When Is It My Business??

When does it become your business to get involved?

Is it when you see her being hit, being beaten?

Is it when you see her being cursed at, being thrashed with words?

Is it when you see her being yelled at–not cursed, but embarrassed in public?

When??? When does it become your right to get involved in this stranger’s life?

Along my walk I saw this young couple, maybe engaged, but definitely not married. And they wanted to cross the street–the highway. And the stop light was about 50 yards away. So (I presume) she said something like, “Let’s just go cross at the light.” And he responded (again, I assume) with something like, “We’ll be fine. Everyone crosses. Just hold my hand.” And maybe she repeated her request. That’s when I heard him yell at her, “SO YOU’RE NOT GOING TO CROSS WITH ME?? YOU’RE NOT GOING TO CROSS WITH ME??”  She, of course, just remained quiet and allowed herself to be lead by him.

And I didn’t say anything, or do anything. But their image haunts me even days later. I should have told her that this form of disrespect will only increase with time. I should have told her that she deserves someone who will value her opinion and take it… not just brush it off because it may be different from his. I should have told her not to let anyone detract her from doing the right thing, no matter who they are, no matter how much you think you love them. I should have told HIM that manliness is not about raising your voice or flexing your muscles. I should have…but I didn’t.

God forgive me.

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And After 12 Years…

I have lived in this city for 12 years now.  It is a city by the sea…a city with culture, history, and beautiful architecture. But…it is a city. The traffic never stops, the noise is ever-present. There are few parks for the kids to play in, and because of the constant congestion, it takes ages to get anywhere. Clearly, I am NOT a city girl.

And up until now it didn’t really matter. I take care of the kids, basically by myself, and I have neither friends nor family nearby to help out. No one I can leave them with to go to a gym, or for a walk, or just to run errands.  Yes, I can get someone when I need to, but I can’t afford to get someone everyday, or even three times a week.  So up until now, I had no choice but to be home-bound most of the time.

The difference is that now, thank God, all of my kids are in school, at least part time. Which gives me…time for me. Time during the day for me! Imagine that.

And for quite a few months I’ve been looking into getting a treadmill, hoping to regain some fitness, energy, and spring in my life. But we keep hearing the same non-sense from all the vendors: “the machine has to rest for 20 minutes after each 20 minute interval.” What??? I can only work out for 20 minutes at a time? What if I want to walk for 45 minutes? What if i want to walk for an hour…or two?

And then all of a sudden it hit me: If all I want to do is walk…I can just walk outside, in the sun and the breeze, by the sea. The reason this idea had eluded me for so long is because the young male population here doesn’t understand what it means to see a girl or woman and just leave her alone. They feel the need to gawk, whistle, say things, and they make you feel just plain uncomfortable.  And there are groups of these clowns EVERYWHERE YOU TURN.

But I’m over it. I want to walk…I want to walk and enjoy this city, enjoy the sea. So I made the decision, and today was my first power-walk adventure! And it felt great, thank God. I put on my work-out clothes, my shades, and the most important item: the sign across my forehead that says “F- Off!” And despite this sign, which I use when I venture out alone, I got two comments.  [It’s hard to describe these comments. They don’t actually say things like, ‘hey, baby;’ those aren’t the words. They say things that in any other context would sound fine, but it’s said and intended in that ‘hey, baby’ manner.] And unfortunately they start young; one of the comments I heard was by a kid who couldn’t have been older than eight.  I wanted so badly to take him over my knee. I wanted to give him a good beating so he’d think twice about saying anything to anyone ever again. I wanted to explain to him how disrespectful he was being. But ignoring this behavior is safer…so that’s what I did.

Along the way I saw kids splashing around in the water, couples holding hands and strolling along. One or two families, walking along. I came across 11 other jogger/walkers. I was relieved to see that about half of them were women. Gave them all half smiles and kept walking.  One guy was riding his bike on the sidewalk, and although I would reprimand such behavior in the States, I was happy he’d decided to leave the highway to the cars. [That’s right–on one side is the sea, and on the other is one of the two main highways in this city.] I gave him a mental high-five and kept on my way.

Coming up to the curve in the road I told myself that if on the other side I could see Stanley Bridge, then I would walk until I made it there. And around the bend….I peeked…and there was Stanley! So I kept trekking along. But Stanley kept disappearing behind other bends and curves. And I was worried that my untrained legs may not make the walk back if I stretched my limits too much. I was probably only 5 minutes from Stanley, but I didn’t want to risk it, so I turned back.

