Moving house, kids, wife and cats as an Expat.

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We are Expats.  What does that mean? It is a person temporarily or permanently residing in a country other than their citizenship.  Thats ok, we are 2 people from 2 countries that have 2 girls that have 2 different countries citizenship, neither born or lived (holidays are quite cool) and residing in a country that we have no attachment to – except that the #crazywife and I like it and Dubai has cool stuff for kids).

But, in a new country you move houses.  You don’t buy them, you rent.  You rent because none of us never know how long we will stay.  My CrazyWife says ‘No its two years max’.  Then I say, ‘No I like it here’. Then our oldest crazy daughter says, (I would like to say for reference that she is a copy of her crazy mother), “Baba I like Dubai. This is good for us but we need a big house.”

Moving with kids is not easy.  We were in our same villa (very small) for 3 years.  You find a place (no matter if its Dubai or Kuwait or Bahrain or anywhere). You find a place that works at that time and at that moment.

I will say that moving with kids is not easy.  It actually is very difficult. I’m trying to find a way to adopt them out for a few days so that we can do this ‘stuff’.  ‘Stuff’ is running around to a landlord, signing documents, closing off DEWA (the Dubai utility company), starting it again, setting up Wifi and satellite connections, getting those clearance documents settled and then making sure the movers show up on time.

CrazyWife has 3 things in mind when moving – open kitchen, space and a garden.  I’m a stay at home dad.  When my wife tells me her specific requests I get very confused because that is not an arabic thing.   We do closed kitchens (smells), we sit there like princes and we wait.  My only thought was a garden and the water bills.

So, here I was, between last school runs and dealing with arranging summer camps, I had to find a new house.  She even wrote them on a post-it (because apparently I can’t remember what ‘we’ want).

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I would like to give a few bits of advice in a few areas. The first one being finding a living space.

1- If you are a husband or wife – get your ‘things you want’ down at the beginning.  Keep it to 3. Make those the must have things that work for you and the kids.  Do the other stuff that you want (my wife wanted a bouncy castle – not for the kids for her) on a separate list.

2- The kids schools rule everything.  Find a school that works for them.  You moved and it’s your issue and not theirs.  Find a place that works for them and you do the running around yourself.  Personally, we are GEMS people (not being paid for this or anything but only because we had chances to move everywhere but chose a great school GEMS Royal Dubai and I really like the GEMS group . )  A house is one thing but kids being in a stable environment and not being tossed around every year because of rental contracts is a bigger thing.

3- Have the kids start going through their toys and clothes with you. My wife was nuts about doing his each time we moved.  She called it ‘Spring Cleaning’ (I don’t know what that means but everytime it happens it always seems to be July). Donate Donate and Donate.   There are great charities here and bins to drop off in like Al Maktoum Foundation or Red Crescent

4- Find a good moving company.  When you find them, plan. Plan to send your wife and kids away to a hotel. Just do it for a night because the less they are there and the drama the more you can coordinate.  I put this out to single mums as well.  Have the kids stay with someone else overnight and take care of things as they need to be.  It can be a bit scary seeing all of the stuff pack up and all of these movers coming in to tow away their things. I did the same thing and just sent them off the day before so that the movers could finish packing and I went to them at night and came back in the morning.  They had a great time chilling out (and those dads out there – when the wife is relaxed, your life is much better and you actually don’t have anyone trying to dictate every tiny thing that happens – #crazywife).

In our case, we lived in the same villa for 3 years since we moved to Dubai (my wife calls it a condo which again, I have no idea what that means but I hope it means a house). After a lot of arguing and thought and rental prices going down (which is a good thing when that happens in any country), we decided to upgrade. No more compound living (if you don’t know what compounds are – they are blocks of properties in the same gated area, the same barking dogs, the same yelling kids, the same paper reminders about where to park, the same constant posters about not pee-ing in the pool, the shouts outside the window at 11pm to have kids stop playing football against your garage, kind of things.)

We went for an semi-independent villa.  That means we share a big cement wall (which helps when the 3 year old screams with the force of breaking windows).

