A blessing in disguise

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Being a mom is a blessing in disguise. It’s a blessing exemplified by a magical experience at the end of every day, when in a split second, an overexcited toddler, who wouldn’t finish her milk, wouldn’t eat her dinner and wouldn’t go to bed, peacefully falls asleep and literally turns into an innocent poor little angel whose only fault is wanting to explore life and trying to make the most out of the day.

At that very moment, I savor motherhood like there’s no tomorrow. I enjoy the responsibility-free evening when I can live at my own pace but still have her in my life. But then again, I tend to be left with a sense of guilt for not putting on enough entertainment shows, for not offering yet another dinner option when all first three proved to be a complete fiasco, for not being able to wrap my head around what she wanted or how sleepy and grumpy she was but still refused to sleep, for always having the last straw and never having the required amount of patience.

Leave it to moms to deal with guilt trips, to dig up a worry or concern when there is really no need for any.

“I’ll do better tomorrow,” she gets me thinking as soon as she falls asleep. “I’ll teach her more and show her more. I’ll give her more time to play without sticking to a schedule. I’ll read her favorite book over and over again. I’ll be more responsive when she wakes up at night.”

How? Your guess is as good as mine, for parenting is such a slippery task that is getting more complicated by the day at a time when studies about how to raise children are a dime a dozen, thus making the task even trickier. It’s okay to let babies cry it out to sleep, several studies said, only to be followed by other researches that defied this technique and warned against its dangers. When your child throws a tantrum, just ignore them, watch TV or continue doing whatever it is that you were doing, some doctors  recommended, just as a whole panoply of studies proved that when a child’s needs are dismissed or ignored, they develop a sense of mistrust of relationships and the world.

How much TV is okay a day? Is it allowed at all at her age? Is it really that harmful? If so, how can I get her to eat if not in front of it? And how can I get her to sleep through the night? When should I get her off the pacifier? Was the pacifier a good idea to begin with? Vaccines, can we reach a final verdict thereon? Is Peppa Pig really a bad influence?

This is by no means a call for answers because I’ve heard enough of these to keep me confused for a lifetime. And hitting the nail in the head doesn’t seem to be an option when it comes to parenting. Still, I’ll do better tomorrow. Still, I’ll love her even more tomorrow and I’ll keep believing that parenting is not about techniques, studies or experiments but about making a child happy and fit as a fiddle and about warding off any kind of harm come rain or shine…

 

 

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Dear Beirut,

Beirut-downtown

It was Mother’s Day yesterday, and I did not particularly like it…

While my friends shared words of wisdom in appreciation of their mothers and thanked them for their strength, achievements, and sacrifices throughout the years, I couldn’t help but think of your fragility. They said their mothers loved them unconditionally, and here I am searching for a sign of your unconditional love. They thanked their mothers for watching over them, and I hated how we are the ones always watching over you…

And then I read beautiful words about girls turning into moms and realizing how big of a sacrifice motherhood is, and I wondered when you would come to understand the sacrifices we made and are still making – willingly or unwillingly.

They said they were thankful that their moms were there for them whenever they needed them, whenever they needed support and whenever they got sick, but I sadly realized that you’re the constantly ill person in the equation. You’re the one who’s always ailing and suffering and fighting an uphill battle – a losing one I might add. You’re the one who’s always hoping against hope, trying your best and giving it all you’ve got despite it all. You’re the one who’s always burying a thousand and one problems while waiting for one to be solved to unveil another one, one at a time.

This reminded me of how I always wanted to live in a country that’s in control of everything and everyone, not in a country that falls prey to other countries’ whims and desires a million times a day. It reminded me how I hated you and how I wanted a country where there is no room for huffing and puffing. But it wasn’t long before teenage defiance was over and my coping mechanism kicked in. So I developed a sense of belonging to you. And here I am today fully aware that by hell or high water you’re the only one for me.

