Sunflowers

In which Amnesiac turns six, and I give thanks for his almost-effortless transition to expat life.

A while back a family member asked me why there was ‘so much drama’ in my blog posts.

Kid A knows (bien sur; she’s got an answer for everything just now).

She’s learning about story structure in English class – something I don’t think I was ever explicitly taught at school, let alone in Year 4 – so when she writes a tale, she already knows to include a set-up, a conflict and a resolution.

Vintage Amnesiac: he was born distracted
Vintage Amnesiac: he was born distracted

I weave the disparate threads of my experience into stories (complete with conflict, aka drama) because it helps me make sense of things and hopefully gives you a more interesting read.

Because let’s face it, a daily diary would get very repetitive, very quickly:

There’d be traffic, camels, construction, roadworks, dust, queuing for something; Olympic-standard tutting from me as that queue is repeatedly jumped; forgetting to have lunch again; thinking about complaining about the Arctic temperature of the compound pool, before deciding this will make me sound like a whining, over-privileged arse.

Wash, rinse, repeat.

And that’s probably one of the reasons why I don’t write about Amnesiac too much. He rarely features in my posts because right now he’s living a very happy, drama-free life.

It was his sixth birthday this week, which is a great excuse to give a public airing to my private introspection, mainly on the theme of how did we get here?

Did I look down at that screaming bundle and imagine we’d be living in Qatar, with me the trailing-spouse-house-husband, on his sixth birthday? I might have put some money on ‘living abroad’ but beyond that, your guess would have been as good as mine.

At his birthday dinner we helped him remember what he’s achieved this year. Learning to ride a bike, the stunt double-esque improvement in his swimming; in reading, writing and spelling. All of it borne out of confidence, which has been the biggest change in the past year.

Not to mention the areas where he’s ahead of his sister at the same age: sport, maths, the jokes.

His transition to expat life has been so effortless that when we asked him where we used to live (all of eight months ago) he replied, “Newbury, Qatar.” I think he thinks he’s always lived here, and that’s just brilliant.

Right now, he’s in an incredibly low maintenance phase and I’m trying to appreciate it while he is, because it won’t last; the sulks and smells years are not so far away.

Teaching cats to ice skate

You know that phrase, ‘If you’re happy, tell your face’? Amnesiac gets it. Give him a bottle of bubble mixture and he’s the happiest boy in Doha.

Of course it helps if your world view only extends to the next piece of toast, and the only thoughts in your head are a loop of Lego, dinosaurs, cars and Cars, like any other young boy.

And of course that can also be exasperating. He can’t concentrate on anything for more than a few seconds (he’s not called Amnesiac for nothing).

Getting him to write out his spellings every day is like trying to teach a cat to ice skate. Theoretically possible, yes, but you’ll die of exhaustion from trying.

But these are minor quibbles. A birthday affords us a natural opportunity to reflect and appreciate people. So here I am, stopping to give thanks that he’s a happy, healthy little menace, all dirty fingernails and missing buttons.

To enjoy these days while he still wants me to flip him at the pool, help him with jigsaws or take him on bike rides.

Long may the drama-free days continue.

*  *  *

When they were here a few weeks ago, my brother and sister-in-law bought Amnesiac a pack of sunflower seeds because he wanted to see what happened if he planted them.

From little seeds do giant sunflowers grow (hopefully)
From little seeds do giant sunflowers grow (hopefully)

And after an anxious wait, some of the seeds have taken root and poked their way out into the scalding desert air.

Now, every morning just before we head off to school, he pops outside to check on their progress. The enjoyment he gets from spotting some minute overnight change – and sharing that news with us all – is infectious.

They’re tiny right now. But if we can stop the neighbourhood cats from using the grobag as a litter tray; if we feed them regularly and remember to water them, they’ll get stronger, be able to stand on their own and start to thrive.

And he can point to something he made and watched grow and cared for and nurtured and say: I did that.

And hopefully he’ll feel as proud as I do.

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9 thoughts on “Sunflowers

  1. longhornsandcamels May 11, 2013 / 6:14 pm

    What a sweet tribute to your son. I also have a six year old son – it’s a very special, innocent time.

    • littlecity May 12, 2013 / 7:42 pm

      Thank you! I think you’re spot on about the innocence; watching him learn and grow and change every day is great fun. Hope it’s the same for you.

