Tuning out the kids

August 21, 2017

In 1965, mothers spent a daily average of 54 minutes on childcare activities, while moms in 2012 averaged almost twice that at 104 minutes per day. Fathers’ time with children nearly quadrupled — 1965 dads spent a daily average of just 16 minutes with their kids, while today’s fathers spend about 59 minutes a day caring for them.

Parents fifty years ago spent less time with their kids than parents today. That’s a bit surprising since it was more likely for a mom to stay at home back then and people, in general, worked fewer hours, yet somehow parents didn’t use their extra time back in the day to spend with their kids.

How is it that parents spend more time with their kids today than in the past? And how is it that increased parental involvement -which usually means better outcomes for kids, has occurred in the same time period in which childhood psychopathology has increased? From a basic human point of view, the more scarce time is the more you’ll try to jam pack into it. So maybe precisely because parents have less time, in general, they attempt to spend that extra time with their children.

Then there’s the fact that these days a lot of marriages end in divorce. The time that you might have allotted to your spouse now gets allocated to kids. But there’s also something else -people are quite afraid to let their kids be kids.

In today’s world, the idea that you’d simply let your child go outside and play is losing traction. Going outside to play has been replaced with organized activities and accompanying parents, hanging out with neighborhood kids has been replaced with organized play dates and accompanying parents.

And this may also answer my secondary inquiry -could it be that in our modern environment children are increasingly being treated like adults and therefore once innocent childlike behaviors are seen as serious cause for concern? Maybe a part of preserving childhood is the adult’s ability to tune out children. Kids are noisy, weird, a bit too talkative and a myriad of other characteristics that aren’t acceptable for adults. But if we give them a bit of space the kinks will probably work themselves out.

Bipolar disorder -a mood disorder in which you move between euphoria and depression, changed is diagnostic qualifications for kids in the 1990s to include children who had highs and lows in a matter of minutes -instead of weeks at a time as diagnosed for adults. Unsurprisingly this led to an increase in the disorder being diagnosed in children and them subsequently being prescribed medication for it, yet the behavior -going from crying one minute to being elated the next, isn’t new in children -but the way we view it is.

ADHD is another questionable disorder that has had a dramatic rise in children -kids not being able to pay attention for very long is nothing new. The adults viewing the children and their environment is what’s new, kids are still just kids. Maybe -and this feels ironic to say as someone who undoubtedly supports stay at home moms, especially in the early days of childhood, it might be said that one skill needed in in all caregivers is the ability to tune kids out. Maybe we need to spend less one on one time with them -while still being available, so we’re not so stressed out by their mood swings that we go to the nearest doctor to medicate them.

And it’s also true -though I won’t expand on it much now, that our environments have changed too dramatically and become far too unfriendly for children. Maybe we ought to forget spending more money on computers in the classroom and instead invest that money into playgrounds. It’s not normal for children to have the pressure of adults hovering over them so often and increasingly have little time to just be kids, use their imagination, explore their surroundings and have some screen free fun.

 

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Want to learn more about childhood and society? See my upcoming course, here: nooralshadhili.com/childhoodandsociety

Thought crimes of a concerned citizen

August 15, 2017

Unsurprisingly the word “bigot” was thrown my way after writing last week’s post about liberal attitudes towards transgender people. In one sense it’d be fair if I assumed the person who thought that insult appropriate couldn’t have possibly read my entire essay –but I’m not that naive. If homosexuality or transgender(ism?) is questioned in even the most thoughtful of manners people will assume that you are only dressing up your hatred. As I heard someone say, some time ago, “Why don’t you just admit it, you think homosexuality is gross”. Who knows, maybe that’s true, but even if it were true, arguments deserve to be defeated by counter arguments not merely by accusations concerning the beliefs and character of the arguer.

Yet something more than that concerns me when even an inquiry into the LGBTQ movement or why someone might choose that lifestyle is shunned the shunners are also doing some dressing up of their own. Their acceptance is only a dress up for their apathy, it’s to say I’m not interested in why you are the way you are because I don’t care so let me instead pretend as I “accept” you. When in reality, I couldn’t’ care less about you –which is why I’m not interested in hearing your story.

