Outside In: The Significance of a Smile

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When you say the word ‘poverty’, I immediately think about the environment around me and the struggles that I witness day-to-day. Whilst poverty exists in all countries, it is often kept behind closed doors, brushed under the carpet, pushed to the edges of society. In Egypt, we cannot hide from it – and every time the prices rise, we are more acutely aware of the pressures being placed on families at every level of society.

But financial hardship is not the only kind of poverty. Loneliness is a kind of poverty that is increasingly discussed in the media – often highlighting the irony that becoming more connected online can lead to higher levels of isolation. At this time of year, many new people and families are still adjusting to life in Cairo. They may be connecting regularly with friends and family back home but are still finding their identity and role in new communities. It is a slow process, and it can be a lonely one.

A big contributor to loneliness is a sense of isolation and it is something that I am aware of as I go about my business in Maadi. It would be so easy for me to allow my struggles with language and my unfamiliarity with the many different cultures around me to cause me to isolate myself, to stay within the bounds of all that is safe and familiar. Stepping out of comfort zones can feel huge and daunting – but there are always simple steps.

One of my biggest joys of returning to Cairo after the summer away was delighting afresh in the act of smiling at people in the street and receiving a warm, welcoming acknowledgement back. It is such a small, insignificant gesture, but it is a spark of connection that makes me feel less isolated. I can recall specific moments of exchanging smiles: the soldiers at the airport, standing guard by their tank, smiling at me at my 4-year-old as we went hunting for a toilet; a lady in her car on the corniche, smiling at me as I revelled in the freedom of riding along the Nile on the back of my husband’s scooter; a group of ladies waiting for transport who smiled at me and the kids as we crossed the busy road by the kobri. They aren’t earth-shattering moments of deep exchange, but they mark a flicker of connection that builds bridges and pushes aside isolation.

Even as I write this, I question if I’m making more of something than it really is, but social and psychological research affirms the power of smiling. There is the good that it does for you – using your facial muscles can improve your mood; even fake smiles can make you feel happy; smiling reduces stress and lowers heart rate; smiling helps our brains form positive-thinking patterns and so on and so forth. So many PhD papers! The one that caught my attention draws the focus away from how smiling makes me feel to the impact that it can have on others. Apparently, the reciprocated smile stems from ‘mirror neurons’ which help us to interpret the actions of others by causing us to imitate what we see.

Marco Iacobini, neuroscientist at the University of California, is quoted in the Scientific American:

When I see you smiling, my mirror neurons for smiling fire up, too, initiating a cascade of neural activity that evokes the feeling we typically associate with a smile. I don’t need to make any inference on what you are feeling, I experience immediately and effortlessly (in a milder form, of course) what you are experiencing.1

So, when I smile, it helps me to feel better. When I smile, you imitate the action and smile too, causing you to feel the same feelings of happiness and joy that I am experiencing.

It seems so small, it seems so insignificant, but I have been recently challenged by the words of writer and theologian Henri Nouwen to believe that small things have a bigger impact than we realise:

Imagine that, in the center of your heart, you trust that your smiles and handshakes, your embraces and your kisses are only the early signs of a worldwide community of love and peace. Imagine that your trusting that every little movement of love you make will ripple out into ever new and wider circles – just as a little stone thrown into a still pond. Imagine, imagine…2

I don’t know if small gestures can make much difference to the poverty that we see in this city and around the world. But I firmly believe that making connections with those around us, however insignificant they may seem, can help us to build communities of love and peace.

  1. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-mirror-neuron-revolut/
  2. Nouwen, Henri; Life of the Beloved; Crossroad Publishing Company: 2002, pp123-4.

This article was published in the October 2019 edition of the Maadi Messenger

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Outside In: Transitions

Bens iphone pics (1924)

I am standing outside my in-law’s church watching my three-year-old have a meltdown. She is sat on a quaint English bench in a quiet market town screaming her head off, bellowing a repeated ‘no’ and flailing her arms and legs at me whenever I venture close enough. Passers by look at me with a mixture of sympathy and judgement. I am at a loss. I have tried all the techniques that I know of for dealing with tantrums. At best they have had no effect, at their worst they have merely exacerbated the situation.

