USA: Scissors, Gun Control, and My Suicidal Daughter

My teenager has had a rough few months. She came to me with the information that she felt suicidal and had a plan to end her own life.

I brought her to our local emergency room, where my baby girl had her clothes taken away, an alarm strapped to her wrist, and a room right across from the nurses’ station where she could be constantly monitored. After a long day of evaluations, testing, and phone calls, my child was transferred to another hospital that had a juvenile psychiatric ward.

After her stay in the psychiatric ward, my daughter enrolled in a partial hospitalization program.

Her clinician there told me I needed to lock up all of our household medication and anything sharp. Knives in the kitchen, razors in the bathroom, and even child safety scissors that couldn’t cut hair all had to be locked up in a metal container, not plastic, as plastic could be broken fairly quickly. I asked the woman telling me all of this whether this level of action was necessary for a teenager who had only had thoughts of hurting herself without acting on any of those ideas.

My daughter’s clinician told me that nothing would really, truly keep my child safe if she was determined to hurt herself. The goal in locking up those medications and sharp objects was to make it more difficult for her to act impulsively if she felt the urge to self-harm. I have thought about those words frequently these past few days. We live in a society where weapons are easily obtainable. Somehow, our society has not yet realized that legally allowing such free access to semi-automatic weapons is allowing people like my daughter, whose mental states are not where they should be, to be able to make spontaneous decisions to harm themselves or others.

Let me be clear: I am not talking about criminals here. People who want to break the law will find ways to do so, and I will not waste my words bickering over why changing the laws won’t do anything to stop lawbreakers. I am talking about people who are mostly law-abiding but are struggling with serious mental health issues or going through extremely emotionally charged situations, such as a horrific divorce. I am also not talking about infringing on anyone’s Second Amendment rights. I’m not arguing that US citizens shouldn’t be allowed to own guns.

I am, however, stating that any random U.S. citizen should not be able to obtain whatever kind of weapon they desire whenever they want it. No one told me I couldn’t keep scissors in my house while my daughter struggles with depression and anxiety. Her doctors and therapists realized that scissors would be present, much like guns will always be present in our country. Instead, her doctors told me how to prevent my child from using those scissors to hurt herself on an impulse while she battles depression. When my daughter needs to use scissors for a project, I’m going to give her the child safety scissors instead of something sharp enough to cut or stab herself. Our country should likewise exercise caution.

The Second Amendment was written long before the invention of today’s weaponry. We should update our gun laws. Horrible impulses to hurt other people with semi-automatic weapons should not be able to be planned and performed as easily as they are today.

Knowing my daughter’s current battles with anxiety and depression, I am concerned about the day she is old enough to legally obtain a gun. She is medicated and receiving treatment at the moment, but I will not always be around to watch out for her mental state. God willing, my child will fully recover and live a long and healthy, happy life. Regardless, I want our country to come together and make it more difficult for my child to obtain a gun, so if she does ever again have that impulsive thought to end her own life, it will be harder for her to do so.

This is an original post submitted to World Moms Network. The author has been verified by our editing team, but has requested to remain anonymous. 

For more on gun control in the USA and how you can help, see “World Voice: Parkland Students Leading the Way for Gun Reform.” 

Photo credit to Kevin Doncaster. This photo has a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License. 

World Moms Network

World Moms Network is an award winning website whose mission statement is "Connecting mothers; empowering women around the globe." With over 70 contributors who write from over 30 countries, the site covered the topics of motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. Most recently, our Senior Editor in India, Purnima Ramakrishnan was awarded "Best Reporting on the UN" form the UNCA. The site has also been named a "Top Website for Women" by FORBES Woman and recommended by the NY Times Motherlode and the Times of India. Follow our hashtags: #worldmom and #worldmoms Formerly, our site was known as World Moms Blog.

