With a title like that, one would be forgiven for thinking of a few examples of people who would fall into that esteemed category: mother, father, grandparents, teachers, religious figures and perhaps older people generally.
However, I want to challenge that preconception and argue that wise counsel might also be found in the places we would least expect. In my own experience, I have found it in my own ‘children’. I use that word loosely since my children are anything but juvenile and have now entered in adulthood, Alhamdulillah.
Before I continue any further, in my post today, I want to address all the independent mothers out there who are going it alone. This post is specifically for you…
In the time where they have matured and developed emotionally, I have found myself often turning to my children for their opinions and even advice. Readers might find that for me, as a mother, it’s somewhat bizarre that I would need to consult the very people I gave birth to and who are therefore less experienced in life than myself. A very dangerous position to put myself in perhaps?
There is no denying that whilst the children are young (before they reach their teen years), there might be little scope for them to have their opinions taken seriously. This is especially with regards to the big decisions in life such as: What school should they attend? What friends are the most suitable for them? Where to go for the summer holidays? No rational adult would find themselves sitting across the table having these kind of conversations with a 10 year old and being dictated to!
However, for all those mothers out there who are going it alone, they know too well that they don’t have the luxury of turning to their spouse for support or consultation on matters to do with the family and children. For years, women like myself, have had to rely on their own instincts and judgement to make crucial decisions. Many times we have either overthought our decisions or secretly harboured doubts but know we have to plough on. It’s a mentally exhausting position to be in but what choice is there? We are forced to continue our lives and learn to develop even a smidgen of confidence.
Then, as the children grow up and emerge into adulthood, so too the onerous task of making decisions alone, is lifted from a mother’s shoulders to some extent. Finally, it seems, we can actually have sensible conversations with our young adult children and learn to listen to them. Their encounters in and experiences of the world can’t be written off as irrelevant. Leaning on our children who are now adults clearly isn’t an overnight process and can’t happen without having laid some basic foundations. So, what are they? My belief is that turning to one’s children for counsel can only happen if, over the years, a relationship of mutual respect has been forged between everyone involved. Being a strong mother – or at least aiming to be one – is a trait that can filter down to one’s children. They in turn learn to have the confidence to stand tall and strong; they know they can also make decisions pertaining to their own lives if not others around them.
Given I’ve not had their father to rely on for advice or moral support, I’ve had to learn to be bold in making my own decisions. I don’t suggest for a minute that all those decision have been the right ones. But I do know that I have made them in good faith and my children have been witness to that conviction and audacity. I also take responsibility for any decision that has turned out to be less favourable than I imagined. Being a mother of boys in particular, I feel it’s even more important that they witness strength and determination in me. InshaAllah, this will feed into their own perception of what Woman can do.
So, today my wise counsel are my sons, Alhamdulillah. Not in every matter but for sure, in some key decisions relating to our family. For years, I have nurtured their interest in the wellbeing of everyone in the family; they know that being selfish and detached simply won’t do. I have often called them together in family meetings not only to hear their views but to implicitly let them know that their views matter. To deny them a voice is to deny their role as a key player in this family. Ultimately, they know that I am interested in what they have to say even if I may beg to differ.
Alhamdulillah, each of us rooting our thoughts within the teachings of the Quran and the Seerah (the life of the Prophet ﷺ) to the best of our abilitiy, is an absolutely fundamental part in creating wise counsel. Every action or inaction we choose has to have Islam as it’s reference and justification.