Eventually she calms down, we go hand-in-hand to the toilet where she blows her nose, washes her face, hugs me and says a very sweet, ‘sorry Mummy’. The much-longed-for fifth cookie that prompted her heartbreak is now forgotten. All that remains is the guilt that I feel for the overwhelming emotions that my pre-schooler is feeling.

We are two days into our time in the UK and everyone is feeling big emotions – we are a family in transition. Again. A friend of mine recently described transitions as thin, or liminal, spaces. The ancient Celts, and later Celtic Christians, coined this term to describe spaces where heaven and earth feel to be closer together. They are spaces that jolt us out of the ordinary and bring us face-to-face with the divine. In a strange way, transitions do this too. The ordinary routine of life is denied to us and we are forced to face something new. This makes us vulnerable and insecure, needing to reach out for help. My friend was saying that this liminal space is a great time to connect with our children – their raw emotions and reactions are more accessible in this thin space if we can just take the time to listen to them.

September is routinely a time for transition, especially in Cairo. Many schools re-open their doors at this time and children move to new classrooms, with new teachers, sometimes even to new schools. It is a time when many people move to the city, ready to start a new life, to start along the bumpy road of cultural adaptation. There is so much written about transition and it is something that many of us are keenly aware of. There are so many tips out there on how to do it well, but many of us are still afraid of it.

Perhaps if we were to switch our fear of transition and turn it into an opportunity, it would be easier to navigate? If we could view it as a thin, sacred space instead of some traumatic endurance test?

My children’s emotions were certainly more accessible during our temporary transition to the UK. Over the first few days I felt like I was a full-time counsellor. At some points it seemed like I was still mopping up the tears of one child when the crisis of another came bursting onto the scene. I realised that my presence was sometimes the most valued thing, just being with them, sitting with them, cuddling them. It was important for me to listen, to respect their thoughts and emotions, not to belittle the things that were concerning them. Talking things through also seemed to help, giving voice to the emotions that they were struggling to decipher.

As exhausting and emotionally draining as I found this, it did feel like a space where we could connect deeply and rely on each other in a way that we wouldn’t in day-to-day life. I needed to lower my expectations again and again, and slow down in order to recognise the beauty of the ‘thin space’ that was slotted between shouting children, snotty noses and meltdowns.

Breathe – remember that it takes time. Being in the present moment and taking the opportunity to breathe helps the whole process seem less overwhelming.

Pause – stopping to be thankful has helped me through recent transitions. There may be lots of things going awry, but there is always something to be grateful for if we pause long enough to notice it.

Rest – transitions are tiring, actually, they’re exhausting. Remember to give yourself (and your kids) time to sleep, to unwind and to relax.

This article was published in the September edition of the Maadi Messenger

 

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Outside In: The Perfect Night’s Sleep

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As any new parent will tell you, sleep is a much-desired necessity in life. Not only do we crave it, it is something that can easily become obsessive. How much sleep did I get last night? How much will I get tonight? How many times is the baby going to wake? Will she get back to sleep after the feed?

With the arrival of a new royal baby, Prince William welcomed his brother to the world of little sleep: “I am very pleased and glad to welcome my own brother into the sleep deprivation society that is parenting.”

It’s not just the parents who hone in on sleep, it becomes a topic of open conversation. People will start asking you how your sleep is, how many times the baby feeds in the night, what stretches of time will they go without waking. Sometimes even a moral value is placed on sleep, “Is he a good baby, does he sleep well?”

I was so obsessed with sleep when my kids were born, I would actually fear going to bed – something I’m sure those who suffer from insomnia identify with. The night stretched before me as such an unknown, I didn’t even want to enter into it. I was deeply jealous of anyone who was able to hit the pillow with oblivion guaranteed when I knew I might be up again five minutes after drifting off. We actually moved our first child out of our bedroom because my fear of her waking up and needing me was so high. Every time she snuffled, or my husband snuffled, I’d be wide awake with panic – “this is it! I have to get up now.”

Occasionally, if I’ve had a run of bad nights, I’ll still feel a slight sense of dread when facing the night, but these days it seems more that sleep deprivation becomes a competition in our house. Who got the least sleep last night? Who most deserves the lie in and the excuse of grumpiness? “Well, I was awake 4 times with the kids coming in.” “Well, it took me three hours to get to sleep.” “Well, I woke up at 5am and couldn’t get back off.”