  2. Antonia May 11, 2013 / 9:54 pm

    Beautiful

  3. N Z Aria-Eipe (@dohadispatch) May 12, 2013 / 12:29 pm

    Yay, he’s 6! Though, if I remember correctly, that is the age when the shoulder-sitting finally ceases :o.

    Do you ever worry that one day when your kids are in college, they’ll trawl through the archives of your bloggy years and they’ll go — so that’s what Dad *really* thought of us? 😉

    • littlecity May 12, 2013 / 7:50 pm

      A very wise question, Nidhi. Short answer: yes. I try and keep that in mind when I write. In the past I have cut material which might have seemed totally fair to me at the time but would look harsh a little further down the road. Hope I get the balance right over time…

      • N Z Aria-Eipe (@dohadispatch) May 13, 2013 / 10:31 am

        Yes. Of course you think about it and did not mean to suggest that it passes you by (exactly the opposite, really), because you and HRH are so good at being careful and caring parents. O and I often talk about how if we ever have kids, they’re going to be Luddites, no phones and Facebook and YouTube and iPads, no angry birds and make-your-own-virtual-cupcakes-with-sprinkles, no cable and maybe one carefully chosen movie once a week. How we’d send them to some alternative, barefoot school in Thailand where they live perhaps just a step up from the way Mowgli did in the jungle and grow their own food and tame wild horses and cavort with bear cubs. But living, here especially, and seeing how difficult it is to separate experiencing the world from the pervasive technology that infiltrates your life in so many ways, I think I’m beginning to realize how intertwined they become, and how our need to make sense of the world around us and the way we live is increasingly becoming more public. Still, there are so many things we don’t say, even when we do — and I wonder what it would be like to have access to how your parents think/feel about things/decisions that go on to a form a major part of your life. I remember, before I went off to college, I had to write about my childhood in one of the application essays. So I wrote about the day when my parents came in to my room and started boxing up my toys, telling me that we were moving to India (a country as foreign to me as the idea of biryani was then) because there was a war in a country nearby (why did that matter?), telling me Dubai wasn’t really my home (even though everything that was me, was there). And I wrote about what it felt like (a betrayal, a confusion, a rebellion) and how it shaped me and how it affected my world. And my parents read it (with much reluctance on my part, because I didn’t want them to know that it hurt) and they were quiet for a really long time. And then Mum said : I didn’t know that’s how you felt. How do you remember all this? You were 7. And I looked at her and thought: How do I remember? How do you not remember? That was the day the world–as I knew it–turned upside-down. Nothing would ever be the same again. How could I not remember? But it impressed upon me how, as a (quiet) child, you know and understand and feel more, I think, sometimes, than people around you realize. And that, if my parents had written about it all–being expat, foreign lives, moving, how they felt, how they thought we felt–somewhere and I had access to it later in my life, when I was older and had perspective and hindsight and all those good things, whether it would have made it easier or more difficult to comprehend the choices they made, for themselves and us?

        A long, drawn-out response to your son’s birthday reflections, but something that I muse on a lot when reading your posts–which are thoughtful and great and spot-on, as always–and in general. Thanks for being generous with trying to make sense of it all 🙂

      • littlecity May 14, 2013 / 8:26 am

        Wow. Thanks for the comprehensive reply 🙂 Who knew I was inspiring such a swirl of thoughts and memories? But it’s greatly appreciated. The line in this post about a daily diary being boring points to the balance I’m trying to strike. And having a go is half the fun, right?

        I do try and catch the kids being good, but it’s not always easy. Similarly, I’m not one of those hang-your-kids-out-to-dry bloggers (although I’m a very grateful reader of them!) because there will be a time when someone puts it all together and I don’t want anything I’ve written to be used against them.

        And yet, the entire reason we’re here is for them – better quality of life, more ‘family time’ and to try and provide a better future for them. So it’s impossible to separate the question of what I’m doing here from the impact it’s having on them, because if it wasn’t working for them, we’d be off.

        I think it’s why Amnesiac adjusted quicker than Kid A. He just woke up somewhere a bit hotter than where he’d been before and got on with it. But nine-year-olds can change the world with a blog too, so underestimate them at your peril!

        Anyway, to lighter but no less important matters: working on something about keeping cool; my Anglo-Saxon genes are starting to struggle!

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