Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

The most helpless feeling for a parent is seeing your child going through a rough patch and being unable to help.

Cesca has been going through a particular period lately. What started off as a bad-mum moment from my end – forgetting to pick her for around five minutes when her religious class finished, has now escalated to a terrifying fear of being left alone forever, of being forgotten of and never seeing us again.

These past two weeks have been trying for us all. She has started crying to go to school, does not want to board the school minivan, skipped a class of sports I know she loves, and made a small scene last Monday before going in for her religious class. She sometimes shows a mean streak to her little sister, and I have heard telling Bettina that she has to behave, otherwise we will leave her all alone and never come back for her.

I have read and reread countless articles on separation anxiety and she ticks all the boxes. What all the articles tell you is to give the child extra reassurance and love during this difficult period. But this is a very fine line to thread. Too much of one thing can serve more bad than good. I try to be good cop/bad cop all in one. I am giving her secret notes to read and hold during school time whenever she feels lonely or scared. As of yesterday she even started taking a family photo with her. However I am now noticing that too much attention brings about other problems. Most notably, unnecessary moaning and complaining over silly, trivial things. I have had to put my feet down, use a stern voice and tell her to buckle up and move it. Case in point this morning when once again she did not want to board the school minivan. I talked to her gently but ended up looking her in the eye and telling her that she can cry till tomorrow, but she would still have to go to school with the van. She then stopped the pretend-crying thing she now excels at, stomped her feet and said, ‘Oh, okay then!’ and went in without further protests.

As parents we look at all possibilities. My mind has studied each and every possibility, I have become obsessed with finding out what these changes have come from. Talking with friends, with her teacher and other parents who have found themselves in my situation sometime during their lifetime have all assured me that it is a phase, a very difficult one, most often linked to nothing more than the child wanting extra reassurance and affection. As a parent, I want a quick-fix. I want her to return back to the child she was a fortnight ago. And I know that is not going to happen that quickly or suddenly.

Therefore I take small pleasures from the minute changes that occur on a day-to-day basis. If she cried less than yesterday, that is a small victory. If she was sad for only a short last night instead of the two hours on Monday night, then that is a plus. If she wanted to go to her sports class after not attending for a week, then that is the very top.

I am trying very hard to keep strong with her. To not give in and take her to school myself. I know I am doing the right thing, but it feels so hard when your choice brings your child so much sorrow and tears.

So I am taking one day at a time. I am trying to find a hard balance between being extra-loving yet strict at the same time. And of course there’s Bettina who I pray does not catch the clingy bug that seems to be doing the rounds at the moment.

One book which I bought for Cesca, which we both incidentally love and is helping us through this particular period is a Dr. Seuss one – Oh, The Places You’ll Go! The meaning behind the words is beautiful. It’s an honest explanation of life – of having ups and downs, of good days and other scary ones. But in the end we all succeed if we put our mind to it.

Life works in mysterious ways. The month we start reading Dr. Seuss, we start reading the book which seems to hit the nail right on the head. Would I recommend this book? A hundred times over!

dr seuss

Advertisements

March On

Up until some time ago, I never really gave the concept of friendship that  much thought. I was never one to have a whole list of friends. Quite to the contrary, I always had a small number of friends I counted as real ones, and the rest were just acquaintances – people I would not share more than a ‘hello’ or a smile with.

The younger you are, the more important it seems to have lots of friends. The number of friends you have seems to be directly proportionate to how popular or unpopular you are at school. The bigger the posse, the more high-up the fame-scale you find yourself.

With university, your friends change. Friends you leave behind for different courses or work are soon replaced with new ones, and only the treasured few remain as true friends. It only makes sense that the new people you share new experiences with become new friends, ones who can understand what you are going through, and who you find yourself confiding more and more in.

