Storytime: I learned something about myself today

Hello and welcome to my blog! I’ve been up since 4 am so I’m exhausted (it’s half past noon) and bored (I was supposed to have breakfast with my family but it didn’t work out so I’m waiting for lunchtime). At the moment, my 6-year-old is pouting in another room and it’s killing me, even though I did nothing wrong!

Here is what happened:

I woke him up at 9 am and made him chocolate spread sandwich after he went to the bathroom. Then as soon as he finished his sandwich, he asked for screentime. I told him not now, even though he has become accustomed to get his screentime right after his meal (that’s usually when he has to eat something other than chocolate) unless he has homework. He doesn’t fuss when it’s chocolate and honestly I offer chocolate more times than I care to admit, just because I don’t feel like going into war because he refuses to eat.

I reasoned that he just woke up and didn’t play with his toys yet or do anything creative, and me having been up for hours, didn’t feel like doing anything but go on my phone.

I was coloring on HappyColor.

Anyway, he left me alone to eat my oatmeal while I colored but called me soon after but I couldn’t hear him because the washing machine was too loud. I heard one of his calls and rushed over, to find he was in the bathroom waiting for me to rinse him (he knows how to but is disgusted of his own filth and, choosing my battles, I decided to let this play on but focus more on making him brush his teeth on his own).

The moment he saw me, he started yelling at me and speaking to me disrespectfully. One thing you may not know is that my 6 years old can be an angel, but he has a problem with authority. He treats me as if I’m his little sister, not his mom, and sometimes I let it slide even when I shouldn’t because I’m either tired or in a bad mood and don’t want to snap.

Today, though, I was assertive. I told him that if he wants me to rinse him, he must ask nicely. Otherwise, he will have to rinse himself. He started screaming and trying to hit me. I kept leaving the bathroom, giving him a minute to calm down, then come back and try again. My efforts only seemed to infuriate him further and after what seemed like 20 minutes, I told him that either he asks nicely or I’m going to have to rinse him but he doesn’t get screentime all day today. That didn’t work, so I picked him up and rinsed him and now I’m trying to follow through.

This happened 3 hours ago and he is still sulking and I kept coming to him and trying to calm him down and coax him into apologizing but he refused. At the end, I said let’s make up and he said fiiiine as if he was doing me a favor. Afterward, he said, “don’t I get screentime because we made up?”. I said no. You shouldn’t be rewarded for making up with your mom, and you didn’t even apologize. I noticed that I kept getting the urge to go hug him and give him whatever he wants, just to see him smile, but I resisted that urge.

I realized I was people-pleasing my son, which is why he doesn’t respect me. He expects me to come to him and give him what he wants because I always do. Even when I don’t at 1st, I eventually crack.

Right now he is sulking. He isn’t crying or screaming or throwing a tantrum or breaking things or hurting himself and when I keep trying to make his mood better, I’m sending the message that he’s not allowed to be anything but happy, and I don’t want to do that.

I did nothing wrong. He needs to learn respect. I’m not ignoring him. I just won’t give him screentime today.

I just hope that he learns his lesson.

Throwback Thursday: 5 free games to play with your kids from the couch

Hello and welcome to my blog! Welcome to Throwback Thursday, where I bring back a blog post I wrote exactly a year ago and reflect on it. I’m half-asleep in bed. Thursday is almost over, but I couldn’t sleep before bringing back this gem. I wish I read this in the morning. It would have come in handy while I was passed out on the couch and my son kept waking me up because he was bored.

5 free games to play with your kids from the couch:

I don’t know how everyone else is spending their summer. Some people may be spending it outdoors. Some may have enormous backyards or a house next to the beach or next to the woods.
For me though, I don’t drive, and the nearest park is 20 minutes away on foot. The weather is also really hot. So I can’t take my only child to the park every day, and the beach is too far and not free anyway (the swimmable one, not the corniche which is crowded so I’m avoiding it anyway).

I went to the beach yesterday for the 1st time in 3 years, and I wasn’t able to swim because I was looking after my son the whole time, but it was fun, albeit exhausting. Also, I took some great pictures and videos.

So when I’m trying to read and my son is nagging out of boredom, I whip up something from Pinterest and play an easy game. So here are 5 free games you can play with your kids when they’re bored while you’re on your couch, so they require zero movements (on your part).

