Thursday, October 26, 2006

Growing Pains

When my elder son and daughter approached their teens I got my daughter this book: Ready, Set, Grow!: A What's Happening to My Body? Book for Younger Girls , and this book for my son: What's Going on Down There: Answers to Questions Boys Find Hard to Ask . I truly thought this is the logical thing to do since they are growing up and I am positive they have many question and doubts about what is going on in their bodies. I did not want them to get their information from unreliable sources and I wanted an entry point to discuss these issues with them.

I’ve put a great effort into choosing the right books. I ordered many, but decided to give them just these two books. I looked for books with simple and basic information, simple language, cartoon and not so graphical illustrations and scientific rather than social approach to sex education. The latter condition was because many books are American based and address the issue from the angle of “have sex but make it safe”. I thought it was too early to get into this discussion and too complicated to draw the cultural distinctions.

I was amazed by the angry calls and discussions I got from the mothers of my kids’ friends. They thought it was “inappropriate” to introduce children to such information. Some feared that this will “mess up” their kids’ heads. Others thought it was too soon to “open their eyes” to such issues. Others cautioned me against raising my children with such “Western” and “free” environment.

Was I wrong? I really don’t think so. I believe that these books or something similar should have been part of their school curriculum. It should not be left to the parents’ initiative and/or preference. Children should have sources for scientific and practical information about their sexual development. They should be able to turn to their parents and teachers as the primary reference for such information. Otherwise their alternatives are the hearsay, media, their imagination and most dangerous, the “bad” boys and girls in school! How can that be healthy or safe to our kids?

One of the mothers told me “sex is a private matter, should not be open for public discussion”! But so is going to the bathroom (sorry). Yet, they taught us in school all about the intestines and the digestive system. The children, at an early age know hygiene requirements. They can easily tell if they have urinary infection, constipation or diarrhea (very sorry). Do they have the same solid information about their reproductive system?

Lack of sex education at an early stage is the root cause to many of the problems adults face. By the time a young men or women are ready for marriage their heads are filled with superstitions, baseless anecdotes, myths, and unrealistic expectations. This contributes to many medical, psychological and social problems like infertility, impotence, sexual and gender identity disorders, domestic violence, divorce, infidelity .. and many others.

A mother told me that they will learn about all that in the Islamic Studies class. I don’t know about the current Islamic Studies curriculum, but the one I took had nothing of substance. I remember reciting the words (الجماع ، الاحتلام ، الحيض) and getting full grades in the tests without knowing what they meant. One time I asked my teacher about what (حيض) period meant. And she laughed and said “you’ll know when it comes to you” !!! Can you imagine the horror? Waiting for it to come!

Another told me: “when they are old enough they will ask us or find answers in books or the internet”!!! When is “old enough”? Which child in his/her right mind will come and ask their parents? How do we guarantee that the books, or even worse the internet sites, they seek will have the right information? What about the damage done till then?

My Question: What do you think about sexual education as a solid part of formal school education? What age/ grade school most appropriate?

Saturday, October 21, 2006

عيدكم مبارك

عيدكم مبارك .. ودامت أفراحكم

See you all after Eid .. Till then ...


Don't feed the Elephant ?

Make the best of what life throws you ;)

Manage your emotions !!

Finally, take care of your valuables !

A Kuwaiti parks his brand new Porsche in front of the office to show it off to his colleagues. As he's getting out of the car, a truck comes speeding along too close to the kerb and takes off the door before speeding off.

More than a little distraught, the Kuwaiti grabs his mobile dials 777 and calls the police. Five minutes later, the police arrive. Before the policeman has a
chance to ask any questions, the Kuwaiti as usual starts screaming hysterically:

"My Porsche, my beautiful black Porsche is ruined. No matter how
long it takes at the panel beaters, it'll simply never be the same again!

After the Kuwaiti finally finishes his rant, the policeman shakes his head in disgust: "I can't believe how materialistic you bloody Kuwaiti's are. You lot are so focused on your possessions that you don't notice anything else in your life."

"How can you say such a thing at a time like this? ", snaps the Kuwaiti.

The policeman replies, "Didn't you realise that your right arm was torn off when the truck hit you ?!!".

The Kuwaiti looks down in absolute horror "F***ING HELL!" he screams ................... "Where's my Rolex ???? "

عيدكم مبارك ،، وعساكم من عواده .. تهقون هالسنة بنسمع العيد هل هلاله بعد؟

Thursday, October 19, 2006

What’s Love Got to Do with It?

