You Dont Have To Love Me Because I Do

I want to talk about myself today. But isn’t that what you do every day? you wonder. Yeah, I do. But this time I don’t want to hide behind my children or some other seemingly salient topic. “Me” I am important. Don’t you think? Well, I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t think so, but if you knew me you might kind of agree, or not. A solid NO is a real possibility also. I don’t think I’m a terrible human being though. I was just sitting here not feeling so great about myself, and then I started contemplating…why? Why do I feel the way I do right now? What have I done that is so terrible? My kids hate me. They don’t always. But their words have started to sting. My strategy with it is to go the opposite direction to what my parents and other elders did when I broke, and said something mean to them as a child and young adult. It was lecture time for me, I got grounded a lot. A lot of weird punishments were given out that I don’t want to get into right now because I feel bad enough about myself as it is. I just smile, give them a hug, and say well I love you more than the sun, the stars, the moon, and everything in between. I’m, they’re going to be a unique kind of messed up.

I feel something is broken, and bleeding inside you, when you’re being mean to someone else. I want to teach them to love people when they are hurting. To know the difference between pain and anger inside them. I want them to know that it’s okay to hurt but it’s not okay to hurt others. But enough about them. As a tween or teen, however, lectures fell on deaf ears. I do remember them now. It’s like they got stored for later use.

Here I am decades later reminded of how unhinged, and purposeless adults in my life thought I was. I think and always thought I’m an awesome person. Somehow, somewhere that little prick in my heart stops my awesomeness from spilling out completely. My confidence, and that spring in my step is a tiny bit less springy because I remember someone always saying: ”you’re too old to get this excited about this trivial thing”. Somehow my laugh is a little quieter every time I find something funny because I remember being told again and again that I need to grow up. But hey the story is not all gloom and doom because grow up I did not, I still think Disney World is the best place on earth. I believe all the Marvel superheroes will come back to life, or my son is already working on ’another earth’ I bet everyone is alive in it, I’ll just move there.

Every time I hear I’m not responsible enough, I look at these two human beings that I have carried inside me that I am a 100 % responsible for educating, feeding, training into being functioning people all the while running a household, and working. I just moved countries, I am in the middle of setting up another household while keeping the children alive, well fed. I’m also in the middle of helping them through their emotional, and physical transition. They are about to start a new school, and I am fully aware that this is just the tip of the iceberg. To be fair I should say WE are moving because my husband is obviously a BIG part of this process. I’m definitely not alone in this. However, sometimes I am alone. He goes out of town for weeks, even months. That’s cool though. We have a system. It works.

Me and one of my many beautiful nieces.

What’s that system? I’m freakin’ responsible!

Do you want to know something even more interesting? When people want something done on time and correctly, they come to me. When people want the truth, they come to me. No games, it’s tried and tested.

Then why am I told again and again that I’m not responsible? Or that I need to grow up? And why I think twice about being proud of who I am? And who I have made of myself?

Because I don’t apologize for my weaknesses. Because I don’t shy away from that child inside me who wants to come out to play every now and again.

Because I’m not afraid to make mistakes.

Because I’m not afraid to speak my truth.

I am not perfect and that’s okay.

Because of the tasks I’m supposed to accomplish will not be perfect or up to other’s standards and that’s okay too.

This can be scary, but that’s okay too.

Everybody doesn’t have to like me, as long as I like me that’s good enough.

Basically: I am not perfect by any means. I am enough.

Also, can I tell you something that you may have not thought about in a while because not everyone is as self-absorbed as I am: you are enough too.

The Coin And The Wait Game

My son and I always fight about this coin. He’s obsessed with it, and I won’t let him have it. It’s a souvenir from Italy. It has meaning for me. He just wants it because he likes to collect coins and this one is unique. It’s big, and different. He keeps asking, ”why can’t I have this one? What’s special about this one?” I have explained to him why not. His answer is always the same. ”Give me this one, when we go next time you can get yourself another one just like it. You know I’ll keep it safe.”

