My husband is a New Yorker whose theatergoing parents always planned their theater outings well in advance. He’s adopted this same long-range planning attitude, and that’s how we ended up with tickets to “the Harry Potter play” this past September. In a fit of jet-lag , he’d bought tickets the previous November during an airport layover en route to Abu Dhabi.
Using our airline miles, we flew to London in September, during the Eid holidays, to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. We took our children, of course, which meant that it wasn’t a vacation but a family trip. Although you might want to think that these are synonyms, they’re really not. If you’re on vacation, you’re never forced to whisper-yell at someone to put down his phone and pay attention when he’s going through security, or explain (for the umpteenth time) that we didn’t fly all the way to London just to hang out in the Jack Wills store.
Those of you with small children or infants might think that traveling with older children looks easy. Their gear tends to be smaller and there’s that whole “go to the bathroom on their own” thing, which is pretty great. But with a small child, there is always the chance that she will fall asleep in her stroller, a cracker crushed in her pudgy fist, and then you can proceed to stroll in the park, or walk through a gallery without much whinging. Older children whinge; they have opinions and needs.
Other people’s children whinge, that is. My family travels in an entirely whinge-free zone. No whinging here, nope, nothing to see here, move along.
Wrapped in our whinge-free bubble, we went off to the play, about which I can say nothing. I’m pretty much sworn to secrecy about the play’s magic, other than to say that all the effects were accomplished through stagecraft. There weren’t any digital effects or computer-aided sorcery, which in this day and age is rather a marvel, all by itself. The plot was… well, you may have already read the book (which is the script of the play), so you know the plot. It’s the standard Rowling combination of magic and family, with the emphasis on family.
There is one key plot point that sets the play apart: Harry Potter is forty. He works for the Ministry of Magic and has discovered, as so many of us do, that life as an adult isn’t as much fun as we thought it would be. Harry longs to continue dashing around in an invisibility cloak, but there are reports to write and files to go through—all the joys of adult work. He’s chafing a bit, is our Harry. Ron even jokes that Harry’s scar aches not because of any Voldemort-related reason but because of middle age. Everything aches a bit these days, he points out.
When the play starts, Harry and his family are standing on platform 9 ¾, and Harry’s elder sons, James and Albus, are bickering so violently that Harry whisper-yells at them to “behave!” Can I tell you how heartening it is to see that even Harry Potter’s children misbehave in public?
At its heart, the Harry Potter series is about a child wondering about his parents. The play flips the tables: now it’s a parent wondering about his children. Harry’s son Albus feels the weight of being the son of “the boy who lived” and, as is the case with most teenagers, Albus doesn’t always handle his feelings gracefully. Of course, as is the case with most parents, Harry doesn’t always handle his feelings gracefully, either.
In an effort to keep Albus safe, Harry imposes more and more rules, which have precisely the opposite effect. As I watched Harry struggle with Albus, I winced in recognition. Lately it seems that in my efforts to connect with my almost sixteen-year old son, I inevitably say the wrong thing at the wrong time and before you know it, one of us is yelling. (And of course, the fault is always mine. My son makes that abundantly clear.)
Harry’s questions remind me of my own: how do I keep my teenager safe and, at the same time, let him grow and develop in his own way, even if that means letting him take risks and (occasionally) be really quite an idiot? When my children were toddlers, I wished someone would invent a kind of bubble wrap suit that I could wrap around them to prevent bruising, and now that my children are older, I wish there were emotional bubble wrap that would prevent the inevitable heartache that comes with growing up. If only Jack Wills made such a thing.
As Harry and Albus slowly find their way back to one another after the emotional battles that wound them both, they learn to accept one another’s imperfections. The lesson of the Harry Potter play highlights the fact that we don’t need to be perfect to be loved—and therein lies the real magic.
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Deborah Quinn, Mannahattamamma of the UAE. Photo credit to the author.
With the exception of a six month stay in Canada, our family has lived in the exact same house from the time our eldest son turned one to today, almost ten years later. I often find myself wondering what kind of impact that will have on our children, since when I was a child my family moved from house to house several times, including one big move from the USA to Brazil.
I believe that for children, there are advantages and disadvantages both to moving around a lot and to staying put their entire childhood. Moving around – especially if these moves are to new cities or even countries – gives them new perspectives of the world. Staying put, in turn, gives them a sense of stability and security. (more…)
Where in the world do you live? And, are you from there?
Four months ago, we moved to Amman, Jordan. Originally from Canada, I have been moving around the globe for more than twenty years as my husband works for UNICEF.
What language(s) do you speak?
I speak English and French. Learning Arabic is a big goal for our time here.
When did you first become a mother?
