I have this friend —- So you don’t have a ‘job’ so you obviously don’t contribute anything.

easter

No, really.  I really had this friend.

This is a shout to not just the Baba’s out there but to the mom’s (or the aunt or uncle or grandmother who is taking care of a child at home).

I was going through some of my stories today and I came across something about a good friend of mine who I had known for a long time.  Our oldest was now about 2 years old and I was full head-on into stay-at-home-baba mode.  My wife had a lot going on and I was really putting in the time trying to still figure things out with the change in traditional roles that had taken over this ArabBaba.  She had started nursery and even when she wasn’t with me, I was still running errands, scheduling stuff, getting the car serviced, fixing stuff around the apartment, you name it (or I should say, whatever the wife named it).

So, yes, I had a good friend.  And, he gave me a call and invited me for lunch and it was the one day that schedules and stars seemed to align and I could actually hang out until nursery pickup.

We met up at this amazing little Lebanese restaurant in Doha that I hadn’t been to in far too long and played a game of catchup as he had just had his third kid and wanted to chat.

My first and foremost question was, “3 kids! How do you handle this?!” (here I am having panic attacks with just one).  He then goes on to tell me a very sad tale and one that I will not forget.

“How do I do it? I don’t. I’m at the breaking point. I’m tired. I’m exhausted.  I need a break. Khallas (Arabic for ‘enough’ ‘ finished’)!”

He starts telling me that he and his wife have really been fighting a lot the last few months.  She needs to get a job. He can’t continue to handle being the only one contributing to the family (exact words). He’s tired all of the time.  He doesn’t get to see his friends anymore.  He doesn’t have money to do much of anything like he used to and he feels like he’s aged 20 years and everything hurts.  His wife doesn’t understand what he is going through during the day and the stress of the job and how worried he is about everything.  The kids get sick and then he can’t get any sleep.  The car is in a mess all of the time.  The kids are always running around the house making noise when he wants to take a nap.  And, his oldest isn’t getting his homework done on time so now he has to take off of work that afternoon to take his wife to visit the teacher.

He then tells me “She needs to get a job.  All of this is killing me and we need the money to get a tutor or put him in a better school. Because everytime that I help help him with his maths, he does great.  What is she doing? How difficult is it to help him with his maths?”

I had to sit back.  I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  I felt like I had been hit by a bus.  I felt like I wanted to hit him with a bus. I felt like he had boarded some bus somewhere with no idea where he was going and it clearly was not on the same bus his family was on.

I told him that it really must suck.  Wow.  Tough stuff to deal with.  So I asked what she does if the kids are sick during the day or if they are at school and get sick (since he is working all day and obviously has the car and she doesn’t drive).

“That happened last week. She had to pick up one of them from school taking a taxi and then take the kid to the doctor.  She was there for 4 hours. My sister had to come and watch the baby and oldest until she came home because I had too much going on at work.  And by the time I came home, she wasn’t home yet, everything was a mess, everyone was hungry and there is no food. It’s frustrating! I need a holiday.”

He proceeds to tell me that she doesn’t work, she’s at home all day and what does she expect?  He just needs to come home and relax after what is going on at work.  She isn’t understanding any of this and he doesn’t know what else to do.

“What time does she wake up in the morning?” I ask

“5a.m. because of the kids lunches and getting the kids ready” he says

“What about you?”

“7a.m. and it’s tough because the kids are fighting in the bathroom. She tries to keep them quiet but man, its so early”

So we talk about what she is doing at 5 a.m.  Breakfast for the kids, wake up the kids, do the lunches, put in laundry (which is really loud, apparently), do the girls hair, get the uniforms on and gets them walked out to the bus to wait for it to arrive.  And now, I’m pushing this conversation really hard because I want to see if he is even hearing himself talk.

“Then I wake up at 7, have coffee a shower and she sends me off with breakfast (she does a good breakfast though) and I leave”.

“So what else is she doing during the day then?”  I am holding myself back from kicking him quite severely under the table as I realise what I’m getting myself into with this conversation.

