Ok, I get it, I’ve given a hard time to those ‘playground mums’ at school that often give me the evil eye like I’m this crazy oddity. I neglect to realise that yes, although I felt like it, I wasn’t the only Baba (dad) doing the daily School-Run Drop and Pick. So, here I was, feeling bold and confident (coffee can alter any morning mood) and decided to venture out into ‘No-Mans-Land’ (forgive the pun).
Every morning, I saw a few Babas here and there doing the daily Drop & Picks. Most of them were in their suits and work clothes. Everyone looking a bit bleary-eyed (comparing to the Gucci-clad mums at 715 a.m. in shoes that obviously irrigate the school lawn for them for free).
But today, I decided I was going to find out what they thought and were these guys for real? After all, many of us ended up at school at 7a.m. to avoid the parking frenzy that changes even the most meek and docile human being into a crazed road-rage maniac. We might as well find out if we have anything in common or if we have just been beat into transport-submission by our wives.
I boldly go where no Baba has gone before and walk up to Sarvjeet (not his real name). He comes from India and every day, he drops his daughter off to school. We chatted about him, his job, his wife and family. He was happy to tell me about why he drops his daughter to school while his wife ‘gets’ to stay home with their young son. It was convenient because he was able to get into work earlier and he can get so much done so early. We went on about not picking up in the afternoon and he was working, and it’s not really an option so he has his own father pick her up. He proudly told me that his entire family was in Dubai and he was born there and life is not easy when you have kids and working at the same time. But, having family makes a difference. Takes a village to raise a child, right?
Moving on, I meet James (again, not the name) who comes from the UK. We talked about the same things. What was different about this conversation was I just asked him if he liked dropping off his kids (a beautiful girl and boy). His eyes lit up like he had just correctly answered the million dollar winning question.
“Are you joking, man?” – Ummm… no.
He told me that he completely loved spending time with his kids (he used some British phrase that I couldn’t really understand so this was the best I could write down). He works so much and the School Drop was the one time of the day that they could all talk and joke. He would love to pick them up in the afternoon as well, but well, you know, there is work. The wife doesn’t work so it does make it kind of easy for him because she is able to get them. But, he wanted to be really clear that this was one of the best parts of his day was being part of their morning and he wasn’t going to miss a minute with his kids.
I obviously stay with the Brits and am introduced to another one, named John (not really). He had a different scenario. Both he and his wife were working and they didn’t trust a nanny to handle getting them ready, putting them on the bus, getting them off, etc. He said it was very hard but worth it. Really, all he wanted to do was sleep in the morning, but it was a choice they made (a long sigh and I really wanted to offer this guy my coffee).
I casually slide up to this American guy, lets call him Steve (I’m not exactly full of subtlety today) and when I asked him the same thing, he had a big smile and said it was ‘awesome’! He went on to tell me that this was how he was building his relationship with his son. I was curious about how this was building a relationship. He went on to say that he and his wife had another 1 year old and while she is a stay-at-home-mum, by him spending that time dropping off his son he said they became so close over the last year. We talked about his family and how his dad had lived in Dubai for 40 years and although his own family was going through some challenging family dynamics between another estranged brother and their father, he was clear that he was never going to have a wedge set between he and his little boy. That is determination in good parenting!
Now that I’ve almost made my daughter late to class, she wanders in with her classmates and I meet up with a great Emirati guy. I could finally chat in Arabic and we started talking about family. I had seen him every morning dropping off and obviously its not the most opportune time for parents to just start walking up to people and patting them on the back for just ‘showing up with the kids’.
We talked about his kids and dropping them off at school. He laughed a big laugh.
“My son, I’m their grandfather! I’m 55.” My mouth has dropped on the ground as this guy looked like he was 40! I, of course, told him.
“Mashallah, I thought you were 40.” He laughed and told me he had 8 children – 5 boys and 3 girls and married since 18. And now he has his grandchildren which are the light of his life.
I asked him why he was doing what he was doing with his grandchildren and how it was important to him because I saw him every morning at 7a.m. and he was probably the only one on the playground that wasn’t on a caffeine high or looking like the walking dead.
We talked about how no one would understand until they became a grandparent. We talked about my own dad who had been gone for more than 3 years and that he had always said we would never understand the love and bond that is created until we have kids of our own. He was so right and now, so was this gentleman.
He simply told me he wanted to spend time with his grandkids and he wanted to teach them the way that he had taught his own children.
He woke at 530 every morning to go to the mosque to pray and come back to get the kids to school. Mashallah! We talked about his work and his own company and how his sons were running it and it gave him the chance to watch over the grandkids. I could have sat and talked to him all day.
We talked about his kids and how they were able to have time with their own children. He talked about the afternoons after school and when the fathers come home, they have dinner together as a family and work on their homework together as a family. The weekends they spend at the park or the mall (during the summer) or with other family members in Dubai.
Spending the day talking to these men gave me a completely different perspective (and a bit foolish for feeling like I was the only one that felt what I felt and struggled with what I struggled with sometimes). Although these are not stay-at-home Baba’s, they made a priority in having that bit of time with their kids and grandkids (whether it be for practical purposes or by choice – or both). They found ways to see the positive in a task so early in the morning. They valued the few minutes they had and understood their place and position in their child’s (and grandchild’s) lives.
It doesn’t take being a Stay-At-Home Baba to make an impression, haul them around, do the laundry and handle bath time. It only takes your time to spend with them as their father. And, if these dads are able to carve out that bit of space, whether its the School Run Drop and Pick or if it’s just spending time together – building a tower, going to the shop alone, drawing a picture, watching a video, talking about life, then all power to you.
Your voice is being heard!
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