In total I walked for about an hour, probably about 2.5 miles. But it was good for me. It made me feel great physically, but more importantly, I feel revived emotionally. Looking forward to making this part of my morning ritual. You are my goal for next time, Stanley…we’ll meet soon, God willing.

Not As Simple As It Sounds

Like every parent, I’ve always taught my children not to talk to strangers. “Even if they say they’re going to give you candy,” I’ve warned them, “you don’t talk to anyone you don’t know.” I’ve stressed, “Even if they say they’re going to take you to mom…you never talk to strangers.” And none of the boys had a problem with it…they got it: no strangers!

For my youngest, the only girl, it’s surprisingly different.  Don’t get me wrong, she gets it. She just takes it VERY literally.

When I first took her to daycare, I noticed she was more reserved than she normally is. “What’s wrong? Why aren’t you playing with the other kids?” And I sort of did a double take when she said to me, “But they’re strangers.”   Her comment made me realize that I had to qualify that term; not everyone she didn’t know was a stranger…at least not in the respect that she needed to be weary of them.  I didn’t want that warning to turn her into someone who is always reserved and anti-social…and apparently that’s where we were headed.  So I tried to narrow the group of ‘strangers’ somewhat: “Well, yes, you don’t know them, but they’re little, like you. You can make friends with them. And your teachers, too. You can talk to them.”

“So if they’re little…like me…I can talk to them?”

“Yes. And all the teachers and nannies at your school, too. You can talk to all of them.”

It still took her some time, more questions about which kids she could talk to, but eventually she got it. Of course, now that she understood that she could talk to some people she didn’t know, this had to be followed up with the whole, “But you never go out of the school with anyone! No one! And you never let anyone touch you…and if they try to you have to tell them no. And you have to tell me right away.” All these new warnings which, unfortunately, we must arm our children with.

The other day she was with me at a store, and the clerk asked her something. He was just trying to be friendly, trying to get her to talk and laugh. But she just hid her face behind me and ignored him, which isn’t her style at all. And I couldn’t figure out why she would act so shy.

When we left I asked her why she didn’t answer him.  “But you told me not to talk to strangers!!”

See people, it’s just not as easy as it sounds. It’s not just one sentence we repeat over and over until we’re assured that they fully understand it. It is so much more. If we leave it unexplained, our children may be safer, but they also risk losing some important social skills, not to mention being frightened by everyone they come across. So we take the time to explain, and give examples, lots of different examples, and repeat.

May God protect all our children…and may He fix this world so that one day, we won’t have to give those warnings to children. So that one day, they will be safe without those warnings. We certainly can’t make that happen…but nothing is out of His Power.

 

So Put Your Slippers On!

I had just swept the floor of the dining area and living room, and everything was neat and in its place.

“Mom, can I have some cookies?” Number 2 asked.

“Fine, just use a plate.”

The younger two were playing in the bedroom, and the older two were sitting at the dining room table–or rather, in the vicinity of the dining room table, which includes the living room–doing their homework. Everything seemed to be under control, so I went into the kitchen for a few minutes to continue tidying.

When I came back out to check that they were still focused and getting things done, I heard, “Crunch…crunch…crunch” with every step I took and felt the pieces turning to millions of minuscule crumbs!

“Why is it that I can feel the crumbs under my feet?!” I shouted at him.

“So put your slippers on…you won’t feel ’em then.”

Punks.

If You Do This, We’re Just Going To Hate You!

Seeing how much time my kids spend in front of the TV has been depressing me. I hate that they don’t play together as much, they don’t read, they don’t write or draw. I decided I had to do something drastic. This whole ‘limiting’ TV time was just not working, because there was always…”Oh, just until the commercial.” Or, “Can’t we just watch this to the end? It’s almost over!” Or my personal favorite, “But we’ve never seen this before…we HAVE to watch it!” Now, where you live, there may be educational/beneficial shows on. I guess, technically where I live there may be, too, but I’ve never come across them! TV can be the devil, so I had to stop him from influencing my kids anymore.

Last Tuesday I announced, “From tomorrow…no more TV at all. Maybe for one hour on the weekend…maybe. But NONE all week.”

It didn’t really phase the younger three; I’m not sure if maybe they didn’t believe me, or they didn’t fully grasp what I was saying, or what…but they were fine. It was my oldest who couldn’t believe his ears. He started BEGGING me to take it back. “You can’t do that, mom!! You can’t do that. What about this…just one hour a night? Let us watch just one hour a night.”