We’re so invested in sleep and how much we get, that we wear watches that monitor our sleep for us. Not just the hours that we spend lying down, but supposedly even measure the quality of sleep that we’ve received. This seems to be the reason most quoted for the need of a sleep tracker – we may not even realise how badly we’re sleeping! But all this data and analysing may not necessarily improve our sleep patterns, it may just cause a new level of sleep anxiety.

In fact, this anxiety is so real that it has been given its own name. The Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine published a paper that coined the word, ‘orthosomnia’ – a new sleep disorder describing people who become so focussed on the data from their sleep tracker that they become obsessed with getting the ‘perfect’ night’s sleep.

Whilst I try not to veer into this level of obsession, we do value sleep in our household. There are some generally accepted benefits of good sleep on our health – helps us maintain a healthy weight, improves concentration, reduces the risks of heart disease, stroke and diabetes (check the studies for yourselves to asses the claims). It is always something that we have prioritised in the lives of our kids, and we are thankful to have established good patterns when they were little. It has certainly improved our sanity, regardless of the impact on theirs.

Having said that, I know that it is a value that my husband and I far too easily compromise on. What we are prepared to miss sleep for highlights where our priorities truly lie. Most parents are prepared to give up sleep for the sake of their children. How many times have you sacrificed your bed to nurse a sick child or to comfort from a nightmare? But sometimes it reveals less-worthy priorities. Even aware of how important rest is to our functionality, it is easy to fall into the temptation of ‘just finishing off’ a project before bed, and even more so, just replying to one more social media message, watching one more YouTube video, finishing one more game of Candy Crush. As adults, we often lack the sleep discipline that we try to instil in our children.

It seems to me that sleep, as with so many areas of life, needs to be held in the balance. We can’t become so obsessed with it that we develop an anxiety disorder, but we do need to recognise it as an area of discipline in our lives. It is not right to be fearful every time something wakes us up, but we do need to know when to put down the screen and shut our eyes.

This article was published in the June edition of the Maadi Messenger

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Outside In: Who Am I?

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We were cleaning our teeth in the bathroom when my daughter said, ‘Everyone calls Nana something different, you call her Mum, Daddy calls her Babs, we call her Nana.’ Unwittingly, she had hit on a profound truth – we are different things to different people. This is one of the reasons that for all the talk on identity and knowing oneself, it is always going to be a challenge to pull all our different selves together.

My husband sees me as his wife. Thankfully, he sees past the wrinkles and signs of aging, often viewing me as the twentysomething girl that he met eighteen years ago. My kids see me as the ‘Best Mum in the World’ according to their Mother’s Day cards. They are still little and at the stage of seeing their parents as omnipotent, able to heal any wound (physical and emotional), fix any problem (physical and emotional!) and make their world function adequately. Presumably my mum often sees me as her little girl, astonished that I grew up and started a family of my own, wishing that she could still be the person to ‘make everything right’.

And then there is my self outside of the home, outside of family. The self that enjoys being able to offer something to the world, to bring skills and talents and experiences into the community. The self that wants to be praised, appreciated and valued for something other than making dinner and pairing socks.

Which brings into the play the need for managing and juggling these different selves. Is one more important than the other? Do I hold more intrinsic value as a wife, mother, daughter or volunteer? The answer, I suspect, is that each is hugely valuable in its own right. But if we look at each area in isolation, we cannot gain an understanding of the whole. Gestalt psychology talks about how we are constantly processing the parts of something in order to try and make sense of the gestalt, or the whole.

I realise how much I do this with my children – trying to parent the part, rather than the whole. I react to an incident of bad behaviour and seek to correct it, often despairing that progress seems to be slow and worrying that things will never improve. Our son is currently struggling with the mundane requirements of home life. You know the things – little necessities like getting dressed, brushing teeth, putting on socks. Each morning there is a despairing wail of ‘Whhhyyyyy.’ Taking this behaviour in isolation, I worry about whether he will be able to function in society, ever able to put on footwear before leaving the house without the presence of a bellowing parent. When I step back and look at the whole, I see that he performs perfectly well at school, is a blessing to the adults around him and has a soft heart when it comes to those in need. I often despair that my son’s behaviour is one thing at school and another in the home, but really, is that any different from the rest of us?

