Memoirs of Boston: The Time A Muslim Woman Stood Me Up

I have been thinking for a while that I want to pen my experiences in the greater Boston area. There are far too many. But I think there are a few that I would love to look back on fondly and feel grateful that I can remember it the way it happened.

You know how sometimes you forget important details about significant events in your life? I just don’t want to do that.

This one was one of my favorites, in a kind of frustrating way.

The city that we lived in for this last year was Arlington. More specifically, though, we lived in East Arlington. We were fortunate, nay, BLESSED (if you believe in that kind of stuff) to live in East Arlington and not be shoveling cash out of our ears to live there. The Red Line train- which made Adrian’s commute ONLY an hour- was just a 15 minute walk from our apartment (we were one of the few tiny complexes in the area), and there are many restaurants (mostly Italian, go figure), a kid-friendly library, barber shops, boutiques, a grocery store, and a theater that was built in the 1920’s. It was a magical place and all of it was in walking distance. It’s one of those places that has small community festivals, a funky African drum shop, and a DIY pottery spot.IMG_1409.JPG

A beautiful church door down the street from our complex. It always made me smile.

But the setting you need to imagine at this point is the library. It was called the Fox library for it’s history of being saved by a woman called Edith M. Fox from it’s imminent destruction. It is not a typical, run of the mill library. It’s small, has a small adult section, and a HUGE children’s section with fun puppets, bean bag chairs, and other toys. They hold all kinds of exciting weekly events. We made it one day during the weekly, well-attended singing time, but Ollie wasn’t interested. There were so many kids and adults, I think he was intimidated. Anyway, we left early and went to the play section of the library where kids could check out toys. Ollie was interested in a play kitchen set that some young girls were playing with.

I generally let Oliver play with the other children if they were willing to let him. I usually instruct him to approach them and ask nicely if he can have a turn or play with them. This wasn’t an exceptional situation and the girls were kind enough to let him. As is the case with the parental interaction, if it’s more than one mom, I politely stand by and watch my son. But, if it’s just one mom, I will try to start a conversation. Accompanying these young girls were two moms talking, and in another language. I’m not a language guru, but I would guess that they were speaking Arabic. I sat next to Ollie and watched him play.

Then, one of the moms started talking to me, small talk. I was grateful that she was willing to pull away from her conversation to talk with me. The wonderful thing about being a mom is that you always have some common ground with the other mom- kids. All you need to do is say or ask a few uncontroversial things about kids and you can have a pleasant interaction. In this case, I didn’t want to talk about how kids are terrible at sharing, or how some kids are shy, while others will just get right in your face. No, I wanted to tell her that I had taken a course in college about Islam. I wanted her to know that I thought her hijab was beautiful and that I’d love to ask her about her experiences in America. I didn’t, though; I just didn’t know if it would be too forward, too anything.

Well, when she and her friend and the kids got up to leave, she hung back to talk to me. She asked me if I typically come to this library. I said, “Yes, I come all of the time.” She said she hasn’t been in the area long and that her daughter has a hard time wanting to go out and play in public places. She thought that if her daughter knew another child that comes consistently, she may want to come more often. I said that I would be there again on Thursday afternoon the following week and we’d love to play with her
again.

I went that next Thursday, and the next, and the next. She never came again. I never saw her. I saw and would smile and nod at other Muslim women, usually just on the street, but never the woman with the two beautiful girls. I waited around longer than I planned, hoping she may just come one day and I could show her that I remembered her.

You see, I do love getting to know other people. But what I really wanted was for her to know that she and I aren’t so different. Being Mormon can sometimes be very alienating in this world. Don’t get me wrong, I know I make that choice, but it’s nice to meet someone who is like you, just not exactly like you. Someone who can relate to your drug and alcohol abstinence or views on modesty, but not because they are Mormon. Someone who has had to flee her country just because others didn’t like her religion, culture, or politics. I really wanted to get to know that person.

Equally, I also just wanted her to know that I am happy she came to America. And I am sad I never got to say anything like that to her.

 

Today My Kid Pulled the Fire Alarm at Burger King

yep.

that moment.

it happened.

just like an hour ago.

This post isn’t about judgmental stares or unkind words about keeping my kids in line. I don’t have any inclinations to justify what happened or call out others in an open letter for their assumed self-righteousness. (Honestly, I’m sure a lot of people would have handled it better than me- and this, arguably, wasn’t even the worst parenting decision I made today. I mean, Burger King, Hi-C, and sorry for the sunburned cheeks, Pazey.) In fact, I didn’t even notice that stuff. I chose not to notice it, really. I just wanted it to be a learning moment for me and for my child.