I recall sitting in a class in grad school where we were discussing the case of a promiscuous homosexual man. I brought up what I thought was an obvious point but had thus far been ignored in the conversation, which was to inquire as to whether or not this man being abused as a boy –by an older man, and his father being promiscuous (with women) might not have led to his current behavior.

The professor began to agree with me before quickly stopping himself and saying we shouldn’t “pathologize homosexuality”, discussion over -I’d committed the thought crime of going against the “born this way” ideology by suggesting that past events could affect current behavior-which would have been an acceptable line of thought on almost every other topic except sexuality.

So whether a man has become homosexual in connection with being abused as a child or a woman is promiscuous in connection with being raped as a teenager, we’ll never know –and no I’m not suggesting a simplistic  if x, then y explanation for all sexual behaviour –human being is far more complicated than that, but if we’re not even allowed to ask those questions -who does that serve? And how accepting we you really if we don’t even care to know.

Commentary: If “Transwomen are women” what do they have to “reveal”?

August 8, 2017

Liberals have been pushing the idea that, “transwomen are women” anyone who —daringly or mistakenly, “misgenders” them ought to be ready for the wrath that will ensue. Transwomen are women (they say). Youtube channels like Queer Kids, in fact, encourage us to ask strangers what pronoun they’d like to be called in the same way we’d ask someone what their name is. Gender is no longer an obvious link to biological sex, it is whatever anyone feels themselves to be. They’ve so beaten this idea into us that even conservatives politely refer to Caitlyn Jenner as “she”.

So those of us on the outside of their movement are particularly baffled by the score of articles and arguments from liberals that a transperson not “revealing” their trans identity would be deception. The heart of the backlash came after an article entitled, No, I Don’t Have To Tell You I’m Trans Before Dating You by Tiffany Berruti. In the article Berruti explains that many cis people (their term for men and women who align their gender with the sex they’re born in to, i.e. us regular folk) believe a transperson to be “lying” (her quotes) or deceptive when a transperson does not reveal that information. She states:

“Their argument is that they aren’t not attracted to trans people, so they should have a right to know if a potential partner is trans before dating them. These people view transness as a mere physical quality that they just aren’t attracted to. The issue with this logic is that the person in question is obviously attracted to trans people, or else they wouldn’t be worried about accidentally going out with one. So these people aren’t attracted to trans people because of some physical quality, they aren’t attracted to trans people because they are disgusted by the very idea of transness.”

According to liberal logic, she’s right. If Caitlyn Jenner is a woman just like any other woman —as liberals insist, if trans women are women, then what exactly is a transperson to “reveal”. According to liberal logic a trans woman is just as legitimately a woman as I am. Now the same liberals who chant “transwomen are women” simultaneously purport that a transwoman who doesn’t tell her date that she is trans is deceptive? That’s mind numbing. They either are a real woman or they’re not. If they are, then straight liberal men should have no problem dating them. If they aren’t, well deception would be an accurate description of their behavior when they don’t reveal their identity. Not just in dating but when they use bathrooms, go in to dressing rooms or attend “women only” events. You can’t have it both ways, they’re either real women and should be treated as such in every aspect of their life or they’re men playing dress up and consciously deceiving everyone they do not reveal their identity to.

As I wrote in my article on transgender people some time ago:  

“I will concede that I find something quite insulting about the entire phenomenon. It is an insult to the other sex to think that by “dressing like them,” “talking like them,” or claiming to “feel like them,” you can therefore be them. Being a man is about more than wearing a suit, and being a woman is about more than putting on makeup.”

A trans woman dating a man without revealing her full identity is deceptive precisely because transwomen are not women, it’s unfortunate liberals are too busy deceiving themselves to admit it.