We went from a 3 bedroom 2 1/2 bath (with an outside maids room) to a 3 bedroom 3 1/2 bath with a maids room (which we ended up building a door for her to go outside – long story and the crazy wife I have seems to think it is continually ok to yell at people that don’t offer resolution.  I just bought myself a book on Kindle about ‘How to deal with difficult people’ – she wasnt impressed).

But we had that open kitchen – we had that garden – we had that space.

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Long story short – the first few weeks  – seeing my little girls playing in the main area because they had space was amazing.  We weren’t in this small and compact space anymore.

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I saw my crazy wife able to take conference calls in the open kitchen, make lunches when she was able, periodically scold the kids and I and swish us out to the garden.

We were able to sit outside and have coffee on a Friday morning and chat about stupid stuff.  We have been together almost 10 years and we never sat outside in our pyjamas and just had coffee. I know it didn’t take a garden to do that but talking my wife out of bed at 8am on a weekend is only needing a bomb to go off to do it.

Time goes by so fast.  We have friends that have upgraded and downgraded.  But over all of them, it was to make sure the kids were ok.  Everyone said, every single person I talked to, it was for the better of their family and specifically the kids.

That can mean a lot of things – saving more money for their education, living, changes of jobs, continuing school fees, or just things that happen.

I guess my point is not about the place – it is about what you make it.  Its about what makes you a family and who and how you are together in tough times and good times.

Moving house is tough.  Moving countries is tough.  Moving anywhere (even to the grocery store) with kids is tough.

Making a place that kids can see as their home and know that even in a one bedroom apartment with 4 people together, if it’s family, its home.

Moving houses will never be easy.  But if we focus on making it easier for the kids to transition, it makes a huge difference.  And, please, if you have a wife/husband, send them away, don’t let them do anything, let them go off somewhere and you can have peace and quiet to do whatever it is we are suppose to do at these times.

What is Education? When do we care?

When you get a chance to be around people of great minds, of great hearts and of overall greatness, you get a moment to reflect.  Not about the people themselves, but what they represent and what they stand for.

I had an amazing opportunity to attend the Global Skills & Education Forum in Dubai for 2 days of what I thought would be a normal conference but became a mind changing experience for me as a Baba, a writer, an educator and a friend.

I was given the chance from a good man who believed in me as a dad and a parent who believes that education is the future for our kids.  He believed that I wanted to do great things in the Dubai community and I’m very proud that he has become a friend and also a mentor.

Let me start with the people I met, that I would never normally hang out with when we do the school run or when I end up with the #GucciPatrol, but I met educators from Gems and specifically Gems Royal Dubai.  They helped me understand what teachers go through but also where we, as parents, can create a better educating experience alongside them.

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We met people that have changed me. Listening to a talk from #BringBackOurGirls on the terrible abductions of young girls from Nigeria and how important education of children no matter your where you live, no matter what you do,  everywhere is part of all of our future. Girls everywhere need to know that they can make a difference no matter what!

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The Forum was arranged to support and celebrate educators all over the world, some in the most dire of circumstances and others just wanting to know a better way to teach kids.

All of the teachers are celebrated and you can see the nominations of these amazing people here http://www.globalteacherprize.org/2017-finalists/

What I found remarkable was listening to Maggie Macdonnell from Canada who walked away with a gift she would soon make way to support education.  #TeachersMatter

She shared with us words that were not entirely captured here but her emotion was.

I was able to learn so many things over these days but I now understood how not only the vision of The Ministry of Education  but also how we were going to go forward as a world with our next generation.

We talked and even moved into a focus on Happiness for us and for our kids.

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Don’t forget physical motivation.  This got us going and talking and having fun.  It also let us find ways to get our kids moving and thinking and learning about new cultures and parts of the world.

We had fun, we danced, we all had late nights but we all met each other that created a common ground – drive, passion, perseverance and the need to make goals come to life.

When listening to Thomas L. Friedman talk about “If you’re not educating people for a job that doesn’t exist yet, you’re not educating people”.  If you have ever had a chance to understand what this means, great, if not read about him.  He made me believe that education will happen whether you like it or not and it’s our job to help make sure it happens in a positive way.

I’m sarcastic most of the time, an observer and I’m a writer but what I didn’t understand was how great people can be being crazy together, learning in what is a cohesive and unified environment and with people that want to see parents and educators work together. Sunny Varkey from the Varkey Foundation shed a lot of light on why this forum made sense and that we could have fun in the process.

