Single Parenthood post #2. Not so bad…

New Appreciation

magnolia tree in full bloom. For my friend C, back in Austin with her new baby.

Tonight I am sitting in the dark of the playroom.  The new playroom.  Actually, the 6th new playroom my kids have known in 2 years.  Last week was abysmal.  This week has been pretty damn good, all things considered.

travel weary on the plane

Laila and Mama on the plane on the way to this new life. Also travel weary.

On a morning last week, after posting about failing as a single parent and crying myself into a tears-hangover that lasted the entire next day, I got an email from a friend who is a veteran of single motherhood.  In the email she gently reminded me to cut myself some slack in certain areas of life.  Then a flood of comments with a theme:  be more gentle to yourself.  And also:  This time is fleeting and you will have good memories of your season as a close-knit family of 3.   So true.

Since landing here, though things are difficult given that we miss Baba and Mama is taxed by trying to make things feel light and childhood-like while not dismissing anything this family has gone through, life has actually been easier than it was in Ramallah.  Easier here in someone else’s house, thousands of miles from my husband, living with an inordinate number of animals in various stages of old age and sanity, life is easier.

I might as well admit to enjoying American life a little more than I remember.  I have a totally new appreciation for the perks of life here:  hot water on demand.  Well tended roads.  Traffic laws.  Municipal systems to turn to when you need a system (who operate with a feeling of urgency in returning things to normal when something goes awry—like if the power goes out).  Public parks.  Recycling.  No Israeli Military check points, no occupation, I have not seen a dude with a gun standing on my street in nearly 2 months.  I have not seen sewage.

Deserving it?

I don’t deserve these perks more than people I left behind in Ramallah.  It’s not about deserving, it’s about access (among other things).  Access to money and political power.  Palestinians and their situation might as well be invisible here.  While cleaning in the first days here, I came across a photo from a few weeks ago that was in the NY Times, maybe even the front page.  It was of 2 Israeli soldiers firing automatic rifles.  The note under the photo simply said that Israeli soldiers had fired upon Palestinian stone throwers in the village of Al Ram.  Ho-hum.

Wait, wait, wait…they fired AUTOMATIC RIFLES on STONE THROWERS.  This is not apples to apples, or tit for tat.  This is not 2 parties at “war”.  This is automatic weapons on people wielding stones.  On a playground, if kids throw sand at other kids and the other kids retaliate with metal baseball bats, we’d say that was uncalled for, unfair and even PSYCHOTIC.  To say nothing of the fact that the people wielding stones have been living at the mercy of the power of the Israeli military and political machine for generations now.  And still, no one was talking about the incident around me.  You would think that people would be concerned about the use of such force against essentially unarmed captive civilians, particularly in America where a huge amount of our tax money pays for those weapons.  You’d think that people might be concerned enough to mention it to us, fresh from life in Palestine.  All this talk of Palestine around us ought to jog someone’s memory…but no one mentioned it.  I saved the picture for a while before it got too depressing and I tossed it.

Back off the soapbox

When I was living in Ramallah not so long ago (and a lifetime ago), I felt strongly the lack of play spaces for my kids.  Maybe that’s an understatement.  Let me rephrase:  I never shut up about the trash, dangerous playground equipment and unpredictably locked private playgrounds.  Particularly I felt the lack of outdoor play spaces that were safe enough to just let kids roam, get dirty, jump and fall without much fear (of broken glass or things that poke or things that are just too icky to mention).  We are making up for lost time it seems!

Playing outside in the mud and rain?  Check.

wet foot print art. we've had some awesome rainy days.

Beautiful nature preserves and outdoor exploring?  Check.

waterfall over a recess cave

exploring off road with grandpa.

she's so tiny.

us behind the waterfall in the cave.

of course, the outhouses left a little to be desired...here they are NOT braving the outhouse. We braved the leaves behind a tree instead.

Family neighborhood for walks and bike rides?  Check.

first real bike!

Playgrounds with a distinct lack of broken glass and/or inherently dangerous equipment?  Check.

running!

However, even with all that American life has to offer, I finally miss Ramallah.  There is always a wall of sound here, for example.  No quiet nights with echoes across the wadi.  I miss it.  There is a sense of personal freedom to do whatever you are interested in doing, but no common cause to unite people.  No occupation (good thing) but also no instant common ground (not so good).  People stay wrapped up in their own lives more, and are not as close to family.

In a way this feels like homesickness.  But as always, I am hard pressed to say where exactly home is.   I am still wondering where we belong as a family and where I belong as a person.  Luckily my kids keep me too busy to wonder for long.

Yoga Thought for Today:  on starting over

no asana photo...just this peaceful scene.

It was only 40 minutes.  My sacrum ached, my shoulders were grumbling.  I felt like I was made of lead pipes filled with cold water:  unbendable, off-balance, heavy.  But it was a yoga practice… and that’s where it starts.  It’s the fact that I have started again that matters.

