Sunday, April 27, 2014

Discipline

Due to a  perk of SAHMhood, I have began watching a Pakistani talk show, which on a particular day had a well-known guest, Ali Azmat from the band Junoon. I've grown up listening to his music, but honestly I was never a fan because I always found him to be too much of a "typical rockstar"; rebellious and nonconformist. But his interview that day was interesting to me and it stood out, because he began talking about parenthood.

He spoke on how becoming a father has really influenced and changed him. He has had this image for years of being the tough guy affected by his fame and fortune, but here he was talking enthusiastically about making ponytails in his daughter's hair and spending the day with his little angel. He wants to spoil her, but simultaneously also teach her the value of things, making her a consciously aware citizen of the world. This isn't something very new, I think we have all seen how having kids can transform people. Or maybe it's just something that comes with age and maturity; a sense of awareness and appreciation. He went on to talk about his own parents and how as a typical guy, especially a Pakistani one, growing up his mom was always smothering him with love and food, which he never appreciated it until he went abroad to live on his own. As he grew up, he gained tons of fame and fortune but came back home to them and took care of his parents until they passed away. I know it's another cliché example, but clichés always hold some truth to them. It was nice to see this side of him.

All the while I couldn't help but think about my own son. Right now he's three and he doesn't really appreciate much of anything I do. In fact, every moment of our day together makes me fully aware that I'm dealing with an egocentric stage of childhood. But watching this interview made me reflect for a minute, maybe one day he will?

Because we spend so much time together, literally all day everyday from 8 am  till bedtime at 9 pm, I feel as if he takes me for granted, I think this happens to a lot of mothers. Our kids never get a chance to miss us since they're always with us! Especially now in this new stage of child rearing,  for parents its where we struggle to find the balance between love and disciple. I find this stage to be pure exhaustion. So much energy, an ever growing vocabulary that never seems to take a pause, armed with constant 'I want'.

Many days end with me wondering if I'm indulging him too much by planning activities like story time at Barnes and Noble or play dates. Often times we walk out of an hour or more of playing with him kicking/screaming for more and I'm the mean mom who ruins all the fun. And when I'm not worrying about spoiling him I worry that I'm disciplining too hard, which concerns me will encourage more rebellion. But I can't help be that mom:

-who won't buy every toy/candy he lays his hand on just to stop the nagging (oh how tempting it is to stop the nagging!!!).
- who won't let him watch 17 straight hours of YouTube toy review videos and forces playing with puzzles or letter tracing which he is too impatient to sit still for.
-who won't allow him to say bad words such as his current obsession 'S-T-U-P-I-D'.
- who insists we have to stop for a pee break and then we must wash hands afterwards. (yes diapers are a million times easier than potty training and I've even had moments where I wondered why underwear is useful at all.)
-who scolds him for saying 'I want' and demands instead to hear 'can I please..?'
-who says and follows through with the threat that  'we will leave here immediately if you don't stop crying/whining/running/shouting loudly'

So much for asking to be appreciated, I'm too busy being overwhelmed with how to just deal with him and his demands while leaving minimal damage on his adult personality. I know, I know 'he's just a kid and all kids do this'. My husband's comforting words of 'it's a phase, we all went through it he will be fine.' does reassure this worrier momma a bit. But the scary part comes when I see the reality of some people who don't grow out of it. And usually it always goes back to their childhood, well meaning mothers who gave into their demands creating manipulative selfish monsters. "It's always the mother's fault."

Truthfully no mother performs the acts that they do for the sake of appreciation. We would (and usually DO) still do them even if you children never said a single thank you. Making your favorite meals, searching for the beloved Lightning McQueen car under the sofa, bending/kneeling at 6 months pregnant to scrub the tub after bath time finger-painting, we do them because that is simply a part of being a mother. Because our own happiness truly becomes so intertwined with that of our child's that it becomes hard to discern the difference. But lately, with my extreme concern about discipline I've been laying down rules hard on Ali and sometimes I feel guilty that he may end up hating me and all the constant rule enforcing.

