Care Bear and I have been talking quite a bit about being extraordinary, and what that means. I don’t expect her to get perfect grades, be the #1 fencer in national competitions, or otherwise be a perfect individual. I do expect her to try to rise above being ordinary.
Ordinary is defined as, “of no special quality or interest.” Do my children want to be known as someone being of no special quality or interest? So what makes one special, or of interest?
The number one quality I want of my children is that they rise above the pop culture and stand strong in their morals and values we hold dear. Do I think they will be perfect and never even hold hands with someone before they get married? Not necessarily, but I don’t think it befits them to just follow the crowd and do what everyone else is doing.
Simply going along with what everyone else is doing, by definition, makes one ordinary. Blending in and matching what is the status quo is ordinary. One could argue that blending in to the Muslim community and matching that status quo would put you in the same Ordinary category, to which I would respond that there’s a difference between surrounding yourself with those going against the grain, and running into the river of the current culture and allowing yourself to be swept into it.
Just like if you were to surround yourself with scholars, it doesn’t make you any less rare in the scope of the entire world.
Many choose to remove themselves from the ordinary category by being more brass than the norm. This is old news. There’s always someone who is trying to shock those around them. That doesn’t make one extraordinary.
Being extraordinary is being able to control yourself when others let go. Being able to enjoy the simple things in life and not always needing to have more and do more. Being extraordinary means appreciating those around you for who they are, and not just for what they do for you. Being extraordinary means you are memorable and people will miss you when you’re not there. Anyone can crack jokes, but do you provide more than a DVD of stand up comedy?
Being extraordinary means bringing out the best in the people around you. It also means you have to hold yourself to a higher standard than others hold for you.
It’s hard when our kids get older and they start thinking that we, as parents, don’t know what it’s like to walk in their shoes. Remember the advice from the following hadith:
“The child is the master for seven years; and a slave for seven years and a vizier for seven years; so if he grows into a good character within 21 years, well and good; otherwise leave him alone because you have discharged your responsibility before Allah.”
At the teen years, our children have more say in their lives, and so any advice we give must be presented as a friend, not as a master of their world. In sha Allah, it proves more fruitful to do so.
Start when they are young, in sha Allah, and remember to guide them as friends as they wade through the teen years. Everyone wants to be extraordinary. Sometimes it takes a bit of reminding of what that really is.