Above and Below: Celebrating on World Oceans Day

Above and Below: Celebrating on World Oceans Day

Though the World is still reeling from impacts the SARS-CoV-2 has wrought on terra firma since December 2019, today is World Oceans Day. As far as I know, the ocean is one place the virus has NOT wreaked havoc. So, let’s divert focus for a while and celebrate life…teeming below the sea.

If you are lucky enough to live on or near the coast, then you know the power of looking out over the sea. It’s a vista that can be inspiring, breathtaking, powerful, calming and foreboding; sometimes simultaneously. Remarkably, the ocean covers 71% of our planet’s surface and contains 97% of all water on Earth. Furthermore, about 80% of it has yet to be explored, mapped or even seen. Though the ocean is one, continuous body of water, humanity has divided it into 4 geographic regions: Pacific, Atlantic, Indian and Arctic; 5 regions if you also include the newly designated Southern Ocean, around Antarctica (facts courtesy of National Geographic). Maybe you already knew all of this. That’s awesome.

But did you also know that today, June 8, is the United Nations designated World Oceans Day?

The proposal to mark June 8 to celebrate the ocean came from the Canadian delegation, at the 1992 Earth Summit, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It didn’t pass an official resolution at the UN General Assembly until 2008. So, because June 8, 2021 is both the official relaunch of World Moms Network and UN World Oceans Day, I dedicate this post to both causes.

The theme for UN World Oceans Day 2021 is The Ocean: Life and Livelihoods. Because this is a post for World Moms Network, I’ll talk about how the ocean impacts my own family’s life.

Let me start by saying that the ocean has been a huge part of my life from inception.

I was born into a family of ocean lovers. My father served as a Navy Salvage Diver and my mother is an ocean devotee. As a child, I was surrounded by images, artifacts and elements of the sea. We spent lots of time at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, onboard boats and summering at the shore. In fact, when I think about it, I can hardly recall a family vacation that didn’t somehow involve being on, in or near the ocean. We spent hours at maritime museums, aquaria and gazing at painted seascapes in galleries near and far.

My college major had little to do with the ocean but one of the most impactful courses I took was Coral Reef Ecology. My college was located in Memphis, Tennessee. The lab portion of the course, however, was in The Bahamas. For one week in May, we lived at a science research station on the tiny island of San Salvador. We spent our mornings snorkeling and logging the biology of the island; and we spent our afternoons studying the geology of it. The sea enchanted me with the vibrant and complex societies just below its surface. I wanted to go deeper and learn more.

I knew I needed to get SCUBA certified.

In my early 20s, when I was living and working in Asia, I determined to get my diving certification so I could explore more of the world below the waves. Over the next decade, the journey took me to dive sites around Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Mexico and the Caribbean. Whenever there was time—and a nearby dive shop—I went.

When I met my husband in 2000, I encouraged him also to get PADI certified, so we could explore together. And we did. Early in our relationship, we spent a few days on a live-aboard dive boat in Thailand, in search of the ever elusive Whale Shark; we still haven’t spotted one. On our honeymoon, we did a wreck dive. Together we have seen reef sharks, barracuda, sail fish, and all kinds of rays. We have encountered pods of sea turtles, eels and octopus and infinite numbers of fish. Diving together was pure joy.

Then came kids.

In the past 15 years, we have dived just a handful of times; waiting for that day when maybe we could get our kids interested in diving too.

That day has arrived. This is the year, at 12 and 15, when our kids finally are ready to take on the adventure with us.

Though we all were born on one side of the Atlantic—the East Coast of the United States—we now live on the other side, the West Coast of Portugal. Back in northern New England, unless you’re diving for a lobster dinner, SCUBA diving isn’t a terribly popular past time. It’s COLD! And though the weather in Portugal is temperate and sunny year-round, the Atlantic here is even COLDER!

Diving in frigid, 17C/62F degree water with 7mm thick wetsuits, hoods and booties may not seem like ideal conditions but in Portugal, diving is a big deal. In fact, pretty much anything to do with the ocean is a big deal: surfing, kite surfing, wind surfing, boogie boarding, fishing, spear fishing, sport fishing, eating fish and, of course, sailing. The Portugese are a seafaring people. This is the home of The Discoverers after all.

In the middle of a pandemic, faced with social distance requirements, excessive screen time and lockdowns, what better place to escape than the ocean?

And that is what we did. We invested in getting our kids their SCUBA certifications; not because we plan to go diving every weekend nor even every vacation vacation. As World Moms, we’re all on a path to raise global citizens and part of that journey requires raising awareness at all levels. Sure, diving is a luxury—just like skiing or any sport that requires extensive gear—but when you experience an environment, when you truly spend time getting to know its surroundings and inhabitants, you become a citizen conservationist.

