Family Coach. Mom. Teacher. Lover of Life.

There’s a Muslim in my house

By Kim Allen

(Originally written in 2010; update below)

A Muslim is in my house and it makes me so happy. I got an email from my alma mater saying that there was an international student from Turkmenistan that needed a place to stay. I had a place for her, so I quickly Goggled Turkmenistan to see exactly where it is and how well this might fit for our family. After a family conversation that included a vote from each family member, we sent an invitation to Zoe to stay in our home.

Zoe arrived at our home in mid-August, just at the start of Ramadan and all the talk of burning Qurans that comes with 9/11. Before Zoe arrived, it never even occurred to me to consider what kind of religion Zoe belonged to or that she even belonged to a religion. We soon found out that Zoe is a Muslim, although to her pronouncement, “not a good Muslim” since she didn’t fast or pray regularly. Having a Muslim in our house did, however, make the conversation about 9-11, Quran burnings and the ground zero Islamic Center debate much more personal. In fact, having Zoe in our house has been hands down the best education on religion and living our principles that I could have asked for. Ever! Now that we have a Muslim in our house, our whole family has experienced acceptance and encouragement of spiritual growth.

I sometimes fail, but I try to raise my kids to see people as people, and not as their religion. This may stem from my own religious upbringing– the whole time I grew up, I didn’t even know what a Muslim was. For that matter, I didn’t know what a Jew was and I barely even knew what a Methodist was. I was raised Baptist; not any kind of Baptist, but Missionary Baptist. The kind of Baptist that is so Baptist that that any other kind of Christianity is seen as being “modern” and wrong. So Baptist that we didn’t even learn that there were other types of religion besides Christianity.   So I find it very interesting considering where I sit now, with a Muslim in my house.

There is so much I can be doing as a parent to show my child religious tolerance, or better yet, religious acceptance. I can, and do, talk with them about how important it is to be open-minded and open hearted for differences in beliefs. I can talk with them about how important it is that we respect others no matter what our thoughts and traditions are. I teach them about the importance of accepting others for who they are and how they treat others, rather than their ideology. I could go one step farther and listen to my children as they express what’s important to them and explore what qualities are valuable as human beings, neighbors and community members. We could even go and visit other churches, synagogues and mosques, so that they can see and learn from experiences about how other think and live and believe. I don’t do that, and probably won’t. But I could.

This, however, is what I know to be true. There is no more powerful teaching tool than fostering  a deep and meaningful relationship with someone that believes differently.

This is something I did on accident. I would love to say that I asked Zoe into our home to foster religious growth in my children and to help them open their eyes to differences. But like most times when our children really learn from us parents, I stumbled into this moment. Someone needed a room; I had a room to give.

But the beauty is…the result is far more amazing than I could have planned. We are the ones that have been on the receiving end of this situation. We are the ones that now understand a whole new culture; my children can now listen to the stories about far away places and have not only an open heart and mind, but a deep seating connection that they will take with them as they become the next generation of leaders.

Zoe is our Muslim and we love her. In the six weeks that we have had her as a guest in our home, we have discovered that being Muslim isn’t a whole lot different than being Baptist or being Methodist or being Unitarian for that matter. Zoe, like the rest of us, lives her life trying to be the best person she can. She makes us laugh, helps us grow and teaches us daily.

You know what else? Zoe, our Muslim guest, is a peacemaker. My children are consistently greeted by a calm, understanding and patient friend in Zoe (even after eternal moments of begging for one favor or another). Although she has only been here for six weeks, she has shown grace, poise and humor in a way that has made her family. So the Muslim in my house has taught us an important lesson: as we listen to the news and hear of people wanting to burn a Quran and spread hate, we know that being a Muslim isn’t awful. In fact, it is great. I’m glad there’s a Muslim in my house!

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Follow up: 5 years later.

Zoe lived with us for two years, and has been a part of family for five years. I have had the absolute honor of calling her a friend and a member of our family. She has given us all the gift of her kindness, compassion, and world views. She has introduced to people from all over the world, many of them Muslim. She is a gift, and in light of the horrible shootings of three Muslim young people in Chapel Hill, I wanted to share a bit of the light my relationship with Zoe has brought. #‪#MuslimLivesMatter

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Zoe and my girls running a 5K.