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UNITED ARAB EMIRATES: Beach Bodies

Photo credit to the author

I live in a country where it’s bathing-suit season all year. As a woman “of a certain age,” as they say in France, that fact does not exactly fill me with joy.  My bathing suits tend to be utilitarian affairs, more designed for walking along the shore than glamorous sunbathing. Because I live in the United Arab Emirates, however, my friends in the States assume that there is some sort of dress code that mandates what I can wear. Ironically, I wish they were right, but they’re not. It would be great to blame a dress code for my demure swimsuit, rather than admit that it’s my love of bread (and occasional glass of wine) that led me to the one-piece life.

Sometimes I think it’s a betrayal of my feminist principles to be self-conscious about my middle-aged tummy (apparently when I turned fifty my metabolism pretty much decided to leave the building), but I can’t help it: my belly and a bikini aren’t going to be keeping company any time soon. Thinking about my own body makes me wonder how mothers of daughters negotiate the potential land-mines around issues of body image. I have two adolescent boys, and while I know they wrestle with questions about their physical appearance, it all seems less fraught for boys than for girls (ah, patriarchy: the gift that keeps on giving).

Photo credit to the author

I see teenage girls on the Abu Dhabi beaches in the tiniest of bikinis and wonder what I would say to my daughter, if I had one: I’d want to encourage her to wear whatever the hell she wants, on the one hand; and on the other, I’d worry about having her be so exposed, both literally and figuratively. I once joked to a friend of mine whose daughter is sixteen that perhaps all girls should wear “burkinis” and not just those who want to maintain hijab while at the beach.

At the beaches in Abu Dhabi, there are burkinis and bikinis and women wading in the water with their black abayas billowing out in the waves. Men in salwar khameez splash each other, while Russian men in tiny speedos do laps across the beach front.

Pink-skinned Brits crisp themselves in the sun (mad dogs and Englishmen, after all), and children of all sorts laugh and play in the waves. My teen-age sons see the beach as a place to play soccer, paddle-board, and hang out with their friends (preferably as far away from me as possible). I see the beach as a cosmopolitan space that allows for, and respects, individual differences—this person covered up, this person barely dressed—even as we’re all there enjoying ourselves.

When I told my kids about my beach-as-cosmopolitan metaphor, they scoffed. “It’s just a beach,” they said. But I wonder. In a world that is slipping faster and faster towards intolerance, nativism, and fundamentalism, I’m happy to grab at any indication that people from different worlds can exist happily in the same place.

What the beach also provides, much to the shared chagrin of my sons, is an opportunity to talk about (ssshh!) girls. Or rather, desire. And bodies, and respect. We talk (well, okay, I do most of the talking) about what it means to find someone attractive, and about how they feel about themselves in this public and uncovered space; I try not to laugh when the thirteen-year old mocks the sixteen-year old’s subtle bicep flexing when a cute girl walks by. I remind them that it’s okay to feel insecure about how they look (there was much scoffing at this point, and then some quiet questions). We also talk about the importance of looking past what someone is (or is not) wearing—and after one of those conversations, my younger son said, exasperated, “we’ve lived here for six years. Robes or no robes, covered or uncovered, I don’t really care. Can we get ice-cream?”

Ice creams were indeed purchased, although I didn’t have one. Maybe with enough “no” on ice cream, a bikini won’t be out of the question by August.

How do you talk with your tweens and teens about their bodies, and all the related issues? And how can we make sure that our own issues with our bodies don’t inflect how our children think about theirs?

This is an original post written by Mannahattamamma for World Moms Network.

Mannahattamamma (UAE)

After twenty-plus years in Manhattan, Deborah Quinn and her family moved to Abu Dhabi (in the United Arab Emirates), where she spends a great deal of time driving her sons back and forth to soccer practice. She writes about travel, politics, feminism, education, and the absurdities of living in a place where temperatures regularly go above 110F.
Deborah can also be found on her blog, Mannahattamamma.

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EGYPT: Beliefs and how they impact our lives

beliefs

According to Merriam Webster, a belief is, “something that a person accepts as true or right, a strongly held opinion about something.” A belief is just an opinion, not necessarily the truth or the reality. Beliefs can be imagined as an iceberg. There are some beliefs  we are conscious of, like the tip of the iceberg that can be seen above the water. Meanwhile, there are other beliefs we are less aware of, the larger part of the iceberg that lies below the water.

