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In 2012, my family and I packed up our bags and moved overseas permanently. By permanently, I mean we obtained visas as Permanent Residents in a brand new country – the United Arab Emirates. My husband’s work meant that we were to reside in Dubai and in 2015, we still call this place our second home.

 

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You always miss home. You always get a pang when family back home are doing something fun and nostalgia runs wild when loneliness is rife (usually during holiday season and kids hitting a certain milestone. Photos also trigger tears).

 

There are also times that you will feel like a foreigner, especially when you asked for tomato sauce or when people snicker at your use of the term ‘thongs’. However, there are 5 main reasons to counter-argue any depressing feelings you might have when you move abroad.

 

1/ Making friends.

 

Especially in a transient place like Dubai, you will master the skill of making new friends and saying goodbye to friends. Ofcourse with meeting new friends comes learning new things and experiencing different cultures. My friends nationalities range and I have met people from every single continent in one birthday party event. Do you realise how large the world is? You won’t, until you leave Australia and move abroad.

 

 

 

2/ You will learn about the literal meaning of unpacking your bags.

 

This is a big statement, I know, but it’s valid. In my first year away, I waited for happiness to come and knock on my door. I was in a brand new place, with magical opportunities at my doorstep. You would think joy would rain on me, right? Wrong.

 

I realised that the moving part wasn’t the hard element. I needed to get outside of my box and start living. I needed to put my old life behind me and start this new chapter. Old habits die hard, but I kid you not, they do diminish. I order with an American accent (no one understands Aussies) and I love the monarchy here. Crazy, I know.

 

It took me nine months before I purchased my first pot plant and it was then I realised that I kept worrying about not staying here. I kept wondering about when we would pack up and move. I made the choice to embrace the new opportunities that lay in front of me and put my Australian life on the shelf.

 

 

3 years later......

To a new beginning

To a new beginning

 

<—- The plant today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

3/ You will have a TON of time to spend with you spouse/partner and children.

 

This is especially the case if back home you had to divide your time amongst 497 extended family members. When we first arrived, we just stared at each other and thought “HOW MUCH TIME!!!” So, we did things we never would have managed too. We took the kids to the desert for a picnic, we travelled (see next point), we played board games every single night for a year, we hung up the phone every evening (due to time difference) and we were free.

 

Eid mornings were pretty special – the children were able to come with us to the mosque and were able to open their gifts quietly and play with them.

 

As for marriage/relationship, it is an incredible booster. It doesn’t get monotonous, don’t worry. You begin to appreciate your partner because they become the foundation to your life. It’s deep.

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4/ Travel.

Being in the middle of the world (and not the bottom) is INCREDIBLE for your travel desires. My 10 year old son’s passport is pretty impressive and I am proud to have ventured to places I could only have dreamed off.

 

In our second year of living in Dubai, we decided to Road Trip around the UAE. Before you scoff at the small size of the country, you cannot put into words how it feels to jump into a wadi surrounded by caves, camp on a beach or meet remote Bedouins.

 

In 2014, we trekked through 5 European countries and with 3 kids it was quite a feat. I will never forget riding our bikes past the Amsterdam Canals and picking up Danish scrolls in Copenhagen. There was the time we were stranded in Sweden, stuck in a massive rainstorm without shelter. Or the time we felt heaven on earth at Huvafen Fushi in the Maldives. Did I mention how cheap tickets are over here?

The lines that outline Dubai.21012015_image5_R2150 The beach

 

5/ The value of family.

 

Being far makes you softer, your edges become less jagged and it’s marvelous therapy for a frazzled mum-of-3 (me) and a corporate junkie (hubby). We stopped groaning when our mothers called, and realised the importance of hearing about small, bizarre stories of childhood our fathers retold us. We prayed for Skype calls like someone prays for the lottery and when we receive a photo of family, we dissect it like we are in a laboratory.

