mum

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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).

 

son's carddaughter's card

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

____________

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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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:

 

lunch-box2

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.

Since Mr 7 became part of a new table group, his mannerisms and accent have changed.

He now accentuates each syllable while speaking and he now speaks slow-er. He sounds like this: “Can I pliz have a tom-a-toe?” Frustrating at times, but I get it. It all comes part of moving countries and your kids getting immersed into other peoples cultures. Blah blah blah.

Did I mention how frustrating it is?

So along comes Parent/Teacher interviews and I am shameless to say I SO could not be bothered going. I know I sound like a bad mother, but I had seen Ms Rachael only the other week and well Miss 4 is a Teacher’s Pet so… Time is precious and I did not want to spend time driving through peak hour traffic, and then walk through the mini castle of a school only to hear things I already knew.

However because I suffer from GATT (Guilty-all-the-time) Syndrome, I left baby with the maid and I made way down Jumeirah Beach Road.

Parent/Teacher Interviews proved to be quite a different experience because firstly, hardly any parent attends. But one parent I was SO glad to bump into was Jey-Huong’s mum. We will call her Kim.

She was already sitting down waiting her turn when I arrived, and when we worked out who our children were I could have died from embarrassment.

“Jey-Huong loves your son! He teach him to talk. And gun noise.” Note: have I mentioned that Mr 7 has a stereo-typical boyish obsession with army/guns/military/bombs?

“Oh! How fantastic!” Came my feeble reply. I mean, what else could I say?

Nevertheless, Kim turned out to be absolutely happy with Jey-Huong’s new skills and her easy going nature makes you want to chat with her all day long. Not that chatting with Kim is ‘easy’, because her English is quite laden with a strong Korean accent, it make it hard to understand. But Kim has that personality where she keeps persisting until you understand her. It is quite cute actually.

Turns out that Kim lived in Melbourne, Australia 20 years ago, and then did a year in New Zealand. This was pre marriage and children. I was shocked beyond belief because a) she did not look older than 30 and b) well, how freaky that we share a bond of having lived in the same country/city TWICE in this lifetime.

“How old are you, Kim?” I asked incredulously. Note: A very common question here in Dubai. Culture does not deem this question inappropriate.

“40,” she says. “But here in Dubai I am 38.” She quickly interjects.

Ok, say what?!

She continues:

“In South Korean culture, when we are born we are immediately labelled as 1 years old. And my birthday is next month which will make 39, but I am entering my 40th year on this Earth.”

I think the look on face said it all, because she giggled again. She must get this all the time I though, but how fascinating. Utterly extra-ordinary, just imagine that! Always calculating ahead of time, and if that is the case, my 9 month old baby is actually 1.

I learnt more about South Korea – presently I only know of Psy and Gangham style, ofcourse – which Kim was more than happy to indulge in comparisons. Well firstly, she is what Aussies call a “tiger mum”. Her son attends Korean school every day after his ‘usual’ school. On Saturdays he goes to an “academic school” and then somewhere in there he fits in violin, learning English and excelling at Korean.

On top of the plethora of homework our sons’ school, Jey-Huong pretty much does another load of homework. My next question sounded completely Western I know, but I just had to ask.

“Does Jey-Huong let you? Does he let you fill his schedule so much? Mr 7 would have a tantrum every day…” I was envious.

“I do not ask him for permission. We just do it.” She shrugs, still with her magical smile plastered on her face.

I thought of Mr 7 and Miss 4’s anger management issues when it’s time to do Arabic homework, and their giving up nature.

“Can I borrow Jey-Huong for a week?” I joked. She missed the joke, and gave a quizzical look. “Like, to teach my kids some resilience.”

As you can tell, my appointment to see Ms Rachael was well and truly running behind. Obviously the mum having her turn, was treating it like a UN resolution or something, because I was now running late to Miss 4’s appointment which was on the other side of the school.

Kim noticed my constant watch checking and asked if I had another appointment. I told her I have a daughter in KG1 and would you believe me if I told you that she also has a daughter in KG1? Fate. We were meant to be.

Kim has been a very usual occurrence in my life. I love receiving her emails, and her precise English writing is obviously painstaking for her and I am so grateful she tries. We recently attended a birthday party on the weekend, which both our girls were invited to.

Her bling, bling bag, and huge high heels made me feel even more teenager-like, as I had decided to war my flats and jeans. I also had a snotty, teething baby on my hip. But she made me feel like a million dollars with her hug hello, and she ran around after her daughter and Miss 4 taking a zillion photos.

“I email to you?” she asks.

“Oh, I would love that. Thanks!” I said, rocking the pram so that baby would sleep.

“You sound like Australia. Say thanks already. This is nice thing!” And just like that she had summed up the story of my life.

You can take Australia away from me, but you cannot take the Australia out of me.