So today is World Oceans Day and to honor it, I’m happy to report that this past weekend, both of my kids did their first open water dive. When I descended 11m/33ft into the chilly waters off the coast of Sesimbra, Portugal and saw my kids kneeling on the sandy bottom, it was something akin to magic. I never got the chance to dive with my own father—the person who first planted the love of the sea deep within me—but by witnessing it planted in my own children, I know that I am passing on that legacy. I know that I am raising stewards of the sea.

Slide left or right for before and after

This is an original post to World Moms Network from our Managing Editor, Kyla P’an, who resides in Cascais, Portugal. All photos in this post are attributed to the author.

Kyla P'an (Portugal)

Kyla was born in suburban Philadelphia but spent most of her time growing up in New England. She took her first big, solo-trip at age 14, when she traveled to visit a friend on a small Greek island. Since then, travels have included: three months on the European rails, three years studying and working in Japan, and nine months taking the slow route back from Japan to the US when she was done. In addition to her work as Managing Editor of World Moms Network, Kyla is a freelance writer, copy editor, recovering triathlete and occasional blogger. Until recently, she and her husband resided outside of Boston, Massachusetts, where they were raising two spunky kids, two frisky cats, a snail, a fish and a snake. They now live outside of Lisbon, Portugal with two spunky teens and three frisky cats. You can read more about Kyla’s outlook on the world and parenting on her personal blogs, Growing Muses And Muses Where We Go

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Discrimination Due To Menstruation

Discrimination Due To Menstruation

Universally, women and girls menstruate. The age may vary for every young girl, but the experience can be traumatic, sometimes even deadly.

I recently came upon two news items that shocked and saddened me. The first story was of an 11-year-old girl from the UK who had her period while in school. When she asked to be excused to go to the bathroom because her period had soaked through her clothes, she was refused by two staff members on two separate occasions. 

The young girl was trying to avoid being singled out by the rest of her class, possibly the whole school. Instead of being supported by the staff, she was dismissed, which traumatized her from going back to school. Since those incidents, the girl has been given a bathroom pass, but the damage had been done. According to a study done by Plan International UK back in 2017, 49% of girls and young women aged 14-21 have missed at least one day of school as a result of their period. In addition to being humiliated for having a period and pain as a result of it, the cost of buying sanitary products may be prohibitive. Period poverty in the UK affects about 10% of girls who can’t afford them and 12% find ways to create makeshift sanitary wear just to have something. There have been initiatives launched like the Red Box Project based in Bristol, where period products are given for free, but more has to be done to eliminate the discrimination felt by girls and women who are affected.

The second story was about 21-year old Parbati Borgati from Nepal who was staying in a menstrual hut during her period and died of suffocation from smoke inhalation. Borgati who had been staying in this abandoned hut decided to keep warm one cold night by burning wood and clothing and tragically died in her sleep. Menstrual huts are not unusual for women in some parts of Nepal, India, and Africa and the concept of these huts comes from years of tradition and in some cases, out of religion.

The tradition of “chhaupadi” In Nepal is part of a long-standing belief stemming from Hinduism that during a woman’s menstrual cycle, she is deemed unclean. As part of this tradition, women are banned from being in the kitchen, using kitchen utensils, sharing meals, going to the temple or being with their families, and are segregated to huts made from mud or stone. The huts are no bigger than closets and these women brave the elements and pests on their own. 

In recent years, women’s rights activists have fought to end “chhaupadi”.  Even the government of Nepal has outlawed menstrual huts since 2005. They have gone so far as to criminalize it this past August for those who continue to force women to use them, but unfortunately in some western villages of Nepal, these actions have not been as successful. While tradition can be blamed for the continuity of their use, guilt plays a huge part in it as well. In areas where menstrual huts have been used by women for generations, it is difficult for them to turn their backs on what’s been viewed as part of their way of life. 

One of the ways that “chhaupadi” is being discouraged is through cash incentives. Recently, a rural governor has offered to give $5,000 rupees to any woman who rejects using menstrual sheds. While it seems like a great solution, it’s not sustainable since so many still use these sheds out of tradition and fear of being ostracized by their families for not following this custom.

My experience with menstruation did not result in tragedy, but it was still traumatizing for a thirteen-year-old girl. I was on a family vacation when I got my period while playing outdoors with my cousins. I felt some discharge on my underwear and thought I had soiled myself. I ran to the bathroom and was gripped with fear when I saw blood on my underwear, unaware of what was happening to me. It wasn’t until my aunt knocked on the bathroom door to see if I was okay that I told her about the blood. It was then that I was educated about “periods” and what I should do next and in the future. 