Welcome to the 5th episode of Parenting in the Future Podcast with special guest, Fiona Allen! Fiona, our 13 year old daughter, joined us and gave us information about the apps all the teens are using, and told us her take on mental health, technology, and what it is like to be a teen. Chris reviewed the book, Age of Opportunity by Lawrence Steinberg and helped us better understand adolescent brain development. Kim responded to a quote image she read on Facebook that read:

 

Nostalgic Parenting Judgement

Nostalgic Parenting Judgement

My curfew was lightening bugs. (OK–works for younger kids probably more than teens)

My parents didn’t call my cell, they yelled my name. (Too much to say about this; better listen to the podcast)

I played outside, not online. (Did you have friends from all over the world? Do you want your children to have 21st century tech skills? Do you struggle, like we do, to have appropriate boundaries for your teen and their technology use?)

If I didn’t eat what mom cooked, I didn’t eat. (First of all, that is sexist. Second, my mom cooked with a whole lot of lard and bacon grease. Third, I’m happy we all share in the food prep. Last, I hope I’m more respectful to my kids than that).

With nostalgia aside, this really isn’t true for our family. In face, we embrace technology. Want to know more about all of our reactions? Listen in!

 

Fiona and her Dad doing a podcast. She's a typical teen in that she didn't want her picture taken. This is the compromise.

Fiona and her Dad doing a podcast. She’s a typical teen in that she didn’t want her picture taken. This is the compromise.

Fiona's one and only time wearing a dress. It is a COSPLAY costume from her beloved Anime.

Fiona’s one and only time wearing a dress. It is a COSPLAY costume from her beloved Anime.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the joys of parenting: podcasting with my kid.

One of the frustrations of parenting: hearing my child’s cell phone go off every 2 seconds during the podcast.

Happy New Year:

This week we interview our daughter, Sofia Allen. Sofia shares her opinion  about life as an Allen kid and talks about her Wildly Important Goals (WIGS) and her New Year’s Resolutions.  We all talk about the Allen Family New Year’s Resolutions, including more balance in our non-nutritional use of technology and food.

 

Sofia and Fiona signing a book with Muriel Summers, AB Combs principal and the person that introduced us to WIGS.

 

 

 

Similarities Attract

It is no secret that compatibility is really important for a healthy relationship. The misnomer that opposites attract has gotten lots of us in trouble, so I was really curious to see just how compatible my husband’s character strengths are with mine.

I LOVE a good survey, and the VIA Character Strengths survey was a fun self-learning activity. I wasn’t, however, so sure that my dear husband would be so eager for a little self-reflection. Being the good guy he is, he agreed to take the survey. He agreed on one condition—I couldn’t peek at his screen as he went through the questions.  He also made it clear that he didn’t need my help, so I sat by quietly letting him do his thing. Once he was done, he was ready for us to compare notes.

Screen Shot 2014-12-26 at 6.53.20 PM

Not to toot my own horn, but that’s right…4 our of 5 of our core strengths are the same! Research shows that when people pick partners that share values and interests, they are happier in their relationships. No wonder we have made it 17 years and are going strong!

Even bus rides are fun in Hawaii!

Even bus rides are fun in Hawaii!

I’m pretty sure that if we had completed a movie genre compatibility survey we might not have been ranked as compatible. I’ll watch a Sci-Fi film to make him happy and he’ll happily surf the web next to me as I watch realty TV, but it turns out we are not compatible in all things. That is human. There are lots of couples that are highly compatible that have very different strengths. At the crux of a happy relationship is shared our values and interests. I was pleased to see that our character strengths lined up so well, and I think that speaks to our shared values.

