when the sound of bombing beats in our hearts

qdfyp8ktBana Alabeb is a 7 year old Syrian girl living in East Aleppo. She and her mother Fatemah joined Twitter in September 2016. Since, they humanized life as a child living through the horror inside Aleppo. I have a 7 year old. I see the sparkle in his eyes when he is happy and the sadness that takes over his little soul when he is troubled. In his world, his worries may never get bigger than the ones he has to face today. In Bana’s world, tomorrow may never come. Her mother uses the platform as a political tool begging world leaders to help civilians. She tweets as her country and her family waits for death.

My family happens to celebrate Christmas. As the holidays approach, children will receive presents. A few years ago, I became disgusted by the amount of material items my offsprings received from us and loving family members. We narrowed the list to 4 things: something to read; something to wear; something I want; something I need. While writing their letters to Santa, each year, they are unable to think of something they need. My children, and I think a lot of the children in the city in which we live, although not ALL and that is very important to remember, go without a single NEED throughout the year. A shoe falls apart, we are able to go out and buy new ones. A mitten gets lost, we are able to purchase a new pair. Sometimes without even looking for the lost item. I have to say they are somewhat aware of that privilege. But this year, in particular, this fact makes me want to throw up.

I have an inner fire burning so hot with anger. Anger about the hate and divisiveness which has been prevalent especially in the last year. Anger about the white privilege we see and experience much too often. Last night, in Southern Ontario, the sky was covered in light fluffy Christmas snow. I used to LOVE the sound, or lack, of falling snow. It is so quiet and so peaceful. After my children went to bed and before the Barfing Explosion of 2016 occurred, I put on my husband’s oversized boots and stood outside just to listen. I tried but couldn’t hear my usually endearing and silent falling snow. All I heard the bombingd and screaming children across the world. Some of whom have NEVER in their entire little short lives known or heard silence and peace.

Global News put out a piece: How does Toronto compare to Aleppo. It is definitely worth watching. Also quite chilling as the reporter eventually walks off screen… as there would be nothing left.

Somehow, God decided that I was to be born here. Meet this great half Dutch half Filipino man and raised 3 multi racial children in a safe, socially and economically sound country. They did not get to choose this. Neither did Bana and her family. The predicament they are in is tragic. If they survive, the psychological damage with which these children will have to live is insurmountable without great intervention, which I doubt they will ever get.

In ten, twenty or thirty years, terrorism will most likely still be alive in the world. Will we still ask ourselves how it happened? Will we still blame others? The hell Syrian children are living through is in no way, shape or form caused by their choices or their behaviour. But it is shaping the adults they will one day become. We will not be able to blame them for that.

The year 2016 has been one of the most difficult year for me, psychologically and emotionally. I will welcome 2017 as a fresh start but the fire is more alive than ever. In the Silent Night, if you can hear the bombing across the world, join me in fighting the War on War not so much the War on Christmas.

Much love and some peace this holiday season.

Maman M.

 

keeping count

IMG_3511I was too skinny and my mental health was suffering. I had just turned 18 years old. I knew little. I did know there were feelings I had never felt before and I sort of knew they were not what I wanted to be feeling. There were some major transitions coming in the summer of 2000. Two of my best friends were heading West to better their English skills, others were off to cool adventures with family or boyfriends. I was so lost.

When I loaded my life in a few luggage and embarked on that bus, I took 3 or 4 Gravol. I wanted to sleep the entire way to Toronto. Perhaps I did not want to wake up. But I did. I woke up. At Union Station with the content of my life spread around my legs and those of my mind spread across thousands of kilometres.

My children are nowhere near the age where they want to pick up and go on an adventure. In fact one of them claims he will never marry and live with us forever. At this point, I’m ok with that. I however understand how my parents must have felt. I was to be gone only a few months; a year maybe. Today marks my 16th year as an Ontarian.

It is nearly impossible to remember the first feelings. The first few months living in Orangeville with my aunt and trying to figure myself out. I learned the language and was hired by an airline. I worked, made money and began travelling. As time passed, the world opened itself to me and my views broadened with each experience.

I have found it helpful and encouraging to count each additional year since my big move. However, this time around, it doesn’t bring me as much joy. I am not sad or angry, simply indifferent. I am counting the 5 more years before I graduate, which will mean my eldest son will be 13… a teenager. I am counting 2 more years, where I will have lived here as long as I lived in my home town.

