Blended Family Rituals: about ice cream, mustard and goodnight wishes

Blended Family Rituals: about ice cream, mustard and goodnight wishes

The Glue that Binds

If you ask about the glue that keeps our blended family together, I could reply with classics like ‘unconditional love’, ‘reciprocal respect’ or ‘bonding through fun’. All those are indeed values we hold high in our family of two plus two plus two.

But the special superglue which makes us a family are definitely our family rituals and routines.

In our family, each Thursday is Ice Cream Day. Not just because we all like ice cream, but because on Thursday we celebrate being a family of six again.

Both my kids and my husband’s daughters return from their time with their other parents on Thursday. In the early days of being a blended family, Thursdays would sometimes be filled with tears, silence or just general awkwardness, so we looked for ways to ease the transition. Hence, Ice Cream Day came into being!

Many years later, we feel they don’t really ‘need’ Ice Cream Day anymore, but it still feels appropriate to celebrate being a family on a weekly basis. Besides, who wouldn’t cherish a fixed day to indulge in ice cream!

The Importance of Rituals

Personally, I feel rituals like Ice Cream Day help our kids experience our family home, and by extension, the world, as a predictable, safe place. It gives them something to hold on to.

Especially during the ongoing, turbulent times. Ice Cream Day and other rituals continued to give them a sense of security and comfort. A few months ago, one of our girls casually remarked—halfway through her Thursday Cornetto—that ‘Coronavirus cancelled a lot of things, but not Ice Cream Day!’

Other rituals we have as a family, are less thought through in advance, but became an important aspect of our family identity almost by accident.

When we hear the theme song from Frozen in the kid’s playlist, we need to yell ‘Kasteel!’ at the exact moment in the song when Elsa would build her ice castle in the movie. Just imagine the bewildered looks from bystanders when they hear the six of us in our car yelling ‘Kasteel!’ from the top of our lungs through the open windows, seemingly out of nowhere. We giggle, discuss who’s the winner – the one who was not too early and not too late – and proceed with waiting for our cue to loudly sing ‘Mosterd! Mosterd!’ when Master of Puppets is on. In our family, this song is about mustard. And occasionally about ketchup.

Building Family Security

Our family rituals are a bit like inside jokes. They have a special meaning to us as a family exclusively, and some of them even express our family values in a fun way.

On top of that, they provide the kids with a sense of identity as a member of our family. Especially in a blended family as ours, these casual instances of ‘belonging’ seem truly valuable.

By holding on to our rituals, I also aspire to instill some loving, fun memories in the kids. While slowly but loudly repeating the same mantra of six goodnight phrases when going down the stairs after tucking them in, I secretly hope they will pass this ceremony on to their own kids, one day.

‘Slaapwel. Zoete dromen. Welterusten. Hou van je. Tot morgen. Dikke kus.’

‘Sleep tight. Sweet dreams. Nighty night. Love you. See you tomorrow. Big kiss.’

Each their favorite good night phrase.

Each their daily reminder of security, identity and loving care.

All bundled up in one twenty-second-ritual.

I’m sure you all have some rituals in your families, maybe even without realizing their value. I would love to hear about them, big and small!

This is an original post to World Moms Network by our contributor from BelgiumKatinka Wouters from Belgium. The image used in this post is credited to Kenta Kikuchi from the open shared site, unsplash.com.

Katinka

If you ask her about her daytime job, Katinka will tell you all about the challenge of studying the fate of radioactive substances in the deep subsurface. Her most demanding and rewarding job however is raising four kids together with five other parents, each with their own quirks, wishes and (dis)abilities. As parenting and especially co-parenting involves a lot of letting go, she finds herself singing the theme song to Frozen over and over again, even when the kids are not even there...

More Posts

Evolving Maturity: Sometimes 23, sometimes 3

Evolving Maturity: Sometimes 23, sometimes 3

“Why aren’t babies born with their own unique manuals?!” used to be my constant refrain during the growing-up years of Abhishek, my science-loving, planet-conscious geeky son. As infancy, toddlerhood, childhood and the pre-teens of this bursting-with-energy boy, gave way to the tumultuous teenage years, I kept marvelling at the continual learning involved in being a parent – no sooner did I master a technique, Abhishek’s next stage of growth arrived!

Parenting over long distances, when Abhi left for his four years of undergraduate engineering studies for another city, became even more challenging – the added dimensions of missing one’s child, maternal anxiety, and little ‘gaps’ in communication, made parenting seem suddenly more complex.  And, as if these were not tough enough, the pandemic has added an extra dimension of complication to the simplest of interactions and decisions.