There are different types of beliefs. There are some that are empowering beliefs, like we are happy, we are successful , life is beautiful and worth being lived, failure is a part of the success journey, and so on. Other beliefs are disempowering, like I am unhappy, I am not good enough, life is unfair, I am a loser, et cetera. Such beliefs can be very limiting. Our beliefs about ourselves shape our lives. If we hold empowering beliefs, we feel more satisfaction and peace of mind. Otherwise, we are frustrated and unhappy most of the time. Most of our beliefs are formed during our childhood and adolescence.

Why our beliefs impact our lives?

Our beliefs drive our behaviors, so anything we do can be linked back to a certain belief we hold. Our perception of a situation creates a thought in our mind. The thought triggers an emotion, and the emotion makes us behave in a certain way. For example, one of my clients felt uncomfortable when her colleagues repeated to her, “You are so kind.” From my point of view, it was a positive comment of praise, while she perceived it as, “You are so naive.” With the positive perception, she would have felt totally comfortable and satisfied. Meanwhile, with the negative perception she felt annoyed and uncomfortable. These two different perceptions of the same situation triggered two completely different feelings, which lead to two totally different behaviors.

When we go through the same experience with the same thought, we feel the same feeling and we behave the same way until it becomes an unconscious belief and the behavior becomes automatic. Unfortunately it becomes the TRUTH while actually it is just our truth that we created due to our perception. If we want to change our behavior, we need to change the angle from which we see the situation.

“Making mistakes is shameful”

I grew up in a family and a school where making mistakes was not an option. We were punished, made fun of, and severely criticized for making mistakes. There were only one way to do anything, the way the elders wanted it done. Anything else was wrong and unacceptable. Living in such an environment was really hard.  I always felt like an accused who needed to defend herself. I wanted to have my own life, but unfortunately anything that did not match their way was considered a mistake.

One of my dis-empowering beliefs that negatively affected my life and harmed my self confidence for many years was, “Making mistakes is shameful.” I was so sensitive, so I avoided many situations and experiences to avoid the feeling of guilt and shame I felt every time I thought I made a mistake. I feared oral exams, trying new things, delivering presentations, and giving an opinion in a meeting or a class. I was so frightened of failure that I had to find help. My coach helped me see my foundational belief that making mistakes is shameful, and helped me to see that it caused me to avoid situations where I feared failure. It took me some time to adopt the new perception and to overcome my fear and my belief. Fortunately, I can now express myself in public easily, confidently, and in a relaxed way.

How we can change a behavior?

When you want to change your behavior in any situation and you want to find out what dis-empowering belief you hold, just answer these questions:

What are your thoughts in this situation?

How do you feel every time you go through it?

Write down your answers, and repeat this process several times. You will begin to notice a pattern. Notice your inner self talks and your wording – it will tell you a lot about your beliefs. To change the behavior, you need to change the angle from which you perceive the situation. Try to find a more positive perception – it will make a big shift in your thoughts and feelings and hence your behaviors.

As moms we need to be so careful with our children. We must pay attention to how we treat them, and also how we treat ourselves or speak about ourselves in front of them. We need to be aware of our dis-empowering beliefs, and work on changing them as they will surely affect our children. They acquire their self confidence and self esteem from ours. Our children see themselves through our eyes and they believe us, so if you tell your child they are not good enough or they are amazing they will believe you and may be they will live their whole life with this belief. Be cautious which beliefs you want to implant in your child.

Are you aware of your beliefs? What type of beliefs do you hold about yourself? How do they affect your life? Do you have a similar story, to share with us, about replacing a limiting belief ?

This is an original post for World Moms Network by Nihad from Alexandria, Egypt. Nihad blogs at Aurora Beams Life Coaching.