“I don’t know. Clean I guess, laundry, get stuff ready for dinner.  With the baby she and and the baby walk to the shop and get some food stuff and come back and go about their day, I guess. Why?” shrugging his shoulders.

“What about the kids homework and stuff in the afternoon?” I ask

He tells me she waits for them at the bus and brings them in, changes them, gives them something to eat and they start on homework.  With the baby starting to be more active its getting harder and that is where he thinks the oldest is suffering in his maths is because she can’t spend the time with him.   And, by the time he comes home, he really needs to have a quick nap for an hour or two until dinner and then spend a bit of time with the kids, eat and then start all over.

“What is your wife doing?”

“She eats, feeds the baby, cleans up.  She’s cool about it all. She likes doing it and when her mom is here, it’s amazing because she gets so much more done and fixes stuff up, does nice food and spends time with the kids.   By the time I go to bed she finishes ironing the kids uniforms for the next day and gets to bed after I’m asleep and it just keeps going over and over again.   I’m exhausted, man, I need a holiday or I don’t know what will happen with this family.  And, if she doesn’t get a job – ” I stop him.

“Doesn’t get a job? First off, if she gets a job who is going to do all of this stuff you just said?  Secondly, You work 9 hours right?  She’s up at 5a.m. and goes to bed at 11.  That’s 18 hours!”

“Look I understand that.  But she’s at home. She can relax when she wants” he continues as I start boiling.

I start going in on him about the fact that she’s got a little baby to take care of.  IF she is lucky and the baby sleeps, she can clean.  She is taking a taxi to get a sick child and wait at the doctor and take a taxi back.  She is walking, on the road with a stroller and baby to the shop down the street to get food.  She is doing laundry and folding and ironing clothes for everyone.  She’s trying to help  2 kids with homework and a baby.  Where is he in helping with the maths?  Where is he in helping with dinner or cleaning up?  He doesn’t need a nap – she needs a nap in the evening.  The fact he is going to the school to meet the teacher is because of HIM – not her and then I punch in that he’s an Accountant for his company so maths should not even be part of this discussion.

I tell him that I also know her and she never once complains and always is happy (atleast on the outside) and here he is talking about what she ISN’T doing.  What about all of the stuff she gets done to make things all nice and happy for him?

I left him with one thing “Friend, she has a job, she has 2 full time jobs right now – she is contributing more to your family than you do. Man up and take responsibility for your kids and family and work as a team.”

I got up and left.  And, unfortunately, I haven’t talked to this guy in 4 years.  Not because I didn’t want to and I did try but because I put out there what I had been feeling at times too and that what I was doing and what she was doing was just as important as anything else.  And if something is failing, it’s because we need help and can’t do it on our own.  Clearly those things were not what he wanted to hear and felt like that was not how he was raised as an Arab man.  Well, I wasn’t raised that way either, entirely, but I became a parent and it’s a 50/50 thing.  My wife and I overcame a lot to get to the point where we realized we needed each other to make it work and give our daughter that fighting chance to be the best and it certainly wasn’t about hierarchy.

We get one shot at this – that’s it.  There is no do-overs.  When you commit to raising a family you commit to doing it together and part of that means sacrifices in a lot of areas but atleast you can look at each other, exhausted, frustrated but under a clear understanding that you both did the best to help each other and your family in the only ways that you can and you did it as a team.

There is absolutely no parent better or more privileged than the other.  There is no parent out there that is not walking through their own battles.  There is no parent out there that hasn’t wondered how they will survive another day, wish their partner did something differently to help, where their partner even was or wondered why their kid couldn’t be in the genius class. And there is certainly no parent out there that doesn’t wish their partner would just spend time together as a family and not head out for shisha for 3 hours or hanging out in some majlis at some buddy’s house (Yes, Arab men, I’m talking to you).

It’s one shot to communicate and understand that no matter how tired we are, it’s a different tired than the other parent.  It’s a different frustrating day that we had than the other parent.  And, we have very different emotions at the end of the day.

