It's an honor being Mama

Dear God, please give me patience. And, patience. And, wait – more patience.

A letter to my son

My dear son,

I see you crying for me, as if you can’t live without me. My brain tells me you can so I hurriedly rush to the bathroom. But my heart tells me you can’t, so I hurriedly rush back to sweep you up in my arms and cuddle you.

I see you watching me take care of housework, waiting for the moment when my eye catches yours and you’ll give me that smile that melts my heart.

I see you getting excited when I walk towards you to pick you up. You grin and move your arms up and down quickly as I get nearer. Seeing you reach out for me is a wonderful feeling. I know you need me, but this means you want me.

As I watch you sleep, I think about the day when you will want another woman. When there will be another woman you cannot live without. Another woman who will fall in love with your kind heart, beautiful eyes and sweet dimples. I can’t lie – I know it’ll hurt a little, but I will reason with my heart to let you go. My heart will understand.

Some days it’s hard for me to struggle with this tug of war going on with my emotions in my head. I want you to need me, but I also want you to be independent and strong. Some days I pray you will just quietly play while I take care of my work, but some days I secretly pray that you cry for me, so I know I’m still needed.

One day you might read this and laugh. Oh Mama. Why did you worry about all this? I was bound to grow up, didn’t you know?

Oh, I knew. But you see, my son, being a mother is a different kind of thing. You’re strong and smart and resilient. But you’re also gentle and delicate and sensitive. We have to be perfect in both sets of qualities to raise good kids. My strength enables you to gain confidence, and my gentleness allows you to understand kindness and compassion.

With our brains we raise you to eat good things, and say good things and behave like good kids. And with our hearts we teach you faith, show you how to love one another and how to care for others.

But don’t you worry about me, my son. I knew from the moment I felt you in my womb that I wanted to raise you to be a soldier. That when you stared in the face of good and evil, you would choose good, without even so much as a blink.

God blessed me with you after giving me two beautiful girls. And I often hear that you will grow to be a “Mama’s boy” or be spoiled, having come after your sisters. But I tell myself that I won’t let this happen. I want to raise all of you the same way. But I know I can raise my daughters to be good mothers. I have to raise you to be a good father and to choose a good mother.

And so I tell you now, my son, that when you will choose another woman, remember to look for strength in matters of the brain, and gentleness in matters of the heart. Remember to choose a woman who will aim to raise good children. Remember to choose a woman who will be ok when she is forced to let go.

And remember to love her more for these things, because you will never understand how a mother feels and how she has to battle between her heart and brain for the sake of her kids.

But you just might get a glimpse of that when you see her one day fingering a small baby blanket or unfolding an old baby outfit, and pressing it against her face. The faint smell of fabric softener still lingers along with the smell of being a new mom.

Then maybe, just maybe, you’ll give her one of those beautiful, warm smiles that light up my heart and soul. And because of our special bond, I’ll feel it too.

 

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What kind of parent are you?

Lately lots of women I know have had their first kids, and it’s been interesting to see how they manage with them, especially in this age of information overload.
You see the cloth diapering moms, the no TV moms, the organic food moms, the pumping/nursing/working moms, etc….
In no way do I claim to know everything about parenting. Hell, I have three and I admit I’m still learning. Plus my three wonderful kids never fail to surprise me!
But yes, I’ve been through weaning. I’ve potty trained. I’ve had a kid who bites and hits. I’ve had a c-section, and a VBAC.
And I haven’t seen it all. I thank God my kids are healthy and normal. Kids are hard, and I feel for those parents who have been dealt a tough hand of kids with special needs.
I think back to my days of when I had FZ, almost 6 years ago. I was working full time, but I loved my job as an editor at a newspaper. I knew what I wanted for my daughter. She would be breastfed, a good sleeper, a good eater, etc. I got all the books, and signed up for all the newsletters.
But, oh boy, was I in for a surprise. And I think, most new parents usually are. When I had my second and third kids, I found I relatively eased up. I still expect them to be well-behaved and I am a stickler for how they eat and sleep, but raising them is not a scientific formula. It’s more like a puzzle for which you have no exact picture to refer to. You try to do the best you can using common sense. You turn the piece this way and that way. Sometimes it ends up fitting with another. Sometimes it’s not right at all, so you toss it and try another one.
These days I am struggling with my son. He’s exhibiting all kinds of different issues that I never had to worry about with my girls. So I ask other moms if they’ve had similar issues. More often than not, new moms tell me “well you’d know better you have three.” Yes, but they are definitely not carbon copies of each other.
And I’m trying out new styles of parenting. My eldest is testing my patience, but when it comes down to punishment, we’re talking feelings instead of just screaming. It’s hard, but I think it’s working. In fact I plan on incorporating some new concepts I learned about to help authoritarian moms, like myself, get their point across without creating a disconnect.
Each day is a blessing. I take it as a new beginning to help me become a better parent. I worry a lot about how my actions will end up transferring to my kids. Sure we’re human, and we are allowed bad days and good days. The problem comes when we don’t take the time to realize that our little ones deserve the best of us.
And if we want good kids then we need to make sure we are at the top of our game. I speak to myself first because I know I need to change many things in my approach. Parenting shouldn’t be taken lightly, it’s a big responsibility, and we should support each other in raising a generation of caring, well-mannered, awesome kids.
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Good little half-lies never hurt anyone

