Putting parenting into perspective

I try to remind myself each day that my kids won’t stay kids forever. The tantrums will finally subside, the power struggles will end, they’ll eventually understand that rules are rules and they might actually like structure in the house (or so I hope). The whining will cease, the crying fits and sibling fights will no longer be. I am being a little too optimistic  right now, but I really have no choice but to adopt a more positive attitude through all this. If I keep reminding myself of all the things I should be doing but fail to do, or keep beating myself up for not coming any close to the “ideal mother” image in my mind…I’ll just subject myself to more stress than my body and mind could handle. I’m trying. I’m always trying to make things better. I seek perfection sometimes which is a very bad thing to do. Well, I’m trying to recover from this perfectionism. I’m trying. [Say “trying”. One. More. Time!]

Well, it’s true. What is parenting but a long tedious trial and error process with a few sporadic fun breaks? Stress on “few” and “sporadic”. LOL. You try a few disciplining theories, a couple of sleep-training techniques, some tips to banish picky-eating, and you either fail or succeed. That’s it. But you’ll need a whole lot of patience and effort at remaining consistent while you apply any of the above. AND…If your heart is not it, you’ve already set yourself up for failure. Parenting shouldn’t be this hard and a lot more fun but the truth of the matter is if you want to raise happy, successful children there’s a dear price to pay. Your comfort and sanity. Maybe I’m exaggerating here, but I honestly don’t think I can have a clean, quiet home and happy, obedient kids ALL at the same time. It just won’t work. I would be asking for too much if I expect that they’ll choose to play quitely in a tidied up room over chasing one another around the house making silly loud noises. They will want to defy the house rules at some point.  It’s getting them to comply that’s the trick.  Getting them to like being neat and tidy is one way of teaching them how to become more organized, paving the way for a successful responsible adulthood. Which reminds me of how hard my mom has tried to teach me to become this organized, to the point of OCD. And yet, I have my flaws. Perhaps I try to make up for my absent-mindedness and attention-deficit by being a picky perfectionist. So how can I expect my journey through motherhood to be any less hardwork? I am really disciplining myself and my children at the same time. I’m learning to control my temper and tame my reactions as I teach them to control theirs. I structurize their day aiming to have many valuable lesson ingrained in their lives early on. 

When my mom reminds me of so many negative incidents that have happened in my childhood, she recalls them in so much detail while I remember only the highlights. I sense the pain of her memory. I think of how long that day that I vaguely remember must have be for her. I imagine how worried she might have felt, how disappointed or frustrated. “Will she turn out OK?” She must have thought. These are now my everyday thoughts, at least. “Will they turn out OK?” And while nothing can guarantee that except my deep faith in God guiding me through this whole parenting quest, I can be certain that these long long days will soon be just memories. No matter what feelings they’ll evoke, they’ll only take me briefly back to a time when my babies were young and needed me the most. I’ll miss that feeling of being called upon to zip up a jacket, tie a shoelace, or fetch an object out of reach. I’ll miss the tiniest of details which I probably won’t be able to recall vividly as I age. 

It won’t be long before our kids launch into life on their own. The years are indeed short once you put things in perspective. All I could pray for is remembering these seemingly long days in good light. 

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Healing by Helping Others

My day started off on the wrong foot. Again. It’s just not easy to do this day in and day out. Dealing with behavior and impulsiveness issues every single day is draining, to the point of insanity. I do question my sanity sometimes, by the way. But then again, if I were as crazy as I think I am, people wouldn’t come to me for advice, would they? Like this mother who was referred to me by our family counselor. She finally made the call this afternoon to ask for doctor recommendations for her pre-teen. I was more than happy to recount our many-failure story and how we found our “happy ending” with our team of specialists who are handling our son’s somehow challenging case. I noticed how confused and hesitant she was, that was me five years ago. That’s me every day. There’s not a day that passes by that I don’t ask myself: “Am I doing the right thing?” But I know I am, because as a mom, you just “feel” when something is not right.