Here’s what happened:

We were getting ready to leave. I was fishing for my keys in my diaper bag. (I always said I would never have a large diaper bag, practically for this reason. But once Paisley was born, that was it, we were large-diaper-bag people and trying to convert other people.) My son was running back and forth between me and the door toward the parking lot. I kept yelling to him to “stay by me, Ollie!” I finally found my keys, grabbed Pazey, and just as I got within a few feet of the doors, my son reached right out (seriously, are they ALWAYS at a toddler’s hand level?) and grabbed it. I’m sure I screamed. Something like, “No, Ollie!” or whatever. But I didn’t need to. My son was panicked. I ran frantically toward the front shouting to everyone in the store that it was “just my son! Not a fire!” The management came around and I told them it was my son and I was so sorry. Not sure what to do, I stood at our table with two of my friends and their kids. Ollie was in rare form, shaking and crying, even a little dramatically (c’mon, he’s two) gagging. I set him on the edge of the table, reminding him, “that’s what happens when you pull those.” I’m sure he was thinking something like, “thanks Captain Obvious.” My 7-month old Pazey acted like it was any other day while my friend walked around with her.

After we were told we could leave, and my son had settled down, I buckled my kids in the car to head home for Pazey’s nap. Ollie looked at me and said, “I so sorry, Mom.” “It’s okay, Ollie.” I say, “Do we pull those?” “No.” “What do you do when mom tells you to stay by her? Run away?” “No.” As we shamefully pulled away, I tried explaining that it’s okay if he’s curious about something and that he can ask about it, just no touching. “Okay, Mom.” I don’t know if he got it, but I know he understood the experience, and I kind of doubt he will do something like that again.

The moment that really meant something for me, though, is what happened next. As we were driving home, my son reminded me that tomorrow we were going to be able to go and rent the Planes movie and he gets to buy a small, used toy from the consignment store. I’ve been teaching him to wait, so this is something we talk about all day.  At this moment, I considered telling him, “No. You don’t get to have a new toy since you pulled the fire alarm. What you did was bad, and when you do bad things, you don’t get to have fun things.” But, I didn’t. Not because I don’t want my kid to know that some choices are bad choices. Instead, I told him, “Yes, we will go tomorrow.”

I feel like it was the right decision. I know that he was truly regretful about pulling the fire alarm. And I have faith that the next time around, maybe with a little reminder of this incident, that he will stay by me when I ask him. But really, I just didn’t want to make the situation more confusing than it already was. I wanted him to know that it was scary, and he shouldn’t do that; but I also wanted him to be aware that when he messes up, I will be there to provide comfort and direction on what to do better next time. Not every mistake we make in this life is something that will dramatically affect every other aspect of our lives. Some do, some are really serious mistakes. But not something like this.

It’s kind of funny how an hour before that happened, we were at a family connections event where the directors were singing songs with the kids. It was one of those moments when Ollie came out of his shell and really had fun watching the puppets and singing. I watched him with so much warmth in my heart, thinking about how awesome it is to be his mom.

I don’t want the fire alarm moment to ruin all of the other fun parts of the day or days afterward. I don’t know what you would have done, but I trust that you know what is best for your child, so I won’t judge you. But if you’re feeling a little down about your parenting choices today, I give you permission to think, “Well, at least I didn’t take my kid to Burger King and let him pull the fire alarm.”IMG_1696

An Analysis of “Facing Gender Stereotypes With My Son”

If you haven’t read this article called “Facing Gender Stereotypes With My Son”, you must. At least for the sake of reading through my analysis of it.

Here’s the basic part:

A dad describes how his son expressed his liking of the color pink. Dad, thinking he doesn’t want to repeat the type of history he had with his own dad, tells the son that he likes pink, too.

It is perfect.

It is perfect to me because, well, why not? Does pink mean anything about a person or a child? Not really. I mean, a baby dressed in pink is only a symbol in our culture that it’s a girl. I have only come to realize how engrained this is in our society because sometimes I put my daughter in blue, and people seem to be very shaken at the idea of not knowing whether to use “he” or “she” when doting over her. Honestly, I don’t care what they call her, and I am not afraid to just say “it’s a girl” in an upbeat, informational tone. I really only do that to ease their minds and they can carry on with terms like “sweetheart” and “adorable” (the real reasons why I had children.)

But what I REALLY love about this interchange between father and son, is the reaction. He contemplates telling his son to be open to his classmates about it. But rather than turn it into a philosophical “we can all be whatever we want to be” moment, he simply validates his son by saying, “I like pink, too.”

See what he did there? He didn’t reinforce the affinity for pink (the affinity existed before he was even given a chance to react), but he didn’t reject his son’s statement, either. Rejection would more likely make the son feel invalidated and prompt him to seek out acceptance from other people, people who likely wont be very sustainable relationships in his life. The validation of “I like pink, too” told his son “that’s okay, I am on your side.” We are supposed to be our kid’s best allies, right? This statement was a perfect example of how to react to that.

