Posts tagged " parenting "

On not my Mother’s Day

May 14th, 2017 Posted by Tabula Rasa 1 comment

I’ve never been one for showering my mom with flowers on Mother’s Day, probably because she barely cares about Christmas, let alone Hallmark holidays. But ever since I son was born, my perspective has shifted. I feel entitled to a mother’s day. Probably more than once a year.

I imagine that all the moms reading this are sitting in a room with me and I ask you all, how many are feeling blessed, rested, happy, and fulfilled right now? Show of hands.

Then I ask you, who here is feeling exhausted, frustrated, who is trying to hold on to the few moments of this day that made it special just because if you don’t hold on to them, you will have a breakdown? How many forgot it’s Mother’s Day? How many have young kids who have no idea what it even is? And how many have non-Americanized and Hallmark-ized husbands who thought today was like any other Sunday and acted accordingly?

I’m guessing the show of hands would grow exponentially to the last four questions. Hashtag all you want, but unless you have caring teenagers in your house, we all know it’s not real. And it shouldn’t be.

We’re sold this nonsense of sleeping in, breakfasts in bed, family brunches, bouquets of flowers, mani pedis, massages, and what have you. And even if we don’t believe in any of this gibberish, the lack of it, or the failure of the perfect materialization of the image, affects us on this fake day. If my kid brought me breakfast in bed, I promise you, I’d end up having to do laundry two minutes later. Sleeping in? We all know that fairytale all too well.

But what if you’d woken up today without expectations? What if Mother’s Day was about actual mothers, as the name of the day suggests. As it was first envisioned by it’s founder, Anna Jarvis, who devoted her adult life to making it a national holiday in the United States. Her passion was fuelled by the loss of her mother at the age of 40, and she fought its almost immediate commercialization in the very turn of the 20th Century. She died alone, blind and childless. It was all for her deceased mom. No flowers, no eggs benedict, no hugs and pats on the back, maybe just a couple of mimosas.

I put my kid to bed, TGIM tomorrow flashes constantly in my mind, take a photo of the card he made me at school, to use with this post, his little handprints, in red paint, cover the two sides of a white heart. I pour a glass of wine, grab my laptop, and walk out onto the balcony. The sun is setting, and the sky is a rainbow, unlike any I have seen before; dark grey, light grey, dirty blue, bright pink, orange, burgundy, then blue. My camera refuses to capture its beauty, as if telling me that life isn’t meant to be shot and posted somewhere for everyone to see. It’s fluid, it’s ugly, it’s breathtaking, it’s unpredictable, uncontrollable, it takes us by surprise when we least expect it; as is motherhood, as are we, as are our mothers, and the mothers before them. We are not perfect rainbows in a bright blue sky.

Happy Sunday to all you blasts of color. Above all, to mine.

Next year, I’m renting a minivan and taking all my sister moms to a 10-hour, kids and dads-free lunch.

On Getting It

November 23rd, 2016 Posted by Tabula Rasa No Comment yet

I just made a stir fry that puts the world’s worst cook to shame. And I cook well. Yesterday, I burnt my son’s rice, threw it away, put on another batch and forgot to add water. I threw my phone into the kitchen garbage and spent half an hour calling myself, hearing it ring, unable to find it, crawling around the floor as if it could be was under the floorboards. I put a pack of spaghetti in the fridge. I’ve forgotten to take a shower, until it’s so late, I can barely move.

You see, I, a full-time mom, got a part-time job.

After four years of doing little else but tending to my one bundle of joy, I had it all figured out. The day-to-day part at least. Somewhere in year three: enter feelings of uselessness, boredom, resentment, lack of intellectual stimulation. See, no matter how rewarding it is to be a stay-at-home mom, I was always something else before that. I talked to people with a vocabulary of over 50 words, I created, I learned, I got paid. I longed to regain that part of myself. And then I did.

I’m not that far along, but the difference in me is tremendous. I don’t complain about waking up at the crack of dawn, after all, it’s the only time to shower. I miss my son, I can’t wait to go pick him up from school to go collect acorns and snail shells. I don’t get angry when he whines, because he rarely does, bouncing off my positive energy. Kids do that. I read bedtime stories with the dramatic capabilities of a Broadway star. The house is a mess, the fridge holds the bare essentials (milk and wine), and my personal hygiene is that of a single mother with newborn triplets. But I catch myself smiling. I hear myself breathing. I see myself finding time for things I didn’t have time for before, worn down by my lethargy.