He knows I know that. He will keep it safe. However, he is only 6. He doesn’t really understand that I can’t just hand him a souvenir.

MY souvenir. He has plenty of his own. We always buy them tiny tokens from places that we visit with them so they remember. They come back and decorate them on the highest shelves in their rooms so they or their friends can’t get to them. Those things are off limits. So I am sure he will keep it safe. But it won’t be mine anymore. He has a huge coin collection hidden somewhere in his room. I don’t know if this coin will have the honor of his shelf or his collection. Both I know it will be just as beloved to him.

Then I hear things like, ” you’re not giving it to me, that means you love the coin more than me. And I know you love me a lot. So exactly HOW MUCH do you love that coin?” Yup. You really have to give yourself a few seconds before answering these doozies.

This same boy who was questioning our love over a coin brought me some sticks from school one day because he knew I like sticks. The story goes that I bought some colored sticks on Etsy as decoration. They are still in my house in a vase. He asked a lot of questions about those. I told them how I think they were made. Just some branches broken off some trees and spray painted, I told him.

So one day he collected some tiny branches and brought home for me, “I got these for you.” Unsure of the purpose I said, “why?” He said “because you like sticks. I collected these from school.” They’ve been sitting in my nightstand drawer since that day. I’m not sure about liking sticks, but I certainly like those sticks.

Here we are fighting over this coin, though. He’s most likely not going to stop asking, he’s more stubborn than I am. At some point, I’ll give in because the boy did collect branches from some random location for me. They are worth more than the coin.

That day is not today. I’ll keep it until he realizes what this coin is for, and why it’s important. When history becomes a little bit more important to him. Right now he just wants it because it’s big, and catches the eye. He wants it even more because I won’t let him have it.

In the 6 years he’s been alive there aren’t many things he hasn’t gotten that he has wanted. Anyone who has said to me, teach your children the value of money and tell them what it means to be responsible for what they own because it’s important to know what it means to be the lucky few who have everything they want, my response? Of course, they know. I teach them. I make sure they understand. I don’t buy them expensive stuff. There are rules for going to the store. One toy. There’s a price range depending on what country we are in.

Yet, here we are.

He wants a souvenir he doesn’t understand, expensive, and almost priceless and I am not able to make him understand. My excuse? “This is a different case”.

Just like that case was different when I bought him the extra set of dinosaurs because he wanted to make a dinosaur land because that was a “learning project”.

And then that case was different because the younger one couldn’t make a whole farm with his Magna-tiles so I bought him another set. That’s a mind stimulate activity, right?

I don’t regret those decisions, I do regret being a hypocrite though. I know I’ll continue to say I teach them the value of a dollar because in a way I do. They don’t buy expensive toys or more than one toy at a time. Now if only I could learn it myself, and teach them by example as well.

The Only Place I couldn’t Drive Doesn’t Exist Anymore

**Disclaimer: This is not a judgment on the land itself. It is merely an account of a resident, an outsider, someone who wishes things were different. Better. **

Did y’all hear? Women in Saudia Arabia can drive now. Yeah, isn’t it the best? Did you also hear that we are moving out of here? People say, ”oh now that things are getting better you are leaving? What terrible timing.” Oh, but it’s not you see. There is no bad time to move out of a place that has just “given” women the “right” to drive. It’s 2018, things are changing. Everyone is so excited for the brave new world that is about to come our way as women living in Saudia Arabia. I’m sorry but I thought I was born with those “rights”.

I sort of understand the excitement over it and I sort of don’t. For all of us who had to wait for a big strong man to be free from his important works to come to our aid to take us to the pharmacy so we could buy our… You know…womanly things…because, how else?…or food to feed our children (also his children) because how else? Seriously. Because how else? This was meant to be sarcastic but in our good old Saudi, HOW. THE. HELL. ELSE? Unless you can afford a chauffeur, which is not practical for everyone.

So, yeah I get the excitement on some level. What I don’t get is getting on the bandwagon of ”woman empowerment” while taking away these powers in the name of religion/culture/custom what have you, and then giving it back in the name of the same religion and or culture.

