Guilty before proven innocent

Bismillahi ir-rahman ir-rahim – In the name of Allah, most gracious, most merciful

While shopping today I exited a shop while carrying a shopping bag with a couple of books that I purchased at the bookstore a few doors down.  I noticed the lady standing at the door.  Its funny, I often think of her as having a customer service role – to smile, answer questions and just be lovely.  But shopping with a shopping bag changes everything.  You are no longer just a casual shopper, you are a potential thief.  Actually, no…you are a thief!  Until you can prove otherwise, that is.

As I exited the doors with my bags I was aware of my current status.  I was also aware of the customer service come security lady at the door, but I didn’t want to show her my bag.  Not because I had anything to hide, but because I was tired, I couldn’t be bothered, and I had to walk across the other side of the store to show her, so I did what anybody else would do in that situation, I avoided eye contact.  I could see her from the corner of my eye coming towards me, so I bit the bullet as she asked if she could check my bag.  I smiled politely and obliged, opening my bag for her to see all its contents. She thanked me, and life went on.

I walked away thinking about this, how I smiled and politely showed her the contents of my bag.  How I allowed her to invade my privacy, allowed her to accuse me of stealing, and didn’t so much as raise an eyebrow at her.  Why do we allow ourselves to be treated like this??  If it were in any other situation we would never allow it.  Could you imagine…you visit somebody in their home, and as you leave they smile and say “would you mind if I had a look in your bag before you leave?”.  You’d be fuming!!  But for some reason in this context its ok.  Why? Because its always been like this, we don’t even give it a second thought.

Yes, I know, theres a lot more to it than that.  For the most part people can’t decide who does and doesn’t visit their store.  And people DO steal, probably a lot more than I would like to believe.  But why should that make it ok for me to be treated like a criminal?  Does the actions of a few bad apples justify the assumption of guilty until proven innocent for all of us?

I remember as a teenager being in a shop with some friends, when a staff member waited for me at the front of the store asking to search my bags.  Till this day I have never seen such a thorough search, they were very determined to find something.  It was as if they had decided my guilt when they saw me, and now it was just a matter of confirming it.  And when they didn’t find anything they seemed quite upset about it!

Now I understand that people have to protect their investment, but surely by now we have the ability to do this in a better way.  We have cameras at every corner, unpurchased objects to beep upon exit, and even contraptions attached to garments that can not be removed without damaging them…yet we still feel the need to hold onto this degrading practice.

When will demeaning practice stop and allow us to shop again with our dignity?

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Consumerism at its best

Bismillahi ir-rahman ir-rahim – In the name of Allah, most gracious, most merciful

I have recently noticed something.  Something I am somewhat ashamed to admit, but something I need to be honest about.  I love spending money.  I don’t know why I love spending money, but there’s something about it…the excitement of a bargain, the smell of new things, the ability to go into a shop and take away whatever goodies I desire…I really can’t pinpoint exactly what it is, there’s just something about it that I find quite exciting.  I never really noticed this before.  I always knew I enjoyed shopping, but it took a shopping drought for me to notice exactly how much.  I didn’t buy anything other than groceries for about a month, and then visited a local shopping center, and I’m embarrassed to admit I found it somewhat exhilarating.

I should probably point out here that I’m not a huge spender or anything.  I can imagine you’re probably all thinking I just go throwing wads of money away on nothing, on the contrary I am quite careful with my money, and even my husband says I’m “pretty good” with money.  I look for bargains, rarely buy myself clothes, buy the kids discounted clothes at the end of the season for next year, and talk myself out of numerous purchases that we don’t really need.  I do, however, sometimes indulge a little more than I should, and I know I can do better.  So its not that I find my love of shopping troublesome in any way, its just that on a personal and spiritual level I find it quite disturbing.

What I find equally, or perhaps even more disturbing is another discovery I made about myself, today actually.  I love throwing things out!!  There’s something empowering about getting rid of objects, objects that you no longer need, and more often than not, you never did.  Objects that just sit around taking up precious space, making it harder for you to clean and tidy based on the overwhelming amount of things that you have.  Knowing that with each thing you get rid of you have created more space for yourself and made your life that little bit more easy. Today alone I got rid of approximately 3 garbage bags full just from the linen closet, and I still haven’t touched 2 shelves!  All that stuff has been with me for years, it has move with us 2-3 times, most of it I have never used.  Some will go to my parents, other stuff isn’t even worth passing on, but all of it will be gone from my possession, I just don’t need it cluttering up my house anymore.  And I have to say the more I get rid of, the better it feels!  As I declutter more and get rid of more things I can feel a weight lift from my shoulders.