“Have things really changed greatly?” I found myself wondering recently, after finishing a 15-minute video call with my son, who is currently studying for his Masters’ degree in the Netherlands. I live in Mumbai, India. Google helpfully informs me that the distance between his city and mine is 4276 miles or 6882 kilometres. My head may not quite grasp those numbers, but my heart recognizes the challenge of every little bit of millimetre. As it remembers every day since August 24, 2020, when, mask and gloves in place, this lanky boy-man, weighed down with heavy suitcases, waved goodbye to his father and me at Mumbai airport, to leave for the next phase of his learning. 

This, then, is a little “slice of life” glimpse of my parenting story, about the changing equations of long-distance parenting in the pandemic…

Me to Abhi (WhatsApp): Abhi dear, we need to discuss the schedule for payment of your fees. What’s a good time to talk for 15 minutes? I can work with either 7 pm IST or 9 pm IST. Alternatively, let me know your preferred time-slots.

Abhi: *silence for 2 days*

Me: Abhi, hope all is well. I tried reaching you but didn’t get through.

Abhi: *silence for another 3 days*

Me: (Wondering what to do) Abhi, we are beginning to get worried. Please message or call back.

Abhi: (out of nowhere, on Whatsapp) I am fine, don’t worry. The phone was on silent for long durations / I was resting when you had called / I was out when you had called / There was a group meeting when you had called…*insert sheepish and semi-apologetic emoji*

Me: (a bit annoyed – now on a call) You still need to send a message you’re doing OK. After all, there is a pandemic going on. Are you eating and exercising properly? Are you using a face-mask in crowded places in public?

Abhi: Relax Ma, I am almost 23, not 3!

Me: Can we switch to a video call? Haven’t seen you for such a long while! (Mothers, please note – your child may baulk at any expression of sentimentality. Mine does. Any statement of “I am missing you, and it’s been a year since we met” is met with a truly bewildered response of “But I am fine and we are regularly interacting on the phone and over WhatsApp!”)

Abhi: (reluctantly) O.K. if you insist

Me: (after talking for 5 minutes, suspiciously) Abhi, why aren’t you moving the phone to a more comfortable position? Why do I only see a close-up of your face?

Abhi: (grinning, tilts the phone around – the room is in happy chaos and he’s only partially clothed) I didn’t want to scare you!

Me: Abhiiii! Are you 23 or 3 years of age?! Haven’t I succeeded in teaching you anything?! (In high-context cultures like India, parents, particularly moms, are held accountable by society for their children’s quirks, tastes and anything the child does that might be even a little different from the norm. Yes, I know – it’s peculiar.)

Abhi: (laughing) I am 3, I am 3! Who said I was 23?

Me: On a more serious note, won’t it help you to organise your things? And maybe you could wear a vest or a light T-shirt even though it is hot…

Abhi: (sighing) Ma, I need my own space. Don’t worry, I’ll manage. Was there anything else you wanted to talk about?

(Undeniably strong cue for me to drop my current line of conversation – I quickly switch tacks.)

Me: No worries. How have you been enjoying your Teaching Assistant work? Are you learning interesting things?

Abhi: (in a more interested tone of voice) Yes! It’s good and I am reading up on sustainability, in order to answer the questions of other students in the online teaching forum…

As Abhi continued this conversation, I found myself quickly mentally switching from the “classical mother” role to the “friendly parent / peers exchanging updates / teacher learning from a ‘student’” mode. I’ve realised that the classical motherhood tropes that my generation grew up with in India (“Did you eat your food?” “Why are looking so thin?” “Are you studying hard and scoring good grades?”) are almost completely redundant. Our children would rather discuss an interesting video they saw, a meme they chuckled over (Abhi and I regularly swap laugh-out-loud memes on Instagram), or why they think we need to conserve our resources on a war footing. Pandemic or not, daily reminders for careful living will boomerang. And yes, we cannot presume to claim their time, only on account of being their parent – we approach them for a slice of their day with the same courtesy we have for a non-familial, professional interaction – something that amazes the grandparents of our family!

Generation-Z shrugs off the use of labels of age and hierarchy, is unapologetically individualistic, unflinching in its gaze towards the truth of the planet in which we live, and more than willing to take a collaborative stance towards solutions. But provided the older generations are willing to speak in a peer-to-peer voice. With ample space for individual quirks and choices, and mutual respect for all, irrespective of the presence or absence of maternal or filial ties.

