Tag Archives: family

Touching Base

A lot of time has gone by since my last entry, more than I’d realised. A lot has happened during that time, which is why I stayed away for so long.  My husband and I are not spontaneous people, but we did something rather spontaneous.  It was a big move, and due to the lack of time and planning I was extremely nervous about making it.  Not for myself, but when you have three kids aged between six and one, last minute decisions like this can be very nerve racking.  In fact it was so nerve racking that I was very tempted to just dismiss the idea, to play it safe and just continue as we were.  I remember laying in bed thinking about the countless things that could go wrong.  But then I would think about the huge potential for great benefit, and remind myself that very little is acheived through playing it easy.  In order to acheive things in life you have to work hard, you have to get out of your comfort zone, and you have to take risks.  Not that what I am hoping to acheive is something remarkable, on the contrary, I consider it a bare essential, and am quite ashamed of the fact that I never took any concrete moves to remedy the situation.  So in the end I turned to Allah, I prayed istikhara, and put myself in His ‘hands’.

So now I’m sitting here typing this from Egypt.  Due to our circumstances we realised that we had an opportunity to spend a decent amount of time here, an opportunity that may never come again, or at least for a long time – so we took it.  We have hired Arabic tutors and are focusing our time on improving our Arabic.  Alhumdulilah there has been a big improvement, but there is so much more to be done.  The kids have met their relatives that they didn’t know, and their arabic which varied from avoidance to non-existance is getting so much better alhumdulilah.

It hasn’t all been smooth sailing though, I’m getting quite home sick.  I’m feeling quite trapped here and feel like I have lost my independence.  Not because of the culture or society here, but because of my lack of experience within it.  I dont know my way around, I dont know how to buy things, what they’re called, how to describe them, or if they infact exist here.  I wouldn’t even think about attempting to go out on my own with the kids, even though in Australia this is not normally an issue.  My relatives have been great, always ringing up and checking up on us, constantly asking me if I want anything.  The problem is that I’m used to doing everything by myself, I’m used to going out, looking around, deciding what I want, and doing it MYSELF.  Its not easy asking for help when you are accustomed to doing everything yourself.  I never really thought of myself as somebody who was overly independent, but I guess sometimes when you are in a different environment you reliase things about yourself that you never knew.  I am happy to hang in there until we are due to leave, after all I still have a lot of work to do, and its not that much longer.  However it certainly has been a learning experience for me, its made me realise how much people sacrifice who make hijrah, and its made me realise that its not as easy as I may have initially thought.  Alhumdulilah I am so glad we chose to do it though.  My Arabic has improved immensely (not to mention that of my husband), my kids have experienced a different culture, got to meet their extended family, strengthened their arabic, and I have had the opportunity to spend time with my family who mean so much to me.

The place we are staying at is my parents flat.  Its not a horrible place or anything, but its certainly not what I’m accustomed to.  The beds are terribly hard and uncomfortable.  The water pressure is quite appalling, showers seem to involve drops of water falling upon you.  Ok…so there are lots of drops, but its a world away from the showers we have back in Australia.  Then there was the running out of gas while in the shower, the timing was of course perfect, I was sick, frozen, and had shampoo in my hair.  Alhumdulilah we had an spare gas cylinder.

Gas is quite the drama here.  Something that I don’t think twice about in Australia, and here its such an issue, or at least it was yesterday.  Its not like Egypt is in the dark ages, half of Alexandria do have gas coming into through houses through pipes.  But being in Egypt, things dont really run as smoothly as they should.  I dont know if its politics or lack of organisation, probably a bit of both, but for some reason the other half of Alexandria are still to get their gas.  Its been years, not sure how long…five, maybe ten years.

