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.
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.
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.
Beautiful nature preserves and outdoor exploring? Check.
Family neighborhood for walks and bike rides? Check.
Playgrounds with a distinct lack of broken glass and/or inherently dangerous equipment? Check.
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
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.
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?