Image via José María Foces Morán / Flickr

Nihad

Nihad is an Egyptian woman, who was born and has lived her whole life in Alexandria, Egypt. She says, “People who visited this city know how charming and beautiful this city is. Although I love every city in Egypt, Alexandria is the one I love the most.” She is a software engineer and has worked in the field for more than twenty years. But recently she quit her job, got a coaching certificate and she is now a self employed life and career coach. She says, “I believe that women in this era face big challenges and they are taking huge responsibilities. That's why I have chosen my niche -- women looking for happiness and satisfaction. I help and support them in making whatever change (career change, life change, behavior change, belief change…) they want to bring more satisfaction and happiness in their lives.” Nihad is a mother of two lovely boys, 15 and 9 years old. She states, “They are the most precious gifts I have ever had. I madly love them, and I consider them the main source of happiness in my life.” Our inspiring mother in Egypt can also be found at Aurora Beams Life Coaching.

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UAE: Parenting Tips from Harry Potter

Harry Potter

My husband is a New Yorker whose theatergoing parents always planned their theater outings well in advance. He’s adopted this same long-range planning attitude, and that’s how we ended up with tickets to “the Harry Potter play” this past September. In a fit of jet-lag , he’d bought tickets the previous November during an airport layover en route to Abu Dhabi.

Using our airline miles, we flew to London in September, during the Eid holidays, to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. We took our children, of course, which meant that it wasn’t a vacation but a family trip. Although you might want to think that these are synonyms, they’re really not. If you’re on vacation, you’re never forced to whisper-yell at someone to put down his phone and pay attention when he’s going through security, or explain (for the umpteenth time) that we didn’t fly all the way to London just to hang out in the Jack Wills store.

Those of you with small children or infants might think that traveling with older children looks easy. Their gear tends to be smaller and there’s that whole “go to the bathroom on their own” thing, which is pretty great. But with a small child, there is always the chance that she will fall asleep in her stroller, a cracker crushed in her pudgy fist, and then you can proceed to stroll in the park, or walk through a gallery without much whinging. Older children whinge; they have opinions and needs.

Other people’s children whinge, that is. My family travels in an entirely whinge-free zone. No whinging here, nope, nothing to see here, move along.

Wrapped in our whinge-free bubble, we went off to the play, about which I can say nothing. I’m pretty much sworn to secrecy about the play’s magic, other than to say that all the effects were accomplished through stagecraft. There weren’t any digital effects or computer-aided sorcery, which in this day and age is rather a marvel, all by itself. The plot was… well, you may have already read the book (which is the script of the play), so you know the plot. It’s the standard Rowling combination of magic and family, with the emphasis on family.

There is one key plot point that sets the play apart: Harry Potter is forty. He works for the Ministry of Magic and has discovered, as so many of us do, that life as an adult isn’t as much fun as we thought it would be. Harry longs to continue dashing around in an invisibility cloak, but there are reports to write and files to go through—all the joys of adult work. He’s chafing a bit, is our Harry. Ron even jokes that Harry’s scar aches not because of any Voldemort-related reason but because of middle age. Everything aches a bit these days, he points out.

When the play starts, Harry and his family are standing on platform 9 ¾, and Harry’s elder sons, James and Albus, are bickering so violently that Harry whisper-yells at them to “behave!” Can I tell you how heartening it is to see that even Harry Potter’s children misbehave in public?

At its heart, the Harry Potter series is about a child wondering about his parents. The play flips the tables: now it’s a parent wondering about his children. Harry’s son Albus feels the weight of being the son of “the boy who lived” and, as is the case with most teenagers, Albus doesn’t always handle his feelings gracefully. Of course, as is the case with most parents, Harry doesn’t always handle his feelings gracefully, either.

In an effort to keep Albus safe, Harry imposes more and more rules, which have precisely the opposite effect. As I watched Harry struggle with Albus, I winced in recognition. Lately it seems that in my efforts to connect with my almost sixteen-year old son, I inevitably say the wrong thing at the wrong time and before you know it, one of us is yelling. (And of course, the fault is always mine. My son makes that abundantly clear.)

