The Teenage Life

I’m so into poetry these days, as I feel the need to express my real emotions through it.

It is my way of dealing with the many changes we are currently experiencing.
Check my poem “The Teen-Age Life” which is dedicated to my eldest who is almost a teenager and to every parent who has one!

He has grown a lot

He is almost a teen!

He sometimes burns hot

And tries to be mean.

But his heart is made of gold

And with a warm hug,

Everything can be solved.

Those years are tough,

Life for him is rough.

He thinks he is now a man

Acting so wise and cool,

But suddenly he is no longer a fan

And he wants to rule!

His hormones vaulting up and down

At one instant making him smile, then frown –

Laugh, cry, shout, or scream

Sometimes I do wish it were a dream!

Shattered orders he gets,

Sometimes a behaviour he regrets.

But his mindset is out of hand

He needs us to understand.

Love, affection to provide

Support, patience and empathy is our guide.

Those years are heavily dense

But it is up to us to make it less tense.

As we dig deep and understand,

Teenagers need a helping hand.

Full of physical, emotional and mental change

Oh my, what a delicate stage!

Wrapped up in a separate world,

Communication seems to be absurd!

What adolescents really need,

Is some freedom to heed.

They’ll eventually learn from every mistake,

And consider what actions to take.

Difficult as it might be,

I have to learn to let go and see.

How that little human of mine,

Will grow and mature and just be fine!

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My Fourth Son…

It is indeed incredibly amazing how each and every child has a special place in a mom’s heart. When I had my first boy, I thought I could never love any other being as much as I loved him. 

I was wrong!

Soon enough, came our second one, and that love increased doubling with more joy and pride. I could feel my heart swelling up with attachment and affection towards both of them. I was delighted to have given my first boy a lifetime buddy to hang out with, play with, fight with, and do whatever boys do together. Then sooner than expecting, the third one proudly arrived bringing much charm with his captivating smile and easy going character to our family. He quickly formed a special bond with his brothers, and soon they constituted a clan.

What a bless, I would tell myself!
AND I thought it ended there; a satisfied mom of three adorable boys.

Again I was wrong!

As our fourth boy and little girl were born, I was deeply concerned about him being ignored by everyone. After all everybody was waiting for the girl – even us as parents!

I was afraid of failing between them, focusing more on her needs, and losing it with all of the responsibilities I suddenly had. It is true that we have always wished for a girl, but I did not want him to be treated any differently than his brothers or her for the matter.

To ease my worries, I read books and articles related to twins, sibling rivalry, and whatever came across my way. I also had a full supportive team at home where we discussed our worries and concerns. 

However, what really helped me the most was my fourth boy himself.  I will never forget his looks at the age of 32 weeks, only a few days after they were born. Just by looking at him peeking at me through the incubator, I could easily tell that he has come with a unique character, just like the others, and was more than ready to prove himself. It kind of soothed me seeing his determination at a very young stage in his extremely early life.

An independent little fellow who insists on doing things on his own is the main characteristic of our little Mr. R. As I observe him at play, I enjoy his jubilant attitude and carefree spirit. He not only enjoys kisses and cuddles, but asks for them as well whenever he feels like it. I also love his thirst to knowledge and learning where he asks me to work together on different age related activities. I adore his attachment towards his sister and brothers, and his comic side when he enjoys a joke with them. 

It does not really matter if you have an only child or five of them. It does not matter if they are all girls or all boys. It does not matter the order they come in. What matters is the love, the innocence, the purity, and transparency they bring. Our way of reacting to these needs and our approval form the basics of a child’s character in the future. This reminds me of what my dearest grandmother used to tell us, ‘Raise your children with love and affection.’

So how much can a mom’s heart equally love? Well I would say definitely infinite!

Sensing Art

During the summer break, my children and I usually get the chance of doing more art work together. This time we had the opportunity to explore the Johnson’s Pure Protect Exploration Kit which consisted of various products. An instruction book which describes the proper use of each of the ten products was also included. Tang powder bags, food color, paint kit, Johnsons wipes, soap bar, hand soap, and baby shower gel are some of the products found in the kit.

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It was very interesting to observe how each of my children interacted with the various products. My three older boys mainly wondered about the odours mixed into the cotton filled jars, while the twins explored their senses through their hands.