Parent Thought for Today:  sleep routines that don’t match.  Soliciting advice.

sleeping Laila. It took 2 airplanes to do this.

I am currently trying to figure out what to do for my daughter.  She will not go to sleep.  After brushing and flossing my 2 kids teeth, I read books then kiss them goodnight.  I turn off the lights.  My son is asleep within 10 minutes.  My daughter stays up for another hour or more whispering to herself, talking to me, rolling side to side and up and down the bed, laughing, kicking the bed, telling jokes.  It’s super sweet…but it’s really hard to be amused instead of frustrated when the night is literally the first chance all day for me to have a moment to myself.  By which I mean clean, do laundry, put away toys…you know.  Real “me” time.  HA.

I am thinking of buying her a little tent and filling it with simple, soft toys and books and a little flashlight.  I am thinking that she might need a more time to stay up and read or play quietly while I wash my face or put away laundry nearby.  Or maybe while I wait/sleep in the bed until she is ready to sleep.  That’s my best idea.  Anyone have a better one?

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26 thoughts on “Single Parenthood post #2. Not so bad…

  1. Wow, you have had so much to absorb and adjust to. I am truly in awe.
    Thank you for continuing to raise awareness of Palestine. I live in Canada, so perhaps our news coverage is a little different. We do on occasion here about things. In my church, we’ve had some groups cone in and talk about life in Palestine. I passed on your blog to the speaker, as a resource about what life was like from the view of an American expat.

    I have three kids. My husband works a lot of nights, and I find myself often putting three kids with completely different schedules to bed. My 2 yr old naps, and needs to, so often isn’t ready for bed until 10 or so. Sometimes 11. I used to resent this a lot. my son who is 5 is always ready for bed by 8ish and after a bath and a story, he closes his eyes and is out. He likes to lay down with me, so I stay for five minutes and he’s asleep. My oldest is 8 and she stats got stories, then reads alone for twenty minutes and then falls asleep on her own around 9.
    I do what you wondered about and it works well. I read, or do cleaning up or laundry. I might be on the computer. And she plays on her own. She knows after story tine is done, I won’t do more reading, I’m not playing with her, there’s no tv or other special treats. We also don’t talk whole she’s playing. It’s not visiting time, it’s bedtime, and if she’s not tired, it’s quiet time. She doesn’t get to do the really fun stuff if she’s staying up, but she can be quiet by herself for a while in a safe place. And it frees me up to have time by myself. Most often, I sit in bed and read while she plays, as I find if I’m up doing chores, she wants to help. It’s like a gift of time for me to be still instead of me feeling I have to finish work.
    Before we did this, we’d struggle as she was not ready for sleep. We cosleep, so if she’s being crazy, I remind her bed is for sleeping, and if she’s not ready for sleep and for quiet time, she can go play. I find we are both less frustrated.
    And saying all this, there are days, when it seems she needs more, do we do read longer, or we just talk or play together.
    Either way, changing how I approach it, I experience this time as a gift instead of resenting my night disappearing. I feel much better about it.
    I look forward to reading your blog so much. Thanks for sharing your stories and insights. They are a gift… One of the things I read as my little monkey plays before bed.
    I hope you find some sense of connection and community in your new home, and that your sense of isolation lifts. Blessings.

    • I apologize for all the typos… I’m on my phone typing and the combination of my fingers on my phone with auto correct can be a little odd. 🙂

    • thank you SO MUCH for this reply. It helped tremendously to hear how you do things. It gave me a little permission to be more spacious. tonight we did not struggle. I told her she could play and roll around quietly and that I was going to go to sleep. She was actually asleep faster than normal! And thank you for your kind words about my blog. much love to you.

  2. Great to hear from you!!

    i will just randomly call you as my way of inserting myself into your life to remind you how much you are loved 🙂

    about Laila – i was a child who could not settle at night. so is clair. one of the best ways i have found to help her is to leave her alone. ANY kind of activity is too stimulating for her to fall asleep to most nights. So, I have used the trick of telling her that I need to do a few things in the house and I promise to come back in a few minutes. I use the time to pick up in the living room (she has checked on me) or some other activity that she wouldn’t be into enjoying. Then I check on her. If she is awake, I tell her I need to do a bit more and I do (it is a great way to do housework that would otherwise be ignored at the end of the day!). The door is open, and she can hear my sounds but isn’t interacting. Usually, she falls asleep quicker that way. I also never tell her that she MUST sleep. I remember that stressing me out as a kid, and I still tell myself that when I can’t calm down.

    At the moment, she doesn’t want to be alone because she is afraid of monsters (new phase?), and so I lie next to her. We don’t read books, I don’t keep up my half of the conversation, and I usually end up taking a nap. That works too but not as well as leaving her alone.

