It’s Not About Perfect
Most mornings start the same in our apartment in West Amman. At six a.m., I fetch Omar’s undergarments and school uniform. In the kitchen, I spread paprika-seasoned hummus onto toasted German bread and top it with tomato slices.
“Guten Morgen. Hast du gut geschlafen?” I wake up Omar who's unresponsive and there begins the rush of seeing him out the door in time to catch the bus to school.
It’s seven a.m. and Shareef has begun his morning ritual of wiggles and mumblings. “Five more minutes, habiby,” I murmur as I dry the last few dishes. At the start of “mama mama mama,” I spring to his call.
“Sabah al-khair Shareefo!” I greet him beaming. I know he needs to be changed and fed. A swarm of work emails need to be addressed. But this moment, with Shareef hanging on to me so tightly, is fleeting. With his little hands caressing my hair and hazelnut brown eyes gazing into mine, I can almost hear him say, “Mama, you are the world to me.”
It doesn’t matter to him whether I’m slender, smart, tidy or rich. He loves me just the way I am. Omar is a different story. At seven years old, he would rather watch Ninjago than read a story with me. This is the fate of most parents. Those morning smiles have all but vanished and, while he still hugs me goodnight, it’s usually prompted by his father’s insistence. With Omar, I rushed through those precious morning rituals to make sure I got to work on time. With Shareef, the world can just wait for a few minutes.
Shareef likes to take his time eating his breakfast, so between spoonfuls of oatmeal, he listens with fascination and amusement to my off-key singing of his favourite tunes, like ‘Baba wa Mama bihabuni…’. I try to savour this precious moment with him, but my to-do list starts to creep in. I have a dozen emails to write and just as many articles to edit. There’s housework. I have to give Shareef a bath, cut his nails and make his food (it’s mujadara today). Then there’s getting myself ready before we head out for errands – taking a shower and exercising are huge achievements for a work-at-home mother!
With my yellow mat out and blue dumbbells in hand, I’m set to sweat to Jillian Michaels, my kick-butt personal DVD trainer.
I was a chubby kid who would sacrifice fun with friends and classmates to avoid being seen in a bathing suit and I never wore shorts. I don’t think I ever owned a pair.
Just when I’m about to fold on that last core move and cave in to the inner voice that says, “You’re not worth it,” Jillian speaks to me through my television screen. “It's not about perfect,” she says. “It's about effort. And when you bring that effort every single day, that's where transformation happens. That's how change occurs.”
The bus beeps, announcing Omar’s return from school. “How was your day?” I ask. “Fine.” “What did you do today?” I prompt. “Nothing,” he says. Between feeding the boys, getting Omar changed and sitting him down for homework, I try to think of other ways to ask the same question. “So, Omar, was Ms. Jackson happy or sad today?” I ask. This elicits a more specific response, if just as short. Of all the obscure courses I took during my undergraduate and graduate studies, Parenting 101 was not among them. I sure could use it now.
With the kids tucked in bed, I unwind over back-to-back episodes of my favourite television shows. I’m supposed to be working: I should be editing articles, coordinating with writers and experts and planning future editions. When I reach for the fridge to get milk for my late-night coffee fix, the blank magnetic notepad stares me in the face. The laundry needs folding. But all of it can wait.
After all, it’s not about perfect.