I chuckled when my ruminations made me realise there’s just one alphabet differentiating “mother” from “smother”! So now, I simply send a “Are you healthy and happy?” message, whenever there is silence for a while. And he replies with a “Yes” and a smiley emoji. And we both try not to think about when we will meet in person.

Perhaps, the secret to successful parenting over long distances, especially in this global pandemic, is to recognize our shared as well as distinct journeys, laugh over what we don’t control, build our tomorrows on hope, and allow sweet spaces to be interwoven through our conversations and hence, our lives. We live in trust, faith and hope and the acknowledgement of a shared vulnerability. And yes, sometimes, the far-away child will be “3” and sometimes “23”  😊

This was an original post for World Mom by contributor, Piya Mukherjee(India). Photo credit to the Author.

What has your parenting experience been during the pandemic?

Protecting Family Time From Screen Time

Protecting Family Time From Screen Time

Socially distanced but digitally connected. That pretty much sums up what happened globally when COVID-19 hit us in 2020. Who would have imagined that in order to stop the spread of the virus, we have to isolate at home, get quarantined, and go as far as having lock-downs across cities, states and countries. It was no different here in Singapore.

In April 2020, the Singapore government announced a circuit breaker, a partial nation-wide lockdown, where non-essential workplaces including schools had to close and move online. Prepared or not, eLearning became the default learning mode where students had to quickly adapt to digital learning.

But guess what, our children proved how adaptable they are as they rose to be digital natives like fish to water. I saw my daughter navigating video platforms like Zoom, and Teams with ease and I even had to take a lesson or two from her.

To cope with social distancing, she took to playing games online and chatting with friends on WhatsApp and Google hangout. Entertainment choices were at her fingertips ranging from streaming channels, YouTube, Spotify and the list goes on.

While I saw how technology was a saviour to keep us entertained and socially connected to the world outside, it could have potentially been a curse if there were no ground rules with a free for all pass. It is one thing to read news and articles about how technology can draw us and suck us into our devices, making us oblivious to the ones next to us, and it was another to see it unfolding in my family.

I was particularly disturbed that it drew us apart as a family because we were so caught up about being connected with everyone else online. What an irony.

So even though I saw many benefits from a digital lifestyle, enough was enough and we decided to dump our devices and head outdoors instead. We picked up cycling as a family and explored places on our wheels. We cycled on familiar routes in the city and got more adventurous with longer routes along the coast. It was refreshing for body, mind and soul and became a new family activity that we looked forward to on the weekends.

Being in a lock-down made us appreciate nature so much more and it was a much needed respite with all the negative news on escalating COVID cases here in Singapore and around the world. Our weekend cycling adventures gave us something to look forward to and it bonded us tighter as a family of three.

It made me realise that even though our children may appear to choose their devices over us, it’s up to us as parents to draw the boundaries and offer them an alternative. An alternative which the whole family can be involved in while building deeper connections. An alternative that is healthy, wholesome and it never hurts if it’s lots of fun too!

Parents, let’s win the war to win the hearts of our children to strengthen and protect our parent-child relationship instead of leaving them to their own devices, literally. In a world where things have thrown us off balance, we can be the stabilising force in our kids’  lives to give security and hope as we look forward to the day when we stamp out COVID.

What activities did you start with your family during COVID-19?

Susan Koh

Susan is from Singapore. As a full-time working mom, she's still learning to perfect the art of juggling between career and family while leading a happy and fulfilled life. She can't get by a day without coffee and swears she's no bimbo even though she likes pink and Hello Kitty. She's loves to travel and blogs passionately about parenting, marriage and relationship and leading a healthy life at A Juggling Mom.

More Posts

Advice for the First Bird Leaving the Nest

Advice for the First Bird Leaving the Nest

Years ago (many years but not many many), I headed to London to start University at the age of 18. Moving from Riyadh, where I was accustom to always asking permission from my parents before going out, having a chaperone with me in the car with the driver, and living my life as a little cog in a beautiful machine of family bonds and obligation for the priceless gift of a built-in support network.

Then suddenly I’m in London, freaking out at my sister for expecting me to take a cab home alone when I wanted to leave dinner early. It was a rude awakening, but I adapted quickly. It took one trip back home after feeling helplessly homesick to realize that home was there, very much the same as I had left it. And that was the beginning of my love story with London.