The thing is, those year are passing much too fast. The months, weeks, days, hours, minutes… There is always so much to do and not enough time. I want to hug my kids and play in the creek with them. I want to sit outside with my man and talk about our lives and our dreams. I want to spend time with my beloved friends and all the love they share with us. I want to read all the knowledge I can absorb. I want to make space for all the feelings I am digging up working so hard at becoming a psychotherapist and be able to help people some day. I want to write all I feel and think and one day, look back at this amazing life we made for ourselves and let my mind travel through the beautiful memories. All because I did wake up.

I woke up and the sun rose again. Some days are a little darker but one thing for certain, the sun will shine again.

From here on, I’d like to quit counting and revel in the days, bright and dark. Because I know now, after all the diapers and colic and sore nipples and scratched knees and tantrums and soccer  practice and piano and swimming lessons, I am fully and blissfully awake.

Love,

Maman M.

that shameful thing

Mindsight_LGI think overall, I am a decent parent. I feed, I love , I clothed, I listen, etc. I question my every move. Each decision, each comment, every little compliment is weighed. Whether before it is verbalized or after. My eldest son’s favourite come back now is “we all say things we don’t mean when we are angry”.

A very important notion in our family is that emotions are allowed, granted and celebrated. Not only the ‘fun’ emotions. All the emotions. If my children are never angry or sad, they will never be happy. However, in spite of how strong an emotion gets, the consequences of our actions live on forever. An insult to a beloved brother or too much talking back to a parent. If it makes the journey from your brain to your tongue and is delivered, it is out there. We must all live with it. Yes, it is physiologically known that when we “flip our lid” (Siegel, 2011, p.27) as Dr. Daniel Siegel explains so well in his book ‘Mindsight’, the brain connections working to regulate emotions don’t exactly fire properly. Still, it has a 99.9% chance of hurting someone we love very much.

So, I preach. I preach kindness and auto regulation. I preach to them, but I mostly preach to myself. Because when I ‘flip my lid’ (Siegel, 2011, p.27) and the ‘limbic lava’ (Siegel, 2011, p.27) starts to boil, I scream. I feel I must put it out there for the whole world to see. I am a screamer. Those sweet babies whom I nursed and cajoled and baked for all these months, they get the worst of my hot blooded self. My  wonderful psychotherapist likes to remind me I have European blood and I am ‘unique’ in certain aspect of personality. However, accepting my failure in keeping cool is oh so difficult. After all the neurons reconnect, I look at their little tiny faces and my heart sinks. I want to cry and hold them tight. I apologize for raising my voice but maman is just so tired and a bit frustrated repeating the same thing 100 times. School has been on for 5 months and when I ask them to get dressed and brush teeth in the morning, they look at me like I have 2 heads and they have never accomplished that task before.

So, I put heavy blame on myself and my ability to raise these little humans. I put more money aside for the therapy they will one day need. I watch from the corner of my eyes all the other mamas dropping off their kids at school and whispering sweet nothing to them. While I get out of the car, weary and filled with guilt because of another morning I didn’t handle with poise and calm. And, I know I am not alone.

There, I said it. This mothering business is difficult. It is a test. When I kiss them in the hall and watch their little backs walking away from me in to a life of their own, I wonder if they are happy and if they remember the apology that came shortly after the loud words. I pray they remember how much they are loved and utterly brilliant beings.

I will try again. Every. Single. Day.

Love,

Maman M.

References
Siegel, Daniel J. Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation. New York: Bantam, 2011. Print.

The Grapefruit

GrapefruitI have suffered from serious sinus issues over the last 18-24 months. Each time I get a cold, it turns in to excruciating headaches, face pains and more. Not pleasant. Particularly when three little people depend on me, solely, to run their world.

A few months ago I finally decided I had enough and made a big fuss with my GP. She agreed  to refer me to a specialist. This is Canadian Health Care so it takes a while to get anything done. I finally had my 7 minutes with the ENT, she looked up my nose with her less than comfortable camera and concluded I have a deviated septum and possibly some nasal polyps. To confirm her diagnosis, she has referred a CT scan. Upon the results, she will recommend surgery or other options.

I am having this scan tomorrow and, I am petrified. The high levels of radiation don’t bother me. I have no problem with enclosed spaces. I will be lying down in the middle of the day, BONUS. I enjoy visiting the dentist now as I get to lie horizontally and close my eyes, alone, for thirty minutes.