Upon reflection I realised that this is part of what we have become today – the consumer.  We love to buy and obtain more and more material possessions.  The next bargain, the next breakthrough in technology, the next fashion item, and the latest gadget to teach our children.  Then, over the years, we realise we have accumulated so much that it becomes suffocating.  Subsequently,  we go through the cleansing process of eliminating that which we do not need.  We throw out what is not worthy of keeping, ‘blessing’ others with what is no longer of any value to ourselves and that others may find useful.  Of course this then makes room for more possessions and the cycle begins all over again.

How do you break free of the cycle?  I am not entirely sure.  However, I do have some ideas which I hope helps to partially remove me from the cycle, or at least weaken its effect.  The first step is being aware of this phenomena and writing this piece is a part of that process.  I know its become a cliche, but I really do believe that “the first step to a solution is acknowledging the problem”.   Before making any purchases I will ask myself “do I REALLY need this or will it just end up in a garbage bag, as so many things have before?”  “Is purchasing this akin to throwing money down the drain?”.  Insha’allah (God willing) this will help me to avoid useless purchases and keep me on track.

The second thing I plan to implement is to focus on quality instead of quantity or price.  I remember when I first got married I needed so many things so I just tried to get them as cheaply as I could.  Not having experience with buying many of these things, I couldn’t tell the difference between a cheap item and something that appeared to be the same, served the same function, but which had a price tag which was a few times higher than the cheaper item.  So naturally I would purchase the cheaper item.  It didn’t take me too long to discover that those cheaper sheets were cheaper for a reason!  They would pill and were horribly uncomfortable to sleep on.  I have learnt my lesson and now I try to only purchase good quality things.  They cost more in the short term, but you save in the long run.  You save money when you don’t need to constantly replace things, you save the clutter of having extra things laying around that you no longer use, you save the time and energy you spend having to go back and look for things to purchase all over again, and you save on the resources you have depleted by using twice as much of the same thing.  Now I don’t mind paying the extra money for something I know will be good quality and will last.  It makes it so much easier in the long run, and limits my role in this vicious cycle.

I doubt the results will be instant, but I do hope that within a year or two I notice a difference. Hopefully I will be purchasing less and throwing out less.  I don’t expect that I will ever cease to be a consumer, but I do hope that my role as one will become increasingly limited and that I can learn to live more simply.

My little friends

Bismillahi ir-rahman ir-rahim – In the name of Allah, most gracious, most merciful

I first noticed it as a child.  I’m not sure exactly how old I was, five…maybe ten years old.  I recall just laying outside and watching them float down in front of me, as if its gliding through the air.  I was mesmorised by the power I had over them, all I had to do was look up, and they would start to glide upwards…then slowly again drifting down as they lost momentum.  I could control them with the movement of an eye.  It was intriguing, not a strong power and not one that was extraordinary, but to a child it was whatever I wanted it to be and I found it fascinating. I often wondered if others possessed it as well, was I ‘special’, or was something wrong with me?  I never did get around to asking anybody, I’m not sure if its because I didn’t think it significant enough, I forgot, or perhaps because I thought I’d just get a funny condescending look like I should probably be institutionalised.  I think the real reason is that because it was unknown –  It was mysterious and enchanting, but had I found out that it was something we all had it would have just been…well, normal.

Unlike most childhood observations this is one that I still clearly remember.  Not because it was remarkable or particularly memorable in any way, in fact quite the contrary, I often forgot about my little friends.  Instead it was because every now and then I would be reminded about them.  I wouldn’t do anything special, all I had to do is lay there and gaze off into the distance with a well lit background and suddenly they would appear.

As I get older I find that my little friends don’t visit as much anymore.  Or rather it is I that don’t extend the invitation.  First there was school, then there was uni, then marriage, and now kids.  Its extremely rare that I get a chance to just lay down and relax and stare into light filled nothing.  Then, on the rare occasions that they do appear,  I think to myself ‘its been so long I almost forgot you even existed’.