Today I look at Saud, my 18-year-old son, getting ready to go live in London, and I am sifting through my experiences to find some wisdom to give him. Some grain of truth that is still true today. Except I cannot find any that would be useful to him. 

Is it because he’s a boy/man?

Is it because he went to an American coed school and interacted with many different people from different backgrounds?

Is it because the world has become a fishbowl with the same exact references, musical preferences, and lingo?

If I knew then what I know now, it would be utterly useless as well. There is equally more and less to be scared of. Or just different things to be scared of. For me, as a parent, I mean. He has the baseless fearlessness any 18-year-old boy has, going into the world. 

I got married right out of University. And I had Saud before my first anniversary. 

Having him at the age of 23 means my memories, feelings, and experiences of those 4 years in London are clear in my mind.

Saud and his friend on graduation day

It also means that the lines blur in my head at times. Yes, I do know that I am preparing him for University, not myself. (My husband keeps reminding me.) But when I told my friend in London that I was feeling emotional about him leaving she said “because you’ll miss him? Or because you are jealous?”

And if I am being 100% honest, it is both. 

Before I go on, I am designating this as my safe space to say how I feel, not how I will act. So reading on, do not worry that I will a) hold Saud hostage in Riyadh or b) enroll in his University (I think he genuinely is a bit worried this will happen).

I will miss this cog in the machine of our family that will leave a space we will all have to move and adjust to fill. He has a significant function in this machine. I don’t want to get used to him not being here. When one of my children is away on a sleepover or such, there is something odd about the rest of us there without them, like a car missing one wheel. I don’t know if I want to get used to missing a wheel.

On the other hand, I cannot forget the feeling of walking into places full of people who have no idea who I am or who my parents are. 

The luxury of no one recognizing my name (because everyone knows everyone in Saudi) and asking, “How are you related to so and so?”

Or not having someone wall up to you to tell you they know your brother/sister/mother/cousin etc.

In London, you are just a person, in a class, with other people, and no one could care less. 

For a brief moment, you are just ‘you’. You are not everyone you represent (if you come from a community with big family trees and tribal roots you will understand where I am coming from).

What I also am, maybe, a bit envious of is University. I do want to do it all over again.

My son put so much more thought into it than I did and wants to go back in time and make better decisions.

Granted, we were of the first generation of women of our family who studied abroad. Actually, that’s not true… My mother studied in Switzerland, and we had many women graduate from world-leading universities for generations. But we were the first in our small community, I guess. 

There was not a calling behind me choosing my major. My sister went into “Visual Communications”, So I went into it because it looked fun.

I want a do-over. But with a time machine. I have no inclination to enroll, as a 41-year-old with a bunch of 18-year-olds. 

I want to share with you the advice I gave my son for his first time away from home and ask you to share with me your advice for him. Although some of mine are based on our culture and religion, it does not mean the principle behind it does not apply elsewhere. At the core, we all want and need the same things. To continue to pray on time and with intention*. It took me a while to figure out that praying is for my benefit. That I need to pray, not have to pray. We begin to ask our children to pray with us at 7 and are expected to pray consistently from 9. It doesn’t always become a habit at that age, but it’s something we all do at the same time every day, 5 times a day. Eventually, it’s a habit. But the beauty comes when you do it with intention. The benefit of habit is exercising your ability to consistently do something every day of your life. How would that work if you applied the same commitments to other areas of your life like exercising or reading or work? The spiritual benefit is standing between God’s hands every day, 5 times and day, and opening your heart to Him. To leave any situation that goes against his values. I remember clearly being in a specific situation where people acted in ways that went against my values. And I just sat there. I want him to have the strength to leave when he’s not comfortable. This is the only time in his life he will be held accountable to himself alone. Before this, he was held accountable by the teacher and us, his parents. After this, he will be held accountable at work. Now it’s entirely up to him what choices he makes. There is a beauty in that freedom but also a responsibility. I want him to revel in it and at the same time not take advantage of it. To keep his apartment clean! Mostly because I plan to come by as often as possible and because it’s good life skills. I think there is no better indication of adulthood than a person who can keep their space clean! 

And then my advice runs dry. 

I have volumes upon volumes of advice I learned when I was a teenager. And I unfortunately still have to give my daughter.

Such as how to hold her keys between her fingers so she can punch someone and make it hurt if she’s walking home alone. 

How to always have a friend tracking her location when she’s going home after dinner. 