I don’t go to an office, I work from home, but I bought a pair of black dress pants. Just because, maybe, I’ll need to wear something without holes or I’ll need to go somewhere where jeans and sweats are frowned upon. Or maybe I’ll put them on and sit on my kitchen floor writing, keeping an eye on the oven cooking my baby’s school lunch for the next three days.

This being a woman thing, is a complicated matter. But while writing this, I successfully followed the boiling instructions on a pack of noodles: boil for 4 minutes.

I’ve got this.


On When it Gets Easier

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

There is a mother of a newborn on the beach, her sunbed is next to mine, she is skinny, nervous, exhausted. Her husband had taken the infant to sit on the warm sand just a few meters away. She keeps getting up, running over there, coming back. They change the baby’s diaper three times in half an hour.

I try to read, my three year old is playing with daddy in the water, but I can’t concentrate, her stress is bringing back memories of the first months.

Motherhood comes less naturally to some of us. It takes us longer than others to get used to living for another soul, to become selfless, to learn to parent without constant stress, to learn to embrace what we’ve created.

“Excuse me, is it ok if I put this here, there is no shade anywhere else,” she mumbles. It takes me a few seconds to register that she is speaking English, pushing the stroller through the sand.

“Of course,” I say, trying to make more room for her on the crowded beach.
“I feel like I’m invading your space,” she says. “This is Greece in August; there is no personal space,” I smile. The look in her eyes is lost, speedy, she struggles to place the stroller in the perfect spot as her husband places the baby inside.

“Don’t worry, I remember how it is all too well,” I tell her.

“Oh, good, I suddenly don’t feel so alone,” she says.

She pauses, takes a step back, “Does it get easier? Please tell me it gets easier.”

I want to laugh, at myself mostly, having asked that question so many times. I know I should tell her it just gets a different kind of hard.

“It does,” I say instead. “I promise you, it does.”

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.

On a Hard Day

July 6th, 2016 Posted by Tabula Rasa No Comment yet

Today I understood why some stay-at-home moms start drinking wine at noon, pop pills, or smoke pot. There are days when all three are necessary. It’s not the first time I had the desire to indulge in noise and feeling-numbing drugs in the middle of the day. Sometimes you’ve heard the word “mom” so many times that you think the voice is not that of your child but of an evil warrior who is actually saying “die woman,” while you stand trembling in a corner of a dusty, dark cave. Sometimes the sound of their cries and whines sound like exploding bombs parallel to bad quality techno music blasting on bad speakers. Sometimes an hour feels like a day, and you find yourself changing batteries on the kitchen clock and restarting your phone just to make sure it hasn’t been a day. On a day such as this, you’re always alone, there’s no one to talk to, nobody even cares. The amount of energy you’ve spent on trying to stay calm and controlled can power a city. And sometimes, this day just never ends. Until it does. But you can no longer see, hear or think.

There’s no happy ending in this rant, no reflective positive thought, just a deep breath and a personal plea to whatever you do or don’t believe in, for tomorrow to be different. Cheers.

To the Parents of the Next Possible Gunman who Goes on a Shooting Rampage

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

I know, it’s probably not your fault. We can’t be perfect parents. Ordinary Americans do not have the power to enforce strict gun laws. Many don’t want to.

But please, don’t let your child kill mine.

In Orlando, it was an enraged lunatic, an adult. He killed adults. But he’s someone’s son. His father said he did not know why he had so much rage inside him.

Lets not raise anymore people like him.

Educate your children. Even if all you are able to do is read to them at the kitchen table, under a tree, once a week. Teach them what good means. Surround them by people of other races, with other beliefs, and do not make them believe that god is God. We need to stop dying for religion.

Listen when they speak, from the very first word they utter as toddlers and never stop. And when you see that they are tilting off the rails, help them. Get them help. It’s your job.

