The last photo of the author and her brother with their mom.
There once was a little girl who lost her mother. She was too young to fully understand the concept of never. She had a secret belief that people were making a silly mistake when they gently explained that her mommy would never be coming home again.
The little girl secretly believed her mommy had just taken a long vacation. Her Daddy told her that Mommy was in a special type of hospital for people who were sick and needed to rest.
Since the little girl was smart and precocious, she imagined her mother had taken a much needed rest and gone on holiday with the traveling circus, which recently had been in town. Hadn’t Mommy admired the clowns and acrobats SO much? Wouldn’t this be a great way to get better after all the medicine the little girl had secretly seen her mommy take when she thought nobody was watching…
As the months and then years dragged on and Mommy didn’t come back, the girl started to realise that the traveling circus probably wasn’t the reason her mother had left.
Instead, she started to suspect that her parents had gotten a divorce and her father had custody of the 2 children since his wife was sick. This had happened to a boy in the little girl’s class at school.
She still couldn’t accept the fact her mother was gone for good.
Things began to get difficult at home and at school too. At first the other children were sympathetic because their teacher had told them that the little girl was going through difficult times at home and needed help and understanding from her classmates.
Eventually though, when the girl started coming to school with untidy hair and wearing grubby, mismatched socks, most of the kids started calling her names and telling her she was a freak.
She DID look and act weird, she knew. The sad truth was that she FELT like a freak, and that was even worse.
When other girls went on sleepovers and to birthday parties, on shopping trips and visits to the local swimming pool with their moms, the little girl wasn’t invited. The mothers felt awkward and embarrassed trying to organise these things with the girl’s father. The father said he needed his daughter to stay home and look after her little brother and he couldn’t spare her as he had to work. After a few kind attempts, the invitations dried up.
Although help was offered to the father at first, his depressed and confused mental health gradually repelled those who were trying to help him support his 2 young children. After losing all of his teeth and most of his hair due to extreme stress, he realised he couldn’t cope alone anymore. He suffered a nervous breakdown and was forced to go back to his country of origin to seek help from estranged relatives.
This is the traumatic beginning of my early life and the reason I lived in a fantasy world following the death of my mother, when I was just six years old.
My family had left England a few years earlier and gone to live in Australia for a better life. We really did have a perfect lifestyle for a couple of years until my beloved mother became sick and died of cancer before the age of 30.
I remember with utmost shock how I refused to believe my mother was actually dead. I’m staggered now at how I stubbornly clung to elaborate fantasies about her REAL whereabouts and my utter refusal to grasp reality.
The other thing I remember with clarity is the nastiness of some and the true kindness of others.
Although virtually everyone was supportive and helpful at first, this really didn’t last long. After a relatively short period of time, I became an object of ridicule and target for bullies. My father was going through his own catastrophic demise and I basically had to fend for myself as well as bring up my younger brother.
It’s not easy for a 6-and-a-half-year-old to cook, clean and look after herself and her 4-year-old brother as well.
I went to school looking unkempt and bedraggled most of the time and the fantasies I told about my mother must have scared my schoolmates, who knew she had passed on. I was called names and kids threw stones at me because I was so different from them. In my class I was the only one from a single-parent home at that time.
Nowadays, of course, single-parent families are commonplace. Back then it wasn’t the norm and other kids made me feel that somehow it was my fault; I was stigmatized.
Coming from another country and speaking with a different accent didn’t help either. I was unacceptably different on so many levels.
When I first met my Greek husband decades later, one of his relatives praised him for being such a good Christian, offering to marry not only a foreigner but an orphan too!!!
It seems that in many cultures the child is responsible and pays for the parents “crimes.”
I remember a limited amount of kindness during my formative years and so try my best to instill a sense of compassion and respect for ALL living things in my children. I tell them that it really doesn’t matter how many possessions a person has that gives them value but how they treat others that counts. The way they interact with others is the true measure of their worth.
As a result of my childhood, I know that the kindness and compassion we show to a person can shape their whole future, for better or worse.
If we could all impart this wisdom in our children, wouldn’t the world be such a better place?
Have you had any childhood traumas that have made you passionate about something in adulthood? How do you encourage your kids to show kindness to others?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog from our contributor in Greece and mum to two, Ann Marie Wright.
The image used in this post is attributed to the author.
Having lived in 4 different countries, Ann Marie finds it difficult to give a short answer about where she's from. She regards herself: Brit by birth, Aussie by nature, with a sprinkling of Greek and German based on her insatiable appetite for tasty food and chilled beer!
This World Mom has been married to her Greek soulmate for 16 years and they are the proud but constantly challenged parents of two overactive teenage boys. (She secretly wonders sometimes if she was given the wrong babies when she left the maternity clinic.) She can't explain the fascination and ability that her 13 and 14 year-olds show in math and physics or that both boys are ranked 1st and 2nd nationally in judo. Ann Marie can only conclude that those years of breastfeeding, eating home cooked meals and home tutoring really DO make a difference in academic and physical performance! The family is keeping its fingers crossed that---with the awful economic crash in Greece---continued excellence in math and/or judo will lead to university scholarships...