We are perhaps most aware of our different selves when our worlds collide. Here in Egypt, many of us are far from home and far from our ‘home selves’. We have carved out a unique persona for ourselves here – a persona that has learnt to survive and thrive in a new world and a new community. When we have family visiting, we are aware that our two worlds are now in one space – and along with our two worlds, our two selves. A friend recently observed this, ‘Have you noticed that we behave slightly differently when family are visiting?’ I pointed out that this was inevitable, and not necessarily comfortable. In that moment, we are in the process of juggling different parts of ourselves.

The other aspect of self that we all wrestle with is the internal self, the self that we each know ourselves to be. The self that is proud, selfish, deceitful, bitter, broken, that feels like a failure. The self that fears that others wouldn’t accept us if they knew what we were ‘really’ like.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German resistor to National Socialism under Adolf Hitler; his objection to Nazism and his support of the Jews led to imprisonment and execution. His faith, values and morals shine through his letters, poetry and writing. His poem, Who Am I? touches beautifully on this idea of self – how others perceive us and how we perceive ourselves:

Am I then really that which other men tell of?

Or am I only what I myself know of myself?

Who am I? This or the Other?

Am I one person today and tomorrow another?

Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,

And before myself a contemptible woebegone weakling?

Or is something within me still like a beaten army

Fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?

 

Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.

Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am thine!

 Somehow, as we wrestle with these different selves, of how others perceive us and how we understand ourselves, we come to the point of accepting the value of the whole self. In the words of Gestalt psychologist Kurt Koffka, “the whole is something else than the sum of its parts.”

This article was published in the May edition of the Maadi Messenger

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Outside In: The Space in Between

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I was talking to my best friend on the phone as she sat in the airport. She had just said goodbye to her parents, leaving them to face the results of her father’s biopsy and aching that she wasn’t able to stay and support them in his illness. She was waiting to start the 5-hour flight to return to her three kids and husband who were keen to see her after their time apart. She said she was torn. She wanted to be with her family, but also wanted to stay and help her parents. I was struck by the strangeness of the space in between.

For those of us for whom Egypt isn’t our passport country, the space in between is something that we know well. Whether we are going or returning, there is always a pause between saying goodbye and saying hello. Whether the journey is long or short, there is a sense of being in suspension, when we’ve left but not yet arrived. This space can bring with it a mix of emotions.

Sometimes it can be wonderfully freeing. It is a space where we have no responsibilities, no obligations. Nothing is expected of us on the journey other than journeying (notice that I’m blocking out the fact that parents still have to deal with their children on the journey!) It is the perfect opportunity to stop and be. It is often the case that no one knows you on the journey. You are free to be who you want to be, there are no expectations upon you as an individual (aside from the expectations to behave appropriately in the airport!). I remember the flight that my husband and I took to begin our gap year. There was a distinct sense of leaving behind who we were and venturing into the unknown. Of having the opportunity to be and become whoever we wanted to be – of being free.

Sometimes the space is very necessary. It is one of the things often bemoaned about the speed of modern-day travel for the expatriate – the space in between is over too quickly. Sometimes the journey is the only opportunity that we have to process and prepare – to process what we’re leaving behind and prepare for what lies ahead; whichever direction we’re going. In years gone by, when journeying was done by boat or by train, the ‘in between’ could last for weeks on end. This gave travellers a significant time to reflect and ready themselves. In the modern world, this time is still greatly needed, but over far too quickly. Physically we are speedily transported from one world to the next, but our emotions and feelings can be lagging behind.

Sometimes this in-between time is challenging. For my friend, it was a lonely and difficult vacuum of time, where she felt wrenched in two. I remember sitting in Heathrow a couple of years ago following the bachelorette party of my sister-in-law. I had had a whirlwind of a weekend with young women who were mostly unmarried and without children, feeling free of the responsibilities and mundanities of parenting. Sitting in the airport, I was aware of how easy it would be, in the moment, to walk away from it all. I felt that I had to make a specific decision to return into the fray, to the role of mother and wife and that I needed to use the few hours of the flight to prepare myself for the battle!

The space isn’t always a journey. My friends and I were involved in running the 5th International Food Fair at the BCA last month. Once the event was over, a group of us were sat together in a tired haze, enjoying the moment, relaxing in the warmth of the evening. No-one wanted to move because upon moving we each had to face things we’d rather put off – preparing dinner, tidying the house, putting kids to bed. My husband and I enjoy the space in between whenever the children are watching TV. We often find ourselves in the kitchen, stealing a minute or two together, stalling before facing the inevitable disappointment, bickering, noise and chaos that ensues after turning off the screen.

