The beginning- Amu hit me with a stick?

The words my son spoke could not penetrate through to my brain, my real thinking brain. I was now amidst trucks, cars, bikes and hundreds of students, drivers and fathers. My first thought was to get my children safely home. This new and strange environment seemed suddenly hostile and distant, no longer interesting and colorful!  I grabbed my son’s hand and held it tightly, pushing the stroller with his hand attached to mine. I was no longer a timid foreigner but an angry mother marching out into the street, navigating through the cars and trucks. Vehicles lined the streets stopping in the middle and side of the road, blocking other traffic. Horns honking, cars screeching to a stop, children laughing and the sounds of a busy school day letting out. I couldn’t be bothered by anything except the words my son had uttered.

We reached the outside of the villa, it was hard to know which one it was. I stopped and looked, there was Abu Abdullah’s (owner of the villa) little pick up truck. When I started out for the school to get my son I had counted the streets and tried to notice other details along the way so that I could find my way back, white pick up, grey car, beige house, stray cats, garbage dumpster, and again the same line up along the way.  Every villa and neighborhood looked the same to me, beige or tan, the color of sand, huge walls surrounded each home making the whole block look as if it were one big wall. We approached the large rusted metal gate and walked through the empty courtyard, up the stairs to the dull brown doors that had once appeared mysterious and full of possibilities. I sat down tired, weary and hot! I took off my abaya (long black coat) and rested for a moment.  I asked my son, What happened what do you mean someone hit you on the head?  I held his hand in mine and tried to make eye contact with him. I don’t know mom!  He was tired and overwhelmed and didn’t even understand what people were saying at this school. He said that the teacher had a long wooden stick and for some reason had hit him on the head! I didn’t know what to say or to ask but I tried to be calm. “Was he joking or was he mad, did he hit you hard or a tap”  as  the words came out of my mouth I realized how ridiculous this sounded. What did it matter if he was mad, happy or sad? He hit my son and nothing could change that. A dread came over me, I felt helpless and confused.

That night we had a make shift soccer game in the mejalis (men’s sitting room). I always tried to think of the benefits that came with not having furniture, indoor soccer games, pillow fights and no mess to pick up! After the kids were in bed, I sat in the plastic blue chair he purchased at the plastic souk (store carrying all things plastic!) it was hard on my body at this point to sit on the floor. Contractions came and went along with back pain, heart burn, hemorrhoids and all of the things pregnancy brings. I sat and waited,  I looked at the clock, 8:10, then 9, and finally 10. He left for work each day around 7 a.m. and arrived home around noon. If you work for a company keeping this schedule you work two shifts, morning until noon, back again around 4, finishing your day at 8 or 9 pm.  This schedule might have carried with it a benefit except that all stores and offices were then closed. So, a time when you would have potential transportation, there was no place to go.  With each minute my anxiety grew!  When he walked in I smiled and tried to be the cheerful, dutiful wife. I remembered that he was tired, busy and did not like his new job.  I  learned  to never bother him with my trivial troubles, personal feelings or struggles because a reply about me thanking God for my blessings instead of complaining and a lecture would ensue. But, with my kids it was different, there were no boundaries and no reason to ever give up or stop fighting!  I carefully approached the subject and told him what my son had said. He ignored my comment and continued eating. I repeated my statement and he glanced at me stating that he was sure no one would ever hit the boys, it was not possible! I questioned him further and could see the veins in his forehead start to bulge!  There was no way for me to comprehend this and it could not stand. “I would not be sending my children to an unsafe environment where they would be hit!” No response was given but my point was clear and left him no alternative.

The next morning as I helped my boys get ready for school, I made sure they knew that hings would be different! It must have been a mistake or misunderstanding and one that would not be repeated. I waited anxiously all day trying to make sense of what had happened and his response to this incident. That night when he arrived home after work he told me that he had gone to the school to see the teacher. The teachers all loved my son and said no one would ever hit a child, it was against Saudi law! I knew my son would not make this up and so began 12 years of muddling through the Saudi school system. This meant changing schools each year in some cases, lodging complaints, and trying to unravel these complicated, unwritten rules. Years later I took my kids out of the school system and went back to home schooling. That was one of several choices that afforded more freedom but pushed things to the limit and brought me to where I am today!

