HIJABS, TIGHTS AND THEIR BATTLES
Her: “These pants aren’t too tight, and they cover my legs.”
Mom: “They are not pants, they are actually tights that cannot be disguised as pants unless the viewer is visually challenged aka blind”.
Her: “The shirt is knee length, and it does cover properly.”
Mom: “The shirt is barely thigh length. It cannot humanly reach your knees unless it is constructed of bubblegum material.”
Her: “I don’t want to wear the hijab, nobody wears it at school. Kids make fun of me. They call me towel-head, terrorist.”
Mom: “You have to wear it. You don’t have a choice. It’s mandatory for Muslim women to cover their hair. You cannot go to school if you do not wear it.”
Another mom line that I absolutely do not care for goes something like this, “God will do such and such”. Any argument along those lines is a priceless gem because it only makes your teenager dislike you, her faith and God. Talk about killing two birds with one stone, in this case three.
How many moms have had these dialogues or similar ones with their teenage daughters. I am pretty sure many of us have had conversations resembling the ones above with their energetic teenagers. I really wanted to write about this particular topic because not only does this issue affect a large number of families , but if not handled correctly, it can give birth to a pattern of behavior that is harmful for everyone involved. A friend pointed out to me that many girls will cover their heads before leaving home, but take it off at school. It is the same concept with clothing too. Girls will wear something to please mom and dad, but change at school. It is not an uncommon practice for kids living in primarily western societies. I know I argue with my teenager about tights versus pants and other articles of clothing. However, one thing I do is that I will stop the argument at an earlier point, and let her have her way even if I find her choice in clothing distasteful. This is painful for me, but unless her choice is absolutely unacceptable, I’ll give in. I give in because I do not want her to go to school, and put on the same offending garment without my knowledge. I have learned that I would much rather change her ideology than engage in pointless and fruitless arguments. These arguments can never be won, and more importantly can never win their minds. I know for a fact that we cannot change a person’s mind by verbal argument, no matter how convincing the argument is. The momentary submission is worthless, and it encourages a pattern of deceit that the child will perfect over time. Some parents might say, “I check on my teenager at school too. I make sure that they don’t do things behind my back.” Again, the parent will get the teenager to do their bidding temporarily, but how long can a parent keep checking. Surely, not while they are in college, and college offers a choice of many other activities, few of them not very acceptable for many Muslim parents.
In my opinion, the most important part of raising teenagers is to make sure their ideology matches the parents’. I am certainly not suggesting that parents should let the kids do and wear whatever their heart desires, but a give and take should be established. Talking to your teenager as a friend, and establishing a positive relationship will go a long way in building a strong and long-lasting ideology. In the end, away from home and parents, that permanent ideology is what your child will follow. Yes, lines must be drawn, and boundaries should be established, but please do not get hung up on hijabs, tights, half-sleeves, sleeveless and all that jazz. All these are temporary aberrations, but if not handled correctly, one pattern that they will surely perfect is that of deception and lies.
Really old people obsess about moot points such as coverings, retributions and halal/haram. Intelligent people work on what’s going on inside their teenagers’ minds, and how to shape their thinking processes. Please, please establish a comfortable relationship with them, change their beliefs. If you are trying to change their choices by using examples of punishments that seem worlds and ages away, you are failing them. Try and teach them that when no one is watching, a higher being is still there. They should have a firm grasp on the concept that even though the higher power cannot be seen but does exist, if that’s what the parents would like for them to hang onto.