All of those things represent who we are to our kids.  They represent what defines us, in their eyes, as parents and who they will, undoubtedly, become when they have kids.

Don’t walk in the door tonight and think that the other parent has a great life of lounging around eating juicy mangoes all day and watching Al Khabir.  Take a second to look around and understand what they have overcome that day to get where they are – you don’t know what kind of war they fought today.  Then, share yours together for a bit and focus on dividing and conquering the night ahead.

Because at one time, I ‘had’ a friend and that was never, never, ever going to happen to my life.

Shout out to all of the ‘contributors’ out there – no matter what way you are contributing – it matters!

Cleanup or Tech-Timeout!

Cleanup Cleanup

That song from Barney “Clean up Clean up – everybody everywhere” rings in my head many times a day. Unless you are a toddler or a 5 year old for that matter where that song might be fun – but usually falls on deaf ears.

My wife had posted awhile ago on Facebook about “There is no cleaner floor than one that houses a toddler”.  This, although I would include ‘house’, is very true.

A toddler is able to find the smallest little speck of something on the floor – an ant, crumb, seed, toy, whatever.  And where does it go?  Straight in their mouth.  So, from the day that Kinzy started to sit or crawl on the floor, it became Saffiya’s ‘job’ to pickup ‘small things’.  With Saffiya, as a crawler, it was fine because it was just us and could ‘tidy up’ relatively independently.  But, with Kinzy, it was Saffiya that was usually the contributor to ‘small things’ – Barbie shoes, small plastic dinnerware from her Barbie Dreamhouse, marker caps, buttons, everything and all things ‘chokable’.  But, now, she would walk around like a diligent american government food inspector in one of those back alley Thai restaurants (in the back alleys of Thailand) – magnifying glass, hands and knees, identifying the smallest of small things.   You would not find one speck of anything on our floor.   And, oh the day, if there was something that was identified, it was alarm bells and shouting at the infamous find and then the blame – oh the blame – “Baba, how could you!” “Momma, do you know what this could do to MY sister?” (note how she emphasizes MY when most of the time she has decided she wants to return her to wherever she came from). She was our diligent ‘small thing’ picker-upper.

But, we managed to keep our littlest away from small things (atleast, what we didn’t see ingested and coming out the other end).  And now, the little one runs around and doubles the amount of small things that can trespass on our floor above and beyond her sisters capabilities.   However, this one is pretty good – if she sees something (which she does eventually), she has seen us panic far too many times when she puts something in her mouth, so now she just simply brings the small speck of dust and hands it over to for us to do whatever must be done with the offending speck.

I read awhile ago that when your kids, at a young age, see you cleaning, they want to do the same.  And, they grow up with an understanding that it takes the family to keep the house organized.

I’m wondering where that article is because I really want to find out when that ‘age’ happens where they realize they want to do it.  Currently, as I am using the small hand held vacuum to pickup crumbs (from the last 2 hours since I used it in the exact same place), and my oldest casually lifts up both legs so that I may pass by (while her focus remains, without missing anything, on Minecraft).   And, behind me, my youngest is toddling after me with a biscuit (oh good, more crumbs) joining in the vacuum game.

My once obsessed-with-clean oldest- who used to organize her room like a demon several times a day and had to have everything in its perfect place (even if that perfect place meant that her school sock must not touch, in any way,  her school shirt on the hook for the next day) has become what I can only assume is about as close to being a teenager as possible – not interested in cleaning.

I will admit that we do have a maid that comes in for a few hours 3 times per week.  She does the big cleaning stuff (floor, windows, changes linens, bathrooms and ironing).  However, within about 13.5 minutes of her departure, it’s like a wind has just blown through the house and dropped various articles in all kinds of places.   School socks dropped on the stairs, Shopkins strewn across the entry way (which I have now stepped on), a Barbie torso (don’t ask) and many many more ‘small things’ that the cat has now joined in the chaos and is happily playing football with them throughout the livingroom.