And then you start dating, and you get married and you have children, and suddenly you realize  that you have become isolated from everyone and everything. When children come in the scene, you are so involved as a mother, that all the rest seems unimportant. You lose yourself as a person at times, and the only conversation you can hold seems to revolve around feeds, nappy changes and the colour of the baby’s stools. When I had Cesca I was not working at the time. I was a stay-at-home wife, still discovering a new country and being happy with baking and watching television. When she arrived, my life was all hers. I used to force myself to shower, change and get out of the house, and when we visited Malta, I found that I had lost so much of myself. My conversation was boringly all about babies. I had become the person I never wanted to be. Only then did I realize how important working and being round people was for me.

So I did what I could and changed that. I found a new line of work, I met new people and I very slowly began finding myself again. Being a mother is a gift, but it is also very tiring and draining. I was ‘mummy’ all the time, and I had truly forgotten what the old “Josepha” liked and who she was.

And so came another change. I found new me-time, I made new friends, and I started opening up more and more. I made a new set of friends and realized that adults need friends. We need to be around similar-minded grown-ups and be able to moan, complain, joke and laugh around them. Life is so crazy at times, we need to know that it is not only us and our situation which are chaotic, but others are actually going through the same things.

There is something liberating in being able to meet up with a group of friends over dinner and a bottle of wine, or even a quick cup of coffee and discussing every topic under the sun, without feeling guilty about leaving the husband or children behind.

I do believe in balance. Between work and family, I had so little time for myself. So I did what I could and I made the time. And I threw all the guilt I could possibly feel out of the window.

Take yourself as a whole. Now remove the mother part of you, the wife part of you, the daughter part of you, the worker part of you. What are you left with? I am still not left with much, but I am content that the little I now have is much more than what I had a couple of years ago. And it fulfills me a hundred times more.

So any opportunity I have to be just me, I seize. Being able to recharge as a person after meeting up with friends, or going out with my husband alone, makes me a calmer and better person for it.

Again, no guilt.

None.

Soon Six

When photos like this pop up on my Facebook timeline to remind me it’s already been a year since her Kindergarten graduation, it gets me thinking.

FB_IMG_1497591457742 (1)

I was so scared. She was excited, I was terrified. Kindergarten years are easy. They’re full of playing and activities, no strict rules and no sitting down for homework. Year 1 was different. For Cesca, more so. It meant a new school building, travelling to and fro on the school minibus and adapting to sitting down and doing the classwork.

But she did well, very well in fact. She was always one to love knowing more and challenging herself that bit more, and this year offered her that and more. And she loved it.

My little Kikkina is turning six and I simply can’t believe it. She comes up with with the most bizarre and sometimes most uncomfortable of questions, and there is no way of escaping their answer. I love her company and talking to her is like conversing with a young teenager. She is still the sensitive type, does not just talk to anyone, and observes everything and everyone.

I sometimes find myself imagining what an adult Cesca will be like. Will she be the quiet and observant type or will she be the brash and outspoken one? At the present she is a bit of both, so that will be a beautiful thing to find out. Will she ever like anything else besides pasta, pizza and breaded meat? Will she still jump on me and give me wet kisses while giggling ‘boobies’ in my ear? Will she remain a worrier over the silliest of things and be a stickler for perfection? I think and I wonder.

Enjoy your last few days as a five-year old my little flower.  You are growing up too fast for my liking, especially this past year when I have seen you blossom into a young girl –  a kind-hearted one who has a smooth way of getting along with other children. Always be yourself and never apologize for it. You fill up our lives with words, more words, a hundred questions and an eternity of love.

Happy Sixth my Kikkina 🙂

 

Spring-Cleaning

I love this time of the year. It’s just the right time for the cold weather to calm down a bit, and we get to enjoy some beautiful sunshine without the sticky and stinky humidity our summers bring.

Whilst March is always a tough month, one I do not like at all, it also heralds the beginning of spring. And of all four seasons, it is most definitely my favourite.