I’m not sure if I can really explain what they are.  They are marks of some kind that appear before me.  They seem to be entrenched in the fluid surrounding my eyes, or at least that’s what it seems like.  The best way I can describe their colour is to say that they are a transparent black.  I have always assumed that everybody, or at least a good percentage of people have them.  As I am writing this I just notice them gliding down my monitor, reminding me that they are always with me but it is I who is too busy to pay them any attention, or even notice their existence.  I find it fascinating that they are always there, always right before my very eyes like nothing else is, closer than anything else I can see, yet so close that I no longer even perceive them.  Its like they have become so much a part of me I no longer realise they are there.  I guess its kinda like wearing hijab, before you wear it you wonder how you can have this cloth around your face.  Wouldn’t it feel weird? Be uncomfortable?  However, after a while it becomes so much a part of you, you no longer even notice the fabric up against your cheeks.

So I wonder, does anybody know who my little friends are who have fascinated me for so long?  Are they normal?  Do they have a name?  Or am I just completely insane??  If you are reading this and you know anything about what I’m talking about please let me know, and likewise if you think I’m completely insane feel free to tell me, i think after all these years I need to know the truth 😉

——————-

Edited to add:  Thanks to Fatima and her ingenious google skills I now know what they are!  They are floaters or “benign floaters” or “vitreous floaters“. They’re basically floaty things in your eyes, and others suffer from them, but not everybody…so if you read the post thinking I was absolutely crazy, this proves I’m not!  At least not in regards to this anyhow.

Dawah

Bismillahi ir-rahman ir-rahim – In the name of Allah, most gracious, most merciful

Approximately 10 years ago, around when I started to practice more, I became a lot more involved with the Muslim community.  During that time I have witnessed some attempts at dawah that have made me cringe.  Some I have witnessed as an observer, while other times I have been a recipient of dawah that has just made me want to run the other direction.  So I wanted to share some some tips that I have picked up over the years, some through my own experience and observations, and others through reading articles and advice on the topic.

1)  Make sure you are sincere:  This is VERY important, not just in dawah, but in everything we do.  We need to begin by making sure that our intentions are sincere.  Are we making dawah for the sake of Allah swt, or because we want others to see how ‘pious’ and knowledgable we are?  Are we hoping to bring the recipient/s closer to islam, or are we hoping to show them that we are better than they are?

If you are unsure of your intentions please do not turn your back on dawah.  This is a trick of the shaytan, he causes us to doubt our intentions and then uses this as a way to make us turn away from performing good deeds.  Instead, purify your intentions and then proceed insha’allah.

2) Be humble.  Come from a position of equality, do not talk down to the person like they are ignorant or you are better than them.  Strive to make the recipient feel that the dawah is a reminder for you as much as them.  Mention things like you have only had this knowledge for a short time, or that you were also surprised when you were told.  It is important to go out of your way to make it clear that you do not feel superior.  Otherwise it is likely that they will get defensive and this will effect their ability to benefit from your dawah.

3)  Respect the recipient’s feelings and position.  Its important to try convey the information in a way that will not be likely to arouse feelings of embarrassment.  Sometimes this means waiting for the right moment, and although its important to correct somebody if they have a misunderstanding, to do so inappropriately or in a way that will embarrass them will only push them further away.  Try to inform them without making it obvious and in a casual manner (you just found out, you were surprised to learn etc) or think of other new and creative ways to convey information without causing any embarrassment of discomfort.

The most inspiring example of this was seen in Hasan and Husein (ra).  They had witnessed an old man making wudu incorrectly, but realising that approaching him and telling him directly would likely result in his embarassment they tried a different approach.  Instead they decided to tell the old man that they were having a contest of who could do wudu in the best way and asked the man him to be the judge.  When both of them proceeded to make wudu the same way the old man realised that he was making wudu incorrectly, and thus they were able to correct him without causing him any embarrassment or discomfort.

Bottom line is that we must be as tactful as possible and try to think how we would feel if we were in the position of the recipient.  Would you want somebody to come to you directly with a shocked voice saying “didnt you know that???” or would you prefer they waited till it came up in conversation, or they said “i found out the other day that…”?