But, the rest of the upkeep is normally up to this Baba and the wife (in the evenings).  This can be difficult because I’m not as crazy as my lovely wife is when it comes to everything in the proper place OR not leaving food particles in the kitchen sink.  However, I can atleast avoid any cockroach (Soosar in Arabic) infestations in the near future. And, I am a madman with some Windex and a Dettol spray bottle.

When it comes to my oldest, no matter the amount of conversation we have with her about keeping about ‘clean up clean up’ and the reasoning we attempt:

“Dont you like it when you can go into your drawer and find your favourite zebra pajamas?”

“Yes, Baba”

“What if we didn’t put these away or even wash them?”

“Then I would ask the maid to do it”

Sigh.

We threaten tech time-outs (which work with a lot of huffing and puffing).  We use actual time outs (which she unfortunately likes because she just sits there and has conversations with herself and after the buzzer times up she just continues to sit there).  We send her to bed (no problem – she likes her room).

She is by no means lazy but she definitely is stubborn (I tell you right now, that is NOT from Baba) and following her own little path.  But, this girl needs to ‘get on the bus’ (wife-term again) with the rest of the family. And, when it comes to it, she will clean up (especially if she is in a good mood).   We did the ‘chore jar’ for which she gets paid a bit for each chore (works and doesn’t work).   She does, however, like a bit of creativity when it comes to these tasks so I’m always looking at different things to get her going.  Unlike my little one who finds it wonderful to help out and ‘clean’ (I need to enjoy this while I can – infact, I will take videos to show her later on when she turns into the child who will start taking out petitions on not cleaning or create some mutiny with other kids in the compound where we live).

As of now, this is my mission – finding a way to get this consistent in her brain.   I’ve Googled myself crazy trying to find new and innovative ways.   I’m always up for suggestions so please email me/Twitter me / Facebook me / Pinterest me / Tumblr me – whatever me.

But, one thing I’m very happy about is the fact that those ‘small things’ are no longer an object of our family obsession.  Yes, its still a clean floor but atleast that ‘stage’ has moved on.

Clean up Clean up – Everybody everywhere – Now to figure out how to get everyone to do their share.

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.

Express Baby, OCD and its not a boy????

lists

Our youngest, Kinzy, is what we call the Express Baby.  She was the surprise.  She was the one who just decided to make herself known when she was ready.

Story is, my wife, without getting into all of the physical woman stuff and also because I value my life so if I divulge more than would be appropriate for the internet world this could very well be my last writing (CSI, take note of this!), did not realise she was pregnant until around 18 weeks.  Aside from all of the stuff that didn’t happen that is suppose to and all of the other tell-tale signs, she didn’t know (I swear on whatever book I need to).  She said she was sitting at her office one day and said she felt these bubble things and swore it was gas. To hear my wife tell it, is much more vivid – but again, internet world.

She comes home and says “Ya know, maybe you should just pop through and get a pregnancy test just for the laugh of it”.  I, of course, go into full panic mode.  We decided on 1 kid.  We figured it just wasn’t happening for us anymore (aside from the fact that my wife wasn’t exactly getting any younger – Again, I quote the ‘mature skin’ cream she bought – not me).

I do think that the drive to the pharmacy was probably the longest drive of my life.  All I kept thinking was how expensive it was for kids, how was our oldest going to handle this and how was I ever going to have a life again if we had 2?

Well, she walks out of the bathroom looking like a sheet of white.  She just sat down and we just dropped our jaws on the floor and said “What do we do now?”.   Seriously, what on this earth are we suppose to do now?

She stands up “I knew it! I knew it! And I know I’m a couple months along and we haven’t prepared for anything and haven’t a thing (from the first week we were pregnant with Saffiya we began buying pampers and formula each and every week and our home quickly began to look like ToysRus – we even had aisles!  But, we also gave much of that away a couple of years after Saffi).  But now, at this moment, this is what SHE was thinking of?   Hey, I was having a moment here.  There is going to be another ‘it’.  I’m the one that is going to be with 2 ‘its’.  How are we going to handle that?  What about schooling and nursery and how do you handle 2 kids in the car at the same time?  And here SHE is starting about not being prepared for anything and we haven’t started getting ‘stuff’?