What does this mean to me? I’m not sure there is research specifically about this, but I’m pretty sure it means that we are compatible and that I made a good choice 17 years ago. More importantly, though, it means that we are both making choices every day to make our relationship a priority and that over the past 17 years, we have grown closer and possibly more alike. And taking the VIA Character quiz with my husband was fun—it created a romantic moment and helped us feel connected.

http://www.viacharacter.org/www/

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Dr. Kim Allen is a Family Life Coach and Assistant Professor at North Carolina State University. She has been married to her husband for 17 years and they have two girls together.

Gun Show:

Kim and Chris talk about their muscles; mental muscles, that is! In this episode, we learn about Kim and Chris’  expertise: parenting, relationships, technology, and family coaching. They talk about smart phones and children, life balance wheel, and happy relationships.

Referenced article:

http://www.thecoaches.com/docs/resources/toolkit/pdfs/18-Wheel-of-Life-Exercise.pdf

 

 

Logo for the podcast

Logo for the podcast

Parenting in the Future Episode 1: Allen Family

Bullying, Relationships, & Empathy

Kim and Chris talk about their experiences of bullying in response to the CDCs new definition of bullying; healthy relationships and using empathy as a way to get along; and they introduce themselves and talk about the goals of their new podcast.

Articles referenced:

http://chronicle.com/article/The-Great-Mom-Dad-Experiment/144027/

http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/youthviolence/bullyingresearch/index.html

Did you see the article called A Natural Fix for ADHD by Richard Friedman in the NY Times on Halloween? I saw it because my child’s curriculum assistance teacher sent me an email saying “It soooo makes me think of Fiona…especially when they mention the nomadic people. We are just talking about her traveling the world.” This post could go on to tell you how much I love Fiona’s curriculum assistance teacher. The fact that she is reading and thinking about my daughter at 11 pm is so telling to me, and I see why Fiona has success at school in great part due to her teacher.

Instead, however, I’m focusing on the content of the article and how it soooo makes sense! And it gives me hope for a very bright future for my daughter with ADHD and anxiety. I thought this was a great read and helps me see how my daughter is going to be able to create success for herself in adulthood. In fact, I can totally see how my kiddo will benefit from ADHD once she gets to choose her own environment. That is the take away I got from this article-ADHD is really hard for kids because they have to go to an institution that quite frankly is boring for their brain and body. At least that is true for Fiona. School and the mundaneness of life are quite boring to her. There are exceptions. She loves project based learning where she can incorporate her love of technology, such as the math project where she gets to put pictures of her beloved Anime characters on a poster.

The other aha I took from this article was a better understanding of Fiona’s total all-consuming desperate attempt to always be online. The section on technology makes so much sense as she is truly caught between two worlds; one with immediate gratification and intense imagery and stimulation (digital world) and one that is, well, not that. No wonder this kid complains daily about going to school. It is painful for her. She doesn’t fit in; she feels as if she doesn’t belong.

A poem on Fiona's Instagram account. One of many.

A poem on Fiona’s Instagram account. One of many.

A poem Fiona wrote during a sleepless night. One of many.

A poem Fiona wrote during a sleepless night. One of many.

Fiona has the type of brain and body that was essential back in the day of nomadic hunter and gatherers. In fact, that’s probably how our side of the family survived all these years in the first place. No offence, but my folk are not the super sharpest tools in the shed. We are, however, great at adaptability and work well with the land and hunting and gathering. (Well, not me. I would more likely starve to death than kill a live animal to eat. But then again, I’m the exception of my family in other ways as well, seeing as how I actually finished high school and excelled in academics. But that is another story for another day.)

I tell Fiona so often that it truly does get better. The older she gets, the more choices she has. Just this week she got to select her options for alternative high schools. She wants to learn welding at the career technical school. Doesn’t really fit with my ideas of how I would plan her life, but I love that she so clearly understands herself, and understands that she would be so much more successful in a school where she gets to use fire and hot metal to create art at school. And truthfully, that sounds so much better to me than having sitting in a math class, even one that let’s her print out anime pictures. She’s not made for sitting and listening. That’s what I love most about her, and what I want so most for her is to find an environment where her talents and natural abilities can shine, where she can be engaged, and .

http://mobile.nytimes.com/2014/11/02/opinion/sunday/a-natural-fix-for-adhd.html?referrer&_r=0