Friday, January 30, 2015

The "Insh'allah" Way of Raising Children

Coming from a country where parents are arrested or turned in to Child Protective Services for letting their children walk to the park alone, and then living in a place where kidnapping and other real threats existed, there's quite a bit to get adjusted to in the Arab culture. Children here are allowed to play in the streets without an adult present, though they are usually just a few steps away in their patio area or behind their window (though that's not always the case. I've heard stories of children under 10 running a house while their parents were out of country.) I've seen them run errands at the store a block away across a street. I've seen them going to the park several blocks away on their bikes. There is something refreshing about it, though I don't trust the system enough to follow suit. It does make me wonder why there is such a huge difference... and some of it seems to always go back to the concept of "Insh'allah" or "if God wills it," a phrase used for everything. A beautiful part of this concept is the complete acceptance of physically or mentally impaired children, since they are seen as something "God willed to be this way and who are we to question that?" However, it applies to the broader theme of parenting as well as there seems to be an underlying acceptance of the thought that "nothing can happen to the child that God does not will to happen." (This concept can get challenging when trying to teach cause and effect.)

Perhaps it's also because there is a basic unity of religion. There are many things I do not know about Islam and what it has to say about raising children. I can only speak from what I've noticed in my interactions with the culture, but it makes sense that having the same core fundamental beliefs, though there are Muslims here from many different countries, would make parents more trusting of one another.
  Perhaps it's the widespread feeling of safety from a competent government and security force.  Maybe it's a combination of a lot of things, but the way of raising children in the Middle East is a stark contrast to the way of the United States. I have found it pushing me to question where the line should be drawn for a child's independence and the intricate balance between the free-range movement and cloistered children, set in the crazy reality of our world. That it causes me to question is good... but I'm still figuring out the answer.

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