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Dr Abdulla from  KHDA is launching a Teach Together initiative where he will have his CV and he will be an assistant t0 any teacher (no pressure!).  What I like about this is that I know that he would be just that.  He doesn’t want anything other than being able to teach together and help.

I  still feel like I’m on a cloud after this.  I still feel like when I’m writing this, that I felt included, that I felt we could make a difference as educators, parents and a community

I also have a better understanding that being a teacher is not easy.  Being an educator or an advocate for education anywhere in the world is not easy.

As parents, we may be paying for education, we may be financing from abroad, we may be just paying to get 1 textbook until we make enough money to get another, but we are all educators.

We are all putting something in the mind of a child that will never be changed and every thing that we do for them now, will stay with them in whatever way that is. Make it full of positivity in any small or big way you can.

We get an opportunity as parents to play a part in that.

I’m not saying – bring an apple to your child’s teacher.  I’m saying, we should, as parents, teach our kids why they should bring an apple and say thank you for giving them knowledge.  We should appreciate how important these people are in the lives of our children and children that don’t even have parents anymore.

We get time to create a memory. We get time to influence. It takes a smile or a caring hand or just listening to see how your child or any child may need you.

 

I felt alone

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This was from my journal 7 years ago. It is painful to translate into english and into any words because I remember my feelings. It hurt. It was love. It was painful. I felt alone.  I think that most mums and dads feel the same sometimes. But mine was me and I felt like I was the only person in the world at that time – aside from a tiny human being that looked to me for everything.

Crazy Wife is off to work.  I’m alone.  Not really alone, because I have this tiny thing next to me that is sleeping with tiny breaths and is quiet (atleast for 5 minutes).

I have to figure out how to navigate her being in my arms and then get the formula and bottle ready at the most perfect temperature it can be. I’m sure there is a smell getting ready to happen from her tiny little marshmallow butt.  I knew I should have put pampers and wipes in every section of the house at arms length.

I’m watching Pingu and laughing because it’s cute. I’m still trying to figure out if I put her down on her stuffed elephant and walk away for 30 seconds and if she will really sleep.  Maybe she needs me.  Maybe I can’t  let her go to the stuffed elephant because I will be bad father if I put her down just to go to the toilet or get the formula.  What if she falls?  What if the pillows I put on the floor smother her? Ok.  I will just sit and wait.

Crazy Wife is off to work and she is talking to real people.  People that talk back to her. People that actually have something to say.  I’m here.  I have a 3 month old in my arms that talks back to me but I have no idea what she is saying.  Crazy Wife gets to go to dinner and see people and laugh. I don’t feel like laughing.  I feel like I’m the only person in the world right now.

I miss my friends.  I miss having people call me and say ‘Lets go out’.  I miss being ok going to the toilet and spending my man time in there without a worry or a care about a crying baby.  I miss spending my money on phone credit and a new pair of sunglasses instead of pampers and onesies. I miss my wife coming home and we have an amazing kiss  and plan the evening and not her coming in and reaching for this bundled up little cherub.

I don’t know if there are other dads out there that have this.  My family says I should work.  My friends leave after 20 minutes when she screams or is forced to be awake from the loud noise when its her nap time. I’m sure there must be other dads. Maybe not here. It’s all Arab and there is no one I could connect with. I feel alone.

Today, I really feel alone.  I feel like there is no one that knows what I feel.  I feel guilty calling my mom to ask her about the baby rash.  I feel guilty about not feeling happy about where I am right now.  I feel guilty that I am not being the best dad I thought and really wanted to be.

I really thought that everything would be like a happy picture in a magazine.  Everyone hugging each other, romantic times together, flinging my daughter up in the air in some beautiful beach scene, laughing and joking and watching her take her first step.

It wasn’t that.  It isn’t that.  I don’t know if it will ever be that.

I want to see all of those things.  I want to be a family like in picture books and not poop and making sure she is breathing.

Do I regret? I don’t know.  Sometimes, I do.  But then there are times like now where she is laying with me and she is so cute and I can’t imagine my life without her. What is my life without her?