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160 thoughts on “The beginning- Amu hit me with a stick?

  1. Lynn, the other night there was an NPR (public radio) show on about oil in Saudi and I thought of you. Your stories always tug at my heart strings and make me admire your incredible strength and when I feel I am in a tough spot, I think of you now and how you adjusted and not only adjusted by became stronger and thrived despite the hardships and moved on. Hugs! You are a protecting, loving mother and a great writer, too. xo From the heart.

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    1. It took years and went against his wishes, sending my sons back home for school, taking the kids out of school and home schooling two huge decisions I just went with and did not back down on, so that was the true beginning of the end.

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      1. Well interesting enough, once the kids got to be big things went downhill. They, amazing people, insisted on having gifts, being allowed to go out with friends, gave me gifts-which were confiscated, they saw real life and wanted to be free! So, he used to say”they are mine until they are 10 then I lose them” well they started wanting freedom and so from that time I fought to give them freedom!!! So, things just slowly went downhill but when my oldest wanted to leave to America for university, I promised him it would happen, so I spent that year fighting for them to leave- my two best friends. but I held strong and that huge decision infuriated him, he refused to come with me and the 9 kids to get the boys settled. So steps down hill.

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      2. Seems to me it’s all about power and control. He could “control” them until they were 10. How sad!! You fought for your children’s desires and needs and it infuriated him. It is so good that you are away from all that “power and control.”

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  2. I feel my own frustration rising with this piece, Lynz. How horrible to have that happening and all the adults lying. Thank goodness your son (and all your children) had a courageous mother. Courage that ultimately led you to a better place.

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      1. Okay, awesome! I should be able to work something out then! I won’t be able to meet you in the middle of the week because of work, but… okay, well, we’ll figure something out when the date gets closer!! Yay! I’m excited!!

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  3. Wow it seems like a throw back her were children were punished in similar ways. I feel it is an aberration to hit a child. There is effective ways to deal with children then hitting them. I don’t blame you for wanting to change shcools. You can really feel the anger, the protection for your children and being afraid of your husband. I think it is perhaps in the Saudi culture perhaps.

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  4. Very tough position for you to be in. I’m glad you had the option of taking them out of school to home school. I bet it was difficult with the lack of resources and number of kids but I feel you did the best thing possible in this situation. I would have been just as livid as you to find out my child was being hit like that.

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    1. thanks Tasha! I home schooled when my sons left for university. My oldest used to call the schools and help out! So, I thought no way to keep going. He was LIVID that I made this choice and it was a huge huge downward spiral!

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      1. Yea its obvious he didnt think you were adequate enough to do that despite the fact that you were the glue holding the family together. Good thing you did it anyway!

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  5. Oh my goodness, this made me so angry! I can only imagine how mad you must have been. I also think it’s admirable how this was a turning point, as you said, the beginning of changes to come. Thanks for sharing, Lynn, and Happy Valentine’s Day! 🙂 xo

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  6. I understand what you meant with being the cheerful wife but turning into the lioness when it comes to your children. I acted the same way towards my father. I swallowed a lot but not when I saw my child being humiliated! I can only imagine what that meant with changing schools for 12 years in a foreign country… for the kids and for you!

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      1. It was him using each side, first me I had to do as told or he would be more angry and not do the few things he did, get something for school like supplies, Help kids with home work, buy a needed pair of socks,so i had to shut up, be nice etc. Later it reversed, he was so horrible screamed at me in public etc and the kids had to be super nice to hope he would not be awful to me. They would go to lunch with him, not ask for more freedom or it all came down on me. Its like your are a machine each part working to keep things running smoothly.

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      2. You are blamed for simply everything…. he couldn’t with himself at all. What an unhappy frustrated person…… again, a complete narcissist! And yes, the kids were daunted a lot by his behavior in order to shelter you. I think no one can really imagine where you went through!