Now, you must understand my wife.  She is completely compulsive when it comes to organization, lists, everything in its place – and most of all, preparation.  Everything is a lot of preparation!  I realized a long time ago, that marrying an American was the highlight because we were never never never out of anything in the house, everything was labeled, organised and in its proper place.  She knew what we needed to do tomorrow, next week, year and 10 years from now – she colour codes everything (see image) AND she had an app for just about everything.

Well, now any romantic evening for us is shot (and probably for the next while).  She calls her doctor to get a booking for the weekend.

That weekend, we go in, looking like we haven’t slept (because we haven’t) and the poor child isn’t even born yet.  Our oldest is clearly confused as to what is going on as she trails in behind us testing out every available hanging gadget she can get her hands on.  We get in with another doctor because her other one was booked and this little old Egyptian lady walks in after the little confirmation test they did, and says “Mabrook Habibty” (Arabic for Congrats sweetie).  She asks how far along she is and we don’t know.

As she starts to do the ultrasound, my wife says, “I think maybe 2 months”.  The doctor starts laughing, “Habibty, you are 19 weeks! You didn’t know you were pregnant?”  She is laughing hysterically.  My wife starts to cry “Momma, why are you crying?”  and I just about fell over.  This was not happening.  I had to sit down.  Saffiya is asking what is on the screen and the doctor starts talking to her in Arabic and explaining.  Saffi’s eyes become as big as a cup and her smile became the only thing that stopped my wife’s tears.   The doctor then stops and says “Do you want to know what you are having?”

In the Arab world, there is a great deal of mixed customs and ideas about what gender is preferred.  I’m Arabic and even with pressure from my family and friends “You need a boy.  You need to carry on the family name”, I enjoyed having a daughter.  I always saw women as strong.  My mother and my sisters were all strong and independent women and I respected that very much.  And I saw how our oldest was growing up to be such an amazing creature that I thought it would be nice for her to have a sister, too.  But, again, I never thought it was in the plan.

“You are having a girl!”  My wife started laughing and telling Saffiya she would have a little sister (she is now beside herself).  I felt like I had just about everything in the world right then.

The doctor again asked how she didn’t know she was pregnant and we went through the whole story.

The next few days were a blur so they could schedule a different scan to accurately know how far along she was.  And this time, the doctor says she is now 21 weeks.  Are you joking?  1 week ago we weren’t pregnant. 4 days ago we were 19 weeks and now we are 21 weeks?!  My wife now has refused to see the doctor anymore because she thinks the next time she goes in, they will say the baby is happening.

Everything was thrown out the window for planning.  The lists started, the coffee runs stopped, the packs of pampers started piling up (we were now on double time).  And, all the while, the little one, just kept cooking along, not bothering anyone just as she had the first 5 months.

The conversations with bosses, family, friends, Saffiya just took to the fast track.  The books on ‘being a big sister’ were being read every single day.  Wife pulls out the “What to expect when you’re expecting” and just opened it halfway through the book and then ends up tossing it “I give up – expecting is not part of this now”.

We were happy, scared, thrilled, worried, stressed, shocked and watching Saffiya talk endlessly to everyone she saw about her little sister coming soon.

Kinzy (which is Arabic for Treasure) was what I really wanted to call her.   My wife informs me that there is no way we are going to name our daughter after something that sounded like a Powder Puff Girl.  “How do you expect her to put a ‘fafi’ name like Kinzy on a name plate on a company when she owns it?!?!  She needs a strong name!”  But, I was determined.  I was putting my Arabic foot down on this.  My wife, put her swollen, water retention foot on top of it.  I knew I was stuck.

She did agree that she would look to something that would incorporate Kinzy.  That would work as a compromise but there was no way. So, she starts on Google, buys a name book, consults the stars (or whatever she as doing at that hormonal point).  She found “Mackenzie”.  And there we went.

