Some Parenting Thoughts

Hey guys. I hope you are all doing ok in this current state of chaos.

I am trying to to navigate each day with a pair of thick metaphorical spectacles. You see, my son has suddenly had a growth spurt. He has shot up and his head is now reaching my thighs. I see it bobbing by as he walks past the table.. yes, WALKS. Walks with a purpose. Little mouth set in between two large, soft, round cheeks, and a little tummy that pokes out like a middle-aged beer belly… only cuter.

Because he is no longer a baby, he is a BOY. He toddles and has an opinion, and voices it vocally.

Naturally, with his new-found abilities, he has developed new-found interests. Toys are now boring, and he must be entertained and taught and spoken to. He comes toddling up to me several times a day, grunting with the effort of lugging his books from one corner of the house to the next, begging me to read to him. He gets so upset if I don’t immediately put down what I am doing (gloves on, water dripping from half-washed dishes) and read to him. He experiments with everything, and has no understanding of safety whatsoever, no matter how many times he has caught his fingers in the washing machine doors, he will still wriggle out of my arms and make a beeline for danger.

This means my days are no longer structured around a baby, they are structured around a little human boy. 

A real person.

He lay on me the other day, and I rocked him to sleep, and his head was on my chest, and his feet reached all the way down to my knees. And my husband came in and said, ‘Wow. Remember when he was small enough to fit in your stomach?’

I did, folks. I remember when he was breech and his little feet would kick down near my abdomen and his big heavy head would push up against my lungs so it hurt to take a deep breath. I would have to do some yoga and walk around for him to move position. And now his little body is taller than my torso.

He is so small but so BIG!

I do stupid things like cry when he is asleep because I am worried somebody might break his heart one day or bully him or make him feel bad.

I voiced these concerns out loud, and my husband asked, ‘Would you rather him be bullied, or be a bully?’

Straight away I said, ‘I’d rather he be bullied.’

My husband reckons that is an awful choice, but I’m resolute. I’d rather my son have a kind heart and good character than cause anybody else harm. I was bullied some, as a child, I think most people were. You learn how to be considerate of others when you’re hurt yourself. I never want him to be so mean spirited and cruel as to deliberately hurt somebody else. I confess, when I was four, I used to pinch this little girl in my class. She would cry. I don’t know why I did it. And I still feel despicably awful about it, even though we are friends now, and even though I apologised to her many times over the years. I still feel so despicable every time I think about it.

Would you rather have your child be bullied, or be a bully?

Tweezers

How are you doing, folks?

Have you heard a lot of that lately? How are you doing? No, how are you doing?

It is nice to see people checking in with each other more. There are still a lot of terrible things happening, but so much positivity too. It’s totally up to you, what you want to pick up when you sift through the piles of panic and mess.

My husband has started using my tweezers lately. I only have one pair. My husband likes to think he is the tidy one in this relationship but that is so not true. He never puts things away! I always grumble about this, and put the things he has left out away. He is a lovely guy though, and cleans our house beautifully, and makes sure I come down to pristine tidiness every morning because mornings can be chaotic with a baby. He is caring and sweet (he doesn’t like to be known as ‘sweet’, it is not ‘manly’), and although he is a ball of stress, he is the only one who truly knows how to calm my stormy nature.

Except he keeps taking my tweezers from their designated space and never puts them back! So now, for three weeks, they have been missing. We have both hunted high and low for them but with no luck. I feel so annoyed with him. My eyebrows are growing out and they are itching to be tweezed!

I know that is something petty to say considering the state of the world right now. I know I have the luxury to focus on petty things right now as we are staying indoors for the foreseeable future. My son is asthmatic so I worry about him. And of course, I worry about those who are so much more vulnerable and who are at dire risk if we unintentionally pass anything on to them. So we are staying indoors.

And I am focusing on petty things! Like my missing tweezers! If you have seen them, can you please tell them not to be so dramatic and send them my way?

Stories

One thing my husband likes to say to me about my family is that ‘they always like repeating stories! I’ve heard the same story fifty thousand times and yet they still repeat it! They LOVE repeating stories!’

He says it like it’s a negative thing, and I used to see his point of view and started to think it was negative too. But then I stopped short.

HOLD UP.

I remember I ENJOYED those repetitive stories.

Mum, tell us about that time Uncle Nigel flooded a hotel party!’, or ‘Mum, tell us again that story about you and Kitty riding your tricycles to the police station when you were three’, or ‘Let’s hear that tale of when Dad broke his back when I was born.’

