“There are times when it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that my husband and I are blessed to have Abhishek as our child!” I recently said , to a close friend.
You might initially assume that these are the words of a proud parent and that the child is an achiever in the worldly sense of the term. Yes, every child is an achiever in their own way; but the special gifts that every child brings into the lives of their parents are much more meaningful than mere achievements.
The early years:
When Abhi was a toddler and composed tiny poems about Nature, we nick-named him “sunflower” to reflect the innocence and sheer joie de vivre that he expressed at every waking moment. We felt humbled and awed by the fact that this trusting little soul had chosen us to participate in his quest for meaning, to share his curiosity and to gaze at the world with eyes filled with wonder. When we were with him, we found it easy to brush away the dust of old “has-been’s” and “should be’s”. We shrugged off pre-judged notions of what things ought to be, what fun is supposed to look like, what work truly means. We learned to become child-like again. His easy take on life restored our hope in fellow human beings. His intense love for “all creatures big and small” reminded us about how truly interconnected we all are in the fabric of life. Most of all, his trust made us want to be the kind of people he would look up to.
“Practice, don’t preach” became a necessary rule to live by.
Over the years:
As the years rolled by, and the toddler grew into a tween and then a teen, we realized just how much we had learned, thanks to him. One kind of learning was the ability to see the world through his eyes – uncompromising, clear and yet optimistic about the future. The other, more subtle kind of learning was related to our role as parents; were we living the truth of everything that we asked him to be and do? We were not just messengers of a message, we WERE the message.
From the pages of the family album – Unbridled joy in the tiniest of things – who better than a child to teach an adult about this?
A debt to our children:
Could it be that as parents we owe a debt to our children, far greater than what is ever imagined or acknowledged? Our children teach us all about trust, faith, patience and pure, unsullied joy. If we are willing to learn, they teach us what unconditional love is all about. And through our interaction with them, we explore the boundaries of our physical, mental and emotional reserves; learning to stretch ourselves to meet the ever-changing challenges that they bring to our lives. From being self-contained adults, we move to a higher, more intense realm of thinking, feeling and being.
Parents – not just givers, but receivers too:
Perhaps parenting is looked upon as an almost overwhelming responsibility because the focus is frequently on the need to give, give…sigh… and give some more. Granted that the axis of one’s life changes forever when children arrive. One learns, perhaps for the first time, to put someone else first. When we pause to take stock of all that we receive; the joys, the learnings, the richness that imbues everyday moments and makes them into cherished memories, parenting seems like a special gift. A privilege granted by the universe. Hence it would not be incorrect to say: Our children make us into better people!
I stood in the doorway. Uneasy, uncertain if I was at the right place at all. I couldn’t seem to find my way around this hospital. My eyes flashed back and forth, seeking for some sort of assurance. A doctor passed me, I stepped aside to let him pass in the narrow hallway. I read the sign on the door again. It said to report here, but the lady behind the desk was ignoring me. Her phone conversation seemed to be going on forever. Then she stepped out of the room and passed me. Nothing about her acknowledged the fact that I was there. She held her nose high, her face a mask of arrogance. Her heels clicked away while I repressed the hint of anger that I felt rising in my stomach.
I took a seat and a big breath of air and turned to my phone for distraction. The heels came clicking down the hallway again. Still on the phone, she took her seat behind the desk again. Still nothing. I was completely invisible to her. By this time I was having a vivid conversation with myself.
“Leave it Mirjam. She’s talking to a patient. Maybe she didn’t see you.”
“I am so certain that she saw me! This is not worth getting angry over.”
“But you have to stand up for yourself!”
“No, I’ll just leave it.”
The doctor called me in and ended my inner struggle. I mumbled something about being ignored, but let go of the situation. After my appointment, I sat in the same hallway again waiting for the doctor to hand me the forms for my bloodwork. A woman approached me, she smiled apologetically. Her face was soft and friendly.
“I’m so sorry that I kept you waiting,” she said. “I had a situation and I was in a panic. Are you still waiting for me? Did the doctor call you in already? You don’t have to wait in the hallway, you can wait in the lounge, where you can have a cup of coffee. I’m so sorry. Is there anything else I can do for you?”
As she walked away, I could have slapped myself in the face. If there is anything I have learned this past year from working with kids with special needs, then it is that there is always more then what you can see at first sight. My first rule is: whenever there’s an extreme, look beyond the behavior. There’s always a reason for the behavior. No one yells for no reason. No kid acts out for no reason. At my work when I react to the behavior, I miss out on the real reason behind the behavior. I miss out on a chance to really connect.
