The beginning 4-A Crosswalk is a beautiful thing!

After two weeks things had changed somewhat in the villa. We had a stove, a used refrigerator and a few kitchen items. A colander, some utensils and a couple of hand- me-down pans made it easier to cook on the two burner stove. Jet lag had faded and it was a bit cooler in the villa but the same heat remained with no access to a/c.  It was now November and temperatures in Riyadh were still in the mid 80’s, but it was bearable with the window and door ajar. We had settled into a routine of sorts where we slept at a normal hour and woke in the morning when it was light. The days still blurred one into another, no phone, television or contact with the outside world made it easy to forget time.

While living in Seattle I had home schooled the boys. They were at that time almost  6 1/2 and 5 1/2 years old. Our life was very homey, we spent most days doing little school art projects and playing outside. We had many dinner parties where elaborate Arabic foods were prepared. I spent my days cooking, baking, cleaning and doing what I loved best, being a mom. I had several female friends (Hala-aunt) and they might come over during the day or with their husbands at night.  The children laughed and played while we chatted and exchanged recipes and stories of our daily routines. Amu (endearing term for father’s male friends) would visit and sit in a room designated for “men”. When any amu came for dinner he was sure to bring candy, gifts or just a glimpse of the outside world.  In Arab society visiting is just a way of life and your door must always be open to visitors.

As we sat in Saudi the idea of school hung heavy over our heads, we knew it was inevitable and approaching soon. I had full confidence that this would be the most amazing experience for my children. They were nervous to leave me and head off on their own but also filled with anticipation. I was also very nervous but felt this was for the best. They would learn a new language and culture and also meet friends. They would, of course be treated very well, a kindly Amu would explain the rules and understand that the boys didn’t know any Arabic. I am a worrier but felt very confident that this would be a brilliant new chapter in life.

Evidently this villa was chosen because it was 2 blocks away from a boys school. The first day of school came, the boys had their best clothes on, and new shoes I had purchased and packed in our boxes.  My oldest was not happy to be living in Saudi and did not want to make this move. He did not want to go to school or to live in this villa or be away from his home. His younger brother agreed to go to school and try it out and report to him afterwards.  His father took him and dropped him off. I was to walk the two blocks to the school to pick him up at the end of the school day. When the school day ended, I put on my black abaya (floor length, silky coat worn by women) and my scarf and pushed my double stroller down the street.

I made my way towards the school, a very pregnant lady in a long black abaya pushing a brightly colored side by side double stroller with two fair haired toddlers. This is not something that you see in Riyadh! Women have drivers who take them to and from places as well as carrying their bags and helping with the children. Western women take a driver or bus from their compound. So, as I walked confidently down the street, heads turned,  I became an anomaly in this tiny traditional Saudi neighborhood.

I arrived at the street across from the school, it didn’t seem like a busy street but I found it might have been easier trying to cross the Red Sea. I saw no cars coming and carefully started out into the street. I quickly jumped back and stood in amazement and fear as I watched cars, trucks and even bikes honk and show no sign of stopping, instead they sped up and whizzed past. I made several failed attempts at crossing, first walking to different areas of the street, then waving my hand a little as if to say, Please stop! I had to cross in order to get my son and I could feel the panic rise inside of me.  I saw a break in the cars and ran, looking side to side during my sprint across the street. I felt as if we were invisible to these oncoming vehicles.

A wave of boys flooded out of the gates and it looked like an impending stampede. I stood looking for my son in the crowd of boys all wearing white thobes (long white garment worn by men and boys). Finally I saw my little baby, he looked tired and a serious grimace now spread across his face. I approached him and grabbed his hand pressing it into mine. I playfully squeezed, but his hand seemed tired, clammy and flat. His large brown eyes turned up on the ends when he laughed and inquired about a million things that only a mother can answer. Now he stood before me in silence, leaving me to wonder what kind of day would produce this outcome. His eyes drooped and were tired, he walked next to me dragging his feet. I bent down to hug him and touch his face and asked him how the first day had gone. He looked at me and spoke words that left me in total confusion. Mom, Amu hit me on the head with a stick!

