On raising happy daughters

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.
#to_my_daughter 

#my_happiness_for_theirs

#bonding
Love, 

~ Zeina

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An Open Letter To Moms 

Dear Moms, You must be excited that Mothers’ Day is just around the corner* wondering what crafts your little gems have been making you at preschool or how long your older kids have been saving money to buy you that extra special gift. You must be psyched that finally that one day when mothers are celebrated is here and you’ll get to have a “day off” (Breakfast in bed, anyone?) I know I’d be more than happy to have my family pamper me for the day but you know what would really, really make me happy? Watching my children smile and knowing that they are really happy! Ok, I KNOW we all want that, but sometimes I wonder if we want our children to be happy just to have a break from their nagging, demands and constant questions. Do we really take them out to the park to have fun or do we do that so they can release their inexhaustible energy and spare us all the bedtime agony? Do we buy them gifts to reward their good behavior or to bribe them to behave better all the time? Do we sign them up for karate classes for their physical and emotional development or just to fit in with other families who enroll their children in all sorts of extra curricular activities? 

I have been taking an honest look at my motherhood lately. I know for a fact that it is far from perfect, but you know what? It doesn’t have to be. I don’t have to do any of the things I mentioned to see my kids smile. Being a good mother isn’t really about what I do for my children but how I make them feel. I could be out all day with them, driving them from one playground to another, stuffing their tiny bellies with jelly beans and soda and all sorts of junk food they’re not allowed to consume everyday, buying them every toy they had ever wished for and they still wouldn’t be happy – not because they’re ungrateful, selfish or bratty but because they didn’t notice any happiness in my eyes while I was doing all those things for them. Kids are naturally inclined to seek their parents’ approval, they crave their undivided attention, they want to please Mom and Dad at any cost. Kids love to play and interact with their parents. They want to feel close, and they just want to feel loved. Unfortunately, this very simple fact of life often goes unnoticed with all the daily pressure and chaos in the background. We parents fall into the habit of buying to make up for all the lost time we don’t to spend with our children; That time which in their little minds is translated as love and caring. We are fooled into believing that our kids will be happier if they get that Xbox game or that new bike they’ve been eyeing for weeks. 

We complain about our toddlers’ restlessness to our besties, we hold mommy meetings to solve a friend’s “issue” with her rebellious teenage daughter, we are astonished at how tech-savvy this generation is as if we’re oblivious to all the hours they spend exploring technology – without our supervision at times. Whether mischievous, rebellious or overachieving, these kids may just be looking for attention or approval. How can we be so blind at times not to recognize their basic need for affection? I’m not writing this letter to condemn or patronize. I am certain that moms do what they do best: multitask and make things happen as they excitedly tick off items on their long to-do lists. I know they never miss recitals or forget vaccination appointments. I also know that I could use some advice myself on how to be a more patient and empathetic mother. But I think we moms are treating motherhood like a job at times, rather than a calling. We go about our days performing our duties so robotically that we rarely stop and think about what we’re doing and why we’re not doing what we should. We’re experiencing the ups and downs of parenting as if they weren’t even supposed to happen – with little understanding and loads of protesting. And the worst thing about it all is that we don’t restrain ourselves from publicizing our dissatisfaction – even in front of our children. I say it now with a heaviness in my chest; I am guilty of all of the above. I have sadly let my frustrations control me for far too long. I’ve allowed the fantasy of the “perfect child” ruin the life of my real one. That “perfect child” stood between me and my son, dictating the way I should raise and discipline him. I guess we all want our children to be a certain way. We’ve all had childhood dreams about how our life would turn out to be, including the tiny versions of ourselves. But children aren’t born to be our clones, they have souls and their very own dreams and ambitions. It is when we grasp the fact that we don’t own those little creatures under our custody that we truly begin to appreciate them for who they are. 

