Every night when you tuck your daughters in, tell them how much you love them. Tell them they’re amazing. Tell them there’s nothing in the world they can’t do if they put their minds to it. Tell them they can count on your acceptance and trust you with their problems. If they come crying to you, listen to them, validate their emotions. Silly things don’t make people cry. If they think their noses are too big, their hips are too wide, their lips are too thin, they’re fat, they’re ugly…hug them tight and tell them everyone is beautiful in their own way and that what matters most is the beauty of their minds and the gratitude in their hearts. Never ever tell them that if they don’t like their features they can have plastic surgery when they’re older. A nose job never made anyone happy. There are many beautiful women out there with the most broken hearts. Mothers, your words are of great influence on your little girls. As role models, you need to put your own insecurities aside when you address your daughters’ insecurities. Let your strength reflect on their thoughts and behavior. Let your kindness embrace their sweet tender hearts. The hardest part about raising a daughter is convincing her to just be herself in a world that seeks to teach her otherwise; nurturing her self-esteem is challenging indeed in an age where the fashion brands you wear define how likable or cool or rich you are. There will be days when she’ll feel so alone, confused, and indecisive. Be that someone she runs to. Your daughter would never choose anyone else over you if she knows you’re the only one who will understand. So make every moment count. Enjoy those little talks, the endless questions, the laughs, giggles and yes, the power struggles that never seem to end. They will be merely memories in a few years. Be sure that she will be as happy as you ever liked her to be by just carrying the best of those memories, and upon recalling those encouraging words you once said. The best way to raise a daughter is not to tell her she can be just as good as any boy, nor that she needs one to grant her happiness. Raising a happy girl always, always starts with a happy mom.
My son has been receiving phonecalls from his best friend at school. That’s big news to me! Actually that’s the best news ever. Mind you my kid isn’t the least popular in school. In fact, his explosive recurrent tantrums have earned him a lot of fame. All that aside, knowing your young kid has a friend who cares enough to call after school or on weekends is a healthy indicator of your child’s sociability. We clearly lack in this department, hence the multiple visits to the psychotherapist who constantly recommends exposing our boy to more social situations rather than avoiding them to prevent unexpected anger triggers. When my son mentioned this kid in particular, saying he felt comfortable around him because he “doesn’t get angry” I felt great relief. Perhaps my poor boy is so tired of all the restrictions at home and at school that he finally found this friend who helps him blow off steam. When his friend videocalled him today, he didn’t know what to say! So I started giving him hints and cues as to when to reciprocate a question or respond to one. It felt weird, but it gave me true joy to teach my son how to maintain this friendship. I asked him whether this friend had siblings, since my 2-year-old daughter insisted on participating in their conversation and even snatched the phone and redirected the conversation to herself! (Yep, she’s a girl alright!) As an introvert, I hate small talk. I can’t really say I’m socially awkward though, I know the basic telephone etiquette and fundementals of courtesy. Although I wouldn’t normally do it myself, I had to entice my son into calling his friend back today. He was hesitant but I reassured him saying the phonecall wouldn’t take too long and that his friend would be upset if he doesn’t feel that he’s interested in his friendship. And my son really likes the boy but he just doesn’t know how to express his excitement. Our first lesson in receiving phonecalls was successful and pleasant. I truly hope this is the beginning of a long-lasting friendship. Nothing would make me happier than knowing my child feels comfortable in his own skin around his peers.
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.
