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Review and edit old stories– The first day of school

As the summer months drug on, the sweltering heat proved to be unyielding. The a/c chug and thud signaled the end to electricity and a day ahead with no relief, no t.v. or cooking. The children added Grama’s box to their pad house which served as a car, train and boat. Obstacles were to be avoided by launching onto a pad, skipping past pitfalls, lava and water. Quick trips to a nearby park during evening prayer time were a nice break in our mundane routine. See See and Foof played on the swings and little Abude crawled through patches of grass and dirt. He took the big boys to prayer and then returned to sit for a few minutes before carting us back to the apartment. This occurred twice a week until we were approached by children who stood, staring and chanting ABC, 123 Abc.”  They gawked, taunted and pointed, while their mothers sat sipping tea, glancing our way. I smiled, reminding myself that they were children, but one group was replaced by the next until there was a constant barrage of onlookers. When he came back he shooed them away, sputtering harsh words in Arabic, and with a wave of his hands they were gone. From that time forward I declined these little excursions giving a list of excuses. It was the beginning of years feeling displaced, branded as outsiders and misfits.

The first day of school had finally arrived and although we were nervous, it became a long over due break from the stagnant heat and days that stretched on without basic essentials. The previous year had been a disheartening experience, no supervision, children throwing rocks, and teachers hitting students. I was sure that this was not an accurate representation of the Saudi school system. This must have been an exception, nothing at all like the school that stood next to our apartment. I packed the boys lunches, kissed them, and reassured them that I would be at home cooking their favorite meal, waiting for their return. My oldest reeled off his ritualistic goodbye, “I love you, you won’t leave the apartment, you promise? I love you,  goodbye” and then they followed their father out the door.  This routine pledge began the year before when he was left repeatedly outside the rusty metal gates of the villa. They suspected he had chicken pox and so they put him on the bus, dropped him at our gate and left. He had no idea why he was leaving school, where he was going or his whereabouts. A 6 year old boy standing outside of the gate in a city of five million people, buzzing frantically, hoping this was his home. In an attempt to control this situation he insisted that I never leave home and I readily complied.

He had been told that this new school was well organized, did not allow corporal punishment, was famous for it’s kindly religious atmosphere and in general, a reputable institution. I ran through the apartment cleaning and cooking in an attempt to finish my routine before power was cut. Nervous anticipation filled the air as I stirred sauces, whipped up cookie dough and made my way through the first day of school. I knew that this year would be different, teachers would see the inner beauty of my special little boys, they would help them learn Arabic, be patient and embrace them, providing security and warmth.

The door swung open and he sauntered in, followed by two glum faces and a look, reminiscent of the year before. I smiled, hugged the boys and started to ask how their day had been, this was met with a standard warning glance, one that was well known and understood. I carried on about the food, their favorites and the special cookies, complete with forbidden ingredients from the list.  One day at a neighborhood Bukala (mini mart) I had nervously shoved m and m’s up to the cashier, a  last minute purchase when I saw his watchful eyes were not in sync with mine. These were mixed in with peanut butter and chocolate chips, to make large, warm cookies, waiting on a swap meet plate. The boys drug their backpacks into the empty bedroom and dropped them onto the floor. I served lunch and watched them pick at their meal, exchanging small stories of their first day.

He eventually wandered to the bedroom to take his afternoon nap and at that time I sat next to the boys hoping to extract any small details about their treatment at school. I put my arm around them and told them about my day, how See See and Foof made a pad fort, how little Abude pushed it down and how the box had now become an airplane. They laughed and sighed snuggling in for hugs, devouring warm cookies and milk. My oldest son then pronounced that in the first class a teacher asked every student to place their hand, palm upward in front of them. He then hit them with a ruler several times and followed it with a lecture. Their Arabic was not fluent but they got the message that this would be the result for any lessons missed,  incorrect answers or bad behavior.

119 Comments Post a comment
  1. Understanding cultural differences among adults is challenging; I can just imagine how difficult it must be for children.

    Liked by 4 people

    April 27, 2016
    • I feel so bad and as I edit these stories I am able to give more details than I could before. I carry a huge load of guilt but I fought as hard as I could and did my best to stand up for them and eventually leave.

      Liked by 3 people

      April 27, 2016
  2. Break them right from the start…. Like a splash of cold water after hoping for a better school!

    Liked by 2 people

    April 27, 2016
  3. I remember my kindergarten teacher taking me into another room and hitting me with a ruler. I don’t even remember why but I’ll never forget being hit. And this was almost 35 years ago. Hitting is definitely not an effective teaching method.

