Let me first start by complaining, I just had a flu shot and a meningitis shot (both mandatory before going to Hajj) and the nurse who gave me the shot was unbelievable. I seriously didn’t feel a thing. And while I don’t give my kids the flu shot, I almost wanted to just because her shots were so painless! Now the complaining. My arm hurts. The arm I had the meningitis shot in. and it’s swollen. What the hell!
Seriously people, will we ever find a less archaic way of administering medicine? A needle stuck in your arm!… seriously? where are the Star Trek non invasive cool sounding medical equipment? I thought they were based on sound theory… so… we’re waiting.
Now that that’s off my chest, I wanted to write a follow-up on the last blog entry. I initially started writing it with the intention of discussing how much “free range” children get here in Saudi but instead I went on a rant about car seats. So, here is my second attempt.
Do you think that in many arab societies children are the kings and queens of the family? They are protected to a fault, nothing at all is expected of them, they are always “too young to hold any responsibilities”. Although writing this now I feel that maybe I am generalizing. So let’s just say I am talking about a majority of the society I am living in now.
How independent are your children? I once read in one of the parenting books I am so addicted to that if your child reaches the age of 16 and cannot read a subway map and run a washing machine then you have failed them. In a city with no subway, let alone subway map and when almost every house has a maid to do the washing and ironing does that make us all failures? Of course I am not just speaking about washing and subways but about basic life skills our children grow up not knowing. The problem is, in a society like the one here in Riyadh where can we teach them these things?
When our family was studying in London we used to walk everywhere which was great. S (who was 5) would take the school bus to school in the morning then we would walk home almost every day. On that walk home, we would pass by a small store and he would sometimes want a stick of gum or a biscuit so I would stand outside the store (most times cause his younger sister was in the push chair and there’d be no room to get her in) I would give him the money and he would go inside, ask for what he wanted, get the change and come back out. We would stand outside and figure out how much change he needed back before he went in. He loved the sense of responsibility it gave him.
When we would go to the park, I would sit with my friend on our blanket and watch my kids run around and play on scooters. They were always in my sight but felt they had complete freedom to run and play. If they wanted to, for example, pet a dog they would have to go ask the adult with the dog themselves. If they ever wanted to know what was in the food they wanted to order at a restaurant they would have to ask the waiter themselves.
If they wanted something from the fridge when we were home they wouldn’t ask me for it they would walk over and get it. We lived in a little townhouse and it had a small gated area out front. I knew all the neighbors and the nice ones (because believe me there were no so nice ones) would let their kids play with my kids in this little courtyard. I could hear everything from inside the house and see them from the window so they would run out the door to the neighbors, knock on it, ask for Max or Maddy and play outside “on their own”.
How do I do any of that here? The kids aren’t generally allowed in the kitchen as it’s a place for grownups. The weather is too hot and it is not a culture of walkers so no walking back or to anywhere. The shops here are either humongous or tiny and dusty and the people who work in them generally have no patience for children, so scratch the whole “buying stuff for himself” thing. Even when I try to encourage them to save or think about what they really want to buy with their pocket-money (Damn it! I forgot to give S his pocket-money! and he forgot to ask for it) they would get so many things from family and at birthday parties and once by throwing a fit at their grandfathers (you know who you are!) and voilà! new PSP. SO, I end up being the big bad Mama who is taking away all of these excess things and giving them away.
What can we do to give them more free range and independence?
I went online and searched for articles relevant to this post and came across this page on a website called Zen Habits. It’s titled 27 skills your child needs to know that she’s not getting from school. I also found that there are communities all over the world discussing similar things but in different contexts.
What do you think? How much independence should we give our children? what kind of independence can we give them here? how do we help teach them basic life skills they need? Am I overreacting lol?