It's not so easy fasting when you're on daylight saving time (DST). This is the convention of advancing clocks so that you have longer afternoon daylight and less morning daylight. For instance, now we'd be breaking our fasts around 7.42pm but by the end of the month, it will be an hour earlier (plus the fact that our days are getting shorter as winter is approaching, so minus about 30 minutes to that).
Fasting in a foreign land is different. The fasting ambience is not really there as people around you eat and stuff their faces just like any other day. For children, school activities remain the same, although of course, you could always request for some leniency. As a matter of fact, the school my children attend made a note to parents stating that we are encouraged to "allow children to eat breakfast and lunch and drink water freely on the days they attend school and observe their fast at weekends, if they wish to do so. We know how a good diet and drinking plenty of water is to enabling our brains to function at their best."
So, what do you think? What's the right age to start fasting? Are we putting our children's brains at risk?
My children know the reasons Muslims have to fast. It is good for both the physical and mental. The month of Ramadhan is a holy month - so special to Muslims as Allah is extremely generous to us this month. Hopefully, what we practice in this holy month will continue in the months to come.
Nonetheless, they ask, Mommy, is it okay if children don't fast?
Hence, I try to explain to them by comparing fasting to the other important ibadah: praying (solah). Didn't the prophet say that we have to teach our children to pray at a young age, 7? And that we should cane them if they don't by the age of 10? (3 years of training) Yes, it may seem harsh but we get the message - training at a young age is essential for good upbringing.
And that's what I tell my children. It may not be totally wrong for you to not pray or fast, because you are still a child. But to pray and fast correctly is a skill and it requires time and practice. Oh, come on - how many of us adults really perform our solah perfectly every single time, whilst understanding every single word or ayat, and being 100% khusyu'?
So, my Little D has not fasted a full day yet. The longest is up to 3pm on our first day of Ramadhan in Malaysia. On some days, he gets up with us for Sahoor and brings his lunch to school. That's okay for a 5 1/2 year old boy to me.
Princess (8), on the other hand, is trying to get a full month. Well, minus the day we were travelling of course. Last year, she didn't fast on days she had PE or on days she wasn't really up to it. I somehow have a soft spot for that little girl of mine. But this year, we're trying to go all out. InsyaAllah.
My twins, who just turned 11 last Saturday, will have to accept the fact that they can't have any excuses. Chuckle. Not really. They have missed one day (musafir) and will probably miss another 5 days next week! Their teachers have offered them to go on a residential trip free of charge. Since the boys are so keen to go and have actually been begging me since last April (I think), I thought I'd finally give in. This is probably an opportunity that they ought not miss. They'd be involved in activities like canoeing, climbing and abseiling, orienteering and walking. These were the activities I enjoyed whilst a student in Edinburgh. Surely, they will enjoy it as much I did. I told them they need not fast then (who'd prepare sahoor, wake them up, etc) but must observe their prayers religiously. Do you think they'll be able to?
We try our best to make Ramadhan a special month in our own special ways. We perform our prayers and tarawih together, and read the Quran as often as we can together too. I tell them stories of the prophets and the companions as role models to us. I try to vary our meals by serving different items for iftar (breaking fast) and sahoor. My children are not big eaters and are not really rice eaters either. Hence, it's either noodles, spaghetti, rice porridge, murtabak, bread or the likes when we don't have rice for one of the other meals. Having fruits and a dessert is also a must for them - though how much can you eat when the eyes are already drooping (8pm here is 3am in Malaysia!).
It's the 9th of Ramadhan today and so far, all seems okay - Alhamdulillah. I am, for the first time after 10 months, feeling confident of myself. Confident that Allah HAS given me the strength and the means to be in control of my life, with His will. This is the blessings of Ramadhan. Last year, by this time, I was rushing between work, hospital and home. Last year's Ramadhan was different in it's own way. This year, it will be different too - we will grab this opportunity to be at our best together. Always together and closer to Him, InsyaAllah...