As a parent you get used to leaving out details when discussing important things with your kids. I call them half-lies.

Like gumballs, for instance. I never told FZ that they actually were made of gum. I just told her they were balls. One day my half-lie was about to unravel when FZ held the ball tightly in her hand and some color came off. She licked her hand and wondered where the sweet taste came from. I was just as confused as she was.

Or when FZ refused to brush her teeth. So I told her fine, but if she saw bugs in the morning, not to come crying to me. I just conveniently left out the part that these bugs are actually microscopic. And who likes bugs in their teeth?

And I don’t know any parent who hasn’t told half-lies about food. If you eat your chicken you’re going to be so strong because it has protein! Spinach has iron and iron is so good for your brain. You want to be smart, don’t you?

Even when it comes to safety, I never really disclose all the horrible, scary things that happen in this world. I have to keep it simple and show I’m confident, even though I might really be worried. Don’t ever wander off in public places without telling me or your father because you can get lost and that would make us sad. I don’t have to explain all the horrific things that go through my brain when I think about my kids and if they ever went missing.

Since having kids I swore that I would never lie to my kids. It breaks their confidence and shatters their trust in us if we lie to them. So far I’ve been pretty good. If I didn’t want FZ to have something, like soda, I never lied and said it was ‘medicine’ or that it tasted bad. I simply said that she couldn’t have it. She’s going on 5 years now and she’s smart, well-adjusted and doesn’t even bat an eye if she sees soda or anyone having soda.

It’s all because I respected her intelligence enough to tell her the truth.

I know one day FZ and her siblings will grow up and realize gumballs are sweet and fun, but at least they won’t come to me blowing bubbles accusing me of lying to them.

And so I raise this glass of fresh juice to parents everywhere and all the wonderful maneuvering we have to do to ensure our kids grow up healthy and safe!

Carrot juice anyone? You know carrots are sooo good for your eyes….

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Potty training hell

It’s hell on earth. For the past 2 months I’ve been on a timer set for every 15, 25 and 30 minutes. For the past 2 months I’ve been mumbling the potty training mantra nonstop — Potty is for pee pee; no pee pee in the panty. See dry panty? Niiiice. Repeat. Ugh. It’s been horrible. Stinky. Messy.

But it’s been humbling. I’ve turned from psycho, raging Mama to patient, calm Mama. Some days it takes every fiber in my being to just control myself from screaming — “Pee pee in the potty!! Pee pee in the potty!! — but nothing a short break can’t help. I’ve enlisted the help of simple techniques, such as counting, breathing deeply and sitting down.

It’s still frustrating, but what can a mother do when their child just isn’t getting the whole potty drill? You can’t beat it into them. Your screaming doesn’t help. Might as well do it with a smile. At least your throat won’t hurt and you won’t feel guilty afterwards. And mind you, I only started potty training M because she showed interest, was dry after naps, and could control her bladder. After taking the plunge I figure it’s just useless to go back to diapers and I thought I’ll just wait this out.