Why was I told about “periods” by my aunt, as opposed to my mother? As someone whose mother came from the Philippines, the word “period” was never discussed in her household, so I was never educated about it by my mother. This was a silent “problem” and no one was allowed to talk about it to anyone, especially men. Gender roles play a big part in a lot of Filipino families, and “periods” are seen as female problems. While there have been strides over the years to ensure that young women in rural parts of the Philippines are educated about menstruation as those living in urban areas, the perception of having a “period” is still seen as a woman’s problem. 

In light of last year’s Academy Awards event in the US  where the award for Best Foreign Film was given to a documentary short made in India titled, “Period. End of a Sentence.”, there has been a great amount of awareness brought towards the issue of menstruation. Created by Rayka Zehtabchi, the film showed how menstruation is still a taboo subject in rural parts of India and that even the word “period” evokes shame for girls and ignorance for boys. Education about menstruation plays a huge part in breaking the taboo it has affected generations of girls and boys. What struck me was how the girls reacted towards the word as opposed to the boys. The girls were painfully self-conscious saying the word, while the boys were quite unaffected by the issue, even worse, had no idea what the word “period” meant.

The film follows some women in rural Hapur district, just outside of Delhi, India, and exposes the contradicting points of view regarding menstruation between genders and as seen by older generations, but there were positive results as well. Discussing the subject of menstruation and the necessity of safe menstrual products like pads was crucial for both genders. Another positive outcome of the film was creating job opportunities for these women so they could feel empowered. That opportunity would come from an unlikely source, a man named Arunachalam Murugunantham from Tamil Nadu. 

When Muruganantham found out that his wife was using newspapers or filthy rags for her period, he decided to create sanitary pads that were safe and could be purchased at a low cost. Muruganantham created a pad machine that made sanitary pads using cellulose fibers from pine wood pulp, which was great for absorption and retaining the pad’s shape. Traditionally, men have never been involved with anything related to menstruation, especially in rural parts of India, so it’s no surprise that Muruganantham’s wife, Shanti, was not supportive of his invention in the beginning.

Muruganantham’s goal of educating young women about safe sanitary pads through his pad machine and the rise of a micro-economy from selling them in local stores at a low cost has given these women the confidence to provide for their families. It was amazing to see the transformation of these women from being shy and silent about the topic of “periods” to feeling empowered and ready to provide for themselves and their communities as a result of Muruganantham’s invention. 

The success of “Period. End of Sentence.” is an indication that more has to be done to enlighten parts of the world about menstruation. In today’s world where women from Western countries can speak freely about reproductive health, it’s heartbreaking to see other women that are still suppressed either by tradition or guilt to speak out about issues that harm them or lose their lives, just like the women who died in the menstrual huts. It is my hope that this film continues to break gender inequity, not just in India but in other parts of the world where women are banished just because they have their period. No woman deserves to feel invisible or worse, lose their life due to a lack of education, especially about their bodies.

To read the articles regarding this post, click below:

https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/bristol-schoolgirl-period-refused-toilet-uk/?utm_source=Iterable&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=US_Jan_17_2019_content_digest_template_test_single_image

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/nepal-woman-period-death-fire-hut-menstruation-hut-illegal-parbati-bogati-a8760911.html

https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2019/12/17/787808530/menstrual-huts-are-illegal-in-nepal-so-why-are-women-still-dying-in-them

Tes Silverman

Tes Silverman was born in Manila, Philippines and has been a New Yorker for over 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, Belgium, 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. Fifteen 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 has been invited to attend and blog about the Social Good Summit and Mom+Social Good. In addition, she is a World Voice Editor for World Moms Network and was Managing Editor for a local grass roots activism group, ATLI(Action Together Long Island). Currently residing in Virginia Beach, VA with her husband, fourteen year-old Morkie and a three year old Lab Mix, 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.

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SWITZERLAND: A Walk to Remember – Baumli

SWITZERLAND: A Walk to Remember – Baumli

A Promising Terrace Above The Town

That is what the receptionist said when I asked her the meaning of “aussichtsterrasse baumli”.

“So, how do we go there?” I asked again.

She looked at me blankly at first, and I worried if I had asked a culturally inappropriate question.

“You have been here in Winterthur, for three days and you have not gone there yet?” she asked me incredulously.

I frantically looked out for where my husband was. He was busy fuzbolling with the children, at the hotel lobby, much to my annoyance. I thought he had already spoken to this particular receptionist and asked for directions and I had to just pick up some papers from her.

Fuzbolling ...

Fuzbolling …

When I returned my attention to her, she was back to being busy at her computer, and I wondered if I should ask her again or just go back to watching fuzboll.

“So, this is a print out of the local map from here to the bus station,” she handed out a sheet.

“Thank you,” I said.