How not to leave a drink on the table un-watched if she goes to the bathroom in a crowded restaurant. But this is a whole other article.

 What advice can you give my son before starting University this fall? 

*As Muslims, we pray 5 times a day. While abroad for study or for work in a situation that does not always accommodate, we can pray some of the prayers together at one time for convenience. Praying is the foundation of our religion. 

Mama B (Saudi Arabia)

Mama B’s a young mother of four beautiful children who leave her speechless in both, good ways and bad. She has been married for 9 years and has lived in London twice in her life. The first time was before marriage (for 4 years) and then again after marriage and kid number 2 (for almost 2 years). She is settled now in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (or as settled as one can be while renovating a house). Mama B loves writing and has been doing it since she could pick up a crayon. Then, for reasons beyond her comprehension, she did not study to become a writer, but instead took graphic design courses. Mama B writes about the challenges of raising children in this world, as it is, who are happy, confident, self reliant and productive without driving them (or herself) insane in the process. Mama B also sheds some light on the life of Saudi, Muslim children but does not claim to be the voice of all mothers or children in Saudi. Just her little "tribe." She has a huge, beautiful, loving family of brothers and sisters that make her feel like she wants to give her kids a huge, loving family of brothers and sisters, but then is snapped out of it by one of her three monkeys screaming “Ya Maamaa” (Ya being the arabic word for ‘hey’). You can find Mama B writing at her blog, Ya Maamaa . She's also on Twitter @YaMaamaa.

More Posts

Throwback Thursday: Season of Letting Go

Throwback Thursday: Season of Letting Go

We first published this original post, written by World Mom Network contributor Tara B. from Washington, on September 17, 2018. It was well received and shared then. If you haven’t read it, we hope you will enjoy for today’s Throwback Thursday.

Early on a Sunday morning, I was driving my twelve-year-old to his karate class. Along the way, we chatted while both struggling to wake up. We have done this drive together many times, and I was mentally on auto-pilot.

As I pulled into the parking lot, my son turned to me and asked, “Mom, can you not come in with me?”

In about a second’s time, his life flashed before my eyes. I felt a flood of emotions that could evoke tears if focused on, but instead, I asked in a nonchalant manner, “Why are you asking?”

He explained how none of the other students have parents in there, and he was right. My son recently graduated to an adult class. The vast majority of students he now trains with are either teenagers who drive or adults. There are rarely parents sitting on the sidelines. After six years of walking into the dojo at his side, I admit that it was a blow to have my motherly wings clipped. On the other hand, I was proud of him for feeling a level of confidence and ownership to go the distance on his own.

So I simply said, “Sure. I can read my book in the car.” and watched him grab his bag and head in.

This is one of many stories that I could tell about living in a season of letting go. I am forty-two years old, solidly positioned in midlife.  I am past the everybody getting careers/getting married/having babies phase and into the everyone is getting divorced/heaving health issues/dealing with ailing parents phase. I, myself, had a hysterectomy this past winter. Talk about letting go! I wasn’t going to have more children anyway, but it definitely put a fine point on the midlife timeline. And the truth is that procedure was the easiest problem I have encountered this year. Each month has brought more challenges with greater stakes.

There is a point in midlife where you come to realize that while there will be an ebb and flow to things, there is no ‘off’ switch to the deep and complex situations you will find yourself navigating from here on out.

You are the fulcrum between multiple generations, trying to support all sides while simultaneously processing your own stuff.

But the world is not a perpetually sad and gloomy place at midlife. Quite the opposite is true. Because through this somewhat stormy transition phase of life, you can see the lights that do shine that much more clearly. This will make me sound ancient, but I understand why grandparents go bananas over birth or get overly excited about a wedding. I can see how sitting at a graduation or following someone’s career can bring such joy. It’s intentional celebration of all that is still bright and brilliant in the world to balance out the darker clouds.

It’s being able to make room for new moments while having to let go of old ones.

It’s being able to remember while continuing to look forward.

Every birthday, every anniversary, and every new milestone is meaningful. I take the time to relish them more fully now. While this season has brought some of the hardest moments, it has also brought some of the absolute best moments of my life.

As my son and I drove home from karate, I let him pick the music, which right now is always jazz. After a year in the middle school jazz band with a favorite teacher, my son can’t get enough of it. As someone who has spent years listening to Disney soundtracks and Raffi in the car, I don’t have enough words to express my euphoria of hearing “The Atomic Mr. Basie” on repeat. We talked about the songs, and he shared his thoughts on the solos. He has developed such a good ear for music and fills our house with his own playing.