Harry’s questions remind me of my own: how do I keep my teenager safe and, at the same time, let him grow and develop in his own way, even if that means letting him take risks and (occasionally) be really quite an idiot?  When my children were toddlers, I wished someone would invent a kind of bubble wrap suit that I could wrap around them to prevent bruising, and now that my children are older, I wish there were emotional bubble wrap that would prevent the inevitable heartache that comes with growing up. If only Jack Wills made such a thing.

As Harry and Albus slowly find their way back to one another after the emotional battles that wound them both, they learn to accept one another’s imperfections. The lesson of the Harry Potter play highlights the fact that we don’t need to be perfect to be loved—and therein lies the real magic.

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Deborah Quinn, Mannahattamamma of the UAE. Photo credit to the author.

 

 

Mannahattamamma (UAE)

After twenty-plus years in Manhattan, Deborah Quinn and her family moved to Abu Dhabi (in the United Arab Emirates), where she spends a great deal of time driving her sons back and forth to soccer practice. She writes about travel, politics, feminism, education, and the absurdities of living in a place where temperatures regularly go above 110F.
Deborah can also be found on her blog, Mannahattamamma.

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INDIA: Our Children make us into better people

INDIA: Our Children make us into better people

From the pages of a Mother’s Diary

“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.

piya

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!

MADAGASCAR: Affected by addiction and raising children

Addiction

I’m the mommy of two boys. I’d love to have a girl, but I’m a bit afraid to give it a try because I’m not sure how to raise a girl. Malagasy women and girls face many challenges, and I’m not sure I’m equipped to teach a girl what to do in order to succeed, or just to survive.

I’m a woman now, but have been a girl too and I know that it’s not easy. I learned this at a very young age while I observed what happened at home. My father (may his soul rest in peace now) had a serious addiction to alcohol, and he used to beat my mother – a lot. My younger brother and I witnessed many fights and abuse. These scenes are printed in my mind forever, though I pretend I’ve forgotten them.

My father drank because he was not happy with his life. He was a skilled musician – he played classical guitar and traverse flute like a god – but he never shined as a recognized virtuoso. He didn’t make much money, and Mom had to work very hard to support our household. I think Dad didn’t like this. He felt emasculated. He felt miserable. Instead of trying to overcome his problems, he drank in order to forget them and took out his anger on my mom.

Violence is such a mystery to me. I was 10 when my parents divorced, and I already knew many things children shouldn’t have to know. My dad died two years after that. He most likely died while drunk. Someone got him to hospital where, because he was unconscious, he couldn’t tell the doctors that he was diabetic. They used inadequate medicines and he died. We only found out the day after. I went to see him at the hospital and when I stared into the empty bed where he was supposed to be, the nurse just told me “The guy who was there died this morning,” without any other comment. Well, okay… Something broke inside of me.

I will not share more details, because I want to spare my mom and my brother. But I will say that the three of us are all survivors of addiction – a silent war millions of people suffer around the world, every day. We all found different ways to overcome it. For me it is hard work and activism, with a particular focus on promoting and defending women’s rights. Adversity shapes our personality in ways we don’t expect. All we have to do is to find enough strength in our hardship in order to rise again.

Now, back to my boys. I would like to find a way to teach them how to respect girls and to grow up to be gentlemen, but I’m not sure I am getting it right. My mind is full of doubt. I’m not self-confident. Motherhood is an amazing, yet terrifying, adventure. Am I a good model for them? Should I tell them this horrible story of growing up affected by addiction, so that they can understand what I mean? How do we raise good boys and girls? I don’t have the answers but expect some from you, fellow mothers….

It feels good to share my story, sad though it may be. Writing is like therapy for me. Girls deserve better and everyone must do their part in order to improve the situation. Silence is not a solution. We have to stand against injustice at every opportunity. Whatever your fight is, and whoever you are, I m standing with you to say RESIST, HOLD ON, better days are ahead!

This is an original post for World Moms Blog by Ketakandriana Rafitoson, our new contributor from Madagascar.

Photo courtesy of David Goehring / Flickr.