I am scared of what will be seen. I was listening to a CBC radio show called “This is My Music” this weekend and the host was remembering a letter he had received. CBC’s website describes this show as follow “Each Saturday morning, This is My Music is hosted by one of Canada’s foremost international classical artists. The host selects a program of mainly classical music and presents it in a lively, engaging manner enriched with personal anecdotes and insights.” Last Saturday’s host was countertenor, Daniel Taylor. I particularly enjoyed him. He had a very soft voice and spoke so passionately of the pieces and people he had selected to play for the audience. I was hanging off his every word. He spoke of the letter which had been sent to him by a man who’s partner had recently died. During the last few days of his partner’s life, they had been staying at a cabin in the woods. Over the last hours of his friend’s life, he was asked to open all the windows and play one of Taylor’s piece over and over. He knew at that point, the end was near.

None of us know what kind of death sentence we will be dealt. I think the first choice is peacefully in our sleep but I see very few of these recently. Too many are afflicted by horrific diseases, like cancer, or sudden tragedies.

As I drove, alone, I started to think of my own death. I always tell my husband we are going together, he can’t leave me behind. I don’t think I could handle life without him. We are obviously playing around, but part of it is the truth. I want to grow old with him. My own death is so foreign. I like to think I will be going to Heaven. I talk to my babies about Heaven continually, it seems to be the ultimate place, if not right here, with the people I love the most. I foresee it in 60 years.

This evening at dinner, I decided to be honest with my man. I usually would not admit to such dramatic thoughts. As soon as the words came out of my mouth, his back straightened up and he exclaimed to have had the same feeling all day. “My entire life would be shattered” he said.

Tomorrow morning, the staff at our local hospital will be taking images of my head to see if there are any blockages in my sinuses. What if those images show a grapefruit sized tumour in my brain?

The mere fact both of us have that worry hopefully means everything will be fine. But, what if sickness or death was nearer than anticipated.

Would I tell my kids? Would I take the trip I have planned in a couple weeks? Would I speak with my father again? I may take my boys out of school and just play with them. God has a plan. He already knows what’s hiding behind the images and the painful headaches.

I want to ask myself all the “what if” questions. If the pictures are clear, maybe I don’t want to wait for a bitter fruit sized mass to answer and, act up on the kind of questions we leave unanswered, until disaster strikes.

I always hug my babies as if it were the last hug. I kiss them a lot and they hear how much I love them, constantly. My boys would remember. My babydoll would only have images, hopefully, fruitless.

Praying for a clear scan and for God’s guidance in whatever He has in store for us.

Love,

Maman M.

Motherly Façade

Our son is nearly six; going on 16. These last few weeks have been challenging. His behaviour is bolder; he is taking more chances. He is testing the limits.

Twice a week, I drive the boys to school. Maman and Baby have a day alone. Getting the five of us out of the car, organized and in to the school yard is an orchestration. Often time, we see the same ladies responsible for the children during the morning arrival and the afternoon departure. They are all lovely and very complimentary of our family. One in particular, whom is the head of the special ed department, has developed a liking for us. When our first born started school last year, I was very pregnant. She would make a point to tell me how beautiful I looked. I always responded with an expression or word negating her compliments. I felt absolutely horrible and must have looked that way. One morning, after a I shrugged her kindness, she turned around and came back to talk. She said she wanted me to know why she always complimented me – she adopted her children and was never able to bear a child of her own. In her eyes, a pregnant woman was the most beautiful miracle on earth. From that day, I thanked her profusely when she complimented me. I didn’t feel I looked any better, but I learned to be a little more grateful of my body. Its power and greatness. It is a gift for which I am grateful.

My favorite verse is James 1:17 “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

When babydoll was born, they made a fuss each time we rolled in. Came spring, they begged me to get her out of the car seat. I think it takes special people to fall in love with children, year after year, the way they do. These women truly care for each child in our school and see the beauty in all of them.

My friend,  with heart-born children, stopped me this morning to look at the baby. She also made a point to tell me about my six year old who saw her in the hall this week and said: “Bonjour Madame”. She was impressed by his social skill and said: “You are a great mother”. I blushed, retorted and thanked her. Random people have said such things before, based on my social media feed and numerous pictures of my children. I went home and couldn’t stop thinking: I am a fraud.

