Posts tagged " kids "

On the Privilege of a Cold

September 30th, 2016 Posted by Tabula Rasa No Comment yet

When I was younger, I rarely got sick. But when I did, I openly succumbed to the day or two that it would take me to get over it. I remember laying in bed, taking something like NyQuil to zonk me out, sleeping it off with nothing but the buzz of the TV in the background, maybe someone waking me with some chicken soup, and then life went on.

That was obviously a long time ago. The pre-child era.

Here’s how a cold or flu go in the current era.

One day, I go to school to pick up my son. The two kids that the day before had rivers of snot running down their cute little noses, has multiplied, the multiplication includes my son. He whines and moans and groans on the couch for a couple of hours a day, fever-free, and at school, symptom-free, and is soon back to his normal cheery self.

I wake up the next day unable to move, breathe, think. I take him to school, the teachers see me, and split to different corners of the room.

“You go rest,” they say from afar.

“Yeah, ok,” I say. You know nothing.

Your kid gets sick and everyone is all “Oh, careful you don’t get it.” What does that even mean. They will drink from your glass. They will drool on you. They will sneeze in your face, cough everywhere.

I spend six days planning what time I need to pop two Advil to go to the supermarket, cook, pick up my kid, and put him to bed without the pills’ effects having time to wear off. I eat vitamin C until my stomach issues a warning to stop.

“Do you have a fever?”someone asks.

Of course I don’t, I’ve taken so much ibuprofen that fever never even had a chance.

I cook meals that taste like nothing to me but like too much of something for everyone else. After-school cartoon marathons become the norm, as I lay under a duvet in what is still summer, surrounded by toilet paper rolls because I’ve run out of Peppa Pig tissues, which my son cuts into little pieces to make forts and blankets for his teddy. Bedtime stories are constantly interrupted by nose blowing and coughing, but as he falls asleep, I know tomorrow I will be better.

But I’m not. I begin to research strange viral outbreaks on the internet, thinking I may have missed a news story, yet nothing, so I go back under the duvet and watch a movie, simply because I cannot do anything else. Nothing.

“Are you better, mommy?” he asks today, noticing that the duvet has been replaced by a thin blanket.

“Not really, baby,” I say.

“Here, take teddy, you will feel better,” he says covering both of us with a sheet of toilet paper, intertwining his fingers with mine.

On What I Will Miss Most

September 15th, 2016 Posted by Tabula Rasa No Comment yet

As I find myself slowly waking from the stupor of early motherhood, falling into back into the rhythm of toddler-free humanity, I already know what I will miss from these exhausting, yet miraculous years.

The smell of Crayola crayons.
Soft couch pillow forts.
The pain of him running and ramming into my chest when I open the door to pick him up from preschool.
The feeling of those tiny hands wrapped around my neck, “I missed you mommy” whispers tickling my ear.
The magic of the words “disonaurs” and “sumic.”
Referring to boiling spaghetti as cooking.
Getting away with putting elastics in his hair, while accepting his refusal to get a haircut. Because it does not matter.
The freedom of things not mattering.
The sound of that pure, innocent laughter.
The awe and amazement of everything new that I see through his eyes.

There’s a reason all mothers say their kids will always be their babies; the touches, sights, sounds, and smells are so potent and powerful during the first years, they last forever.


On Praise

September 9th, 2016 Posted by Tabula Rasa No Comment yet

Imagine you’re a painter, the only painter in the world working on one specific canvas, with paints that are different to everyone else’s, a paintbrush that is like no other, and with each brushstroke, your art takes on a life of its own. Your painting is unpredictable, yet it is in your hands to make it into art.

Now imagine this painting is a child. And there you have it, parenthood.

We all know that raising a kid is challenging, demanding, and a completely different experience for each parent. It’s by far the hardest job we will ever have, because this job lasts all day, all night, for years and years, it’s never complete. We constantly feel like we are failing, doing it wrong. There is a constant feeling of incompetence, constant questioning of choices, and even the moments where we feel accomplished are soon clouded by more questions.

There are a myriad of mothers groups supporting eachother, cyber-patting eachother on the back for the amazing job we’re all doing, we all know that no parent is perfect. But I don’t think there is anything more soul-melting, encouraging, and uplifting than hearing words of praise about your kid from someone outside your immediate circle.

“He makes us laugh,” she said and went on tell the story. “He’s amazing, whatever you have done, you’ve done it right.”