    • Monsters! wow. I guess that is totally age appropriate. Aww….how sweet to remember that I used to be afraid of monsters, too. And Laila may not quite be ready for me to leave the room, but it’s so good to know that it may be in our future. and yes, call anytime. email any time. i will, too.

      • Clair got a special light that makes all the monsters go away when she turns it on. It is next to her bed in case there is a monster emergency in the night.

      • battery powered LED lamps are a mom’s best friend when it comes to monsters. I got a small ball lamp from a Google kiosk at a conference years ago. It can be one of five colors or have the colors changing. I didn’t know, back then, that it would be a great anti-monster night light.

      • just like I didn’t know that the homemade “cabbage patch” doll my grandmother gave me in the early 80s (which I was embarrassed of because it was not a “real” cabbage patch” doll) would decades later be cracking my son up as she pretends to dance. would a “real” CP doll have survived the decades? no.

  3. Looking at these photos, I can’t help but notice the lack of iron bars on the windows! That’s gotta be a “plus”!

    • yes, but would you believe that we have already missed the bars at least on the kids rooms because my kids think it’s safe to climb up on a window…because in Palestine there are bars. It’s not safe here…here the screen fell out and took our play-doh with it. I took that as a near miss. Retraining them in the fine art of respect for windows as different than walls.

  4. How old is Laila? My daughter who is turning 4 in a month gave up her nap a few months ago. I knew she was ready because at night she used to sit up and talk and play for an hour and usually more. Now without a nap I moved her bedtime up 1/2 hour and she falls asleep so fast at night. So I don’t even know if Laila naps during the day, but it might be a solution. Also, usually on Sunday’s I institute ‘family nap time’ where everyone takes a nap and most of the time she will nap for an hour, or if she is super fussy one day I say it is a nap day. Instead of the nap during the day I do a quiet play time in her room for an hour. She has books, toys, markers etc. She loves it and does great. If she complains I tell her she can have quiet hour or she can nap. She almost always chooses quiet hour.

    • its funny you should write this comment because just today I was remembering that life actually got EASIER when Sufyan dropped his nap at 2 years old.
      Maybe when Laila does that she will sleep better. makes sense.

  5. What they also forgot to mention in the al-Ram photo is that the soldiers were firing upon people on their way to a funeral for a young man who was shot the day before at Qalandia during a protest. They set up with live ammunition at 6 am and shot tear gas as the people marched to the funeral. There were protests after the funeral and violence was used to silence the crowd of mourners. Luckily people were not killed, though I believe 9 were injured.

  6. Wow, that nature preserve looks beautiful! Reminds me of Hamilton Pools. 🙂 And I love that last picture you posted- of Sufyan smiling as he plays at the playground. So sweet. Also, he and Lucas have matching striderbikes now! Does Laila have one too?

    Regarding the sleep issue, we do the same thing as Tammy. When we first started doing it (at age 2 1/2), we’d leave for only 30 seconds, so he would stay in his room successfully and see that we WOULD come back to check on him. Kind of the same premise as puppy training- don’t leave much room for potential failure; give them an easy success at first and then build on it. Now we can leave him for 10-15 minutes and he usually falls asleep in that interval. We do still have to lie down on a floor pillow near his bed for 5-10 minutes with him first, pretending to fall asleep with him. Zero to minimal interaction. He will often fall asleep during that time, but if he doesn’t we’re no longer trapped in his room, trying to keep him quiet and get him to sleep for the next hour or two. It’s so incredibly freeing having our nights back! Now we’re working on stopping the middle-of-the-night yelling for us to come to his room (waking his good-sleeper baby sister in the process). Ugh! I think the play tent idea is a really good one. Have you tried it yet? Just last week we set up a nightstand for Lucas with a lamp, glass of water, flashlight and a stack of books so he has everything he needs when he can’t sleep or if he wakes up at night. We’re still in the phase of reminding him it’s there and he doesn’t have to yell for us, but I have high hopes! 🙂

  7. Ok, now I see the pics!! 🙂 I am loving seeing this playful side of the kids… and the nature shots are amazing. I am really so happy that you are relaxing more. I feel like this is a whole new side of you I have not yet known. I am excited to learn more about each other, not just as expat moms.

  8. Pingback: The Blogs I Follow | Shoes On The Wrong Feet

  9. Ok, this is my third attempt to comment on this post. The first time one of my boys interrupted me and the second time my mom Skyped me in the middle of typing.
    Your posts are always so full of life, cram packed with joy piled on top of heavy topics that they leave me full of thoughts and I sometimes don’t get a chance to tell you how much I like them. Two things stopped me, the first was the machine gun fire on stone throwers and the lack of action (or lets face it, interest) in such things over here. I shake my head and hang it in shame.
    On the flip side is the joy and happiness captured in the pictures of your beautiful children. They make me smile especially the ones of playing in mud.

    • the 3 attempts to post: yes. happens to me all the time! at least I know it’s not just me. As for the rest I feel so complimented…thank you for this sweet comment. Made my night.

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