“And this is a map from the bus station to the forest,” she continued with another sheet. “And let me get you a local map of our city,” saying so she got up and went into another adjoining room.

“Now if you take the bus from Loki station to …” she was amazing.

Switzerland is just not the friendliest nation in the world. It is also the most hospitable. The people there are truly helpful.

A walk through the town of Winterthur

We began our journey to the promising terrace on top of the town. As we stepped out of the hotel, a light drizzle started and perhaps we hesitated to continue, because we were the only ones who had embarked on this journey, all alone, without our friends. And we wondered at the futility of it, in the rain, at a shivering temperature.

“Why don’t you use my umbrella,” said a voice. We turned to find our friendliest receptionist in the world.

“You think it is okay to go in the rain?” I asked.

“Today is your last day, and you should not miss Baumli,” she answered.

There was no looking back now.

With maps in hand, taking blind turns at intersections, reading German street signs, comparing it with the map, not understanding, giving up, almost turning back again, our adventurous spirit returning, trotting on, asking directions from students who had perennial ear plugs in their ears, we continued our journey.

Culture soaking the lonely, rainy streets...

Culture soaking the lonely, rainy streets…

It was not bad. It was an adventure. My only fear was, we could get lost, not knowing how to find our way back, and missing our return flight home. It was our last day in Switzerland.

My son kept insisting, “Ma, we are not kids, we won’t get lost. See we have maps.”

I nodded.

We reached what they called the bus station after a walk of half an hour and following the map. You see we had refused to take the connecting bus from the hotel to the bus station which would take us to the beautiful terrace on top of the town.

Culture soaking the streets some...

Culture soaking the streets some…

My husband and son wanted to ‘soak’ in the culture and feeling of the town, they claimed. I still wonder how they claimed to do it without the feeling of feeling lost with a map in hand.

Culture soaking the streets some...

Culture soaking the streets some more…

We were faced with the most challenging task to get tickets. The automatic ticket kiosk at the bus station displayed everything in German. And we jumped to our maps to check all the words which our kind receptionist had circled in red.

None of the words or destination names looked familiar. I knew we were lost. I had this intense irritation which I masked. My husband kept insisting that he was taking me to a surprise destination, but with Google in our mobile phones, no destination is ever really a surprise.

Finally, after a short epic incident at the ticket kiosk, we got our tickets and got on a bus and waited with bated breath for the supposed destination to arrive. When we got down, I almost expected to see a beautiful terrace or viewpoint. But no! We got down finding ourselves at the entrance of a narrow trail leading into a very dense forest.

Entering the forest…

“We have to walk into this forest,” said my husband.

The entry to the forest ...

The entry to the forest …

“Of course,” I really put efforts into masking my irritation.

“Google says if we are lucky, we can sight many wild animals,” my son shrieked excitedly.

I knew I had to make peace with the world now, or I could never. I am never a surprise loving person. I am a Taurean, who likes to be grounded, who likes to know what to expect, and who likes everything in order. But here we were embarking on a journey into a forest to a promised beautiful view above the town, after a long and assiduous journey by walk and bus. For all that anyone knew, we were already lost. And there was that promise of wild animals too, which I tried hard to forget.

I followed the two excited kids – one an adult, one still a kid; they had both already entered the narrow trail and walked further on assuming I was following too. So, I decided to oblige them as well. And it is good to get lost together, isn’t it?

A walk into the forest continues ...

A walk into the forest continues …

The air was fresh. There was a light mist. The drizzling had stopped some time back. I have always been a trekker, and so I enjoyed walking generally. It was not so bad, I decided.

"Look ma, nature is smiling at us. You have to too."

“Look ma, nature is smiling at us. You have to too.”

A Change of my heart!

About ten minutes into our walk, my heart was doing wonders. There is something about a walk that creates magic in the air, that makes you inhale miracle dust, that makes you wonder at the beauty of the world, and this was one such walk, into the dense forest, sighting wild animals. My son claimed an animal to be a fox, my husband thought it to be a wolf or vice versa. It was chasing behind another small animal.

Nature beckoning us on ...

Nature beckoning us on …

We continued our walk. The path curved beautifully. It started to drizzle again slightly. We shivered in the rain, but for nothing in the world, I would have stayed back at the hotel.

As the forest cleared slightly, we came across beautiful vineyards, the tiny vines yet to creep up the fence. The tender leaves yet to open up fully were shyly grinning against the rain drops glistening on their tips.

Beautiful vineyards in the making...

Beautiful vineyards in the making…

We continued to walk up. I believe we would have been walking for about half an hour now. I make it a point to never wear a watch unless my husband reminds me to. I do not like to know the time, at any time.