I’ve been focusing on “fixing” my child for most of his tender years. Although I have been successful at ensuring better treatment outcomes through earlier intervention, I have failed to notice all the good traits he has. He’s such a talented creative boy on the inside, but we’ve been too consumed with the defiance, aggression and anxiety to help him achieve his potential. One might not blame me for being overly obsessive about chasing after a diagnosis. Perhaps my paranoia is justifiable after all, but if I had to do it all over again, I would have at least done it with his best interest in mind. I confess to being selfish sometimes for trying to change him so that he’d fit in with other kids – so that I, in turn, could maintain what was left of my otherwise incompatible friendships. But some relationships are just not worth saving at the expense of one’s most beloved. I’m sure that we treat our children as a top priority all of the time, but deep down are we just disgruntled parents who are fed up with compromising? I hope that all the questions I raised in this letter would inspire you to accept your children for who they are; to place a hand on your heart as you remember your purpose; to sincerely love your parenting game. These kids may be giving you a hard time more frequently than they should but nobody said parenting was smooth sailing. Parenting isn’t torture either! Relax and be easy on yourself. And if there’s one tip that has never failed me in this journey that I might share with you it’s to pray for your children everyday, pray for their safety, for their health and well-being, for their obedience and devotion, for their happiness and success. Always pray for God to fill your hearts unconditional love they’ll need to lead a fulfilled life. 

What advice would you like to share with other mothers to help them appreciate and enjoy their motherhood every day? Leave your survival tips in the comments below. I’m always thrilled to hear from you. 

Happy Mothers’ Day

~Zeina

* Mothers’ Day is celebrated on March 21st of every year in Middle Eastern countries

“Back in the old days”…

With all due respect to the elderly in this society, but they all just need to chill! As a parent, albeit it a young thirty-something parent of two children under 10, I believe I have the knowledge and ability to run my life along a safe course. I don’t do drugs, I don’t commit crimes, I don’t feed my kids litter, I don’t keep them awake till after midnight, I dress them in clean clothes, etc… Basically, I count as a good candidate to parent, thank you very much. If that’s what’s considered “mothering”,  I surely can’t be doing it all wrong! Right? 

This short-sighted vision of parenting, however, does not work very well with today’s definition of the term. To be a good parent you have to be a lot of things, not just a housemaid who slaves away in the kitchen cooking, baking and scrubbing floors, or a hermit who severs social ties to raise a family. 

I’m so tired of hearing stories about how moms did nothing but handwash fabric diapers or those obnoxious braggeries about how they potty trained all their children by 12 months in that golden era. You can forget about stating facts and relaying scientific data related to the physical readiness to potty train which most children exhibit by age 2. If you decide to wait it out against your elders’ recommendations, you’ll be looked down upon as the lazy mother who’s too busy texting and tweeting to notice the signs (because, obviously, children at age one SHOULD already by ready to tell you “verbally” that they need to go.) Trust me, your great aunt is more experienced than your pediatrician. 

I’m really tired of all the well-intended yet unwelcome tips and endless guilt trips the nice old ladies take you on with their remarks. Why can’t they just let this generation of mothers be whatever they choose to be? Whose expectations should we be living up to, theirs or our own? Yes, their days are definitely different, perhaps they did have better days back then. Times have changed, and this stressful lifestyle demands a change in approach to parenting, caregiving and house management. The comparisons make no sense when it comes to multitasking, for example. Mothers in the olden days didn’t have the same tasks, interests or passtimes. In defense of moms like myself, I believe we’re all doing an outstanding job surviving this wretched heartless world while teaching our children all the necessary lifeskills to ensure a safer, brighter future for generations to come. More educated conscious moms means higher awareness (and earlier intervention) to issues that require special attention, like learning difficulties, delays and impairments, or physical disabilities. 