4)  Under no circumstances compromise Islam and its rulings.  I really can’t stress this point enough.  Many people wanting to make Islam appeal to others think that they have to sugar coat it, giving a false impression of Islam.  They forget that Islam is perfect, we don’t need to change Allah’s rules in any way, shape or form.  The reason why people come to Islam is for Islam itself, not for some watered down version.  If they wanted a watered down version or a ‘do as you please’ type of religion there are plenty out there, but Islam is not one of them.  That is not to say you begin making dawah by saying “men can have four wives”, but if, for example, somebody asks if women have to cover their hair, yes!  We do!  We’re not saying that you have to do it on day #1 or dont bother, but just to make them aware that is Allah’s law and to support and encourage them to work towards that goals.  Just as we are all working towards our own goals.

5)  Take a genuine interest in the person you are giving dawah to.  This is particularly important when dealing with non-muslims.  You need to establish a rapport with the person first.  If you approach somebody and say “let me tell you about islam” chances are that they will run a mile.  People can sense if you have no interest in them and are merely interest ‘converting them’.  I have actually witnessed people saying “The reason I’m telling you about Islam because in Islam we get a lot of reward if we convey our religion”.  People want to feel that you genuinely care about them, not that they’re a mere tool for you to get some brownie points.  It does not mean that they will accept everything you say, but they will at least be more receptive.

6) Lead by example.  You can give all the dawah in the world but if you show bad character and adaab people will not respect you enough to take you seriously.  It is important not only to practice what you preach, but for others (both muslims and non-muslims alike) to see a fine example of a muslim in you, to see somebody they want to be.  It doesn’t mean you have to be perfect before you give dawah, if you give dawah based on knowledge and sincerity despite your short comings insha’allah it will be accepted.  However, through experience I have seen the best results from those with the best character, people respect them more, take more notice of what they have to say, and as a result their dawah becomes more effective.  Once again make sure that in your striving to be a good example for others you are doing so for the sake of Allah.

7)  Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know”.  Its much better to say “I don’t know” than to give the wrong information, so if you are in any doubt of an answer to a question just say you are unsure and that you’ll get back to them when you double check your information.  If you are concerned about how this admission may make you look then you need to take another look at your intentions, it should be solely for the sake of Allah swt, not how others may interpret your perceived lack of knowledge.  I have noticed that it is often those with least knowledge who jump at the opportunity to answer questions in ignorance, while those with a little more knowledge will hesitate and double check their knowledge before making such a serious error.

8)  Do not get defensive or become angry.  A person may be asking all the difficult questions because they are the questions that plague them, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are just doing it for the sake of being argumentative.  Answer the questions as best you can using logic and reason.  Point out that Islam is a religion for all places and all times, and help them to try to view things objectively.  I remember hearing a  story of a sister who would go to a masjid and ask all these questions on controversial topics and debate with the people there.  Then suddenly out of the blue she went one day and said she wanted to become a Muslim.  Those who had dealt with her were shocked, and asked “but you have been questioning everything we have told you?”, to which she responded “I had questions about things I did not understand, and you answered them for me”.

9)  Know who you are talking to.  Make sure you have some kind of understanding of those you are giving dawah to.  Often when somebody has little in common with others they can end up doing more damage than good.  There are often many assumptions, misunderstandings and misjudgements.  If you find that your attempts at dawah often results in hurt feelings and tension then perhaps you need to re-evaluate your dawah.  Perhaps you should stick to people you have more in common with, or other forms of dawah.  There is no point repeating dawah that is unsuccessful because the odds are if you come away feeling hurt and upset, then so do they, and nobody has benefited from anything.

10)  Make dua for the recipients of your dawah. Never underestimate the power of dua, it is a gift from Allah that we do not make proper use of.  Find out about dua and how to increase the likelihood of it being accepted.  Then utilise it, not only to make dua for those you make dawah to, but in all aspects of your life.

The problem with lists like this is that people often read them and can’t recognise anything they are doing wrong.  The people who give the type of dawah that make others want to run the opposite direction seem to be completely oblivious to the fact that they are doing any damage.  It makes me wonder – could I in fact be one of these people?  I’ve come up with some questions that I will insha’allah review regularly in order to try to ensure that any dawah I do is not a possible source of negativity:

1)  At the completion of dawah do you get hurt and upset and wonder why you ever bothered?  Or do you sometimes seem to make others hurt and upset?

2) Is it likely that others think that you are giving dawah to them solely for the purpose of getting reward, and you have little genuine interest in them?

3) Do people seem to get defensive you you try to give them dawah?

4) Do you think you are better than those you give dawah to?

