20 02 2008
Digital Niqabi has bullied me into this restyling of the Reese’s Puffs Meme. So now the object is to list 6 things that every girl should do before 18. DN’s idea is that there is advice that is gender specific and that as girls we should share from our own treasure store of good ideas and errors to help guide the next generation. I think this is a good idea because this is our chance to give young women some sisterly advice. Hmm… I never was very girly, so this might be pretty hard for me actually.
1. Post these rules before presenting your list.
1) I’m gonna boldly steal one from Izzy Mo and say “DON’T GET PREGNANT”. And I will further explain, I don’t only mean “make sure you hide what you’re doing and use all methods of birth control available”. I mean, young women, think about your options in life. Think about the morals your parents raised you with. That thing about “sex is a magical experience that should be special”, trite as it may sound is actually true. You might think that the boy you know at 14 or 16 or whatever is “special” and gonna be your true love. Many lifetimes of women can tell you that just isn’t the case. He isn’t special, he’s feeding you a line, and do not be a fool and fall for it. There is so much you need to accomplish and having a baby too young will make it so much harder (if not impossible). You alone will bear the full reality of a pregnancy too young. There is nothing to truly hold the boy accountable. You will have the morning sickness that lasts all day and night, the hormonal shifts, the emotional upheaval, the stretch marks, the weight gain, the pain of childbirth. Whether you keep the child or give it up for adoption so that you can “go on with your life”, you will forever bear the emotional and physical consequences of that pregnancy and no one else can share that burden. Getting a disease will change your life or even kill you - and yes, clean-cut boys carry diseases too, and yes, you can die from AIDS at a young age (I have had friends who did so) or live with it for a long time in great discomfort beyond your imagination (I have had friends who did this also), and yes, you can become infertile from certain diseases thereby ruining your chances of a healthy pregnancy or having children when you are ready. Perhaps rather than a simple “don’t get pregnant”, what I really mean to say is “don’t have sex”. I won’t lie and tell you it’s dirty, gross or whatever, nor will I bombard you with the ridiculous threat to your “reputation” or some tripe about why boys can’t help it but you alone have to think of your future. I will instead appeal to your intelligent and sensitive nature. Sex is a fabulous thing. It is better with a person that you truly love for all the right reasons not just due to hormonal fluctuations. It is better with a person who has earned your trust, who you know is going to be there the next morning, the next month, the rest of your life, inshaAllah and who you want to have there that long. It is better with the man who will happily father your children and then be a daddy to them. It is better when you are old enough to understand your own body and the rights it has over you, and better when you are comfortable enough to tell your husband what you like and what you don’t. These are things you will not have at 18 years of age. (And for the record, this is pretty much the same advice I gave to my step-son when he was 17.)
2) Volunteer. Everyone should do it. But as a young woman there are particular benefits to you. Throughout your entire life you will inevitably be expected to be nurturing, thoughtful, and generous with yourself to others. So be prepared. Learn at a young age how good it feels to help others. See how other people live and what their struggles are and how you are able to help them. InshaAllah, this will not only give you empathy and prepare you for your roles in life, but might also be your impetus to find creative solutions to some of the many problems plaguing our society. While your heart is open, and your mind is limber, go out and see what suffering and difficulty exists. Not only will it put your own struggles into perspective, but it may inspire you to make a difference.
3) Find time for yourself. Again, throughout your life, you will have many demands put upon you. Many women struggle to ever find time for their own needs because they are so busy caring for others. Make time for yourself and take care of yourself. If you learn how to do this at an early age and how to prioritize to be able to do this, inshaAllah you will be able to continue to do so later when more and more responsibilities are piled upon you by life. This means take time to take care of your own body; do self-breast exams regularly, see your doctor and dentist as needed, exercise, meditate, set aside time for dhikr, learn to cook food that makes you feel good, soak in the tub every now and then, read a book for the fun of it, take a class for your own benefit and pleasure.
4) Learn to read Qur’an and understand the obligations upon you for purity and salat, as well as the Sunnahs. Learn about your rights as a woman, and your responsibilities. Learn about what your rights and responsibilities to Allah are, to your parents, and to your future husband and children. There are going to be many distractions in your life, from school, work, friends, family obligations, etc. It is important for you to have this “education” while you are young so that you can apply it from an early age and so that you do not have difficulty trying to pick it all up later when you have more going on in your life. To this I would also add, learn about hijab and wear it. Don’t wait until you hit puberty and then try to do this, nor should you put it off longer because you want to be “young and free”. Understand why we wear hijab and what proper hijab is, wear it out of respect for and obedience to your Creator. Do this before it gets “hard” because you want to be “pretty” or “fit in”, so that you remember that hijab is the natural and best adornment for a Muslim girl and woman.
5) Cultivate a strong relationship with your parents. Respect your mother as the woman you want to grow up to be like. Learn from her mistakes, but also from her many many strengths and sacrifices she has made. There will be times when due to hormones and the desire for independence you will clash with your mother. Make every effort to handle these issues in a respectful manner and to remember that there is nothing you are going through today that your mother did not once experience also and might know a thing or two about! Keep an open and honest dialogue with your mother. Do not try to make her your best friend, remain respectful of her role, but do embrace her as your closest ally and role model. Also maintain a respectful and healthy relationship with your father. He is, whether you care to admit it or not, the ideal that you will look for in a husband some day. He is your first and primary example of what a man is. He loves you, you will always be his little girl whether you like it or not, and he will always want to protect you and keep you safe. Sometimes his desires to protect you will feel stifling, and there will come a time when you will have to respectfully remind him that you are now an adult and that he has raised you well to handle things, but that time is not now. Indulge his protectiveness while you can and appreciate the heart that it comes from. Listen to your father’s wisdom and advice, and do not push him away; he will always be there for you throughout your life, inshaAllah. (These things are still true even if your parents are not Muslim. There are many strengths and values that they are trying to impart to you that you should honor. You can learn from their failings or errors without disrespecting them. Whether Muslim or not, your parents love you and want the best for you, they have sacrificed for you and will continue to do so as long as they live. Respect that and cherish them.)
6) Learn a skill that can pay the bills. Every woman should have the ability to look after herself. You may have a father who takes care of everything, and go straight into a marriage with a husband that takes care of everything, alhamdulAllah. But things change, Allahu alim. Illness, accident, death, bad economy, divorce… there is alot of pressure on our men to take care of us in the way we are accustomed to and there are many valid reasons why our men may have a difficult time doing so. A woman should be capable of providing for herself and her children if need be. This skill can also bring you satisfaction by providing funds for charity or to pay for your Hajj or for your ability to attend classes or conferences. You may use the money to help pay for your children to get a better education or opportunities than would be possible on your husband’s salary. You may help your parents in their older age. You may use that skill as a bartering tool or in support of a charitable organization (i.e. not just giving the money to charity, but actually using the skill itself). And you will be role-modeling for your children and other young women. If you question the necessity of this, remember that you would be following in the footsteps of our illustrious Mother, Khadija (RA) who was a businesswoman in her own right, and this allowed her to provide valuable support to our Beloved Prophet (salalahi alahi wa salaam).
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