I believe that he told his dad about it because he looks up to and admires his dad. If he then believes that his dad is on his side, that stable relationship is reinforced. Now the son will have someone strong, capable, and kind to learn from. Someone whose objective is to protect his son and teach him to how to accept himself. IMG_1297.JPG

These are the moments of clarity that we need to provide our children. They don’t need lessons on “changing the world”- they need allies, friends, and good leaders to look up to. They want to feel confident in themselves and the most stable way to get that is from their own parents, not from internet “likes” and “shares” when they say something dramatic or against the status quo. They need parents who are happy with whatever their children are, and who will provide a safe haven when the outside world is unkind and rejectful. We all face or faced rejection in our lives, the ones who come out better are the ones who had someone there to help them through it. As a parent, I will do my best to be that person in my children’s lives.

Nothing In Life Comes Free

This is a topic of conversation among all groups of people, regardless of political or religious tendencies. Eventually, we all realize that nothing comes without a price. Even the rugged panhandlers that hold up handmade, cardboard and black markered signs, who saunter past my car while I hastily search my console for something to give away, are giving up something to be there. You could say it’s their dignity, but that would imply that dignity was important to them at some point; and if it was, it was probably lost well before they were living by the littered creek on a busy East Arlington street corner.

FullSizeRender (3)

Somehow, the purpose of hard work gets thwarted by personal desires and comparisons. Which on the one hand is a great motivator to do something more, but on the other threatens our inner sense of self and confidence.

MCM

Anger & Fear

aI have been thinking a great deal about the role that fear plays in our lives. How often do we fear? Daily, weekly, once in a while? I think for many of us, it’s a common underlying player in our everyday decision-making, especially now.

I have said and done things as a parent that I thought I would never do, simply because I was subconsciously afraid that my child will resent me later and decide to sever his relationship with me. I think fear must run deep in our minds to compel us toward something that we may have sworn never to do.

One example of this in my personal life is my first child. I was so bent on never using the Cry-It-Out method of sleep training. I planned on being that dedicated, loving mother that indulged her child’s desire for motherly comfort. I actually thought I would enjoy this. I was horribly wrong. Once my son started to transition from newborn to infant, sleep-deprivation reared its ugly head and I delved into mommy anxiety and postpartum depression. I was desperate for some answers and realized that my best option and quickest path to better sleep and happiness (leading to better mothering) was to let him cry himself to sleep. Looking back, it was a relatively mild process, but it was soooooo hard at the time. I don’t regret it. I am grateful I made that decision. However, it was out of fear that at first I wasn’t going to try letting him cry, and then it was out of fear that I decided to let him cry.

When something close to our hearts is threatened, we become afraid and protective. Part of protecting that can be manifested in anger. To me, this is exactly the state of America. Everyone’s just afraid. Myself included, though maybe not for the same reasons that others are.

One thing that I know about emotions in other people, is that  one of the best ways to move past the most extreme ones is to validate them. Even if we don’t agree with them, we need to validate and acknowledge their feelings and then work from there. To me, it’s the only way.

The Misery Argument- Counter Argument

For my daily post, I am copying an email I sent to a friend of mine. We like to discuss parenting styles a lot. She and I can be very different, but respectful. Anyway, she asked me about my opinion of this blog post here. I will just say now that I personally do not subscribe to the Attachment Parenting style. I don’t subscribe to anything that seems extreme. That being said, I am not so far off that I can’t agree with any of her arguments. Anyway, I didn’t have much time to think about another post today, so I decided this will have to do.

 

Hey,

     That was a very interesting read! I think you were right, she is very black and white. I am a much more grayish kind of person, since I believe that all parents should know and should have the right to know what is best for their children. I think in an ideal/perfect world – she is right – children should be taught primarily by their parents. However, I do not agree that the institution of public schooling should be taken away. Just from my experience with teaching children and also from my own child development courses, there are two things I can confidently say that I know about children. 1.) Children desire and need structure in their lives. Knowing what is expected from them helps them thrive. I don’t necessarily think that teaching kids how to follow directions is a bad thing. We all eventually need to learn self-control since it makes our world safer and helps with a common good. 2.) Our children also need a lot of freedom. As I am writing this, I am allowing Oliver to play in his crib for a bit before I take him out and bring him into the living room. To some, this may seem like a bad thing since he is in a confining space, but I know Oliver and know that he likes to have alone time where he can process his day without my curious questions and remarks. He will get to a point where he wants me to come and get him, which I will.
     I guess what I am saying is, we all know our kids. Some thrive with a little more freedom than others, some thrive with a little more structure. I do think that our society in America cares more about test scores than they do about well-balanced individuals, which is why there are many schools that are advocating for more recess time. If I can find it, I will send you an article about how American schools are not made for boys since, scientifically, boys need more outside time, more stimulation. When I taught preschool, we would have definitely spent most of the day outside on a day like that. So, I think it depends on the school, the area. America is big and some people prioritize things differently than others in different areas. For example, Florida has many overcrowded schools and instead of building more schools, they are building an online teaching system to advocate for more homeschooling. Massachusetts is a very academia heavy area, which may mean there is a higher emphasis on institutional schooling.
     I noticed that she has three different degrees – all from institutions. Which is interesting to me because it seems like she is using those degrees to make a statement about how much she knows, although her argument is to take those institutions away. It seems paradoxical to me and makes me wonder about what her motives are.