I associate spring with new beginnings. After March, April starts with the promise of warmer breezes and bluer skies. I finally put my heavy jackets to rest and take out my cardigans and lighter layers, with the hope that I am not tempting the fates into throwing at us more wind and cold. I set my boots aside with a huge sigh of relief. I can finally wear sock-less flats and perhaps even dare to show my feet if the weather permits. That is after getting a pedicure, with a pretty coral colour perhaps. I slowly start removing layers and layers of clothes, scarves and socks. Skin is scrubbed and buffed, dead and dry skin discarded of,  and body parts hidden by the winter cold start getting properly prepared for the outer world to see. I start pushing myself that bit harder at training because visions of me in a bathing suit start popping up every morning at 6am whilst squatting, and panic starts kicking in. The days become longer, and so can our walks. Gozo at this time of the year still stubbornly holds on to the last of the green grass, before the brown, dried-up ambience sets in – typical of our summer.

Now is also the time when I start pining after a new hairstyle, look up new, fad diets and amazing superfoods. I restart my Bucilla kit for the tenth time because I suddenly realize that I can finish it in time for next Christmas…but only if I continue working on it for more than a couple of days.  I start a frenzy period of internet shopping because suddenly not one single female in our household has any single item of clothing to wear. I go through the girls’ wardrobes with a heavy heart because I have to empty the winter clothing, half of which will never be worn again.

After reading Island Fairy’s post, I immediately downloaded the Headspace app. Today is Day 2 of my meditation practice. With it just being ten minutes long, it’s something I can find the time for more easily than an hour-long session. I have also grabbed hold of my copy of The Universe Has Your Back, and started reading it again. I go through periods when I can not read some books. They just do not appeal to me and I physically hide them away till I feel ready to give them another go. After reading the reviews on this book, after eagerly waiting for it to arrive, once it did, I was just put off it. I read the first chapter, found myself blocking over it, and I had to stop. I now feel that the time is right to give it another go. I’m thinking that ten minutes of meditation a day and some pages of this book, will help my mind go along with the sense of new and fresh beginnings this time of the year brings.

This is perhaps my own version of spring-cleaning. I think we all have our rituals this at this time of the year. Some which we perhaps do not realize unless we sit down and think about it. I can go through spring with a clear head. It is perhaps the only season where my energy levels are higher than usual, and things are that bit more possible and happier. Summer is too hot for me to muster any enthusiasm, autumn is too busy for clarity, and winter I do not particularly like. I guess spring is my season.

20170318_155520.jpg

Chasing the Sun

Stuck

It was inevitable that the sick bugs would catch up with us. We are still not in the clear, but going on and on about the negative won’t help us with anything, so enough of that. Onwards and upwards, onwards and upwards.

I do not like this time of the year. The first three months of the year carry too much sadness for me, for one particular reason. I honestly wish I could blink and be in April, but that is just wishful thinking on my part. So I am trying to be as upbeat as I can, I am trying to focus on the positive and move forward. But I do get my moments when things just weigh me down. Bettina contracting a nasty virus, Cesca with the fever and me with a cold and foot and ligament pains which do not seem to get any better. Then there are birthdays, anniversaries and other moments I do wish I could forget and erase.

So in a bid to try and pull myself out of a sad rut that this time of the year always brings for me, I am looking out for positive things, words, images, stories. Anything.

  • I read. I go with whatever flow my mind tells me to follow. Be it a steaming romance, a tear-jerker or a self-help book, I just go where I feel I must.
  • I let Cesca brush my hair and call me the prettiest mama’ ever.
  • I take the painting set out and let the girls make a mess, focusing on their giggles and silly drawings instead of the dirty clothes and messy floors.
  • I lose myself in television series which make ma laugh and cry. I imagine myself living in Downton and being as snobbish and annoyingly correct as the Dowager herself.
  • I try to find more time to spend with the girls and stop myself from complaining when it’s bedtime and they want me to read them a book. I shut up and cuddle up with them in bed.
  • I buy things for myself. After years of neglecting my wardrobe to my daughers’, I now enter a shop and go to the women’s section first. And horror of horrors I sometimes steer out before my legs lead me to the children’s section.
  • Online shopping. Always works wonders.