1. I spy

You can play according to colors or shapes. It’s entertaining and educational. And you can take turns. Like right now, he is nagging because I’m on my phone, so as I lie in bed with a migraine, we are playing this game.

2. Simon says

This can be a great funny game and bonus points, exercise for your kid/s.

3. Scavenger hunt

You can write a list of items or just take a page out of Pinterest as I did. Have your child/ren find the items and tick when they find them.

4. Guess the sound

Have your child/ren gather items that make noise and then close their eyes while you shake it or move it near them and they must guess the sound.

5. Play sick

If all fails, pretend you’re sick and have your child be the doctor. You will be able to close your eyes for 5 minutes, or 1 minute, but it’s worth it.

Good luck.

Good night.

Parenting hacks: How to spend one on one time with your child at home

I downloaded an app called spin the wheel, and I use it every once in a while when my son and I get bored. You can put anything on it. We made different wheels. One for drawing (when he wants to draw but doesn’t know what), and for many other things, like funny truth or dare, which color are you, which job or which superpower do you have, what should you eat, and afternoon activities. We used it today to pick an activity.

1st spin we got arts and crafts, which is something my son does every day. 2nd spin we got a matching game, which is a game his friend’s mom gave us, so we played it, and I let him win. The point is, there are many activities you can do with your kids, and the spin the wheel is an activity in itself.

Another activity is taking selfies with fun filters. You can also dance together, sing, or just act silly together.

Something else I do with my son is reading him stories. There are even apps where you can create personalized stories with your kid together, using pictures of them.

You can also play this or that, Simon says, or I spy. There are also numerous board games you can play with your kids, one on one or together if you have multiple kids, but my favorite board games are ludo, uno, snakes and ladders, and monopoly. I have even found board games on Pinterest similar to snakes and ladders with a different spin on it and we printed them out and play them from time to time.

Sometimes my son wants to play something active, so I play basketball or soccer with him. It helps that he has a playroom with a trampoline, a slide, and a basketball hoop. We need something to make up for not being able to go outside much. Recently, we have started going out on the balcony a few times a week so he can play in the sunlight and I get to sit and soak in some vitamin D. I also play ball with him occasionally but I don’t last more than 10 minutes. Marriage life has made me sedentary.

I rarely play pretend with him, even though it’s his favorite type of play, but the child inside me is an old lady that likes to read and watch tv shows.

When I bake something, I rarely ask if he wants to help because I’m very neurotic and don’t have much patience. I may once in a big while let him help me a bit with baking cookies but I don’t enjoy it at all. However, I’m mentioning it in case that is something you’d like to do with your child.

The whole idea of spending one on one time with your child is to bond with them. We spend so much time disciplining our children and getting them to eat, brush their teeth, and go to bed, we forget to bond with them, as least I do. So the idea is to spend at least 10 to 30 minutes a day with them, without telling them what to do or judging them or shaming them or yelling at them (you shouldn’t judge, shame or yell at all anyway but I know I’m guilty of all these).

To raise children properly, you need to bond with them and discipline them. Bonding alone without discipline creates spoiled children. Disciplining alone without bonding creates a very bad relationship, especially when they become adults, so there must be some sort of balance.

I’m working on this balance. I hug and kiss my son a lot. I try to answer all his questions and listen to him when he talks, but I noticed that it’s really difficult for me to stop disciplining him during bonding time and to just have fun. I do compliment him whenever he does anything good, like display good behavior or do anything kind or helpful, or even if he draws something well.

A superhero with a lightning bolt that my son drew on his own. I was impressed.

Storytime: My son has nightmares and so do I

Hello and welcome to my blog! Yesterday my son asked me “how do I forget a nightmare?”. I told him “I don’t know. I get many nightmares, but I soon forget about them”. I almost wish I didn’t forget sometimes. They’d make a good novel. I get the weirdest dreams.

I dream of being chased, of falling from a building, of someone I know dying, or worse, being sent back to high school. My son finally opened up about his nightmares, because I told him if he talks about it and sees how unrealistic they are, they lose their power. I explained to him that the fear he feels during his nightmares, even when he remembers them while he is wide awake, the fear is very real. He said he has been having 2 recurrent nightmares. One of falling down the stairs only to be faced by an evil tiger, and another of being chased by an evil skeleton with headphones on. I’m interested to know the psychology behind the dreams.