Some innovative ideas were found in the kit; I never thought of using Tang powder to paint a drawing! The feeling of the sugary powder on the skin was sensational especially to the twins who absolutely enjoyed the sticky sandy like feeling rubbing on their hands.

First, we mixed the powdered tang with some water and a few drops of food color, I was surprised that the children were able to tint and have fun trying a new kind of paint. They then covered their hands with the paint and made some hand prints.

Next, we worked on testing our smelling senses through the four different types of essence jars that came along. I covered the boys’ eyes and had them smell the cotton where I have added two different types of essence. They easily recognized the lemon extract but the cardamom concentration was a bit tricky.

We also worked on smelling dried plants from my pot pourri bowl, and I used the remaining essence like lavender and rose.

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After that I gave my twins the cotton in the plastic jars as they continued to smell them while learning new vocabulary trying out words like ‘lavender’ and ‘rose’ after every sniff.

Learning is best acquired through play. Today my children and mainly the twins, had fun as they explored, smeared paint, splattered colors, and sensed new experiences. Luckily we had the Johnsons’ soap and wet wipes to clean the mess they created.

A special thank you goes to Momsguide and Johnsons and Johnsons for providing us with this enjoyable learning opportunity.

Back To Work

The quandary of whether being a Working Mom or a Stay at Home Mom (SAHM) is better for her and her children has been highly debatable. Many moms have written about the struggles they go through as a working mom while others compared the pros and cons of a SAHM. Some even went beyond this and gave credit to one group and meanly criticized the other. I will be doing none of this as I will only be sharing with you a brief yet significant personal experience I have recently passed through.

Last week I had to replace a teacher in the same school where I used to teach two years ago. Trust me the minute I entered the class, it seemed as if I have just left yesterday, and into my world of teaching I found myself.
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From that week I understood and lived certain experiences which I would like to share with you;

Feelings:

Contradictory feelings engulfed me during these short working hours. Even though I had my little ones in the safe hands of a dear friend, I felt sadness engulfing me when I left them, especially my little boy who made a scene when I did. Asking myself questions like “Is it worth it?” “How will this affect them?” “What might they be doing now?” “Do they miss me?” made me feel even worse. However, when I used to come back, they would be smiling with emotions flowing out from their beautiful eyes. I could see how much they missed me, and I them. In effect they were just fine! Maybe it is a matter of habit especially when the parents compensate properly for their absence.
Once in school and in class, a feeling of contentment, enjoyment, and satisfaction engulfed me. In fact, every time I stop work for a few years and go back again, I know I have chosen the right career for myself.
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Productivity:

Being engaged again in a dedicated practice, made me feel productive and internally fulfilled. It made me realise the importance of working on my career life especially because I love it. Moreover, studies do show that children with balanced working moms do look up to them in admiration and seek their success. Being industrious makes a mom feel that she can be present with her family, and also grow internally to reach higher achievements.

Fatigue:

As much as I enjoyed being physically active and involved with the students, by the end of the day I felt drained. By 9:00 pm I could not even feel my legs, and had to sleep early.
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Of course it is not easy to be standing up all morning explaining, guiding, supporting, and aiding around eighty students. Then going home, continuing with the same enthusiasm, supporting my own children, helping with homework, showing them love, and enjoying them. Well yes, aren’t mothers simply super?

Organization:

Although I consider myself an organized functional mom, being at home for a long period of time, develops certain lazy habits which a SAHM struggles with on a daily basis. Here comes the importance of being committed to a fixed schedule where there is a time limit for everything. So instead of releasing myself to social media addiction, long phone conversations, or even laying on the couch staring into empty space while the twins napped, I focused on my interests like writing, reading and baking. Here is how I maintained a sane mind and I was productive while being at home. With an employment, however, this organization is accomplished on its own which makes the struggle a bit easier.

Appreciation:

Having worked again for a week, I felt a deep appreciation to my fellow moms, those who have the privilege of having an official job title and to those who work as moms at home. Both statuses drain a mom out. Once she is outside, the guilt, the responsibility, and the career achieving dream engulf her. At the same time, once she is at home, her wishful thinking of having a break, a pause, or a day away from her monotonous rhythm reminds her of the great sacrifice she has avowed upon herself. So whether we are employed or not, we have duties which we will never ignore. There will always be a way to reach out for our children at the proper time, in the precise situation, and at the right moment.