We were a carefree couple in Uganda, Lesotho, and Bangladesh. In 2000, while living in Myanmar, Meghan joined our family. In 2005, while we were posted in India, Charlie arrived. Since then, we have lived in Mozambique and New York.
Is your work stay-at-home mom, other work at home, or do you work outside the home?
I am an educator and have been incredibly fortunate to have found rewarding jobs in international schools wherever we have been posted. Most recently, I was the Elementary School Principal at the United Nations International School in Manhattan.
Since arriving in Jordan, I have been a stay-at-home Mum. I’ve been busy exploring, photographing and learning about the incredible history of the region and the issues facing not only the Jordan population, but the incredible number of Syrian refugees currently residing in the country.
My commitment to raising children who believe in peace and feel responsible for creating a better world is at the core of everything I do.
Why do you blog/write?
I write to record and process this incredible journey we are on as a family. Time passes so incredibly quickly. Without recording it, it’s hard to remember the small moments and wonderings from each posting.
How would you say that you are different from other mothers?
Being a mother in this transient lifestyle means being the key cheerleader for our family. It means setting up and taking down a house with six weeks’ notice. It means creating close friendships, and then saying goodbye. All this, while telling myself that giving my children this incredible opportunity makes the goodbyes and new hellos worthwhile.
What do you view as the challenges of raising a child in today’s world?
Raising a child in this lifestyle has incredible challenges and rewards. The challenges include culture shock every single time–even when I think the move will be easy. It means coaching myself, in my dark moments, to be present and supportive to my children. I remind myself that they have not chosen to move, but are trusting me to show them the meaningfulness of the lifestyle we have committed to as a UNICEF family.
The upsides to this lifestyle are incredible: our children interact and learn about cultures, languages, food, and religions firsthand; they are developing tolerance and empathy through relationships with many types of different people and the travel; and, before age ten, they have seen more of the world than some people manage in a lifetime!
How did you find World Moms Blog?
I learned about World Moms Blog when I was searching for women leading similar lives, facing similar issues, and who possessed the same strong desire to create a better world for our children and our children’s children. I feel blessed to be a part of this incredible community.
[Editor’s Note: A warm welcome, Jackie! We look forward to reading your posts as you settle in to your new role!]
Photo credit: Jacqueline Jenkins
This is an exclusive, World Moms Blog interview with our new writer and mother of two in Jordan, Jacqueline Jenkins. Welcome!
In 2002, my international investment banking career in Singapore had left me drained. I needed to find the physical and mental freedom to return to my first passion, which was development work. I left my job and embarked on a solo backpacking journey, looking for peace and inspiration. By the time I circled around sub-Saharan Africa and ended in Lesotho, I found both. I have never looked back.
My very first impression of Lesotho came from the high peaks of the Drakensberg mountain range in the eastern part of the country, where the autumn air was cool and crisp. Dirt roads wound through small villages dotted with tradition rondavels made of stones or mud, with thick thatched roofs. The vast mountain plains opened up into a broad blue sky and brilliant, high-altitude sunshine. Our hiking trail climbed up rocky table mountain tops and down into freezing cold streams that cut through house-sized boulders, groves of thirsty willows, and into caves of prehistoric paintings. Lesotho, tucked completely within the walls of South Africa, seemed an ideal natural treasure to me.
Fast forward thirteen years. After living in Vientiane, Laos, for two years, last November, I arrived back in Lesotho. This time, I had a family in tow. My husband is in the U.S. Foreign Service. The rhythm of our family life consists of an international move every two to three years, with trips back to the States for home visits and language training in between.
Where I once turned to travel to help me change my life, what I now seek at each new destination is stability and conetinuity for my family.
After 22 hours of travel, we arrived in the capital city of Maseru, which is situated in the hilly western lowlands. The air is again cool and crisp, although now it is springtime. The backyard of our new house is full of bright yellow birds, endlessly flitting back and forth to complete their work. The males are busy constructing round grassy nests, which dangle festively in our trees. If a female doesn’t accept the nest, the male bird tears the entire thing apart and starts all over again. The kids and I have named one “Butternut”, and we admire his tireless work everyday.
Maseru is a small city with a growing suburban sprawl. There are barely 300,000 people in the entire urban area. The buildings are low, the traffic flows, and only a couple of noteworthy malls have popped up within the past two years. “First impressions” this time around are mainly focused on the business of getting on with life for our family–new school, new friends, new job, new supermarkets, getting the internet set up, figuring out a car, and obtaining household help. Luckily, it’s been quite easy to get everything that we need. As far as Western-style life needs go, there are plenty of products here that are brought in from South Africa and beyond.
