Thursday, November 25, 2010

They're getting to me

I'm slowly starting to realize that some of the things that drive me crazy about the way Saudi children behave probably can be explained and I somewhat sympathize.

For example, the kids here will actually ride scooters, roller skates/roller blades, and various other wheeled contraptions through crowded public places that a Westerner like me would not expect to see them. They are blowing past me in the malls and through the grocery store (less so the scooters in grocery stores, but boy oh boy do they ever love those Heelys!).

ugh. It just makes me want to throw a stick in his path Big Daddy style.

At first I was blown away at the fact that these parents weren't driven as bonkers by this behavior as I was! I was in a mall, for heaven's sake! A mall is for shopping, walking, and not for being mowed over by drag racing 9 year olds on roller blades! What possesses these parents to let their kids treat this confined public space as if it is their personal back yard or an open park?

Safety gear?! Pah! The Saudis laugh at helmets.

Today as the Hubbins and I were walking through a mall to get lunch, I saw a little girl in the center atrium playing with a frisbee. I can only hope that her parents were nearby keeping watch (but, if I'm honest with myself, they probably weren't), but she was just going to town with this frisbee! She would throw it up in the air and chase after it as it floated over the center fountain and across the open space. She had a total look of euphoria on her face and it was just like a scene anyone would see in a grassy suburban park back home.

Then it hit me. This probably was her park. It's not like there are a lot of grassy hills in Saudi Arabia. Most of the year it's so hot outside, your face melts as soon as you step out the door. Malls are where people gather here. It's a safe place for women to walk around without their guardian. And because it's so crowded with other Saudis in the same lack-of-entertainment situation they are, these moms don't really worry much if their kids run around in and out of sight through the throngs of people. Everyone kinda watches out for each other and they are used to dodging the tots.

It still drives me totally bonkers, but now I kind of feel sad for these little tykes. They won't have the kind of childhood memories that I had. They probably don't know what it's like to run down a hill barefoot with the feeling the soft grass beneath your feet. They don't know what it's like to have to stop your kickball game because of a pop-up spring shower. They don't know what the instructions "Stay within earshot" mean. They are growing up in the middle of a flat, brown, sandy desert. To them, the mall is their playground, and I guess I can give them a little leeway as they zoom past me in the food court.

Vicariously yours,

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