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      3. It is a weird and complex web that is hard to put into words or even hard for me to understand. My oldest son still tells me, he would tell his father many things, but he knows it might come back and damage me in some way! I told him, no say anything you want. But the older kids all know, do not rock the boat!

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      4. It was not that bad, but my father was similar. He was a good soul and really took care that we had everything, but he was nervous and sometimes unpredictable in his mood. We too rather hid in our rooms and did not say anything since we knew it would come right back at us or our mother. But as I said, when it came to my son that was different. I understand a lot how helpless you might have felt and also your children. I think that is one of the reasons I really like your tales because I understand!

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      5. Yes, in my case it was my father. I experienced it from the kids’ side. But it was not only my mom who was blamed when we did not talk or have an opinion he felt we should have. We experienced his rage diectly. So we were agreeing and being silent for her and for our sake.

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      6. YES! the beginning of the cycle I felt I was the key. He still tells me I am the key! Which is creepy. well he was not a good provider and didn’t let the kids have any freedom. So I felt if I did not do what he said and was not always compliant, then he acted even worst. He already refused to allow the kids to have real friends, everyone was seen as dangerous and bad, so then it was worst, they could not go out or stay out riding bikes (simple things) or he would not allow them to go to a compound party etc. It was little unspoken things but I saw the direct result of not shutting up and not going along with his wishes, So really a silent type of thing I could feel. A sick control exerted between us all! xx Yes you do feel it xxx

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      7. When I read your words I thought you experienced a private Guantanamo! But the good thing is that you don’t need to explain anything to your childrend. They know the whole story!

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      8. I don’t know what to say. Nightmare never meets it. He stabbed you in each point he could find. He knew your sore points. It was already horrible enough but what you write here beats it all. My respect and appreciation constantly grows, Lynn! What happened cannot be undone but I hope from the bottom of my heart that one day, you can put it aside as a part of your life that you yourself ended. You developed an immense power from that torture instead of breaking which made you safe your children and your life. A lioness indeed!
        Your writing is your therapy. I see that clearer than ever before.
        I would so love to hug you now to show you how amazing you are and that you all is well now. I do it virtually and hope you feel it. Love you lots, Lynn!💖

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      9. thank you as now tears are falling! Thanks for reading and understanding, noone can understand how and why and then as a person you feel great shame and guilt! having you in my corner helps and makes me feel more whole! Many hugs and love back! honestly thank you dear Erika! xxx

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      10. Oh, Lynn, tears over here now too! Even if I will never be able to encompass the whole picture I feel deep with the picture I got. You are definitely understood by so many over here. That fear, humiliation, pain, pressure ….
        I understand that you feel this guilt and shame after all that happened. But there is not the slightest reason to feel that way. Not one single reason! Don’t believe that!
        It wasn’t you who caused this all. Actually you are the one who ended it. You are stronger than him because you took responsibility for your life, which he could not! You are the strong one!
        I know it is deep…. but it is over!
        Hug you strongly again, Lynn! 💖💖

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      11. That would truly help! Hope that comes soon. Can’t you file for it after you are separated for so long already? Sorry, perhaps that is too private, did not mean it. Just thinking out loud.

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      12. I wish –just worried he will come here make trouble! He cut money but what if he fights for my kids. they are older now but he warned me he would drag them through the court system! We own a home together and so worried he will get that home or half, have to sell it. I just dont want more problems and want the kids to just be happy!

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      13. Of course, I see the dilemma. Sorry, I did not mean to dig too deep into your privacy, Lynn. I don’t know if this is the right place to discuss it. But please know, that you can always talk to me via email if you feel like. It won’t change anything but sometimes it feels good to simply talk/write things from your chest. Just want you to know that. 💖💖💖

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      14. If I was in the US maybe… but I am too far away. But you know what? Make a post about it and ask for reblogging it! I would reblog it for sure and I know you can count on our community. You will have lots of reblogs. It would be worth trying it, Lynn! Hey, let’s do it!!!