    Liked by 3 people

    April 27, 2016
  4. Of course it is easy to say you should not feel guilty. Because you should not. But you are a mother. A mother who adores her children. A mother who wanted and wants to protect them from everything. A mother who feels she let her children suffer. You didn’t. You were the one sane spot in an otherwise very confusing world for them. You were and are their anchor. You were and are their comfort, their warmth, their protection. Their mother.

    Liked by 5 people

    April 27, 2016
    • Thanks so much Fiona, writing this again and being more open made me feel many things, mostly sadness and guilt. The kids tell me pretty much what you just did, but stil!

      Liked by 2 people

      April 27, 2016
      • I tell people that along with all the hormones that rage when we women conceive, bear and birth our children we release a slug of guilt that slooshes round our systems forever more. If it doesn’t exist, if a mother doesn’t beat herself up, something is wrong. Which doesn’t make you feel any better but perhaps hints that you are normal as well as extraordinary 🙂

        Liked by 3 people

        April 27, 2016
  5. Must have been quite the culture shock and you handled it with such grace.

    Liked by 2 people

    April 27, 2016
  6. As it is so often, a tough read, but I am so glad you are putting this all out here for us.

    Liked by 2 people

    April 27, 2016
  7. You did your best back then Lynn and I feel sure, that your kids know this, also now. You showed them the way to a free life, for what I’m sure, they are grateful.
    I do really feel with you, it was tough times. I’m happy, that all of you survived. Big hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

    April 27, 2016
  8. A tremendous cultural gap that is hard to bridge. What were they hoping to achieve?

    Liked by 1 person

    April 27, 2016
  9. Oh Lynn, it had to be tough on all of you.
    Leslie

    Liked by 1 person

    April 27, 2016
  10. Thanks for sharing. It must have been quite a balancing act to meet your children’s needs and to pacify him at the same time. Probably more of a tightrope than even the width of a balance beam. So glad it is passed for you.

    Liked by 2 people

    April 27, 2016
  11. Each time I think about this I get a wee bit angrier at the “idiot” totally unyielding to these boys! My word Lynn-so hard on you as their loving Mom! bestie 2 xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

    April 27, 2016
  12. Oh, my. That’s a little bit more than a slight culture shock. They must have lived in fear, not the ideal learning environment. I had my knuckles slapped with a ruler when I missed the right keys on a piano lesson. But,that was in the late 1950’s, by an 80 year old nun, armed with a ruler. I switched to a private practice the next year, and the same nun lectured my father for pulling me out of there. I was relieved. Your family survived so much, Lynn.

    Liked by 1 person

    April 27, 2016
  13. I agree with Osyth, as mum’s we are burdened to live with guilt for the rest of our days…even though both my kids are grown and living there own lives, I still have guilty moments, even though in reality they are completely uncalled for…LOL maybe that’s where the ole saying came from….whats a mom gonna do!!……LOL I guess just feel guilty…lol If it helps, in the small town of Forks, Washington when I was in 4th and 5th grade, they had a paddle board with holes in it…. that they hit us with out in the hall with no witness’s…I got it for having a smart mouth…LOL imagine that…LOL all my parents said was I should learn to keep my mouth shut…corporal punishment was accepted back then…I also have had my knuckles wacked with a ruler….just part of the normal classroom routine if one got into trouble…nice huh… I would of been all over the school if someone hit my kids…can’t blame my parents, it was what it was and it was accepted behavior back them….your one of the best mothers I have ever come across….to keep your kids safe, fed and happy in the situation you were living in….stop beating yourself up….your a wonderful mother and I would bet every single one of your clan would agree with me whole heartedly…..you win mom’s of the century for sure….. lots of hugs kat

    Liked by 1 person

    April 27, 2016
    • Your so sweet Kat and yes it does help allot! I have moments when it hits me and I think WHAT was I thinking? I look at them and feel hideous! But you are right, it was the way. I fought hard but I had American friends in who said yes they were hit here in the states back then 40 years ago! Thanks, it does help!!!!!! xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

      Like

      April 27, 2016
  14. So disheartening. The bright spot in your kids’ day was getting home to your snuggles. It’s so awesome to see how you all have come out on top. Sipping the lemonade you made from all those lemons! 💕

    Liked by 1 person

    April 27, 2016
  15. No abuse is acceptable to me!

    Liked by 1 person

    April 27, 2016
  16. It would be so terrible to have to go into a place of learning every day and be fearful!

    Liked by 1 person

    April 27, 2016
  17. Alice #

    Lynn, I’ll say it again you are a strong wonderful woman! Your children are so blessed to have you for a mom!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    April 27, 2016
  18. koolaidmoms #

    We carry the guilt as moms whether or not we could control the situation. Your children know you did the best you could to protect them and care for them the best you could in that situation. Forgive yourself. You did a great job raising them with what little you were given.