I apologize in advance for anyone seeking answers in this post. I have more questions than answers here because this is an area where I realize how little I know about with each day I grow.

What is love? When do you know you are in love? Are there different kinds of love? Different degrees? Domains?

Some researchers see love as a civilized cover up to our mate selection instinctive routine. We “love” those who will help us create and maintain healthy and strong offspring. So we subconsciously seek a spouse who will provide good genes to our children and/or will provide to keep them healthy. This crosses my mind whenever I hear someone saying: “I love him! He’s from such a good family and has a great future”. Or when someone says: “She’s the love of my life! She is the best mother I could choose for my future kids”.

But what about the cases when we fall in love with the wrong person; genetically, socially, and all other measures! Can it be a malfunction in our instincts? Or is it forces other than survival and propagation? What about lust? How do we distinguish love from lust? What percentage of love is sexual attraction? Can you love someone that you are not attracted to physically? Doesn’t that explain why most hot and steamy love stories die after 6 months of marriage? Why some guys suddenly fall out of love once they get their way with the girlfriend?

Most challenging to me is that question of whether there are different kinds of love? How your love to your spouse is different than your love to your parents? Your children? You friends? And here I don’t mean the deference in expressing your love. Because for sure (or at least I hope) we express our romantic love differently than our parental love. My question is: as an emotion, how is it different on the hormones and neurotransmitters levels? Is it?

Let’s say you have two good friends of the opposite sex and you claim that you love one of them as a friend and the other romantically. What does that really mean? How is the feeling different? Is it the sexual component? Or something else? Or is it just the degree of love? You love one of them more than the other? If so, what about the third one that comes along and you love her/him even more?

Put differently, if someone asks you: who do you love more your mother or your spouse? Would you love one more than the other, both just the same or will it be comparing apples to oranges? If the latter, how?

Finally, how do we fall out of love? Do we stop loving? Stop caring? Hate? Lose interest? What does the cliché “I love you but not in love with you“ mean?

Your input is highly appreciated ;)

Monday, October 16, 2006

Know Your Patterns

Patterns are nature’s way of preserving itself. It is a survival mechanism. As humans and as a natural organism, we have the same tendency. Patterns of behaviors are efficient and effective mechanism to deal with the vast variety of stimuli and changes in our environments.

Some patterns become so fundamental that they become part of our blue prints and genetic make up. They are what we call reflexes. We see a snake and we automatically identify danger and act (fight, flee or freeze).

Some other patterns are less automatic and are developed personally and based on our life experiences, upbringing and culture.

To most Muslims, for example, the sight of ham is repulsive and will initiate some form of negative action. Yet for other cultures this might be an enjoyable or neutral trigger.

Not all patterns are positive and they do not remain functional forever. To maintain efficient behavior and to evolve we need to keep examining our patterns.

Dysfunctional patterns need to be changed or eliminated.

Human patterns come in different combinations of Feel, Think and Act – not necessarily in order. I feel threatened, I think I should retaliate then I hit. Or I might think I should save my fragile self and I simply accept what is being forced on my. The choice of action may vary according to the situation or the environment, but if I have a strong pattern it will prevail most of the time.

Sometimes one of the Feel, Think, Act elements is absent or unconscious or reflexive. I meet a person of a certain race and I feel scared. I see an Arab and think “terrorist” ;) I feel depressed and I eat chocolate. I exercise and I feel good .. etc. This is typically how compulsive behavior, stereotypes and biases develop.

Not all stereotypes are negative. I meet Egyptian and I think “funny”, a Bahraini and think “kind”, and Italian and think “mafia” :) and many other typical or personal stereotypes.

A healthy regular exercise is identifying your patterns and assessing their functionality. As a personal example, as a mother, whenever I think my child needs me, I feel responsible and I step in, take over and do things for them. When reviewing this pattern I realized this is not an efficeint pattern. I am creating dependent kids and limited creativity. So now, every time I think they need help, I have to remind myself to step a way and let them handle the situation on their own. I wait for them to ask for help and even then I resist taking over and only give hints and guidance.

My Question: What is a pattern you have and wish to change?

