Hag Sameach Happy Hanukkah from Casablanca!

My daughter was the queen of Kabalat Shabbat at school yesterday which meant we brought kosher doughnuts and drinks for her class to make the kiddush and brought a friend to sing to the class with her harp. Everyone afterwards lighting the large classroom hanukia.

I was so excited for her that in the cab ride to school beforehand with my arms full of doughnuts and gifts for the kids I thought: This must be what is feels like before a huge life event like a marriage or a wedding proposal when you hope all goes well and you are overwhelmed with excitement and joy.

I felt nervous and anxious and excited and giddy and thrilled all in one. As soon as I saw my daughter all was forgotten and it was just pure joy and silliness.

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Hag Sameach Happy Hanukkah from Casablanca!

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It’s common to hear of children that are different from the others being bullied. It happens everyday all over the world even at the kindergarden school where my girl goes to these days.

She came home a month ago to tell me that there were lots of kids that refused to play with her at school. I asked her why. She said she didn’t know why but they all said she wasn’t their friend.

This same story was echoed by all my friends who were outsiders from the USA or Israel or Canada. Their children were picked on or bullied or shunned because they were different.

My daughter had been going to a Muslim/Mixed pre-school and never had a problem with bullying. She even had a boyfriend there who she mentions still often to tease me. She laughs as I start my rant about needing to learn how to prioritize what is important in life…marriage not being one of them. She laughs as her objective is to tease me.

Since moving to one of the two Jewish schools in Casablanca, her class size has shrunk from 20 students to 8 students. This is because the Jewish community is around 2000 with the majority being outside in Israel or France.

The community is small, marginalized in the country, fearful and afraid due to discrimination and threats of violence. Because of this, kids as well as their adult parents are a bit fearful and judgmental to outsiders. I understand why so when my daughter came home with problems with her fellow students, I explained that she doesn’t have to be friends with everyone, she can choose her friends and that some people aren’t as open as her and to not take it personally and gave her some tools of how to respond and react. She immediately took and utilized my advice and become stronger and forged friendships by ignoring others reactions and fears.

Through her experience I have asked myself what makes some kids bullies and others compassionate and sensitive and I don’t frankly know the answer completely.

I never bullied as a child as I also managed to never get bullied. I had a mind of my own from a young age and had compassion for others perhaps because I saw a lot of sadness.

My daughter’s father who went to the same school as my girl used to get bullied and when he became bigger took it upon himself to protect everyone else.

Another ex who I would describe as an emotional man plagued with narcasism today was a bully in his youth. Even though we shouldn’t judge others for childhood mistakes, I did judge him, thinking that anyone who beat or bullied others in order to fit in must have something fundamentally wrong with them because the idea of bullying anyone disturbed me.

I hope more research comes out in the future to explain what happens to bullies in later life but plenty of research has been done about those who have been bullied, and it’s effects are long lasting and devastating and as a parent it is worrisome.

Childhood, children, Courage, Inspiration, Life, reflections, Stories, Uncategorized

My Little Girl’s Ability To Send Me Some Truth

My daughter placed her head on my heart tonight as we lay in our pj’s getting ready to fall sleep.

She looked into my eyes listening intently.

Shiyara interrupted my day dream to say, “Its not tired.”

“What’s not tired honey?”

“Your heart is not tired mommy. It’s making music so fast.”

There are so many things we forget as we grow up. We think we have all the answers because we have seen it all before and sometimes lived too much and are jaded. We feel we can’t learn anything new, but another person’s view on life like that of a child can change the way we think.

I do get tired and sometimes I think I can’t do all the things I should. I both underestimate myself and then judge myself but my daughter’s words tonight made me realize a profound truth that I had forgotten.

Whether sleeping or in stress, despite judging myself or thinking I am incapable, despite all the false narratives I have written about myself….the truth is my heart is never tired. It can take it all. The only thing I need to do is remember.

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Growing Up Wishes From My Five Year Old

This Monday my girl lost her second tooth and got her ears pierced again for the 4th time.

Her father kept taking her earrings out if she spent a few days at his house. Since there are no longer any sleepovers I decided we could safely pierce again without having to undergo another ordeal.

I took her to choose her own gold earrings from Italy. Shiyara picked the hearts with arrows through them. She proudly brought them out tonight to show the girls who were at home with me.