Yesterday we completely ran out of gas.  It was quite scarey….no hot water, no cooking, but then again that part wasnt that bad.  It made me reflect on what our brothers and sisters go through in Gaza.  Not just now but permanently.  Even when they’re not being slaughtered by the hundreds, they often suffer from a shortage of vital resources.  They live lives of constant fear, frustration and uncertainty.  And here I am, some spoilt girl from the west, panicking because I had to put up with no gas for a few hours.  I realised two things from this, firstly, that I’m not as grateful to Allah as I should be about the blessings He has given us, and secondly, that I’m not doing enough to help our brothers and sisters who are not as fortunately as us, both in Gaza and in other parts of the world.

It wasn’t easy for us to get more gas.  We’d been keeping an ear out for the gas men for a good couple of weeks but had gotten nowhere.  Yesterday, due to my panicked state, I decided I would be in and out of the balcony all day till the gas guys came.  Alhumdulilah the first time I went out there, their ute pulled up within about 30 seconds.  Not wanting to scream out from the balcony I ran in to get my husband do the job.  My husband immediately leaves whatever it was that he was doing and runs out to the balcony with me where he yells out “ANBUBA” (I know I should, but I can’t remember the exact translation for this, but its the word for the gas cylinder, or the cylinder itself).  Based on the looks we got from everybody clearly he didn’t say what he was meant to say.  To get their attention he was meant to say “ya bata3 al anabeeb” roughly translated as “gas cylinder man!!”.  So the gas guy looks at us with this perplexed look on his face when my husband clarifies his order.  My cousin who lives in the flat below us, realising our lack of abilities with these things offers to do it for us, but it was ok, we’d already ordered, it was all happening.  I was so excited, we were getting gas!!

Now I don’t know if people realise how heavy these things are, but they weigh a tonne!  Well maybe not literally a tonne, but they’re very heavy.  But these gas guys fling them around like they’re toothpicks.  The man coming up with our order put one on his back, grabbed another one with his free hand, swung it around to gain some momentum before flinging it ontop of the original cylinder on his back, balancing them both there while walking up the three flights of stairs.

Due to an apparent shortage of gas cylinders the poor guys at the ute were now being harassed.  There were about 5 people around them asking for gas, followed by another 5-10 people calling out from various directions from their balconies, some were getting quite frustrated, after all, if you’re out of gas like we were things get quite desperate!  Local men who were hanging out in the street were helping others out by relaying their orders onto the gas men and pointing them out.  It was quite the spectacle.  I’m sure it was just annoying and mundane to the locals, but to us foreigners it was quite entertaining.  One thing for sure is that I’ll never look at gas in the same way again.

Thats one of the important things I really hope to gain from my time here.  How often do you hurt something you normally think of as so insignificant – a pinky finger perhaps – only to help put things into perspective and to help you realise the countless blessings that Allah has bestowed upon you?  I think my time here will help me acheive that.  Last time I was here after hajj, I went back to Australia and felt like I was going back to a five star luxury home.  Now my home is nothing special, alhumdulilah I am happy with it, but its not luxurious by Australian standards.  However, after growing accustomed to ‘harsher’ conditions you learn to really appreciate what you have.  What scares me is that we tend to only really appreciate our blessings once we have them removed.  Then when things are back to normal we take things for granted again.  Insha’allah my experience will insite a life long change in me, a greater appreciation for everything that Allah has blessed me with, and a greater determination to try to make a difference to those who are less fortunate.

A source of strength

Bismillahi ir-rahman ir-rahim – In the name of Allah, most gracious, most merciful

Something happened the other day.  Something that changed my whole frame of mind.  It wasn’t anything exceptional, in fact some may think it rather insignificant.  Nonetheless, it was something that had a profound affect on me.  Maybe it is because he is my firstborn, or maybe it is because of my own feelings of inadequacy,  either way this was a timely reminder and a blessing from Allah swt.

So what is it, you may be wondering that had such a profound affect on me?  My son got selected to represent his class for the prep islamic week quiz!  Ok I know, it sounds like I’m giving this one event more weight than its worth.  Afterall, it is just a prep class activity.  However, for me it meant so much more than that.  His teacher had made it clear that the selection was based on his knowledge, and for me this meant so much.  Not that it means he is the best in his class, or that I have succeeded as a parent.  I know it is a long road and we have a lot of work ahead of us.  However, what it did indicate is that we are, insha’allah, on the right track, and that means the world to me.