My mum would tell us all the family stories instead of bedtime stories before we fell asleep. She would tell us of the scrapes she and her cousins got up to when they were younger and turn them into episodes and we would listen avidly, despite knowing what came next. It was her voice and inflections and the way she built the suspense. Her voice rose and fell and lulled us to a space of serene security. If I close my eyes I can still hear how she would tell her stories.

Now we are too old for bedtime stories, she tells us of things her mother used to do and say, and what she saw and did when she was younger. She tells us things she experiences now, turning them into little stories and ‘morals’ and ‘lessons’.  And yes, I may have heard those stories hundreds of times, but before somebody who doesn’t appreciate them pointed out that the repetition is annoying, I never noticed or cared that she was repeating herself.

And I love them! My husband’s family don’t like to tell and re-tell stories like that. They just allude to things but don’t elaborate on them and make them events in and of themselves like my family do. They are more reserved, you see, whereas my family is a little more ‘out there’, letting emotions out as and when they arrive.

Our families are different and that is ok. But I have realised a very important fact. And that is that stories are very important to me. I myself repeat stories often, I catch myself doing it, and my husband rolling his eyes at me, but I can’t help it. I like doing it. I think I am doing it more for myself than for those listening to me. Also there are those who like my stories too!

I elaborate on them and add flourishes and, like my parents, I do the voices and gestures and act it out.

Maybe my son will appreciate my stories and will be a storyteller too, but he may also find the stories annoying and resort to retelling experiences with a wry smile and not do the accents. Either way. It is ok. We are who we are and we are born of the stories that shaped us.

Also, whether you tell stories with a flourish or not, you will still tell stories. Stories are just the narratives of our lives, and we choose how to tell them, be it with flamboyancy or reserved calm.

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On Less Cheer

I decided to put a post up last minute today because I just realised that while I don’t really care that it is the last day of the year or decade, it might be a nice subtle nod to time to do one last post, and make it 43 posts in total in 2019.

In 2019 I went through some very tough things that most people go through, but obviously since I am experiencing them for the first time, they still meant something to me and still shaped my personality.

I didn’t very much enjoy this year, and that is sad, because I ought to have. I had a baby and he really is the love of my life, and by rights this ought to have been the best year of my life. But it wasn’t. I struggled a lot with my mental state, and felt depressed very often. I had to relearn so many things, and reach for strength in places deep within me that I didn’t know existed.

I experienced severe frustration, betrayal, selfishness, both on my part and on the part of others, and learnt so so much. I fell in love so hard, with the chubbiest cherub ever, but still, it was one of the hardest years of my life and I am glad this year is an odd number and am glad to leave it.

There.

I hope 2019 was good for all of you, and I hope 2020 is even better.

Wisdom (teeth and lemons)

One of my biggest pet peeves is when young people write ‘wisdom’.

It annoys me on so many levels.

Level 1: They are way too young to have accumulated such an insane amount of wisdom (see: ’25 things I have learned in 25 years on this planet). Level 2: Wisdom is more impactful in smaller doses. Level 3: It’s irritating and assumes people will want to hear what a green, relatively inexperienced young person has got to say about life. Level 4: If you overlook all the previous levels and actually delve into what they have to say, you will more often than not discover that they have listed the most mundane, common sense things ever.

So it might appear ironic that I am here today to list some things that I have learnt from other people.

I don’t pretend to think that my things are of any value to anybody but myself. But I like that I have learned them, and wonder at what others might think of them.

Are they mundane?

Are they common sense?

Do they mean anything to anybody?

Who knows.

Thing One: My mother taught me through words and actions that people will like you much more if you don’t take yourself too seriously. You see, growing up, my sister and I were lemons. Oh, such lemons. It shames me to remember it. If we were at a gathering, even if the party was full of people we knew, we would just stand there and wait for people to socialise with us. We never thought to join a group and attend the party properly. My mother, a social butterfly, would become so impatient with us. She would flit from group to group leaving laughter in her wake. We felt awkward and shy and socially inept. Complaining to my mother about my inability to make friends or be happy socially, she told me it was because I took myself too seriously. Let loose. Laugh at yourself a little.

I am still trying to learn how to do that.

Thing Two: My father taught me about faith. Real, sincere faith. This thing is perhaps an incredulous thing to believe, if ye are of little faith. Or not religious at all. I am religious. Not fanatically, but respectably so.

