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Tuesday
Jun032014

School's Out (for the Children)

It’s a fascinating thing to experience a child as a student and not as a person you have to raise. 

As a mom, I fall into the routine of treating my own children in one of three ways:

(1) like they are the most brilliant humans on the planet

(2) like Smeagol treats his precious (as in, "we forgot the taste of bread... the softness of the wind. We even forgot our own name. My Preciousssses"

(3) like they’re trying to kill me

Being a child’s teacher, though, is different. It opens you up to a rich world where children are actual humans to be experienced in a multitude of contexts. Teachers see children for all the things they can be outside of belonging to an adult. There are the parts of them that their parents and their families have fashioned. There are idiosyncrasies they pick up from their favorite shows and games. Best of all, there are the parts of them that are just them.

You know that, right?

That there are parts of your child that you or society have nothing to do with?

That manifested from deep within them in a manner that they and only they chose to express?

I get to see that every single day. What we as adults have given them is beautiful, but what they do with that and produce on their own is truly magnificent. It was a good school year, and I hope the children have a blast this summer. As for myself, I'll be in Connecticut in a week playing student instead of teacher.  

 

Glue gun + Mardi Gras beads + Cardboard = South America.You want to teach them about polygons. They want to practice "concentric."

These children are some of the coolest people I know.

 

Monday
Jun022014

The Boy Chases Monsters

Nuha’s friend’s mom texted me and asked  if Nuha could see Maleficient with them this past Saturday. I didn’t respond right away. I wasn’t worried about the appropriateness of the movie. It was because of Yusuf. He couldn’t go. First, because Maleficient is too scary. Second? Because sending someone to the movies with Yusuf would be the equivalent of placing a severed horse head in their bed in the middle of the night. 

I end up saying yes to the movie, so I soften the blow on Saturday morning by making an impromptu announcement that I will be taking Yusuf to Mud Island Park. It’s a scale model thing of the Mississippi River that the Army Corps of Engineers built in some year I can’t remember. Once we get there, we decide to walk from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. I think that’s about a mile. Maybe two? 

This will be the most I have moved in several days. I’m battling things. Health things. My joints are messed up. My muscles are all spasming and being uncooperative in every way. The doctor doesn’t know what’s wrong with me. When I get home from work, it’s all I can do to help Tariq feed, bathe and put the children to bed. 

You have no idea how hard that last sentence was for me to type out. You might not have even noticed the part that was hard for me. 

I … help Tariq with the kids…” This feels wrong to me. He should help me with the kids. As in, I’m supposed to be in charge of taking care of the kids. That’s my job. Not because I'm a woman, but because I am Faiqa. But. I just can’t be in charge of it right now, and I’m ashamed of this. I don’t know why my body isn’t cooperating, the doctor doesn’t know why, my family doesn’t know why and I have been angry, sad and lonely because of it.

In fact, when I announced the Mud Island excursion, Tariq cocked his head to the left and telepathically sent a message, “Are you sure?” 

I think I said, “His sister got to go to a movie! He should get to go to Mud Island.” Which was weird because he didn’t actually ask the question and it made me look like I was talking to myself.

Once we’re there, though, we have fun! We make boats out of leaves, and every fifteen minutes or so, Yusuf places his leaf in a miniature lake. “Time to get another one,” he tells me, “that one is done.” As he walks away from the old leaf, he calls over his shoulder, “Thanks, Leaf, for letting us use you as a boat.” 

I mean…WHAAAT? I didn’t teach him that. Whoever taught him that is a beautiful person. Maybe nobody taught him that. Maybe that’s who we all really are when we’re allowed to be who we are. 

We’ve made it as far as the border of Louisiana on this scale model thing and a downpour of rain surprises us. We run to one of the many shade trees that line mini-Old Man River, and wait out the squall.  The tree mists us and I look at my sweet boy. I realize that I’m really looking at him, right now. Not as a job, not as something that I haven’t been very good at, but as a human. What I see and feel in that moment is indescribable. It is joy, hope, love, longing… all of those things that I’ve been trying to feel for a while, but I just couldn’t quite touch.

The storm is a short one, but it’s not the last rain of the day. We concede a bit past northern Louisiana. Not bad, we almost made it. On the way out, he says in a serious voice, “I had fun, Mama. Thank you.” I’m struck again by this child’s casual relationship with gratitude. I should be more like this boy who thanks leaves for being boats and Mama for taking him out. 

On the way out of the park, I hold up my phone and we take a selfie shot together. The rain has washed away my make up and frizzed my hair, and I look a hot mess in every photo. I look at them, though, and I have a revelation. I will always be beautiful to this boy the way my mother will always be beautiful to me.

There's also a good chance that, despite the fact that I don’t feel like I’m measuring up, he will count himself lucky to be loved by me. Maybe every flaw of ours is forgiven by the ones who truly love us when we decide to try being a good person. In this moment, I forgive myself for needing help, and, also, for being mad at myself about that in the first place.  

Even now, I don’t know why those words, “I had fun” inspired me to shake off the fog. Stated so simply, with such seriousness, they seem benign, but, it's unmistakably true, I was changed. My son changed my mind about me on that rainy Saturday afternoon. Deep in the pit of who I am, I know that everything is going to be fine now.

Several months ago, I started singing “Beautiful Boy” by John Lennon to Yusuf at his bedtime. There’s this one line, “The monster’s gone / He’s on the run / And your Daddy’s here…” John Lennon was a genius for many reasons, and one of them is that he wrote that perfect lullaby for his son. Funny thing about John Lennon, though, he may have chased his son’s monsters away, but I think my son chases mine.

Sunday
May252014

If We're Not Friends of Facebook, You're Totally Missing Out...