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      15. Thanks dear! It is scary I know it sounds silly, I still feel scared to rock the boat! Fear ugh holds us locked in. I worry he might try to take me to court and my kids would be in big turmoil.So for now just inching forward! Thanks, when I am bold I will count on you xxxxx

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      16. I totally get you! I thought perhaps someone could really give you tips just in case you might come into the situation. Perhaps you would feel more secure and confident with knowing your rights or possibiliteis. You can always count on me, Lynn! Signed and sealed! 💖

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      17. you are awesome! thanks so much! I saw an attorney in the Fall and it was just very iffy as to what would happen. she said no way could he get any custody but as we know things happen. So I will wait and just try to be happy! Thanks so much dear Erika! xx

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  7. You don’t always see it, but you gave your children such a wonderful upbringing. Your strength of purpose, your single-mindedness, your compassion, your generosity of heart and spirit. I sincerely I hope get to meet all of you one day.

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    1. I don’t blame you! You are held in this sticky situation, each member of the family tries to make things right so that others do not get into trouble. I watch movies where kids tell on their siblings or a parent. In our household we all stuck up for one another so that we could have little things! We all stood beside each other keeping it all together. We didn’t know it at the time it was just life! A puzzle where each piece had to be in order. xx

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      1. Since he quit supporting the family last summer, I now feel free to speak, scared but free. money is no longer a threat as that is gone, so I feel I will speak. I was trying to be nice, not rock the boat, go along to keep support money coming for my children but now I will speak!

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  8. That is at the top of my list, too. I went ballistic (and got an aide fired) when an after-school activity let my son walk unattended to a different building. What were they thinking? Hitting my children? Good for you, drawing that line.

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  9. I can’t even imagine what it must take out of you to write (and relive) these entries. I always come away with an ache in my heart for all you and your children endured, but with such great awe and respect for your strength, your spirit, and your /heart/. We never know how we’ll truly handle a difficult situation until we’re placed in one, but I cannot for the life of me imagine that I would have handled what you did – on foreign soil, no less – with as much grace as you did.

    I agree that there’s a book in this. You write from the heart and it engages everyone who comes back week after week to read more. It isn’t about chapter length or organization. That’s what editors do! What they can’t do is give a story life. That’s what you do.

    Thanks once again for sharing.

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  10. So awful and sad for the children who endured school with such situations! And so heartbreaking and frustrating for you, dear Lynn! So hard to bear … knowing your children are in that environment! 😦

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  11. Another poignant post Lynz, apart from the obvious shock that children can be hit on the head with a stick for ‘not understanding’ was my shock at you in the late stages of pregnancy trying to get comfortable on a plastic chair.
    We really do not know how lucky we are. xx

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      1. Still not in a routine Lynz, and just trying to keep abreast with your posts xx
        In the process of packing a case for my honeymoon in Malta in May, as Marc will have to bring this in the car the end of April before the wedding…..plus sort some ‘work clothes’ to take back next week in the hope that I have a job!!!

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  12. So, Lynz, are you an American woman who married a man from Saudi Arabia? And, are you divorced and now living in the U.S.? If so, did you have trouble getting your children out of Saudi Arabia? This is my first time reading your blog, but you certainly have lived a life many would be interested in hearing about. I agree that you should not think of it as writing a book. That is overwhelming. Just write about individual incidents and perhaps later they will add up to a book..But for the time being just handle one at a time. Judy

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    1. Thank you so much for stopping by. I married a Palestinian man, we married he became a U.S. citizen. He insisted on us moving over to Saudi! I could get them out but I was scared and locked away with no resources, isolated. My memoirs are at the top of my page. We are still legally married and his last visit was in May which turned out badly! I would divorce but it is hard if he doesn’t live here and he has threatened me several times. I lived through polygamy and another child!! I am so glad you stopped by. I will go and see your blog. Thanks for the advice as it seems like a huge task that I am afraid to take on! I have all of my kids with me, all 9!

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      1. But you are in the U.S.? Lynz, you have a story that is very timely. I think if you got a series of stories written you might even be able to get an agent and a publisher. Right now you should just keep writing.. Since I haven’t seen your blog before I don’t know if you’ve told the story of your meeting and courtship. I’d start with that. If you have written about that, could you provide me with the links? How old are your children? — Judy

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