Beirut, you showed resilience when we all marched to a different drummer. You were persistent when all we thought about was letting go. You remained genuine amid the struggle playing out in the entire region. You remained loving when your own kids were thinking of leaving you.  In short, you proved that you have so much to give and so much to offer.

This is to ask you to roll your patience across the country so that when our kids start yearning to leave, we would be able to stop them.

Happy belated Mother’s Day!

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On this first birthday of yours

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My dearest,

It has been a year since you came to this world and turned my life upside down, and boy what a year it’s been!

Can you tell how proud I am to see you turn into a smart little girl? Can you tell how fast this past year has gone by? Can you tell how many nights I slept with a prayer in my heart for you? Can you tell that I keep gazing at you long after you fall asleep every single night, and that I gazed a little longer last night? When did you stop being this little baby of mine?

Remember when we would sleep and wake up at the same time? Remember when our schedules would match? Remember when smelling me was a source of comfort for you? Remember when you did not need toys because mama was all you needed? Do you miss those moments, like I do? Did I give you the wrong impression when I was there for you for 70 days but never subsequently managed to spend more than 5 days with you? Did I fail you?

I cannot deny that seeing you grow up and change has brought life to days otherwise meaningless, but I have been so taken by your first moves, assisted steps and half words that I forgot to bid farewell to the baby I so deeply loved and love.

Dearest Kayla, since you’re still too little to make any wishes, I allowed myself to make a couple for you this year — and only this year. I promise.

On this first birthday of yours:

I wish you the best of health in a country full of toxins, contaminated water and polluted air.

I wish you tons of joy in a world full of terrible news and never-ending terrorist attacks.

I wish you faith in an era that keeps drifting away from God to grow increasingly secular.

I wish you laughter in a world full of pain and agony.

And last but not least, I wish you patience with parents who are trying to be the best they can for you!

With tremendous love,

Mama

 

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Where does it come from?

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There is always a list of fears we try to get ourselves not to think of. I’m not talking about the fear of heights, the fear of needles or the fear of dogs. I’m talking about those ideas we avoid but know are bound to materialize. I’m talking about death, about separation, about heartbreaks and failures. And while some of you might find that labor falls under the former category, I firmly believe it doesn’t.

Growing up I always complained to my mom about how scary the idea of labor was to me. I complained so much she never thought I would pluck up the courage to have kids. I remember how she would always try to comfort me.

“My experience was smooth. You’ll cross that bridge when you get to it,” she would tell me.

I tried to get ready for the idea of labor and the amount of pain I would be facing. Little did I know! Little did I know until I had a fair share of pain in a cruel room that showed no mercy! I was clueless. I was so clueless I started to wonder whether the life I led was so bad that I was being punished.  I was clueless until labor redefined pain and pain redefined motherhood. As I went out of the delivery room, I vowed not to forget how tough it was and never venture into it again. “You will eventually forget all about it,” moms around me proudly said. I judged them. I judged them for forgetting so easily what made them suffer so bad!

And it started with a shock. The amount of work, effort, energy and dedication required every morning, every night and every afternoon of every single day looked quite frightening at first and took me by surprise. But changes soon turned into habits and priorities changed in no time. Everything else became trivial in comparison.

Every part of the day is now fast-forwarded to 5PM, when it is finally time to see her and make it up to her for a day of absence. 5PM is proving to her that the person who decided to bring her to this world would rather be with her than anywhere else. 5PM is putting everything and everyone on hold for her. 5PM is a heart full of love. 5PM is a chance to realize day after day that no amount of pain balances out the gain she embodies. 5PM is an opportunity to realize that the moms I judged never actually forgot their suffering but knew for a fact it would be worth it time and time again. 5PM is bliss. 5PM is a chance to finally understand that happiness indeed comes from within.

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If you are listening

At around 4 AM last night, my baby girl Kayla was awake for the second time, and I was running low on energy and patience. The past five months have been emotionally pleasant but physically tiring.