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“Let him make the living, and you make life worth living”

August 1, 2017

Decided to make a video today discussing one of my favorite books, Fascinating Womanhood by Helen Andelin. I read this book quite a few years ago -before getting married and now I’m rereading it. The book is such a powerful reminder in a society that urges us to be “gender neutral”, that there are values that solely woman can add to a marriage if they so choose. I’m excited to read this book and inshAllah put a lot of what she says in practice in my own marriage. If you haven’t read the book yet, purchase below and take a listen to my reflection (Watch in HD for better quality). And maybe reflect on this, are there different and even better ways women can add to their marriages besides an extra income?

Purchase the book here: Fascinating Womanhood Publisher: Bantam; Updated edition

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Is nigg(er/a) really a term of endearment, or do we just not know what else to say?

July 24, 2017

man-person-black-and-white-people-photography-boy-1053497-pxhere.com“And do not insult one another and do not call each other by [offensive] nicknames.” [49:11]

Let me first say that the argument about whether white people should get to use the n-word is both tired and played out —the answer has always been no. It is a word used within a particular community and that has nothing to do with white people and needs no further explanation.

Yet unfortunately, black people do feel a need to repeatedly explain to white people faking ignorance why they shouldn’t use the word, that’s where things get tricky. The explanation goes that when we use the word it is a “term of endearment” and when white people use it, it is an insult because of the historical connections to the myriad of indecencies white people have perpetuated against black people. While I agree with the second part of that explanation, the first?  Not so much.

Nigg(er/a) is at best a neutral term when black people use it amongst each other. “Look at that nigga over there” connotes no intention of endearment, it’s simply a stand in for man/guy/brother/human being,  there is no deeper meaning except the fact that one could guess you’re talking about another black person. And yes it can even be derogatory when used between black people -not in the same way as if a white person used it but derogatory nonetheless, “You ain’t never gonna be nothing but a nigga”, is not a positive statement by any stretch of the imagination. And yes the word can be positive, “These are my main niggas, love ’em death”, ah, yes now we feel the love. But the question must be posed -positive,  negative or neutral, why exactly do we call ourselves niggas in the first place?

My parents never let me use the word, being Caribbean —and therefore a bit of an outsider from African American culture –my dad, in particular, saw nothing but hypocrisy in AAs claiming no one but us could use the word. So I never heard it said casually in my house and never used it with friends. Richard Pryor, a black comedian who —like most black comedians, used that word as often as possible, stopped using it once he came back to the U.S. from Africa, stating “I didn’t see any niggers there“. What did he mean? If nigger was a term of endearment or at worst neutral, why did he feel uncomfortable using it for Africans subsequently making him feel uncomfortable to use it at all?

Our use of the n-word only masks our pain, we tried to take the word back to no avail -we tried to take the pain back, to no avail. Sure white people will plead with us ‘hat in hand’ if they get caught using the n word, and we feel a bit of power by making them cower to us. But the reality is, it’s not stand in for the lack of apology for slavery,  Jim Crow, and the continued destruction of our bodies. It’s a facade. It’s a mirage. It’s not the thing we’re really after.

Maybe calling ourselves niggas connects us with the pain of our ancestors, a pain that was never rectified in any way what so ever. Or maybe it’s a signal that we’ve forgotten, forgotten the pain they went through making light of the word they might have heard last before being hung from a tree. It’s hard to know —how can you dig into the unconscious of a people? But it is clear that we have an unhealthy attachment to that word –and how can we not, how many centuries can a people be called something and not begin to think that’s exactly what they are?

And it’s pointless for anyone to get on their high horse and simply state that we ought to stop using the word, I agree with Ice Cube who said, “that’s our word”, it is -but why is it our word? Why do we hold on to it so tight?  Why do we refuse to let it go?

Stop teaching your kids to speak up

July 17, 2017

If you grew up a generation or two before mine —or within particular cultures (Caribbean or African for example), you know that when you were a kid, no one really cared about what you had to say. There was such a thing as a “grown ups table” and a “kid’s table” at large family gatherings. You knew that you ought to speak when you’re called upon, and not any sooner. You knew that if your parents were retelling a story incorrectly and you happened to know the real story —it’s best to keep your mouth shut. Repressive, no?

