Get Happy Yourself

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Sometimes in the midst of the whirlwind of having a child around it is easy to forget about yourself. You become the parent, the nurse, the teacher, the caretaker, but you forget that you’re also you, the person. A friend of mine once brought up the discussion of how some people in our parents’ generation lost touch with their closest friends once they got married and had children. Which was all good and fine until those children grew up, flew out of the nest, and a vacuum formed, because their closest friends were no longer around to provide the support system they needed. Interesting enough in one of the anecdotes provided in the discussion, someone said that they wished their parents had kept in touch with their friends because now they were stressing her out and blaming her for not always being there.

So it got me thinking about how people in our generation seem to be walking down the same path. The moment they get married (sometimes the moment they get engaged) they disappear from social circles and no longer respond to any communications. Which nobody would blame you if you have a child who is younger than five. But when the children are in school, or when there are no children, what is their excuse?

Having some me-time is important. Remembering you’re an individual is important. And sometimes the individual in you needs a friend to counter the stress that children can bring about, and those friends don’t need to be your friends from uni. They could be other mothers from your children’s school or they could be neighbors. The important thing to remember is that you’re not alone. You’ll find people to connect with the moment you learn to reach out. And if you think you’re being selfish about having ‘me-time’ with your friends then think about it this way, studies have shown that how happy you are dramatically improves the psychological well-being of your children. In other words, happiness is contagious, and yeah…

they’re watching you.

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Why you can’t call someone stupid?

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Ever heard someone call you stupid? What do you do? Nothing? I would most probably give them a headache. This is how the argument would start,  “Albert Einsten said, If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

The thing is, can you really call someone ‘stupid’? Words like stupid and nice and good are all generic terms that hold different meanings for different things. Unless you’ve performed a standardized IQ test on a child to back up however you describe him (though I’m not sure ‘stupid’ is on the classification list), but  just because he  brings home an F in a report card doesn’t really mean he is inherently stupid. It just means that he did not perform well.

In an interesting course I am currently taking, the author of the textbook argued that students are sometimes demoralized when teachers attribute their lack of performance to a lack of inherent ability (which they have little control over) instead of a lack of effort (which they can control and would require them to work just a little bit harder).

Another line of argument is that there are many types of intelligence, and that schools do not test for all of them. But take him to the football field and watch his genius. Gardner’s theory lists many different types of intelligence (including interpersonal, naturalist and bodily/kinesthetic intelligence among others). Yet do we see those tested in the normal academic curriculum? Most schools test for verbal/linguistic and logical/mathematical. So again, how would you define stupid?

We all know the negative psychological effects of labeling children. They may suffer from low self-esteem, they might be bullied by others because of this label, they might perform even worse because of the low expectation. In a famous study, psychologists Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson, showed that the greater the expectation was placed upon people, the better they performed (a phenomenon they named The Pygmalion effect). The main idea of the study was they told teachers, 20 % of the students are expected to perform better academically (even though their IQ test results were the same as others’) and later on, they discovered significant academic improvement among the 20 % of students named which lead to the conclusion that teacher expectation can influence academic achievement (especially for younger children).

So stupidity is a relative term. So avoid using it in your vocabulary because you might get a response that might give you a headache.

Dunce's Chair

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A Swiping Generation

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Toddlers are intuitive when it comes to the touch screen. They seem to learn how to use ipads without much instruction. All they have to do is hold them and experiment. But if they become too addicted to these touch screens, do they go through life thinking that there’s a huge invisible screen in front of everything? Do they end up swiping at everything else outside the screen?

If you’ve dealt with children then you’ll know the answer is (amusingly) yes, but can you blame them? Then there is another question that parents need to ask themselves, are these screens even good for their brain development?

In a Psychology today article titled “Is it okay to let your toddler play with the ipad?” Nancy Darling writes, “Child development is optimized when children engage in activities that are cognitively and sensorily stimulating.”

Her argument is that having babies addicted to ipad-screens is simply not good for brain development because screens call for passive attention and provide a very limited sensory environment.

Besides the fact that it could turn a child’s bouncy lifestyle to a sedentary one right from the start of life, what about all  that we learn when we experience life in 3D? And I’m not talking about watching 3D movies as that is not experiencing life in 3D).

What about children learning the physics of gravity and dimensions of objects? Throwing a ball and catching it may help a child develop his motor and coordination skills, and might open his mind to the basics of trajectory.

What if our children never get to write in cursive using a pen because they’re always typing and swiping? Or they never get to know the smell of grass after it rains because they’re always indoors? Or they never feel the joy of finger painting (and the consequent dirtying of flat surfaces) ?

As they grow older they will probably be attached to technology as it infiltrates every aspect of their school and work life. So do we want them to miss out on life experiences right from the start? When do they look up from their screens and learn to rediscover the wonder? 

Ask yourself that question the moment your child reaches out for the ipad.

Crushed Flower

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The note below is just a figment of my imagination

She pulls open the curtains and watches him through the window with a wistful smile on her lips. He’s playing in the sand, a look of utter concentration on his face. He’s happily humming to himself. The world looks beautiful to him. From the dew on the leaves at the break of dawn to the crickets chirping at night. From the sight of roses to the pattering of rain on the roof.

She watches him grow, and sees a person who thinks he can conquer the world, whose real world could not contain the magnitude of his dreams, who has to redefine the borders of what was possible. His head is always in the clouds. Ideas burst like fireworks in the sky of his imagination. He lets his dreams paint the canvas of his world.

As she watches him, she wonders how long it will last. She wonders when he’ll land hard on the ground. When the world will turn gloomy on him – a crushed flower, on the brink of survival. She wonders when she’ll hear the heavy sigh, the hollow laugh and the occasional sobs.

“You know, I thought I got it all figured out,” she expects him to say. “What happened?”

“You grew up. That’s what happened. Your innocence was tainted by the darkness of people who believe that they need to step on each other to reach the top.”

“One day I had hope. I believed in the good of people.”

“But then you tasted the poison of bitterness, watched your best friends turn their backs on you in a world that knew only selfishness, greed and betrayal.”

Maybe then he might choose to close himself in his room, close himself in a shell, fortify himself between high walls. She wishes she can warn him of the long tortuous road ahead. But it’s through tasting the sorrow will he learn to appreciate the joy. She wishes she can warn him. But she pulls the curtains shut.

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

Dedicated to Mona Ockba

Picture taken from who runs Qamrah Photography

Originally posted in Feb 13, 2011