I am thankful to have had this opportunity which gave me an insight of how the coming year will be. I understand that I need to manage my family, our house, my employment, and of course my dear blog! As a matter of fact, the blog made me not only enjoy my time at home, but I also learned a lot through it and met amazing people. I know it will not be easy to manage it all, but I won’t let go.

I would love to know more about your experiences as moms who might prefer work to home or vice versa. By sharing our experiences we know we are there for each other, support one another, and guide each other through this journey of motherhood.

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Review: Pre-Teens at Ease

In our pre-teen talk last Wednesday at Dots and Links, Joanne Jewell, the founder of Mindful Parenting, took us on an expedition as she transformed the uneasiness we felt towards the teen years into a smoother apprehension. Unlike the toddler years where parenting is a physical challenge, the teen age years are more cognitively challenging.

According to Mrs. Jewel, There are five main changes a pre-teen child goes through where parents feel secluded. However, we should not take things personal as it is all part of their growth.

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Peers:

It is very natural that at this stage pre-adolescents seek to spend more time with their peers. However, parents’ role is crucial here as they need to work on moving towards a ‘coaching style’. Funnily enough those pre-teens still yearn to have quality time with their parents even if they do not show it.  Here, parents are recommended to work on LISTENING more and question less. Being non-judgemental about their opinions and friends makes teenagers want to share more things with their parents. They long for a connection and that is what we need to acquire.

Seeking Advice:

When we as parents are up to date with the teen age world, we establish a better relationship with them.  It is advised that parents show an interest in their favourite TV programs, YouTube, Instagram accounts etcetera, and guide them by showing sympathy. In addition, having open discussions about bullying, gender roles, media, and peer pressure significantly decreases teenagers’ involvement in mishaps and trouble.

Beginning Puberty:

Major body changes occur at this stage in their lives. It is essential that we do not fear the fact of starting a conversation about puberty. For example, ask about what they already know and let them steer the conversation. It is essential to note the usage of the appropriate words for body parts. Making the conversations as casual as possible facilitates the talk. For example, Mrs. Jewell suggested having such a talk in the car where eye contact may be avoided and hence the awkwardness of the situation is minimalised.

Changes in the Brain:

In addition to all the physical changes in their bodies, the teenage brain goes through a colossal re-wiring process. It mainly changes in the way they remember, think, reason, focus, pay attention, and make decisions. For instance, teenagers might display some of those cognitive changes through the following behavioral traits: seeking rewards by trying new things, displaying varied and strong emotions, or pushing away and rebelling against the traditional ways of doing things.

Seek more Autonomy:

It is all a natural development and a necessary push to notice that they seek autonomy and parents should not feel rejected. It is only a move towards ‘inter-dependence’ and not isolation. It is not easy to find a balance between the parents and their children. However, keeping the channels of communication open helps a lot. For example, you could say, “Let me think about it, “instead of saying “No” directly. Showing empathy all the way makes your child want to listen to you.

Below is a link that focuses on the choice of words and its impact on our children:

www.facebook.com/brightside/videos/893780620750682/?hc_location=ufi

 
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When I asked the attending moms to describe in a few words what lesson they have learned or what message they would want to share with other parents, I got a few interesting replies which I would like to share with you.

“It was truly a very inspiring seminar. Thank you for organizing it. I think the biggest thing I would take away from this is the importance of listening and appreciating our children’s emotions. When children are especially expressive or can discuss things with you at a high (almost surprising) level, we tend to forget that their brains haven’t yet fully developed. This is something we surely need constant reminders of, and Joanne did just that. She put it back in perspective: that self-regulating their feelings and learning how to deal with whatever situation they face is a skill that our children learn, and it’s probably the most important tool we can provide them with to become successful and happy adults later in life; which is why we have to be conscious of our own behavior with them. So, very simply, listen, empathize, and give them the space to learn.”

“This workshop has changed my ocular towards parenting, I have learned that empathy and empowerment is the route to successful parenting. Punishment and control have short term effect and will not help us equip our kids with the relevant values that will help them later in life.”