She brought her jewelry box and open the little red box showing them off like she was also their age and they might want to wear them too. “Aren’t they beautiful!” She announced to them. They were giggling with delight at her boldness.  “So beautiful!” They replied. She closed the box and came back to charm and impress them some more showing them kaftan books and wanting to talk about the Jewish people and Hanukkah as well as her fabulous day spent at the Rabbis’ house (who told me today he considers us family to my beaming smile).

As the girls said goodbye Shiyara did something she has never done before and I have never done or ever asked her to do. It was all her pure sweetness and courage. She said, “Sara I am going to pray for you and your trip.” She closed her eyes and said in a whisper a few words about protection and life and safety for the girls and added a few wishes in for me and her too. It was all quite adorable. I was amazed at her.

She added at the end, “And make mommy pregnant.”

I said, “What!”

We all started laughing as I said, “Don’t ask for that!!!” She was hysterically laughing. I love her. I wish I could be her big sister sometimes. We have so much fun. Even though I was shocked I know I will have a little boy or girl sooner or later even if it will be hard on me because she needs a partner in life. In this new world, we need family and husbands and wives are not as important as they used to be. Our partners and friends really are our siblings. I don’t know what I would have done without my 6 sisters and brother. Life wouldn’t have been as great.

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”Everyone knows

How to raise a child

But no one knows

How to raise a father.” – Stromae

Today after filming my news reports on the rooftops over Casablanca I came home to get ready to go for a birthday party with Shiyara as Wednesday afternoons are school free in the French system here in Morocco.

My camera operator is a long time friend and I felt comfortable filming intimate moments at home with him as he practically lives with us.

As we filmed I finally addressed in our conversation something my daughter asked me about a month ago as we returned from a different birthday party in the taxi. I wasn’t ready to respond at the time. It caught me off guard. All I could do was hug her. This time I wanted to unpack it for my daughter who isn’t yet old enough to express all of her feelings and thoughts in words.

She said, “I want Papa to be your wife. I want you to be the way you were before. Can daddy come here and live with us and my brother too.”

She wanted things the way they were in her imagination and it’s partly due to things I have said as I have tried to keep the past in the most positive light as possible: “Your papa is a good man.” “Your father would do anything to help us live and pay the rent and put food on the table.” “He was a fighter for us. He protected us.” “The best thing I ever did was become your mom and it still remains the happiest time in my life.”

She walked me over to the photo in my hallway of me pregnant smiling at the cameras with henna on my hands next to her father.

“I want things the way they were.” She says, “And I want you to get married for real this time and have someone take your picture at the party.”

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She had tears rolling down her cheeks. She didn’t have to tell me how she felt. I could see.

I know my daughter so I took the time to tell her I wasn’t punishing her, nothing that she felt was wrong. I told her something also that I wish someone had told me when I was young: “Honey your father and I are adults. We are fine and we don’t need anyone to worry about us. You are our daughter. You are precious. It’s our duty to care for you, not you for us.”

I walked the line of disclosure like a tightrope.  I can’t tell her about domestic violence that was at home when she was a baby. I can’t tell her about the PTSD her father and I struggle with from traumatic childhoods. I have never told her that he is by definition a deadbeat dad. I take both of our responsibilities.

I didn’t want to burst her fantasy but I had to explain a bit. So slowly I said to her, so carefully, as if any word I said could make us fall in under cracked ice and take us both down: “You know…Shiyara…things back then weren’t always so great like you think. You know my love…sometimes….me and your father fought too. You have to trust me honey it’s better for all of us.”

According to the American Census Bureau, 43 percent of children in the US grow up without their biological father in the home and Morocco, it’s about the same.

I took the opportunity to try to teach my daughter the art of gratitude which will serve her well in life.

“If it wasn’t for this new life your father has we wouldn’t have your brother. You love him, he’s your friend. We have to thank g-d for everything we have in life. Life is full of surprises honey. You don’t know what life will give you. It’s a surprise. Maybe you will have a baby brother or sister in the future! Maybe there is a wedding in the future. We don’t know. Life is a surprise we have to be grateful always and see the good.”

“What will happen?” She asked curiously.

“I don’t even know but if someone were to tell you it wouldn’t be a surprise!” as I said this I reached out to tickle her. She screeched and laughed loudly a happiness from her belly to counter the tears from before. There was a magical explosion of joy that evacuated the pain.

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