Ever since we started being consistent with behavior modification, my son has been showing tremendous resistance. It’s been disappointing to watch him act out all the time, and quite embarrassing to receive negative feedback from school, but this time giving up is out of the question. I know that, despite all this frustration I’m feeling, I just want to be over and done with this phase. So no matter how hard it’s going to be, the little guy is going to have to take it like a champ. And we’ll have to hold back the tears and do what’s best for him.

This painful experience we’ve been involved in for several years of our son’s life is bound to end. Nothing lasts forever. I’m more than certain that he’s on the right track and is being seen by the right people. I just hope I’ll always be in the right mindset to accept when things go slightly off track, which they will, at one point or another. He’s only human, and he’s just a child after all. Autism or not, he’s only a child.

Talking to this concerned mother reminded me of a very true saying which goes along the lines of “we heal by helping others.” And it’s just amazing how my mood shifted from down and desolate to uplifted and reinvigorated. I was reminded of my own pain and how little by little it’s subsiding. I’m actually healing slowly whenever someone contacts me to learn all about our son’s journey all the way from early detection, diagnosis and behavior modification.  Our story has inspired, it has moved, it has healed, it has shown us the good friends in our lives. It’s the door from which all the love and support comes pouring in, and out. We’ve come a long way and we must celebrate those little progresses as much as we can. It’s always the bigger picture that keeps you going, not the tiny day-to-day failures and mishaps.

I feel healed already, and for that I’m very grateful.

Do you have a story that has inspired others to make some decisions in their lives? Would you like to share it? I know I’d love to hear it ❤️

Have a great day,

~ Zeina

Dryer Lands 

Just when your soul is craving some answers, you come across all sorts of signs that lead you back to the place where your heart first found real peace. Today it came in the form of a song I heard by chance. This amazing ballad is sung by British singer Sami Yusuf. Today I’d like to share a video for the first time on my blog. I hope that when you hear this song you’d feel uplifted and empowered. 

For those who don’t know Sami Yusuf,  he is a British singer-songwriter, composer, producer and multi-instrumentalist musician of Iranian Azerbaijani descent, who was born in Tehran, Iran. His real name Siamal Baranjan (Radmanesh).

In 2003, Yusuf released his first album “Al-Mu`allim” at the age of 23. He released his second album “My Ummah” in 2005. In October 2010, Yusuf’s third official album “Wherever You Are” was launched. Sami calls his genre of music “Spiritique”. “Salaam” is his fourth album, that was released on 22 December 2012. On 12 September 2014, Yusuf’s fifth official album “The Center” was released. In January 2015, Sami Yusuf’s sixth official album “Songs of the Way” was released.

Believing that music can be a “powerful medium to promote ideas and establish dialogue within society”, he coalesced Eastern percussive instrumentation and Western melodies in “Al-Mu’allim” with a focus on the English and Arabic languages. His song “Supplication” was used in the Golden-Globe award-nominated film, “The Kite Runner”. Though the album was described as a “project to define British Muslim identity” in a post 9-11 period — with explicitly religious themes praising the Prophet Mohammad and God in songs like “The Creator” and “Ya Mustafa” — it reached the ears of unexpectedly diverse range of listeners, constituting of various nationalities, ages, and races.  Many more successful albums and singles followed since. 

Source: Wikipedia

In this track “Dryer Land” from his fourth album “Salaam” (Peace) he collaborates with father Babak Radmanesh to present a soulful heartfelt song about repentence and seeking refuge in God. The song has English and Persian (Farsi) lyrics which you’ll find in the Youtube video’s description box.

