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Friday, 1 September 2017

I Gotta Go!


I had one of those parenting moments the other day. You know those moments, when you step back and think, okay, perhaps some of this sh*t is sinking in!

The King has this thing where he always somehow needs to go to the bathroom when he’s NOT in the house. And we’re not talking the easy peasy, go behind the tree type bathroom need. No matter how many times I ask him if he needs to go before we leave home, he of course always seems to wait till we’re in the most inconvenient situation or place to go number 2. Needless to say, I’ve had to sit in public restrooms all across London while the King sits on his public throne for 25 minutes wanting to talk about ‘super cars’ while I try not to touch anything. You can imagine for my OCD, it is not a fun ride. In fact, I literally stand in the middle of the room, whilst plugging my nose, wondering about the bacterial trail from my position in the room to the sink.

Anyway, we were at the train station the other day about to board a train and he of course got that look… I will freely admit, I did not meet this “I gotta go” request with the utmost patience. Cause, well, this whole déjà vu scenario was getting old and I was in no mood to set up camp in Costa Coffee restroom while he waxed on about car chassis. 

Alas, he had to go and the station had one of those bathrooms that you had to pay for – to segue, I find paying to pee an affront to my civil rights and I want to literally hurl the King over the turnstile instead of paying and scream about the injustices of the world, but that's me - So, in my impatient rant about the King’s constant bad timing for poo-poo, I paid for him to go through, hurled the suitcase over the gate and then realised I was stuck on the other side with no more change.

It then dawned on me, he’s 7, I could see the stalls from my vantage point and we were in a rush. So I told him, take the suitcase (so I could identify what stall he was in), go in and get your business done and I’ll wait here. He gave me this panicked look (as this bathroom was like a crowded melee of men with suitcases), but he knew I was in no mood for negotiation. To sidestep for a moment, yes, I realize I’m coming off as overly protective, I live in a big city and he’s usually with me in the women’s room yapping away in the next stall so it’s rare he goes off to find the restroom by himself (judge me for my overprotection, I could care less).

So I stood there like a protective mother lion and watched his little feet in the stall for a few minutes. A few more minutes passed, then a few more. I of course started to pace and stare at passing men who rushed into the bathroom wondering who wouldn’t think I was totally odd for asking them to check on my son peeing in the fourth stall from the left. At this point our train was leaving shortly and I was starting to envision myself jumping the gate in a frenzy, tearing into the Men’s room and rescuing my son from whatever the hell was going on in there.

Finally, after 10 minutes (which felt like 100) the King opened the stall and hurried out. He had a look of half victory, half mortification on his face. By the time he got to me, we were both acting like he had been backpacking across Europe. I hugged him, telling him I was proud of him for venturing into the big bad bathroom all by himself, and let’s get the heck out of here cause we had a train to catch.

He looked at me, a tad overwhelmed, hugged me and said, ‘Mommy, I just need a moment.’ [Clearly he now feels the same way about public restrooms as I do]. It was in that moment that I felt a ridiculous sense of pride (no, not for the fact that he used a bathroom by himself).. but the fact that he was clearly having an emotional reaction to what just transpired and he had the wherewithal to ask me for a moment to just gather himself; something I tell him often to do if he needs one as I'm big on taking a moment in life to just...well, work things out!  Let’s be honest, it takes some men decades to identify an emotion and ask for the time to process it. But he's 7 and well, the kid sometimes just gets it. 

And yes, I love him for it… I just wish he’d start using the bathroom at home! 

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

VALUE


At the moment, I am intrigued by value. Society’s emphasis of it, the subjective nature of it, and moreover its utter transience (in regards to certain things that is). Which then of course begs the question, ‘Are certain things that valuable in the first place?’ All one has to do is take a look at the stock market and currency exchanges to see how volatile and fleeting certain ‘value’ is. Currency is a prime example of something on which we place so much importance and yet it can be frighteningly volatile and easy to devalue. (Which of course also makes one go, hmm, who are these entities dictating value and how do we fire them!?)