Her words sounded like someone was telling me that I’ve just won a Nobel Peace Prize, saved a village of starving people somewhere in the chaos of Africa, rebuilt Aleppo, and found a cheap cure for all cancers. Now, as I write the words, I see that while they were kind and true, their meaning is nowhere near what they made me feel. They were simply what I needed to hear.

So I thank you, wonderful woman, for giving me the strength and inspiration to continue brushing color onto my unique canvas.

On the Road Ahead

September 7th, 2016 Posted by Tabula Rasa No Comment yet

A year ago, I pulled the door of my son’s preschool shut and my eyes swelled with tears of fear and pride. His first day, his first time alone. Today, I slammed that green, iron door behind me, and if it had not been raining, or if my husband hadn’t been with me, I would have torn off my clothes and run around the block screaming Aretha Franklin’s “Freedom.” Instead I drove through morning traffic, serenely, road-rage free.

Back home, I first sat on that toilet for ever, for reason other than that nobody appreciates alone time there than mothers of young children. Then I roamed the house, didn’t make the beds, didn’t do laundry, didn’t even wash the morning milk bottle. By 10.30 I thought a day had gone by, so I went to the supermarket and bought myself food, smirking at the women with toddlers in their carts demanding candy at the register.

Evil, I know.

By 2pm, my living room had turned into a jock’s paradise; an on-going brainless TV marathon, plates of half-eaten food, feet on the table, house clothes.

Pick up is an hour later this year, so by the time I got to school, I missed him more than I do when I leave for days. He didn’t run into my arms as he did every single day last year. He grabbed me by the hand and begged to stay a little longer, he wasn’t done making angels out of play dough. He’d eaten all his food, had no bathroom accidents, which still haunt me from the sudden forced potty training of last September, he wasn’t tired because it wasn’t nap time, he was simply happy. As was I. Our kids our exclusively ours for such a short period of time if you look at the grander picture.

I have a feeling that this year I will finally be human again. Not the me I was before this now three-year-old came into my life, I’m not striving for that, for I am so much more, thanks to him. But it seems like I will finally find out what else I can add on.

On When You’re So Over the Family Vacation

August 20th, 2016 Posted by Tabula Rasa No Comment yet

So there I am, legs hanging out the trunk of our car, parked on the shoulder of a national highway, looking for the grapes. I find them and wash them using a plastic bottle of water. I’m wearing normal clothes and shoes for the first time in ten days, not a cold, wet bathing suit, yet the wind and dust raised by the speeding cars disrespect that, covering my legs and feet in stains.

The first few days were magnificent, carefree, happy. For the kids. We’d gone to an island where our fiends and their kids already were. By day six, I was done. I never again wanted to change a wet bathing suit on an excited, giggly, sun-kissed child. Or a cold, tired, whiney one. Our beach towels that were originally, soft and fluffy, but has turned into a salty planks of cotton wood. Sand was everywhere, on the floor, in our beds, in the shower, in my bra. I’d dipped my head into the water a total of two times, the wind had blown and turned my hair into a artful bird nest, I knew it would remain so until my hair mask and I were reunited at home.

At least all children’s palates begged for spaghetti and rice, limiting our time in the kitchen. A few slices of cucumber and tomato, and we no longer felt like a bad parents. Soon, bedtimes became painful, pre-dawn risings even more so. On the last night, I feel asleep in a chair. A feat I had not accomplished in 40-odd years.

So on the shoulder of that highway, a highway which in many countries would be considered a side street, I was happy to wash some tiny village grapes while buses of tourists sped by. My son whined in the back seat, faster mommy, I’m hungry, I miss my friends, I want to go back to our village and swim in the sea. I handed him the fruit, dreaming of its alcohol-infused juice in the fridge at home. We drove off, and I turned back to look at him. His blond hair was blonder, longer, it covered his twinkling eyes, his white skin a light shade of bronze, his little feet kicking my seat to the rhythm of the music, while he swallowed the sweet grapes.

It was his first time, his first real summer vacation, and even though I’m over it and the next ten to come, I only hope he remembers every moment of it, because none of it, was for or about me.

On Family Vacations

August 1st, 2016 Posted by Tabula Rasa No Comment yet

I’m not sure who coined the term “family vacation,” but the word “vacation” has no business being there. Unless it is used with irony.

As August finally sets in and I prepare to embark on mine, I’m haunted by family vacations of the years passed, even though I’ve spent July in anticipation of the day, with the enthusiasm of a child waiting for Santa. You see, summer vacations are hard. And by August, any stay-at-home mom of young kids has turned into a screaming nervous wreck, an alcoholic, or both.

Three pages of my notebook are dedicated to each family member and their list of essentials. I bet you know whose is longest.