I have used this technique a lot in my work. When a kid starts throwing things in anger, I can give a lecture about not throwing things and give a consequence. But I can also start a conversation by saying: ‘I can see that you are really angry,” and find out what the real issue is.
Most of the time I find out that the angry child is feeling sick, had a difficult morning or is feeling anxious about something. Addressing the real issue always deescalates the situation quickly.
I have also tried this technique at home. Whenever my youngest is whiney and starts yelling for no apparent reason, instead of reprimanding her or correcting her behavior, I stop and think a moment and then I address or investigate the situation. I take her by the hand and look her in the eye. “Are you hungry? Shall I make you something to eat?”, “Did you have a rough day? Do you want a hug?”, “You are tired, aren’t you? Do you want to sit on the couch, can I get you a blanket? Shall I make you a cup of tea?”
I haven’t perfected this technique, at least not at home. I have found that at home it is harder to control my emotions. When one of my kids starts acting extreme, my first instinct is still to correct the behavior or to step in and join the madness. At work it is easier. I can take a step back and think before I react. But I am getting better at this every day. The situation in the hospital has taught me that adults are no different from children in this area. Instead of getting angry, I could have reacted with patience. I could have been more apprehensive. In hindsight, I realize that I did notice that her cheeks were flushed. I heard her say that she was doing her best to fix the situation. I should have looked beyond her behavior.
When I look at the world around me this way, I find that I am so much more understanding, so much more forgiving for people around me. This is why I am sharing this with you today. Because we could all use a bit more understanding, right? The next time your child, spouse, neighbor or coworker starts yelling or overreacts for no apparent reason, don’t join the madness. Take a step back, think, make eye contact or make physical contact and address the situation, investigate.
I guarantee you, you will witness a tiny miracle.
Do you think you can use this technique? Have you ever been in a situation where there was more behind someone’s behavior than you thought at first?
This is an original post for World Moms Network written by Mirjam in the Netherlands
Mirjam was born in warm, sunny Surinam, but raised in the cold, rainy Netherlands.
She´s the mom of three rambunctious beauties and has been married for over two decades to the love of her life.
Every day she´s challenged by combining the best and worst of two cultures at home.
She used to be an elementary school teacher but is now a stay at home Mom. In her free time she loves to pick up her photo camera.
Mirjam has had a life long battle with depression and is not afraid to talk about it.
She enjoys being a blogger, an amateur photographer, and loves being creative in many ways.
But most of all she loves live and laughter, even though sometimes she is the joke herself.
You can find Mirjam (sporadically) at her blog Apples and Roses where she blogs about her battle with depression and finding beauty in the simplest of things. You can also find Mirjam on Twitter and Instagram.
I want to start out by saying that this is not some sort of fat shaming post – much to the contrary.
Not many years ago I weighed 67 kg (about 147 lbs.) – what is considered to be the “ideal” weight for my height. Now I weigh 105 kg (231 lbs.). Yes, my weight fluctuated back and forth over the years, but I had never weighed so much, not even during my pregnancies.
In fact, people often ask whether my weight gain had anything to do with my pregnancies. “No”, I answer, “I began gaining more weight after my youngest child turned one”. “So what happened?” is often the next question.
Having been the slave of an eating disorder for a long 26 years, I have a lot of answers for that one. Analyzing the motives behind my overeating and binging episodes took up a great portion of my life when I was trying to cure myself, but that is the theme of a sequel to this post.
The fact is, my gaining weight, now that I look back, was actually an important step in rethinking my relationship with food and with my own body.
What I wanted to share today was a handful of things I learned after gaining close to 40 kg (over 80 lbs).
It did take a while for people to notice and start to comment. After all, I am a very tall, big boned woman who likes to wear loose, comfy clothing. But after a certain point people started to comment. A lot.
“What is happening? Have you been to a doctor?”
“You have to work on your self-esteem!”
“Are you pregnant again?”
“Are you absolutely sure you’re not pregnant?”
“You need to try this recipe/diet/exercise program.”
“You need to take care of yourself!”
“Be careful, your husband might start cheating on you if you don’t get your act together!”
And on and on and on…
Most people meant well, especially close friends and family. However, I would stare at the mirror and think I didn’t look that bad. No, I didn’t like having a protuberant tummy for the first non-pregnant time in my life (nothing against tummies, but I have always been more pear shaped). But other than that I thought I looked quite good. Medically I am fine too – after looking at the results of a whopping 26 tests, my doctor said my blood work could have been that of a 15-year-old.
However, other stuff does bother me a lot, the first being the assumptions people started to make, well-meaning or not. Many assume that being fat means you have health issues or very low self-esteem.