Motherhood in many ways is the most difficult job in the world.  Not only are there many physical demands, the 24 hour availability, the ability to jump out of bed at a cry whilst in the midst of your deepest sleep – thats the easy part.  The hard part is the mental demands.  Having your patience constantly tested to the point that by the end of some days you want nothing more than to roll up and cry, but more often than not opt for a nice chocolate fix instead.  Suddenly being a target of criticism from well-meaning and malicious people alike, all giving contradictory advice, but all agreeing on the one thing – you’re doing it all wrong.  Too loving, not loving enough, you hold him too much, you don’t hold him enough, you feed him too much, you don’t feed him enough, you teach him too much, you don’t teach him enough, you’re too soft, too harsh, he’s not toilet trained, he’s not disciplined, he’s skinny, he’s not confident, he’s too rough, he’s rude, he’s shy……AAARRRGHHHH!!

So that is why this seemingly small and insignificant event meant so much to me.  Not because he was selected for a small prep activity, but because it is a sign of more than that, and has provided me with a source of strength.  So when my baby woke up crying 4 times while writing the above, I could take comfort in the fact that Insha’allah she will grow to be like her older brother.  And when my three year old daughter started wetting herself again after being toilet trained for a month, I was able to tap into my reserves of patience by thinking that before I know it she too will be making her way in the world, and making me proud in her own ways.

Somewhere between my self-doubts, disorganisation, lack of time, lack of planning, and my failure to do so many things that I would love to do for my son, he is still thriving.  He’s not a picture of perfection, but he is growing up to be a sensitive, loving, caring and intelligent boy, and I couldn’t be more proud. He’ll probably never know the strength that he gives to me, but I thank Allah for the reminder and strength that I have found through him and hope that one day I can repay the favour.

Night Terrors

Bismillahi ir-rahman ir-rahim – In the name of Allah, most gracious, most merciful

She sleeps like an angel.  Her blond hair covering her face, her big blue eyes peacefully closed.  She is so peaceful and so very beautiful.  A far cry from the bundle of energy she is during the day.   Her never ending talking and questions, and her stubborn tantrums.  Seeing her asleep like this is relaxing, there’s something about seeing your child sleeping, it is a beautiful site.

The peace is short lived.  It begins as a whimper. I hear it and a feeling of dread creeps into my heart.  Should I go comfort her?  Will she fall back asleep if I do?  Or will I just wake her more?  I hesitate for a moment, unsure what to do.  Then I realise that she is at the point of no return, she will not fall asleep on her own.  At this point I’m still unsure, deep down I know it is likely, but I pray it isn’t the case.  I go to her bed and she comes to me, but as soon as I wrap my arms around her I realise.  She is not soothed by my presence as she should be, instead it seems to inflame her more.  She pushes me away, at first yelling, but slowly her voice rises to a scream…a piercing scream.  Her eyes are wide open, a look of horror on her face.  She looks startled – confused.  I don’t know what to do. The more I try to hold her the more afraid she becomes.  The more I try to understand her the more she pushes me away.  She stiffens her body, every muscle tensing up.  I can’t hold her, I cant comfort her – I am helpless.  I sit there stroking her beautiful blond hair as she screams out “MUMMMYYYYY”, “NOOOOOOO”.  I want nothing more than to comfort her.  What is she so afraid of?  What is she saying “NOO” about?  What does she dream that is frightening her so?  She pushes me away again, I don’t know what to do.  Maybe I’m scaring her?  Maybe she’ll sleep better without me?  I get up….”NOOOOOOOOOOO” she pulls me in near to her again and tightly wraps her arms around my neck, only to push me away again.  I’m desperate to know what she wants, to know how I can help her but I know deep down that even she doesn’t know what she wants.  All I can do is to comfort her the best way I know how.  I know its not good enough, but that’s all I can do.  Eventually she wears herself out.  Her screams slowly quieten down till they are nothing more than a quiet sigh, and eventually nothing.  Every now and then she still lets out a sigh till she is fast asleep.  I lay there for a while, exhausted from the ordeal, squashed in the toddler bed that is barely big enough for her, let alone the two of us.  I’m relieved that its all over, but afraid to get up prematurely.  I try to patiently wait some more till I think its safe to get up.  I slowly remove her hands from me, and when she does not move I know it is safe.  I quietly raise myself up and walk away, alhumdulilah she is still asleep.  I look back, she is my beautiful angel again.