With our basic needs met, we’ve been exploring beyond the city. I still find Mother Nature calling at every turn. Within Lesotho, you can go hiking just about anywhere. Cross a bridge and stop to hike down to explore up the river. Head up a hill to find herdsmen tending livestock. When it rains, we hike in the mud (the kids’ favorite). When it’s hot, we cool down in streams and waterfalls. The nearby children find us no matter where we go; the adults are not engaging but very courteous. Fortunately, the personal safety issues prevalent in most of South Africa are not as concerning in Lesotho yet, and most of the expats we’ve met are comfortable exploring the countryside.
After the scant two-and-a-half months that we’ve been here, we are already feeling more settled. And while we all miss what we’ve left behind in our “old” life in Laos . . . and Mexico. . . and the U.S. . . ., we begin anew to embrace what we have and to anticipate what gifts our new country holds.
Is there a change in your life that you’ve made or would like to make? What have you left or would like to leave behind, and what have you found or hope to find?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by our mother of twins writer, Dee Harlow, currently living in Lesotho. You can also find her on her blog Wanderlustress.
Photo credit attributed to Damien du Toit. This photo has a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-ShareAlike license.
From the window, I can hear high-pitched giggles and the sound of wellington boots on garden path gravel.
My daughter is next door with her new neighbor friend, pretending that the garden shed is an animal rescue center and the backyard chickens are actually wild monkeys. My son is bouncing on a trampoline with the friend’s big sister and I can see their carefree bodies flying above the wheat fields, in the shadow of the village church.
It’s past their usual school-night bedtime, but the sun is still high and we’ve stopped keeping track of these things anyway. Evidence of the day’s activities is scattered on the grass: badminton birdies, a rainbow of half-finished loom band bracelets, a decorated cardboard lean-to and sticky signs of an earlier snail race.
Both kids return with dirty feet and ice cream on their faces and I’m pretty sure they forgot to wash their hands after petting the donkey across the road. But it’s okay. It’s the summer holidays in rural England and it feels like the stuff childhood is made of. The only catch is that it’s not where we live…
Life is a series of trade-offs.
Back in Jakarta, we’re on our way to school and my children want to know why we don’t live in England. “Well…because we live here”, I respond simply, feeling a sharp pang of guilt. I go on to explain that day-to-day life in England would probably be different than the idyllic summer version. For example, instead of playing all day, they would have to go to school and soon the long sunny days would turn cold and wet. “That’s okay!” they chirp, happily unconvinced.
Luckily the conversation shifts and together we watch the city float past our car window. The daily mosaic of life here is colorful, chaotic and always fascinating. We read shop signs, point out our favorite kaki lima food carts and compete to find the most interesting motorcycle cargo…from pallets of baby chicks to enormous balloon bundles.
We talk about their new school classes and where all the children are from, realizing that there are nearly as many nationalities as students. We think about where we might like to travel for their half-term break and marvel at how lucky we are to be so close to so many amazing destinations.
Life is a series of trade-offs.
Sometimes, I feel sad about the fact that our children are growing up so far away from their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. But then I am also reminded that since our family is both British and American, we will always be far from someone we love regardless of where we live. We do the best we can to stay connected and are grateful for the precious time we get to spend together.
Occasionally, I see photos of my friends’ frolicking children and feel a twinge of regret that my own kids are missing out on the places and experiences I enjoyed as a child growing up in the US.
But then I examine my own assumptions…does their childhood need to resemble my own for it to be good? Of course not. My children may not learn to ski anytime soon, but they are seeing and doing so much more than I ever dreamed of at their age.
Life is a series of trade-offs.
I tell myself that we are lucky to enjoy the best of both worlds. But in reality, we can’t have it both ways.
This is the path we’ve chosen and there are limitations as well as benefits. Accepting these trade-offs brings a certain kind of relief and shifts the focus — emphasizing what we have instead of what we’re missing.
It’s a process, but I’m getting there.
How do you and your family balance life’s trade-offs?
This is an original post for World Moms Blog by Shaula Bellour.
Photo Credit: ClairOverThere. This image holds a Flickr Creative Commons attribution license.
Not too long ago, my four-year-old started understanding the concept of fairness vs. unfairness. To him, life is unfair, oh so many times ,during the day. To me, the fact that he can express his frustration over a denied chocolate treat before dinner or being sent back to sleep in his room when he tries to sneak into mom and dad’s bed, is just another sign of my toddler becoming a big boy.
Evan has not only learned to voice his frustration but has become a strong little boy with convictions. He will call my husband and I out on our mistakes and let us know how he believes what we are doing is not fair and shouldn’t be done. Sometimes I just chuckle, but sometimes my heart just skips a beat. For Evan, unfairness is represented by tangible things he cannot have or those few extra minutes in front of the TV that he wasn’t allowed. I feel so blessed that, so far, this is all the unfairness he has had to face. (more…)