I hope you enjoy these moving lyrics as much I did. Have an empowering day 💪🏻

8 Ways To Empower Women

March 8 – International Women’s Day

Since my senior college year, I’ve been keen on the issues of women and women empowerment. It doesn’t come as any surprise here. I believe all females, regardless of location, experience some form of discrimination or gender bias at any point during their lifetimes. I also believe that it is our duty as women to stand by one another and support our rights and causes. What did come as a  surprise shock to me, however, was learning that women can actually hate other women, which explains so many psychological problems, fears and anxieties women of all ages face today. It bothers me that some women are mean and unforgiving not just to others but to themselves as well.

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I thought about writing on women empowerment from a different perspective. Understanding the impact we women can have on other females, it only seems logical to address ourselves in trying to change this competitive (and often condescending) approach to our counterparts. Being a mother of a girl, an aunt, a daughter, a sister, sister-in-law, and a confidant to many girlfriends, I know there’s so much I can do to make other women feel worthy. Worthy of love,  worthy of appreciation, just worthy of being themselves in a world that wants them to be everything but.

So here are 8 ways I suggest to empower other women of all ages:

1- Raising an empowered little girl: teach your daughters, neices, or female students that there’s nothing they can’t do with determination and hardwork. There’s no such thing as a “game for boys” and “game for girls”. If they want to play with dinosaurs and legos, let them. If they enjoy construction toys more than pretend tea parties, so what? A girl who is allowed to pursue her interests will be a woman who does not fear following her dreams.

2- Watching the way you talk to females: Decorate your lips with compassionate words. Choose your words wisely, particularly with teenage girls and adolescents. Constructive criticism is necessary as long as it doesn’t employ emotional blackmail or harsh language.

3- Cheer on academic and professional efforts: encourage more progress by celebrating little and big milestones.

4- Be kind: especially in disagreements. If you’ve had a fight with your best friend, remember to remain kind. If you can’t see eye to eye with a sister, soften your words and perhaps you can get your message across eventually. When you understand that everyone’s journey is unique you’d be much more understanding and less judgmental.

5- Practice and encourage self-dependence: women in relationships tend to neglect an essential component for their well-being: self-dependence. Sure, it’s comforting to know you have a dependable partner in your life but keep in mind that overdependence may be viewed as a sign of weakness or lethargy. Unless you are physically or legally unable to perform a task, there’s great satisfaction in doing things yourself.

6- Rally for women: Show your dedication to female empowerment by organizing and being part of social, sports, or educational events that support rightful causes. The options are unlimited but make sure they are of value and meaning, avoiding overtly commercial campaigns that could harm the cause’s legitimacy.

7- Help the mamas: do you a have friend who’s just given birth? Does your best friend need some “me time” to get a decent haircut or a much-needed mani-pedi? It would be nice for a mom to know she has a caring friend who would come to her rescue when needed. If you’re good with children, you could offer to babysit her kids while she runs some errands which can’t do otherwise. You may also do those errands yourself if you find it entertaining noisy toddlers a challenge!

8- But first…be a woman: it goes without saying that giving is what we women do best. It’s in our nature to want to take care of everything and everyone. Thus, it’s intrinsic to put everyone else’s needs ahead of our own. Just like you’d never forget to fill up your gas tank before your long road trip, you can’t forget to take good care of yourself while you care for others. Mothers, I’m looking at you. That me-time is not going to find itself. Feed your soul, nourish your body and love with all your heart. Be the woman you were created to be and love that woman along the way. Be a woman of value in the lives of those you love.

Is there anything you’d like to add to this list? Let me know in the comments below.

Happy Women’s Day dear ladies of the world. Keep shining ☀️

~Zeina

 

Blood

There’s blood on the pavements

Blood on the streets

Hot blood splattered 

On autumn-chilled concrete

Blood on faces

You thought you’d never meet

Until one day they’re famous

Not for any special feat

But for being survivors

Of a heinous deed

An orphaned child, a corpse with no identity

A widowed mother, a torn family

What will it take 

To save a grieving country?

Will this state of mourning

Ever cease?