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If the opportunity arises, go for it.

a stroll on the beach

I am not a fan of Mother’s Day but I won’t ignore the cute cards the school forces allows the children to make me each year. It’s cute and I get to reminisce about the days of buying something from the school fete for 50cents for mum. Usually a bunch of weeds AND a soap.

My kids’ cards were really quite elaborate this year which made me feel a) proud at their vocabulary skills and b) annoyed at the fact they were put into a situation of ‘write about your mother even though you would probably rather do other things’ (I remember this feeling).

 

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So I explained to them, last night over dinner, that their love should not be limited to one day. In fact, I said, please write cards everyday or any day and I will be equally grateful. They each had a puzzled look on their faces and I knew that my deep and philosophical explanation was a little too deep. So I thanked them and we moved on.

But it got me thinking about mothers. My mother. Her mother. All mothers.

Hundreds and thousands (millions !?) of bloggers have written about their thank you’s, and their memories, and their sorry notes to their mothers. I’ve read them all – and cried. Here are some of my favourites. Here,  Herehere and this heart breaking letter from a husband to his wife.

I am not going to go down that path and profess my love. I am going to tell you a story.

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I could hardly sleep well when I was a teenager, I was always anxious about something or someone. During my later teenage years, falling in love occupied my mind. My mum would always reassure me that love was not meant to do that, rather it was my need to control a situation that was probably fretting me. Ofcourse, I disagreed (and most likely slammed doors too) and continued on this quest.

High school finished, Uni started and my mum fell sick. She had a really bad case of pneumonia and for months on end was bed ridden. I remember this because it was I that needed to attend to her every need. I cursed, mind you. Do not for a second think that I was happy with this situation because while my friends were free, I was home bound with a sick mother.

I was crying one afternoon because I realised that seeing as though I did not have a sister, this is how it would always be. Me and my mother. She needed me. So I did something Judy Blume’s books taught me and I had a little conversation with God. Judy Blume

“Are you there God? It’s me, Maysaa. I was just wondering if you could help me out here. I’m missing out on so much because mum is sick. I’m not working, so my money is decreasing and basically it would be awesome if she could just get better. I also hate washing. Thanks heaps I love you bye…”

Well, it’s up to you to believe me, but not even a few days passed and my mother’s energy returned. Slowly but surely my hard working mother returned and within a week she was making shish barak at 8am in the morning because that’s the way Lebo households roll.

I was rapt. I told my mum about my wish to God and she said “God knows best…when the time is right, things just fall into place. Even bad things…”

I went back to work that evening (a waitressing job) and as the legend has it, a wonderful man played cupid and my husband and I met… I fell in love and I was married within a year and my mum was no longer my carer because soon after that, I became a mother for the first time and I had to care. It was at this moment that I fell in love with My Mother.

“It’s hard work, this caring business,” I’d often complain.

“You’re not caring. You’re investing. Later on you’ll reap the rewards,” she’d say and give me a wink.

So, this is what I do. I invest. This is what mother’s do. We Invest. Because every minute of every day (not just mother’s day), I invest my energy and time into these little creatures that might just one day love me so h a r d back. And I pray that my returns are good. I pray that my returns will give me a child that will care for me when I am sick and pray to God for my recovery (even if it’s for selfish reasons). But mostly, I pray they find love and realise that when the time is right, things just fall into place. 

Till next time,

M.

 

 

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image1.PNG-3Hey there young man who happens to be my firstborn, the kid that made me a mum, the lover of most things I DON’T like and one who truly keeps me on my toes,

You asked me yesterday why I was always teaching you things. I was offended for 3 minutes but then I realised that is just the way you are – honest.  I took a moment to reflect and realised that I must seem like a blabbering, crazy, woman/dictator in your life. So I have reverted to my comfort zone. WRITING.

 

Bear in mind as you read this, I love you but you drive me nuts.

 

[PLEASE NOTE: All lessons to be learnt are highlighted in bold. I know how often you claim to be “bored” so please feel free to just take in the highlighted parts. (Or, you can shock me and read the entire thing).]