I want to sleep.  I want to go out.  I want to hug her.  I want to go at the moment and see friends or just drive.  I want to touch her soft skin.  I want to take my wife on a date.  I want to watch her sleep and make sure she is ok. I want to go and wash my car and just sit and have coffee.  I want to make sure her rash is not bothering her.

I don’t know when this ends but I hope I love her and still have a life.


 

Back to current life.

I would change her pampers, I would check her rash, I would let her sleep, I would do anything for both of them.  They are my life and if I had one tiny glimpse into what would be 7 years later, I would have relaxed and I would have taken a breath and realised that I was ok, we were ok, she was just fine and just needed me.

I didn’t realize at the time how much I needed her, too.

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5 of Mine and 5 of Yours

img-20161226-wa0003It’s almost the end of 2016.  It’s the end of another year where we all make plans and remember. So the end of year we are doing something different – 5 of mine and 5 of yours.

This can mean anything and everything to you.  It can mean trials, tribulations, happiness,  epiphanies or contentment.  Where does it fit for you- it’s all about you and all of us.

I’m going to throw out my 5 things that I felt, experienced, was joyful and was challenged by this year.  I would ask that you do the same thing in whatever way you feel is right.

  1. FAMILY

I returned back to the US again to ‘my’ family.  My other family (my in laws).  The family that accepted me as their own.  My other dad who didn’t think I was a terrorist anymore and realised I was just a normal guy raising our kids.  We spent 4 great days together with my other dad and my other mom ‘G’ accepting and finding a lot of love in not only me but our kids and a new relationship that formed between my #crazywife and her dad. Hey, she got him to download WhatsApp and now they have more conversations than they ever have before!  Thats an achievement!  Although, I am sure the pics I am sending him of my BBQ make him laugh considering he has been doing this for 60+ years! I’m a novice! He’s the master!

I made fun food with my ‘mom’ , talked about politics, theory, understanding Islam and trying to figure out how family works.

I met my sister (in law) who I am still trying to figure out and I’m sure likes me a lot but just can’t quite figure out how that all works. Family dynamics I guess – My #CrazyWife says it’s like Thanksgiving in the US South but without guns which they sometimes wish they had – I don’t know what what means.

But Family made me really think about how things can tie together when they need to.  How people can find each other when it’s time. How we can be crazy and stupid and still know that as much as we want to hate – we get to love.

2. #10Minutes10Days , #RMRUAE  @KHDA  @KDSL07 #TeachMiddleEast

I really enjoyed creating alongside the team at KHDA the #10Minutes10Days initiative.  It allowed parents a place to show that they could document and show off their reading with kids.  I know it sounds stupid to document it – but it’s cool if you think about it. Parents reading with their kids – their kids reading – looking at new ways to just read.

I was lucky enough to catchup with the crazy American group at #KDSL07 where they launched the #RMRUAE (Real Men Read UAE) initiative.  We had fun reading to kids all over the place in the UAE.  Seeing their faces reading in english and arabic was new for me. I felt my teacher roots again (the same when I wanted to send them to time out or the principals office too!). I learned so much, was frustrated but I loved everything about it.  We took it everywhere – I just wanted to sit and let kids know how cool it is to read with dads and spend time.

Ofcourse, I’m just cool so I kept writing for the most awesome education magazine in the UAE #TeachMiddleEast and these guys are great. They help teachers and parents with new ideas and I have been lucky to be a part of it as a contributor.  If you haven’t taken a look at them, do it.  This is a great magazine for parents.

I was lucky enough to meet new people and do a few interviews ( if you haven’t checked out ExpatWoman – do it – they are pretty cool).

 

#3 Who said the ‘C’ Word?

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I have a #CrazyWife – she’s not normal.  She is nuts. She is my best friend, the mother of my children and the one I can’t live without.  This all sounds like a nice card you give to someone but she is my everything.  When I found out 5 months later after she found out she had cancer, my first thoughts – I was scared.  I didn’t know what I was scared of if I lost her- life, our girls, love, my friend, finances, periods, boys, marriage (no , they will not marry until they are 40 – I swear).  I worried about what would become of our little family.  What would happen.  When I realised she would do her last surgery as a full hysterectomy it wasn’t about us not having kids (as it was for her), it was about I needed her to survive.  I need my friend. I need and want the woman that has kept us together. But I also realised this year that we are a family unit. We are it. We are smaller without each other but huge combined and we can conquer anything.

