There was an overwhelming request for tips on how we manage Masha at the mosque. So here are some tips I’ve learnt from Masha’s Tok (paternal grandfather). May they be of benefit! Bismillah!
Before I start, I just want to say that none of the tips are from me. It’s from the practices of Aizat’s father, Masha’s Tok. Since Aizat was young, while living in Brunei, his father would carry him - every day - to the mosque and back, for Mahgrib and Ishak. He did so for his other 3 children. And now, he does the same for Masha. So they are all essentially from him. May these benefit parents who wish to familiarise their toddlers with the mosque! Bismillah!
1. Start training them at home
The mosque can be a daunting, new place for them. Because they suddenly see many unfamiliar faces and for the first time ever, their calls and cries don’t make ANYONE pay any attention to them - at all! That’s really scary for them. So one way is to familiarise them with the setting of having rows of people praying and not paying any attention to them... at home! In your home, pray congregation as far as possible, with as many people as possible! The more people, the better. Line up everyone in long safs and have your child sit in the middle of it all. Do it at home first - where people won’t mind that your child pulls their telekung or tugs their pants or crawls between their legs. This isn’t just for them, but more for you as the parent to have a peace of mind (and less stress!).
2. The best time to train them is during Ramadhan
The best time to do this home training is none other than the month of Ramadhan! Because congregation + long prayers = best training ground. Masha started her training on day 1. It was horrible. She was cranky and she was crying throughout, wondering why everyone was staring past her and no one was picking her up. But you have to persevere! Masha Allah, she got used to it in a few days! She learnt to entertain herself with the toys we brought, and she began to understand that we would respond to her after we did our salams to our right and left.
P.S. If they get really cranky, someone can pick them up at appropriate times during the prayer, and put them down during sujud. For Masha, it was only required for the first 2-3 days.
3. Consistency is key!
Consistency is very important. Masha was exposed to our congregational prayers for Mahgrib, Ishak and Terawih for 28/29 days straight (which is why Ramadhan is the best time to train them). Now that she’s so seasoned, she knows when prayer starts and she’ll wander off in the mosque and be back when it ends! (Unless she gets lost, then she’ll cry her heart out throughout the last few rakaats.)
4. Always involve them in giving salams (hugs and kisses too!)
One thing that would help them in recognising the junctures where we can respond to them (and when we can’t) is to involve with the exchange of salams. Right after we complete the prayer, we’d all yell, “Okay Masha, salam, salam! Salam Yang, salam Nenek, salam Tok...” and someone would carry her to salam everyone. Of course, not forgetting hugs and kisses!! It makes the whole experience enjoyable and loving for them. This gives them something to look forward to as they wait for everyone to be done with their prayer.
5. Let the men bring the kids for a change!
When Masha is at the mosque, 99.9% of the time, she’s with the guys - with Tok, Aizat or her Uncle Irsyad. For various reasons. As women we tend to freak out and overthink the oh-no-what-ifs, we get so embarrassed if the toddler tugs off other women’s telekung. In other words, the stress level is HIGH. The men in this family are more chill. And they don’t really think that much. So they don’t really see what the big deal is. In other words, they are perfect caretakers for toddlers at the mosque!
6. Dua, patience, tawakkul
Toddlers are never easy. They can settle into a routine after 2 weeks, only to change their preference in 2 days and it’s the whole process of trial-and-error all over again. So just make lots of dua! Intend that by bringing your child to the mosque, you’re building an attachment between your child and the mosque that would never break. That their hearts will always be with the mosque. (Whenever Tok heads out to the mosque without Masha, she will run after him, to the door and cry!). And when you’re performing your prayers, entrust your child to Allah. Tell Him your intentions and entrust them to Him. Take care of your prayers and He will take care of you, and your affairs. Insha Allah!