Friday, October 13, 2006

أين هن؟

بعد متابعة بسيطة لمحتوى بعض المدونات والمواضيع المطروحة لاحظت انخفاض واضح في مشاركة الآنسات والسيدات في المواضيع السياسية. وفي كثير من المناسبات رأيت ان المدونات أو الزائرات المستمرات لبعض المواقع يشاركن بحماس في المواضيع الاجتماعية والأدبية والفكاهية ويختفين عندما تطرح مواضيع سياسية وبالأخص السياسية العالمية أو غير المحلية

لا يمكنني أن أتأكد من دقة هذه الملاحظة ولا من الأسباب وراء ذلك - ان كانت تلك ظاهرة فعلية. لذا فانني أطرح هذا الموضوع للنقاش لأتعرف على آرائكم وتحليلاتكم. ولكن بافتراض ان الملاحظة صحيحة فان اسباب عزوف الشباب بشكل عام والنساء بشكل خاص عن النقاش السياسي قد تعود لأحد هذين السببين أو كلاهما- الأول: عدم الاكتراث أو الاهتمام بما يحدث في السياسة المحلية أو خارج أسوار الكويت ، الثاني: الشعور بنقص الخبر في هذه المجالات وبالتالي الاكتفاء بالقراءة دون محاولة الدخول في النقاش

قد يكون العمل السياسي المنظم والعلني جديد على الساحة الكويتية بشكل عام وقد تكون مشاركة المرأة ما زالت مقتصرة على "العلاقات العامة" وجذب أصوات النساء. ولكن الوضع سيتغير جذريا مع الانتخابات البرلمانية القادمة. فالقوى والتنظيمات السياسية ستعمل على تعديل برامجها السياسية لتخدم قضايا المرأة كل حسب رؤيته. ولنجاح هذه البرامج لابد أن يكون للمرأة دور في اتخاذ القرار داخل هذه التنظيمات والقوى السياسية. كيف سيمكن للمرأة اتخاذ قرارت بهذه الأهمية دون الخبرة والمعرفة المطلوبة؟

ثم ياتي الدور الأكبر والمطلوب من الكل، وهو انتخاب من يمثل طموحاتنا وآمالنا لوطننا ومستقبل ابناءنا ليمثلنا في مجلس الأمة. ولننتخب الممثل المناسب يجب أن نملك المهارات اللازمة للقياس والاختبار واتخاذ القرار. فالكلام دوما جميل ولكن المهم هو قدرة المرشحين والمرشحات على تطبيق برامجهم والصمود أمام المغريات والضغوط. فكيف يمكننا قياس ذلك دون قراءة فاحصة لبرامج المرشحين وسيرهم الذاتية؟ كيف سنتمكن من مناقشة ومواجهة المرشحين والمرشحات وأنصارهم بالحجة والمنطق اذا لم نملك الأدوات المناسبة؟

ويحصر الكثيرون من الشباب والشابات اهتماماتهم السياسية في الساحة المحلية ، وهذا خطر أيضا في رأيي لأنه يشكل رؤية قاصرة حتى للقضايا الداخلية. فكيف يمكن نقاش الاقتصاد الكويتي دون الدخول فيما يحدث في الاقتصاد العالمي والاتفاقيات الدولية التي تدخل فيها الكويت أو تؤثر فيها؟ كيف ندرس قوة أو ضعف القوى السياسية دون دراسة امتداداتها التاريخية والجغرافية في العالم العربي؟ كيف نضمن أمننا واستقرارنا بمعزل عن أمن واستقرار دول الجوار؟ النظر بزاوية ضيقة لواقع السياسية المحلية سيعطي حلولا ناقصة وقصيرة الأمد وبرامج هشة ستسقط عند أول اختبار قومي أو عالمي

أما عدم الاكتراث فهو أخطر وخصوصا في صفوف الشباب. فكل قضايا الشباب بلا استثناء لها جذور أو أوجه سياسية: الرياضة ، الفن ، الأدب ، حرية الرأي والتعبير ، التعليم ، الصحة ، البطالة ، المخدرات .. الخ. فكيف يمكن نقاش أو الاستمرار في نقاش أي من هذه المواضيع دون الاهتمام بالسياسة؟ مثال بسيط وواضح: ماذا لو قررت الدولة وضع شروط أو رقابة مسبقة على المدونات؟ حتى تلك التي تقتصر على المواضيع الأدبية والفكاهية (من منطلق المساواة في الظلم عدالة) كيف سيتم فهم هذا القرار؟ كيف سيتم التعامل معه؟ من سيساند من؟ ما هي أدوات ومنافذ الضغط والتغيير؟ كل تلك قضايا سياسية بحته لا يمكن الدخول فيها دون فهم واضح للعديد من الأمور السياسية الأخرى
قد تكون السياسة معقدة وغير واضحة وهذا مزعج حتى للعاملين فيها. ولكن ليس من المطلوب ان نكون خبراء سياسيين وانما ان نهتم ونقرأ ونسأل. ما الذي يمنع أن أقول "عفوا شباب .. الموضوع شكله حلو بس ما عندي أي خلفية عنه. ممكن أحد يشرح لي من الأول شنو صار؟ والا شنو المشكلة؟" .. سؤال بسيط ولكن قد يفتح ابواب كثيرة قد تكون غائبة عنا

