Posts tagged " parenthood "

On a Happy Place

June 23rd, 2017 Posted by Tabula Rasa No Comment yet

When I was seven, my mom led me into the classroom in my new school. In a new country. I sat down at the desk assigned to me, next to a boy who is my friend to this very day. My knowledge of English was limited to “hello,” so I said it to him, almost in slow motion, with a heavy Russian accent. “Toilet” was the other word I knew, and even though I had to pee, I decided to save it for later.

It was a dark, cloudy September day, the classroom was in the basement, our desks a worn pistachio green, the light yellow, electric. Pine trees outside swayed to the early autumn tune of the breeze.

I wasn’t scared.

My mom was. She stood outside the old door, staring into its little window. She left when she saw my “hello,” knowing it was her cue, leaving me to figure out my new world on my own, even though all she wanted to do was stay and help me.

Now, it’s my turn.

I know I’m not alone, I see other moms of young kids who just either “graduated” nursery or kindergarten, panicking about how in a couple of months their munchkins will find themselves outside their comfort zone in a new school, a new classroom, surrounded by people they don’t know, just when they’d finally fallen into the comfort of their happy place. My son’s little school closed its doors today, forever. Stricken by the financial crisis, they opted to retire. Two years ago, I had walked into this place, my second stop in what I thought would be an endless road of research, and knew that it was it. It was the place where my barely two-and-a-half year old would never wear a diaper again, where he’d meet his first best friend, where he’d have his first fight, heartbreak, glorious laugh, where he’d learn his first letters and numbers, where he’d spell the “S” in his name backwards with a red marker over and over again on both sides of a piece of paper. It was the place that became the center of my daily social life, because come on people, we all know that moms of young kids can’t make it outside their homes past nine o’clock, especially on school nights. It’s was the place that I learned to trust strangers, to listen to them praise or criticize my son, it was the place that embraced him every morning for two years. It was his happy place, mine too, our safe place.

The thought of him getting off a bus and walking into a school ten times the size, terrified me at first. I almost started googling articles about how to help your kid deal with the change. But I didn’t. Because I don’t have to. None of us have to. They’re kids, they’re resilient, they adapt. I was the only one in the car crying today, as we drove away for the last time. He was laughing, bouncing his red balloon on the closed window and asking for ice cream. He’s not afraid of going to his new big school. I was. And if I made it through the day with a “hello,” anyone in his place can make it with a “hi.” He’s only four. It’s just the beginning. There will be more happy places.

“Mommy, why are you crying?” he asks, giving the balloon a hug.

“I’m excited,” I reply.

On the First Year, and all Thereafter

October 25th, 2016 Posted by Tabula Rasa No Comment yet

For the first couple of years after becoming mothers, most women want to annihilate their partners. I see you, I hear you, I was you. There you were, single and free, thinking your body would defy gravity forever. You met him, feel in love, traveled, danced and drank, walked down the aisle, and got pregnant. When he held baby and then your hand, you were convinced that you’d love them both forever, with the exact magnitude of that priceless moment. Spoiler alert. Hormones may as well be drugs.

A few months and very few hours of sleep later, you still love your baby in that exact way, but you no longer know who this guy in the house is. Gone is the freedom, the good times, the romance. You’ve forgotten what a cuddle, a conversation, and laughter about anything but baby’s cute smile feel like. You wish he had breasts instead of you, you wish he was on maternity leave while you got to wear normal clothes and talk to other adults all day, you wish the bundle of joy could need daddy more than you for just one moment. And you definitely don’t want this dude to touch you after you’ve had baby hanging off you forever.

Time goes by, things become a different kind of hard, baby grows, maybe even wants daddy for a minute a day. But you still resent him, because its become the norm, because you’ve keep waiting for things to go back to they way they were, and they simply are not. And while undoubtably the first years are at times unbearable and impossible for mothers, they are also so for our partners. Just in a different way. We know why we no longer want them to touch us, why everything they do can annoy us, why we just want to throw baby at them and run out the door every now and then. But they do not. You need to tell them. And it’s not even their fault.

Eventually baby becomes child, you find yourself able to do all the normal things you used to do. But most of these things you no longer want to do, their appeal has slowly faded into oblivion, and you realize you’ve been holding onto something that is no longer there. Then you look at this almost-stranger that sits next to you, remote control in hand, and suddenly see that making it through the first years of parenthood, is by far a greater memory to hold onto than any dance under the stars. No, nothing is the same again, but you’re both still there, side by side. Always, remember, that is something you did together.

(I have been stereotypical for reasons no other than to get my point across. I realize that there are exceptions to everything and everyone.)

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 Carefree Vacations

March 28th, 2016 Posted by Tabula Rasa No Comment yet

I’ve dared to go on vacation three times since my son was born. By vacation I don’t mean my husband and I carousing around the streets of a foreign city, sleeping till noon, laying on a beach with a book in hand. I mean those vacations that we take with our young children. The ones where you come back completely exhausted, with a constant ringing noise in your head, and at least five sudden loads of laundry to add to the other existing five. The ones where you’ve spent hours trying to convince your child that restaurants are for eating and chairs are for sitting and that mommy, like all others, needs to eat, not run to the neighboring playground for five minutes every five minutes, while stuffing a piece of bread in her mouth. The ones where the beach becomes a crossfit class; dig sand, haul water, make a castle, carry 45-pound toddlers into the water, swim with them on your back or around your neck, haul them back out of the water. Pick up wet sandy towels, pack them in a bag, carry toddler through sand because you can’t bear cleaning the scary, yucky sand full of critters off his feet one more time. The vacations that by the time the sun sets and the wine comes out, you have to decide whether you should put on your pyjamas and brush your teeth before you have a glass in case of sudden sleep. Yes, sudden sleep, it can happen anywhere, anytime. The ones where your husband finally gets a word in because the kids are asleep, touches your hand and your immediate reaction is to violently slap it away, because if anyone touches you again before tomorrow morning, you will scream. The ones where you’re woken in the middle of the night to go play because someone is so excited to be in new surroundings, where this someone goes and wakes up everyone else in the house after you ignore them, including the poor couple that came along with you, babies, possible neighbors, dogs, donkeys, you name it, it’s woken. And then a day starts all over again.

“Family friendly,” the ads to hotels and rentals say. There is no such thing. There’s always a cliff, a thorn, a huge spider, a dock, a tall bed, a deep sea, a something. But hey, when you’re home and almost back to normal state of exhaustion a week or so later, think back, look at the pictures of their smiling faces, fascinated by the cricket they saw, the little fish in the water, the sunrise they watched in your arms. Try not to etch all these images into your mind, for soon they will be gone, and you’ll be begging for just one more family vacation.

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.