    Liked by 1 person

    April 27, 2016
    • Thanks so much. I think you are right Marci, I realized as you said that, yes I have not forgiven myself! xx

      Liked by 1 person

      April 27, 2016
      • koolaidmoms #

        That’s the hardest. To forgive ourselves. We can forgive everyone else and understand their perspective and how they were doing the best they could but ourselves? The toughest one to forgive though it should be the first one.

        Liked by 1 person

        April 27, 2016
  19. Shocking! A mother knows how it feels… !

    Liked by 1 person

    April 27, 2016
  20. Such a difficult day for the boys – I am glad they came home to a lovely, kind and wonderful mom! Thanks Lynn for sharing these with us – I appreciate them and you! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    April 27, 2016
  21. You are a wonderful mother. I couldn’t imagine having to let my children endure this. But, isn’t that we we do? Protect our children and try to love them more in spite of foolishness?

    Liked by 1 person

    April 27, 2016
  22. How your heart must have sunk!

    Liked by 1 person

    April 27, 2016
  23. It must have seemed endless, Lynn. Your poor children and so little you could do about it. You were a huge source of comfort to them, more than you probably know. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    April 27, 2016
  24. Downright terrible!! This really irks me!! I wonder how these teachers have the heart to do that to little kids ?

    Liked by 1 person

    April 27, 2016
  25. It was this same practice in Catholic school that made me question the existence in God as a child.

    Liked by 1 person

    April 27, 2016
  26. Oh Lynn……I feel as if I’m sitting in that apartment waiting for him to fall asleep so I can hear the truth from the boys. This just hurts to read.

    Liked by 1 person

    April 27, 2016
  27. I loved the first day of school picture you shared with us! Those boys are looking like, “What, a picture of us, really?!” Your daughter posed and looks so sweet! Hugs for all of your children through the air sent your way. . . ❤

    Like

    April 27, 2016
  28. Good thing you persisted in getting out what was on their troubled minds.

    Liked by 1 person

    April 27, 2016
  29. Even after know most of the back story to these posts, they still anger me so much. I am hoping many others can be helped by them to know they can find their way out of their situation like you did. XOXOXO

    Liked by 1 person

    April 27, 2016
  30. It’s all just so tragic and sad. Glad it’s in the past. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    April 27, 2016
  31. I am amazed that any father would think that was okay behaviour for his child to be on the recieving end of.
    Madness.

    Liked by 1 person

    April 28, 2016
  32. Poor little guys. At least they knew Momma didn’t condone or want it. Did HE ever give any indication of his true feelings regarding this treatment of his children?

    Liked by 1 person

    April 28, 2016
    • He never wanted me asking them or talking about it. He said that he had much worst growing up in Syria, that is just how it is.

      Like

      April 28, 2016
  33. There is nothing that mom’s cookies can’t help you get through. You are such a good mom Lynn 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    April 28, 2016
  34. I just found a ton of new hugs to send your way. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    April 28, 2016
    • Oh thanks so much, I love them xxx

      Liked by 1 person

      April 28, 2016
      • I have my new laptop! Yay! 😉 😊 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        April 28, 2016
        • wow congrats! That is so exciting!

          Liked by 1 person

          April 29, 2016
          • It has a bigger screen and a better feel to the keyboard. It has more of everything, which should make it easier and more fun to blog. I decided to keep my old laptop for traveling. The employees at Office Depot told me it was in excellent condition, virus free and worth about 300.00. So, not worth selling as it costs 100.00 to clean it.

            Liked by 1 person

            April 29, 2016
          • Wow that is amazing!!!!

            Liked by 1 person

            April 29, 2016
  35. Your edits tell your story more forcefully. I can imagine how painful your memories are. Hugs and cheers to you. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    April 28, 2016
  36. What a way to start out a new school year. Poor boys. I’m imagining the mind of the teacher, too, and thinking, What a way to start out a new school year. That’s pretty sick, walking around the room slapping the hands of young boys. I guess that was supposed to prove some kind of point to them?

    Liked by 1 person

    April 28, 2016
  37. So many shocks

    Liked by 1 person

    April 29, 2016
  38. Is this new? Some of it seems familiar, but there seems like more details than I remember… Anyway, I’m glad you made them cookies and milk. I’m glad they had the comfort of a loving mom waiting for them at home.

    Liked by 1 person

    April 30, 2016
  39. Oh how horrible and terrifying. I just think this is a horrible way to treat children! How can they hope to learn in such an environment! And heartbreaking for you too! Hugs…

    Liked by 1 person

    May 1, 2016
  40. This is such a sad story for both you and your children! Hugs!

    Like

    May 24, 2016

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