Despite all my strict mom behavior, something pretty amazing happened the other day. We were at the park like always, and another little girl began playing with him. They did their introductions and then he ran over to me, "This is my mom. She's my best friend!"  he beamed.

I don't think he really knows the meaning of that word yet, and he definitely doesn't know what  it meant to me. The little girl's mother and I both had a serious 'Aww' moment. It made all the tough days worth it. Today he doesn't know what it means, but one day he will. Here's to hoping my free spirited child still introduces me the same way when he does! 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Finding the right balance

With a 3 year old son who's newly graduated from toddlerhood to potty trained preschooler (he's still at home for now), I've found us in a situation most parents can relate to. How to discipline your child. In my struggle, a topic has been on my mind a lot lately. The balance between love and fear. I searched quite a bit about the relationship of love and fear. Many hold the view that love and fear cannot coexist together, that love is a part of our higher self while fear is from our lower self which prevents us from reaching further.

It's a pretty basic concept and it does make sense to a degree. Our fears usually are what transcend into hatred/prejudice and often they hold us back from doing things we may have aspired to achieve. Love, on the other hand is seen as the good guy, the one that allows us to be open minded, to take risks, and to move beyond all the struggle. As a parent, I do want to teach my son love; kind generous love, unconditional love, all sorts of love. But at the same time, I'm not totally bought over about making fear into a bad guy.

Afterall, in the Quran the image of a Fearful God is presented just as much as a Loving God. It's weird though, isn't it? How can we fear someone we love? I think that's the tricky part. Finding the right balance. If we did not have fear, we would commit actions with reckless abandon. A part of human nature needs to have inhibitions in order to maintain some sort of order. Fear gives us structure, guidelines. I tell Ali the stove is extremely hot and not only should he be afraid of the injury it can cause, but also he will be severely punished if he does not obey my rules to stay away from it. I take his safety seriously, even if he is too young to understand that concept yet. It's the same with humans, religion (God, essentially) warns us of punishments for  our actions in order to protect our well being even if we may not always understand it. Too much of fear is what becomes the problem. If all we do is fear God without learning to love him then he becomes a tyrannical monster so controlling that it terrorizes our sense of self and leads people to shy away from religion. Similarly, parents who are too strict often have children who rebel from authority. If they don't rebel then they become so fearful of their actions that they aren't able to make strong, bold decisions on their own. Because, they're too focused on pleasing someone else all the time (someone else being their parents in most cases). Balance. That's what it all comes down to.

Even with love, we need a balance. Every parent does love his or her children unconditionally, nearly all our actions are motivated by our endless love for these tiny beings. Tiny beings who will one day become big beings, even if that day seems so far away. If we only teach them love then we're depriving them of skills they will desperately need to lead a successful life. Every parent wants to be the good guy, they want to be their child's best friend and to have a close bond. No one needs to be told how to love, it's pretty self explanatory. But the thing is, as a parent if I give into every whim and want of my child out of my love for him I'm enabling a self indulgent, egotistical person. Up until his toddler years, yes it makes sense to indulge in the needs/wants of a child because they are solely dependent on you to provide for them. But, once they reach the age of talking, walking and self expression their personality is forming the foundation of the adult they will one day become. I just don't agree with the notion that I should let him be independent, carefree and behave however he wishes to encourage his growth. Kids need to know that you are the parent and they are the child, this early understanding of roles is crucial. I'm not saying that children should not be given responsibilities or allowed to explore with their own self expression. But kids just like adults, need boundaries. The sooner we learn to accept boundaries the simpler life becomes. Myself included, we all struggle with self control. Self control is a trait which if mastered can make a person highly successful and satisfied in life. So why not try and feed our children little bites of self control instead of self indulgence?

For example, teaching him that he needs to be patient. Teaching this to a 3 year old is probably the hardest task ever. And it inevitably happens that your child will nag you about something most passionately when you are at the end of your rope. This is generally the moment where you are most likely to give in. But what does your child learn from that situation if you do? They learn how to manipulate people who love them to give into their demands. It seems so minor now when all the kid wants is a lollipop. But before you know it that same 3 year old turns into a 30 year old who never learned that life is not always going to go how they want it when they want it. Or it could be, if they keep using love as a way to manipulate others. And that is the biggest misuse of love I could ever imagine.