I explained that one hour always turned into three or four, so “No, no TV at all. I’m not negotiating this, so save your breath. And TV isn’t important, anyway, kid.”

“BUT IT IS IMPORTANT TO ME!!”

He was crying…I mean…BAWLING HIS EYES OUT!! Imagine how someone might react if you told them that tomorrow you were going to cut off one of their limbs…that’s how badly he was taking it. And it went on like this for probably two hours…him begging/crying/hoping I would change my mind, and me saying, “No…No more means no more. That’s it.” At one point he says to me, “If you do this, we’re just going to hate you!”

“So hate me, then.”

To be honest, I expected the whining and begging to go on for days. But it didn’t, Praise God. The next day, everyone basically obeyed. They had moments of forgetfulness, when someone would turn it on, but the culprit would turn it right off upon being reminded of the new rule.

And, Praise God, it’s been a week now…no TV at all. The best part was yesterday, when my oldest said to me, “You know mom, TV really isn’t important.”

Praise God. One small victory in my motherhood journey.

The Worst Mom In The World Runner-Up

Before I begin this venting/confession session, I feel the need to start with a disclaimer. And that is this: I know–with every inch of my being and every breath of my soul–that my children are my biggest blessing. And I thank God for them and Praise Him for this blessing. And I pray to Him every day to keep them always safe, healthy, happy, strong of faith, successful in this life and in the hereafter. I’m not complaining about this blessing; I’m just saying that it comes with the greatest responsibility, and sometimes that makes me crack. I’m just venting, because its healthy to vent, and because my guess is that other parents out there have these moments, too.

Right now, I hate just about everything about motherhood. I hate the whining that NEVER ENDS!! Please God…I can’t take it anymore….make them stop! I hate the constant demands. And just because I can’t deal with any more requests, I always answer in the negative: Mom, can I…”NO!!! YOU CAN’T!” Mom, do you….”NO!!! I DON’T!!” Mom, is there…”NO!! THERE ISN’T!!” Mom, I’m hungry…”GO FEED YOURSELF!!” Mom, I need a shower… “SO GO WASH YOURSELF!! WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME?!?” Mom, I just fell and….”OK!”

If they spill crumbs, I don’t just clean it up silently and save myself the energy, but I make sure to scream, “HOW MANY TIMES HAVE I TOLD YOU TO USE A PLATE????!!!”

If they make a mess in the kitchen because they’re tying to get something themselves, do I simply clean it up calmly, knowing that in the end I’ll end up cleaning it up anyway? Of course not; I have to yell out, “WHAT IN THE WORLD??? WHAT WERE YOU TRYING TO DO? NOW WHO’S GONNA CLEAN THIS UP???”

But if they ask me to get something from the kitchen for them, do I just do it to avoid the mess that will inevitably come later. Of course not. Instead I scream, “DON’T YOU KNOW HOW TO DO ANYTHING YOURSELF? YOU GO GET IT!”

I know…Psycho!!

I basically yell and scream about everything. Sometimes I sort of watch myself doing it. It’s as though I pull away from my physical self, and watch this monster dealing with my children. And the floating-me says to the physical-me, “What is your problem? Chill out!” But the physical-me doesn’t want to hear it. She just goes on being the Wicked Witch.

I was going over some math problems with my eleven year old the other day. We’d been doing the same kind of problems for about a week, and everyday I’d made a big deal about keeping his paper neat. “You have to be organized on the paper so you can follow your own train of thought on paper, so you know where you are in the problem, and so you can go back and check your work. It makes it easier to solve and to catch your mistakes.”

Over and over he’d heard this throughout the week. But yesterday, when his paper was full of scribbles and cross outs, and there was no indication of even which problem was being solved where, I completely lost it. I yelled at him, at the top of my lungs, for a good five or ten minutes. In order for you to fully get how insane I was acting, picture how you might react to learning that your kids were doing drugs: I was that bad.

Yes, I suck. So, with all that I’ve just laid out there, I should win ‘Worst Mom in the World.’ So why do I claim to be the runner-up?

Because despite my innumerable shortcomings, despite the fact that I know I need to be more patient with them [God, give me patience], despite the fact that I know I need to give them more positive attention and that we need to play and have fun together, I miss being ‘The Worst’ because I thank God for them and Praise Him for this blessing. And I pray to Him every day to keep them always safe, healthy, happy, strong of faith, successful in this life and in the hereafter. 

I’m not ‘The Worst’ because I love them, and they know I love them, and that simple fact saves me from carrying that horrible title.