Sadness has no beginning and no end
Heartbreaks come and go but souls do mend
You have to believe it deep inside
All this pain you’re feeling will subside
Tomorrow is coming so rest assured
Tomorrow holds the answer, has your cure
Patience is bittersweet, but you can wait, my friend
I know that you feel like your world is falling apart
And you’re so lost and hurt you don’t know how or where to start
Life gets turbulent but I’m sure you’re tough
Remember: you’re truly loved and you’re enough
Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise
Take a good at yourself and you’ll realize
You’ve been through much tougher times than this
And somehow built resilience and found bliss
No, this is not your joy coming to an end
You might seem broken now, but it’s just a bend
You’ll stand on your feet
And life will be sweet…
Again…my strong friend
Today was my best friend’s birthday. It has been over 10 days that I hadn’t heard anything from her. She was completely out of reach due to some personal reasons. She sent a voice note earlier saying she needed a little space to solve some pending issues and that she’d call me back soon. That was it. Creepy thoughts kept nagging on me. Was she really avoiding me? Was it her way of telling me she didn’t want to be my friend anymore? Was it something I said or did? What secret was she hiding…from me? Of all people!!!and the more negative thought of all was, “was I losing her?”
I woke up today determined to find out what was wrong, anxious to know what she was really up to (with her phone off, email bouncing back, inactive social media accounts and all). I strapped my baby girl into her stroller, grabbed her birthday gift and headed straight to her home. I wasn’t sure whether my eyes watered from the wind blowing in my face as I pushed the stroller steadily up and down the pedestrian-unfriendly streets of our neighborhood, or out of fear that she might stand there unmoved, or worse – disturbed – by my surprising appearance at her door. And then I told myself I didn’t care, I had every right to check on my friend, even if she demanded to be left alone. Arriving at her building, I was greeted by the power cut which would last another hour, as one neighbor informed. You see, in Lebanon we have a 3-hour power cut daily schedule to save energy – assuming we actually had a power shortage in the first place, of course.
Feeling rather crushed, I unstrapped my girl who recently started walking, folded the stroller and carried them on each arm and walked up the stairs to her apartment. All the way up to the fifth floor, I prayed to find her home, but something told me she wasn’t though her car was parked outside the building. I was right, her mother apologized for her absence and disclosed some information that justified her sudden disappearance. I politely thanked her for receiving us so unexpectedly and left her home thinking about all the things that connect me to this girl.
In Ramadan 2003, my BFF and I met at our neighborhood’s most-attended mosque while we were praying the nightly prayers (or Taraweeh). We became the best of friends and sisters in faith since then. That deep connection remained though the years had passed and despite my marriage, my relocation to Saudi Arabia between 2007 and 2013, and my overwhelming motherhood tasks. I can’t recall a time when this uniquely thoughtful lady, whom I’m proud to call my friend, had not made me feel worth loving and so special. She is the kind of person who reminds you of all the good there is in life in spite of all the evil, mercilessness and greed that has taken over humanity. She has the heart (and temper) of a little child. Sweet but fiesty, strong but stubborn, frank but untactful. Above all, she was sincere and upfront, which is all I look for in a person.
She called me back in the afternoon to thank me for the gift and reassure me that she was alright. When we hung up, I realized how blessed I was, not because she was sent into my life but also because I was sent into hers for a reason. I don’t often go out of my way for people, I frankly stopped doing that after several disappointments. (that’s something I’ll leave for later blogposts). But for her I’ll go the extra mile just to see her smile. I know she would do that for me any given day. A friendship that’s sincerely mutual is a friendship worth keeping for life.
Someone once asked me why that girl, of all my other friends, was so dear to me. My answer came out unclear but now I do have the clarity to reply with “it’s Divinely made”. We love people regardless of their looks, size, race, color or religion, we love them for who they are on the inside. My friend has loved me for the hesitant person I’d been when I first met her, the mess I was when I was abroad, and the more mess I’ve become coming back home. She’s loved me when I was always there for her, and even more when I couldn’t be around. And I love her just the same. Sometimes I feel that our paths have crossed that holy night in that sacred place for a reason: So that we’d always remind one another of God. That is the bond that ties us together. When the going gets tough she always points at the bright side and unties the blindfold on my eyes. When she hits rock bottom I pull her back up and remind her of her massive inner strength.
Today was indeed a great day because I found out that I was the one who received the best gift of all: the gift of a timeless friendship that I will guard with my life.
Happy birthday sweetest friend, how lucky I am to have you ❤️