You could walk forever if you have the time, energy and a heart which loves to meander about natural beauty. There were benches lined up in short intervals in the path, in the middle of the vineyards. The journey was romancing us, the path was dancing up to us, singing to us, luring us into its fold.

The journey romancing us ...

The journey romancing us …

There was an occasional jogger who waved at my son. I wondered who would want to jog in a drizzle, but here she was, with a pink hood. There was another middle-aged man who was strolling just like us, and who was content to just walk, pause, look ahead at the vast beauty from the elevation, and continue to walk, pause, and so on.

A way-farer who posed for us ...

A wayfarer who posed for us …

We continued our walk. These were the only two people we ever met during our whole walk because it was just not the day to take a walk uphill. I totally agree, never at 7 degrees Celsius in the shivering drizzle.

A thermometer at a stall in the path

A thermometer on the path

It was pretty lonely. The past few days had been a constant whirl or seeing all over Europe, drinking in the beautiful architecture, gazing lovingly at Renaissance art, eating exotic foods, being bombarded with brand new culture every hour of the day, playing fuzzball, running behind kids, interacting with our friends, singing antakshari and so on. This walk felt like a fitting end to the hectic trip we were just concluding.

Nature assaulting us with her bounty

Nature assaulting us with her bounty

This walk to Baumli, was the best part of our trip, for, in this walk, we received more from nature than we ever hoped to seek. Traveling in Europe fulfilled our expectations of the art, culture, excitement and all the assaults on our senses, which we had hoped for. But this walk was an assault on our soul, it was joyful, it was bliss.

Reaching the promised terrace:

The walk led us to the terrace – the promised heaven of the exercise. And what a view it was. We were all spellbound. We could not drink in the sight more than we did, but we ached so much to drink more if at all that makes sense.

The promised terrace above the town

The promised terrace above the town

There was not a single soul around. It was still drizzling, and we still had only one umbrella, with which our son was generally dancing, leaving the two of us to shiver so badly.

Dancing with the umrella

Dancing with the umbrella

It was also the worst day to go on a trek, and into a forest, to the top of the mountain, just to look at a view.

But you did not need an umbrella or a special shoe for this trek, you only needed a special type of soul, and we all had that, I guess.

A destination worthy of a journey

A destination worthy of a journey

And in that shiver, our beautiful souls were looking at something, never before looked at. We were experiencing those feelings in our heart since the past hour, which had never before been experienced. A walk in nature is definitely good. But a walk to reach Baumli, all alone in solitude, in a brief drizzle of love from mother Nature, was beyond the best. I think I could explode by just looking at the view, or going through the journey again.

Culmination of an epic

Culmination of an epic

I promise, anyone who undertakes such a walk, could hear angels whispering in her ears, angels whispering verses of poetry, angels beckoning your fingers into a painting, I felt all my creativity surging in, and I tried hard to stifle it, for I did not want my creativity to steal away my precious moment of communion.

This long trek to Baumli, was really a walk inwards to my own heart, to the deepest recess of my heart, ever traveled by me, and with open eyes too. There is a beautiful phrase used in the Heartfulness system of meditation – Constant Remembrance. What it means in very simple terms is, to be in touch with divinity at all times. And on this day, I felt this term take on more meanings than what was ever felt possible to me at any earlier time.

I have said this before, and I will say it again, the beauty always lies in the journey, it lies in the walking or trekking or riding. The destinations are almost always déjà vu or an anti-climax or at times even betrayals of the long arduous effort of reaching there. This time, this one time alone, in this walk to reach the top of Baumli, I could say that the statement could be rendered false.

Both the destination and the journey were as beautiful as the other. None were competing with each other. They both stood alone, in their own individual splendor, and reverence.

Some walks cannot be explained; alas we only can fall back on words like this article, for communication. Some walks can only be experienced, and even then, there would still be something lurking in your consciousness which could be trying to say something to you, which you could continue to try to understand, even one month after the walk. This was one such walk.

Well, after about 15 minutes, we decided that we had to interact and looked at each other, and smiled.

My husband’s eyes twinkled as if to say, “I wanted to surprise you, didn’t I say that?”

Love is ‘Meaningless Meanderings Leading to Perfection’!

Love and romance certainly is a candle light dinner or red roses on birthdays (no, he has not got me either, lol). It is also a declaration of love like the poems written by Romeo for Juliet. However at times, true love could mean a frustrating journey with upside down German maps and unintelligible road signs, at times true love could mean a walk along with foxes (or maybe wolves), and at times true love could also mean shivering in the rain with hair plastered all over my face at 7 degrees Celsius.

True love could be a meaningless meandering which can lead to perfection, says Lao Tzu.

Above all true love is that, where each one takes the other to the Ultimate communion.