#4 RELATIONSHIPS

The one interesting thing about being an Expat is that you make friends – but you also lose them.

We are in an ever changing environment of a country – you make friends for a year or maybe 10 but then it changes.

I have learned a lot about relationships this year and not just the ones that leave because their contracts end but also the one’s that are a part of the relationship because of convenience or because they want something or because it ends because they disapprove.

I have also learned that some relationships are none of the above and no matter class or social standing, they hold true.

1 example, when my wife was in hospital she kept many people away due to privacy, but also close friends that we thought were, were not there and not even asking. 2 example, my wife went to a party not long ago with many women and friends there and 2 questions asked before she might have been deported (1- your Pandora bracelet doesn’t have many charms – she responded that they meant a lot to her for the ones she has. 2- What does your husband do? She says he writes. They ask what he has written and she told them what I do. They said that was too bad he must not make any money to support the family – She walked out of the party). 3rd example, we have friends that are high in society and have no issue with anything and continue to keep up contact regardless of the circumstance. We see them, we enjoy, we relax, we are just good friends.  That is what means the world to me when we are just people.

I say this not in bad or good of one or the other, I say this in that I have come to value people that are actual people – not about good or bad times – but that are just content to be around other actual people.  I applaud those that are few and far between.

Again, when we are weak or strong, no matter how crazy we all are, we need our family and friends together to help us be strong – there is a lot in a chorus of voices versus one.

5) MY KIDS ARE GROWING UP

My daughters are telling me what to do.  I’m telling them what to do.  They are arguing.  They are negotiating.  They are hugging me. They are telling me stories in their own imagination that I could listen to forever to get some insight into their heads.

They hear things I never thought they heard.  They worry about things that I was sure they never thought to worry about.  They see love in things that I had never seen.

These are my girls.  They are my life. I’m a dad because I want to be.  I’m a writer because I choose to be.  I’m a husband because we got stuck together and it REALLY works and I would never see a life without this #crazywife of mine.

I’m grateful for the #GucciPatrol that continues to challenge me at school and I hope that I continue to challenge them.

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2017 is coming and it becomes a new year full of new things.

Look at what you have right now.  Look at what you didn’t have before.  See what is in front of you in whatever way that is.

Be blessed and not looking for what everyone else has – but what what makes you happy.

Not who everyone else knows but who you know that makes you happy.

Not what you think you should do but what you love to do.

What difference can you make in such small ways?  It doesn’t take a new year – it takes understanding the previous year to know what you want to accomplish, what is important to YOU.

Happy 2017 everyone.  You are all amazing and great and I wish you every part of happiness.

The ‘C’ word

 

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I don’t think there are enough words to figure out how cancer works. If there were, we could figure out a cure.

My #crazywife seems to think its all  normal.  I’m Arab – nothing is ever normal.

I’m a dad. I look at life a bit differently for priorities.  I look at life as ‘God willing’.

When my wife was diagnosed with cervical cancer 6 months ago – I didn’t know.  She spared me.  She felt that she would do this on her own without involving me. She thought she would do this on her own (now you know why she is my #CRAZYWIFE ).

She went to doctor appointments and event her first surgery without me.  Her reason was that she didn’t want to disrupt what I was doing for work – she didn’t want me to put off what was happening with ArabBaba and making sure the girls were ok.

Women out there – we actually do need to know. We need that bit of understanding that helps us to plan. Men are planners by nature – not your kind of planning but we plan.

I went 4 months without her telling me – she called me to pick her up from a surgery (which I thought was a normal day). And we fought and we forgave and we became.

My wife had stage 2A Cervical Cancer.  She kept from me because she didn’t want me in pain and hurting with her.  But I have a great comment for all you moms out there – we don’t care that you can’t have kids anymore, we don’t care that you need to be strong on your own, we are are here with you.

My wife went through her second surgery this week – a full hysterectomy.  She felt like she was losing her woman side – I felt like I was keeping my wife, my love, my everything.