Did the lists work?   Yes, as usual, she was right on this.  Did we get organised?  Yes, very quickly.  Were we ready?  Not at all.  Did I figure out how to handle 2 kids in a car?  No.  I am still working on that (but I do have a ready supply of just about everything ever needed in a vehicle in the event of a baby/toddler meltdown, projectile vomiting, headache, fever or Armegeddon).   Did we figure out schools?  Yes, thanks to a pretty great system in Dubai that actually ‘wants’ to work with parents instead of just tossing their hands up and throwing you on a non-existing waiting list to watch you squirm.

I have 2 beautiful, healthy girls.  Did I want a boy?  No.  I wasn’t looking for either one with the 2nd.  But she found us.  I have, however, come to rely heavily on my wife’s lists.  She’s even got it to auto-remind on MY phone (isn’t that just so great of her?!?!).  And, it just seems that no matter how prepared you think you are, life is going to throw some very interesting curves your way just to keep you on your toes.  And somehow, things just seem to work.  They work differently, but they work.

We all have our lives planned out when we are young.  Everything down to the moment.  Even if we don’t know where we are going, we know we are going and we point ourselves in the direction.  We should never feel like that curve that gets thrown our way is anything other than a new opportunity.   I say that now because I’m not fainting looking at an ultrasound machine and because there is no way another baby is happening.  But, I can say that it taught me a valuable lesson – the curves are thrown at a daily basis and I’m catching them.  The moment you don’t, things start dropping.

Now if I can just find a way to get rid of those damn apps on my wife’s phone!

Cheerios, Maafi Moshkela and Inshallah?


Cheerios

There is an very common Arabic phrase that is “Maafi moshkela” (no problem).

“Maafi moshkela” for my life.  Normally.  With the exception of the last few days.

As Arab Baba’s (or any dads out there), we get to a point where we realize we’ve lost a bit of ourselves.  Don’t get me wrong, we’ve gained a BIG part of ourselves by becoming parents – parts that we had no idea we had (and some of those parts are continually covered in dried cereal or topped with a cheerio or two).  But, we lose a bit at times as well.  And, eventually, it starts to blow.

My job is handling our family life.  That can mean school runs, grocery store, kids shopping, changing contracts, renewing leases, car service, back to the grocery store, drop the cats at the vet, find a vet first, coordinate the maintenance guys to fix the aircon, pickup school uniforms, pay the school fees, forgot the receipt, go back to the school and get it, buy the birthday cake, choose the birthday cake (by means of sending pics back and forth to my wife) and then be tasked with finding birthday presents because our oldest can’t figure out what she wants for her birthday so it becomes an interrogation with our 5 year old in the car about Shopkins versus Barbie.

My wife, in the meantime, does as much of that as possible by delegating and still working 50 + hours a week.  Not in a bad way.  But delegating in giving ideas or where to go or what to look for about 40 times a day.  We make a good team.  And, she’s good that way. I mentioned before, she is more organized than I ever hope to be (all because of that stupid, damn app on her phone which I swear to all I will find and destroy!).  Plus, it’s better not to let her loose on poor shop keepers because her patience is about as thin as the line of drool from a teething baby – it will break at any time if she doesn’t get what she needs.   So, its a balance and promotes peace in the world (trust me!).

I have lived the last 6 years as a stay at home Baba.   My wife gets to go and have fun at work and I get to control everything that comes in and out of this house, handle the appointments, most of the school meetings and manage to keep my children in one piece.   I did, however, work part time in Qatar because of our kids (nights).  This worked well because atleast I saw my friends, was able to hang out a bit (I really miss my friends) and still be able to be with my girls.

Moving to Dubai was tough in the beginning.  I didn’t know anyone.  My sister lived in Al Ain and it’s not like it was a quick drive there and back, I had to figure everything out on my own with my “Map Girlfriend” (the name Saffiya calls the car navigation system).  It was getting odd when I was starting to talk back to the car after the first 3 months!.