سؤالي: ما الذي يجذبك؟ وما الذي يكرهك بالسياسية؟ و كيف تؤثر الأحداث السياسية المحلية والاقليمية العالمية على حياتك اليومية؟

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The way we were ..

You know you’re old when you begin recognizing the names in the obituaries and when your friends become grandparents!

People deal with aging differently. Some are in complete denial; refusing to acknowledge their limitations (physical or mental) and pushing their bodies beyond their capacity. Others are in a continuous struggle with aging. They spend most of their time trying to hide their wrinkles and gray hair. Very few embrace their natural growth and enjoy all its colors.

For as long as I can remember I always wanted to be older than my true age. I was never happy with who I was at any stage of my life. Age was always associated with maturity in my mind. And I never felt I’m mature enough. I only found peace with myself when I reached 40. I think this was when I really began enjoying life instead of fighting it; celebrating who I am instead of struggling with shortcomings.

This is not to say that I matured :p But I realized that maturing is a process and not a destination. And it definitely has nothing to do with age!

When I reached 40 I realized that I lost valuable time complaining and fussing about all what is wrong in the world. Now that my time is much shorter, I spend more time looking for successes, celebrating achievements and seeking bright spots. I think some may consider me silly or not as “serious” as people my age should be .. but I really don’t care what they think. Life is too short :)

That is not to say that I am careless or selfish. But I learned to give everything in life its share of attention and energy. I also learned to set priorities in my life and to keep these priorities in check. Last but not least, I came to peace with the fact that I will never have the answer for anything!

You only hurt yourself when you're not expanding and growing. Many people can't stand the thought of aging, but it's the crystallized thought patterns and inflexible mind-sets that age people before their time. You can break through and challenge your crystallized patterns and mind-sets. That's what evolution and the expansion of love are really about. ~ Sara Paddison, The Hidden Power of the Heart ~

My Question: As the young and beautify people of today, what do you recognize of your judgments, biases, shame, or fears of aging?

Friday, October 06, 2006

Who are You?!

While reading Kila Ma6goog’s blog the other day, I was thinking how wonderful it is to see young Kuwaiti men and women engage in civilized and sophisticated discussions. I hate going to the malls and the beaches because of the types of young Kuwaitis I see there; superficial, shallow and aimless. It also seems that the only time a girl and a boy get together is in a cheesy date or an undercover flirting.

I am sure the blogger society is not a representative sample of the Kuwaiti youth. But I think that even some bloggers may not be as open or as deep in other settings (e.g. Diwaniay or dates) --- Please note I’m not generalizing ;)

I think one of the reasons of better communication and mutual respect within bloggers is that participants have enough anonymity that they can put down their masks and show their real selves. When we genuinely present ourselves, is when we're most effective in our communication.

A mask or “persona” is the front we present to others. It’s what we want people to see. Our choice of masks is a product of our personality, self-esteem and self-confidence but mostly of external factors like culture, norms and sometimes regulations.

We all wear masks. They are important to protect out egos and might help us survive in some settings or environments. A typical example is the difference between our personalities in the workplace and in our homes; with our parents and with our best friends, in familiar settings and in new or strange settings. For example, I tend to wear the mask of the Super Mom who can handle anything and never afraid of anything even when I'm terrified deep inside. I wear a happy and cheerful mask when I’m in social settings even though I prefer being at home with me kids, pets and books .. etc.

The problem is when we wear a mask for so long that we forget who we are. Or when our masks backfire and distort our images and our relationships. Sometimes people wear so many masks that they lose identity and credibility.

We are at peace when we can be ourselves and do not need to use masks to be accepted or loved. That is why we take off our masks in “safe” settings; such as in the company of our friends, spouses ..etc or in a setting that guarantees our anonymity or privacy.