I watched her in pain, I listened to her tell me where the ‘box’ was with all of the financial stuff, I listened to her tell me to call her mom and dad and make sure the girls understood what was going on.  I was with her in the surgery pre-op where she was crying and saying sorry and that I had to understand where everything was (very practical).  That I was suppose to call certain people if things went wrong. And, most of all, that she loved me like no other person.

See, thats a lot of pain.  Thats a lot of stuff that people shouldn’t have to go through.  Those moments, those small moments where it is just you and that person, they are not forgiven or forgotten.

She woke up and all she wanted was me.  She wanted me.  She asked for me.  I held back seeing her face.  Seeing her in pain was something I never want to see again.  If I could take it on myself, I would.  If I could have taken everything from her at that moment and let her live, I would do that.

Maybe I am being romantic – maybe I am being sentimental.

I slept with her in the room that night and listened to her in pain. I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t fix this.  I couldn’t ask anyone to stop this nightmare which I knew she was experiencing. But I was there.  And every moment I walked into he room for 4 days it was like she had never seen me before (drugs help I guess!). She would hold my hand and ask questions and not know where she was.

I just sat there thinking how beautiful she was and how my life would be little without her.

I thought about my girls and while they ran rampant in her room every day and as she was in pain she was happy. She was loving seeing them jump and play with the oxygen masks and make the nurses crazy.

This is life. This is what family is.  This is what makes life.

We have bumps in a road – big ones and small ones – but they are bumps – and we go over them.

I would like to say thanks to @AHDubai – American Hospital in Dubai for being so amazing and accommodating.

Take time – check yourself – be a part of your wife or husband’s world.   Don’t leave it alone.  We learned something from this partnership – that it is, just that.

 

 

 

 

We Are Just Grown Up Kids

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I am 26.  Ok, well add a decade onto that I keep telling my crazy wife and everyone I meet that I am 26. I wonder if it’s because I want to stay young, look young or just be young.  But its also because I want to keep the present as it is – the same.  and I know it’s not possible.

I watch my daughter growing so fast. She is 7 and I never thought I would understand how children work or live or laugh.  I never thought I would see this point, although I expected because thats what Arabs do, we have kids. We are good at it.  We are great at making kids. But we still want to be kids as well. Being parents, no matter the nationality, we are all still working at it.

I see Saffiya and Kinzy and I keep remembering them as babies. Maybe we shouldn’t and maybe its our own crazy thinking that we can keep them as babies forever.  At the same time I keep thinking that we are getting old.

img-20161009-wa0009So again,  I wonder if it’s because I want to stay young, look young or just be young.  But its also because I want to keep the present as it is – the same.  and I know it’s not possible (seems I want to keep repeating this).

Our kids are at an age where the oldest thinks that we love the little one more.  She thinks that the ‘baby’ is where our love is.

At the same time they play with each other and only want to be with one another. If Saffiya comes home she only wants to be around her little sister.

I remember how I was with my sisters and brother.  But I don’t think I had the bond that I see with my girls together.  I don’t remember feeling jealous of my little sister. I guess thats how kids are.

My crazy wife is dreading her being a teenager and to be honest, so am I.  She is tough.  She is a copy of my wife.  My crazy wife, however, has a very distinct way of dealing with her girls.  She has ‘the look’ and ‘the voice’.  If their moms voice goes low and very clear and firm, the girls look at her like the earth is going to shatter at that moment.  If she looks at them with ‘the look’, it is like ice has frozen over this sand box. Wow do they get things done at that point! I am trying to figure out how to get ‘the look’! You mums have this down I think.

My 7 year old is the complete opposite of me. She is demanding, driven, full of attitude and very clever! I keep trying to figure out a way to reconnect with her sometimes.  Finding a way where she doesn’t think I’m the bad guy. Finding a way to better understand her little notes that she is mad at me.  Figuring out how I get a way around her attitude and be more of us (please tell me being a teenager can be better – please just give me some popcorn trail to guide me!).

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I decided to have more fun with her. Playing fun.

I always take them places and joke and jump around.  In summer time there is little else to do except escape the sun burn from running to the car from the shop or playing board games which I think we have done every game under the moon this summer.

Our kids – I feel like we want to just eat them up (of course normally that happens when they are the sleeping angels at 10pm at night).