I know my son is affected by what is going on in Lebanon, even if it’s just indirectly by seeing his dad in a bad mood most of the time or being isolated from other kids. I know all kids and adults in Lebanon are being affected mentally by what is going on here, myself included, but my son hasn’t trained himself in CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) for years as I did, but yet I fear he may be predisposed to anxiety like me and I want to help prevent that if I can. On the other hand, kids have nightmares. It doesn’t mean anything, right?

So my son gets nightmares.

So do I.

Are nightmares genetic?

What causes nightmares?

Let’s find out!

Nightmares are vivid, extended and extremely dysphoric dreams that awaken the dreamer. Twin studies indicate that nightmare frequency has a heritability between 36 and 51% providing evidence for genetic factors underlying predisposition to nightmares.

Oh boy. I hope my son doesn’t inherit my anxiety like he inherited my nightmares. Or hopefully he will grow out of the nightmares.

I actually follow a child therapist on Instagram who wrote a children book about nightmares called The dream director. I wish I could buy the book but with the dollar vs lira rate being 15, and shipment prices really expensive, I can’t order anything online.

So what lessens nightmares?

I don’t know, but I know eating sugar before bed makes your sleep lighter, and screens before bed are bad, so maybe trying to have a healthier sleep (which I don’t) should help?

Any suggestions?

Throwback Thursday: Worrying about the future

Hello and welcome to my blog! We’re almost halfway through 2021 and the pandemic isn’t over yet, but we have bigger problems here in Lebanon.

Lebanon today is reeling from a crushing economic crisis that pushed more than half its population into poverty. On top of having to cope with a local currency that has lost more than 85 percent of its value in just over a year, people also struggle to afford basic food items that have become 400 percent more expensive.

That’s why it was suitable

to find that a year ago, I wrote a post about worrying about the future. Oddly enough, I’m not worried about the prices and being able to buy necessities. That’s for my husband to worry about.

I’m worried about the effect the situation has on my husband’s mood, which in turn affects my marriage.

I’m worried about how I’m going to keep my anxiety and depression in check when I’m not getting much me-time or going out.

I’m worried about my mental health and how it’s affecting my physical health.

I’m worried about the effect of my son staying long hours at home with no playmates.

I’m worried about not being able to visit my family every Saturday because of the fuel shortages.

I’m worried about not being able to work on my blog and my books if the motor in our building shuts down. Nevertheless, I’m reading and trying to find ways to deal with the worry, and the best way I found is to practice mindfulness and gratitude.

A year ago I wrote:

Worrying about the future

“I don’t want to turn 6 years old!”

That’s what my 5-year-old son announced to me the other day, and when I asked him why he said “because I don’t want my teeth to start falling”.

He is now six and has lost 2 teeth and was very excited to lose more but for some reason never did.

It fascinates me and freaks me out that my son is thinking a lot about his future. He wants to be a policeman (I hope he changes his mind) and he tells me to keep the clothes that are small on him for his kids. He wonders what being an adult is like, and when he asks too many questions, I tell him “just think about reaching 6 years old. Eat, sleep, and pray, and don’t think about anything else”.

He currently wants to be a zookeeper but for dinosaurs. He isn’t convinced they are extinct.

The reason why I say this is because my son worries so much about the future, I feel like he is missing out on the now. Where have the times gone when our kids could just play freely without worrying what job they’re going to have and how they’re going to get enough money to feed a family?

I’ve been worrying about the future a lot lately. The future seems bleak, especially in Lebanon. But that’s my job, to worry. My son’s job is to have fun and be carefree.

Two things come to mind when I think about this situation:

The 1st is a poem I adore “I want to be six again”.

I want to be six again.
I want to go to McDonald’s and think it’s the best place in the world
to eat.
I want to sail sticks across a fresh mud puddle and make waves
with rocks.
I want to think M&Ms are better than money ’cause you can eat
I want to play kickball during recess.

From the poem “I want to be six again”

My son doesn’t want to turn six because he is afraid of his teeth falling. I think this whole not going to school is taking a toll on him. He is spending a lot of time with a parent who has anxiety and another who is constantly worried and deep in thought. It’s hard to be carefree when the overall mood is as if someone died.