Let me try to explain my crazy train of a thought process; When this ban was executed decades ago it was in the name of religion/custom/culture if you will. Maybe, even all of the above. That’s not the Muslim tradition. One cleric even went as far as to bring science into it by saying that ”driving could affect a woman’s fertility and ovaries”, just as recently as 2013.

Somehow I don’t feel like this one can be chalked up as a small victory. We didn’t achieve it, the powers that be around here decided it was time to grant us this privilege. Again, something that’s not a privilege at all but a basic human right, to be able to travel by any means available. Seems pretty simple, doesn’t it?

Those same people that are granting these great permissions to do great things like getting behind the wheels of monstrous beasts still haven’t allowed us to do many things that in every other country are considered everyday business.

Women in Saudia Arabia need permission from their male guardians to work, study, and in some cases even travel, also start a business. The last one might be on its way to change but this kind of news travels slowly here so still working on confirmation on that one.

We can’t have our own bank accounts. We can have a joint account with a male guardian but not our account by ourselves.

I’m sure most of you are aware that there is a strict rule that women have to wear a long dress before leaving the house. Ideally, it should be black, but it’s a progressive country, they tolerate subtle color deviations. Men have no such restrictions. Here’s the deal; I’ll be completely transparent with you. I’m a Muslim. I live by certain rules. I follow a certain dress code myself. Also, not everyone is a Muslim. Not everyone should be forced to dress in the same way. Let me rephrase that. Not all women should be forced to dress in in the same way because men are not forced to dress the same, and rightly so. I know I have said this before, it’s important so I’ll say it again; I wouldn’t want anyone to force the scarf off my head, and I hate to see anything being forced on anyone by people who claim to be the keepers of my religion.

Let’s talk about shopping. We don’t get any fitting/dressing rooms. There’s one for men. There’s one for kids. None for females. Yes. Nowhere. Not in any stores, any malls.

And here’s the best one; women got the right to vote in 2015 in some places. It’s a monarchy, but they have municipal elections in some cities. Saudi women can vote in some of the areas, still not everywhere elections are held.

Here’s where my train is headed; this whole driving thing might be a step in the right direction but it’s not for the right reasons, and it’s not even a dent in Women’s rights or empowerment. It has nothing to do with religion or culture because the definition of that changes by the minute. The God I believe in doesn’t put chains on half of the creation ”as needed” to empower the other half.

Did I mention we’re moving?

The Travel Story

Both of my kids are watching the same cartoon on the plane. They are sitting one seat apart. I’m sitting in the middle. They have their headphones on. Since they are watching the same thing it is extremely important for them to discuss what they are watching. BTW they made sure that they started at the same time so they could talk to each other about it. That’s investment in Micky Mouse Clubhouse. Since their headphones are on, every time they want to communicate with one another they lean in and then scream at the top of their lungs. Because…ya know…headphones. I have explained a few times about how it works. That they can use their normal voices. If only. If only we lived in a world where everything was understood after being explained JUST a few times. Every time they scream people look around to see where the sounds are coming from, so first they look at the kids then they look at me in disdain. I wonder what they are thinking I should be doing? Yelling at them to keep them quiet? Wouldn’t that make my voice louder and even more of a nuisance to people? What else? Explain to them what’s what? Already tried that. Failed. Bribe them? Every second of this trip dude! Every freakin second. What little peace you do witness, it’s because of all the bribes. The burden is heavy my friends. What’s left? Threaten them? The whales and threats back will be way more obnoxious and ridiculous than whatever you think happening right now. At least right now you get pleasant sounds, discussions about happy animals and rainbows.

