It was November and I was all busy with preparing for the term exams when I had a casual video call with my little sister and brothers. My dad jumped into the camera and saw Yunus laughing at him out of recognition. Just then and there he decided that a year was too long of a time to not see the little guy and booked me tickets in the midyear vacation to go stay in Helsinki.
And there I went. I was terribly afraid of traveling alone with a one year old (Ammar had to stay to finish up his thesis). I went to Finland in winter 2018 with Yunus as well, but it was super easy because he wasn’t heavy, didn’t move and slept like an angel the whole time. After learning to walk, Yunus has become super active and is unable to sit for more than 3 minutes in one place.
So obviously I was worried. I didn’t want to become one of those people that are glared at with those looks of “can’t you silence/control/raise your own kid”. Okay, yes, the people who look at moms like that are the ones who are wrong and don’t get it and I shouldn’t even care and bla bla bla. But when you actually are in the situation, you instinctively feel afraid and ashamed when your kid throws a tantrum and lies on the floor at the gate right when you’re supposed to board…
Nevertheless, my desire to see my family was bigger than my fear of being labeled a “bad mom” or being embarrassed or even being tired from a 12 hour trip.
After some initial issues with Air France delaying my flight from Cairo by two days, I was on my way to Helsinki on 26th of January. The trip wasn’t as hard as I thought and I actually was the one to pinch Yunus to wake him up for security checks… He definitely did not appreciate that. What is curious as well is how there is not a single flight I take without having the “random” swipe test done to me and my luggage for explosives and/or drugs. It seems that it’s less random and more Muslim in nature than one may think, or then the probabilities love me.
What comes to the stay in Helsinki, I enjoyed my time a lot. Even though I was unable to meet all the people I love during the 12 short days I stayed there, I still did lots of things and met a lot of people. Yunus was happy to find the house fussing around him and someone to run around with him (thanks Ali, you’re the best).
It was also fun to see his first reaction to snow! Undoubtedly, I came to Finland during its coldest and snowiest weeks of the year. I think it snowed from the day I arrived till the day I left, with on average 1 hour breaks. We had to buy Yunus the whole Finnish gear: super thick water proof gloves, boots, wool hat with the scarf-like thing to wear under it and the overall itself on top of all this. Trust me, he was definitely unable to walk for a while with all of this on without mentioning how frustrated he was during the dressing up process.
Thank God my sister Fatima went along with me everywhere and was there to help. We probably looked so funny next to all the experienced moms managing with their kids in winter: a mom who has no idea what and how to dress her kid for below zero weather and an 18 year old aunt who is as clueless as her sister!
But we managed and even laughed at how much time it all took and how funny Yunus turned out to look every time.
Before traveling, I had taken an oath to eat and drink whatever I wish during those 12 days and then start going to the gym when I’m back. Well, the first part of the oath has definitely been executed: without lying, I probably ate several kilograms of chocolate, Finnish cookies and bread (oh man I missed ya) and whenever I was offered more, no was not the answer! I have never eaten this much and this unhealthy without feeling guilty, but oh boy, I have no regrets.
Coming out of a tough year, one needs to loosen up a little, even if it is both mentally and physically!
Me and Fatima tried to style my dad’s apartment a bit and we baked and cooked together a lot. My God, growing boys (11 and 13) eat a lot! We’d make a dough of 48 cinnamon rolls and before taking the last batch out of the oven, 1/3 would be already gone.
We even managed to have an entire outing us 5 siblings (miss you Asma!) without fighting and actually had a good time! That means only one thing: we have all grown up. And thanks Safia for the invitation.
I met up with some high school friends and we reminisced over the past and talked about the future. It’s funny how so different people can get along so well. That’s what I love about all my friends, both in Finland and Egypt.
(Satu! Why is there not a pic of you?)
Yunus, on the other hand, had some issues in understanding the differences between him and his fellow toddlers in Finland. He would be so excited to see other children that he’d run straight to them and attempt hugging them while simultaneously screaming and laughing out of happiness. Needless to say, most Finnish individually playing toddlers did not appreciate his warm embraces, and neither did their mothers who would take their kids away while giving me an awkward smile. To be honest, I wasn’t offended by that. It is just what their kids have gotten used to and this was what mine had as well.
You’d think that due to the amount of times I have to give goodbyes to people, I’d gotten used to it, but quite frankly, it never really gets easier. As the trip was closing up, I was once again faced with the conflicting feeling of missing my husband and his family and the desire to not leave my siblings behind again. Nevertheless, I felt quite satisfied and ready to get back to the good old routine of home, school, etc.
Any feelings of longing had to be swiped to the side immediately when the travel part of the holiday began again… The CDG airport in Paris hadn’t obviously thought things through for crazy mommies traveling alone with toddlers WITHOUT strollers given back to them in transit. Despite having a respectable amount of airport strollers, they were of no help when they actually mattered: that is, during the excruciating walk from arrival gate to departure gate. I suffered from a sore back, neck and biceps for 3 days after arriving to Cairo, but back we were, safe and sound, thankfully.
A million thanks to all those who made the holiday a holiday! You know who you are!