 

Here we go.

 

I was 20 when I got married. By the time I was 21, I had you. In fact you came 1 month before our first wedding anniversary! Back then, I was the first amongst my circle of friends to be having a baby. And I really, truly thought it would be a walk in the park. Parenthood is like trekking through the Amazon jungle. In the dark. Without shoes.

 

Naively, I didn’t read many books about pregnancy, birth or beyond and regrettably I went into parenthood resisting the natural callings of being a mum. Knowledge is power. Arm yourself with knowledge.

 

Admittedly, I suffered from what I now know as Hypermesis Gravidarum (and then suffered again with your sister and younger brother). So in fairness to me, for 36.5 weeks I was what your dad would call “a zombie”. Daddy was amazing, despite having no idea what was going on. When you become a husband/dad, the power of empathy is intense. In fact, empathising with anyone’s plight is humbling. Try it.

 

No body around us had had sickness like this, and consequently, I just “put up with it”. Never “just put up with something”. Find answers, ask ask ask!

 

And suddenly, we were a family of 3. I became responsible for another human being! You occupied my heart and mind 24/7. You became our guinea pig. You were the tester to our parenting skills, and you still are. You will always be the first in our family. Please share your life experiences with your siblings.

 

And this next part is where I say sorry. I’m sorry that you will have to endure this, probably foIMG_2880r the rest of your life. I am sorry that it will always be asked of you “to look after your brother and sister”. Or “Come on son, your older than him/her, just give it to her/him”. Or “Please set a good example to your siblings.” And so on. Please set a good example to your brother and sister.

 

I kid you not, at 8 months old I had you signed up to gymbaroo and Osteopathy sessions. I even decided that the usual kindergarten wouldn’t do, and would drive 40 minutes to a Montessori Kinder. F O U R T Y minutes. And because I didn’t want you to whinge, I would bring the portable DVD player along with us (this is of course pre- amazing – iPhone -days). Don’t make life harder than what it already is. 

 

And then there was the whole sleep thing. I just never got it and ultimately we suffered together. By the time I “chose” to put us on a routine, I was so strict that life became boring. I needed to you to eat, sleep and drink at the exact time of the day, every day. And if something clashed with our timetable, then we simply would not compromise. Routine is helpful, but there is always an exception to the rules.

 

Of course listening to a million different opinions DOES NOT help. Like “oh, you should stop breast feeding, he’ll sleep through the night quicker on formula.” You were 4 weeks old when I stopped you from nursing. How rude of me to suddenly “need” you to sleep through the night at 4 weeks of age. First listen to your gut instinct. Then ask your mother. And THEN research. In. That. Order.

 

And then I heard that reading is great for the baby, so, rain, hail or shine I dragged out those books. Often you would kick and scream and want to “play”, but I was determined. How mighty of me to enforce something that you would end up loving, when I let you be? Everything happens in good time.

 

You were 2 when your sister was born. And suddenly you had to “be quiet, your sister’s sleeping”. Because she too came early (by 27 days), suddenly you were placed in a big bed! There wasn’t any warning, chat or even a slight indicate that you were getting evicted from your room. Communication is important.

 

At the park, you loved the swing. More than anything I have ever seen. But I would always set you a limited time on the swing. Timers are for baking, exams and random game apps on the iPad. Not for things like having fun on the swings.

 

The thing is son, first children will always be (possibly) for the rest of time, the same for each parent. They will always be the ‘unknown’. You are a big reason of why I now parent your siblings the way I do and thanks for that. When your little brother chucks the biggest tantrum, I breathe and remember – this shall pass.

 

So before you think that your childhood/infanthood was sh*thouse can I take the pleasure to remind you of some things I did for you?

– We lined up for 2 hours once, to get Ben 10’s signature at some show I paid a gazillion $ to watch. TWO HOURS.

