For Just Being There

In July last year, Maher bought me an iPhone for our anniversary. My frist ever Smartphone. Of course, I didn’t even open it for a few months. Now I’m hooked.

And then my brother introduced me to WhatsApp while complaining about how people don’t just pick up the phone and call for a few minutes. Instead they chat on this thing for hours on end.

Then last month one of my friends suggested I get it. So here I am now, chatting with my friends around the world, anytime of day or night – and yes, sometimes it’s more of a monologue than dialogue. But they understand, they know I’ve lived on the moon for the last ten years.

I was chatting with some of my friends while my kids were in hospital last week. Sending emails too.

A couple of weeks into the NICU experience in Nov and Dec of 2009, one of the nurses organised a Parent Support Group. After some hesitation, it being our first “support group” and all, Maher and I went. We were only two couples in the English speaking section, and the woman leading the group showed us a day-by-day photo album of her twin boys born there, at 26 weeks gestation. Actually, one of her 6-year-old sons was taking us through the pics himself. His mum openly discussed the challenges her family faced at the NICU and over the following years. Of course, she encouraged us to talk. What struck me was that the other couple had shared their baby’s photos on Facebook. Their naked baby with a ventilator, feeding tubes, bandages, IV’s, the works.

They found love, support, and strength through their network of family and friends.

I, however, was unable to call my own brothers. I almost dialed my closest childhood friend’s number a few times. Even did once, a few days after Rahul was already home. Chatted for a few minutes.

A couple of friends of mine dropped everything that was going on for them in Chengdu and came to see me in HK. I barely even spoke to the one who stayed two weeks. She got to know my mum amd mother-in-law a bit better though.

That’s the way I used to deal with things, and during the NICU time and later, this reflex kicked in more strongly than ever before. I felt that no one could help anyway, and isolating myself was the most efficient way to deal with what was in front of me. It made sense at the time because only parents were allowed into the NICU, and I wanted to savor every moment I had alone with my babies. I was too fragile to handle criticism and questions, stress from others, and least of all pity. And there was no way I would break down. Not then.

But then a few months later, both babies out of the NICU, and home in Chengdu, I relaxed. I started to comment on blogs. (Big step!) Then I started my own. I got a VPN in China, to access Facebook again, right after Zambia won the Africa cup. I couldn’t join the celebrations, not even over FB. That was too much for me to handle!

I tried to create a network of my mum friends via Multicultural Mothering.

When one of my friend’s twins were in the NICU a year ago, I felt the need to be present. He had no problem communicating with me, explaining, and even listening to me. I was impressed. And now while my kids were in the hospital last week that same friend along with others all listened, and shared their own experiences. It made everything more bearable. Others read my endless WhatsApp monologues.

Thanks for the support over the last couple of weeks, for the brainstorming sessions, the connection. For just being there.

When I saw this talk for the first time a couple of years ago, it was perfectly timed then. I immediately forwarded it to an exhaustive list of friends. A few days ago my cousin shared it with me again. It was just what I needed to hear. Again. For my friends – old and new.

Brene Brown on Vulnerability

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That friend

Do you have that friend, who no matter what you do, is better at it than you?

She has been in China half as long as me. She speaks and writes Chinese fluently. Mine has regressed to the point where I ask our ayi (nanny) to “Please help me find the thing that is next to that other thing over there.”

Her baby slept through the night at three months. She listens, reacts swiftly and appropriately. She’s always a step ahead. Mine are up all night, jealous, fussing, drinking, and peeing. I have to keep reminding myself to listen, to be really present. (some yogi!)

Her writing flows, it’s alive and interesting. I feel this from the short stories that she emails. I started this blog a few months ago and man do I struggle with many of my posts. Framing the words and sentences into what I really mean to say takes time.

Bring up any topic from parenting to computers to the environment and she has intelligent, interesting opinions. I’ve always been a little disconnected.

She’s a genuinely nice person. She takes care of those who are close to her. She spent the evening with my parents because I had stuff to do. Nuff said.

Of course, our friendship isn’t as simple as a comparison. We share mutual respect, and love.

I am grateful for that friend who keeps me real.

Missing Ms. Mia

We met Mia in London a couple of months ago. She made a lasting impression on L and R. They talk about her all the time. Mia is Patricia and Oivind’s little girl. Almost one, and walking. L and R, played with her about three times when her parents came over. According to her mum on Facebook, her Norwegian family is safe, but marked after last weeks killings there.

Facebook is fantastic to keep abreast of other people’s lives, but then also for hours of procrastination and sleep deprivation. Not more needed here considering we have two non-sleeping toddlers. L and R’s sleeping patterns have improved a bit probably because we extended our stay in Samui. The continuity helps.

I’m wandering off topic though.

Back to little miss Mia. There was a girl on the plane from Chengdu to Bangkok. Rahul repeatedly called her “Mia.” I wouldn’t say she looked a lot like Mia. R thought so.

At the Bangkok Airways lounge Leila saw a girl cry. She said “baby,” and a few second later, “Mia.” I asked her if that’s how Mia cries. She nodded her head.

The morning after we got to Samui, Maher set-up our rented car with a car-seat. L and R have only ever used car seats in Lebanon when they were nine months old. It was torturous, for them and for everyone in the car. We had at least one continuously crying baby. L tried out Mia’s car seat in London a couple of months ago. Now, in Thailand they are either both fighting to get into “Mia’s” seat, or to stay out of it.

This evening in the kid’s playroom at our hotel, L called a four-year old blond girl “Mia.” I have no rational explanation about why.  It might be a phase where every girl is called Mia, just like her papaya stage. Every fruit is “papaya.”

Mia often ran one of her fingers over pursed lips while making a cute,”bbbb” sound. It has become her trademark gesture. L and R do it often, in the bath, at lunch, in “her” car-seat. and then look up. Smiling, they proudly say “Mia.”

We miss Ms. Mia. Happy first birthday soon, and keep walking. Mum’s running.