If you are not friends with me on Facebook, you will miss out on my lack of humility and ability to weave post colonial rhetoric into any conversation:

 

 

You will also miss out on some harmless Jewish condoned anti-semitism, anti-Canadian rhetoric and for good measure, a dose of self deprecating Islamaphobia.

 

And the wrap up...

 

 

Friend me if you haven't already. 

(I dedicate this post to Dave2 for allowing me to hijack his FB wall post in the spirit of entertaining myself.)

 

Sunday
May252014

Why Do I Still Read a Newspaper?!

There are special family rituals that arise organically. We assign little meaning to them, but when they are overlooked we feel their absence. One ritual that’s made a subtle appearance in our lives on Sunday mornings is the reading of a newspaper. 

 “Who reads the newspaper anymore?” someone asked me on Facebook a few weeks ago. I do! It’s not because I’m trying to be hipster by claiming throwbacks to the past as badges of cultural honor, either. It’s that the newspaper offers me a more palatable experience of the news. 

Online and televised media beat stories to death. They offer SO.MANY.DETAILS. I can no longer make my way to a concise perspective of events. I’m confused, overwhelmed and mostly irritated. I find myself susceptible to and unquestioning of the opinions of media icons I respect. Problem with that, of course, is that Rachel Maddow and Jon Stewart support platforms or agendas that they’re bent on promoting and those agendas might not align with my values every single time. 

Produced with clickability in mind first, online news sources focus less on the dissemination of information and more on “shareworthiness.” In the end, between the online venue and television, I feel like I’m drowning in the deep end of a community swimming pool of apathy and intellectual complacency. The newspaper allows me to digest the information slowly, and it exists as the antithesis of sound bites and the palliative to flashy reporting. 

Every Sunday morning, we, while reading our respective sections of the paper, look up and offer each other  what I like to call one of our “what the eff” moments. That’s when you read the paper and you look up and say, “What the eff!”  Unless your children aren’t in the room, then you use the real word because it has way more impact. The what the eff moments consists of two crucial parts:

 

Part 1. Exclamation: You exclaim what the eff 

Part 2. Explanation: You explain what’s wrong with the world.  

 

You will never experience the full impact of a "what the eff" moment if you can't do both of these things. In fact, allow me to offer a very dramatic opinion to you: We have lost something fundamental as a society because we are no longer engaging in the part two of a “what the eff” moment. Part two is now prepared, prepackaged and offered to us like the goop inside a jar of baby food. Just like the baby eating food, we are covered in hot mess of slobber and confusion.

See, with televised media, you have the opportunity to exclaim “what eff,” but you will have your head filled with opinions by a barrage of experts who will show up within minutes of the reveal. They will tell you what you should be outraged about. They will explain why this is important to pay attention to but not that. They will tell you what is unimportant and irrelevant. You don’t get to decide.

You have lost your chance at part two and you have lost something essentially human: your free will to choose and explain how you feel about something on your own terms and in your own words. At the end of it all, you may drown in a pool of apathy. Perhaps you'll click over to the E! Channel and watch the Kardashians.

This will make you feel powerful because nobody tells you how to feel about Kim and Khloe’s latest disagreement. You are trusted with this task. You’ll form an opinion of your own. It will live as an opinion that’s about something relatively stupid, but it will be an opinion you made all by yourself and that you can explain thoroughly. 

Deep down, your opinion of Kim and Khloe lets you feel smart even if it's about something dumb. This makes you feel far more intelligent than the spoon feeding of opinions about relevant current events.

We’re all subconsciously programmed to think for ourselves. The producers of televised news media and online news media have forgotten this, but the producers of reality television have not. So. That’s why reading the paper is so cool.

This Sunday morning, we fell into the usual routine of digesting the week’s news. On page two, I came across this full page ad paid for by "Tennesseans for Preservation of Personal Privacy, Inc."  

It was *my* what the eff moment. 

 

 

Me: WHAT.THE.EFF.

You: ... ?

Tuesday
May202014

The Children Divorce My Brand and I Glimpse the Future

 

 

It’s a perfectly reasonable request, of course. I just wasn’t expecting this until much later. Four year old Yusuf cannot articulate why I must first seek his approval before posting. This indicates that he’s simply copying off of eight year old Nuha who is, in fact, being articulate about her objections. 

“You have a lot of friends on Facebook and Instagram. I should get to decide what photos of me they see.” Indeed, you should. 

You are a fully actualized human being, after all. You certainly have the right to decide how the world sees you and in which context the experiencing of you occurs. For eight years, you have existed online exclusively in the context of me. You have been my child here, and I must now formally and gracefully accept that you are ready to be perceived as more than that. Of course, you’ve always been more than my child — you’re a radiant light in the infinite energy of the universe and blah blah… The difference between right now and how it has always been, though, is that you now know that you are more than my child. 

That is seriously weirding me out because this is the beginning of many moments in which you will remind me that you do not belong to me. I welcome these moments, for they are as much my spiritual work as they are yours. I wonder if they will always elicit the same apologetic tone from me. Will I always go through the same pattern of experiencing regret over the fact that I didn’t preemptively give you that space followed immediately by the realization that your asking for the space is just as important as my giving it to you? Or is it going to be far less patterned and we’re just going to have to take this whole “I’m an actual person” thing one step at a time. 

I just realized with the Instagram/Facebook thing that this journey of my children’s discovery of their “self”is going to be a series of moments. Letting go isn’t going to be this one exam for which I’ll be awarded a passing or failing grade, but a collection of moments that I’ll most likely have to evaluate on a case by case basis as being somewhere between “reasonable” and “out of your damned mind.” It also occurs to me that there will be moments disguised as a genuine move towards freedom, but will, in fact, just be ill thought out grabs at the freedom to make really ridiculous choices with very serious consequences.