Dear God, for the sake of my sanity, I pray it’s not much longer.

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It’s been way too long…

Dear world, I’m being held hostage.

They won’t let me eat. Or sleep. Or even use the bathroom in peace. They won’t take my money. They don’t even ask for anything, except chips and candy.

Every time I try to use the phone it’s as if they synchronize their clocks to all start screaming/fighting/whining at once.

My captors aren’t very strong. Heck, they’re not even that smart. They are easily distracted by a small piece of chocolate. But I still dance at their every whim.

The older one asks too many questions. What kind of torture is this? Do I look like I know everything? Then she tells me how to take care of the little ones. Really? I thought I was the one who gave birth to you. Patiently, I oblige.

The middle one can’t tell when something is running down her legs. It’s been weeks. I’m forced to clean up the dirty  mess. And, with a smile, no less.

The little one seems to be in on the plan, even though he is much too young. I know they’re all in this together.

I’m told I must not scream at them, or they will scream back. I’m told I should not spank them, or they will learn spanking as a form of response. I’m told I shouldn’t always say “no.”

So here I am at their disposal.

When I manage to get a few moments of relative freedom, it is quickly shattered by a loud noise or a cough, which wakes up one, who wakes up the other, etc.

Of course, some days there is no freedom. It’s just 24 hour go time.

Since there seems no way of escape, I try to use the TV or other technological devices to “escape.” But even those I’m not allowed. It’s always their shows I have to watch. Or it’s their turn on the iPad or iPhone. Don’t tell them, but I secretly check my email in the bathroom. Or in the dark when they’re sleeping. Ha!

Others tell me to be patient and that I’m doing a worthwhile job. Some days I don’t feel it. My patience is always tested. I understand my freedom will come and then there are those moments of glory, for which I am grateful.

To those of you who will see this letter, I ask you all to pray for me. Pray that God gives me more patience. Pray for my sanity.

And to those of you who are going through the same ordeal, don’t laugh. I know you’re laughing at me. In fact, I bet you’re in on this, too.

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I’m back, and with a new story to tell…

So it’s been a while. A long while, actually. Sorry for being out of the loop, but I do have a good story to share about my absence from the blogosphere.

Around November of last year we moved across the Atlantic Ocean over to Qom. Yup, that’s Qom, Iran. My husband has joined the religious seminary (or Howza, as it is called) and we have now made a home in the IRI.

It has been an interesting adjustment, to say the least. Learning a new language, a new culture, and getting used to being far from family – which is never easy.

Currently I am back in the states visiting family, but these past few months have given me a new perspective on life. Iranian culture, although a little different from my own, is quite welcoming. Our neighbors are amazing and very hospitable, and even the locals I meet always have a smile. Naturally you run into those who are more busy trying to find a way onto the road than take a look and see if they’ve run over someone’s toes, or those who don’t bother to take a second look after they’ve shoved you in a busy market, but hey, you have to look at the bright side.

The biggest benefit of living in Qom is the incorporation of religion in everyday life. FZ loves her new school. She loves learning the Qur’an, and her school is very organized. When you go to the water fill-up stations (because regular water is salty, not sweet, so you have to get water that is suitable for drinking and cooking separately), the screen of the station says “As salamo alaika Ya Aba Abdillah Hussain.” (For my non-Muslim friends, this is a reference to Prophet Mohammad’s grandson who was killed in a battle while thirsty after being denied water by the enemy forces.)

And it’s not as “evil” as we see on TV. In fact it is easier for women to live and function than it is in Saudi Arabia. Couples walk the streets holding hands, women drive freely, wear what they want (although bodies and heads must be covered) and they work everywhere. Yet Iran is a “threat” and Saudi Arabia is a “friend.”

This is not a permanent move, but I think given the state of the culture in the U.S. I am happy my daughters can spend some time growing without caring if they have the latest toy. I feel safe sending them to school and they enjoy life playing with the neighbor kids. They eat fresh, healthy fruits and vegetables and are not bombarded by sugary cereals or candies.

All in all it has been a good adjustment for our family and although I miss my family dearly, I know this is better for my children. In the end, that’s all that matters to me.

