionally, we would all get new outfits weeks before and we couldn’t wait until the day you get to wear it. We would all get our hair styled and everything! We could have whatever we wanted to eat that day because we had fasted the whole month. The moms would start cooking the night before – it was serious.
The morning of Eid, every single neighborhood would have this team (I don’t know where they came from or who selected them) but it would be a woman and a group of guys who would go house-to-house and wake everyone up with their drums! That’s the one time you’re not mad about being woken up because you knew it was Eid! Nobody went back to sleep after that. We have a tradition called Sal-i-ma-fo in Guinea which we would say and adults would give us money. So we went around yelling that and playing and celebrating.
Then, when we would go for the Eid prayer around 8 or 9am. Praying Eid is so beautiful. You go and there are so many people and everyone is happy! And after the prayer, we literally got rich running around yelling salimafo to our aunts and uncles. You spent the rest of the day visiting family members and stacking bills lol. Then we would usually have a party for young people thrown by young people where we got to dance and hangout. It was beautiful.
Those are memories I will keep with me forever. Still to this day, I’m a grown woman and these memories bring a smile to my face. This is what I want for my kids.
Eid at Home
It’s very important to create Eid traditions and memories at home so that our kids don’t just see their positive experiences in non-Muslim holidays. They won’t have as many questions about Christmas if they know they can look forward to Eid. That way, they know that while all these fun things are happening at school, we don’t do that at home but it’s okay because Ramadan is coming!
Here are some ideas for making Eid a special celebration:
Gift-Giving and Gift Wrapping
Take extra time and put extra thought into the right gifts for everyone. Then take the extra step and wrap them! Make everything as special as possible.
A quick trip to the store or order online a few days in advance and you can decorate your whole house! If nothing else, put emphasis on the kids’ rooms. They will love it.
Make something special. I like to go all out so I’ll probably do a few dishes, sides, and desserts. But the key is asking everyone what they want or simply making their favorite thing. Then sit down at the table as a family and enjoy each other’s company.
This can be anything from board games, baking, reading, painting, park, etc. Just have fun together.
Eid Treats and Goodie Bags
This year, I ordered cookies and a cake decorated for Eid. You can really get any kind of sweets to make kids happy!
Get Your Hair Done
This is especially fun if you have daughters but boys can join in on the fun too! Make appointments to get your hair done one or two days before the celebration.
Go all out! If there’s a time to dress in our best, Eid is it. And most importantly, take lots of pictures. Part of the fun of making memories is looking back on them.