I imagine the morning when we haul what seems like half of our apartment to the car, drive away late, sweating, someone’s crying because the 30-kilo suitcase they wanted to hold on their lap in the car seat, is instead in the trunk. Two hours later, we still haven’t reached the ferry, and “are we there yet” is beginning to sound like a noise a beast out of a horror movie makes before killing its prey. On the ferry, I run around the deck. The whole way there. And five minutes before we finally reach our destination, he’s asleep.

During the family vacation, I continue to rise with the sun, grocery shop, cook, and clean. But I also go to the beach, where I dream of a day when I will immerse my entire body in the water, when I will no longer worry that someone may drown real quick, if I do. I make castles, provide snacks and towels, and discreetly pull sand and pebbles out of my bathing suit bottoms.

After bedtime, I take the stack of books that I’ve been meaning to read for three family vacations, settle in a chair, and realize I haven’t exchanged an intelligent word with the other member of our family. We bring out the wine, sometimes invite some friends, and try to pretend we are normal adults, on a normal vacation. And sometimes make it to midnight, though it’s not pretty when we do.

A week later, we’re back home, more exhausted than we were when we left. And book a vacation from the family vacation.


A Letter of Caution to my Friend who Hasn’t Seen me in Years

July 20th, 2016 Posted by Tabula Rasa No Comment yet

I’m no longer who you remember, but I’m still me.

I will try to clean up my house before I throw open my front door and welcome you inside. I might not succeed. There will be dust, there will be random clothes all over the living room. And not just my son’s. Our clothes, that we leave laying around so long, they become part of the setting. There will be pee on the toilet if you hang out long enough. And I will not be able to chatter, gossip, and catch up, for more than 30 seconds at a time, if we’re lucky. When I offer you coffee, I won’t reach for a capsule neatly arranged by the nespresso machine. I’ll have to go break one of the capsule shapes dotting the play area table. I may smell, my hair will be in pony tail, shiny streaks of white peeping through, I will try to shower before we go out.

My car is a dump of toys and crumbs, if I hadn’t washed it yesterday, you’d probably have to sit on sand. There are buckets and shovels and rakes and dump trucks that swerve around the trunk every time I turn. And I may only know two songs on the radio. I’ll take us to a restaurant that may have closed or died down three years ago, I’ll have little to say that may interest you, so I will ask a lot of questions. I’ll pull random objects out of the pockets of my jeans; twigs, candy wrappers. There will be cars and baby wipes in my bag. The only thing that may seem familiar to you, is my 11pm curfew, like the one we used to have growing up. Only tomorrow, I won’t come home and then climb out of the living room balcony, once my parents fall asleep.

We’ll laugh about our past, we’ll dwell on our present, our eyes will light up when we speak of our future, and it’ll be like you never left.

I’m no longer who you remember, but I’m still me.

On the Gift of Aloneness

July 15th, 2016 Posted by Tabula Rasa No Comment yet

I don’t remember what it felt like to be alone. To go to bed alone, to wake up alone, to make plans for the next year alone, to go to the bathroom with the door closed and alone, to spend as much money as I want, to drive to nowhere for hours, to go to bed past midnight without stressing out, to watch entire seasons of TV shows in a day.

I haven’t been alone in so long, that tonight, after putting my son to bed, I was at a loss. Having longed for an evening such as this for some time, I thought I’d do all those things I keep wanting to do. Write, read, stare at the stars, talk to friends, watch pointless television. I stood in the midst of the living room staring at the mess for a while. I cleaned it up, as usual. In the kitchen, a day’s-full of dishes begged to be put in the dishwasher, and a sweaty, smelly me needed a shower.

But wait, that’s exactly what you do every day, I said to myself. This is your chance, this is your night to be alone, to do all the things you want to do just like you used to do them. You don’t have to take a shower, wear a bra, cook tomorrow’s lunch that noone will eat. You don’t even have to write a post, because this is your alone night. You can even eat cheese curlz and drink wine out of the bottle, and nobody will know.

An hour passed. I sent an email to a friend. And here I am, writing to thousands of strangers and friends, as I do every chance I get. Because obviously, I no longer really long to be alone.

And even though I will pour the wine into a glass, I will totally devour the cheese curlz.

(Note: Husband has not deserted the family, he’s out for a drink with friends.)

On Kids’ Consumerism Disorder

July 13th, 2016 Posted by Tabula Rasa No Comment yet

While staring at the shelves of dishwasher detergent at the supermarket today, I suddenly heard the voice of my child, growing louder and louder as he approached me.
“Mommy! Look! I need this, can you buy it for me, please, can you please!”