Another annoyance is trying to find clothes. For most of my life – even when I was skinny – I have had trouble finding clothes (and shoes!) that fit me, as I am a tall and big boned woman in a region where most ladies are not this large. Now it is so much worse and soooooooo much more expensive, which always feels like I am being punished for some reason.
At some point I began to read about the different movements that have been sparking up around the globe to celebrate women of any size and shape (men too, but there is just so much more pressure on women). I discovered that among all of the studies linking body fat to health issues, there are several that have not found such a clear link. But these are not given nearly as much attention by the media.
All in all, health and body size is a very personal issue that is linked to a huge number of variables. There are also studies that have linked dieting patterns to eating disorders, and teenage girls are at the greatest risk.
So, in the midst of all this, what are the dangers of being a fat mother?
To me the greatest dangers of being a fat mother are forgetting to love my body no matter what, trying to change it to conform to the world’s standards, and obsessing over weight-related issues instead of truly enjoying my life.
I want my children, and my daughter especially, to know that they are worthy of love regardless of what their bodies might look like, and I must model that example as best as possible.
I said this would not be a fat shaming post, but it is not advocating fat either. It is advocating joy, self-love and happiness, no matter what size, shape or state your body is. People (me included, for a long time) tend to think that if you love your body as it is you won’t have the motivation to change. Now I see that not loving my body regardless of anything else only makes things worse, and for a long time only made me want to eat more. Also, for a long time I thought avoiding my body (as in avoiding the mirror) was a good enough substitute for loving it.
There is so much more to say, but for now that is a small piece of my story with my body.
And you? How do you relate to your body? Tell us your story in the comments!
This is an original post to World Moms Network by Eco Ziva of Brazil. Photo credit: Alan Levine. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.
Eco, from the greek oikos means home; Ziva has many meanings and roots, including Hebrew (brilliance, light), Slovenian (goddess of life) and Sanskrit (blessing). In Brazil, where EcoZiva has lived for most of her life, giving birth is often termed “giving the light”; thus, she thought, a mother is “home to light” during the nine months of pregnancy, and so the penname EcoZiva came to be for World Moms Blog.
Born in the USA in a multi-ethnic extended family, EcoZiva is married and the mother of two boys (aged 12 and three) and a five-year-old girl and a three yearboy. She is trained as a biologist and presently an university researcher/professor, but also a volunteer at the local environmental movement.
In 2000, I packed my life into checked baggage and travelled from Johannesburg to Toronto. I left behind my family and friends, my cat, most of my belongings, and everything that I was familiar with. All I had was two suitcases, a job offer, and a street map of a city I knew very little about.
Sixteen years later, Toronto is my home. I am a Canadian citizen with a Canadian husband and Canadian children.
I have made friends, paid taxes and acquired some belongings. I have worked for Canadian employers and started my own business. When I travel, it is with a passport that says “Canada” on the front.
And yet there is a part of me that is still firmly rooted in South Africa. I follow news stories from South Africa and celebrate the victories of its people. I take immense pride in the fact that I was born in the same country as people like Nelson Mandela and Caster Semenya.
You see, even though I made the choice to leave South Africa, and even though I now identify as a Canadian, South Africa will always be the land of my birth and a part of who I am. Although my children have never left the continent of North America, African blood runs through their veins.
When the world looks at South Africa, it sees a deeply troubled country with corrupt politics and a high crime rate. But South Africa is made up of more than its problems. It is unlikely to ever be an economic or political powerhouse on the world stage, but it is great in its own way.
I try to keep these things alive in my children’s lives through stories, pictures and videos. Thanks to the Internet, I can bring parts of South Africa right into my living room in Canada. It is my hope that someday they will get to experience these things in person, just as I did during a visit last year.
Here is my top five list of things that I feel make South Africa a unique and wonderful country.
The people. When you see news coverage of South Africans trashing city streets and destroying schools, you are seeing the minority. Most South Africans are very nice people. Their friendliness has a spontaneous quality that is not seen in a lot of other places. They don’t hold back on their smiles, and when they say “Have a nice day” they genuinely mean it. South African people are incredibly generous with their good cheer.
The natural beauty. South Africa is one of the most stunningly beautiful places on earth. Pictures do not do justice to the wildness of the oceans, the harsh beauty of the Karoo desert, the brilliance of Cape Town sunsets, and the majesty of the mountains.
The weather. OK, Cape Town weather is a little iffy, but you can’t really expect anything else from a city that has mountains on one side and ocean on the other. The weather in Johannesburg, however, is as close to perfect as you can get. Hot dry temperatures in the summer, and mild temperatures in the winter. The summers also include magnificent thunderstorms. I’m not talking about the odd bolt of lightning or rumble of thunder. I’m talking about nature’s own sound and light shows.
