When your child teaches you it’s ok to be different

Originally appeared at New Orleans Mom Blog.

My nine year old son surprises me everyday with his wise and analytical comments.

Let me preface this statement with a little bit about my childhood. I was born and raised by a very traditional Pakistani family in a very rural-ish American town in Iowa. We had a cornfield in our backyard and my mom wore traditional clothing which consisted of a long pretty tunic, loose flowing pants, and a scarf draped around her neck made of chiffon or something. She always wore a bunch of shinny golden bangles. She was distinctly ethnic, but to me it looked beautiful.

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I never distinguished myself as different or even remotely strange to the rest of humanity until I entered first or second grade. I do remember in Montessori school my brother and I spoke to each other in our “native” language of Urdu. It was standard and didn’t seem odd. We just swayed in and out of Urdu and English like it was second nature.

In fourth grade, it was Mrs. Ellinger’s class. I remember my mom coming in her traditional garb to cheer me on for my first play. The odd humiliation and sinking (please find me a hole to fall into) feeling started to set in. I was different than my peers. Though my tawny complexion and dark hair had done nothing to set me off, the moment I saw my mom walk in with her hair braided to her lower back and her pretty ethnic clothes, I realized I wasn’t part of the norm. Suddenly my mom didn’t look as amazing as I grew up thinking. I wish she had just worn a t-shirt and jeans. I had such warm and friendly “Americans” around me that I suppose I hadn’t really made the connection that I was not the same.

From that point, everything in my house and school life seemed different. Really? You mean I don’t celebrate christmas? You mean to tell me that spicy food that burns your tongue isn’t considered amazing? I distinctly remember my mom put a meat patty inย my care-bear lunchbox and even before I opened the box the kids were already plugging their noses because they smelled something “nasty.”ย Boy! I wasn’t just different, I came straight from MARS!

I never really came to terms with my differences until reaching the cool college years. Then being different was a delicacy, it was what set you apart from the sea of blonde hair and blue eyes.


Insert my son’s wiseness. I sent a note in his lunch box with a piece of ethnic dessert. The note simply said:

“Dear Zain, I love you and have a great day–love, Mummy.”

When I picked him up from car pool he told me two things. First, the kids made fun of him for still calling his MOM “Mummy.” Secondly, a few of the kids asked him what he was eating and how “weird” it looked. Before I could console him or apologize he proudly told me, “Mom I told my friends I don’t care if you guys think it’s weird that I call my mom Mommy or that my desert looks weird. I like it and that’s all that matters.” Wow, wow, wow is all I could think at that moment.

I still asked him if his future notes should be signed with “Mom” instead of “Mummy.” He very proudly told me he still had the note in his lunchbox and that he didn’t want me to change a thing.



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19 Responses

  1. Kareema says:

    It is refreshing to know that your son is an independent thinker,and proud of all aspects of his life. And especially of you,”mummy”!

  2. Nakida says:

    Ma shaa Allah. what a smart young man? May Allah guide him and keep him on the right part.Amen

  3. Zainab Dokrat says:

    Ameen such a lovely post mashallah ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. umm asiya says:

    Awwh Mashaa allah, he is such a sweetheart. May Allah preserve him and protect him, such a wise kiddo allaahu mubaarak.

  5. Amina says:

    Masha Allah, may Allah preserve Him for you and the Ummah.

    I love seeing and hearing about such high level of confidence and self esteem displayed especially among young Muslims.

    Baarakallahu fih.

  6. Myda Tahir says:

    love you proud mommy.

    Eat Healthy Stay Healthy ๐Ÿ™‚

    Myda Tahir

  7. Myda Tahir says:

    Love you proud mommy.
    Eat Healthy Stay Healthy ๐Ÿ™‚

    Myda Tahir

  8. Foz says:

    Lol I am the mum that still wears shalwar kameez! Just find them comfy. Hope I don’t end up embarrassing my kids!

    Love your sons response masha’Allah!

  9. Kai says:

    awww. my heart just melted. can you give your son a hug from me? i love my mom, too! and i would gladly walk around holding hands with her.

  10. Irum says:

    MashALLAH it was lovely reading ur post. Soo touchy. I ama Urdu speaking Muslim aswell… And I could feel so connected while reading this. May ALLAH SWT BLESS UR SON ABUNDANTLY… So proud of him…

  11. Famidha says:

    Loved the read.. mashaAllah … I have seen kids these days are much smarter and cool!

  12. Jameela Ho says:

    MashaAllah, what an individual your son is.

    Your life seemed just like mine was: Vietnamese (not to mention Muslim) surrounded by Aussies. I didn’t paid much attention to it until in year 4 another Vietnamese girl came to my school. I was so glad to have someone to talk in Vietnamese to so we talked and talked in Vietnamese but one day the teacher singled us out and told us off in front of the whole class for not speaking English. From that day on we were too scared to speak Vietnamese in the school (but now research found that it’s better for children to speak different languages and are encouraged to do so! LOL).

    I also remember opening my lunchbox year after year and hearing teasing from other kids about me eating worms because they’ve never seen noodles before. The funny thing was, every time I had it, my true blue Aussie friend would always begged me for some and she even begged for the recipe so her mum could make her some. LOL

  13. I loved reading this! Alhamdulillah your son embraces who he is and his family. Sometimes we can learn great things from our children.

  14. Rahila says:

    while we try to teach our kids about life, they teach us what life is all about. ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. Papatia says:

    Masha’Allah what a great kid! May Allah always bless and make him grow old as a great Muslim scholar, amiin. You did well sister. My youngest sister experienced the jeans and t-shirt thing with our mom too. To make her happy, my mom started dressing and sporting jeans skirts and long sleeve blouses so that she didn’t feel awkward around her friends. But I need to share your post with her insha’Allah. She might get something out of it lol.

  16. Ruku says:

    What a darling child! You must be so proud, great work mama, I mean Mom ๐Ÿ˜‰

  17. saima asghar says:

    Our kids r definitely smarter than us in their thoughts n wiser than us in their replies. May Allah preserves them. Ameen

  18. MashaAllah, May he always be the coolness of your eyes ameen.

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