In his hand was a rubber dog bone from the pet aisle, next to the mops and Barbies, the ones that squeak when squeezed.
When I was a kid, my parents rarely took me to the supermarket. My mom would make a list, my dad would go execute it. Sometimes we’d make it a Saturday family outing, but usually around September, when school supplies would appear in a temporary corner of the store.

And that’s just it. Toys were only available at toy stores. Presents were dreamt of for months, handwritten lists made, and on birthdays and Christmases we’d finally satisfy our most-coveted desires.

Here’s what happens today. There is junk for kids everywhere you go. I’m sure there’s a pet store somewhere that carries sugary juices or Matchbox cars. I know that all pharmacies conveniently place bowls of “Vitamin C-loaded” lollipops right at the cash register, on a shelf the height of an average five-year-old. Gyms that have pools boast a high selection of bathing suits, flip flops, fun floaters, shoes, and if there’s no pool, there are sure to be healthy shakes and breakfast bars, especially, and I stress that word, for children. The worst, here in Greece, are the kiosks, or the ‘periptera” as we call them. I think it may have very well been one of the first complex words he learnt to utter. In the good old days, they sold cigarettes and newspapers. Then some gum and candy. Then ice cream appeared. Today, they are glowing wonderlands of cheap crap, from Chinese-made miniature dinosaurs, to beach buckets, sticker books, to tiny lollipops in huge plastic eggs with minute toys inside that need tweezers and a magnifying glass to assemble. There is one by my house that has so many balls of all sizes hanging around it, you might think that there’s a mini ball factory underneath it, where troll-like creatures produce them and send them up a secret passageway all day.

I’m not one to say “yes” to every request. But there are only so many times in the week where you can go to buy milk and have it turn into a whining festival. And as the years roll by, the junk accumulates. First, you contain it, keep it segregated to a corner, then a room, then two rooms. But it’s stronger than you, and it begins to seep like a sneaky, evil flood into every corner of your house, until it makes it its own.

On Letting Go

July 11th, 2016 Posted by Tabula Rasa No Comment yet

During my pregnancy and until a few months after the birth of my son, I kept imagining and planning what kind of parent I was going to be, what norms and customs I’d bring him up with, what our family traditions would be. My biggest obsession was mealtime. At least once a day, my husband, our son and I, would sit down around the kitchen table and eat.

Three years later, I’ve finally let go of this vision. For simple reasons. First of all, we didn’t even have a kitchen table when Stef was born. Second, Dad works late, he always has. Third, babies and toddlers do not want to hang out at the dinner table. Mine doesn’t even want to have dinner. Or lunch. Or breakfast.

I started off by trying to eat breakfast with him, back when he ate. The problem there was that as an early riser, his breakfast was at 7.30am. I was never hungry. Lunch was at noon, so before I knew it, I was wolfing down platefuls of spaghetti; the quickest thing to make, while stuffing organic mushed veggies into his mouth, the mixture of which, I’d slaved over for hours the night before. By dinner and the bedtime ritual, the three family meals that I so longed for, where checked off my must-do list, though I was more exhausted from the stress than I would have been, had I decided to release control.

And then, shock of all shocks, he went on a hunger strike, eating nothing but bananas for six months. I still refused to let go. And the delusional behavior went on, until I recently realized that my obsession is just an illusion. I was raised in a household obsessed with rigid family meals. I hated them.

Everything we imagine as new parents is an illusion. Ninety nine percent of it flies out the window the minute they start to crawl/walk/talk. It’s like planning for the unknown. The last one percent, we continue to hold onto, as if it’s our last chance at survival, when all it really is, is our natural desire to have some form of control in this new world disorder.

I let it go. What he eats, how much he eats, how many times he eats, who he eats with. He knows that there’s a lunchtime, he knows pasta and rice aren’t to be eaten exclusively forever, he knows Daddy isn’t home at lunchtime, and he knows that he can bring Teddy, monster trucks, and Legos to the table on Saturday and Sunday, climb into his high chair and eat spaghetti with his hands. I’ve done all that. And now he’s free. And so am I.

Pieces: a novel

“Pieces” is the winner of the silver medal at the 2017 Independent Publishers Awards (IPPY), and a finalist at the USA Best Book Awards and International Book Awards.

When Clouds Embrace: a children's book

All proceeds from the sales of "When Clouds Embrace" will go to Giving for Greece, a foundation that works to help the hundreds of unaccompanied refugee minors in Greece.