Those moments, when you are driving the carpool to swimming or to soccer, and the children in the backseat are talking about you while having forgotten your presence, merely inches away in the front –those are the moments of truth.
Over the past few months, there has been plenty of discussion in our house about the coalition war which is taking place just across Jordan’s borders. We have talked, constantly, about the important work that my husband is doing with the UNICEF Jordan office and how children, just like our own, are being forced out of their schools and homes because of the continued fighting in Syria. As all parents do, we try to explain why we do what we do and live as we do.
Despite claims by my children that I am brainwashing them about making a better world, I always felt the need to repeat these conversations, over and over again, because I never really knew how much our children internalized. And then I drove the carpool.
From the backseat of our Prado, the conversation went like this:
D – How long will you be here?
C – Oh, we’ll be here for five years because my dad has important work to do with UNICEF helping kids.
D – We will be here for two, and then the Embassy moves us back to Washington. Do you have a Wii?
C – Yeah.
D – Do you play Grand Theft Auto?
C- No, I’m not allowed to play violent games. My mum is all about peace. One time, I tried to convince her that the games with guns were really for hypnotizing the other guy, but she didn’t believe me. In her last job, she was the principal of a peace school.
In that moment, I knew he understood.
He knew why we are here and what we stand for as a family. In many ways, I felt my job as a mother was done. I could pat myself on the back and feel proud of the work my husband and I had accomplished. Until I heard the rest of the carpool chat.
D – You know Plants Versus Zombies Garden Warfare?
C – Yeah.
D – Maybe your mum will let you play that because it’s not really violent, it’s just plants.
And then I knew, you can be the Peace Mum, but you can’t stop having the conversation.
What are the repeated conversations you have with your children to share your values and beliefs?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog. Photo credit to the author.
The girl children in the library reading the books which Jackie Jenkins bought.
We talk about it a lot as educators and parents. A few weeks ago I saw what it really means: to dig deep and push on with a smile on your face and a belief in a better tomorrow, even when faced with war on your doorstep and trauma in your past.
I had been waiting to go to the Zataari refugee camp with Rob (my husband and Representative for UNICEF Jordan) since we arrived in Jordan. The day finally arrived.
We viewed the water sanitation facilities and delivery trucks, which was fascinating. As an educator, however, I was most excited to see some of the schools. I was in my element the minute we walked through the gates. While Rob went to check on the status of classroom desks, play space construction, and water in the latrines, I wanted to see some kids.
I met two incredible principals of the girls’ section of school (girls attend school in the morning, boys in the afternoon). They told me that the Ministry of Education has done an excellent job at getting them all the teaching materials they need and that the school was in good condition. But class sizes are a problem. . . and so we began to walk. . . .
Grade 2 has more than 100 students in a classroom. Girls sit three to a bench, with the overflow sitting on the floor. When I walked in, they burst into a song, which I am sure I was meant to stand and smile at. But I can’t help myself around small people, so I just started dancing all over the place, up the aisles and in the front. The girls laughed and laughed. Kids are the same everywhere! But these children deserve a whole lot more after what they have been through.
World Mom, Jackie Jenkins, with Iman Alkhaldi, the Librarian.
Luckily, there are people in their lives like Iman, whom I also met that day. She single-handedly built a library in one of the containers that serve as school rooms. She painted it, collected wood to build shelves, and is now looking for books. She spoke good enough English for me to understand her dreams and passion, and for me to tell her, “It is women like you who will change the world. You already are.” She cried, and I cried, and I also promised I would fill that room with books written in Arabic and English.
So I left with a new mission. If Iman can build a library oasis, if the dedicated teachers can manage to educate 100 students in a classroom without a complaint after walking out of their country affected by war, I could certainly help fill that library.
Within hours of being home, we set up a crowdrise page for donations. I sent out emails to international schools globally telling them the story of Iman and the children I had met. My 14 year old daughter talked it up on her social media networks, and I went to bed that night feeling a fire in my belly that I had not felt since my arrival. A deep passion to make a small difference in an immediate way. It seems the story resonated with many. In just 48 hours, I had reached my target goal, and was able to purchase more than 500 English and Arabic books, which were delivered to the library within the week.
Grit plus humanity–the connection and compassion with those around us–can accomplish astounding results. Yet again, I am filled with a sense of hope for the future of a region plagued by conflict and stress.
How do you help our children grow up with grit and the perseverance to face the challenges inevitable in their future? What is one concrete thing you might be able to do in your home or life that is a change for good?