5) Do you secretly hope people will think you are knowledgable and pious when you give dawah to them?

6)  Do you sometimes give information that is not completely correct or misleading in an attempt to make people more open to islam?

7)  Do you sometimes answer questions with information you are unsure of?

Insha’allah these questions can  help us all in our attempts to give dawah.  I don’t think it has to be black and white, I’d like to think not many people give dawah soley for the purpose of having others think we’re knowledgeable and pious, but perhaps one may feel that way as an after effect, or maybe one will happen to do dawah infront of somebody they want to think good of them.  It is important for all of us to ask ourselves these questions every now and then to make sure our dawah is pure and effective.  Sometimes what may start as as effective dawah with good sincerity and good intentions behind them can, for whatever reason, get off track over time.

May Allah (swt) make our dawah effective and successful, and may we be among those who Allah refers to in the quran when He says:

Who is better in speech than one who calls (men) to God, works righteousness, and says, “I am of those who bow in Islam”? [41:43]

A source of strength

Bismillahi ir-rahman ir-rahim – In the name of Allah, most gracious, most merciful

Something happened the other day.  Something that changed my whole frame of mind.  It wasn’t anything exceptional, in fact some may think it rather insignificant.  Nonetheless, it was something that had a profound affect on me.  Maybe it is because he is my firstborn, or maybe it is because of my own feelings of inadequacy,  either way this was a timely reminder and a blessing from Allah swt.

So what is it, you may be wondering that had such a profound affect on me?  My son got selected to represent his class for the prep islamic week quiz!  Ok I know, it sounds like I’m giving this one event more weight than its worth.  Afterall, it is just a prep class activity.  However, for me it meant so much more than that.  His teacher had made it clear that the selection was based on his knowledge, and for me this meant so much.  Not that it means he is the best in his class, or that I have succeeded as a parent.  I know it is a long road and we have a lot of work ahead of us.  However, what it did indicate is that we are, insha’allah, on the right track, and that means the world to me.

Motherhood in many ways is the most difficult job in the world.  Not only are there many physical demands, the 24 hour availability, the ability to jump out of bed at a cry whilst in the midst of your deepest sleep – thats the easy part.  The hard part is the mental demands.  Having your patience constantly tested to the point that by the end of some days you want nothing more than to roll up and cry, but more often than not opt for a nice chocolate fix instead.  Suddenly being a target of criticism from well-meaning and malicious people alike, all giving contradictory advice, but all agreeing on the one thing – you’re doing it all wrong.  Too loving, not loving enough, you hold him too much, you don’t hold him enough, you feed him too much, you don’t feed him enough, you teach him too much, you don’t teach him enough, you’re too soft, too harsh, he’s not toilet trained, he’s not disciplined, he’s skinny, he’s not confident, he’s too rough, he’s rude, he’s shy……AAARRRGHHHH!!

So that is why this seemingly small and insignificant event meant so much to me.  Not because he was selected for a small prep activity, but because it is a sign of more than that, and has provided me with a source of strength.  So when my baby woke up crying 4 times while writing the above, I could take comfort in the fact that Insha’allah she will grow to be like her older brother.  And when my three year old daughter started wetting herself again after being toilet trained for a month, I was able to tap into my reserves of patience by thinking that before I know it she too will be making her way in the world, and making me proud in her own ways.

Somewhere between my self-doubts, disorganisation, lack of time, lack of planning, and my failure to do so many things that I would love to do for my son, he is still thriving.  He’s not a picture of perfection, but he is growing up to be a sensitive, loving, caring and intelligent boy, and I couldn’t be more proud. He’ll probably never know the strength that he gives to me, but I thank Allah for the reminder and strength that I have found through him and hope that one day I can repay the favour.

Petrol Prices

Bismillahi ir-rahman ir-rahim – In the name of Allah, most gracious, most merciful

Much has been said in the media recently about petrol prices, it is an issue that effects us all.  If not directly through the  ever increasing cost of filling up our cars, it also effects us indirectly through its inflationary effects.  The cost of transporting goods has increased and as a result costs are passed on to the consumer.