And if all that fails, I just sit still and let myself be overwhelmed with whatever I’m feeling at that moment. Be it pain, sorrow, a strong sense of loss, anxiety, grief. It literally feels like heavy waves hitting you where it hurts most. I have learnt that some things are too strong and sensitive to just escape from. You need to feel some things, let them hurt you and temporarily take over your all.

Then when the waves stop and I feel calmer, I start feeling better. Sometimes you just have to really hurt, feel the pain in order to start getting better. It works with me.

That’s the rest of my month figured out. April can not come soon enough.

* Speaking of waves, Gozo has just lost a national landmark today! Weather and nature finally took their toll on our treasured Azure Window and what once stood so proudly as Dwejra’s main attraction, has now collapsed and disappeared. 

 

milk and honey

A couple of weeks after writing about the importance of running, of how running equals a healthy lifestyle, I go round to spraining my ankle. And I was not running (in the literal or figurative sense of the word) when doing so. I was planking – the one and only exercise which probably does not involve any movement. So I have (literally) stopped running for a couple of days now and I’m going crazy (just a little bit of that and lots of exaggeration perhaps). But I do miss it.

The upside of not training is getting a couple of extra minutes of sleep in the morning. Which for me translates as a couple of extra minutes of reading the night before. And I have to share and recommend a book I have just started, but which I am breezing through.

The book is called milk and honey by Rupi Kaur. I read some amazing reviews of it on Goodreads and it got me all curious. And a couple of pages in, I am hooked. It is a collection of poetry – long and short verses which tackle hurting, loving, breaking and healing. I do not read poetry but these lines just struck me in a way that I have to share with you.

Running

That’s all I seem to be doing most of the time. Running, chasing things, chasing time, catching up on everything, dashing around, checking my watch and hurrying around.

My running starts early in the morning, but at that time the running is welcome. In fact, it’s my morning exercise session which keeps me going for the rest of the day. Then there’s playschool, school, school-bus runs, work, housework, homework, cooking, religious lessons, ballet lessons, meetings, errands, empty kitchen shelves…it’s all about running.

I often complain about the running and the errands, about the busy life I lead, and the feeling of always having something else to do. I am awake for more than 17 hours everyday, and yet I never find half an hour to wash my hair or clear the shoes wardrobe.

But if the running stops, then what happens? As much as I am rushed off my feet every day, I crave the running. The running keeps me going.

The running means everything is good.

The girls are healthy and active. They’re playing, emptying toy chests and sprawling small bits of Lego around. They’re eating and making messes everywhere. The television has sticky handprints on it, which we only see when they’re finally sleeping and we’re semi-comatose on the sofa. We have at least one screaming match a day, some hair-pulling, a couple of face scratches here and there, and then lots of giggles and laughs. We are never quiet. We are never tidy.

We are working, we’re busy, we leave home early to make a better life for us all. We communicate via our mobiles till we meet late at night. We rarely eat together because of our busy lifestyles, but we never miss out on our chats. They’re quite hasty at times, and they usually end halfway through with one of us sleeping on the sofa, but they happen. We sometimes manage a bottle of wine on weekends, even dinner with friends, and we are enjoying building a home we will hopefully move into soon. Everything at its’ own pace, but happening. We’re lucky enough to make the best out of any family-time we have, and when that happens that gives us a short breather before being thrown back in into everyday routine.

The running means everything is functioning as it should be.

There is a reason I write this on a Wednesday. Tuesday is my busy day. I wake up on Wednesday thanking the skies that Tuesday has passed with everything being done and everyone in one piece. It’s a short-lived feeling, a couple of hours long, but enough to keep me going on.

When the running is paused, something is amiss. Someone is sick or something is cancelled. It is then that I crave the routine, the running and the feeling of being rushed off your feet.

So here’s to running. Let’s do a lot of that in 2017.