The mood is still the same most of the time. I tend to hide from my family to be on my phone peacefully. The difference is I think I have a better grip on my mental health than I did last year.

I feel like I lost my smile. I used to be so perky and joyful. The book I just finished reading had a father who was too carefree, bordering on carelessness. There was a mom who was always worried about what might go wrong, so uptight and busy and tired all the time. It’s sad but I saw myself in her. Then there was the grandma, who was a ray of sunshine. I saw my late grandma in her, may she rest in peace.

I’m currently reading 100 simple secrets of happiness, but it’s taking me forever because the one I have was translated into Arabic.

I played scrabble and uno yesterday, but even while playing, I noticed I’m somewhat on edge and serious. I’ll try to loosen up more, for the sake of my son. He seems to be freaking out all the time lately, worried and scared. I wish I could distance him from me and get him in contact with a happy soul. I’m not in despair, but I feel not so optimistic, and somewhat numb.

We played monopoly yesterday. My son has been occupied with arts and crafts for hours lately, but once he gets bored, he becomes very annoying. I’m trying not to get annoyed by him, but to be mindful instead.

Another thing that comes to mind is a poem I wrote a long time ago. I think I called it “Give me the heart of a child”.

You can find this poem in my 2nd poetry book “Heart on my sleeve and other poems”.

I used to be just afraid of the dark

I’d ask my mom to keep the lights on

Afraid I’d fall off the swing in the park

I’d clench both fists and hold tight on

But now I’m afraid of bigger things

Like heartbreaks, earthquakes, poverty

Growing old with no one taking care of me

Give me the heart of a child

And I’ll live my life like a man

I’ll love my life like a child

Enjoying it while I can

From “Give me the heart of a child”

So I spend my days writing to-do lists, seeing family, doing some housework, procrastinating other housework, watching The Vampire Diaries, sometimes exercising, sometimes reading. I’m practicing The art of getting by. If you didn’t watch the movie, you should. I think there’s a book too, but I haven’t read it.

Last night, my son was really worried he’d be bit by a mosquito in his sleep. He was terrified. I told him “You need to have faith that God will protect you and that nothing can harm you unless God wills it to”. Maybe I should internalize my advice. I’m good at giving advice but terrible at following my own words.

Are you worried about the future?What are you doing to cope?

A strategy I use when I’m worried about something. The 1st part is to imagine the worst-case scenario, then make a plan on what you will do if the worst were to occur. Finally, imagine the best case scenario and hope for that.

Poetry Friday: It’s Summertime but I just want to sleep

Hello and welcome to my blog! My son was drawing superheroes yesterday (his new hobby is now drawing the characters of the phone game Heroes inc.) and he was drawing one in colorful clothes when I noticed the characters name was fiesta and he told him so (each character has a name but there are so many so only sometimes do I tell my son some of the names) and I explained that fiesta is Spanish for party and that a similar-sounding word siesta means the exact opposite, nap. Then I came up with the rhyme “while everyone’s off at a fiesta, I could use one more siesta” and for the next hour, I kept getting more and more rhymes in my head as I did the laundry and pestered my son to eat his lunch.

Before I knew it, I had a whole poem:

It’s summertime

The best time of the year

Vacation time

That is, unless you have kids

I don’t want to go to the park (they’re closed anyway due to covid)

I don’t want to go in the heat (not that I was going out before summer anyway)

I just want to go to a spa (is there even one for hijabis?)

Or to a nature retreat (like that one in Yalova)

While everyone is out at a fiesta

I could use one more siesta

It’s summertime

But I just want to sleep

It’s summertime

I got so many books to read

You call me up for adventure

But I’d rather go alone

No kids with me as I venture

Into the unknown

I don’t want to have to worry

About the next time he needs to eat

I don’t want to have to hurry

Because he needs to sleep

It’s summertime

But I’m not free

I’m a mom just getting by

When he starts school again, I’ll be free

It dawned on me that moms don’t get a vacation. I already knew that because I’m a mom, but I used to love summer. Before I got married, summer meant field trips and seeing my friends and long naps and going swimming. Now it’s just heat and boredom. My husband is a homebody so we’re not going anywhere, and even if we go, I’m going to have to spend the whole trip making sure my son behaves, eats, and doesn’t get hurt, and then we have to be home before 6 pm because that’s when his tiredness meltdowns begin.

