As a children’s book author-illustrator, I find it important to not only learn about the children I’m writing for but also learn about their parents and guardians, the people who buy and read the books. This is why, over the next few weeks, I’ll be interviewing carers of young children to get to know more about them! Each post will have questions related to parenting, its challenges and rewards, and how books can play a part in raising children. This information will be so valuable as I work on my future books. I also hope that reading parenting stories will make the journey of raising young ones less isolating.
This first interview is by Alefiyah Amijee, a poetry and short story writer, and her experience raising her four-year-old. Alefiyah raised Fizzah alone for the first year, moved to a different country when Fizzah turned one and raised her in quarantine through COVID. Her journey has been a challenging one, but now she runs her own business, has developed a deep connection to what was initially a foreign land, and her daughter is a naughty but lovable preschooler. As they say, difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations.
She is not an expert at raising children. How many parents are? But she is an inspiration, and her story is worth telling.
What inspired you to become a parent?
There was no question in my mind that I wanted a child someday. I’m not sure where the feeling stemmed from, but I felt old enough when I got married at 26. Of course, I didn’t fully realise how having a child would change my life, but I didn’t know that then, and looking back, it’s hilarious that I thought 26 was old-ish. But my 24-year-old friends were pregnant then, and I was still only a newlywed. I would be at the grocery store and see children with their parents and imagine myself having a kid. All the time.
A few months into my marriage, there didn’t seem to be any reason to wait any longer. I had a daughter three weeks before I turned 28. And then it began.
How has your life changed since becoming a parent, and what challenges have you faced?
- I used to be a high school Math and Science tutor. I stopped working when I had my child, not right away, but when F was 8 months, I couldn’t tutor kids, not even online. F would not stop making noise and demanding attention, and there wasn’t anyone I could leave her with. As time went by, my husband and I decided against daycare. Coronavirus was in full bloom as F turned one and a half, then 2 and 3. I started working again a few months before she turned four. I chose to switch to something where I could keep my own hours – graphic design. This “plan” (none of it was premeditated) would never have been possible without my husband’s total financial and emotional support, and I’m relieved and grateful to have that.
- Social life:
- When I go out, it’s me and F, a pairing. This means doing all the mom things while being out: bathroom breaks, food, sleep and attempted behaviour management. I spend a lot of time watching F instead of just chilling. I can’t believe how easy going out used to be! Unsurprisingly, I don’t go out as much anymore – too much effort- but somehow, being at home with my husband and kid on Saturday is quite alright! 🙂
- The Responsibility:
- If my husband and I want to watch Netflix, we’ve got to give screen time to F so that she’ll leave us alone, but for no longer than an hour; otherwise, she starts getting cranky, so we have to watch movies in two sittings.
- I’ve had to cut down hard on my junk food intake because F will want to eat the same things. When I’m desperate, I hide chocolate deep in my bottom fridge drawer and take it out when F is in school or asleep. I’ve since learned that my mom used to do the same with her snacks.
My main challenge has been controlling my anger. There have been some scary times. Accepting my own feelings, accepting F’s feelings and accepting that things are sometimes out of my control has helped. Having time away from F when someone keeps her or through school has helped. Thinking of all the good times and remembering that she’s only a little child has undoubtedly helped. Say what you will, but screen time has also helped!
What are your favourite things about being a parent?
Here are my four favourite things about my four-year-old:
- Seeing F being her playful self from afar while she isn’t aware of me. I find it so amusing that she does the same funny things in public at home: swinging her arms really hard, crawling for comedic effect, singing randomly, and fishing for compliments on her hair by pulling at her ponytails.
- I love when she does something right, and people think I deserve credit for her (inconsistent) good behaviour – lol!
- Time after time, I see F doing something new that she didn’t do yesterday, whether sitting alone, eating a particular food, or being flexible about which glass she’ll drink water from. It’s always a surprise.
- F remembers things, and she’ll bring things I’d forgotten about, like how cold it was when we went to Niagara Falls a year and a half ago (when she was 3). What a great memory!
Can you share a favourite memory or experience with your child related to reading or books?
F pretend-reading is so fun. She’ll point to the words “reading” while making things up by looking at the pictures. One of our favourites was Just for You by Mercer Mayer, where Critter is trying to do things by himself and creating all kinds of mess. Mama Critter is portrayed as mildly annoyed or amused. That hit close to home for both of us, I think.
What advice do you have for other parents who want to encourage a love of reading in their children?
Frankly, despite my love of books, I’m not one of those parents who read with their kid every day or even every other day (I didn’t know this until I had a child, but reading with kids is mind-numbingly dull). We do have books in the house, though and sometimes F takes some out for us to read together. She’s naturally curious, as most four-year-olds are. So my advice is maybe just to have books in the house, and when your kid takes them out and brings them to you, just say okay and read as long as you can stand it!
What’s Your Story?
Learning about the experiences of parents and caregivers is so valuable when you’re writing and illustrating for children. Alefiyah’s story resonates with me on many different levels. I will continue to engage with families through this series so that I can create books that truly connect with my audience.
What kind of experiences have you had with children in your life? Did you always know you wanted to be a parent, or did you struggle with the decision? What are some of the toughest challenges you’ve had to overcome, and how have your handled them? What part do books play in your relationship? Feel free to leave a comment or email me if you want to be featured in an interview at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2 responses to “Interviewing Parents: Part 1”
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