So, my mission was to try to find more time just for her and more in touch with her than just ‘things’ or ‘activities’. But just being us, together – smiling and having fun and learning together

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We started the ‘tickle monster’ again like we did when she was tiny.  She is so much bigger but hey, the ‘tickle monster’ is strong!

We started reading more and more and not just for homework or for bed time reading.

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We started sitting in the garden last week and having breakfast together.

I’m learning more and more about what it takes to be a dad.  It isn’t about her being 7 or me being 26 (please don’t add that other 10 years and lets pretend).

This is about me being a kid again with her.  This is about me finding ways to reconnect to this tough little copy of my crazy wife.

I’m trying to find my way as a Baba.  I’m trying to find my way through the fun and chaos and still be the best Baba I can be.

I made it a year!

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Yes, I made it 1 year as ArabBaba and ArabBabaThatsMe.  I survived.  I made it past my own fears.  I got through the bad looks and the ‘Gucci Patrol’.  I went through the haters that told me I was weak and how could I let my wife take care of me when I ‘do nothing’.  I listened to my family discourage me but later encourage me understanding what I was doing. I forged relationships with other Babas where a fist bump was all that was needed.  I was working with amazing organisations in Dubai and all over the world that actually wanted to hear from me. I was able to contribute to various magazines. I worked with great institutions in the UAE that changed my mind in so many ways. I talked on radio, interviews with newspapers and I met with amazing product people and kid friendly places that actually changed me about how I viewed our country and how great we are with family.  Most importantly, I found Mums and Babas all over the world that felt the same that I did and gave me some great ideas, support, insight and just a hi-five when I needed it.

What got me was what I felt about myself and the confidence I felt in continuing my journey with my girls. I didn’t feel criticised anymore (atleast what was worth hearing). I didn’t feel like I was the odd man out anymore (except on the playground on most days at school pickup and drop off and those mummy mornings at coffee which I need to reconsider my position on because quite a few of them actually said hi to me).

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I never did any of this for anything except for putting out there what I always had in my heart and my journals.  My #CrazyWife actually pulled this off and convinced me.  And, as much as I give her a hard time – she is the rolling rock in this family.  She is the one that keeps me going when I get frustrated.  She is the beauty that I never thought I would have. She has given me the 2 most amazing and crazy girls (thanks to her genes) that changed so many things for all of us. Even when she is working at travelling like a maniac, she still always finds time to find unique things for our girls – talks, homework, reading, experiments or just spontaneous things – she does it.

When I look at my girls – when I look at what I do every day, I look at what every mum and dad out there that sacrifice every day.  I hear stories and get inspiration from mums and babas out there that wish for something better, that have kids that have challenges, that are being bullied (both parents and kids),  that have concerns over religious aspects or that just need an idea to help a dad or mum to do something different.

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All of you, all of the people and organisations that take a chance on me every so often.  All of the ideas that get heard and not dismissed (#10minutes10Days – KHDA – RMRUAE – KDSL), you have my respect and appreciation.

Whatever you do every day, whatever you think matters, there are so many things in your day that sometimes we think matter more.  But we don’t get chances more than this to spend time with your children.  It can be nothing more than minutes to create a memory.

I know it sounds like a line and I get that.  But I also know that the things that I thought were important still are- I just change them a little differently.  Helping my girls build a tower or watching them do a dance they have rehearsed over having a conversation to my family that can be delayed by 30 minutes – its small to me but huge to them.

For my Arab people, you have this chance to make a difference – not just carry a tradition.

We aren’t moving into a western influence, we are moving into another part of a generation that needs more attention, not iPads, more talking than TV, more heading out for Karak together than playing on Youtube.  We are part of a whole new way of thinking. We get to let them choose how they can make their future and that of others better – instead of someone ‘telling’ them how they will live.

We are all the same people, we all have the same opportunities, just in different time zones – and so are our kids.

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So I end this with a big huge ‘kabir’ thank you (shukran) to all of you.  You guys all rock!  Every single one of you that just stay involved and find a small way to make a difference – you are worth it – thank you.  Find a way to make a child smile, laugh, gain confidence, read, learn and do everything – it only takes minutes and a kind heart.