Unity. At times, South Africa is sharply divided along racial lines, with the different ethnic groups all blaming each other for the problems in the country. But during some pivotal moments in South Africa’s history – the release of Nelson Mandela from prison, South Africa’s first democratic election, the rugby World Cup victory and more – the people have come together under the single banner of humanity. It is the kind of unity that is not only seen in pictures, it is felt in the heart. It is during those moments that the country is at its strongest.
Dance and music. I absolutely love traditional African dance and music. It does not merely entertain, it tells a story. It is powerful and creative, and it beats to the rhythm of your heart. I can’t copy the dance moves or sing along to the music, but I can bask in the emotion and humanity of it.
What are the things you love most about your country? If you are an ex-pat, what do you miss most from home?
This is an original post to World Moms Network by Kirsten Doyle of Toronto, Canada.
Kirsten Doyle was born in South Africa. After completing university, she drifted for a while and finally washed up in Canada in 2000. She is Mom to two boys who have reached the stage of eating everything in sight (but still remaining skinny).
Kirsten was a computer programmer for a while before migrating into I.T. project management. Eventually she tossed in the corporate life entirely in order to be a self-employed writer and editor. She is now living her best life writing about mental health and addictions, and posting videos to two YouTube channels.
When Kirsten is not wrestling with her kids or writing up a storm, she can be seen on Toronto's streets putting many miles onto her running shoes. Every year, she runs a half-marathon to benefit children with autism, inspired by her older son who lives life on the autism spectrum.
Final piece of information: Kirsten is lucky enough to be married to the funniest guy in the world.
Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Be sure to check out her YouTube channels at My Gen X Life and Word Salad With Coffee!
It was a very short time ago that I was seven years old imagining that 10 was very grown-up and close to being a teenager, andthe Millennium was so far in the future that my head hurt to think about it. Yesterday, or thereabouts, I was 19 recovering from a minor relationship breakup, wondering whether I’d find someone to marry and trying to imagine what it would be like to be a person’s Mum.
Today I am 48 and alone again. I get to be the parent of three incredible human beings and I, pretty much, get to do everything that comes with that. And I’ve never been happier.
I get to get up in the night with my youngest who needs to go to the loo and anyone who has a nightmare or wants a hug. I get calls at random hours to go look at the stars or the moon – “Look I got you a duvet, Mum. Come join me.” It’s not entirely beyond the consciousness of these mini-mes that I am up at 4.50am week days. They know I am also being woken by hot-flushes. They have seen me have sudden moments of realization that the cat isn’t able to get to the litter-box, if I don’t get up immediately and open the door to the garage. They know I suddenly rush about organizing something, right now, right this second before I forget. But they don’t realize I also do all this at 3.00am or 2.10am or 12.55am.
I haven’t read a fiction book for myself for years, though I used to read one a day at times. I rarely exercise, or clothes shop, or get my haircut.
I work where I can laugh and sometimes get real, adult conversation. After work there are the countless errands of groceries or pharmacy visits or book stores or stationers, maybe if I’m lucky catching up with friends. There’s people to call when organizing four lives, the washing to get in and a house to be kept if not clean, at least hygienic. There’s meals to prepare most nights and children to teach how to prepare them on other nights. There’s homework and school meetings and fundraising and parent-teacher interviews to be a part of. And when I get home at night after I’ve been at a school meeting, if the dishes aren’t done it’s my job to at least wash them, and meat to get out of the freezer for the next night’s dinner.
There’s food scraps to be buried and a garden that really needs to be weeded. There’s children to be taught how to organize themselves and supervised to do so, once that’s learned. There’s chores to supervise or check are completed. There’s a cat to be fed and watered.
It’s all on me to get the car to the garage for servicing or repairs. If the house breaks, it’s my responsibility to get it fixed and to pay for those bills. The doctors visits are mine. The dentists visits are mine. The trips to the recycling depot and the dump are all mine. No one changes a light-bulb without me asking it to be done. Sometimes, things have to be ignored, at least temporarily for six months or so. It never ends.
And, it’s true, I’ve never been happier.
I know who I am and I am more likely now to call people on their b.s. that I ever have been before. I adore my house, live minutes from shops and an easy drive to the ocean, and can’t imagine living anywhere else. I have work I love and friends I think are just wonderful. I get out enough with just grown-ups. I have support I could call on, if I really have to. My boys are fabulous when consciousness over-rides testosterone, which is most of the time. And we laugh together hard. And often.
This week my house is an utter mess, my car needs to be taken to the garage, I was in bed at 7.45pm on Monday after 5 and a half hours sleep on Sunday night, I have paperwork that should have been finished a week ago, the cat has a dodgy tummy and my it was my youngest’s turn to become seven.