But something much worse has happened in the generations that came after, kids are not only be allowed to speak in adult conversations, they are encouraged. I remember a shuyukh once recalling an incident where two children were in his midst, he remarked to his teacher at how smart the talkative one must be but the teacher disagreed, it was the quieter one who probably possessed superior intelligence.

Smart people know when to be quiet. If I’m in a room full of chemists talking about chemistry I’d be best to listen and hold my thoughts or pose them as questions so I could learn if I’m in a room of psychologists or students of psychology, I should feel comfortable speaking up as appropriately as my knowledge allows. Children don’t have anything to offer an adult conversation but they aren’t yet smart enough to realize that, they have to be taught. The old system where you kept quiet if adults were talking wasn’t repressive as much as it was an initiation process into adulthood. Slowly, as you learn more, as you know more, and as you grow older, you begin to join the conversation while still holding your elders in esteem. But entering the conversation arbitrarily —talking just to talk or to make our kids feel important, does nothing but inflate their ego and give them and an unhealthy sense of self. It is why students in college stand up in lecture halls to give their opinion and debate known experts, they’ve been taught from an early age that their opinions —no matter how ill informed, matter.

At some point we became obsessed with children having good self-esteem, so we began to do everything we could to heap on the praise, ensure they know they’re loved no matter what and to always listen to them. But what is the use of an inflated ego based on nothing but external gratification for which you’ve done nothing to deserve? As my dear father explained to us recently, when you overpraise a child you lead them to believe that they are important in and of themselves, leading to a self-absorption that says, “I’m great because I’m great,” yet how can one not also develop a fragile ego under the veneer of greatness when they are fully aware they’ve done nothing to deserve praise? Yes, you love your child no matter what, but giving them a reality check to let them know that actually they don’t have anything worthwhile to contribute to a conversation with adults whose life experience —if nothing else, informs their opinion and that the moments when the child is called to speak amongst them is a privilege. This creates a healthy respect for knowledge. People, who know something —whether through book knowledge or experience and people who don’t, are not the same, can we please stop teaching the younger generation that they are?


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Learn about how the concept of childhood has changed over time and varies between the West and traditional Islamic teachings, sign up for my upcoming course: nooralshadhili.com/childhoodandsociety

There is no reading of Islam that supports terrorism -or homosexuality

July 11, 2017

Liberals and far right conservatives (within and outside the Muslim community) have the same problem -they think that one can read absolutely anything into Islam/Islamic texts (primarily the Quran and Hadith). Reza Aslan, bless his heart, continuously goes on TV and talks about his “version” or “interpretation” of Islam, his “reading” of the Quran and his “understanding” of a Hadith. Let me make a note that I actually do like Reza Aslan on many fronts and appreciate his defense of Islam and criticism of Western hypocrisy but in some ways he makes the same error as far-right Islamophobes, far left Islamophobes (I.e. Sam Harris, Bill Maher), and Salafis -he believes that all interpretations are legitimate interpretations.

It’s true that when one reads the Quran they come to it with their own baggage and life experience, no one reading can purely asses what God Himself meant but that doesn’t mean everyone’s interpretation is equally valid. There is a myth that gets repeatedly pass around in the Muslim community that says that unlike Catholics, Muslims to not have central religious leadership. This is sometimes said in a positive way and sometimes in a negative light but the biggest issue with it is that it is simply not true. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “Scholars are the inheritors of the prophets.” [Related byTirmidhi] Since the death of the Prophet, peace to him, Muslims have followed scholarship that is until there was the Wahhabi movement which won over the hearts and minds of many Muslims by telling them they didn’t need to listen to scholars, no -they just need to follow the Quran and Sunnah. While I’m not interested and no have the ability to give an extensive account of that history, it left us in the state we are today where we believe that reading the Quran and Hadith directly is somehow following the sunnah more than if we were to follow scholarship.