I couldn’t take it anymore, and I couldn’t help but wonder why it had to be so hard, why the ‘no pain, no gain’ phrase had to be so relevant and why Kayla was not one of those babies who sleep for 12 consecutive hours?” I wanted her to sleep. I so wanted her to sleep that I started to pray. “If you are listening to me, Saint Charbel, please let her sleep.”

I don’t usually pray to Saints. But for some reason, yesterday was an exception.

It wasn’t long before Kayla slept.

As soon as she did, I crawled back into bed. And then I had this weird dream that I was visiting an old lady I know. The lady was on the phone with her granddaughter. As she spoke to her, she started pointing to a table for me to hand her something — or so I thought. I gave her the medicine sitting on the table, but that wasn’t what she wanted. I handed her the bottle of water. That wasn’t it either. I finally looked at the wall behind the table to stumble upon an ear sketched by blood. I hesitated a second, and then something prompted me to say, “It’s Saint Charbel!” The lady nodded in agreement.

I was sure it was him!

As soon as I woke up today, I remembered having asked him if he was listening to me. Apparently, he was all ears! That ear I saw was a message from him that he was listening. What makes me so sure is that today is the 22nd.

Dear Saint Charbel, thank you for this beautiful sign. Now I know for a fact that you will be there for me whenever I need you and that you are always listening. May you always guide my way and bless my daughter with great health, happiness and everything her heart desires. May you always be as prompt whenever someone needs you!

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Dearest Kayla,

I have been meaning to write you a letter since the day you were born. I have been willing to talk to you about life, about what lies in store for you — from the grand to the mundane, from the personal to the general — and you sure knew how to keep me busy! J

It has been 42 days, and I wish I could stop the clock to prolong this leave of mine and further benefit from my time with you. I wish I could turn these 70 days into endless months, and it breaks my heart that I can’t. This is how life goes, and I want you to brace yourself for it… There are unfortunately woes ahead. There are heartbreaks you are bound to suffer and losses you are bound to experience. There are tears that you will inevitably shed and smiles you will thankfully cast. Life is full of chapters that will leave you stronger and wiser. If I could filter all of the sad chapters out to keep the ride smooth for you, I would not hesitate to do so, but this is unfortunately not a privilege that moms get.

In 28 days, I will be going back to work, and I will be pretending that being a working mom and preserving the career that I have come to build is a satisfying and quite important step. Success is a must in life, and I hope you will have much of it, but I also hope that you realize that a happy heart is way more important than any success story. With a heavy heart, I will be resuming my life. I will be risking to miss your list of first times, and I will be counting the hours to go back home to you. I am terribly sorry for this inevitable choice and all the bad choices I might be taking along the line. After all, there is no such thing as a perfect mom.

I am at a loss about how to conclude this letter because there are a lot of things I would like to cover. Try to enjoy the ride as much as you can, and promise me to indulge in whatever makes you happy. Your father and I will be proud of you no matter who you choose to become — a skilled reporter, a witty translator, a passionate writer, a lawyer, a painter, a doctor, an engineer or a professional ballerina. The choice is yours, for you are not my daughter, but “the daughter of life’s longing for itself.”

Your mom,

3/12/2016

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نعتزلك يا عيد

 

k8131256

وطأتَ الأرض فانهال التنديد

من شعب مقطوع الوريد

اعتزل الفرح الزهيد

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قبع في السجن ظلماً

رُمي في الشارع عنوةً

فقضى في المحيط غرقاً

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يحمد الرب ويكتب الشعر

يشرب الخمر لينسى المر

بائسا يبحث عن السر

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معركتنا ضارية، حربنا ضروس

ألمنا واحد جامع للطقوس

معاناتنا أشبه بكابوس

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اعتزلنا التقاليد والزغاريد

امتنعنا عن ذاك الميلاد المجيد

وها نحن نعتزلك يا عيد

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