As a society, as most of us know by now, that society’s definition of ‘value’ can only be described as subjective and often, well, backward as h*ll. We sadly live in a world where money holds more value over nature; a screen holds more value over a book; a celebrity holds more (monetary) value than a teacher (there are many many examples of backward placement of value, but we don’t have all day). If we put money aside for a moment and simply look at the nature of a teacher vs. an public figure per se, and who holds more actual value, I suppose one could come up with some sort of algorithm to determine who provides more value to society and how many people does one affect in a positive or productive manner. I know what my answer would be…

I suppose I define value as this: things that are not transient, volatile or fleeting, for me, hold the most value…Love, children, friendship, work (this is a broad term I realize so let’s define it as the action of working, the passion or productive nature of a work ethic, not necessarily your job title!) parenting, communal involvement…All these things posses a value that is unquantifiable and moreover requires or possesses a profound, unalterable consistency in order to make society function. [There are also the esoteric and more intangible things that hold value but again, I fear I would fall down a rabbit hole and never get out again]. I place an extremely high value on being a parent and being involved in my child’s life, school etc. In my mind, in order to help raise a child with principles, values (there’s that word again), and an ethos of helping others, I have to put the work in. I also value my son as a human being (even in his current, child state) and try to show him the respect (with parental discipline of course) that he indeed exists.

Not to mention, what I put in as a parent comes back to me in the (valuable) way of love, friendship, amusement, and a kid who isn’t a total pain in the rear end. Furthermore, when it comes to something like school, I place great value in being involved in my son’s education, or the education system as a whole. Especially in regards to the state system, it is vital that a parent is active in regards to their child’s education and the school community because it truly is a ‘what you put in, you get back’ (or your child does!) system. Not to mention, with all that is being detracted from our schools, they could use all the help they can get. 

The part where it gets very interesting is realizing that each and every one of us places value on different things. The King for example values cheese and Lego. And to him that’s tantamount (and who am I to judge his 6 year old mind). But his cheese is another man’s mansion and second home in Ibiza. And that second home in Ibiza is another woman’s meditation, religion and community service, and so on. And yes, in the grand scale of things some things are much more valuable in terms of how they positively affect society, nature and the planet as a whole. But in regards to each person’s subjective definition of value, well that’s up to them. And that’s the hard part. I know many people who do not place any value on being a full time mother/father (how, I don't know). It’s an age-old argument, who has more value, a homemaker or a woman/man who works out of the home? And there are arguments for both sides. The point being, it’s important that both have value without judgment (or if you’re going to judge it, my best advice is to keep those judgments to yourself). And it begs a mention that mothers/fathers that are raising kids in the home, day in and day out, I'm sorry, they have the hardest more undervalued job out there. It's a life commitment, a day in, day out, 24 hour, 7 day a week, thankless task that is not always viewed by society as something of value. And that's profoundly depressing.

Not to end on a 'disturbed note,' I suppose my question to you is, how do you define value? Your value in the world, your value as a parent, a worker, and a human being. It’s definitely something to think about.. and you might just realize that the things you used to put value on can now be thrown over the side of the proverbial boat. Or it perhaps will simply make you think, and be more open to the notion of value and how each and every one of us defines it. 

Thursday, 22 June 2017

KUNG FU NOISES


The other day I had one of those parenting moments where I could see the lesson in front of me… know the lesson needed to be learned by the King at some point in life (but really, now??), but wanted to do everything in my mommy power to stop time in its tracks and REWIND.

Let’s start at the beginning, shall we? The King’s school was having a talent show; or as my husband calls it, ‘an entertainment’ contest (his talent show wounds run deep). The King decided that he wanted to audition and decided he was going to do his first pattern in Kung Fu (patterns are a series of moves that they learn to advance in their belts). It’s an intricate set of moves that he has done at competition and it’s honestly one of the cutest things you’ve ever seen – especially when he hops back and does this little squat maneuver. [Yes, I know very little about Kung Fu]. Anyway, he decided in conjunction with the pattern, he was also going to join his friends in doing a ‘silly show.’ What that entailed I had no idea, but I wasn’t sure if it contained any talent per se.

A few weeks into his preparation, I mentioned that perhaps he should make his ‘power noises’ when doing the pattern; in competition, one can often hear sighs, grunts and loud exhalations as a sign of power. Okay, fine, the first time I heard it, I burst out laughing (internally of course as the Master is damn scary), but understood it was all part of the Kung Fu vibe. The King wasn’t so sure and said he was going to continue practicing, in silence, and gave me the signal that he had this, so to speak, and didn’t need my advice.

About a week out, he alerted me that he was only doing the Kung Fu pattern and didn’t want to do the silly show. Great, let’s do this I thought… Let’s show the world your adorable Kung Fu talent.