Has any vacation taken you by surprise to redefine your opinion of beauty or love?

Photo credit: The author

Purnima Ramakrishnan

Purnima Ramakrishnan is an UNCA award winning journalist and the recipient of the fellowship in Journalism by International Reporting Project, John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. Her International reports from Brazil are found here .

She is also the recipient of the BlogHer '13 International Activist Scholarship Award .

She is a Senior Editor at World Moms Blog who writes passionately about social and other causes in India. Her parental journey is documented both here at World Moms Blog and also at her personal Blog, The Alchemist's Blog. She can be reached through this page .

She also contributes to Huffington Post .

Purnima was once a tech-savvy gal who lived in the corporate world of sleek vehicles and their electronics. She has a Master's degree in Electronics Engineering, but after working for 6 years as a Design Engineer, she decided to quit it all to become a Stay-At-Home-Mom to be with her son!
 
This smart mom was born and raised in India, and she has moved to live in coastal India with her husband, who is a physician, and her son who is in primary grade school.  

She is a practitioner and trainer of Heartfulness Meditation.

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POLAND: What I Didn’t Expect: When The Kids Go to School

Enjoying chocolate paczki – a national Polish treat – after preschool one day

A little over a year ago, I posted an article on WMN that announced all of my hopes and dreams for when my kids go to school. I talked about the things I wanted to do, the things I had been planning to do and put on hold for awhile, the freedom and the feeling of being on my own and pursuing anything I wanted in my newfound free time – whether that be a enrolling in a photography course, writing a children’s book, joining a cooking class, taking a tour of this beautiful city I live in.

With my youngest turning three last March, I decided it was time for her to try out preschool for a couple of days per week for a few hours per day. She would join the same class as her older sister and is familiar with the teachers, the kids in the class, and everything surrounding the school. She has been with me for every pick up and drop off of her sister over the last two years.

Ivy on her first day of preschool: not a tear in sight

Since she is my third and my last, she is both extremely close to me, but also very “grown up” in order to keep up with her older siblings. So, I was ready for anything. I was ready for her to cry. I was ready for her to rebel and run right out of that classroom. I was ready for her to be proud and march right in. Lucky for me, she was thrilled for her first day. With a wave and a smile, she said, “Goodbye Mommy” and headed straight on into the classroom. I waited in the coat area for a few minutes to see if she changed her mind or if she would start to cry when she noticed I was no longer in sight. Nope. I went to a cafe less than half a mile away to have a cup of coffee and catch up on email. I found myself incessantly checking my cell phone to see if I had a missed call or text from the teacher, saying that perhaps I should come to pick her up. The phone was silent.

After seven years of being with one, two, or three children all day everyday (besides a few babysitting hours here and there), I was on my own.

If I had to describe the mix of emotions I felt after dropping the last of my three children off at her first day of school, it would be nervousness, excitement, freedom, joy, uncertainty, and a little bit of fear.

I think all of those feelings are to be expected.

But here is what I didn’t expect: loneliness.

For my whole life, I have been around others. Whether that be at work, at university, with my children, with my parents, or with my husband. Nearly seven years ago, I delivered my son just two days after my last day of work at the U.S. State Department. And for the following seven years, I have been with my children. So the thing I felt the most acutely after dropping her off for a few hours? I was lonely.

Who would I talk to? What would I do?

I did not expect to be lonely.

As I had expected, coming to grips with finally having all of the children at school, especially when you have been a stay-at-home parent, is hard.

Most of us use our new unstructured free time to run errands, clean the house, read a book, go to the gym, catch up on email, or have an actual, uninterrupted phone call with a friend. But as my youngest went to school for the second, third, and fourth time, I realized that I needed to structure my time. I needed to have a plan. I needed to reach out to friends and other moms – meet them for lunch or an exercise class. I needed to schedule a lunch date with my husband. I needed to volunteer to read to my son’s first grade class. I needed to be around people.

It is funny, and even a little bit ironic, how it all comes full circle – or at least, how it did for me. I have waited all of this time for a little bit of silence and time to myself. And what do I find myself missing the most? Human interaction. The noise. The chaos. The laughter. The bonding. I’m not kidding when I tell you that I found myself talking to the dog in the car after preschool drop-off one day recently.

In the daily hustle and bustle of parenthood, we often don’t realize how the energy and joy our children exude nurtures us.

Parenting requires us to be in the moment 24/7. We are concerned with what we are providing for our children and how we are shaping their thoughts and actions, but have we ever thought about how they are shaping us? What they are providing us?

Love, joy, humor, and sure, a little bit (or boat load, depending on your day) of impatience at times. In the absence of the noise and chaos, I realized how disturbingly quiet life can be without the kids at home. So while you still have them at home, try to remember that and cherish it. And when they do go to school, have a plan, and nourish the part of you that needs the support, love, and interaction of others – because loneliness is something you might not have expected.

