A glimpse of reality

Foof at the American school

As things stayed the same living on the large Riyadh compound, they also changed in different ways.  Friends became a normal part of life, sharing plates of food, recipes and cooking lessons. He still drove up to the front of the compound and worked in the office at the position that he felt would change his level of happiness. He visited the “sheik” three days each week bringing the dessert trays that were prepared under his watchful eye. My little “bakery” continued to provide sweets for neighbors and I hosted dessert nights from time to time as my way of connecting with other ladies on the compound. The children played for hours at the park, the recreation center and on the front porch, they made friends and life seemed carefree. The boys new school brought with it hope for a somewhat positive experience. It was not like the very westernized school in Al-Khobar but it had numerous good points and the boys seemed to settle in easily. Saleeha (See See) was now six and Foof was four, pressure was mounting to get them into school. After the previous failed attempt at getting See See into first grade, he formulated a plan. The company paid school fees for 3 children and while the American school in Riyadh had a prohibitive tuition, the two girls would be covered. They would be enrolled at the American school of Riyadh for the first year, an adjustment period where they could learn in their native language.  The following year they would transition into the Arabic school system with their brothers.

As the day approached it was nerve wracking and stressful thinking that my girls would now be leaving each day and going to school. We toured the campus, met with the counselor, took the proper entrance tests and it was confirmed that they would soon be attending American school.  The counselor suggested that their father accompany them that first day to help with separation anxiety that often comes when children say goodbye to their mothers. The day arrived and I knew like everything else in our lives, it was inevitable, so I made sure it would be as smooth and voluntary as possible. I spoke of the kind teachers, the activities and the new friends they would make at school.  They took their lunch boxes and back packs and headed out the door full of hope and teary eyes. They piled into the car with their father and he drove them to their first day of school. Foof settled in and made friends, climbing under the bathroom stalls, locking the doors and then exiting!  See See had more trouble, she sat on the teacher’s lap and threw toys around the room until she finally realized she would be staying. It was a rough first day but after that both girls made a speedy adjustment, making friends and looking forward to school each morning.  They seemed to settle easily, unlike their brothers who still struggled most mornings with making their way to school.

I loaded Abude and the baby and boarded the big “bumpy bus” as the girls called it. We made the 30 minute trip to the American school and back each morning. Driving in Saudi is dangerous with boys as young as 13 years old whizzing past, skidding, racing and going the wrong way in traffic, so a bus monitor was needed in case of emergency. The children that rode the bus and attended American school were from various countries and had differing ideas on bus riding etiquette. Children ate food, left wrappers, wandered around while the vehicle was moving and at times instigated fights. The Pakistani driver had little authority over the children and so a  monitor was mandatory and required by the housing director for the overall safety of students. This concept was not popular and many days no one showed up to fulfill their duty. I made the decision to ride the bus and serve as the monitor to ensure that an adult would be present at all times. We sat in the back and watched the desert pass, camels and bedouin tents dotted the outskirts of town, then apartments and bukalas (mini market) until we reached the school. We entered the secure gates and lined up with buses from all over the city and various compounds. The girls looked back at us with a smile and headed off for  school. When we arrived at our door step it was back to the morning routine and life as usual. In the afternoon we made the same trip back to the American school, the girls jumped on the bus smiling and beaming, art projects, stories of friends and new adventures. Although I should have known it would be this way at a Western school, a part of me worried that it was indeed something inside of me that made my boys nervous and unhappy at each school.

I felt a tiny crack in the exterior of my being that had been created through his eyes and I began to question my reality.  He had ingrained a sense of urgency inside of my brain that held me accountable for any and all child related woes. The slightest unhappy moments or school issues would randomly bring about days of anger and unrest on his part.  My inability to successfully mother the children was directly reflected in the children’s anxiety and unwillingness to  “just go to school” and that was the line that I heard most days. As I watched the girls come and go from the American school, a smile firmly planted on their lips, giggles and whispers of things that brought them joy, it reaffirmed my own thoughts. For three years I had tried to explain, taking great care not to offend or incite his anger,that the boys felt uncomfortable in Arabic school, not knowing the language or culture and being subjected to a harsh environment full of corporal punishment and humiliation. But there was no relenting in his character and the message had always been clear and non negotiable, until now.

 

162 thoughts on “A glimpse of reality

  1. I am so appreciative that you were finally getting the validation you needed! (Not from others even, but for yourself.) How good that you were able to determine that you could see reality for what it was (even in glimpses). Great post Lynn! Big hugs 🙂

    Liked by 5 people

  2. Lynn, you are such a good writer, and have such an interesting story. You really should write a book. I feel so bad that you had to endure all of this stress and pain. Even something as simple as driving to school, seems so stressful.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I love your memories of this time. They are so descriptive and well written that I feel that I am there viewing it. As always I feel for you and your children.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Yes, do get back into your routine, this is fascinating reading! Can’t wait for the next bit. One question: why is everything in a compound in Saudi? What’s the danger? I’ve only been to Dubai, and that was pretty safe. And best of luck with your new job! You’ll have to write about that too! No more time for recipes 😢🤒

    Liked by 2 people

    • Well there is no drinking alcohol, no eating pork and no women and men hanging out, so I guess a compound is a place to live a western life! Also women cannot drive so then they need a driver which the compound supplies.So it is more of a convenience I think.

      Liked by 1 person

        • well it is dangerous, during our time there we heard of several bombings and all of our friends or many were evacuated to their home countries. it was not even secure then at all, a little gate, in later years it was impossible to go in, you had to walk and walk. so then high security! We never heard on the news or anything about this stuff, no news about it, but then it was on the foreign news on satellite!! A scary event. So yes we were always on high alert as westerners!

