by Fudia Muhammad
Children need to play. Adults need to play. The benefits of play, recreation and participating in fun activities can easily be overlooked since Black people, in particular, seem to constantly be in survival mode. Self-preservation is the first law of nature, so the primary purpose of every cell in our body is to survive. For most of us this means that the vast majority of our time is spent finding a way to sustain life; which usually translates to providing food, clothing and shelter for ourselves and our families – the basic essentials. However, we would argue that play is also essential for survival, maintenance and fulfillment. Being overly stressed can lead to burnout, health complications and an early death.
Everyone needs to make time for play; but especially our children. Striving to be righteous and having fun are not mutually exclusive – we can do both. Our children have to be exposed to what we CAN do for enjoyment, instead of always focusing on the things that we cannot do. As parents, if we constantly harp on what we are not permitted to do, children begin to feel limited and restricted; and find it difficult to enjoy being righteous. We never want our children to believe that they have to be rigid soldiers 24/7. There is a time and place for order, structure and regulation; and then there’s a time to just run around freely. Children need opportunities to engage in both free play and organized play, like team sports and athletics.
The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan once expressed a bit of regret that when his children were young he did not make the time to do the fun things with them that most parents do, like trips to amusement parks. He reminded us that The Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad told him to focus on the mission and not to worry about his family because Allah (God) would take care of them. The Minister said he took those instructions literally and sacrificed his time, money, musical ambitions and his family in order to focus entirely on the mission of the resurrection of our mentally dead brothers and sisters. To be clear, Allah (God) did take care of his family in the process; but The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan sacrificed his family, so that we would not have to sacrifice ours. So today, he stresses that Allah (God) must be first in our lives, then family – then Nation.
So what activities should our children be encouraged to do for fun? Of course, there is the obvious – play outside with friends and siblings, go to the park and play at the playgrounds or just enjoy a leisure game of catch, frisbee, jumping rope, soccer, football, volleyball or basketball. Children should ride bicycles, skateboards, go swimming, bowling and roller-skating. But children should also experience and be exposed to museums, stage performances, the beach, concerts, fairs and carnivals. Families should prioritize saving money to plan vacations away from home and truly experience our state, this country and the world. There are actually wonderful tourist attractions right in the cities where we live that we take for granted. An occasional movie and playing video games are fine; but, there is nothing wrong with planning trips to amusement parks, professional sporting events, camping, hiking or fishing.
In addition, extracurricular activities like organized team sports are great for our youth. Not only are sports great for their health, challenging them to stay physically active and to eat properly on a regular basis; but team sports establish basic fundamental life skills. Children learn self-discipline, teamwork, endurance, fair play, hard work, communication, limiting excuses, perseverance, competitiveness, comradery, leadership, time management, resilience and self-esteem. All of these skills go beyond the court and the field to serve them socially and academically.
As parents we must however, keep sport and play right where it belongs. It is irrational to make team sports and athletic competitions more than what they are. Even if our children exhibit exceptional athleticabilities, they have a miniscule chance of becoming a professional athlete. And if they should become a professional athlete, the average age of retirement is 33 years! Then what? If retirement is at age 33, then their purpose in life cannot be to become a professional athlete. They must continue to focus on their aim and purpose for existence.
We must also, respect the fragility of human life. We have to show respect to the God who gave us this precious gift of life by not being careless with it. We were not granted life to be daredevils and reckless thrill seekers. So, as we attempt to restore balance and find things to do for “fun”, recreation, and relaxation; we should avoid participating in activities that are exceedingly risky to life and limb.
There is so much to do and plenty to experience. We should work hard and play hard. The key is balance. The toys we purchase for our children and the activities they engage in should not be trifling, foolish or mindless.We can have fun and learn at the same time. We can exercise and learn at the same time. We can be creative while learning. And we can explore and learn concurrently. In all we do, we should engage the mind, body and soul. The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan said, “What is fun? Fun is watching intelligence develop. Fun is feeding intelligence to create the creative mind that the child will be able to say like God, ‘Be’ and it is. That’s fun!”
(Sister Fudia Muhammad is a member of Muhammad Mosque No. 64 in Austin, Texas. She is married to Student Minister Robert L. Muhammad and they have been blessed with four children. Sister Fudia holds a Master’s degree in Education – she is a writer, an educator and an advocate for God-centered child-rearing.)