They say we should respect our elders, but how about  a little appreciation from our elders as well? How about the respect we deserve for trying to fix a world our predecessors have left broken? We are certainly not the only generation of parents responsible for the moral degredation we witness today. Instead of constantly grieving over the past, we’d be far better off with a little more help and a little less meddling. It’s our time to make mistakes, just like they did, and our chance to learn the lessons they obviously didn’t learn: To live responsibly and teach responsibility, to raise well-rounded personalities not puppets we boss around at will. We don’t want our children to be us, we want them to be better. As a parent, I want to make sure I’ve left no stone unturned, no study unresearched, no effort unexhausted to see my children blossom. I want to bask in the satisfaction that I’ve done all that had to be done so my kids won’t be disappointed that I’ve been a neglectful parent. If that’s not enough for the generation of mothers before me, I might as well blame my inadequate parenting on every war that has plagued this country, wars that were caused by our elders’ unwise elections and re-elections of corrupt figures of state, rather than statesmen. At least we’re trying to change something instead of whining incessantly.
I will always pay much respect to every mother on this planet who would blindly give up anything to secure every child’s need, no matter what her age is or where she is from or how mean she can be to younger inexperienced mothers. We’ll always need to learn vicariously from parents who have longer years of experience in this domain, but we, too, can learn a thing or two on our own. That’s called life, and no one can live it for us no matter how knowledgeable they think they are. 

~ Zeina
Image credit: adweek.com

Beyond the Body: The Media Spin on Motherhood

Today’s Modern Mom is so different from yesterday’s. She’s an exuberant multi-tasker who can keep up with this age’s extremely fast pace, satisfying both her family and herself. She’s a competent career woman, skilled chef, meticulous housekeeper, affectionate nurse, Supernanny, agile yogi and fashionista. Her perfect life is just too good to be true. At least that’s what our subconscious mind is led to believe. Although this ideal mom exists only in the imagination of the marketing heads of famous global brands, her image of excellence has been promoted as the archetype of motherhood by the advertisers for many years now. This mom arouses our envy for all the energy she has to dress well and look polished while working in and outside the home. We covet her glowing complexion as we question the effectiveness of our own branded age-defying creams that aren’t doing the trick. She must have a nanny, a chauffeur and a personal trainer – we think – because all that daily stress from rushing through mornings, doing house chores, to preparing a hot family meal should surely show on her slender high-school-girlish figure. It’s exasperating to wonder what we’re doing wrong with our lives that we always look so worn out and feel miserable by the end of the day. You see this mom hanging out with friends, attending parties, and getting promoted. “Where does she find all the time and why can’t I be her?” a riled mother may ponder.

The media, which overly fixates on beauty, youth, and sexiness, is spinning motherhood against nature. It is no wonder that feelings of grudge would gradually sneak into a mom’s heart to the point of emotionally rejecting the noble, albeit confining, role of child-rearing. 

The Modern Mom is being shamed by every global female-targeted brand for her post-pregnancy body, dark-circles and grown-out hair roots. Every single commercial she sees on TV indirectly (though not unintentionally) mocks her rather scruffy looks, slowly guiding her to a more whimsical domain which, sadly, exists only in movies, drama series and ads. Yet she speculates on the chances of becoming like this or that star, graceful and polished, even while knowing they’ve got a team of make-up artists and image manipulation experts working behind the scenes.

To counter-market motherhood in “Real Moms with Real Bodies” campaigns is to simply limit a lifetime of love, devotion, and selfless sacrifice to a mom’s physique. A mother is more than just a body, she’s a soul. A soul that gives life…her life to other souls.

I’m not saying a mother should be allowed to neglect herself if she chooses to but it would be unfair to turn the focus away from her real mission to just her body and appearance. It is far more beneficial to market motherhood for what it really is, a journey of a passionate individual through the winding roads of parenting. A mom is not always in control of situations, she doesn’t always make the wisest choices, and she barely has time to eat a balanced breakfast, let alone make effort to look fabulous, before scurrying out the door.

Watching all these celebrity moms smile, strut and strike poses on TV and social media, a Modern Mom becomes certain that she can only attain success by owning a booming fashion enterprise and would only be seen beautiful if she hides behind layers of foundation. Then again, any woman, married or not, childless or not, must feel extremely intimated by the immaculate picture of beauty and youth portrayed in the media.