The worst are the masks that are forced on us! When we pretend to be something we are not because this is what others demand. When guys gather in a Diwaniya and the general mood is to be silly and shallow, then even intelligent guys will go along to fit in. When being a “woman” means being flirty, sexy and stupid then this is what any girl needs to do to get attention and “catch” a man.

To be healthy (mentally, psychologically and physically) one needs to find peace with who he/she are. Unfortunately only few of us get to find this safe spot where we can take of our masks and still be loved and cherished.

My Question: What is the most frequent mask you use? When does it help and when does it trouble you?

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

In the Spirit of Ramadan

لمن عاصر الأزمة يعتبر الثاني من اغسطس منعطفا جذريا في الأعراف والقواعد الاجتماعية والسياسية في الكويت. ففي أثناء الغزو وفي وقت قياسي تهدمت الحواجز واختفت الفروقات التقليدية بين الجنسين وأبناء الطوائف والقبائل والطبقات الاجتماعية – الاقتصادية المختلفة. ونجحت تجربة الوحدة الوطنية داخل وخارج الكويت أثناء شهور الأزمة في كسر الصور النمطية وفتح أبواب أكبر للتفاهم والاحترام والتقدير بين مجموعات طالما اعتبرت علاقاتها أقرب للعداوة من التعاون أو حتى الاحترام. وشهدت فترة ما بعد التحرير الكثير من المظاهر الاجتماعية الايجابية كتقدير دور المرأة والزواج عبر الجماعات المنغلقة والتحالفات لاسياسية غير التقليدية.

ولاحظنا في سوق العمل انخفاض حاد في درجة التمييز والعنصرية ضد الأقلية التقليدية مثل النساء والشيعة. كما اختفت بشكل نهائي دعاوى التخوين والتشكيك في وطنية وانتماءات بعض الأعراق والطوائف المتعددة.

ومع الوقت بدأت الايجابيات تهفت وظهرت بشكل أكبر سلبيات الأزمة مثل الادمان على المخدرات والكحول، الاكتئاب، الانتحار ، السلبية والاتكالية وغيرها من الأعراض التقليدية لاضطرابات ما بعد الأزمة . ولكن – بشكل عام- لم تعد الطائفية والعنصرية والعرقية لحدتها ما قبل الغزو. ولي شخصيا – كانت تكل هي الايجابية الرئيسية لهذه التجربة المريرة.

المخيف جدا انه أثناء العدوان الاسرائيلي الأخير على لبنان بدأنا نقرأ ونسمع نبرة عنصرية اندثرت (أو آملت ان تكون اندثرت) منذ الغزو. وعدنا نسمع نفس تلك الأصوات النشاز التي تشكك بوطنية كل من اختار موقفا مختلفا. واستعدنا استخدام المبررات البدائية (مثل الطائقة أو العرق أو الجنس) لتبرير الاختلافات والخلافات بيننا.

ورغم ان أحداث لبنان مرت بخير ، الا انها دليل دامغ على هشاشة "وحدتنا الوطنية" – ان وجدت. كما انها دليل عميق على ضعف وعي وثقافة البعض الذي يدعي البراعة السياسية والانفتاح الفكري.

والخطر الأكبر – في رأيي – أن نرى مثل تلك الظواهر في صفوف الشباب حماة المستقبل وخصوصا ضمن الشباب البرتقالي مستقبل العمل السياسي الوطني في الكويت. فسر نجاح حركة البرتقالي هو نجاحها في استقطاب وتمثيل كافة شرائح المجتمع واذا سمحنا لسوسة العنصرية ان تنخر في جسد هذه الحركة فستتآكل وستسقط عند أقرب تحد.
العنصرية والتعصب شعوران مغريان. اذ يغذيان شعور زائف بالانتماء والتميز والفخر. كما انهما يعطيان راحة جميلة للعقل. فعوضا عن التفكير في سبب ودوافع تصرفات الآخرين أو أفكارهم فان التعصب والعنصرية يعطيان أجوبة سهلة وسريعة .. ولكن مخاطر هذا المنحنى من التفكير أكبر بكثير من الاغراءات والمزايا الآنية.
كيف يمكنك أن تحمي نفسك من التعصب الأعمى لجماعتك (أي كانت هذه الجماعة: جنس ، دين ، طائفة ، لون ، عرق، قبيلة .. الخ؟ كيف يمكن أن ترفع من قدرتك على تقبل وتقدير الآخر؟