Reza Aslan is right in pointing out that we all come to the religious texts with ourselves (our context) and our understanding is tinted by our personal realities but that is precisely the reason we depend on scholarship. A man prone to wife beating is going to enjoy interpreting verse 3:34 as an allowance to beat his wife whenever and however he likes, a woman leaning towards homosexuality will happily interpret the story of Lot not as a punishment for the sin of homosexuality but as a punishment for rape, a man who enjoys being authoritative would be absolutely gleeful to interpret the story of Kidr and Musa as meaning that authority should be listened to without question. This is the reality, yes -but it is also the problem.

A scholar -though they too are not perfect and they too will make mistakes, can tell us the context of these verses, their ruling as it pertains to various areas of life, how they can be understood through a Fiqh lens and the lens of tassawuf, how the companions understood it, what did the prophet do or say in relation to it, what are the verses that connect to those verses to give us a fuller meaning and so on and so forth. Yes, a scholar can be incorrect, insincere and make mistakes. But to pretend that their mistakes are equal to ours is a self-delusion -Is the one who knows like the one who doesn’t know? (39:9) God probes us in the Quran.

The mistake of the wife beater who wishes to believe he has a God-given right to abuse his spouse and the mistake of the homosexual who wishes to interpret away God’s punishment for the sin of homosexuality is the same. One may say they are Salafi and the other may say they are Progressive but they are in fact in the same camp -they want Islam to fit into their already predetermined ideology, that is a grave mistake.

One of the companions -Ibn Majah, may God be pleased with him, said: “When we were young we learned Aqidah (Islamic belief system) then we learned Quran and it increased our belief”. Sadly we lack -in some ways for reasons beyond our control, a systematic approach to learning Islam. We buy sophisticated books of tassawuf before we ever receive a basic education in Aqidah. For this reason one of my shuyukh ruminated on the danger of our printing fever -classical works of Islam are being translated into English and available for all to read, but without the scholarship to match -what use is it? The saints and scholars who wrote these books often didn’t intend for a wide readership, they were guide books for other scholars to teach their students.

Fringe interpretations of Islam and Islamic texts can only be demolished once we reinstate the value of scholarship in our understanding of Islam, without that -all claims will be equal, and equally dangerous.

Necessary Losses | Visual

July 5, 2017

Necessary Losses

July 3, 2017

I don’t know how mothers do it so gracefully, whenever I think about it makes me a bit mournful.

I’ve been a close part of my eldest niece and nephew’s lives for a large part of their early years. I saw them both the day they were born, carried them when they wept, fed them when they were hungry, played with them, laughed with them and comforted them when they cried. I tried to teach them good values and be a listening ear.

Now, they’re teenagers. My nephew stands about two inches above me, my niece plasters on makeup like a pro. They are, in many ways, different people. People I don’t know as much about as I once did. Their problems are no longer about learning the value of sharing toys. I feel more concerned for them now than I did when they could barely feed themselves. Are they getting a decent education? Is my niece being harassed by the boys when she walks down the street or the halls of her high school —like I was? Is my nephew kind to girls his age? Is it wise of him to pursue football? Will he really benefit from studying overseas? Is my niece trying her best in school? Is she getting involved in the nonsense gossip and girl clicks? Are they positive influences on their friends? Are their friend’s decent people?

And on and on. Maybe it’s because of those questions and the deep involvement in them that allow mothers to not experience the pain of loss —or maybe they do but never share it with us? Since the time of our birth all we do is grow and become increasingly independent until we eventually leave them. We start our lives dependent on their very bodies, then we’re born and completely dependent on their care. Soon we learn to crawl so they don’t have to carry us every place we’d like to go. Then we learn to walk, they cheer us on until we no longer need their help to move about, we don’t have the limitations of crawling and or the confinement of our initial immobility. We also stop needing their bodies for nutrition. Once their bodies were our sole source of nutrition. Then they start to feed us bits of soft food along with breastmilk until eventual they remove us (or we remove ourselves) and allow us to fully enjoy the range of tastes known to mankind. They still feed us, no longer with their bodies but with the preparation of their hands. Chopping things and mixing things, stirring and using fire —which they warn us not to touch. She might hit us if we try to come close, we’re confused that mother —our source of all that is good, would hit us, we don’t realize that only someone who doesn’t care would let us touch the fire.