“I have learned a few valuable skills and the most important is using empathy first. I usually charge, shoot, drill then empathize.”

“Empathy empathy empathy then transfer your family values.”

“I think I should do things with more ease when dealing with my kids and treat them like friends rather than being hard on them.”

“Would like to thank you for the great workshop, I learned so much from it. The information provided are very useful and I will implement them in my life: 
_ to create an open environment.
_ to listen 
_ to be patient 
_ to learn a new game with my kids.”

“The power of showing Empathy!  When dealing with an angry pre-teens there is no need to express our thoughts or opinion… empathizing could be the answer to a critical situation.  This way, we, as parents, think about what’s the best thing to say and it also allows our son or daughter to absorb what we will tell them later on.”

“The only thing you can control in parenting is your reaction towards your children.”

“It’s been a pleasure attending the seminar. I really liked it and it made me change in knowing how to deal more wisely and positively with my kids and everyone else whether friends or family members. It even gave me positive energy to keep on trying to find solutions to any barriers or problems I’m facing.
I wish everyone could share their experiences as well since we all keep on learning from each other.”

“First of all I would like to thank you for this great opportunity you have provided us with. Show sympathy with your kids before you judge them.” 

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We ended the seminar with a raffle draw and a group picture. In that regard, I would like to thank all the attending moms and their great participation in the workshop. I would also like to acknowledge Dots and Links for their hospitality, vouchers, and support, Mrs Jewell for the informative guidance she bestowed to us, with whom we will be working on organizing more workshops in the future. Chateau de Sable, and Layan Emirates Gifts for the vouchers and gifts.
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You have all participated in making the event a unique one with its success.

 
I would love to hear your stories, the challenges you face, and concerns that worry you in order to work on preparing for Mrs. Jewell’s workshop in the near future.

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Back To School

We usually tend to re-evaluate our lives after every New Year by coming up with new resolutions in an aim of becoming a better person. After our trip to Italy, I learned new things about our children, and it hit me hard in realizing how fast they are growing. Since we had a somehow smooth communication with them, I wanted to maintain this peaceful attitude along the coming school year. I want to have them cherish the moments even if we are in our stressful early morning routine mixed with school work, homework, evaluations, and afterschool activities. When we as parents dread all of this, imagine the impact it has on our children. Like us, they need time and reassurance after those easy and relaxing kind of unorganized summer breaks.

That is why I have planned a new project for this year, and I am coming out with a practical summer resolution. I thought of sharing my ideas with you in the hope that it might be helpful for you too. I also hope this will create an opportunity for you to share your ideas so we can all help one another in having a splendid and relaxing school year.

Talk to you child:

I sat with the boys last week and asked each one of them how they feel about going back to school. I had them write down their worries and concerns. We had a short discussion about how we can manage these fears. For example, my eldest son said that he knew he had a lot of work to be done this year, and he might get bored.  While we talked, I maintained eye contact and encouraged him in finding ways on how he has to manage his work in order to overcome his uncertainties.

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Set the rules:

During our vacation, I realized that reasoning is the only way to have them involved in certain duties. I want them to learn to take the initiative of carrying their responsibilities on their own. That is why, I prepared a set of questions for them to answer, and from these answers we established a set of new rules, that if followed we can exhibit a peaceful house. I do believe that it will be helpful since they are the ones who came up with the answers; not forced or imposed.

I made sure that the questions were short and concise, so they do not get jaded with what we are doing. Here is what I asked them to answer:

  • List three to five changes you need to make to become a better person:
  • List three responsibilities you like to help mommy with at home:
  • How can you help the twins grow?
  • What school subjects you need to work on this year?
  • What is your goal for this year? You can choose three areas – Academics, Sports, Friends.

I had them type them down and added a few related pictures for them so they can be easily visualized.

Reading Time:

This year, unlike before, we agreed on setting a specific time for reading with their dad. They usually read before bed time or in the afternoons when there is no particular work to be done. Recent studies show the importance of having the dad involved for only ten minutes every night. I know it will not be easy for us with all five, but we are determined on having it work.