So you see I’m out of options. I know we’re confined in a small space. I know you are tired and you want them to shut up. Believe

me, I understand. No one understands more than me. No one wants them to shut up more than me. Don’t get me wrong, I love their little conversations with one another but I don’t like it when people around them give them dirty looks for just talking to each other. Some people have gone as far as to “shush” them. Let me also remind everyone that this talking is not constant. They are mostly busy watching. Once every 10-15 minutes they exchange a few sentences. You would think I’m making this whole thing up because I have writer’s block and I can’t think of good ideas. That could be it, OR people have completely become insensitive. If it’s inconvenient for them then that’s it. Other people’s don’t matter much. Which one seems more realistic? …right? Pretty obvious.

To give you another example; we were on the Escalator when a lady’s bag got stuck right when she was getting off. My kids were right behind her. It wasn’t really her fault but my son could t stop in time, and bumped into her. I grabbed him but only so he wouldn’t fall face down. Wasn’t really concerned that he bumped into someone in that particular scenario. She turned around, and gave me a glare and then said, “can you control him?” all the while we are still stuck on the belt behind her. She stays there *longer* just to yell at me. The kids and I were kinda doing cardio while she was having a conversation with us because she was off the belt and we were still stuck behind her bag. No woman, I cannot control a child on a moving belt any more than I can control your tongue that’s spewing words it shouldn’t.

Why is it that our heart is only soft for those that are from within us? Because if you think about it really hard there was a time when we all came from one only one place. Just because we have spread out we think we are not from within each other. The truth is if we let one part of ourselves hurt and bleed, we can be sure that someday we will feel the pain in other parts of us that we will not be able to ignore.

The Untapped Beauty Of The Unseen

So, it turns out that this parenting thing is never-ending. We don’t get to take a break from it. I mean, yeah we get to hide in our rooms and eat candy or watch shows after the kids go to bed, but not a real break. We don’t get to say, “okay done. No more training for some time. No more teaching them things. They will learn whatever lesson from this event, and I don’t much care.”

Life of a parent, right? If only we had this much cowardliness in us to think something like that, and sleep peacefully through the night.

Gosh, it takes me so long to get to my point, doesn’t it? Anyway, Ramadan is upon us. The most blessed month for us. In this month I feel the most guilt. There are many reasons for that. Some I have discussed before. Some I’ll discuss in the future I’m sure. One of them is my kids. They are young. You see all these pictures on Facebook, and Instagram of decorated houses and Ramadan related projects, and I wonder HOW do you get your little tiny child to do that? Did you sit, and do this project with them? Because I can’t convince them to write a simple sentence let alone do a huge Arts and Crafts project on command. They know what month it is. They know what it means. We talk about it every day. We do Iftar (breaking the fast) together. However, we have not decorated the house. We have not had lengthy lectures. It’s the same old, same old in our house: the kids wake up, they get ready for school, go to school, come home, play, fight, eat, play, fight some more, have Iftar, talk about stuff, eat, sleep. That’s really all. The only difference in their routine is the time we sit down to break the fast. We pray, eat, talk. Sometimes they help me prepare the food we are going to eat. That’s also our time to discuss the month. What it means, why it’s special, and why we need to do special things during this month.

These days we’re taking kindness out for a spin. Wherever you go, spread kindness. I keep reminding them. We shall see the results.

I was feeling disappointed in my efforts as a mom, as a Muslim mom specifically who is supposed to help her kids learn. I had started to think what good are these deeds of the week even? They are tiny little boys. How much difference are they really making? What am I changing in their lives? Pretty disappointed in myself, and to be honest even in my children. I know we are always supposed to say that we are proud of our kids but let’s be honest, there are times that we are not. Mostly those are our own shortcomings. It’s easier to make it about them. Also, I was very tired. Every tired parent is disappointed and upset at their children.

That night I was leaving one of my kids’ room when I saw this on his board.

It’s a card for Ramadan, welcoming Ramadan. They both made one. They were waiting for me to help them write ”Welcome Ramadan”. Changes so much. A small thing changes so much.

I wanted to know more. This was not a talk I was having with them. This was a talk they were having with me. They told me everything that was fun about this month and decided to write it on the back of the card.

Decorations were never the point. Arts and crafts were never the point either. I’m never going to be that kind of parent. I can provide the supplies but actually making or doing these things is not really my style.