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Go ahead, moms don’t judge

For the past 24-48 hours I have been wiping down a runny nose. M won’t nap because once she falls asleep she can’t breathe. She is clingy and awful to deal with. So for lunch I stole fish sticks off my kid’s plate.

Don’t judge. The fish sticks for lunch, or the fact that I stole them.

Being a mom means you belong to an interesting club. Labor stories are shared like war stories. Weird issues, like poop color, don’t phase you. And, there is NOTHING that surprises you.

With that being said, moms are also, unfortunately, known to be sometimes exclusive of who they interact with and quite judgmental.

“You DON’T breastfeed? How terrible for your child!”

“Cloth diapers is THE way to go.”

“Wow, what an UNDISCIPLINED child.”

I try not to judge. Hey, I am a mom after all. I know what it’s like to survive a sleepless night and still have to put my best foot forward in the morning. I know what it means to work and pump. I have sleep trained, and taken part in every kind of weaning you can think of.

But I am human. And I know raising kids is hard. If you are trying, then that is what matters. Why do some moms, old and young, forget how it is to be a mom?

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New branches on the family tree

I am finally an aunt! My brother and sister-in-law welcomed their first child this week, a sweet little boy we’ll call HZ.

I am psyched to be an aunt and FZ is excited about her new baby cousin. For the past 4 years, my girls have been the only kids in the family, and now we have a new kid joining the ranks of the spoiled.

It is such a beautiful thing watching your family grow and seeing your siblings take on new roles, like becoming parents. Having a kid changes everything, but it changes everything for the better.

I can’t wait to enjoy a child and then hand him off to Mom for a feeding/diaper change – it’s been way too long!

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Pre-k update: Being late in the car rider lane, faking illnesses, and missing my kid

Being a product of public school, I thought I would be a pro when it came to FZ starting school. But I was wrong. With the first week of pre-K down, I have learned new things on a whole new level.

First: Never be late when picking up your kid. I always rode the bus, and so did my siblings, so I never got a taste for a) waiting for my Mom or, b) waiting in my car. FZ is in the PM shift, so they let out the pre-K kids 15 minutes earlier than the K-5 kids. However, if you come late, you have to wait in line with the rest of the world. So, lucky for me I was only a minute late and they forgave me, since it was still the first week. But when I drove up, I saw FZ sitting by her lonesome on the floor. And I felt AWFUL. Lesson learned.

Second: Kids’ stomachs will hurt “every morning” but it’s just anxiety. After the first three days, FZ came down with a bout of “not feeling well.” I took it seriously, until I realized everything else was normal and it was just separation anxiety. (I thought we already passed that when she was 6 months old?!) I even made chicken soup so she would feel better. And surprisingly, she did feel better.

Third: No matter how much our kids make us wish we were sucked into another dimension, they are a part of us and we miss them when they are not with us. Watching my little girl take those first steps into a new place all by herself, made my heart ache. And I think I was more excited to see FZ at pick-up time than she was to see me.

It’s true what they say about parents always learning. It’s because our kids are always growing. Once you take that step into parenthood, there really is no going back. Even when your kids will have kids of their own, your lives are intwined. Forever. (For some reason I want to insert an evil cackle here.)

But it is a beautiful feeling isn’t it? Watching a product of your upbringing emerge from their safe cocoon and turn into a lively, independent butterfly, ready to take on the world.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Pre-K: Ready or not, here we come

Monday is the first day of school. FZ will be an official school-goer.

I am not sure how I will fare. Will I dance in the streets with glee? Or be really depressed that my little girl is not-so-little anymore and taking on the world?

She’s been going to a school skills drop-off class for a couple of months now which got her (and me) used to the whole “dropping off” concept. But that was only a once a week class. Now she will be going every day.

Yesterday we went school supply shopping, which FZ really enjoyed. And it sent me back years to when I was a kid and going school supply shopping. I miss those days.

Parenting sends us mixed signals. We get sick of hearing our kids whine and fight. Then when we get a moment of peace, we can’t stand it.

My dear FZ, it has been a pleasure watching you grow into an independent and intelligent young girl. Here’s to the first of many, many more milestones to come. I won’t be with you always, but I pray God keep you in His Protection and be with you every step of the way.

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