My dad has such strong, unwavering faith. He always says to me in Arabic, ‘you will see wonders’ (If you have faith), and I always see goosebump wonders happening to him. Once his car got stolen. Somebody broke into our home, stole all the keys and phones, and took the car from the garage. We reported it to the police, nothing. It was a Chevrolet Suburban, and our first big car since the seven of us used to cram into my dad’s ’89 caprice. We loved it. I was in tears. My father, however, was stoic. You will see, he told us, it will come back. I have strong faith. It’s in God’s hands. God has never let me down. Two days later, my father received a phone call from an old man who said, Your car is outside my house. It was the strangest story. The old man had noticed this strange new car outside his house for two days, and on the second day went out to investigate. He said he found the car keys under the car, and when he got inside it he found some of my father’s work papers with his work number on and gave that a call. The car had cigarette butt stains on it and the seats were a little torn, but was otherwise in perfect condition. This is not the only story I have about my father’s faith, there are many more, but this one has stuck in my head for 12 years. You could call it luck, you could call it coincidence, but I have never seen anybody as sure as my father that he would get his car back. And he did.

Thing Three: My sister in law taught me to wash the dinner dishes, clean the counter and broom the floor in 15 minutes. Look at the clock, she would say, porcelain arms slipping into rubber gloves, in 15 minutes, I shall have finished everything and will be sipping my tea. Then she would daintily, yet efficiently wash everything up, wipe the counter with a furious deftness that was fascinating to watch, and then neatly broom the floor and empty the dirt into the bin with a little flourish. Gloves off, neatly and quickly draped over the tap, feet sliding out of slippers, cup of tea in hand, little tidy dance, arms out, hands elegantly swaying. It all looked so neat and tidy and efficient and deft and, dare I say, exciting. A challenge. So that is what I do now. And seeing a tidy kitchen in the morning makes me more likely to have a productive day. Also my sister in law is a little sparrow and makes me laugh, so it’s nice to remember her as I deftly and neatly scrub away at my kitchen counter.

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Image Credit: Elizabeth Floyd. Check out her beautiful website!

I’ll Give You the Sun

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First, before I delve into anything, I just want to say that if you are wearing shorts and have bare legs and live in a cold-ish country, don’t put your metal laptop on your lap. I just did that and the cold metal felt like searing heat on my poor legs.

Anyway. When I was 19 and still rather green, I read this wonderful book called ‘The Sky is Everywhere‘ by this vivacious YA writer named Jandy Nelson. I honestly thought the sky soared out of her pen. I was captivated and mesmerised and just head over heels in love with how this woman wrote.

Which is why, three years ago, I saw one of her books at a charity shop and picked it up immediately, nestled it under my coat to protect it from the rain, and placed it lovingly in my bookshelf where it sat through a new job, pregnancy, new motherhood … to now.

It’s called ‘I’ll Give You the Sun’ and I am writing about it because I have realised that I am just plain old, folks.

Jandy Nelson writes like there are fireworks in her fingers. Her brain has ethereal, colourful wings. Her mind is ridiculously fantastic. She writes so wonderfully, and her magic still made me hooked on her story, but I couldn’t help thinking how contrived it all was.

Let me make myself clear. I’ll Give You the Sun is a YA novel about grief, love and growth. It centres around a pair of twins, boy and girl, who used to be inseparable until a tragedy befalls them, and deals with how each twin navigates this tragedy, how it affects them individually and their relationship with each other, as well as how they view the outside world. The boy is gay, so there is some LGBTQ romance in there too. There is a lot of talk about soulmates and artistic genius and, told from the point of view of 14 and 16 year olds, every emotion is heightened and you can FEEL the hormones just leaping out of the page…

It is a beautiful story, but my 25 year old self is not my 19 year old self. I honestly felt like it was just a tad too wishy washy and dreamy for me. I scoffed at times, while reading some of the romantic exchanges. Like, how can you fall in love and be SOULMATES after having had just one conversation?

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Like, a LOT of the feelings of love being described made me grin. I was 16 once. I was ‘in love’. It’s all just screaming lust. Not that lust cannot lead to love, of course, but adult me shared a grin with adult inner-me. 19 year old me would roll her eyes and say I was just cynical. I am not.

But this story is not just about romance. It deals with so much more and deals with it so well, that even cynical old 25 year old me felt some emotions and was hooked till the very last page. So, if you like contrived soul-matey very lucky teenage ‘true love’, grief, happiness, art, vivacious writing and lots of metaphors, then this book is for you.

origin

There.

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Here are a few more quotes.

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I love this one. This one is often true for me.

Kindness

Today’s prompt word is kindness.