Morning of, he takes his outfit to school and is his usual confident self – not much sticks to this kid, so while other parents weren’t fans of the talent show because of the unnecessary competition, I figured, he’s the King, he’ll be fine. So, I wished him luck and off he went.

That afternoon I picked him up. I usually spot him across the schoolyard and he always greets me with a huge grin (followed by, ‘where’s my snack!’). But I could immediately tell something was wrong. VERY wrong. The second the words ‘How did it go’ fell out of my mouth, I regretted them instantly. His face was about to crumple into a million pieces, but trying to save face, he managed a short, ‘Let’s go!’ before the tears started quietly streaming down his face. For blocks, it was just silent tears and him refusing to talk to me (there is nothing more heartbreaking than silent tears). 

He finally stopped in the middle of the road, looked at me and said, ‘Mommy, they laughed. They laughed at me!’ I said who laughed? His response, “54 children!! 54 children laughed at me when I did the noises. You said to do the noises and they laughed at me!!"

Yeah, I now know what it feels like to be gut punched. So thanks to me, I hand delivered my child to be laughed at in front of 54 children. Nice one Mommy. Of course, I launched into a fierce defense of his skill, ability, his misunderstood greatness, the power of Kung Fu, the ‘people are simply going to laugh sometimes’ defense, and that they were laughing WITH him (not at him). Finally, grasping at straws, I said, “Remember when Dave (his instructor) first made those noises, what did you do?” He looked at me and said, ‘I laughed.’ …. Yeah, ok, let’s focus on that then, shall we. You laughed. As did I.  I guess the moral is, Kung Fu power noises are funny.

Then the ultimate kicker, or at least I thought it was, who got through and made it to the final round? Hi pals in the silly show. To his credit and a mirror into this kid's comportment, he exclaimed that their bit was the best, and made him laugh so hard and he wanted to see them perform in the final. Meanwhile, my husband, hysterically chimed in that he had a similar thing happen to him at his talent show when he was young and he never did one again (um, not helpful, Daddy!).

To the King’s credit, he shrugged it off pretty quickly and is already practicing singing Blackbird (Lennon/McCartney) for next year, so I suppose the wound wasn’t that deep. At least one of us is resilient.

PERSPECTIVE


Perspective… a coveted gift in life that always seems to turn up a little too late, or certainly not always when you need it. When it does wash up on shore, you’re always struck by that feeling of, ‘How did I not figure this out in the first place? It was right there in front of my face.’ But alas, we’re human and we often lose focus, have to learn things the hard way, and get caught up in the emotion of the situation until clarity washes up on shore.

Of late, thanks to the vicissitudes of life, I’ve been bathed in perspective (to clarify, I'm talking about the profound moments of perspective; not the "if I drink gin, eat Indian food and then do a headstand,  I'm going to have issues" type perspective. Then again, that type of insight is helpful as well). Like it or not, as one ages, this tends to start happening with a lot more dependability. We get older, have children, people around us pass away, get sick, face challenges that seem to test them on every front. It’s part of the grand journey of life, so they tell me. And you start to realize that all the clichés are true: one better appreciate the small moments, be grateful for what has, and don’t sweat the small stuff  - you know, all that chicken soup for the soul type stuff. 

You also realize that perspective has often come in bursts throughout one’s life, but it’s a challenge to get it to last more than five minutes. It's worth adding that for those of you that have been able to take a step back and really look at their lives on a weekly basis, kudos... but trust me you're in the minority. Perhaps it’s because life moves so quickly and we’re so adept at shoving our heads in the sand, or that perspective demands empathy and self examination, and well, that's not always something the human brain wants to engage in. Just turn on the news and you’ll get a dose of perspective on all fronts… war, the ills of the world, the depravity of human beings, nature’s wrath… I mean, that’s enough perspective to make you reach for the tequila after breakfast.

But on the more positive side of things, perspective is also there to bring about gratefulness and presence of mind. For me personally, this year has been one of loss; and there is nothing that teaches you more than the sobering reality that life is indeed fleeting than death. We are constantly told this, we know it won’t last forever, and yet, we often behave like it will. But when one experiences the loss of family and friends, it’s hard to escape the writing on the wall that it’s only about the now. Being grateful for the now, embracing the now, staring at the giant fire breathing NOW in your living room and saying, OK, ok, I get it, and I’m going to learn from you, take what I need to know and really get to work!