I was lucky to be able to go to Turkey for 4 summers in a row, even though my son drove me crazy, but I would suck it up all summer long that I wasn’t going anywhere just because for 10 days we were going to pack in a lot of activities and have so much fun I would be exhausted after 2 days. I’m not trying to complain. I wish I could go back to those summers rather than stay at home all day with my son. I don’t mind staying home all day most of the time, and then going out once a week. It’s my son nagging me everytime he sees me on my phone or laptop that bothers me, and the guilt I feel from not playing with him enough, and how awful I feeling looking at him bored and not being able to do anything about it.

We have been putting him in summer camp for the past few years, though, so that’s better than nothing, but the time he is at summer camp isn’t enough for me to go out hiking or swimming or to do something fun and worthwhile. I’m so tired and burnt out and overwhelmed right now, I need a vacation not a MOMcation.

What are your plans for summer?

To my son on his graduation day

I’m proud of you.

Seeing you there, standing and smiling, dancing and waving, it filled my heart with joy.

You’re a big boy now, and next year you go to 1st grade. I know it’s a small milestone compared to the road ahead, but it is a win you must celebrate.

These have been a hard couple of years, and you had to go through kindergarten in the middle of a pandemic, with online learning, and then went to school in person for literally 2 weeks, and you couldn’t even play in the playground with your friends.

It’s been a hard year, staying at home most of the time, not being able to go play except at your grandparent’s houses. I know it affects you, and yet you smile and shine bright.

Your smile lights up my world. You are my world. Everything I do is for you. You are my muse. I sacrificed my freedom for you, just to see you smile, and it’s worth it.

I love you to the moon and back, my sunshine.

The next 12 years are going to be a lot of hard work, but we will take them one step at a time, one grade at a time, and at your high school graduation, it’ll be as though no time has passed, and I will be smiling and wondering how the years went by so quickly.

The pandemic and the economic and political crisis will be behind us and we will celebrate your success.

Up up and away to the 1st grade!

Throwback Thursday: How to minimize screen time for kids this summer

Hello, and welcome to my blog! Today is the 1st day of summer here because my son just finished school (today was supposed to be his last day but because there are protests due to the bad living conditions in Lebanon, school is out). I have been giving my son up to 1 hour of screen time a day, in total, but now that school is out, I’m worried his boredom will have him asking for more.

I plan on teaching him the rest of the curriculum so he can go to 1st grade more prepared (they gave him half the curriculum due to covid this year) and I also plan on enrolling him in karate classes, and then there are family visits in the weekend, but I’m a bit worried about how I’m going to fill his time otherwise. I have a lot of reading and writing to do, and I don’t know how I’m going to get my work done with him around. The whole time I’m blogging, he has been nagging for the phone (he sees me on the phone or laptop and suddenly he needs screen time).

Here is what I wrote about screen time for kids a year ago:

My son doesn’t have chores but we do play board games occasionally and he likes to draw, color, paint, and do arts and crafts. Legos, not so much.

Well, I’m not an expert, and I don’t give my son the same amount of screentime every day. There are days when he gets a few minutes of screentime and days when he gets a few hours. It all depends on my mood, my energy levels, his mood, his energy levels, and whether we leave the house that day or not. However, I have picked up a few observations and a few tips and tricks to help not let my son get addicted to screen time, and I thought I’d share them with you.

I don’t give my son screen time until he cleans up his messes.

5 don’ts and dos of screentime

1. Don’t give them screentime when they 1st wake up. I do it sometimes, I admit, when I’m too tired and need a few extra minutes of sleep, or when I’ve been up since dawn and need a nap and he just woke up at 10 am (sometimes I even have to wake him up because of lazy summer mode). However, I realized when I do that, he tends to throw a tantrum when I turn it off an hour later and is usually lethargic all day when he gets screentime 1st thing in the morning. The morning is the time when creativity is at its peak. It should be used for creative work. Writing, drawing, arts and crafts. It’s hard to implement daily, but do give them screentime only after they have done something creative.