This is an original post written by Loren Braunohler for World moms Network.

What was your experience when you sent your kids off to school?

Loren Braunohler

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.

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SCOTLAND: Raising Children To Be Happier Adults

SCOTLAND: Raising Children To Be Happier Adults

I read an article recently which claimed that happier adults have been raised by parents who were less psychologically controlling and more caring. The study at the University of Edinburgh found that people whose parents showed warmth and responsiveness had higher life satisfaction and mental well-being throughout their adult lives.

‘Psychological’ control is different from ‘behavioural’ control which we would think of as a healthy level of strictness e.g. applying boundaries such as set bed times, homework being done, and giving tasks /chores. The big distinction is that parents applying behavioral control set some limits on behavior rather than feelings.

Psychological control involves not letting children make some of their own decisions, invading their privacy and making them feel dependent. It also involves making children feel guilty. Unsurprisingly, people who had experienced such behavior in their childhood had lower life satisfaction levels and poorer mental well being.

By contrast, those who were brought up with behavior control had better relationships throughout their adult life. This has also been demonstrated in other studies which showed that warmth and responsiveness promotes social and emotional development whilst psychological control can limit a child’s independence and their ability to control their own behavior.

I’m sure the results of these studies will not be a big revelation to most of us but, in a nutshell, what came out loud and clear was that children in the behavioral control group felt that they were listened to, that they were given affection, and that their worries and problems were understood.

The psychologist interviewed suggested that parents should help their children to make as many decisions as possible on their own depending, as one would expect, on their age and maturity.

This, they said, allows children to develop a healthy level of independence and confidence in their ability to make important decisions. It reminded me of my own children and that I had instinctively adopted a similar attitude during their childhood. In fact, from a very early age, I gave each of them complete control and freedom over one thing. My daughter chose her clothes as, from the age of two, she was very particular about what she would wear to the point that we often called her Coco Chanel! My son chose his hair as he hated having it cut and would make a big fuss whenever it was time to go to a hairdresser.

Of course, this meant that my daughter provoked a few surprises when she appeared in some rather unconventional outfits and that my son often looked as though he belonged in a field, scaring the crows. However, they both really enjoyed and appreciated being allowed to decide these things for themselves and they learned a lot through their experiences. My daughter has had an ongoing love of clothes and design which was enabled in part by the fact that she could experiment and enjoy a lot of freedom in her choice of outfits. My son now has short, neat, hair having gone through the experience of trying to manage a wild mop on his head, and limited eyesight (he has learned a few things the hard way!).

Over the years, we have encouraged our children make more and more of their own decisions and, when making them, to use their good sense, their feelings, and their intuition. It has also helped them to understand that it’s okay to change your mind and that ‘wrong’ decisions are not necessarily mistakes, but an opportunity to learn from an experience and to change our direction since we all have different ways and paths to a destination. In many cases, it is these so called ‘mistakes’ which provide our greatest teaching and character strengths and, if we take this approach, life can be seen more as an adventure to be lived and experienced, rather than being fearful of making decisions in case they don’t turn out as we hoped for or expected.

Our children still turn to us for advice but it’s mainly to confirm their own judgement and we enjoy seeing them develop the confidence and positivity they need to manage their path through life.

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

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ENGLAND: Helping Your Anxious Child

ENGLAND: Helping Your Anxious Child

One of my twin daughters has always been a worrier, she is one of those children who feel the weight of the world on their shoulders and she wants to know and understand everything. This can be particularly difficult for her as she is dyslexic and this means she struggles to accurately read information and has to practice or learn things dozens of times before they sink in.

It would be so easy to label her a ‘natural born worrier’ but actually how would that help? All that does is give her story a strap line, something to trip over when she is older. I can imagine the conversations of the future now ‘well I can’t help it, I’ve always been this way. I’m just a worrier and I’ll never change’ but that’s not right. Of course she can change, we all can.

But we have to want to change and purposefully make positive choices to allow it to happen. As a nine year old she probably isn’t sure what she can do to change it, she probably isn’t even sure how to name her issue. She just knows she has this uneasy feeling and needs to check things time and time again and that at the end of the day she often feels overwhelmed and teary.

So as her Mum, I feel it is up to me to help her navigate this battlefield. I’ve had some run-ins with worry before although I’d never have labeled myself as anxious but I think that is just because it feels a newer ‘label’ to me or maybe it just wasn’t one my parents used and therefore I didn’t become accustomed to it.