The question that is always asked is ‘why does the price of petrol continue to reach record highs?’  The main explanation I hear is quite inadequate.  The media and government in Australia have chosen to focus on  OPEC and Arab countries, demand exceeds supply, they refuse to supply more and so the prices go up. The Arabs deny being at fault saying that it is not a supply issue.  Although they do not spell it out, they are drawing on the stereotype of the rich greedy Arab sheikhs, naturally they must be to blame.  Arabs are already public enemy #1 with their terrorist tendencies, they are an easy target, a target that the general public are often more than willing to blame.  Much easier than trying to actually do something proactive or actually face the truth.

Now I’m no economist, in fact I find economics quite boring, but I don’t think you need to be an expert in the field to realise the bulk of the blame lies.  Lets look at some facts, I think they speak for themselves.

  • ExxonMobil turned out the largest net profit ever made by a publicly listed US company of US$40.7 billion in 2007
  • Shell posted a profit of almost $27.5 billion for 2007, the highest earnings ever made by a British company.
  • Looking at the first quarter of 2008, BP reported a 63% surge in net profit, while Shell reported a 25% rise.
  • The profits of US oil companies have quadrupled since 2002.
  • The five largest US oil companies have earned $36 billion during the first quarter of 2008.

While failing to acknowledge what would appear to be the blatant truth, the US have searched for blame elsewhere, pointing the fingers at countries such as China and India for their increasing oil consumption.  Quite ironic coming from the nation that utilises 25% of the worlds oil supplies.  On the subject of irony,  the war on Iraq which was supposed to help ‘protect’ the oil in the region and result in keeping oil costs down has had quite the opposite effect.  Since the US control of the worlds oil become more concentrated we have seen a constant increase in the price of oil.  And they thought that ‘Arab sheikhs’ were greedy?

Furthermore, the very same nation pointing the fingers at others for their oil consumption and its apparent subsequent effect on oil prices seem to have no qualms about the 340,000 barrels of oil its military depletes each day.  It would seem that increasing oil consumption for the purpose of development and increasing economic prosperity to be unacceptable.  However, oil consumption used to wage immoral and unlawful wars, based on lies and false pretenses, resulting in the deaths of over a million people seems to be perfectly acceptable.

Like vultures, the oil companies have benefited tremendously from the war.  The link between the Bush administration and these companies is no secret, and to believe it to be mere coincidence is nothing short of foolish naivety.   Many now accept that the war on Iraq was for oil, and the knowledge that the world was misled by claims of weapons of mass destruction only serves to strengthen this view.

If the US are seriousabout addressing the oil issue they need to look in  their own backyards.  Realistically however, there are some very powerful people who are profiting from this all, so I think we need to brace ourselves, its unlikely the situation will be getting any better soon.  In the meantime I think we need to stop beating around the ‘Bush’ (excuse the pun) and call a spade a spade.  Until we acknowledge the real source of the problem any attempts to address it will be futile.

Night Terrors

Bismillahi ir-rahman ir-rahim – In the name of Allah, most gracious, most merciful

She sleeps like an angel.  Her blond hair covering her face, her big blue eyes peacefully closed.  She is so peaceful and so very beautiful.  A far cry from the bundle of energy she is during the day.   Her never ending talking and questions, and her stubborn tantrums.  Seeing her asleep like this is relaxing, there’s something about seeing your child sleeping, it is a beautiful site.

The peace is short lived.  It begins as a whimper. I hear it and a feeling of dread creeps into my heart.  Should I go comfort her?  Will she fall back asleep if I do?  Or will I just wake her more?  I hesitate for a moment, unsure what to do.  Then I realise that she is at the point of no return, she will not fall asleep on her own.  At this point I’m still unsure, deep down I know it is likely, but I pray it isn’t the case.  I go to her bed and she comes to me, but as soon as I wrap my arms around her I realise.  She is not soothed by my presence as she should be, instead it seems to inflame her more.  She pushes me away, at first yelling, but slowly her voice rises to a scream…a piercing scream.  Her eyes are wide open, a look of horror on her face.  She looks startled – confused.  I don’t know what to do. The more I try to hold her the more afraid she becomes.  The more I try to understand her the more she pushes me away.  She stiffens her body, every muscle tensing up.  I can’t hold her, I cant comfort her – I am helpless.  I sit there stroking her beautiful blond hair as she screams out “MUMMMYYYYY”, “NOOOOOOO”.  I want nothing more than to comfort her.  What is she so afraid of?  What is she saying “NOO” about?  What does she dream that is frightening her so?  She pushes me away again, I don’t know what to do.  Maybe I’m scaring her?  Maybe she’ll sleep better without me?  I get up….”NOOOOOOOOOOO” she pulls me in near to her again and tightly wraps her arms around my neck, only to push me away again.  I’m desperate to know what she wants, to know how I can help her but I know deep down that even she doesn’t know what she wants.  All I can do is to comfort her the best way I know how.  I know its not good enough, but that’s all I can do.  Eventually she wears herself out.  Her screams slowly quieten down till they are nothing more than a quiet sigh, and eventually nothing.  Every now and then she still lets out a sigh till she is fast asleep.  I lay there for a while, exhausted from the ordeal, squashed in the toddler bed that is barely big enough for her, let alone the two of us.  I’m relieved that its all over, but afraid to get up prematurely.  I try to patiently wait some more till I think its safe to get up.  I slowly remove her hands from me, and when she does not move I know it is safe.  I quietly raise myself up and walk away, alhumdulilah she is still asleep.  I look back, she is my beautiful angel again.