          Liked by 1 person

  5. I know your boys and entire family turned out fantastic, but this story just makes me want to reach out to them when they were little, give them a hug, and say, it’s going to be okay, just as I’m sure you did many times! xoxo

    Liked by 3 people

  6. I applaud your bravery in creating a loving home for your children dealing with such hurdles. You created a haven of routine for them while struggling with his imposed doubts about your character and abilities. Was Your bakery the sword of your battle? How did you find strength each day? Maybe the love of your children was your courage. An amazing journey.

    Liked by 4 people

    • the love of my children is what carried me through honestly! I never stood up for me but I found courage to stand up for them. I fought for dental care, braces, leaving for college, and finally took them out of school. Any little thing I did was a huge huge problem for him and meant another step to the end of our relationship. It was more of me doing as I was told or else!

      Liked by 4 people

  7. Good Gravy Lynn I would not have ever been able to do that! My gang gets taken to school (3 miles up the Road) by their Grandad or my hubs and picked up every school day. It is probably as well you were not in tuned to what was going on creating high risk or you would have gone absolutely bonkers I am sure. You really did all you could as their Mom at the time. Keep writing…xoxoxo Cheryl

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I realy enjoyed getting back to your story again, Lynn. I’ve missed it over Christmas, although I know you haven’t posted any more episodes until now. It’s so nice to know how much the two girls loved school, and I’m sure you soon realised that the boys’ worries were not your fault – even though ‘he’ insisted it was.

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  9. Lynn, such bravery you display when it comes to the kids. You are remarkable. It seems to me this is a turning point of sorts for you at this time in the story. I always look forward to these posts. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Ah the crack in your trained obedience is showing Lynn – it won’t be long and the boys will surely be in a better educational environment……… It was excellent to choose to ride the bus and help bring form to chaos too – wise and brave!

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  11. Thank goodness the girls went to American School, I feel so badly for the boys and for you too. I know you wanted them to have a great learning experience in a different school but were a virtual prisoner to the demands and whims of your husband. You held it all together very well and did an amazing job. Look at them all now, you did good Lynn.

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  12. I miss reading your story Lynz…it’s like reading a novel, only it’s not fiction. It’s fascinating and amazing to know what you’ve been through and how you were able to not only survive, but eventually get away from your abuser. Thank you for sharing more of your life with us. You deserve every bit of good that comes your way.

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  13. I am so glad to read another chapter in the story. You have been so busy I thought you might be putting this off for a long time. This memoir is so bittersweet to read and I am sure was even more bittersweet to live. I hope you will post it at the Senior Salon.

    Liked by 3 people

  14. Wow! I can’t wait to read more! Now that is a cliff-hanger Lynn! It sounds like change is in the air. As always, wonderful writing, full of emotion that takes the reader on the journey as if we are right there with you! I enjoyed this installment very much! 🙂

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  15. I too am glad you have gotten back into writing about Saudi. It is such an interesting perspective (yet painful) to see life as an American with children in Saudi under such relentless ruling. And I am still very happy for you that you got out. Hugs Lynn!

    Liked by 3 people

  16. Great post, Lynn … you continue to inspire me! I love your comment above that began: The love of my children is what carried me through. 🙂 How did you like your first day at your new job? Sending love, big hugs and prayers!

    Liked by 2 people

    • thanks for reading Anna! It was lovely. I wasn’t going to pick up a shift, nervous and thinking I could not do it, but my kids get irritated with me and remind me, MOM you tell us, we are the smartest, most creative, hard working etc. people so why aren’t you!!?? so honestly I thought about it and clicked accept! It was fun Anna, I love working with kids of all ages, these kids touched my heart, special ed. I would love to work there some day and be permanent! For now, sub jobs, my Mude starts track, I am at all his meets, Osama and Jacki are not sure what will happy, will she need a C Section, will there be problems, so I have signed on to be there and stay whenever and do what is needed through the summer. So, I will sub and maybe later! Thanks so much for asking!!! xoxo huge hug!

      Liked by 2 people

  17. It was at times horrible situation but your love shines in every short chapter you share. My DIL appreciated your one bed bugs episode which lasted quite awhile, poor you (and her, too wuth baby and others.) Love is all we need, Beatles♡

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi dear! Thanks for reading! Yes bedbugs are no fun as you know! We are fortunate to be here rebuilding our lives and yes love is all we need I agree! thanks for the support it means allot to me xxx

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  18. You did all possible for your kids to be happy Lynn and I’m sure, that they also know this today. Don’t ever think, that they never look back and consider, which kind of life they would be in now, if it was not for your will and decision about going back to US. You gave them all a very big gift, the freedom to live and speak, which they would not have had, if you still lived in Saudi. You are a wonderful Mom and they are so lucky to have you. Remember that writing is part of your healing, so do it, when you have the time and abundance. Good luck with your new working life too 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I think people take for granted the world they live in, where they know the school they send their children to, where they can make a choice and be comfortable in the knowledge that they are happy with where their children go every day, and you are showing us all something very different, so very hard to have to let your children go like that 😦

    How was your first day?

    Liked by 2 people

  20. Your story is amazing and so well told. What impresses me most is you do not write out of anger and seeking any kind of recompense from him. You make your life sound “normal” and open my eyes to how a human can keep her own integrity and values in a very different culture. Hurrah for you. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

      • I always felt the same about the father of our boys during a difficult marriage and our divorce. It is a wonderful surprise that we have become friends in the past ten years. I completely understand where you are coming from.

        Liked by 1 person

        • That is awesome. He married and had a child which was the hardest thing of my life! He refused to divorce me and ugh it was awful. I still had the kids talk to him, told the older kids go see him! I want them to resolve their feelings! we have no contact now and he does not talk to our kids, I feel bad, his loss!

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