These embarrassingly nice compliments are not who I am. I am broken. I fail, daily, numerous times. These kind souls’ perception is not my reality. Am I letting on a made up image?

Raising my kids is the most wonderful and challenging quest of my life. I question my every move. I go over each punishment in my mind. Was I too harsh? Did I give in too easily? I worry if I nursed the baby long enough. If I treated two brothers equally.

The world doesn’t see my morning mess. They don’t hear my nightly prayer for a few continuous sleeping hours. The morning prayer – to yell less; hug more. Each carrot not eaten sits like a lump in my throat. How will they get enough vitamins, will their bones withstand a blow. Our latest grape stand off was humiliating, for all of us. Am I raising grateful or ingrate children? Am I too strict or too lenient? Will their only memory of me is a loud voice and angry looks? Will they ever know how much I love them? How much it hurts to love with that kind of love.

I wish I could ask my friend what she sees. I wish I could be honest and tell her that I break down in tears in front of my overflowing laundry basket, because I haven’t slept more than 2 hours at a time in months. I want to tell her that my floors are sticky and the fridge hasn’t had a good clean in months. That I stay up at night, thinking I simply don’t have what it takes. That it is all a facade and I am failing at mothering, miserably.

All I can do is fall on my knees. God is good. He brings me the daily little joys that make it all worth living. A cute story from middle child. An amazing piano lesson with a six year old teenager, leaving me with pride-tears. The sweet scent of my baby, the last one. A hubby that chooses to come home every day. Who still tells me I am beautiful, with throw up on my shirt and a raspy voice from too much yelling.

I don’t pretend to be happy. I am happy. The smiles she sees are genuine. I want to smile and laugh with my kids. I want to do the right thing. Teach them valuable lessons without scarring them for life. I enjoy our fun adventures and want to have many more.

“Life is difficult.” First words of Scott Peck’s The Road Less Traveled.

All I have is my bended knees to fall on and pray. Pray for strength, wisdom, patience, faith… and a little sleep.

Love,

Maman M.

Blissful Chaos

IMG_6921February 25, 2013, 14h44, she took her very first breath. I became a mother for the third time. Labor and delivery was not going to be outdone by the pregnancy. Forty miserable weeks ended with the worst five hours and fourteen minutes of my life. It ended with a perfect little baby girl. All nine pounds fourteen ounces of her, coming out posterior.

None of it matters now. We are a family of five. Our baby girl is here. Our boys are madly in love with their baby sister. Papa is smitten. My days and nights are spent listening her coo and sing as she nurses, admiring her beautifully created pursed lips and hairy ears, her clenched fists and curled up nose. Love.

The boys have adjusted perfectly well. They are asking how many more babies we can have. Their lives have not changed very much. We have tried to maintain their routines. School, daycare, karate, swimming lessons and family weekend activities have remained. Bus stop, dinners and snacks, constant milk request or calls from the bathrooms.

God has blessed me with patience. He has blessed me with three beautiful, healthy little souls which I get to nurture. How can one be so lucky. Three little people have been offered to us, to love, to raise, from whom to learn. Each of them has a funky little personality and is teaching me valuable life lessons.

I am being reminded now, with a little daughter, of my own insecurities. I have always complained about the way I look. Perhaps because of the way I feel. As I sat in the tub, a couple of weeks after given birth, I looked at what used to be a stomach and thought I should start saving money for a tummy tuck. My mind quickly shifted. I have one chance to do this right. A very small window to teach my daughter to love and respect herself. I must begin to truly love myself and give her the opportunity to feel the same about herself one day. I will be her role model for a very short but crucial time. This is my chance. If I could never do it for me, I want to do it for her. When my husband tells me I am beautiful, I will not shrug him off. When I tell my daughter she is beautiful, I want her to look into my eyes and believe every word of it. I want her to feel beautiful from the deepest part of her insides to the tip of her toes, because she is. Every one of God’s creation is perfect.

For the last month, I have felt better, emotionally, than I have in years. As I have learned, with much work, this is who I am. I am nurturing. I am giving. I am loving. Being a Maman is what I know. It is who I am, deep down. I am not a needy little girl. I am a giving adult. I am not fearful of being abandoned. I have been given the opportunity to build a foundation of trust. I no longer worry about unconditional love as I am living it, every single day.

