“Parenting classes should be mandatory, whether you are adopting or not, and would include an evaluation of your current physical, mental and financial state as well as how ready you are to take on the rigors of parenthood. Our children are our most precious natural resource, and there is absolutely no other way to parent but to put them first.” – Dale Archer
Parents living in the United Arab Emirates will nod their heads in agreement after reading this piece. Some might be surprised while others simply won’t care. If you’re out of the country or the region you might be shaking your head by the end.
If you think seeing children hanging out of moving vehicles, jumping around in the back seat with no seatbelt on and sitting on the driver’s lap in a fast car is reckless, that’s nothing compared to what I’m about to tell you.
Working in the events industry in the Middle East, I have come across parents from all walks of life. There are those tearing their hair out desperately look for a lost child, and once she’s found, embrace her with love and care. And then there are those who drop off five and six year olds alone at an arena with not a care in the world. Others won’t realize their child is missing until we announce that he has been in our care for 20 minutes and we need his parents to come and claim him.
In one situation, I was confronted with a disturbing parental decision. I had invited my daughter’s eight-year-old school friend and her mother to attend a family event. On this particular day, the arena was filled to capacity, 3500 people. While doing my regular rounds to see whether my guests had any problems, I came across my daughter’s friend.
“Where’s your mum?” I asked. “She’s left,” the quietly spoken girl responded. Beside her was another little girl, her friend. I looked out into the distance and saw her mother and another woman leaving the arena, heading down the stairs and out the door. A million and one thoughts and profanities went through my head. What on earth was she thinking?
I dashed past several people. “Excuse me! Excuse me!’ I said, as I ran towards the woman. Still trying to catch my breath, I put my hand on her shoulder. “Hi, how are you?” I asked casually. “I’m glad you could make it.” She introduced me to her friend, another Lebanese mother.
“Where’s your daughter?” I asked.
“She’s sitting down with her friend,” she responded. And then the tales began.
“Aren’t you staying?” I asked.
“No, we’re going to have a cup of coffee,” she said casually, as though it were normal to leave two eight-year-old girls alone at a large event.
“I’m sorry,” I said, “Unfortunately the rules don’t allow you to leave your children unattended at these events.”
“But we do it all the time when we go to the movies,” she continued. “They’re old enough and mature enough to be on their own.” Wow, I thought. Was she serious?
Sadly, many poor parenting decisions end in tragedy. And we’ve seen many here in the UAE and worldwide.
The UAE is still coming to terms with the news of a five-year-old girl who fell to her death from a high-rise building after she was left alone sleeping as her mother partied with her boyfriend on New Year’s Eve.
I’ve lost count of the stories over the years of children falling from windows of apartment buildings after they were left unattended.
Just last week I dashed across a busy carpark and scooped up a two-year-old boy who had wandered out of a nearby park. One car had swerved and missed the child, and it looked like he was on a collision course with another 4WD.
Fortunately the child was wearing an identification bracelet. I called the father, who then contacted his wife inside the park. It took the mother 25 minutes to come to the main gate to collect her son. Not even a hug for the little boy or a thank you!
As parents, we can’t take any risks with our children’s lives. They’re irreplaceable!