– You have never missed a birthday party. I call it First Child Syndrome. (Your baby brother got a home made cake on his 1st birthday).

– Homework time is entirely dedicated to you and the betterment of your education. Your sister gets the leftover time I have before I need to prepare dinner.

– I once sat on the plane floor, while you took my entire seat to sleep. It was an 8 hour flight. You’re welcome.

 

And so, I can choose to look back and feel that hindsight is so painful. But I am here to tell you: hindsight is wonderful. Live, learn, discover, learn again and move on.

 

Now please stop hatin’ on the fact you are the eldest when in fact you boss those siblings around and you love it.

 

Forever, mummy xx

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My kids walked in from school today, at 3pm as usual, and *shock horror* I was busy.

I was not at the door, ready to greet them, nor did I rush to their needs. I decided that it is OK to not give my children 100% of my attention all the time.

Now while some people will read the above sentence and want to call Social Services, let  me explain.

You see, I have tried all sorts of parenting – hands on parenting, co-parenting, organic parenting and old fashioned parenting. I’ve tried “talk to my kid for an hour before they go to bed so that they feel loved” and “pack only super-foods in their lunch box.” I’ve warned my husband to be “alert” when they are around and that we must NEVER be on our phones/computers/iPads and must absorb their presence. Yes, I said those very words.

And then I realised there is a tiny, tiny word that gets lost in parenting these days. Balance.

Balance can sort out the worst of days and can ease everyone’s guilt. People should try it more often.

Balance means that when your kid scoffs 5 Oreo biscuits, you remember the last 14,570 days of super-clean eating that has happened.

Balance means that bedtime can sometimes be a simple “good night love you” to your kid and that. is. all.

Somehow, with the plethora of articles and philosophies about parenting available to read and the shift in parenting styles to suit the 21st century, mothers and fathers have become inclined to always be on ALERT and this is a bad thing. A VERY BAD THING.

We will raise bad kids, folks.

I did NOT have a lunch box that looked like this when I was growing up:

 

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I had a cheese sandwich, some CC’s, a prima and a whizz fizz. And while I recognise that healthy eating is imperative and I strongly believe + maintain it, I will not succumb to cutting my kid’s sandwich in the shape of aeroplane because it looks “cute”. Nope. Won’t do it.

I am also done with the gazillion after school activities. Since my first child was born, I was always doing some class or signing them to some activity. It was freak-ing exhausting and I felt like a taxi driver. So now, I make my children decide on 1 or 2 fave things to do and THAT.IS.IT. Oh, and if they don’t show me over the top enthusiasm towards that particular activity – we quit.

Speaking of quitting, I was in a moral dilemma late last year. My 7 year old decided that she no longer liked Gymnastics. I’ve invested 3 years into classes and equipment and the ball breaking effort of doing her hair so perfectly for her classes and then one day, just like that she says “I don’t like Gymnastics anymore”. So for a week I tossed between: should I let her quit (and therefore teach her that quitting is OK), or do I force/bribe/blackmail her into continuing because I bloody love seeing all the tricks she can do?

In the end, folks, she quit. Was I sad? YES. Was I sad because I was losing a potential Olympic Gymnast? Nope.

I’m no psych, but I just have a feeling that being on ALERT for our children will decline their level of independent activity. And by independent I mean “it’s OK that mum is not watching you do the 62,534th cartwheel”.

Again, I must stress to those that forming a negative opinion right now, there is a balance. Let’s not chuck our kids on the street and say “GO FORWARD CHILD AND FEND FOR YOURSELF!” (imagine a heroic voice), but rather “I am here and I love you, but if your brother/sister has hit/annoyed you – work it out yourselves.”

It goes without saying that some days the balance is shifted more to one side – a sick child, an assignment due in the next day, whatever – then, by all means, we should get on board and help.

But if my kid cannot understand that mummy has a personality and that sometimes mummy has needs too, then I think I have failed as a parent.

Just my Tuesday thoughts.

Till next time

Be happy.