My daughter is one of the 10-15% of children who suffer from night terrors.  This episode is played out in our home on a semi-regular basis.  It began when she was around two years of age.  To be honest at the time I didn’t think all that much of it, the behaviour wasnt that unlike her day time behaviour so I just thought it was normal for her.  But after she turned three earlier this year her behaviour has calmed down a lot.  And suddenly the night terrors really stood out.  It didn’t seem normal.  Its funny as I’ve read a bit about night terrors and have been aware of the condition for quite some time.  I even studied it at uni, but I always thought of it as something that happened to other people, or other peoples children – not my baby.  It wasn’t till I mentioned it to my maternal child health nurse that she casually said “that would be a night terror”.  Theres nothing casual about it!  Its so horrible to see your child so scared and confused like that.  I know they’re meant to be asleep, but their wide eyes make it difficult to comprehend this.  The whole episode is also scarey and confusing to myself.  I can’t help but ask myself have I done something to make her react this way?  Lately I have noticed a link, she often suffers from them straight after an illness, particularly when feverish.

I think the most difficult part is knowing how to handle them.  One time when I was too exhausted to stay squashed in her bedIi carried her out to the couch.  After about 5 mins of laying on my chest she fell asleep.  As this seemed to work (and in a more comfortable manner) I naturally attempted the same thing the next time.  Now I should probably mention here that my daughter is a bit too smart for her own good (and my sanity).  She’s the type that when you give her an inch, not only will she take a mile, but she will demand it, and force it out of you by making your life unbearable until you succumb to her wishes.  This case was no exception.  After falling asleep with me on the couch I slowly put her back into her bed.  This time she woke up.  She clinged to me, screamed for me.  I thought she was still having her night terror, but this was different.  Yes she was screaming and carrying on, but this was much more calculated.  She wasn’t confused, she knew exactly what she wanted…she kept pointing to the couch, and when I asked what she wanted she said “lounge room”.  I refused, I told her I’d sit with her a little in bed till she fell asleep, but she continued to scream.  So I left, I had to.  I know that if I let her think a middle of the night screaming episode will result in having cuddles with mummy on the couch they’ll be occuring much more regularly.  So I walked away and left her screaming, getting herself into a state of hysteria.  I lay in bed the entire time questioning myself…am I doing the right thing?  I left her for a while.  Of course by this point she woke up her baby sister, so I fed her until she fell asleep again and eventually went back to my older daughter who by this point was laying on the floor just outside our bedroom.  I got down on my knees and asked her to look me in the eyes. I told her that she had two choices, she could either lay down there screaming by herself, or she could come with me to her bedroom where I would sit beside her for a few minutes until she fell asleep.  She knew I meant business and let me carry her to her bed.  I sat beside her while she turned her face the other way indicating she was going to sleep.  Alhumdulilah it worked…this time.

But its always a hard one….how do you know what to do?  How do you find the perfect balance between comforting them in a way that is good for them and not spoiling them in a way that they will constantly expect?  I feel like I’m blindfolded, slowly feeling out the path infront of me, afraid to move quickly incase I make the wrong move and everything falls down infront of me in a heap.  I have made mistakes in the past, and its so hard to pick up the pieces.  It takes a lot of hard work, and it takes A LOT of patience.  I guess its all part of being a parent.  Then just when you think you have it all worked out you have another baby, and realise that you may as well throw that rule book out and start on a journey of learning all over again.