On Friday my mom took care of Eryn while I took some sorely needed “me” time to run some errands.

When she gets fussy, one of my mom’s tried and tested ways of getting Eryn to calm down is to take rides in the elevator. Up and down they go, pushing buttons, making faces in the mirrored walls, and more importantly, giving smiles and waves to the strangers they meet.

Recently my mom has been trying to befriend Muslims in her neighbourhood as well as mine, specifically so that Eryn can have some Muslim playmates on the days my mom will care for her once I return to work (and generally, because my mom is just friendly).  So when a Muslim woman with her 15 month old took a long ride down from the penthouse to ground, my mom naturally stuck up a conversation.

After chatting about ages and the cuteness of babies, the woman asked, “So what’s her name?”

“*Eryn.”

“That’s an Arabic name. Are you the babysitter?”

“No (incredulously). I’m the grandmother.”

“But it’s an Arab name.”

“Yes, my son in law is from that part of the world and my daughter is Muslim.”

“But you’re not?”

“…”

Luckily for the woman, the elevator had reached ground, otherwise she may have felt just how cold and mean my mom’s passive aggressive behaviour can become. You have to understand that she’s a very outgoing, outspoken, tall, firey-red headed German and Eryn looks every bit like her Arab/Indian father (except for her hair, that’s all me).  So the notion that she is anything other than a grandmother is highly offensive to her.  She is also fiercely defensive of my conversion and of her own Lutheran faith.

When I first converted it took my parents almost a year to accept my decision. They initially saw my conversion as a total rejection of their way of life and faith (even though both do not attend a church, and my dad is more “the Divine is found in all” than United).  They even saw it as a rejection of our culture when I started learning Arabic and particularly when I took on the hijab. But we kept the lines of discussion open, and with time, proof that I wasn’t going to abandon them or the important parts of their way of life (ie: Christmas diner), learning that Islam is not a backward or extremist religion and that we don’t actually worship the big black box, they accepted my new found Truth and were genuinely happy for me.

My parents are amazing. They didn’t just accept me — they went beyond anything I had imagined. My mom started keeping halaal meat for our Wednesday night dinners, and now buys everything halaal just to make things easier.  She’s even a favourite character at our local, colourful halaal butchery and jokes around with the staff. I think she secretly enjoys bragging about me to the Muslims she meets. Both read anything they can get their hands on regarding Islam and now that we have Eryn, my parents are learning Islamic Arabic phrases for her behalf.  My dad even reads the Qur’an and loves wearing his kufi.  I mean come on, they’re befriending Muslims so my baby can have a Muslim environment for when I go back to work. How awesome is that?

What we didn’t expect after going through our own familial, year-long struggle, were the public, daily struggles that my parents experience because their daughter is Muslim.

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