Check out this article by Times and the famous Marshmallow test to see research on Self Control.

Love and Fear, like day and night, yin and yang. We spend our lives trying to balance them. And perhaps, all those philosophers are probably right. Love is truly the higher self, the part of our being we hope to one day achieve. But we cannot make it up that staircase without a little fear, we must accept that part of our self too. To use it when it's necessary. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

DIY projects

We did a few projects around the apartment many many months ago. I'm just now getting a chance to blog about them, but I'm so happy with all the updates we were able to do! These are things I pinned on Pinterest ages ago, but being totally 'uncrafty' I never actually attempted them. Once I actually did, I found how easy and stylish the result was that I couldn't stop! Goes to show that we all can have creative abilities if we try to just think outside the box. Some projects may have even cost more than just buying something brand new, but the experience of creating something yourself is worth the extra dollar sometimes. 

Staining wood bookshelves
We had been looking for a nice bookshelf for awhile. At a garage sale, we came across these shelves which were stacked on top of each other. I knew the color didn't match any of our furniture, but at a bargained price of $5 I figured why not try our hand at staining them darker? My hubs is pretty awesome, because you can't even tell this is his first time staining wood! love the end result! 

(Ps- I also got those beautiful planter vases from a garage sale. The tag under them tells me they were originally from Kirkland for $20 each, I definitely paid less lol)

We got our supplies from Home Depot: Sand paper, dark wood stain and a paintbrush. Since I can't smell paint fumes during pregnancy Hubs did this project while Ali and I were out of town. To get the stain to match our furniture he took one of the legs of the sofa to Home Depot and was able to get them to match it perfectly. Since I wasn't really around for the process, I can't tell you all the details, but I sent him the link to this blog about staining a wood staircase, a dining table and countertops. Also, I know he just went up to the employee at HD and asked what he'd need to stain a bookshelf and was given help with everything. 

This is a project which takes a few days as you have to first sand well, then apply and let the primer dry, then again apply the stain and let it dry before you add another coat. My advice: Start from the bottom or inside where no one can see/tell your mistakes as you learn and by the time you get to the most noticeable parts you will be a pro!
BEFORE




AFTER:


Sorry the After pictures aren't great, they're from my phone and the sunlight coming in was really not helping on this particular day. For now the shelves are still on the floor, but I'm trying to figure out some sort of pegs or something for a base that can elevate them above the ground just a bit so they reach the windowsill height. I will update on that soon! 


Gold Sharpie Paint Candle Design
The next project was a simple idea that came to me on an afternoon of boredom. Remember this gold sharpie lamp DIY I did awhile back? I just loved how easy it was and how it added a little oomph to the lamp. That's basically what I did with this candle below. Again, this was another garage sale find and my husband loved the intricate detail on it. I'm a big fan of sharpie paints and how easy they are to use!


Just to give you an idea of how the gold paint brought some life into the candle, here's a look of it half done.


Dining Chairs Update
One of the first projects we actually did  was updating the upholstery for our dining chairs. During the move from NJ to Fl these chairs and the off white cloth of the seats had taken a serious beating, left with quite a few stains. During one of my many million trips to Target I fell in love with this geometric design window curtain and decided to use as the fabric for my chairs. I think one panel cost $15, you can easily find cheaper fabric with coupons at JoAnn or maybe even cheaper curtains but I just really loved this particular design. 

My initial plan was to paint the wood of our chairs too. I even found a great tutorial on painting dining chairs here. We just never got around to doing it.






This project took us one evening. Maybe two episodes of Breaking Bad later, voila! Our dining table had a whole new look. All you need for this is a good pair of scissors, a staple gun (yet another garage sale find for $1, refill staples can be bought at Home Depot for about $3) and Scotch Guard spray to make your fabric stain resistant. It's easier to do as a two man project, as I would hold the fabric taut while hubby stapled, but it can be done by one person. So turn on your Netflix, find a show you've been meaning to catch up on and get to work!