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Set the time:

This is an old method which we have used for a while and then by time we just got too busy to apply it. As children grow older, they are more aware of time and they can learn how to manage it if they get the chance to practice time management at an early age. It is a simple and an efficient method. For example, you can set the phone for 15 minutes of puzzle building. When the time ends, the child is free to choose to continue or to stop and have it finished the next day.

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Be Patient:

I have mentioned this before, but patience is the key for a successful parenting. It not only gives us the chance as parents to enjoy our children, but it also helps them mature beautifully, feel loved,  and most importantly feel secure. With all the patience I have, I admit that sometimes I just feel that I have had enough. Many are the times when I have the twins tugging on my pants and the boys arguing about some trivial issues, yet I know that this is all part of growing up. If we learn to calm this inner agitation, we will spread it over to them as well. Yelling does not lead to any positive result.

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Be Present:

No matter how busy I am, the minute one of my elder boys comes to talk to me or ask me to do something in specific I would leave whatever I have at hand and do it. I took this from my mom who has always been and still is a great shoulder to lean on. Most importantly is that you should do it with passion, and you should not feel annoyed to be interrupted as they are only little for a while.

One important matter I am working on is to completely remove my smart phone when I am around the children. We can easily get bound by its wicked magnetism, and I want to set the good example for them to follow later on.

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Set a schedule:

Unlike the previous years, this time I feel I need to have a typed schedule on the fridge. I do not know if it is a matter of age, or a matter of having five, or both, but I need to visualize my life. In the schedule, I have included the activities they have during the week and what they can do during their free time. I feel I need to have them learn to be organized or chaos will demolish us.

Express your feelings:

Hugging them and expressing my love towards them is the oxygen I strive on. I always show them how delighted and proud I am to have them in my life. At the same time, I explain how certain mischiefs make me unhappy, angry, and ask them to help me surmount them. I do apologize from my kids if I say something or talk to them in a mean way. I clarify that for us to have a calm house we need to understand our duties towards each other. I strongly believe that through communication we can deal with a lot of issues and raise mature problem solving citizens.

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Have fun:

Since we will be spending a lot of time in the car, I will continue to do what we did during the summer; loud music, sharing jokes, telling them short stories etcetera… After all, we build memories every day, and I want them to possess warm and special ones of their childhood.

When it comes to parenting there is no right or wrong method, but there are many tips which we can use and modify to fit into our routine. My grandmother always repeated a proverb that says, “Raising kids is like grinding on pebbles”.  What a painful simile, yet it is true. Raising children, specifically, in this day and time is one of the hardest occupations a parent can manage.

For this year’s “Back to School” and back to routine, I wish you and myself strength, patience, cheerfulness, success, and mostly gratitude. After all, we are fortunate with all the blessings we have been offered.

Maman, is Santa real?

As we approach the month of December, we all get into this magical feeling and live in a dreamlike state, counting on our hopes and wishes, dreaming of having them fulfilled. Grownups, like children, enjoy the celebrations, the Christmas shopping, the decoration, and the enchanting beauty of this month. We, as parents, get extremely excited and thrilled to provide our children with the best experience in meeting Father Christmas, or more known as Santa Claus! To our surprise, not all children get carried away with this myth, and keen questions are raised.

When my second son was not yet five years old, we were having a Christmas celebration with our friends just one week before Christmas. We agreed to have the children meet, decorate small Christmas trees, make their own gingerbread man cards, and sing some Christmas carols. At the end of course, we had someone dressed up as Santa and gave the children their gifts. It was a lovely afternoon and everybody enjoyed it.

That same evening, as I was tucking him in bed, with eyes wide open he asked me, “Maman, is Santa real…for real?”

I thought time has stopped for a while as I was thinking of the right answer to my son’s unexpected question. But at the same time, my mind was wondering why pose the question that early. Couldn’t he wait for a few more years just to live these wonderful sensations?

“What do you think?” I answered back.

Without hesitation, he replied, “I think he isn’t…Tell me, maman!”