My daughter is one of the 10-15% of children who suffer from night terrors.  This episode is played out in our home on a semi-regular basis.  It began when she was around two years of age.  To be honest at the time I didn’t think all that much of it, the behaviour wasnt that unlike her day time behaviour so I just thought it was normal for her.  But after she turned three earlier this year her behaviour has calmed down a lot.  And suddenly the night terrors really stood out.  It didn’t seem normal.  Its funny as I’ve read a bit about night terrors and have been aware of the condition for quite some time.  I even studied it at uni, but I always thought of it as something that happened to other people, or other peoples children – not my baby.  It wasn’t till I mentioned it to my maternal child health nurse that she casually said “that would be a night terror”.  Theres nothing casual about it!  Its so horrible to see your child so scared and confused like that.  I know they’re meant to be asleep, but their wide eyes make it difficult to comprehend this.  The whole episode is also scarey and confusing to myself.  I can’t help but ask myself have I done something to make her react this way?  Lately I have noticed a link, she often suffers from them straight after an illness, particularly when feverish.

I think the most difficult part is knowing how to handle them.  One time when I was too exhausted to stay squashed in her bedIi carried her out to the couch.  After about 5 mins of laying on my chest she fell asleep.  As this seemed to work (and in a more comfortable manner) I naturally attempted the same thing the next time.  Now I should probably mention here that my daughter is a bit too smart for her own good (and my sanity).  She’s the type that when you give her an inch, not only will she take a mile, but she will demand it, and force it out of you by making your life unbearable until you succumb to her wishes.  This case was no exception.  After falling asleep with me on the couch I slowly put her back into her bed.  This time she woke up.  She clinged to me, screamed for me.  I thought she was still having her night terror, but this was different.  Yes she was screaming and carrying on, but this was much more calculated.  She wasn’t confused, she knew exactly what she wanted…she kept pointing to the couch, and when I asked what she wanted she said “lounge room”.  I refused, I told her I’d sit with her a little in bed till she fell asleep, but she continued to scream.  So I left, I had to.  I know that if I let her think a middle of the night screaming episode will result in having cuddles with mummy on the couch they’ll be occuring much more regularly.  So I walked away and left her screaming, getting herself into a state of hysteria.  I lay in bed the entire time questioning myself…am I doing the right thing?  I left her for a while.  Of course by this point she woke up her baby sister, so I fed her until she fell asleep again and eventually went back to my older daughter who by this point was laying on the floor just outside our bedroom.  I got down on my knees and asked her to look me in the eyes. I told her that she had two choices, she could either lay down there screaming by herself, or she could come with me to her bedroom where I would sit beside her for a few minutes until she fell asleep.  She knew I meant business and let me carry her to her bed.  I sat beside her while she turned her face the other way indicating she was going to sleep.  Alhumdulilah it worked…this time.

But its always a hard one….how do you know what to do?  How do you find the perfect balance between comforting them in a way that is good for them and not spoiling them in a way that they will constantly expect?  I feel like I’m blindfolded, slowly feeling out the path infront of me, afraid to move quickly incase I make the wrong move and everything falls down infront of me in a heap.  I have made mistakes in the past, and its so hard to pick up the pieces.  It takes a lot of hard work, and it takes A LOT of patience.  I guess its all part of being a parent.  Then just when you think you have it all worked out you have another baby, and realise that you may as well throw that rule book out and start on a journey of learning all over again.