Fight for gun control, no matter how feeble you think your effort is. At the rate it’s going, there are exponential numbers of parents who have lost their children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews. Fight for the 49 people that fell to their death at a club on a Saturday night, for all the children and teachers that died in the safety of their schools, for the endless innocent victims daily killings across the nation. Everyone is somebody’s child. It’s our responsibility to make this world a place they can explore, learn, love, unhindered by fear. Ignorance breeds the likes of the man that blindly kills in the name of an organization he’s not even part of.

Start now, because soon, the words “murder,” “massacre,” and “tragedy” will lose the essence of their meaning, become flat, banal. And that will be the truest tragedy of all.

On Social Events

May 29th, 2016 Posted by Tabula Rasa No Comment yet

I used to be a socially cultured, mannered, and well-behaved woman. Extremely. And I say this with complete and utter confidence.

Then I had a child.

Last week, I attended a work-related sit-down dinner with my husband. My biggest concern prior to the event, was whether I can take the pain of walking in heels from the car to my chair, and back. Having decided that I could not, I stowed away a pair of flip flops in my bag, just in case the bathroom was more than three steps away from our table, but ended up being brave, and leaving them in the car. I tried on clothes for days, making sure I don’t look like a soccer mom in heels or a fashion victim of the late 00’s.

It turned out that shoes and dresses were not my problem.

I’ve been eating standing up for the past three years, out of a pot or the fridge. That night, when confronted by a bread plate, I chose not to touch the bread until the person next to me touched his, making it clear for me that mine was on the left, not on the right . Sometimes I eat with a clean fork, but most of the time with whatever cutlery I find lying around. Most of the time it’s plastic. I also use my hands a lot. Thankfully, the forks and knives are still arranged in the order of courses served, so that went smoothly. Unthankfully, not everyone at these events is as exhausted and excited as I am to be there, hence they do not place their elbows on the table and lean in to look around at everyone else while they are being seated. They also do not talk loudly prior to the third glass of champagne.

Champagne. It’s meant to be sipped not gulped. I remembered that. But the habit of swallowing quickly, is hard to break. You never know when you will be interrupted.

“Oh, sweetie! A fish fork!” I exclaimed with the arrival of course two. “My mom used to make us eat with these when we were kids! We need to get us some!”

My cool husband did NOT immediately make up an excuse to go sit elsewhere, instead he calmly informed me that we actually have some.

“Where? We must take them out!”

Three bathroom visits later, (champagne makes you pee), balls of my feet two burning coals, I showed pictures of my son to a complete stranger.

Outdoors for cocktails we go, I plop down on the nearest pillow, thankfully I was wearing pants, because leg-crossing is also an effort of the past, and start a conversation with an almost-stranger, about wine, schools, my past employment, what our common acquaintances are doing now, my son, of course, until luckily for the man that got two words in, it was time for bathroom visit number four and all I could think about were the flip flops in the car. And my bed.

On Scary Places

March 22nd, 2016 Posted by Tabula Rasa No Comment yet

My son’s best friend at preschool bit him. Twice. There is a tooth mark of blood underneath the skin where his bicep will show one day. She cried after being scolded, he stroked her cheek and said “don’t cry.”

Preschools are scary places, jungles where manners, empathy, and kindness are mostly concepts of the future. Kids are mean, we all know that, we all have our heap of terrible stories to recite from our past. I know I do. But suddenly I find myself back in that scary place, only it’s worse, because I realize that I have to relive over a decade of it through my son’s eyes.

Before bed tonight, he told me that he (of course) doesn’t want to go to school again, because he doesn’t have any friends. He described who plays with whom, assuming that there is no room for him, that all friends are taken, how after lunch instead of playing with his best friend he played alone. I stupidly told him a story about how when mommy was small, a girl pulled her hair on the bus and made her cry, but after that the two became lifelong friends. He put his teddy to his face and began to cry. I told him that sometimes good people do bad things, that things like this will happen, but to think of all the good things that occur instead.

How do you explain a three-year-old that the world can be a scary place? That not everyone is nice? That kids hit, push, bite, steal, lie? That adults do too. Maybe by only by concentrating on the positive; telling him about love, compassion, beauty, knowledge, laughter, stories, adventures, flowers, trees, the sky, the sea, the wind, reminding him how happy he was when he brought me a flower this afternoon, how warm he is right now, under the covers, mommy next to him, how happy he’ll be to see daddy’s face next to him in the morning. And then, hope that the good in his life, outnumbers the bad.

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.