As expected, the now has been a very loud voice in my head lately… a ‘this is it’ voice that has coloured my actions on all fronts. So when the King asks me to put Blackbird on repeat at 6:30 a.m. and help him draw a camouflage bird (don’t ask), whereas part of me wants to crawl under the rug and go back to sleep, the other part of me realizes that this moment is a moment worth treating as a gift. Even at 6:30 a.m. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are still times where the King’s machine gun fire requests come too fast and furiously and I find myself buckling under the fatigue, but I have found myself reaching for the yes more often than not lately.

Whereas, I would hope that I could gain this perspective without so much loss, unfortunately it doesn’t always work that way (or it certainly doesn’t last that long). So for now, as I’m certainly thankful to be here, I’ll welcome perspective like an old friend and allow it to show me what I need to see. As the King would say, allow it to be the Yoda to my Jedi... ahhh, perspective, wise you so are. 



Thursday, 25 May 2017

STAND TOGETHER


People keep asking me if I’m okay over here in England (in light of recent events in Manchester). And my answer is always the same. Yes, of course, why wouldn’t I be? My answer perhaps seems too matter of fact for some, but I refuse to give into fear.... Fear of spiders perhaps… fear of guns and Monsanto and the destruction of our planet… but fear of terrorism, no, never. I wouldn’t give the extremists a moment of my emotion. 

Obviously these are tricky, complicated times for a variety of reasons - most of which have very little to do with terrorism; And the world feels like a different place (Then again, is it?? Cause merely explaining to the King the other day why Henry VIII was holding this wife's head in an illustration, well, it dawned on me that the world has always been a savage place on many levels, especially to women!) But I have a numbers brain (although I suck at math, go figure), and as long as the statistics fall on my side I will still go out and live my life.

The thing is, events like this are designed to inspire fear, division, and hatred. And not just by the perpetrators. The media, our governments, ahem, our President... even one’s neighbors all take part in fueling this fear machine and I simply will not add fuel to the absurd fire. Now more than ever it’s time to stay together and choose our words and actions wisely. Because it’s far too easy to let the hysteria grow; this morning on (right wing) talk radio alone, you can hear the battle cries for internment camps, and military on the streets and you quickly watch the hysteria build (and our rights as citizens go out the window). Not to mention, the very people crying that our world is under attack, are the same people naïve and close-minded enough to judge a person by their skin colour (trust me, my husband is brown and mistaken for being every ethnic group out there and you quickly see how judgmental people can be).

As I’ve said many many times, I live between a mosque and a Hasidic Jewish neighborhood and I have never felt safer, never felt discord and never felt like I should fear for my safety. As I pointed out to my husband the other day, I am vigilant, I always have been. I live in a city. I’m a woman. I’m vigilant not to get mugged, I’m vigilant not to walk down a dark street alone, and I’m vigilant to not lock my bike outside with a flimsy lock! Am I scared about an extremist blowing up my local pub? No, because basic, glaring statistics are on my (and your) side and you simply won’t convince me otherwise.

The other diatribe you hear constantly is that the Muslim community as a whole should do more. They should denounce these attacks (They do, I assure you, it’s just not publicized cause that’s not a good news story. WE need a villain after all). They should kick and scream and drive the extremists out. And yes, to a certain respect, like any of us, if any one of us hears about extremism, then by all means, report it. But does (and should) the blame fall on them as a community as a whole? Of course not. Are all men responsible for those of their gender that rape? (Cause I can tell you this, every 98 seconds a woman is sexually assaulted and there are a lot of men out there doing SOD ALL about it) Are they reporting on their male brothers (ahem, nope, in fact, the collusion, especially on college campuses is egregious especially in the world of athletics). Are Christians responsible for the rampant pedophilia problem that has existed in our churches for years upon years? The same issue that has been covered up and even deemed a ‘transgression’ that can be cleansed with confession. So agree with me or don’t, but don’t tar and feather 1.6 billion followers of a faith that all clearly do NOT support extremism. 

Because, I won’t be scared. I won’t be divided, and I won’t treat the King’s teacher, dentist or my husband’s colleagues any differently because they are Muslim. (In fact, word of advice, if you don’t know people of other faiths, go make some friends and broaden your horizons. It will quell the hysteria in your brain to humanize things).

What took place in Manchester the other night was appalling, ghastly, and unthinkable. And it makes you want to react, to fight back, to kick and scream and shout for justice, but to give in to fear and hate is a sign that they are winning.  And I don’t know about you, but I refuse to let that happen.

Copyright © 2014 Anthea Anka - Delighted And Disturbed