As Ramadan approached this year, I was asked back to be a contributor to Interfaith Ramadan. I was given several topics to address, but this was the question that I chose:
Raising children in an interfaith household – compromises, difficulties, advantages etc
I sat down to write my submission, but this was the piece that came out. It didn’t seem very Ramadan, so I set it aside and forged ahead with something that was more topic appropriate. You can find my Interfaith Ramadan piece here.
Now, its time to share this piece.
When I fell in love with my husband, I didn’t know he was Muslim. When he asked me to be his wife, I didn’t know that our differences far outweighed our similarities. When we married, I didn’t know that the leap I was taking was so much larger. And when we started our family, I didn’t know that raising Muslim children would redefine my entire life.
I knew, deep in my heart that being in this relationship with Khaled was the catalyst for major challenges in my life, and it was terrifying and exhilarating. My love for him and my trust in who were both were at our cores surpassed my fear. I jumped into a life that would be a journey of learning, growth, pushing outside of the box and making a square peg fit into a mandala shaped hole.
Along this journey, we have found ways to separate the trees from the forest and compromise where it is really important, we choose our battles wisely, and present a united team on all fronts.
Last night, our daughter was invited to stay the night at her friend’s house. This in itself isn’t an unusual occurrence in a child’s life. But what you don’t see under the guise of a simple request to venture forth and bond with her close friend is a careful web of rules and compromises that Khaled and I navigated when this question first came up many years ago.
In Khaled’s childhood, you didn’t spend the night with friends. Cousins? Yes. But people who are not blood relatives? No.
In my childhood, there were always friends sleeping over or I was gone to their houses. I wasn’t close with my cousins. We never really had much in common so my friends became my extended family.
I didn’t think it was a big deal. He did.
Where do we tease this seemingly black and white issue apart to come to a compromise?
What are the larger issues at play here?
Where are we comfortable?
How can we make this work?
In the end, we came to a compromise. It works for our family. It allows for deep ties to develop and adventures to happen within the framework of Islam, American and Egyptian Culture. Our children all know the guidelines and they are not negotiable.
This is a nugget of gold that I share when I’m asked how we make it work. Even the most simple topics become a negotiation, and something that you can figure out if both people are willing to be flexible. Once you come to an agreement of how to handle the question at hand, whether you are following the rules of one culture and religion over the other, or you have smashed everything together and come up with a recipe all your own, parenting in an interfaith family is much easier, and your children will come out the winners.
Happy Tuesday my friends.