Blood has become a familiar scene

On every news on every screen

Whether you’re going about your way

Or you sell your soul to a political party

Martyrdom is an unescapable collective destiny

One day you’re alive, the next you’re some casualty

Blood is cheap, or so it seems 

Villains claim responsibility 

For their bloodshed games

But the crimes go unpunished

And are merely shamed

There’s blood on hands

We never get to see

Blood stains on our nation’s fabric 

Weaved with sectarian hostility

It’s beyond comprehension

How we never learn from history

Perhaps a half-ton of TNT 

Is enough spark to ignite our short-lived unity

Perhaps the sight of gushing blood

Would break the silence of our complacency 

Not long before we go back to our comfortably numbing routine

Because Someone Cared Enough

We are often disappointed by people. We feel let down, at times even betrayed, when all of a sudden they just disappear. We talk about those who’ve shown very little care to the relationship, who are inattentive to our needs and all those small details that mean so much. We complain about the insignificant efforts they make to stay in touch. We don’t talk much about those who cared enough. We’re the ones who are often inattentive to those who make our lives a little better just by being there. Do we ever wonder why we are the adults we are today? Because there were two loving people, two devoted parents, who cared enough (and much much more) to teach us everything they knew and whatever is required to be functional moral human beings. Do we ever wonder why we have certain passions that ignite our creativity and energize our souls? Because someone, a teacher or a mentor maybe, cared enough to educate rather than dictate. Do we ever wonder why we don’t feel so lonely and forsaken in hardships when we have every reason to be? Because someone, a friend, a sibling or a spouse maybe, cared enough to support, listen and console. Do we ever wonder why, when everything seems to be going wrong in our day, we somehow find peace in the understanding that no matter how bad things may go, there’s always something to be grateful for? Because someone, a religious scholar, spiritual coach, or a pious grandparent maybe, cared enough to deliver the words of God in the most memorable manner to cultivate faith within our hearts. Do we ever wonder why in times of great need, when the whole world turns its back on us, help arrives out the blue? Why we even have a good parent, kind friend, loving partner, or amazing role models to look up to? Because God cares enough – nay, He cares the MOST – to make the entire earth, with all its resources and riches, subservient to mankind. But we forget. How rarely do we remember the blessings amidst the hardships. How seldom do we recall the good people when we’re haunted by memories of the bad. Isn’t it time for our unforgiving hearts to soften in remembrance of all the countless blessings and He who bestowed them upon us? 

A Real Parent

I am a real parent

And by real I don’t mean

I’m a perfect know-it-all

Whose got everything under control

I am a real parent 

Because I’m the parent 

Who doesn’t hide her shortcomings

And is not ashamed of her failures 

And, boy, are they many

Somedays I’m bulletproof 

Somedays I hit the roof

I always wonder where I’ve gone wrong

I question the little voice inside that tells me what to do

Sometimes I go through the day

Without even realizing 

That I barely prayed for my little ones

I am a real parent

And by real I mean 

That I’m human 

Not that model with her babies

On a magazine cover

Whose flat-tire belly has been photo-tucked 

Whose skin’s flawless

And brows neatly plucked

I’m none of those

Because I chose

To be a real parent

Dark-circles and all

I am a real parent

And by real I mean

I cry at night when no one sees

And wake up the next day stronger than I can be

I am a real parent 

And you’d better beware

I watch out for my children

Like a wolf watching for hers

I’m always weaving plans

To get better at this parenting game

And I know I can

A Spectrum of Hope

After a week-long struggle to find an interesting topic to blog about, I decided to just let that topic come to me when it felt like it. I never imagined I’d have the guts to write about my son’s ASD, like, today, when I could barely drag my zombie-like self to the laptop. Ah well, my need to write always wins over my need to rest. So I’ll succumb to my muse’s will in hope that this wave of bravery would somehow bring comfort to my mind and body.