In addition to writing, enjoying a good glass of wine and movies, Ann Marie also works as a teacher and tends their small, free-range farm in the Greek countryside.
Tina lives abroad in Mexico with her husband and four children. She is active with homeschool, travel, and her Bible ministry. Tina loves photography and writing thus she blogs. Come join her adventures!
I see you on your black skirt suit, with the waist that doesn’t quite fit the same anymore and the blouse that doesn’t quite work when one is out with a toddler. It’s been awhile since you wore it. Your heels are just slightly dusty, and you are unconsciously rubbing your feet together in a way that betrays you are no longer used to wearing them.
I have been where you are, at the preschool interview (most preschools in Japan seem to require this,) with an uncooperative two-year-old. No one else’s kid seems to have a permanent cow-lick or is crying like mine is, you think. I can tell, because I have thought that, too.
But now I am on the teaching staff, on the other side of the table, so to speak, and I can tell you that we have seen multiple cowlicks today, and that the kids who don’t cry at the interview are no less likely to cry on the first day of school.
I wish I could give you a hug and tell you to relax. Of course we can’t love your child as much as you do, but we will come close! And since we send the kids home at two o’clock, all of those aggravating things that drive you bonkers will not be such a problem here.
I also want to tell you that it is okay to consider your own needs when choosing a preschool for your child. If you can’t handle making a bento every morning, by all means find a place that serves lunch. If you can’t deal with homework, then go for someplace that is play based. There are years and years of homework ahead of you both!
You don’t have to go where Daddy went, or where grandma thinks is best, or where the clique of neighborhood moms go. Look and listen, see the child that you have. Know who you are, and what your limits are. Then choose a place that best meets the needs of you both.
Of course I can tell you none of this, as you wrestle your feet out of your heels and into your indoor shoes, tugging your son along, the both of you getting increasingly frustrated. I try to give you a sympathetic smile, but you may not notice.
Best of luck to you, dear. Best of luck to you both.
What advice would you give to moms of younger children of you could?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog from our writer in Japan and mother of two, Melanie Oda.
If you ask Melanie Oda where she is from, she will answer "Georgia." (Unless you ask her in Japanese. Then she will say "America.") It sounds nice, and it's a one-word answer, which is what most people expect. The truth is more complex. She moved around several small towns in the south growing up. Such is life when your father is a Southern Baptist preacher of the hellfire and brimstone variety.
She came to Japan in 2000 as an assistant language teacher, and has never managed to leave. She currently resides in Yokohama, on the outskirts of Tokyo (but please don't tell anyone she described it that way! Citizens of Yokohama have a lot of pride). No one is more surprised to find her here, married to a Japanese man and with two bilingual children (aged four and seven), than herself. And possibly her mother.
You can read more about her misadventures in Asia on her blog, HamakkoMommy.
What would you take with you if had to leave at a moment’s notice? Other than the clothes on my back and possibly some photos of my family, there would be nothing else that I would carry with me. For those fleeing dangerous situations, as in the case of Syrian refugees, so much emphasis is placed on the welfare of men and children, but what about the needs of women, especially when it involves their hygiene?
In Essex, England, three women are making a difference in the lives of Syrian women with regard to this issue. Helen McDonald, Megan Saliu and Helen Pudney founded SOS Calais, or Supporting Our Sisters in Calais. Together they organized drives to collect sanitary pads and had them delivered to the one of the biggest refugee camps in Calais, France where women make up 10% of the population. Donating food, water and personal products are just as necessary, but for women, menstrual products are crucial.
For most women, menstrual products are easily accessible, but for women who have been displaced due to crisis situations, access is virtually impossible.
In addition to access, there is the question of safety for these women. The women McDonald, Saliu and Pudney encountered in Calais were in their twenties and outnumbered by men in the same camp. These women are forced to look out for themselves to avoid harassment due to minimal or no security or support for them otherwise. Providing these women with products specifically for them gives them a sense of inclusion and empowerment.
For someone like me who has experienced moments of embarrassment or horror for not having sanitary pads when I’ve needed them, it’s quite disconcerting to know that these women are forced to find alternative means to take care of their needs, especially with menstrual products. It is an unfortunate byproduct of being torn from one’s home or country as a result of war or oppression and it is unrealistic to think that women and children are less affected than men.
Women in these environments become targets as a way to weaken their resolve in achieving independence and have to rely on others for help or do without. With the crowdfunding page created by McDonald, Saliu and Pudney, they intend to raise awareness of how crucial it is to provide these women with their needs. It is up to us, and the rest of the world, to step up and ensure that everyone, especially women in crisis environments, get their needs met. It’s the least we can do for them and future generations.
What other basic needs would you have if you had to flee on short notice?
This is an original guest post written by Tes Silverman for World Moms Blog.