2. Don’t let them watch videos on the phone. The phone is smaller and closer to their face. If they must have screentime, do give it to them from a distance, like on tv or a laptop.

3. This advice is something I don’t implement often because my son is a picky eater and he eats more while watching a screen, but I am a strong advocate of mindful eating, and although I don’t do it myself when I eat by myself but don’t feed your child while they watch on a screen. I was successful at this while he was going to school, but half the time I give him a game to play on the phone or YouTube on the tv because I desperately need my time and I gather it every chance I get. Do try to eat together as a family and open up a conversation with your child while you eat.

4. Don’t give them unlimited time. Do let them know beforehand how much screen time they’re getting and remind them every once in a while how much is left. If you’re going to give them an hour, remind them every 15 minutes. I sometimes get busy and tell my son he gets 30 minutes and end up giving him an hour. However, after his screentime session is up, I let him know how long he had been watching. This teaches your child to have a sense of time. You’ve watched movies before. You know how time is irrelevant when you’re absorbed in a movie or binge-watching a tv show.

5. Don’t leave your child to do free pay all day. While it’s important for a child to get bored, play independently, play imaginative play, it’s also important to have structured activities as well. Do balance between free play and adult structured activities where you do the activities with them (I’m guilty of not following this advice lately as I’m binge-watching The Vampire Diaries) and keep in mind to include at least 10 minutes of 1 on 1 time with your child where you simply bond with them and express your love for them.

That’s all I have for now, as my son is getting frustrated from me being on my phone for the past 30 minutes writing this. Remember, limiting screentime is not a punishment for you or your child. I’m not saying any screentime at all, but having healthy regulations around screentime is good for your child’s mental health and physical health in the long run.

Too much screen time can impair brain structure and function; it can cause obesity, insomnia, mood swings, and even problems at school. Because children’s brains undergo so much change during their formative years, this excess screen time can be even more damaging.

I’m proud to say I don’t give him screentime until after he eats breakfast and goes to the bathroom, not during meals and not for more than 30 minutes at a time. I also no longer binge-watch tv shows (not more than 2 episodes a day) and I also spend more one-on-one time with him than I used to. I also never finished past season 4 of vampire diaries and I’ve watched so many shows since, but currently, I’m watching “Superman and Lois”.

What are your rules for screen time?

Self-reflection Sunday: Deep conversation topics part 3

Hello and welcome to my blog! I had a busy weekend yesterday and today. Now I can ease into Monday relaxed and happy. But before I say goodbye to the weekend, let’s do some Self-reflection before Sunday is over.

Deep Conversation Topics:

3. How often do you set goals for yourself?

I used to do new year’s resolutions, but then I would never follow up with them. Since November 2020, I began making goals every month. I eventually began categorizing them into physical, mental, social, emotional, spiritual, and I create a habit tracking table to follow up with each habit I’m trying to build. The only problem is that I’m supposed to limit my goals to 1 or 2 per category, but I always somehow end up with exactly 20 goals each month. It’s very organized but a bit overwhelming. To make my goals less daunting, I further categorized them into daily goals (things I must do daily) and weekly goals (things I plan on doing a certain number of times per week).

What about you? How is your goal setting done?

Self-reflection Sunday: Deep conversation topics part 2

Hello and welcome to my blog! I had a busy weekend yesterday and today. Now I can ease into Monday relaxed and happy. But before I say goodbye to the weekend, let’s do some Self-reflection before Sunday is over.

Deep Conversation Topics:

2. Do you find your work challenging and interesting?

If you mean by my work my books and blog, then yes. I’m very passionate about my writing, and even though I don’t get paid for my blog, I still enjoy doing it and I feel challenged to keep finding ways to engage my audience more and increase my views while staying authentic and true to myself. My books are the same style as my blogs, so if you like my blogs, you’ll like my books. The challenge with the books wasn’t writing them. It was editing them and now promoting them. I know next to nothing about marketing and I’m learning to market my own books without having to pay to market them.

My job as a mother, though thankless and free of charge, is my most interesting and most challenging job of all. Everyday I learn something new. Motherhood motivates me to be a better person so that I don’t traumatize my son. I’m awed by a lot of things my son says and notices.

What about you? Is your job interesting and challenging?