I can do it Baba. I’m big enough

Im big enough

Dubai is unique.  We have little shops just about everywhere that sells just about everything.  My wife calls them ‘MomPop Shops’ (I dont know what that means).  Most of them are no bigger than the size of a small bedroom but they carry everything from paint, to bubblegum to toilet seats.  And then the next shop is the dry cleaner or the hardware store – beep the horn and out they march with whatever you need (more on that in another post).  My wife can’t stand the latter – says it creates such a lazy environment and why should these poor guys have to leave the cool of their shops to service us and what will our kids think of us?  Well, ok, she is right – but it is fun to get Karak (tea/chai) and they just bring it out to you in the little cup (and Saffiya gets her french fries).  We just don’t do it when the wife is in the car. 🙂

On a note, with any of these shops, don’t plan on walking in these shops throwing out your American Express card.  These are good old, hard earned cash shops where the money is thrown underneath the counter and half of the time if you dont have the exact change, he just tells you “Next time! Next time!” – and you give it to him next time.  And, if you are like me, I will bargain down for a discount for 20 minutes just because.  That’s how it works. Again, wife on the other hand, can’t bear to watch me do it so she walks around the shop pretending she doesn’t know me and then I tell her we saved 50dhs, I get swatted on the butt (nice job, babe!) but no, she would definitely never do it.  What our girls will end up doing when they get older?  Who knows but I’m sure there will be some confusion going on when it comes to bartering.

My oldest has grown up with this her entire life (the massive span of almost 6 whole years!).  In fact, when we travelled to the US, she was asking where the little shops were and could she please have a sweet?  That ‘sweet’ isn’t exactly in a shop 100 feet away – it’s an actual drive – and its not a shop, its a gas station that surely has all of the same things – paint, toilet seats, bubble gum, sandwiches, fruit, vegi and whatever else you can think of.  And yes, they take that AMEX card!

So today begins the last week of summer before ‘real school’ starts (they have been in summer camp all summer long, a few days a week, for various reasons – in no particular order – One being I need an hour of peace periodically, Two being they need some type of physical activity other than destroying the house, Three being that it keeps them on the same time timing so we aren’t fighting to get their internal sleeping clocks back to normal when school starts).

My oldest starts a new school and my youngest, bless her little 18 month old self, is going to nursery.  On that note, this nursery reminds me more of a boarding/military school than a nursery.  It’s really a great place but everything is straight to the point/no delays/no flexibility.  However, in saying that, my wife keeps telling me “Atleast she isn’t playing in mud in some villa all day – she’s actually learning something with other kids – like Mary Poppins”.  Ah yes, my lovely wife is right (however, I’m still looking for the nursery police to come after me if I don’t sign my name properly when I pick her up and I’ve seen Mary Poppins and I’m certainly not at peace with sliding down the stairs, flying umbrellas and dancing penguins!).

So, since neither had camp today, off we went to go to the little shop down the road (no, we didn’t need a toilet seat). Car seat buckled, raisin box in hand (its ‘raisin week’ for Kinzy – raisins – all day, every day, all week – last week it was cucumbers – you can’t imagine the diaper contents), one shoe off and one shoe on (that was just the 2 meters from the door to the car), lock door, wait, oldest needs the toilet again and the whole circle of life begins.  I sit and listen to Kinzy’s rendition of the Lion King (Hakuna Matata) and laughing – “hana tata. na ni na ni na na” – all in beat – I find myself tapping along.

We are now ready to go.  And, on the way, Saffiya asks for a sweet from the shop.  Ofcourse she does.  She also knows that it’s not something that we often allow but I can surely find every excuse to give into her whims. As you know, kids love their sweets and there is nothing better than that temporary happiness they get from whatever strange and unhealthy concoction they decide upon (the more colours – the better – and if princesses or Minions are involved – well there is no stopping).

She tells me, “I can do it, Baba.  I’m big enough”.  “No way. We will go together”  “Please Baba, you are right here.  And you need a vacation and can sit here with Kinzy.  I will be fast” (whatever that meant).

This was one of those really painful decisions that you make for a lot of reasons.  One of them being my wife will probably come at me with a big utensil for putting our child in danger (no, she really wouldn’t but it would take a minute of her thinking twice).  Another being that surely she needs to have me there and what if she gets scared or worried?  The last one being that she really needs to have me there because I will be the one that is scared and worried.

I gave her the money, told her how much and what to do and gave her the rules not to talk to anyone (remember the size of this shop and the fact that I can see her every move from the window no matter where she wanders) and to take the money and sweet to the cashier. I told her she should ask how much and give him the money.  I could see the guy smiling at her and and talking with her and she was smiling and waved back at me.

My little girl walked out of that shop with her little bag like she was 25 years old and full of the world.  She had just found this form of independance that she knew she had, that she decided upon when she was ready and something that I was not prepared to see, just yet.

I told her how proud I was of her while my heart was breaking inside (while Kinzy was strategically making a grab for this new found purchase that would now become a yelling point between them for the next 10 minutes).

She told me she couldn’t wait to tell mom (as I was preparing a flow chart to explain the exact steps and time frame to the second of each move she and I had planned in order to present a unified argument to mom).   She wanted to go back tomorrow and do the same thing.  But for now, it wasn’t because of the sweet.  She told me “I can go and do all of the shopping and you can stay in the car, I’m big enough” (maybe tomorrow we will need that toilet seat).

My heart was breaking.  I know her better than she knows herself.  Her gradual move towards independence in almost every form has been frightening for my wife and I because we know that this is our girls pulling further and further away from needing us.  It’s something so simple and we all remember going to the small shops (or big shops or any shops) when we were kids and seeing all of these big people but we also knew the feeling of accomplishment – of feeling more ‘grown up’.

I know her independence but I also know that we have to let her make decisions, no matter how much it terrorizes us, because she knows when she is ready to take on new things- she carefully thinks and understands consequence.   She’s stubborn and difficult (definitely her mother) but is very methodical and systematic (still her mother) and with the most amazing heart full of love (very much her mother).  She does have my eyes though. 🙂

I guess it’s a lot like my wife with her first son.  He’s in his 20’s and when she talks to him she still calls him his baby name ‘Smugs’ (atleast she spared him any animal names).  She still sees her children, just as I do, like they are little.  We don’t want to see them go through any unnecessary discomfort but we also know it’s part of life.  We need to let them venture into areas of the unknown and congratulate them on their success and be there for them to run to in challenging times.  And, we sometimes have to just sit back and watch them through that shop window.

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