It doesn’t feel like Ramadan for me, again. Last year, I had an unapologetic pregnant belly. People drew out chairs for me when I went to the mosque to pray and hurriedly brought me food at various times of the day. They understood when I chose not to fast ~ my baby-in-belly spoke for me. One year later I am not fasting. I now have a baby whose rolls on her legs and cheeks speak for me not fasting, a baby who needs nursing. This time, I look like I should be fasting, but I’m not. I’m sitting on the sidelines watching. This time no chairs drawn for me.
I’m not going to the mosque to pray Tarawih, to imbibe that Ramadan spirit: I’m putting my children to bed. I’m not slaving away making perfectly fluffy pakoras or evenly stuffed samosas: I can barely manage to heat up my husband’s iftar left overs what with Iftar time being bed time for my toddler who gets more hyper as each minute passes. Needless to say, I feel un-Ramadan-like.
Today feels like my yesterdays which weren’t Ramadan. I try to listen to a lecture on YouTube, but when my toddler sees the YouTube icon on the screen immediately clamors to hear If You’re Happy and You Know It, Clap Your Hands over and over again. Good bye Sheikh Abdul Nasir Jangda, assalamalaikum Elmo.
My husband was unable to make it to the mosque for Tarawih so I spontaneously decided that today I will go to the mosque. I will go pray Tarawih while my husband watches over our sleeping children. I will reclaim my Ramadan spirit.
My children fall asleep easily that night and my heart beats quickly as I stealthily creep into their room and try to locate my sleek black abaya in my closet. I can’t find it! Chocolate brown will have to do. With that I speed to the mosque and make it in time for Isha prayer and Tarawih. What I don’t expect to see there at the mosque is the children. The children banished to the hallway on the cold marble floor ~ some playing, some shrieking, some whining – all waiting.
As I approach the heavy wooden door to the carpeted ladies room, I see a sign with the words highlighted in green that says ‘NO CHILDREN ALLOWED’. My heart drops for a second then lifts – I don’t have my children with me today.
As luck has it, I find a spot next to a mother toting her 3 and half year old. The little girl has an impeccably neat bun twisted on the top of her head and light pink pastel glasses, and is dipping her hand into a bag of potato chips. We share a secretive smile. Not even a couple minutes after reaching there, an older lady approaches and brusquely tells the mother that children are not allowed, and that no one is allowed to eat in the prayer room.
The mother whispers to her child to not make any noise, hastily crumples the potato chip bag into her purse, and ignores the lady. Another mother in front of me has a somber 2 year old in a hijab who doesn’t make a peep, but does insist to be carried after a few rakahs. I am impressed by this mother’s arm muscles.
As I pray, I enjoy the words of the Quran being recited by the imam, but I can’t help feeling distracted by the shrieks that manage to permeate the heavy wooden doors. One baby sounds just like mine; one toddler sounds just like mine. I find it hard to focus. I have come to the masjid to get that Ramadan feeling, but my mommy brain hears the cries.
As I exit from tarawih, I am immediately greeted by the wails being wailier, and the whines being whinier. I see a little boy spurting tears crying ‘Mama, Mama.’ I feel like scooping up the toddler, but I realize his mother is right next to him, standing still like stone, and praying.
Children have rights over us; they have the right to structured bedtimes. Yes, I lack that Ramadan feeling that I so desperately crave, but I will strive to get it in other ways: sprinkling bird seed with my toddler’s little fingers, reading dhikr with my wide-eyed baby, and praying in my clothes-strewn bedroom when my two children soundly sleep. Yes, I may stand still like stone praying, but I will be there to respond to my children if they need me, and I will continue to pray for that Ramadan feeling to come.