The more he grows, the more I am grateful for the contributions he makes in our family.

I love who he is becoming, just as much as I love who he once was. It was a perfect drive home.

Tell me, what has this season brought newly into your life? 

Tara Bergman (USA)

Tara is a native Pennsylvanian who moved to the Seattle area in 1998 (sight unseen) with her husband to start their grand life adventure together. Despite the difficult fact that their family is a plane ride away, the couple fell in love with the Pacific Northwest and have put down roots. They have 2 super charged little boys and recently moved out of the Seattle suburbs further east into the country, trading in a Starbucks on every corner for coyotes in the backyard. Tara loves the outdoors (hiking, biking, camping). And, when her family isn't out in nature, they are hunkered down at home with friends, sharing a meal, playing games, and generally having fun. She loves being a stay-at-home mom and sharing her experiences on World Moms Network!

More Posts

Lockdown Reflections: Musings From a COVID-19 Warrior’s Wife (Part 2)

Lockdown Reflections: Musings From a COVID-19 Warrior’s Wife (Part 2)

We hope you had the chance to read Part -1 of our WorldMom Purnima’s family’s experience of the COVID-19 pandemic. Below is Part 2.

My husband’s COVID-19 experience has awakened many feelings that seem to be coming to my conscious mind in layers, in time. I had probably shut out everything when while undergoing the experience. With each memory, new wisdom emerges. A new level of consciousness opens up. Each reminiscence ushers in an opportunity for transformation.

Here I will try to put a few of those into words!

My husband, nor his friends and colleagues, allowed any wasted time in sympathy. They had a job to do. Their duty came first, and I am proud of the COVID-19 warriors worldwide who pledge their lives to do what they think is the right thing to do. Work is worship, for them, and may the world be more blessed by such giving souls. 

They go to work every day, not thinking that it is the end of the world. For them, it is just routine. These physicians have been active healthcare workers during the bird flu, the swine flu, and many other pandemics. They feel humanity will endure and come out stronger and better. At least that is what they perennially convey to all of us – eternal hope, and loving-kindness.

If today you have an opportunity to show kindness to one soul – please do it. You may be doing much more than helping out with grocery shopping, or baking a cake, or running an errand for your friend or a stranger.

You may be touching the soul of a person in an irrevocably good way for eternity by a very simple act, and sometimes that could make all the difference between life and death.

Compassion, affection, and empathy – are the fuel that runs the world. While you are wrapped in kindness outpouring from all quarters, you can endure anything. I received only gentleness from all quarters, and perhaps that was the most important factor to ensure my sound mental health, lack of stress, and lack of worry. Not one patronizing word. No condescension. No holier than thou talk, or wise-talk, no nothing. Just pure love, care, and concern from all who knew of our situation. We also did not face a single social stigma; of course, we had the personal discipline to socially isolate as per standard health guidelines.

In the midst of everyday challenges and the pouring of wisdom from within my heart, I realized that as humans, our collective compassionate consciousness was being elevated.

Wisdom is perhaps already inherently present inside every one of us if we listen. Wisdom is what probably enables us with creativity, and intelligence, when we decide to look deeper than what our immediate current perception show us. My wish for all of us is to go beyond that tangible thought or feeling and wait, like we do, as a family, both physically and emotionally.

Let wisdom decide to enthrall us, and in that one moment of revelation, you can feel the Universe’s love, and if you continue to stay there for one extra moment, perhaps that would allow us to perceive the kindness and compassion in our immediate surrounding, from the Universe.

As humanity, we endure with some hope, some gratitude. We are always offered a choice at that one moment when we are faced with life-altering adversity – we can choose hope and gratitude and be transformed by our choices. And this perception can make all the difference in lighting the path – for ourselves and for people around us. 

I remember this excerpt from Carl Sagan, inspired by an image taken by Voyager 1 on February 14, 1990. Voyager 1 was about 6.4 billion kilometers (4 billion miles) away, and approximately 32 degrees above the ecliptic plane, when it captured this portrait of our world. Caught in the center of scattered light rays (a result of taking the picture so close to the Sun), Earth appears as a tiny point of light, a crescent only 0.12 pixel in size. 

The Pale Blue Dot – Our Home, Planet Earth
Image Credit: NASA

Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor, and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there–on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.

― Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space

To be continued …

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.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle Plus