I do think anxiety is what my daughter is suffering with though and as such I’ve been doing some reading to find out more and see how I can help her. I’ve discovered that research (1) shows that many children are born with a shy or temperate personality and these are the children who will probably worry more. I was very glad to read though that it doesn’t have to affect adulthood as many vocations require the very characteristics that cause the worry and that management strategies are available.

One such strategy that is working for my daughter and I is that I sit with her at the end of the day just for ten minutes and she tells me what is worrying her. We tend to find that the moment her head hits the pillow all the worries of the day rush in and overwhelm her and she is building courage and boldness to tell me about these anxieties and I can take them away with me. It is such an eye opener to realise some of the issues, guilt and situations she has been carrying with her for days, weeks or sometimes even years. Things I had long forgotten arise their ugly head and take over her thoughts but she seems to be able to trust me and allow me to reassure her or sometimes solve the issue. It’s amazing, things that can seem massive to a nine year old can actually be the easiest things for me to deal with.

There are some things I can’t deal with though and if she gets herself really wound up, we just sit there and cuddle and deep breath, allowing her body to calm and the hormones to subside and then we talk through how likely (or very often unlikely) it is that something will happen. For example, last week she bought 4 animal shaped erasers and whilst in the shop she decided to swap the pink one for a white one (same price) but instead of her asking the cashier she just did it. Nothing really wrong there as she had paid (and had the receipt) but courtesy and self-preservation would say you’d normally ask first to avoid looking suspicious.

I wasn’t with her when this happened, she was out with my husband but it was troubling her enough by bedtime that she broke down and told me the police would be coming to find her. I found out the story and reassured she had done nothing illegal and we talked about how busy the police are and we talked over a theft situation she knew of where the police had not really investigated as it was too small in comparison to other crimes. It took about fifteen minutes but the combination of listening without judgment, cuddling to soothe and then logic to beat the anxiety worked for her and she was able to go off to sleep easily.

The other thing we have been doing is turning to her bible and looking for reassurances from God. She has already made a commitment to follow Christ and as such has a deep belief and it has been fabulous helping her unearth bible verses that speak directly to her insecurities. Versus like the following have been a great success and I have been enjoying putting notes in her lunch-box, under her pillow and stuck on her mirror to catch her at different times of the day.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 4:6-7)

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27)

Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up. (Proverbs 12:25)

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? (Matthew 6:25)

Another method I’ve come across that sounds really good is the three C’s (2). This means helping your child to Capture their worrying thought, Collecting evidence to either support or bust it and then Challenging their own thinking. Sometimes my daughter seems so scared by a thought that comes in her head that she just wants to push it down and not spend a moment thinking about it but this method demands that we give the worry some space and investigate whether it’s really something to be concerned about.

There are many other small strategies we are putting in place as well, like focusing on the positives and all the family share their successes at the dinner table each day, so we can remember to build each other up and acknowledge the good we have done. Then after we also share a mistake we have made and this is important for us all; to be mindful that results only come when we are willing to make an effort and sometimes fail at whatever it was we were doing but resilience and the guts to try again and again are super important.

I pray that through being open and real with our children, showing these imperfections my husband and I are able to model acceptance and love and this creates an environment where anxiety cannot grow.

As the months and years pass I’m sure I’ll learn new strategies and my daughter my not even need them any longer but for now if you have any tips on helping a child with anxiety, I’d love to hear them and please do leave me a comment.

Many thanks for joining me on this brilliant but rocky journey we call parenting. Mich x

Sources:

  1. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/born-worried-is-anxiety-all-in-the-genes-1981022.html
  2. http://www.gozen.com/

Do you have an anxious child? What are some ways in which you help them cope?

This is an original post for the World Moms Network by Michelle Pannell, who can normally be found blogging over at Mummy from the Heart and Progress Not Perfection.

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Michelle Pannell

Michelle’s tales of everyday life and imperfect parenting of a 13-year-old boy and 9-year-old twin girls and her positive Christian outlook on life have made her name known in the UK parenting blogosphere. Her blog, Mummy from the Heart, has struck a chord with and is read by thousands of women across the world.

Michelle loves life and enjoys keeping it simple. Time with her family, friends and God are what make her happiest, along with a spot of blogging and tweeting, too! Michelle readily left behind the corporate arena but draws on her 25 years of career experience from the fields of hotel, recruitment and HR management in her current voluntary roles at a school, Christian conference centre, night shelter and food bank.

As a ONE ambassador, in 2012 Michelle was selected to travel on a delegation to Ethiopia with the organisation to report on global poverty and health. Then in 2014 she was invited to Washington, DC, where she attended the AYA Summit for girls and women worldwide. When asked about her ambassadorship with the ONE Campaign, she stated, "I feel humbled to be able to act as an advocate and campaigner for those living in poverty."

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