Rabbi Zidnee Ilman
“My Lord! Increase me in knowledge.”
I wake up in the morning and have breakfast with my wife and children. I work from home and the kids are homeschooled, so there is no rush. We take our time as we don’t have to worry about traffic or being anywhere at a certain time. Once ready, the kids come to my office, take out their books, and start learning with me. I am with them all morning, working on my computer while they learn.
I often just sit back, smile and thank Allah for giving me such an amazing job that allows me to spend so much quality time with my children. I think about all the homes I know in which both parents are working outside the home, and don’t get to spend time with their children, and I am grateful for being given the opportunity to play an active role in my children’s life.
The norm is for the dad to be at work, while the kids are at school and for there to barely be much interaction between the two. It’s not a good norm, but it is something we grew accustomed to in the 20th century. This is changing though, with more fathers working from home and more families embracing homeschooling, today’s dads have a chance to play a much more active role in their children’s lives. I chose to be such a dad.
Between working from home and homeschooling, I spend a lot more time with my children than I ever imagined. I still get my cave time early in the mornings or late at night, but the mornings especially are usually spent with my children. This unique situation has led to many positive developments in my relationship with my children.
Spending more time with them
I get to spend a lot of time with my children which is something I am really grateful for. Every moment spent teaching them, talking to them, and playing with them is a memory that strengthens our relationship. The kind of relationship we have developed from spending so much quality time together is something that cannot easily be developed, and this is one of my favorite things about homeschooling my children.
We spend so much time with each other, that if I am out of the house for just an hour or two on an errand to teach somewhere, they start missing me. Just having such a relationship with my children is in and of itself an amazing blessing.
Getting to know them better
Usually mothers tend to know their children far better than fathers, while their school teachers know a different side of them, and their friends know them even better. As their homeschooling teacher, I have the advantage of knowing them on a level that most fathers don’t.
I know exactly which subjects they are strong at, which ones require more effort, their interests, hobbies, aspirations, and goals. This has led to a beautiful and quality relationship which I truly cherish.
Homeschooling is a daily adventure that builds so many beautiful memories. My children often sit back, smile and start talking about their favorite things we did together during their study sessions. These memories remain for life, and long after they have grown up and moved on, we will all still have these beautiful memories to hold on to.
Being Their Mentor
Children tend to take their favorite teacher as their mentor i.e. the person they confide in and turn to for advice. When their favorite teacher is their dad, he becomes their mentor too. My children know that they can speak to me about anything and I will advise them gently and help them figure out what the right thing to do is.
I know of too many children who are terrified of their fathers and would never easily share any information with them. As a result, they end up living double lives: the perfect angel in front of their parents, and the other side which their parents have no clue about. As parents, we need to develop a relation with our children while they are young, so that they are close enough to be open with us when they are older.
Tips for being an Active Dad, Regardless of your Situation
Now not every dad can work from home or homeschool their kids, but there are things that we all can do to be more active fathers, and many of them do not take a lot of time.
1. Make time for your kids
Set aside an hour in the evenings to play with your children daily, or talk to them about their hobbies and interests. Even if you don’t share an interest with your child, learn their hobbies and take an interest in them. This way you can have quality bonding time with your children doing something they love, even if it is just for an hour a day.
Furthermore, utilize your weekly day off to bond with your children and spend time with them, and plan a family vacation at least once a year for some truly memorable family time. These things create long term positive relationships, even if you work outside the home for 12 hours a day, an hour of quality time is all that is really needed.
2. Find a balance between gentleness and firmness
Many dads are too tough and strict, and only interact with their children if they need to reprimand or punish them. This is not a healthy relationship and in the long run it will chase the children away and make them rebellious. On the opposite side of the spectrum are fathers who let their kids do whatever they want without any repercussions. These children grow up to be spoilt and refuse to obey or respect any authority figure.
Islam teaches us the balanced method of parenting- gentle with firm boundaries. Clearly communicate to your children reasonable boundaries and clearly express the consequences for crossing those boundaries. As long as they live within those boundaries, be gentle, fun and free with them. And if they happen to cross those boundaries, don’t overreact. Just carry out the consequence you warned about earlier, and move on. This helps to keep a healthy balance between being close to your children, while maintaining authority in your home.
3. If they share a personal problem with you, react in a wise manner
Build such a relationship with your children that they can speak to you about their problems and confide in you. The way to do this is to be calm and wise whenever they share a personal issue with you. Do not blow things out of proportion, react in a very negative way or treat them badly. Doing so will cause them to not sharing such issues and details with you in the future, and they will end up living a secret life that you will have no knowledge about.
4. Take out some time to make memorable moments with them
You don’t need to spend a lot of time with your children to make memorable moments; you just need to spend quality time with them. This requires some planning. Plan family outings, plan overseas trips, vacations, visits to aquariums, museums, local parks, zoos, etc. and visit these places together as a family. These are things that strengthen bonds and become the reason for kids to remember their fathers fondly for decades to come.
In Part 4, I will discuss why I have no regrets for choosing to homeschool.
Authored by Ustadh Ismail Kamdar
Edited by Sana A. Samad