In my life I have not been very kind to those I love the most. I don’t know why I do that. It’s something I can’t control at the time and then regret immediately. I’m not unkind all the time but I do it a lot when I feel irritated.

At the same time, I’ve been told numerous times that I am a kind person. When people say that I feel like an imposter. As a child I was kind, I remember being so, but I also remember being distinctly unkind.

There are many quotes floating around about kindness. The general consensus seems to be that it is an attribute people should strive towards. An action to be carried out without the need for a reward – expecting a reward for an act of kindness makes the act unkind. Despite the fact that it’s still the same action being carried out.

People have been kind to me when I have least expected it. For example once my bike chain broke on the side of the road and there were a bunch of skinheads smoking by the verge. When they saw me battling with my chain they approached me and I panicked thinking oh no they are going to be racist or attack me – but no they asked if I was ‘alright love’ and they fixed my bike chain for me whilst making merry.

They didn’t expect anything in return because they sauntered off once I was back on wheels again.

Being kind makes you feel good inside. Having someone be kind to you makes you warm to them. Humans need kindness, it helps us thrive.

Myself

Hello. Yes it is me. Peering into the internet. I am sitting in bed with a baby snoozing in my arms as I type this. It has been some kind of day. He won’t seem to settle tonight unless he is being held but I don’t mind I don’t I don’t I never will mind because he will never be this little again and he is my big big blessing.

We did nothing today but are exhausted. But that is the reality of parenthood.

It’s been three months to the day since our lives changed completely, and as I was getting into the shower at 10:47pm I thought to myself – you know, self, your life is never going to go back to being like it was before. So stop thinking of that. Embrace this change and make the most of it.

So that is what I have decided to do. Babies are not a pause in life – rather an enrichment of it. See it’s taking me a while to get there but I am working on it.

See what I have to do is throw myself all the way in. Go all out. Dedicate my brain and time to learning and teaching and loving and nurturing. Not wishing for a holiday.

I love this boy more and more every single day it’s insane.

Like at the beginning I don’t think I bonded very well with him because of how traumatic the birth was – and because I was under general anaesthetic when they pulled him out of me via emergency c section – I didn’t witness his entrance into this world. They literally put him on me while I was woozy and drowsy from the operation and I tried to connect but all I wanted to do was sleep. So weird right?

But now I am in my right mind again – I think… i don’t know yet because back then I thought I was in my right mind but I very obviously was not…

anyway. Myself. That was the prompt for today. I must work on myself and not hang about the fringes of things if I want to give my boy a valuable childhood.

I want to give him the best in terms of mind enrichment and education. So that means I have to make sure I am educated and informed.

If you have had kids, how did you navigate being ‘yourself’ in order to nourish the brain of your child? Any tips would be so very welcome!

Sparkle

I am challenging myself to write a post every single day in May, to kickstart my writing again. I will be following some prompt words that I ‘stole’ from somebody on instagram. Here is my seventeenth post.

 

Hundreds and thousands,

Atop white icing,

Atop a cake,

On a plate,

Covered in foil.

Wrapped in a plastic bag,

Shoved

Mercilessly

At the bottom of my schoolbag.

For I was ashamed

Of the cake

My mother toiled all night to make,

for the school fair.

Don’t ask me why.

It was perfectly lovely,

Soft, yellow vanilla sponge

Simple, perfect flavours,

And the sparkly fun of hundreds and thousands decorating the top.

I just didn’t want to be

That GIRL.

WHAT girl, pray tell?

The one who carries a cake onto a bus where the boy she secretly crushes on sits coolly at the front, NOT carrying a cake.

Don’t ask me what nonsense goes on in the minds of twelve year olds.

When I got on the bus..

That boy was carrying a cake.

And most of the other kids

Had some kind of home-made concoction in their laps too.

I felt stupid

And sad.

For my cake,

On it’s plate

With white icing

And hundreds and thousands

Was a flattened, crushed mess.

And my heart, now, today, at 25

Wrings in sadness

At the thought of the love and care

That went into that cake,

As my mother,

toiled through the night

To see a sparkle

in her daughter’s eyes.

I love you mama.

 

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Little

I am challenging myself to write a post every single day in May, to kickstart my writing again. I will be following some prompt words that I ‘stole’ from somebody on instagram. Here is my thirteenth post.

Little toes

Little nose

Little mouth

Little frown

Little thighs

Little sighs

Little fingers

Little dimples

He’ll be little for quite a while

But boy, what a big smile!

Poor attempt today – my little has sapped my energy!