It was my eldest son’s birthday a few days ago. He turned 15, and at 5’9” is now taller then his dad. Yes, there are a few well earned silver strands mingling with my otherwise raven locks, but I have not broken out the Clairol yet. I know it is just a matter of time that I will - or won’t.
We had given H a choice of having a party or getting something he couldn't live without, and I am delighted to say that my gregarious and ever sociable son chose his friends. His invitation list initially consisted of 25 of his closest friends, but we whittled it down to 15.
We had reserved 3 lanes at the Markaz Qatar Al Bolinj / Qatar Bowling Center. The bowling alley here is about the same as back home, except it is immaculately clean, with a VIP sitting room and waiters in black and white uniforms who deliver snacks in hefty proportions while you bowl. Security is plenty and is strictly enforced. The rules are similar as well, with the exception of this one, by far my favorite:
No bowling is allowed while wearing an abaya or thobe.
We had requested everyone not to bring gifts. We wanted it to be a simple and casual affair, for the boys to get together and have a good time. We also did not want H to receive expensive gifts, such as IPhones & IPods (which is not unheard of by the way). But Arabs are extremely generous, with the Qatari’s being high on the list. So a few did come bearing gifts. I am left pondering how we will reciprocate.
We had a great time. I met all of H’s friends who were there, and they are a great group of kids, albeit a bit shy in front of mom. The gathering truly represented a mini United Nations. N and I had slaved all afternoon making cupcakes - with a little help from Ms. Betty Crocker. We made over 30, and had taken 24 with us, which disappeared within minutes. Afterwards K and I allowed him to go to Johnny Rocket’s with his buddies for his favorite meal of burgers, fries and shakes. Qatar is a much safer place to live and we give our children a greater amount of freedom that we otherwise would have. In case you're wondering, that's when the real party began!
I have previously mentioned in a former post our main purpose for moving to Qatar. But another greatly important reason was that we wanted our children to grow up with a greater sense of awareness and respect for other people and cultures.
I have lived in the US for the majority of my life, but have been fortunate to have lived in other parts of the world as well. I have also been blessed with many opportunities to travel. I can honestly say we Americans, no matter how the bad economy gets, compared to the rest of the world, still have got it good. But we often tend to be myopic, barely noticing what goes on beyond our back yards.
We don’t need to drive gas guzzling SUV’s, and we don’t need to fill our homes with inexpensive items manufactured in foreign countries under dire conditions. We are a nation of immigrants, therfore we must educate ourselves to a greater degree in order to prevent the evils stemming from xenophobia. And having such a profound influence on the rest of the world, we need to choose our leaders wisely. I am proud to say, this year we did.
But having said all this I must also point out that we citizens are by far the most generous of all developed nations, giving twice as much to charitable causes; benefiting not only our own communities, but wherever the need is greatest.
Therefore, I did not want my children to grow up to be the epitome of the old and often unjust cliché the ‘ugly American’. Here they are experiencing another way of life, different from what they are accustomed to, but wonderful nonetheless. They are interacting with people of various demographics, from distinct cultures, societies and economic levels. Through our frequent travels they have been able to observe other parts of the world at a closer range. And they are developing a keen sense of awareness, along with a greater appreciation and respect for others. They also know how good they have it.
And so ya ibni, my sweet boy, may you carry this knowledge with you throughout your life, when you return home, or wherever you choose to live. And may you convey this more so through your actions than with words.