Happy 1 year to all of you ArabBaba’s out there – to all of you Babas. And to all of you mums, hi-five to you too.  And if those dad’s don’t support you the way you should be, send them my way – I will give them a few words! 🙂

We all matter – we all make a difference – we all need each other.

If you want to see my other blog posts the last year… take a look and click on the below pic.

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I Have A Boyfriend!

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My daughter is almost 7. No, she didn’t announce she has a boyfriend.  However, I did have an experience that I was not prepared for as a Baba.  After all, I’m her one and only – right?  I’m her first guy in her life! I’m the one that should always be her first love.

It became very real for me when towards the end of school as I do the daily school pickup that all of us Babas/Dads do, that stuff was changing – on that day.

After a year, the Gucci Patrol (those moms that show up in high heels, full makeup and those massive bags with the LV or Gucci logos that look like they are carrying the entire house – although chances are it just carries their phones and car keys – hopefully their drivers license) have become more anxious because it’s closer to the holidays and the end of these school drops and pickups.  No offence to the Gucci Patrol because you guys look cool – but I am the odd Baba out of the membership so I get to use this, always, in my defence. 🙂

I do get to meet a few mums that just rock and they have taken pity on me the entire year and gradually moved their way, centimetre by centimetre, to my standing spot to say hi and find out I’m not a bad guy and hey, that I really like hanging out with my kids.

We have chats and laugh and for these mums, I really appreciate them because the talks and friendships on the ‘kid-turf’ make me feel like we are all part of the Baba-Patrol!

One of those awesome mums tells me “Mostafa, Elsa (names changed of course – to anything Frozen related) came to me and said she has a boyfriend”.

As an Arabic man, I said “Wow. Thats amazing!  Thats a good thing.”

Stop! What did I just say?

At that moment, it hit me like a rock coming off of a tall building aiming only for me – her daughter was 6! My daughter was 6! What?!?!? A boyfriend?

My only thought was ‘I’m going to have to buy a gun and keep it with me at all times!’ (like my #crazywife dad – which I had no idea was possibly there until we sat in the back of his truck in the US 2 months ago and I wondered what my feet were sitting on – it was a rifle !).

So here comes Elsa saying “Mum, look what my boyfriend gave to me.”  She proudly holds up a piece of paper with colors and pictures of drawn flowers with writing and scribbles that only a boy can do, saying “I Love You”.

Her mum laughed and hugged her and Elsa was shy.

I wanted to grab my girl and run – run far away – run anywhere where there wasn’t boys.  I was thinking about enrolling her in a girls school for the rest of her life – I was thinking about never letting her see her friends (that were boys)  in the compound ever again.

This mum saw the color drop from my dark face and she pats me on the shoulder and says “Mostafa, its ok – really its ok – its normal – you were 6 once too”. More color goes!

She asked if Saffi had that before and I said, far too loud, “No way!”.

Listening to her tell me that it can happen, they are kids, its ok.  I  had to laugh, this was my life – I had daughters – the very ones that I chased when I was little – the one’s that I continued to chase into my teenage years – I felt complete fear knowing that this was a reality.

Love for a 6 year old, a 15 year old, a 20 year old or even a 36  year old like me is so different.  I can’t imagine my daughter having to put up with this. I can’t imagine having to have her think of how guys think.

I want her to be protected and know that there is only one love.

She is only 6, almost 7, and I’m thinking about this!

I call my wife, who just has luckily arrived at the airport returning from another trip in a panic.  She laughs.

“You do remember 2 weeks ago when she received that note and a knock at the door that said ‘come to my house to play, I like you’?”

Oh no, but he was 4!

But she was right, this was my life. I have 2 daughters. If I’m doing this at their age now – whats going to happen when they are older?

This is like a weird pain or weird confusion I have never felt.  They are my girls.  They are the ones that know I can protect them.

I know I need to work through this as a Baba.  I know I need to look at this in a different way – hopefully not involving my father in law’s rifle 🙂

I don’t know how Dads deal with this.  I don’t know how they deal with their girls getting older and falling in love – however many times that happens – and all of the drama that goes along with it.

Is it possible to do those GPS things you see in the movies and install them, permanently?

Sigh.  I need to re think my Baba-Hood approach. And I know that even when they become 50, they are still going to be my baby girls but wow, that is just such a long time for all of this!