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Grit: The precious lesson I learned from my mother

Wed, Mar. 21, 2018
CAIRO – 21 March 2018: On Mother’s Day, let’s remember the powerful force that parents around the world bring for good and their dreams to make the world a better place for their children. When I moved away from my family in the Gaza Strip to live in Cairo two years ago, I lived one of the toughest periods in my life. Despite being very near in distance, sharing a lot in common when it comes to culture, food and language - still moving to Cairo was an overwhelming experience. In the first few months, I felt alone, lost, uncertain—even scared. I wondered what I was doing in this large, crowded and busy city compared to my lovely little Gaza city.

It was not my first time to travel away from my family, I studied in Jordan and I participated in many international training opportunities as part of my job, but this experience was different. I was leaving my family and moving to get married, and therefore I knew I will not be able to see my family for a long time due to the complicated political situation of the Gaza Strip and the forced siege on the Strip since 2007. I was not wrong; I have not seen my family for two years. These two years represented a transformative experience that built my confidence and sense of self, although it didn’t seem that way at first.

During this period, my mother was my support system. Her wisdom was the only reason I pulled through to succeed instead of fail. She backed me up to continue, stay and invest in my marriage instead of returning back to Gaza, which I thought of many times.
My mother told me that I would face hardships and that strong women are not born, but they are built out of experiences “This is simply the way life is,” she advised me. “Consider every challenge an opportunity. That’s how you will do your best, and that’s all you can ever do,” she always said to me. She asked me to confront my choices, “you could be miserable, you could doubt yourself and let opportunities pass you by, or you could accept the difficulties thrown your way, and give it your all.”

In her TED Talk “The Key to Success? Grit”, American psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth said that grit is a sure predictor of success. At this moment I discovered that my mother had given me the most precious power in my life: the power of passion, perseverance, determination and inner strength – grit. Interestingly, child development researchers at Harvard University have proven that none of us are born with grit; it’s something we develop if we are shown how to handle life’s hardships and challenges.

This is exactly what my mother taught me every time I faced a challenge in my life. I also realized that grit is the most important lesson to pass on to our children and to model. My mother also modeled grit. She made the decision to learn to drive in Gaza in the mid-1950s, something unheard of for many women, who in that part of the world had far fewer privileges than men. She mastered her job as a kindergarten teacher when we were in Kuwait and raised four children while still spending quality time with my dad and us. Living in the unpredictable world of the Gaza Strip, she never let the frequent electrical blackouts plunge our lives and perspectives into darkness. In social gatherings, my mother enthusiastically participates in conversations about politics, culture and art. My mother encouraged my sister to study overseas while in her teens, and supported me to travel alone and spend four years to study in Jordan and she was happy when I decided to marry the love of my life and move to live with him in Egypt.

When I have kids, I am determined to pass on the gift of grit to them. I want them to take on all the adventures of life, to experience its beauty and rewards. I will do this by following my mother’s footsteps and teaching them the lessons of their grandmother.
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