This season reminds is a reminder to me of a significant pause in history. Easter is the celebration of Jesus’ death and resurrection, but the time between the two events is a definite space in between. A time when Jesus’ disciples would have been trying to process, unknowing of what lay ahead. And sometimes the space can feel like a vacuum – an unpleasant place of waiting, not knowing, feeling out of control.

Sometimes we need to make a little space in between for ourselves – allowing ourselves to step free of our lives for a moment, from the demands on our characters, the pressures of our roles. That may look like time away by yourself, escaping the city, going to the beach. It may be as simple as taking refuge in the house of a friend (where washing the dishes is not your responsibility), stopping for a coffee during the weekly shop, or simply sitting on your balcony and listening to life buzz around you.

The space in between is something experienced by each of us in different ways, at different times. Whatever emotion it conjures up, there is an art to just sitting in that space, of accepting it for what it is and enjoying the fact that, just for a moment, someone has hit the pause button for us.

This article was published in the April edition of the Maadi Messenger

I dedicate this article to the Rt Revd Richard Neil Inwood (1946-2019), my best friends’ father who received the news of his biopsy and embraced his rapid transition to death with such grace and peace. His humble life, his integrity and his dedication to God are an amazing example of a man simply and faithfully living out his calling. His wife, his daughters and his family are now in that strange space in between, waiting for the day when they stand together before the throne.

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Outside In: The Art of Play

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In September my kids changed school because my teaching husband also changed schools. One of the things that I LOVE about their new school is that they have rediscovered the art of playing. They don’t have a massive space in which to play, but all 85 children, from tiny to teenage, interact together in the playground before and after school. Such is their love of this time, kids race to be first to school and most are reluctant to leave at the end of the day.

Here’s what it looks like. You’ll see some towering, cool-looking teenage lad comforting a tiny tot of a girl who has just tripped over. You’ll have older kids teaching younger ones how to do the monkey bars. You have extended games of ‘mums and dads’ that involve great numbers of sisters, aunties, babies – and teenage mums and dads. In this small space they invent their own games with detailed rules – like sand tag. They become amazing basketball players – because there are hoops, and basketball is a great way to play with one another. They become filthy from scrubbing about in the dirt, digging holes in the sand pit and making homes for the beetles. They become healthy and strong from playing on the equipment. And more than anything they develop a love of play that fuels their imaginations.

I feel that in our world of amazing, advanced toys, computer games and screens, we are in danger of forgetting the pure and simple beauty of PLAYING.

The developmental benefits of play are astonishing. Play lays a foundation for literacy, because it enables children to practise and experiment with new vocabulary; it stretches their imaginations through storytelling. (This is currently so true for my children who are learning more Arabic these days, and who conduct many of their games in a fake Arabic language, testing out the sounds and letters that they are learning in class).

Play enables the development of skills in coordination, dexterity and movement. Educators are noticing problems with children who a lack strength and dexterity in their fingers for writing because only one finger is well-exercised – the one that swipes!

Play enables children to work on their beliefs, morals and ethics. When children interact with one another they are forced to deal with concepts such as sharing, negotiating, mediating, advocating. They impose on their imaginative play the things that they see modelled around them, and they experiment with how those things mete out – role-playing families, doctors, school. This type of play can even help them master and conquer their fears as they play out adult scenarios and roles.

As a parent it is all too easy to feel guilty for simply leaving our children to play. We are influenced by the idea that their time should be scheduled; that they develop best if they are engaged in structured, stimulating activities; that their musical, artistic and sporting skills should be honed and developed through clubs, and classes, and courses. These things clearly have benefits, but to what cost do we cut out free play?

Play is so important that it has been recognised as an individual right by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (article 31). There are so many children in the world for whom play is a luxury. There are so many children in Egypt for whom play is a luxury. They must go out to work at a young age to earn a living. They must participate in running the household. They must work diligently at school to improve the lot of their family. Yet even in constrained circumstances the desire to play will break out.