We don’t need to see a mom’s stretchmarks as a proof for conception. We know it’s terrible to watch one’s body age but there’s far more to motherhood than a sagging body and thinning hair. A mother is an amazing strong spirit, wrapped up in a fragile shell. I hope that someday the media would  truly honor her human side instead of compounding her insecurities. If we don’t owe that much respect to the woman who endures the hardest pain to welcome a child into this world, then to whom should we?

 

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

The One Way To Be A Good Parent

The sound of silence. Ahhh, how I relish it! I love that time of night when I can sit down and think about what happened during the day, evaluate each incident, each accomplishment, each tick made on the To-Do List. Hurray….Me time! And then it strikes me, the guilt…that agonizing feeling deep in my stomach when I know something didn’t really turn out right. I tell myself over and over again that I definitely need to muffle the voice inside me that reminds me, mockingly “oh, look…you failed to do that, AGAIN.” As mothers, we’re constantly bombarded with pictures of perfectionism on social media. You will read blog posts spreading like wildfire on parenting pages “100 DIY Crafts for Toddlers and Little Kids” “70 Activities to Keep Your Kids Busy This Summer” “How I disciplined my child in 3 days straight” “Foolproof ways to potty-train your toddler in a day” Ummm…seriously? A day? My son is six years old and I still get nightmares about his potty-training days…make that months! Parenting is far more tedious than what we perceive in advertisements showing perfectly-polished faces of parents gleefully playing with their children.
Not that it is wrong or unacceptable to display such positive moments of parent-child bonding, but to show only the bright side would surely devastate parents who are struggling to have quality time with their kids amidst their busy schedules. I am a stay-at-home mom and I barely have time to sit with – really sit and not just tend to the needs of – my children, I can only imagine how hard it feels for a working mom who only has a few hours on weekdays and a weekend to make up for all the lost time.
Perhaps we should give ourselves credit for simply trying to be the best that we could, simply creating the time instead of just finding it. That guilt which burdens most moms I know, including myself, should really stop. Why does motherhood have to come with such a dearly price? And why should we even compare ourselves to some lady playing peek-a-boo with her baby on a billboard? You won’t see a diaper ad featuring a mom changing bedsheets with a look of dismay on her face, or a baby food ad starring a picky toddler throwing his broccoli and pasta dinner plate on a recently-mopped floor. Well, these things do happen A LOT – on a daily basis. This is the gist of every mom’s life. Those mishaps, messes, dirt, stains, drools, tantrums, head bumps, whining. They are to be cherished as much as every quiet peaceful smiley-giggly moment. I can’t help but remember here the quote that says, “there’s no way to be a perfect parent, but a thousand ways to be a good one” There’s no way we are ever going to be perfect parents, and there’s no way we’re going to raise our kids perfectly, we just need to raise them well enough to rise up the challenges of life. There’s no way we can guarantee they’ll be truly accepted, loved and well-treated by their peers, teachers and other caregivers, but we can at least assure them they’re loved by us and assure ourselves we’re doing a good job at that.
I appreciate every successful parent’s effort to educate others, whether by blogging or writing, about all the great things parents can do with and for their children. The mention of the fake titles above was simply to draw attention to some unrealistic expectations we place on ourselves and our kids that turn out to be more harmful than useful. Believe me, I know exactly what those expectations feel like, I’ve tormented myself with such high expectations of myself which, not surprisingly, negatively affected my son. I know for a fact that he can’t stand crafts, can’t sit still for 10 minutes without fidgeting, hates coloring and will not learn any lessons from sitting in time-outs. I know my child. I know my child better than anyone else. So do you. Know what to expect of them and what not. Parenting is hard enough already. I remind myself and you, as a parent, that some moments are not worth sweating upon, not worth the stress that high expectations impose. They’ll grow up someday and we will all realize that such moments could have been easily avoided and replaced with more joyful ones. I truly hope so, anyway.
If there’s one thing we should expect of our children it would be that they reciprocate, as adults, all the love we have offered them as children. But even that is only in God’s hands and I’m pretty much certain that no amount of love invested in good upbringing will go unrewarded.