 

Saudi 6 (39)

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145 thoughts on “The beginning 4-A Crosswalk is a beautiful thing!

    1. yes and it started 12 years of dealing with the schools. It breaks my heart to look back! I have apologized to my kids many times for keeping them in that school system. But, their father denied it was happening and I insisted he go in daily!! he did go in and teachers said no no way would they hit, it’s illegal. So, it was a long battle until I took them out of school!

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      1. they say they dont blame me! So I tried and later called a teacher out to the street!!!! I was furious and my 5th child had been hit so I insisted he come out and face me! I can’t believe I did that as I was afraid but my kids are the most important people to me and I was done with this ridiculous bullying from teachers!!!

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  1. Oh no! Was he bullied in school? That didn’t look good on the first day of school. I could imagine how much difficulty you had trying to get across. Wasn’t there a traffic light or stuff like that? It sounded really dangerous for you, especially pregnant and with a stroller.

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    1. No traffic lights no and it’s weird, they just do not stop no matter what! Many years later a nice young saudi guy stopped for me and Saleeha! I didn’t dare cross because noone else stopped and they were furious with him. Well bullying yes but the teachers hit, scream and humiliate. Something we dealt with for years, the father said, not true, the teachers said no we dont hit, etc. So me trying to fight this for years! It is against Saudi law to hit students but not followed!

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      1. Oh my goodness! It’s the teacher!!! This really sounds bad… Teachers hitting students and no traffic lights. It takes a lot of of courage and perseverance to stay there. Hats off to you, Lynz.

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    1. I have to say that I feel horrible, I did then and I still do. I love my kids and always stuck up for them. But, they spoke no arabic, were bullied by students, rocks thrown at them, teachers were nasty and so it makes me feel bad. But, my son told me he wouldn’t change it, it made him strong! So, yes a long journey and trying to figure out what was happening! Thanks so much Cynthia this was one of my first posts.

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      1. Yes, I remember reading this months ago and being fascinated and wondering how this woman did this, everything seemed so hard. It made my own problems seem smaller. I want to tell you not to feel bad about what happened, but I know how hard it is to get rid of “mom guilt.” It seems to follow us and nag us about what we did or didn’t do. But it’s pointless and it sucks. All we can do is try to let it go and move forward, doing the best we can for our kids. I think you did and are doing a hell of a good job!

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  2. Powerful writing.
    Believe your children when they tell you they do not blame you.
    Dear Lynz, there is no one who reads your website who does not know that you are one woman who did and continues to do the very best with life circumstances.

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    1. Jodi, those are the perfect words, crush. We lived a very sheltered life in the U.S. still his rules etc. but the friends who visited us, bought the boys legos, brought them candy and played games, they were honesty like uncles and were usually students at the University. So, it was a huge shock and I was so confused, he said no and accused me of leading them to believe they were being hit? So anyway a mess and heart breaking!

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      1. You stop that right now! You hear me? You don’t even go there. Move on move forward. No need for guilt. Wasted energy and you are a rockstar momma!!!!!!

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  3. When I think of our school system here in USA and may be they did corporal punishment in the 1880’s hitting children in a one room classroom with a ruler on their hands -say what????????????????? Needless to say in today’s world here this would NEVER happen. I for one parent would have their job, press charges and whatever else I could do to throw the book at a teacher who hit, grabbed, hurt my child in anyway. They’d live to regret it it-I’ll assure you of that! How difficult for you Lynn knowing this behavior was done even if it was not supposed to be so in Saudi-the children told you the truth and your hands were tied I realize. Just dreadful for everyone oh, except “Him” of course. Come to my backyard and have school with me-WHIMP! oxoxoxoxoBestie 2

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    1. Yes I agree! My older kids tell the younger ones if they complain, “You have it so easy haha” the little kids, thank God, have no idea what it’s like. or what they mean. They have little complaints that I smile at, normal things, oh too much homework, why do we have to learn this or that, etc. I wasn’t sure what was happening although I told him, no way would my kids lie, why would they say they were being hit? So, I insisted he go in and he was not happy about it either! He came back each time with the same response, the teacher loves our kids and would never hit them!