At the present, our lives are chaotic. I do my fair share of screaming and disciplining. A lot of the times, someone is either fussing or whining, crying over a brother’s misbehaviour,  hungry or tired, needing to be held, to be hugged or kissed. Laundry needs doing. The vacuum and mop are never put away, waiting for the next mess to be cleaned up. A friend said to me recently: “as long as it is blissful, it is manageable”. We are managing. Because at the end of the day, we have each other. In spite of the disciplining, the toys not being shared and the dirty floors, we are all madly in love with one another. We share respect and faith. We are blessed with God’s gifts. We are forever grateful.

Although the boys are claiming more siblings, we are closing up shop. We make gorgeous children and we have enough love to give for six or seven more but we made the decision to stop here. When we decided to have a third baby, I was most likely in the worst mental shape, ever. Ten months later, I am a different person. Life is so much brighter. I am grateful to be alive. Grateful for my wonderful husband. Grateful for the people around me, near and far, whom have taught me that keeping the faith isn’t just a saying, it is a way of life.

I am blessed, beyond expectation, in blissful chaos.

Love,

Maman M.

Cherished moments

This morning, all four of us sat on children’s chairs during the Christmas Parent Breakfast at our children’s daycare  eating oranges and croissants. Our eldest son attends the before and after school program and our little guy is there all day, patiently waiting the return of his brother. When the school bell rang, I walked my boy to his class and tried to help him get settled. He obviously didn’t need me and showed great independence. He was eager to get in to the room where his friends were, but I insisted on a kiss, a hug and “je t’aime, bonne journée”.

I returned to our second son who was clinging to his papa. He doesn’t appreciate change in his routine. Having his father there was too good to be true and he certainly didn’t want him to leave. We have to be strong and show him confidence, he is safe and we are always coming back to get him. The tears were streaming down his face and both my husband and I were heartbroken to leave him behind. We hugged and kissed him at least a dozen time before he resentfully went to one of the caregiver’s arms.

I have been going over every single moment from this morning. The hugs, the kisses, the uncertainty in their eyes when we made a move that may have been interpreted as preparation to leave. It could have been the last time I looked in their eyes, kissed their plump lips, stroked their shiny hair or said good bye.

This evening, both my boys are safely nestled in their beds, next to our bedroom. I can tell who’s breathing louder and who’s lungs are a little too congested.

I cannot bear to think of those parents, barely miles away from our haven, whose world have been shattered. Hopes, dreams and plans were torn to shred by some deranged man carrying, not one but, 3 of the most powerful guns.

This man made a conscious decision this morning. He walked in to Sandy Hook Elementary School  and opened fire. Leaving 27 people on the ground to die, he turned the gun to himself. Eighteen of his victims were children. People’s babies. Mothers and fathers are now looking at empty bedrooms and closets full of hidden Christmas presents.

This weekend, I have almost every minute planned with my boys. Tonight we made red and green Rice Krispies squares and watched a Christmas movie. Tomorrow is our Gingerbread house project and many other Christmas crafts as well as baking. Wrapping presents for the neighbours and delivering them. Playing board games and Thomas the train.I  have a pretty good grasp of my emotions and reactions, however,  I have absolutely no idea where I would be if I were a parent from Sandy Hook School. I am so very angry now, how would I process someone voluntarily taking my child’s life, ten days before baby Jesus was born, to save us.

I have a lump in my throat which won’t go away. God must be so angry. Evil is truly the only explanation for such massacre. Purely evil.

Four years ago tomorrow, a dear friend lost her baby, of thirty-five years old. Children are vulnerable and sans défense so the tragedy is ruthless. However, as someone once said to me, we are always someone’s baby. Regardless of age. Parents who lose children walk around with a cross on their back.

Tonight, I hugged my boys long and hard. I looked at them and studied their beautiful little faces. And I prayed. I prayed for the parents of the children who were killed. The children who lived but watched their teacher and friends being killed. I prayed for peace in spiritual chaos. I prayed for all the families and friends who have, in their lifetime, had to say good bye to a human being they brought to life. Because there really is no other love similar to loving your child, the pain of losing such love has to be unexplainably acute. I pray that these little angels are in Heaven, pain and worry free. I can only imagine the fear they had to experience.

Such tragedy is core shaking. I don’t think I will ever drive away from our school the same way I did this morning.

Hug your children, your grandchildren. Tell your family and friends how much you love them and how much they mean to you. Tomorrow is another day.

Dear God, please lift those families’ hearts in your care. May they survive this earth shaking disaster.

Maman M.