I’ve meant to write about it sooner. I’ve actually started this blog with an intention of spreading autism awareness but the only thing that has ever stopped me was fear. It’s not as much fear of people’s reactions (especially uninformed family and friends who might stumble upon this post) as it is fear of my own son’s reactions. I have this magnanimous concern that my son would disapprove of my talking or writing about his condition once he’d realize it. I mean I can understand if he already disapproves of all the trips to specialists, therapists, and special educators that never seem to end. I’m not worried about the “autism” label, to me it’s not stigmatic, I’m worried about the little labeled guy who’s almost 7. And let’s suppose he didn’t mind me writing about the challenges, blessings and everything in between, would he want people to identify him as the “kid with major tantrums ’cause he’s got autism”? Would he want to be referred to somewhere along the way as “the socially awkward guy in high school who happens to have Asperger’s”?

I know there is so much I can do for him right now to make this world around him more friendly and less of a pain. I am trying my very best to help him cope with difficulties, avoid triggers and develop more socially-acceptable ways to express his frustrations (which are countless). And I also know that, for the sake of developing his problem-solving skills, I can’t make the world stop turning so he’d catch up. I can’t make his friends tolerate his fiery temperament if their teachers or parents don’t know why my son can be aggressive, obsessive, possessive, and opposing and explain this to their kids once they’re ready. My son might not be aware that he’s different at his age. He may not know why he can’t keep himself out of trouble at school or home. He is aware, however, that his behavior is so disruptive it has taken around 20 experts in the field to either diagnose his condition, assess his skills and cognitive abilities, or start him on an intervention plan. He is very much aware that there are days when I can’t be strong for all of us.

Fortunately, more awareness is being raised in the media. People now understand that autism is not debilitating and many autistic people grow up to be successful fully-functioning adults. Some are even gifted, while some are just not. There’s always hope. And if there is anything I want my son to learn about his condition it is that there’s always this hope of him becoming a car racer who builds his own cars that he wants to be, if God wills. There is always hope that we’ll make it through these trying phases in our family life. All we need is that little glimmer of hope to survive the strains and celebrate the milestones, however late we achieve them.

I must admit that  I have had so many doubts before. I have had my good share of questioning. The journey to diagnosis was long, but that to acceptance was even longer. There were many days when I’ve wondered if I’d ever make it, whether all this trouble was worth it, and whether this will all go away if I learn “the lesson”. I’ve tormented myself with the most destructive thoughts one could think of. Come to think of it, that was all a part of a plan, leading me here. To this moment of truth, where I’m sitting in front of this screen before me pouring out my heart to a vast unknown blogosphere. Many friends tell me they enjoy my writings as they come straight from the heart. I don’t think anything I’ve written to this day could reflect my heart’s deepest, most intense, and most-masked emotions quite like this post. I owe this to my sweet “Angry Bird”. He has given me the strength to advocate for him, stand up for him and fight for a cause. He has given my pen a daily prompt.

Parenting a child on the spectrum is a challenge. Parenting any child is a challenge. Period. I’m certain, however, that one day my boy will look back and be grateful for all the events that led up to him having such a unique personality; Quirky, goofy, dynamic, loving, honest, goal-oriented, strong-willed, persistent, a true leader. Everything that he is right now, when we move the magnifier away from the shortcomings.

Perhaps he won’t be upset if I say he’s the most special kid I’ve seen. It’s special kids like him that percipitate this surge of hope in all mothers’ hearts. A hope so grand, so powerful it’s worth spreading and sharing with the entire world, and beyond.

Doors

One day a door slammed shut
And I thought I lost the keys to the lock

I started looking in other people’s pockets

I searched for all the wrong tools to unlock it

I cried, I screamed, my heart filled with woe

Where could they be, I just didn’t know

Until one day I found out

About pockets I didn’t uncover

They were my own, why didn’t I even bother?