In saying all of that, Dubai was probably the best place to choose to live.  It’s great for families.  So many activities and opportunities to do things.  The education sector (kids) is above and beyond what we were used to before and life, in general, is really good here (for about 3 months it is miserable as hell for the heat – but for 9 months – its amazing!).

But, I’m on my own.   Sure, I can join the Mummy-Coffee-Mornings that are out there (because that was a BIG success when I tried that in Doha and the women started talking about ‘sensitive parts of their body’ after having kids and then realized I was there and quickly shut up with blushed cheeks as I grabbed my pink diaper bag and tried to slip away before I fell on the floor rolling).  Or, I can start my own Baba-Coffee-Mornings.  Should be a big success because I’ll be the only one there.  But, atleast I don’t need to talk about sensitive body parts and worry about who’s child is walking first and who’s child is still crawling (and the mum of the one that is still crawling – yes, they are talking about you when you aren’t there).

I am given a reprieve 3 days a week now that the littlest is in nursery and the oldest is in school.  I get to go to gym and, if I’m lucky, sit at Starbucks, alone, utterly alone in my own world for about 42 1/2  minutes before I pick up the littlest from nursery.    The wife (I call her ‘The government’ – affectionately, ofcourse) takes the ‘kid duty’ on the weekends so I can hit the gym on Fridays and Saturdays.  But I really want time alone – whatever that is.

I know I’m not the only baba out there that thinks this and I’m not asking for a 5-day paid holiday to the Maldives (although I wouldn’t turn it down) but I’ve gotten to the point where although I have a couple of friends now, I just don’t have the time to  ‘go out’.

During the week there is so much going on as we coordinate between homework, getting kids set for the next day, getting 30 minutes of adult conversation with “the government” which normally consists of the days briefing or whats the plan for the next day, where is the swim suit and the 50dhs for the outing the next day.

If we are lucky, we might get to pawn the littlest off on a friend or my sister every couple of months so the wife and I and our oldest can head to Friday Brunch (because the kids go off in one direction and the wife and I sit in peace and quiet for 4 hours talking about everything and nothing).

I understand why people have nannies-  for this reason.  I get it.  But I also know how it easy it is to pawn them off daily on the nannies at every possible time making it easier to do stuff ‘alone’.   I can also see that I might get used to it (as I’ve seen friends do).  I don’t want to do everything ‘alone’.  But I really do want a small chunk of time on my own.

The crazy thing is, trying to figure out what to do with that time.  Do I go plant myself on a beach?  Do I just drive with the sun roof open and window blaring (wait, was that a cheerio that just fell from the visor?)? I’m not the clubbing type.  I’m not the shisha guy.  I know, all of this sounds completely UN-Arabic.  Do I just go to Jumpboxx and throw myself against trampolines and get out this energy?

Even if I do have that time alone, I have absolutely no idea what I would even do!  Am I going to feel guilty because I’m not at home? Am I going to be messaging my wife saying “what are you doing?” and is she going to do the same?  What are the girls doing?   Did my wife give our youngest her bunny?  Which cheerios did she give her – she hates the honey nut!

I was excited about going and getting gas last week, alone and I even took the long way home and felt refreshed.  And then, I see the cheerio on the back car seat.

Being impulsive lost way to schedules and routines.  After 6 years, I’m still trying to figure out how the rest of the world does it. Is hiding in the bathroom for 20 minutes the only solution until they turn 18?

I’m having to choose my friends carefully because if they don’t have kids, it’s only going to take 2 invites that I turn down for them to just dump the idea of inviting me altogether.   And for friends that have nannies, those impulsive invites don’t happen because it’s just me, the kids and a lot of cheerios.

I’ve got to figure out where that balance is that I get the time that I need even when I don’t even know what it is that I want to do.

Maafi Moshkela used to be the best – it solves everything.   No problem!

Now, things revolve around, “I’ll see you, inshallah (Arabic for God-willing)”  (after I grab a bag of cheerios to appease the small masses)