When it comes to caring about religion or even people and events, in general, I don’t believe in relying on decorations and projects to get children excited. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that method. If that is what works for a family, that’s great. In fact, I’m not above trying new and different things myself. I might have tried something like it myself if I had not seen the connection I saw.

What I saw was that the connection was there because the kids saw it in us. Sometimes one of them wakes up in the middle of the night and comes looking for us, he asks why we are up, praying in the middle of the night. I explain. They see the differences without the differences being shoved in their faces. They make that connection without us forcing it on them. When it comes naturally it’s a much more beautiful thing. When they run to hear the adhaan so they can sit down together with us and make duaa (prayer) that is so much better than if I was having to put up things they could see and touch and were beautiful to look at. After all, we are asking them to believe in something that can’t be seen and touched. This whole month, everything surrounding it is about believing, and having faith in that which is not tangible. When that faith is blossoming young it is a beautiful thing.

Now, I am not feeling so bad about myself because I see that something has been stirred inside them. And I don’t shy away from taking credit for bringing out the beauty of our world.

Happy Birthday

Today is my younger one’s birthday. Before today I didn’t even notice their birthdays. They came and went. I didn’t ignore them on purpose. Honestly, I was kind of glad that it was going unnoticed. I was also kind of glad that I didn’t have to do the extra work that would come my way if they did start to notice. Then it did happen. They started noticing, getting invited to birthday parties and people started wishing them happy birthday. At first I thought I’ll keep the game plan as it always was, ignore and conquer. That’s what we widely are known for as parents. We also run the risk of becoming the evil ones who ignored and TRIED to conquer and miserably failed and now are the ones whose are child hates them with passion.

When that never really is the intent. I’m already a liar, do I want to add “not a birthday celebrator” to that list? HOWEVER, with everything else going on right now I can’t throw a party. I’m not about to be a bad guy about this either though. There’s plenty coming that will make me a bad guy. I’m making them move, leave their friends, home, the only life they know. This is not a good enough reason to pick a fight. So we will have a cake. No, we will have two cakes. One gluten free for the birthday boy, and one just regular chocolate cake…because…me.

Oh, and why am I a liar? Long story. For another time. Soon though. Very soon.

Happy Place!

There’s a place where everyone goes to feel safe. I have been thinking about my safe place for a while. It’s not an actual place. It’s imaginary. It’s a beautiful colorful, lighted place where I can sit and think. My thoughts are clear as day, and they are just as twisted, and just as complicated as I like them to be. Nothing around me is in a straight line.

Who likes things to be neat and straight anyway? There is so much more fun to be had when stuff is going ON. Everything is clear but its in circles. For example: there are clouds, however, they are rainbow-colored. One can sit for days, and try to decipher how the heck did that happen. That is a good kind of complicated. Can the sun be purple? Sure it can. It is where you go to think about where anything is possible. Sounds a lot like Dr. Suess’ world. Might just be. We read a lot of those books in this house.

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I let my kids borrow from it sometimes when they can’t figure out which way to turn or their nights are darker than usual. Everyone needs some rays of purple sunshine every now, and again. Today I’m letting more than just my kids borrow my happy place. There are many reasons for it. Sometimes you see things very clearly. Sometimes things aren’t clear at all. Sometimes things are the good kind of complicated, and that good kind of complicated can bring out the crazy kind of frustrations that makes you say…uhmm…maybe I need to find more than one happy place.

We are packing up, moving out yet again. Going to different, “uniquer”, always scarier pastures. This time the kids are aware of this change and they are not moving along smoothly. Change comes with life; unfortunately they are too young to understand that. Unlike our happy places, every new place we move to doesn’t feel safe. It only has a purple sun without the beautiful rays coming out of it.

Share your happy places with me. Tell me how you help your kids settle with moving to a new place. They are young but at any age kids are perceptive and never ready for a big change. Leaving their school, friends, and only life they have known. Never fun, never easy, and the people making them leave all this behind…EVIL!