The South African comedian, Trevor Noah, tells a brilliant anecdote about his childhood in a Sowetan township where the kids would use bricks as cars. The goal was to find a strong brick that would stay in-tact throughout a barrage of car crashes. Once you had found a strong brick, you would feel so proud! Others would be intimidated by the power of your brick! You see similar things with the kids in the streets here, being creative with different items in order to create their own imaginative worlds. Even my kids, with access to ‘luxury’ toys, find endless entertainment with sticks, stones and dirt. The other morning, I sat for a good 15 minutes at the side of the road while my youngest collected sticks and carefully snapped them into pieces to build a ‘fire’.

It is easy to think that because we live in an urban jungle, play is harder for our kids. But we need to allow them the freedom to be creative. Kids will use anything to fuel their play.

In this season of my life, my kids come home from school, exhausted and filthy and with holes in their clothes. My laundry pile seems greater than it ever has because clothes are rarely fit to be worn two days in a row, and yet I delight in this. I delight in their dirty, sweaty exhaustion because in it I see the beauty, the joy and the art of PLAY.

This article was published in the March edition of the Maadi Messenger

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Outside In: No Magic Formula

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If only there was a magic formula for life. We are still early enough in the year for the glimmer of New Year’s Resolutions to be alive. These are a form of magic formula. Through our own will power and determination, we commit to a pattern of behaviours that we think will improve our lives – exercising more to keep our bodies trimmer; eating healthily to prolong our lives; aiming to be more spiritual to improve the quality of busy lives. If only we can find the magic formula, we might be able to achieve beauty, long-life and happiness.

There is so much information at our fingertips offering to help us find the magic formula. You can find them for every area of life: 7 ways to improve your marriage…3 top tips on being more positive…5 ways to be smarter with money…There is new wave after new wave of ideas helping us to find our magic formula – and a whole load of money seems to get made with each new solution. Think about the Chicken Soup for the Soul books…Paul McKenna’s hypnotism books and videos.

Parenting seems to be an area particularly targeted by magic formulas. Perhaps it’s because it is an area of such vulnerability. We want our kids to turn out well. We worry that we’re doing a bad job. We want the guarantee of a positive outcome. If only there was some magic formula to determine this.

I tend to feel depressingly overwhelmed by all the resources, suggestions and solutions on offer to parents. I feel at a loss as to how to digest all this information and apply it to my children. They can even seem contradictory. Do my children feel encouraged by the presence of firm boundaries or suffer separation anxiety through ‘time out’ in their room? Do my children benefit from discipline centred around a reward system or does it teach them to act only if they can get something out of it?

A current area of growth in my life is learning to know myself and my family more. We are all unique. What helps one person may not benefit someone else. This is especially true when it comes to family. Each family is a unique group made up of unique individuals – often quite diverse in their emotional make-up and personality type. There is no one magic formula that can work to transform each child or each family group. I am realising more and more that I need to study my family and know what works for us; to be able to look at one child and understand what their individual needs are in their current season – and it might be a completely different set of needs than their sibling had during that same season. Even if the needs are the same, the way to meet them, the manner of approaching them may be completely different.

This is not easy. It isn’t neat or straightforward. It would be so much simpler to reach for the bookshelf and pull out one book that told me how to parent my children perfectly. Sadly, I suspect that it requires more effort on my part than I tend to dedicate to it. Confidence is required to be able to say, I know that this works for my family at this time, and then stick to it. It’s so tempting to look at the family next to me and want to mimic the methods that they employ. Invariably, when I try and apply copycat approaches to my family it falls flat.

Of course this doesn’t mean that we never learn from the experiences of others, or never take advice from the many wise books, blogs and articles that have been written on parenting – especially those that speak directly to our situations of raising kids overseas – but it does mean that we adapt this advice.

A friend recently gave me a parenting book that seems to attempt a different approach. The introduction even acknowledges the expectations, disappointments and guilt that can result from parenting books that promise too much. Instead, this book takes the line of providing a tool box of ideas. It acknowledges that different things work at different times, with different children, in different situations. I warm to this idea and it is wonderfully adaptable. It is a way that can enable me to learn from others without necessitating that I mimic them. I can observe, learn – and add it to my tool box. I can read blogs, books and articles, gleaning tips that work for our family and pop them into our tool box.

Having the confidence to know who we are, experimenting with different approaches and learning from our mistakes is surely a more healthy way to be looking at our lives than searching for the unattainable holy grail of a magic formula. Attempting this is part of my resolution for 2019.

This article was published in the February edition of the Maadi Messenger

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