Here we are, just days into 2016. The gym is crowded (that will end soon). The Dubai Shopping Festival has started (good thing the wife is travelling this month). Holidays are over and everyone is moving again (albeit slowly – digging their feet into the proverbial sand – well, not so proverbial in Dubai, I suppose). The girls are back to school and life in the Year of the Monkey has started.
So has it really been a Happy Holiday and New Year? Well, the 31st of December didn’t close out very well with an amazing display of pyrotechnics on the right side of the screen and a smouldering hotel on the left, it was still a quiet night in our house as we rang in the New Year with a bottle of sparkling cider and many yawns later just waiting for 00:01 so we could crawl into the comfort of our bed (because we are parents and that’s how we roll!).
I thought of the previous New Years over the last 6 years – with me working part time most of it, seeing one year go out and another come in. And, watching my girls grow.
We have now lived in Dubai for 18 months after living in Qatar for 9 years. And I have to say that celebrating in Dubai (even with a bottle of sparkling cider and a yawn) is far better than attempting to celebrate holidays in Qatar. Now, as I deviate a bit, this is nothing against Qatar (I promise), but I will use the best comparison from my nut-job of a wife (she’s so lovely, I promise that too!). At Christmas in Qatar, Santa Claus comes to the Marriott. The entire expat community (representing 80% of the country population) descends upon the Marriott (that poor Santa Claus) and you are subjected to screaming children, no parking, crazy parents and a complete lack of safety requirements being met. Switch screens to Dubai. You have 75 different locations to see Santa Claus, different times, different days and different ways to do it. It becomes a pleasant and fun experience – much like the one we had this year where Santa Claus actually came to a dear friend’s house and even knew that our oldest had a loose tooth! Pure magic for the girls and for us. So, that is the comparison.
Back to our program. I look at the last 18 months and the opportunities that have not only happened for the girls, but for me and for us as a family.
I can take my girls anywhere. We have a full list of events that we can do at any time. We have a great selection of schools that provide an educational experience that we never had before. We have a community that believed in parental engagement when it came to our children’s learning and a government that embraced the future of our kids to the highest levels and do everything they can to make it happen (Thanks #KHDA). We actually have a life here. We actually live. Again, not to do with Qatar but we have embraced the unique choices that are available for families in the UAE.
This year has brought on a science fair winner, new experiences for my wife, dramatically improved grades for our oldest, a 2 year old that counts to 10 and has most of her ABC’s running from her mouth. But we are living and enjoying our time together. We are brunching, we are having fun with friends, we are reading together as a family, we are finding every chance to do something new and fun. This may sound like we are living for our kids this year, but we have a lot of fun doing it.
And, what made this year great for me was being able to write. Being able to jump off of that cliff and re-live the memories I have had these 6 years of fatherhood and share with people that I never thought cared about any of this. I started to feel that I was no longer thought of as some mooching-off-the-wife kind of guy (still don’t know what that means but my wife says that is the word to use – oh, the trust I have in her). I wasn’t being criticised anymore. The mummy-club at Starbucks still gives me the weird eye and the few women at the school playground that are why Mean Girls was created still stare at me with an evil glint when I actually have conversations now with other normal mums that take pity on me and just laugh at my jokes (the previous I call the “Posh Peas” – the ones that show up at 7a.m. in high heels, full makeup, Gucci bag and nanny in tow).
I gained a quiet confidence when I started talking to people about what I do – why I write, why I choose to care for my girls full-time and why I’m actually happy seeing them thrive. I didn’t feel like I was hiding as much anymore because I was Arabic and changing pampers or carrying the pink diaper bag (I really can’t wait to quit changing pampers!).
I was meeting people in the education sector. I was talking to government organisations that wanted to change the way parents are involved with their children. I was getting messages back from people on Twitter (#ArabBabaThatsMe) and Facebook (ArabBaba.Org) telling me how inspiring I was to them. I was connecting with Baba’s all over the world and how they handle the same things that I was dealing with. I was being asked to write content for other blogs and more recently an educational magazine. I felt empowered. I am a big Arab guy that carries a pink diaper bag, plays in the balls with my daughter at #CheekyMonkey and is the one that drops and picks them up every single day. I get to be the one that sends them off each morning and the first to hear about their day when it ends. I feel blessed.
This year ended with holidays of 9 days of the 4 of us being a family. Spending evenings having Movie Night (lights off and plenty of popcorn), going to the park and riding bikes, exploring Dubai, BBQ’s, drawing, building, playing games, reading and spending time with friends.
The holidays are over but I am thankful for 2015 and I’m excited for what 2016 has in store for all of us.
My wife has supported me at 1000% when I was so shy about sharing my most personal thoughts. She has been there through every frustration, every edit, every translation I couldn’t figure out and every social media faux pas I made. She was there for every celebration when I made someone smile or in receiving a message about how a woman’s husband read something I wrote and he took their daughter on a ‘date’ that night and what changed when it happened. Now my wife is still crazy – she makes me nuts on a daily basis. She travels too much and she has a terrifying obsession with jelly beans that is very concerning. But, she is the glue of our family.
My girls inspired me. My girls make me a better father on a daily basis. They have taught me patience (otherwise, I’m sure I would be locked up for live by now if I were a ‘newbie’ having to navigate the ridiculous, unofficial school parking protocol). They make me smile, laugh, cry, worry, fear and hope.
So yes, the Holidays are over. The extra kilos have been placed strategically on areas that I will swear never existed before I had kids. The DSF (Google it) is fully underway (I’ve changed the pin on my wife’s credit card just in case she decides duty free is her only DSF outlet returning back from back to back trips). And, the routine is slowly making it’s way back into homework, projects, laundry, writing, groceries and constantly finding Cheerios on the floor.
Let’s roll into 2016 with a new way of looking at things. Let’s not make resolutions. Let’s be resolute (I will steal that from my wife’s work ). Lets be determined to find that extra time, in whatever capacity that is (get some ideas at 15 Things You Can Do Today With Your Child ). Make the choice now. Mum’s get those Baba’s to do something for 10 minutes. Baba’s, be strong and make the choice to do something special 1 day a week for an hour – if that’s all that you can do. Make a difference!
After all, if you don’t do it now, these kids are going to be the first ones to drop you off in some run down nursing home and you’ll be lucky if they manage to Skype (or whatever it will be at that point) once a month (if they haven’t already had you taken out with some other devious plan they have concocted). Think of it as an investment in your final chapter in life 🙂
Happy 2016 everyone. Happy Holidays. Thank you to everyone who supports ArabBaba and big shouts out to parents everywhere that sacrifice, commit and love unconditionally no matter where they live.