That's the look I saw in my daughter's eye this afternoon. Each time one of her classmates' name was called as a winner, I saw hope in her eyes. She clapped for every one of her classmates as their names were called. She clapped for the third place winners, the second place winners and the first place winners. All the while waiting for her name to be called. I, myself, could not clap. I was too nervous. At one time I think she thought her name was being called and she rocked forward, on her way to stand up, only to realize her name was not being called. Through it all she continued to smile. My face was too heavy to smile. My legs were almost too heavy to stand. She was stronger than me at the moment. She had hope, while I, felt nothing but fear. I feared that she would be disappointed if her own name were not called. I feared she would cry. I feared I was not enough. I feared I had let her down. I feared she would feel like she was not enough.
Once I knew she did not place in this year's annual Quran competition, I turned and quickly headed down the hallway back to my classroom. Before I slipped out of the door, I saw her teacher shove a goodie bag into her hands. I knew her teacher wanted to get a goodie bag into the hands of all of the students that did not place this year before it set in that they would not get a trophy. My daughter was the first student to accept the goodie bag. She looked down at her goodie bag shifting her hopeful eyes to it from the principal, who had just finished announcing the winners. Receiving the goodie bag was a signal to my daughter. No more names would be called. She had not won and she would not get a trophy this year.
I think we knew.
Before she faced the judges, she asked me if I would be happy with her even if she did not win. I explained to her that what was most important to me was that she lived by the principles of the Quran and not just win a competition. Of course, I would have liked for her to win, but in reality it is more important to me that she lives according to the teachings of the Quran. After she finished reciting for the judges, she asked me again if I would be happy with her if she did not win. I stooped down to her level and explained to her that Allah had done something special for her. I explained that Allah had called Mommy and Daddy to Islam and we knew the truth. I explained to her that I used to be confused as to who God was. I told her I was happy to know who God was and to know that she understood this knowledge at such a young age. She has won the Quran competition two times before in previous years, and although I would have loved for her to win again, I didn't feel like we had fully prepared this year. Despite my desire for her to win, as every parent wants their child to do good at everything they do, I had my reservations.
Our focus has altered. It is not that we have put Quran memorization on the back burner she still memorized all of the surahs in her curriculum this year, but not as vehemently as we have done in the past. I have been stretched as a parent this year. I remember being pregnant with my son, who will be six in a few days, and wondering if I would have room on my lap for all four of my children. This year has been a year that I have struggled to find room on my lap for all of them. Each child has had their struggles, and I have personally struggled with juggling their needs. My daughter's needs have changed this year. She has fallen in love with reading this year despite that last year we struggled to get her to read fluently. Last year, she would cry because she could not read enough words in a minute. Her struggle with reading fluency had a negative impact on her book choice and as a result she was not interested in reading books and would barely make her AR goals. Over the summer, this all changed after she read a Geronimo Stilton book. She instantly fell in love with reading. This school year we have had a constant battle with getting her to do anything else other than read. As a matter of fact ,she reads on a fifth grade reading level and fluency is no longer an issue for her.
My lap is full.
Since she is reading on level and is overall an excellent student, I have put my efforts toward assisting my older daughter who is in 4th grade with Math and my son, who is in Kindergarten, with learning to read. These are not excuses, but facts. Facts of life. Stark reality. I have spent this year just making sure she did what needed to be done. I think of all of the times she read while I assisted her other siblings. I asked her to practice Quran. She did practice, but obviously not enough. When it came down to it, she just needed more practice. She was one point away from placing in the competition. She mixed up two ayahs. So close but not close enough. On one hand, I feel like I dropped the ball with ensuring she memorized Quran but there were lessons in this for her as well. She recognized that the surah she was asked to recite was the surah she fell asleep on when she was supposed to be practicing. She now realizes that if she would put forth a little more effort she could have won. She is not upset and there is a lesson in this for me as well.
A part of me feels like I could have had taken her books from her and made her study more, but then another part of me wants her to learn some lessons while she is young. First of all, I don't want her to study Quran just to win a competition. I want her to incorporate reading, memorizing, reviewing and incorporating Quran into her daily life. She does this already. I also want her to put effort towards things she loves. I want her to know that I am proud of her for the things she loves doing the most. She does not have a choice to compete in the Quran competition. It's a part of the culture of her school. She did not volunteer to compete in the Quran competition she just did it because everyone has to. (Unless I keep her home from school for the day.) She chooses to focus on reading books she picks. She enjoys reading and is good at it. She even told me not too long ago, "Reading is my thing."
As I reflect back on her question to me before and after the Quran competition, "Mommy will you still be proud of me if I don't win?," I am coming to the realization that she is excelling at something that means something to her right now. After the Quran competition she explained that she was out of books and asked if I would take her to the library to get more books. Of course, I took her to the library and she picked four new books. She paused reading this weekend to devote time to prepare for the Quran competition. The Quran is not her passion. She does practice Quran, she does comprehend the surahs she is learning. She does recite with tajweed. She does know more now than she did at the beginning of the school year. She is growing.
I am proud of her. I am proud of her for pausing her passion and spending a weekend worshipping Allah. I am proud of her for being brave enough to sit before judges and participate in a competition that she did not volunteer for. I am proud of her for clapping for all of her peers as they won trophies. I am proud of her for holding her head up high and accepting her goodie bag without a tear. I am proud of her for being proud of herself. I am proud of her for saying, " I tried my best."