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  4. I still have Mom Guilt – I think its kind of universal… with us thinking of things we could’ve done differently. Your children know you believed them – and that is sooo important. And they know you fought for them with all your might. They also know you were powerless. You think I’m a strong person but you are stronger than anyone I know Lynz!!

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  5. Lynn – your kids saw you TRYING and BELIEVING THEM, so I think this is the best and greatest gift you could give them. You, at least, did not brush it off by any means – and you tried to do what you could within the confines of that culture. That “mama bear” thing is real – and you showed remarkable restraint to your credit, as well (I hope that makes sense – because I have felt huge rage before when I felt my child was wronged by an adult). That mama bear thing carries its own personality, and I know your kids felt you protecting them the best you could!!! ❤

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  6. Oh no ! and it is only starting !
    Lies , deception and cowardice 😦
    But you came out of it , and so did your kids , because of your love for them and your strength !
    We do understand when you say you feel guilt , or that you should have known/done better protecting your children ; but the truth is you did wonderfully by keeping all of you as safe as possible considering the environment you were living in .
    You must believe it Lynn when we tell you that you are absolutely amazing !
    And any time those doubts come into your mind just look at the beautiful human beings you have been bringing up 🙂
    Love and Hugs ❤

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  7. Humiliation, hitting, bullying and outright lying. What kind of school would truly want the children under their care to endure such horrendous childhoods. How can any educational establishment expect their children to turn into loving, caring adults when they’re made to face such abuse, at their hands, every day at such a young age. I wonder if the authorities were aware of what was going on. It beggars belief .
    It’s total credit to you, Lynz, that your children have turned out so well. Shame on their father for not believing what his own children were telling him.

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      1. That is horrible, I am very sad this happened to him. I know it must have been extremely difficult for you to have to deal with this. So sorry you and the kids had to go through this type of abuse.

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  8. My heart went out to your Son and yourself during these trying years Lynz… And I thank you for the courage you show in sharing your journey here with us..
    Sending you love my friend..I am sure you are so very proud of your children… And it must have been an awful time when you were confronted with these circumstances within your children’s schools..
    It is bad enough when students bully.. But unexceptionable when it is those who teach.. and you are facing a brick wall ..
    ❤ Love to you xxx Sue

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  9. So many things go through my mind as I read this… the optimism and excitement for your sweet boys to experience school in another language/culture; the pregnant American woman pushing a double stroller through the busy streets (what did the locals think about that?!?!); and finally the horror, anger, and feeling of being trapped that you and your boys must have felt after that first day of school. But you all persevered and made it Home! xo

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  10. First green beans sound yummy…something that I will give a try as we love both vegies and garlic….change is so hard on kids…and to make it even more difficult to be in a different country..so hard on all of you…..kat

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  11. You say you’ve been fighting for 12 years, so I see no reason why you have the guilt. You’ve served your sentence. You’ve since long been redeemed. It hurts though knowing but it’s always hindsight when we reflect back to pain we experience from the past. It’s all a journey, isn’t it? As you’ve pointed out, you’re all that much stronger. You’re also wiser, but you were also wise then because you continued to believe your children and you persevered and you ultimately accomplished what you wanted to do.

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      1. I am happy to be where we are! I finally found a school that was totally committed to helping us! So, I sat for 2 months at the school, outside the class, then in the hall, then down the hall, volunteering, then out on the bench, the car! Finally Heme said ok go home! A huge victory!

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      1. I’m glad you have the energy and drive to do this work Lynz. It ‘feels’ like it is paying off. I’m happy for whatever has gotten you to ‘here’. I’m sure that part of the story will come. I am appreciating your telling of it.

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  12. Terrible scenario at the school. I think you did the best you possibly could in an impossible situation. About “mom guilt” – there are very few moms who haven’t felt it in situations much less dire than your own. I think what we moms can do is love and listen to each other and accept that some things are out of our control no matter how hard w e try to change them directly.

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