So I rushed to the door that closed one day

But I realized the lock has been changed

So I cried once more

And my heart was sore

Over all the dreams lying behind that door

But I still have that set of keys in hand

Perhaps one day I’ll understand

That those dreams were never meant for me

And I’d have to look for the lock to my keys

5 Things I Miss About Our Pre-motherhood Friendship

Before I start this list and get bashed for being an ungrateful mom, I’d like to make it clear that having children was the greatest blessing of my life. As we all know, parenthood turns your world upside down. It totally transforms you as a human being, some days elevating you, others breaking you down. Parenthood is both honorable and humbling, purposeful and perplexing, practical yet magical. I am a blessed mom. That said, I can’t help but complain about my relationship with people as a mother which is now much more different.
My friendships have tremendously evolved since I earned my first-time-mom title, some flourishing, others falling apart. A few days ago, a friend reached out to me asking whether it was justifiable to feel like you’re going through a form of midlife crisis in your early thirties knowing that you haven’t made many accomplishments in your career life. Of course, I could perfectly understand where she was coming from. Any stay-at-home mom would understand the dilemma of wanting to be there for your kids at all times and having a successful career as well. I reassured my troubled friend with these very simple words “our kids are our accomplishments” and urged her to dedicate some free time just for herself. What a typical advice we moms give one another, eh? Sounds very helpful but motherhood and extra time don’t go together, obviously! Hypothetically speaking, if we moms did have that time on our hands, we’d be too busy looking for things to do in that spare time than actually doing them. So I’m really sorry, my friend, if there was nothing I could to help but give a clichéd consolation.
My inadequacy as a friend has inspired me to write this somewhat concise list of all those things I miss about our friendship that no longer seem possible.
1- Talking for hours on the phone: yes, you knew this would be first on my list. I hate that we get interrupted by kids screaming their heads off, or being forced to hang up to stop a toddler from sticking a pencil into an electric socket. Then we have to call each other after a few minutes…or days…or even months. But somehow we always manage to pick up our conversation from that moment. Strange!
2- Remembering the good ole’ times: when was the last time we talked about the times we were young and crazy? We were crazy, admit it. Yes, I know we are moms now, but we had a LIFE before kids! Can we please talk about how great it was? Just to remind ourselves that we had far wilder dreams than having a baby who sleeps through the night or kids who play quietly for hours in their rooms?!
3- Going shopping together: oh I miss those Friday evenings we used to go shopping (or just window shopping) after work. I wish we could do that some time, pick outfits for each other that reflect our impeccable taste rather than cleverly hide our mommy tummies! It would be great if we could skip children clothes stores on this much desired shopping spree for a change. Worth a shot!
4- Talking about our aspirations: It is not selfish to have dreams of our own. It is ok to have a goal that does not include our spouses and children. I think of my family as an inspiration, because they inspire many of my writings and upcoming projects. Maybe if we encourage one another to follow a long-lost dream, we can find purpose in what we do, especially in those days when things get out of control.
5- Not feeling jealous of our single friends’ freedom: though jealousy may be an overstatement, but truth be said, we have felt a bit green with envy when our single friends say they had a girls’ night out at some popular restaurant. Not that we can’t do a mommy’s night out some time, but I think we haven’t done that yet because arranging for babysitters or leaving the kids at their grandparents’ for the night isn’t always a convenience to some of us. Besides, what else would we talk about but the kids? Which brings us to number 6…
6- Having exciting conversations about non-kid-related topics: Pretty self-explanatory, I guess. It’s very tempting to discuss our kids’ likes and dislikes. It’s hard not to talk about the way they drive us insane each day. I know, I know. But let’s just try to talk about our own likes and dislikes every once in a while, just like back in the days.
As a conclusion to this rather short list, I must confess that having post-motherhood friendships, whether old or new, is an enriching and powerful experience. Not only do I have a friend to confide in, but a new member on my motherhood alliance, so to speak. We all know how closely moms can get together in the face of threats, don’t we? Though I miss a friend’s spontaneous spirit, I definitely admire her courageous, mature and nurturing side. That is only the start of a perfect life-long friendship.