Tes Silverman was born in the Manila, Philippines and has been a New Yorker for more than 30 years. Moving from the Philippines to New York opened the doors to the possibility of a life of writing and travel. Before starting a family, she traveled to Iceland, Portugal, Brussels, and France, all the while writing about the people she met through her adventures. After starting a family, she became a freelance writer for publications such as Newsday’s Parents & Children and various local newspapers. Four years ago, she created her blog, The Pinay Perspective. PinayPerspective.com is designed to provide women of all ages and nationalities the space to discuss the similarities and differences on how we view life and the world around us. As a result of her blog, she has written for BlogHer.com and been invited to attend and blog about the Social Good Summit and Mom+Social Good. Currently residing in Huntington, NY with her husband, sixteen year-old daughter and nine year-old Morkie, she continues to write stories of women and children who make an impact in their communities and provide them a place to vocalize their passions.
World Moms Blog is an award winning website which writes from over 30 countries on the topics of motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. Over 70 international contributors share their stories from around the globe, bonded by the common thread of motherhood and wanting a better world for their children.
World Moms Blog was listed by Forbes Woman as one of the "Best 100 Websites for Women 2012 & 2013" and also called a "must read" by the NY Times Motherlode in 2013. Our Senior Editor in India, Purnima Ramakrishnan, was awarded the BlogHer International Activist Award in 2013.
Can we just stay in a world where bagel necklaces solve all of our problems?
Shocked. Confused. Completely taken aback. That’s what happened the other day when I was watching my two young girls on the playground and elementary-aged kids came out to play. Horrible language, bullying, and throwing around malicious comments about looks, behavior, and sexual orientation.
Those words. Those attitudes. That scrutiny. I was so suddenly jolted from my innocent little world of swings and sand castles and hoisted into a “big kid” universe that I was disbelieving of what was happening around me.
I had so many questions. How do these kids even know these words? Should I do something to intervene? And then the realization hit. My children, now ages 5, 3 and nearly 2, will be thrown into similar situations in the not-so-distant future. And what would they do in this situation? Have I taught them to respect others? To be the right kind of friend?
And close behind became a second epiphany. These are the days. The days to appreciate. The days not to take for granted. I think I have problems when my 20 month old won’t go down for a nap on the first try. Or when my kindergartener drops an entire box of Cheerios on the floor. When my three-year old refuses to wear anything but her Olaf sweatshirt. When my toddler eats Play Doh. Problems. These are our “problems.”
Sometimes I find myself complaining, maligning the fact that my children can’t quite do things for themselves yet. After my encounter on the playground, I’ll keep my problems and multiply them by one hundred before wishing for my kids to grow up.
Yes, I’ll happily read “Old McDonald Had A Farm” 100 times in a row, help you put on your socks and velcro your shoes, and carry you when you are just too tired to walk anymore, because these “problems” are not really problems at all. They are tiny – nearly microscopic – bumps in the road to becoming independent.
And as not-so-subtly thrown in my face that day on the playground, I realized that as children grow up, their problems become more delicate, emotional, and serious. The problems that they face are more complicated and likely to impact others.
Can someone please find a way to make time stand still? Because I don’t want to get to the more serious stuff. I want them to stay young, innocent, and oblivious to mean behavior, bad language, and unforgiving situations. And I want my problems to revolve around Cheerios and Play Doh rather than the much, much harder stuff.
But try as I may, I can’t freeze time. They will grow up and make choices on their own. And when they reach that point, my hope is that the example I have set for them is to be kind; love others; empathize; have unwavering confidence in who they are; and surround themselves with the right people. If they adopt that attitude, maybe we will be able to navigate the real problems with greater ease.
Just a few weeks ago, I volunteered to read to my son’s class. He proudly sat in my lap as I read, and when we left school that day, he asked, “Mommy, can you go on the next field trip with us? You know mommies are allowed to go on field trips.” It didn’t take me long to find a babysitter for my younger two so that I could chaperone his next trip.
Happy to chaperone my son’s field trip to the ornament factory
I’m not going to let these days pass me by – these days when they are impressionable, eager to listen and learn, and want me around. I’m going to use them as wisely as I can. Instead of thinking I have problems when my toddler throws her winter hat off for the tenth time in one day or my three year old melts down when her brother doesn’t bring her something from the school bake sale. I will think about how trivial our “problems” are in comparison to the more grown-up situations they will soon face.
And I will use the extra time I have not obsessing over the small things but to teach them how to embrace the qualities that will serve them well on that critical day when they have to start making important choices on their own.
This is an original post to World Moms Blog from our mom to three and writer in Poland, Loren Braunohler.
The images used in this post are attributed to the author.
Loren Braunohler is a former U.S. diplomat turned stay-at-home mom and freelance writer. She is a world traveler who avoids the cold (don't ask why she is currently in Poland). Former assignments have included Mozambique, Venezuela, Australia, Sudan, Thailand and Washington, D.C. She enjoys running, although she probably enjoys sleeping even more. Loren blogs about her family's international adventures and parenting at www.toddlejoy.com.