Praying with toddlers presents unique opportunities.
Yusef is in his room playing with Legos. Two Legos are stuck together and he can’t pull them apart by himself. Usually Bhai would help him, but now Bhai never comes when he calls him. Instead, Yusef has to resort to his second choice.
“ Ammi?” he says. He pauses, there is no answer, so now he shouts, “ Ammi! Ammi!”
She still doesn’t answer. Yusef gets up and leaves his room, and continues to shout, “Ammi!”. His little sister, Sophia, who was playing next to him, follows him out the bedroom. She also starts shouting “Ammi!”. The children find their mother in the in the room with all the books and Baba’s computer. She wouldn’t answer them because she is doing her prayers, facing towards a bookshelf. She is bowing.
Yusef and Sophia run to her shouting “Ammi! Ammi!”.
Their mother continues with her prayers, and kneels down on the floor, arms outstretched. Yusef and Sophia jump on top of her back. When their mother stands up, the children slide down her back, laughing. They wait until she is on the floor again, looking like a table, then they again they climb on top of her back, laughing when she rises as they slide off. Their mother stands up and now Sophia stands directly in front of her and shouts, “Hold me! Hold me Ammi!”.
Yusef’s mother continues with her prayers, but she stoops over and holds Sophia in her arms as she prays. Yusef knows he is too big for his mother to hold, but he likes the feeling of being close to her. So, he puts one hand on his mother and keeping his hand on her the entire time, he walks in circles around her. When his mother bows, she is still holding Sophia. Sophia giggles in delight. When Ammi goes to kneel on the ground, she puts Sophia directly in front of her and bends over Sohpia’s curled up body. Sohpia giggles at this too, she has a hiding place. Yusef jumps on his mother’s back while she is kneeling over his sister. When his mother rises, he slides off and laughs, the same thing repeats again. Her mother sits quietly and puts her finger in the air. Sophia remains motionless on the floor.
Yusef runs to a corner and pulls out a prayer rug. He puts it next to his mother. His mother rises, and this time, Yusef stands along side her and imitates her, looking straight ahead, or stealing glances at his mother. Sophia pulls herself off the floor, leaves the room, and comes back with her comfort blanket draped over her head. She stands on the other side of her mother as all three now finish the prayer together, standing straight, bowing, making prostration. This repeats once more, and then they are all kneeling on the floor together. When their mother raises her finger, the children raise their fingers at the same time. Their mother looks to her right shoulder and says, “ Asalamu Alaykum wa rahmatu Allah.”
Yusef also looks to the right.
Yusef’s mother looks over her left shoulder and says, “ Asalamu Alaykum wa rahmatu Allah”.
Yusef also looks to the left.
Yusef and his mother both raise their hands, palms upward, making a cup shape. Their mother is whispering to God and the angels. Then both mother and son brush their hands to complete the prayer. Yusef makes a big deal about this, brushing all over.
Yasmeen puts her arms over both children and hugs them, pulling them towards her. She kisses them and tells them how much she loves them.
Nabeela M. Rehman has a PhD in biochemistry and for the past eleven years has been a homemaker. She lives with her husband and three children in the Chicago suburbs.