We adults are well aware that we’re getting older and that we’re changing-in more ways than most of us would like to admit-but most of us don’t really think about the number of our age. At least, we don’t talk about it. On the rare occasion that someone might ask about my age, I often have to consciously bring up the information. I remember once a friend asked me how old I was. I couldn’t remember! Am I 26 or 27? I was 27.
Even though we all were children once, we adults forget-like so much else-the value of chronological age to a child.
It started around age 3 with my daughter, Duaa. At age 3 is when she realized that she has her very own age. She began to understand the basics about age, like the fact that age changes on one’s birthday and a birthday is the day one comes into the world. She memorized her birthday. When the shopper behind us in line at the grocery store would ask her, How old are you?, she would proudly hold up three little fingers, extending her arm towards the inquirer as far as it could go. Three? She nods. Wow! You’re a big girl! She smiles.
When Duaa reached her 4th birthday, the importance of age took on a life of it’s own. She was so proud, and yet so very anxious to turn 5. Five was like the light at the end of the tunnel that seemed unattainable, a dream. She looked up to the five year olds. They were the experts, the cool kids. On a daily basis, Duaa would ask me, mama, when am I going to be 5? This question became a part of our daily routine.
“On your birthday” was no longer a good enough reply to Duaa’s infamous question. When is my birthday going to come? I took out the calendar once, showed her what month we were in (June) and flipped the pages of the calendar in heavy, slow motions to exaggerate the time it would need in order to reach her next birthday (in June). In many ways, I tried to let her understand it would be a very long time before she would be five. Her desire never relented. Age was at the forefront of her mind. I think I could’ve safely named “When am I going to be five?”: Question of the Year.
Turning 4 ½ helped a little bit, I suppose because she was no longer just 4. Four and a half meant she was one step closer to becoming the Big 5. When the shopper behind us in line at the grocery store would ask Duaa her age, she now coupled her hand demonstration with a proud, “four…and a half!”
In May, Duaa started to understand that the month of her birthday was soon approaching. We started to count down the days. The anticipation was alive as ever when we hit the big day, alhamdullillah. I was feeling grateful to Allah that He gave me that day.
Needless to say, Duaa was relishing in pure delight. She was finally five. Her dream came true. The door into the exclusive and mysterious Big Kid World opened. The fire had been extinguished.
While out on her birthday, Duaa was asked about her age. One could practically see the freedom embodied in her hand from not having to hold back any fingers. She spread those fingers apart as far as they could go, thumb and all. Her hand was screaming with joy, “I’m five!, I’m five!” She was five and she was happy, and I could hopefully retain some sanity, maybe even retrieve some that was lost. It was a world of possibilities for us all.
The day started to wind down, the sun was setting. We were all feeling relieved, albeit for different reasons. It was time to get ready for bed. Duaa got into her pajamas and brushed her teeth all by herself (that’s what five year olds do). We sat in bed saying the evening athkar and reciting some Quran. She lay down, snuggled under the blanket, and was ready to fall asleep when she gently called me.
“When am I going to be 6?”
Hagar Emira lives in Maryland with her husband and two young children. She enjoys attending Islamic halaqas, reading, learning new things, and spending time with her family