One Three Five

One centimetre. Ten measly little millimetres. It’s not even the width of a finger – but it means the world to a little boy who can’t wait to be bigger

Expat life hurtles you from comforting familiarity to the puzzlingly strange and back again, often in the space of the same situation.

So near, yet so far…

Take Amnesiac, for example. Nearly eight, precisely 134cm tall (this is important, as we shall see) and seemingly unable to concentrate on anything for any significant length of time, unless it’s playing Minecraft.

He is an ordinary little boy, all bruised shins and mucky face, his head filled with Lego, football, Star Wars, cycling and more Minecraft.

And right now, all he wants is to be bigger.

Not Tom-Hanks-Big. Not impress a girl by showing her your bravery on a rollercoaster big – although that will no doubt come in time – but I’m not a baby, get me out of this booster seat big.

And he can – when he’s grown precisely one extra centimetre.

Buckle up, buttercup

The fact that we make our kids use booster seats at all, already marks us out from the crowd. Readers abroad might not know that car seat usage is scarily low here, given everything we know about the difference a correctly fitted one can make in the event of an accident.

Booster seat
Soon to be ejected: Amnesiac’s booster seat

Kids here, for a variety of reasons, are rarely even buckled up in the backseat. It’s not even uncommon to see a toddler sat on a parent’s lap in a moving vehicle, well within the blast range of an air bag.

To my mind, conditioned by years of social pressure, legal reinforcement and graphic public service announcements, it’s chilling. But we’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto, and such behaviours will take time to become the new normal here.

As our job is parenting, you can call us killjoys – and our kids frequently do – but we’ve told Amnesiac that he can wave his seat goodbye, as his sister did before him, as soon as he hits 135cm.

Final countdown

This isn’t some random figure plucked from the ether. It’s the height at which, under current UK law, children no longer have to use a booster seat. So, 135cm it is.

If you think that final centimetre would probably make no difference to his chances in the event of an accident, you’d probably be right. For Amnesiac, and for us, that final centimetre is more a point of principle; about waiting, about obeying rules, about being big enough.

Zoltar, from Big
Careful what you wish for…

We do have public information campaigns about car seat usage here, but they are still at the awareness raising stage (there’s no legislation in place, as far as I’m aware).

It’s a situation that’s mirrored by another current campaign.

Alongside posters exhorting you not buy dented tins, and to purchase frozen produce last when you visit the supermarket, we also have one running – with a view to getting the emergency services to your home as quickly as possible should they ever need to – encouraging you to ‘know your address’.

This isn’t as simple as it sounds.

For a start, there’s no domestic mail service. Then, in a country where there doesn’t even seem to be any consensus on how to spell hummus, it’s no wonder that there are many different and contrasting names and spellings for streets and districts. None of which is immediately helpful if you need an ambulance.

Instead, Qatar has a different system which triangulates your location by your residential zone number, street number and your building number – which in our case refers to our entire compound.

Once you know it, this information enables emergency services to pinpoint you with impressive accuracy, in the same way that the UK postcode system works.

The numbers are usually found on little blue metal plates on the outside of buildings / compounds. (Look for yours today!) We finally found ours and stuck the details to the fridge last week.

We then tried to explain to the kids what did, and did not, constitute an emergency. Let’s hope we never have to find out if the message stuck.

Tooth Fairy
The Tooth Fairy: getting forgetful

Home front

Besides, Amnesiac’s mind (surprise, surprise) is on other things; the kind of stuff he’d be thinking about wherever in the world we lived.

Like: does the Tooth Fairy know where we live? To which the answer is: She clearly needs to look for the little blue sign as well, if last week was anything to go by.

(She came the next night, with a double contribution by way of apology. Ahem.)

In recent weeks, as if leading up to the great escape from his booster seat, Amnesiac has learned to tie his own shoelaces. Suddenly, almost imperceptibly, there seems to be a lot less velcro in the house.

Bedside table
A lullaby-free zone

He’s also given up his bedtime lullaby soundtrack. Long since abandoned as a baby listening device, Amnesiac’s monitor remained at his bedside thanks to the medley of tunes it played, which were his accompaniment to lights out for years and years.

(I would have included a picture of it, but Mrs LC binned it before I could get round to it.)

His constant companion, a monkey imaginatively named Monkey, is still by his side, but otherwise, the trappings of early childhood are being discarded at a rapid pace.

*   *   *

The other night, as I was putting him to bed, he suddenly starting listing all the things he can cook (it was just one of his delaying tactics to defer lights out). “Two egg recipes: scrambled and boiled. And beans on toast.” He paused for a moment to take, er, stock of his progress.

“That’s about half what I’ll need to know how to cook when I’m at University,” he added unexpectedly.

He’ll be there before any of us takes a breath. But first: one more centimetre…


6 thoughts on “One Three Five

  1. Dina Honour February 8, 2015 / 6:32 pm

    It’s funny the things that signify them growing up doesn’t it? This sounds weird (ok, it is weird) but the other night when my 10 y/o was er…on the toilet and it occurred to me that there was a time when I used to know everything that went into him and everything that….came out. Sometimes those little reminders of them getting bigger and older can be more shocking than the ones you wait for. So in another month when he’s out of his booster seat you’ll look back and wonder where all the days went, I bet.

    • littlecity February 9, 2015 / 1:40 pm

      That’s not an observation I’ve made myself, but I get where you’re coming from 🙂

      But yes, the time will fly by. My grumpy teenage self didn’t understand why my mum insisted on taking a photo of me when I went off to Uni. Then I saw Boyhood… crushing stuff.

      Here’s to enjoying the present!

      • Dina Honour February 9, 2015 / 6:18 pm

        I haven’t seen Boyhood yet, but I remember the scene in Toy Story (2?) when the Mom is cleaning out the room while her son gets ready to go off to college. Even my son was weepy during that. You’re right. As I sit here banging my head against the floor trying to come up with ideas for the current February break, I will tell myself that I will miss this some day. REally. I will ;-).

  2. Keri from Baby Globetrotters February 8, 2015 / 6:39 pm

    Thanks for a good read to start the week – I am in Abu Dhabi and suffer exactly the same exacerbation at the lack of common sense road safety so many families (local AND expat) demonstrate. And the lack of an address…!

    • littlecity February 9, 2015 / 1:36 pm

      Thanks Keri; so glad to hear it’s not just us!

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