Soon we’ll get dressed by ourselves, we’ll even argue with mother about which clothes we’d like to wear. She’ll guide our choices without being too imposing. Once in a while she’ll give in and let us wear those old bunny ears that were only for the school play. As we grow we become even more independent. Somehow mother gracefully guides us without constantly weeping over memories of the small innocent wide-eyed baby that is no longer. Sometimes the tension will grow between who we want to be and who they believe we ought to be. We grow angry because we think,”who is she to tell me anything, this is my life!” We forget that once there was no she and us, there was only one. She gave us her all and we consumed the nutrients in her body like leeches, giving back nothing in return.

How does it not tear mothers apart that the once inseparable bond will never be again? How do you deal with the fact that the small baby that once smiled at your very presence now sometimes scowls or frowns? If you were self-absorbed, as most of the world is, you wouldn’t let us grow, you wouldn’t teach us to be independent, you would force us into servitude until we paid back every ounce of your exhaustion, every pain in you’re pushing, every “pick me up” you obliged to —but you don’t. You let us grow and go and hold us in your every prayer hoping God will stay close to us even if you can’t. Do you ever miss that all dependent baby you rocked in your arms? Or do you simply realize it was a necessary loss?

Book Recommendations

June 12, 2017

I’ve not been so great with sharing the books that greatly influence my commentary and reflections on this blog -I will get better with listing them in the posts, but this will serve as a master list of all the books I’ve read that have influenced my life and way of thinking. The list will continue to grow so check back frequently. The links to the books include affiliate links so if you click I may make a few pennies. I hope you enjoy the books and benefit from them as much as I have.

 

  • A Return to Modesty: Discovering the Lost Virtue by Wendy Shalit: I finished reading this book about a week ago (Around June 5th, 2017) and I have to say, it was hard to let it go. The book is primarily about female sexual modesty. It is a criticism of what has become a mainstay in our society -post sexual and feminist revolution. It questions some of the main assumptions underlying those movements. The question to readers is this: If sexual modesty is a social construct, why is it so difficult to get rid of? She argues that we have to fight so hard against sexual modesty because it is in fact natural. The overarching purpose of her book is to make us question whether women are better off in the post-sexual revolution, post-feminist world or if we may have missed the mark and are in need for a return to the virtues of the past. I can’t recommend this book enough, especially for any woman feeling a bit uneasy with current societal and gender norms -I hope to write a full review soon on the blog.

  Take a read: Amzn.to/2tcKILr

  • The Empire of Illusion by Chris Hedges: I’d recommend reading Chris Hedges writings in general on his site Truthdig.com. His commentary paints quite a bleak picture of America as a failing empire. I read this book quite a few years ago and wrote a book review for it here, but I imagine myself picking it up once again to further understand how exactly we got here -here as in, to the point where we elected a reality TV star as president. We live in an oligarchy, we’re obsessed with entertainment, we objectify and demean women -that is the view of Chris Hedges which he explains in graphic detail with this book. I believe it is important to not passively live in a society but to understand it -in order to change what’s wrong with it or at least not fall victim to it, whether you agree or disagree with his conclusions, opening up your framework to see a larger view of our modern world is reason enough to read this book.

  Take a read: Amzn.to/2seSPdb

  • Between The World And Me by Ta-NeHisi Coates: Toni Morrison called it “required reading” and I wouldn’t take any book recommendation from her lightly. I’ve followed his work for some time and believe him to be one of the most important commentators on race, race relations and racism in America and he’s simply an amazing writer. I’m still in the middle of his book but I have zero qualms about recommending it. I recommend you read everything he’s written for The Atlantic in particular. His book is written in the form of a letter to his son about his life through the particular lens of being a black man in America. I’ve shed tears and throw my hands up at different parts of the book, it’s an emotional journey. A journey every black person in America knows well, but Ta- Nehisi Coates puts into words that validate our pain while also highlighting our strength. For non-black people, it will be an eye opener and hopefully, they will leave the book a different person than before they opened it -I hope to write a full review soon on the blog.

  Take a read: Amzn.to/2skd7Ts

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