Two beautiful Syrian-Canadian families landed in our small town a week ago. And what a difference a week makes. We’ve scrambled to get everything done and ready, to organize and plan, to run through and run by. There were and are so many things. So many things I hadn’t anticipated.
And now there’s this tricky problem of wanting so much to update everyone on how they’re doing, on the sheer resilience of them, on how much I love spending time in the thick of languages, on the transition for the kids and our group. On wanting pictures and drawings and videos of it all. Because it’s so feel good. Because it’s the culmination, in many ways, of eight months of determined work. Because so many people from across Canada and beyond have donated money to make it happen, are curious about how it’s going, and won’t get the opportunity to run into these new townsfolk on their jaunt to the grocery store.
But I just can’t do it. It is not my story to tell. Not that part of it.
I worry about their fetishisation. Of cameras in their faces. Of Canadian borns expecting them to speak for all of Syria, or demanding All Of The Gratitude. I know there’s a natural, kind curiosity. La curiosité qui nous porte vers l’autre (et l’Autre). Mais y’a une curiosité mesquine aussi. It’s a fascinating thing to navigate in a small town when you’re still new and hands down more used to the anonymity of cities.
It’s got me thinking though, especially in this busier lead up and these hectic initial moments about how to balance activism and engagement with parenting (and parenting the very young especially).
My eldest got a stomach flu a few days ago (on day 4 of these families being in Canada) and it forced me to realize that there is very little give in our day-to-day right now. There isn’t much elbow room, not much flexibility. Between the farm business, Petite-Nation Sans Frontières, the incubator farm, needing to plan for the season, the preschooler, the baby, my need for written words and a bit of art. Sometimes this makes us jerks. Sometimes it makes me very anxious. And it often makes us, the co-parents, very short with one another. Not ideal on any count. Those very stressed moments are offset, for the most part, by the joy and pride of a job well done, but I often wonder if it isn’t too wearing. And while I’m sure that these endeavours are formative for the kids, having impatient parents certainly isn’t. (Alas, miserable bored parents wouldn’t be much better, methinks. The time has probably come for a commitment to more (inter)personal/political kindness though.)
So here’s to the balancing act.
To purpose at the expense of sleep.
And to some new neighbours who, I hope, are keeping warm in these storms.