His insistence about knowing the truth gave me no choice. I strongly believe that when a child asks about a certain topic no matter how embarrassing it is, I have to tell the truth. And so I briefly told him the real story of dear Santa Claus, and this is how it goes…

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“Long time ago, in a village called Patara, there lived a wealthy family who had a son named Nicholas, They died due to an epidemic that hit the area leaving little Nicholas with his faith that he should care for the poor and share all his belongings with them. He dedicated his life serving God, and used all his inheritance to assist the needy and the poor. He loved children and many stories were told about how he used to throw golden coins into the houses. Maybe by chance or on purpose many of those coins were found in children’s shoes – which is where the tradition of hanging stockings on the Christmas trees came from. His death in December became a day of celebration of Saint Nicholas who came to be known as the gift-giver due to his unlimited generosity for the people. He became the symbol of benevolence and contribution to people.

By time, people changed this simple gesture into marketing and took advantage of having people use this time to buy gifts. Soon it became related to Christmas, and people’s imagination grew wild. Then they created an imaginary toy factory in the North Pole where sleds, elves, and reindeers waited eagerly for Santa to ride the sleigh and spread joy, merriment, happiness, and love into the hearts of children. ”

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I tried my best not to include more details, as the topic is sensitive, but at the same time, I hoped I have satisfied my son’s shrewd curiosity.

“So, tell me,” I asked, “does it make sense to you now?”

He nodded thinking more seriously, “Then, why do parents lie to their children about Santa. Why can’t they tell them this story? I like it.”

That question took me off guard, but I also had to satisfy his thirst for knowledge without making any damage. So I simply stated that parents do not want to lie to their kids. Their main intention is to have them live a fantasy and magical moments that help in building their imagination. They only want their kids to be happy and enjoy such special moments. I added that now that he knew, he should keep this secret between the two of us, as we don’t want to spoil anyone’s belief about Santa. He agreed, but I knew that he will share it with his brothers.

I left my satisfied son in bed, feeling dizzy. My mind was full of so many open ended questions. Is what we are doing to our children good for them? Are we actually brainwashing ideas into their heads? Do we really need to invent stories about Santa, the tooth fairy, and the like to build their creativity? I never thought about it as “lying”, but children have a different way of thinking.

I know of a super dad who would arrange with his children a thoughtful surprise to Santa when he dropped by; a glass of water and a peeled clementine next to the Christmas tree. In their belief, the children knew that Santa would be tired, thirsty, and needs to rest for a while. That daddy would wake up very early in the morning, drink half of the glass and eat the clementine. His children adored the fact that they also shared something with Santa in return. That devoted dad followed this tradition every year for more than seven years.

On the other hand, I remembered my friend’s daughter who suffered a lot every time December came along. She was frightened that Santa might take her as a gift to a family who had no children. She suffered insomnia, insecurity, and cried her head off every time she saw a Santa. The only solution the mom had to do was to blurt out the truth in order to save her daughter from the terrifying imagination she has been submerged into.

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So what is the right thing to do? Did we actually ruin the magic of this tradition since we have abused it in many ways? For example, nowadays you can find multiple “Santas” at the same time in the same mall! Moreover, many of them do not look like the real image found in books and videos! What makes things worse, is that we actually force our children to take a picture with one of those “Santas” where they will be crying, while we are pleased, and on top of that we ask them to smile for the camera!!

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I honestly do not know, but I am aware that things are changing really fast every year. When I was around five years old, we used to have one Santa whom we were eager to meet, sit on his lap, assure the fact that we were really well behaved and have our gift.  It was simple, straight to the point, and magical. I do not feel it is the same with our children’s generation.

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Why can’t we truly teach them about the real lesson which Saint Nicholas has started with ages ago? Is our way of celebration showing them his magical side? His was all about giving unreservedly and wholeheartedly, and not about getting all the time more and more toys and stuff. That by itself is priceless.

Until this moment I do not know what the right thing to do is. So I continue to wonder and as my boys grow older, I continue to stress on the idea that we should persevere the belief in helping and thinking of others. My husband and I are in constant efforts in trying to make our children attain that magical sensation of brining joy and happiness to those who suffer in life and do not have the blessings that we enjoy. We try to explain that it does not have to be restricted to materialistic gifts. We want them to know, that like Santa, life can be wonderful, magical, and delightful when we decide to pursue that way of living and when we contribute to the needy with all our hearts. Yes, let them believe and have them merge the magnificent fantasy with the delightful reality.

With this merry season and joyous period, I pray for a peaceful future, and I hope our children will attain such an admirable aim.

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Pictures: pinterest and personal