Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Dressing to Drop Off the Kids

Picture from the 7Days article discussing
the school drop off dress code
After I dropped my son off at school today, I had a laugh out loud moment as I listened to the local news on the radio.  A school in Dubai posted a sign addressing the way moms are dressed during school runs.

A colleague and I often joke about this as there are some really attractive moms here.  There are moms from all over the world living in Dubai, and they dress in many different ways.  And yes, there are a few that I have even done a double take on as I venture off to work in my "corporate uniform". Sometimes its a wow, she looks great.  Other times its a wow, I can't believe she wore that!

I totally agree with dressing for the occasion, and while the school run is not what I consider an occasion, I do respect that I live in a place that is not always so casual in it's dress code.

Despite the tolerance here, and probably well over 90% of the families coming from elsewhere at my son's school, there are times I have made a conscious choice to modify something.  However, I think I own some dresses in the figure above.  I am sure I have a sundress like the one on the left of the picture.  The others just really aren't my style.  Although the second one could be going to the gym, and that could be me and many other moms on certain mornings.

Thankfully, I have no Captain America t-shrits that shows my stomach.  Phew.

I do have skirts and wear a lot of them.  Some above the knee, and a few below the knee.  When I wear the ones below the knee, people keep looking at my stomach to see if I am pregnant!  No one looks at anything when it is a short skirt.

I am not any of the three with straps. My shoulders never offend because I am always so cold from the massive amounts of climate control here. I would not be able to tolerate wearing those without a sweater or shawl.

But in all seriousness, as I've mentioned in other posts about the dress code question before, I get it.  My main problem with this particular discussion is that it is all about women.  There is no dress code mentioned for men.

I have seen some dads at drop off that made me think wow, I can't believe he wore that.  Most are heading to work in their standard pants, shirt and ties.  Some in shorts, and that is okay too.  But there have been a few that look like they just rolled out of bed.  I have nothing against rolling out of bed.  I mean, haven't we all just done pretty much exactly that to rush to get our kids to school on time?

My first request would be can we please ask the dads not to drop their kids off in boxer shorts?  Or shorts that look like boxer shorts?  It is just inappropriate and way more offensive than a sundress.

Here is the 7 Days article

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Confessions of a Mom Whose Kid is "Too Busy"

Two weeks into the new school year and I am late to schedule any after school activities for my first grader.  I know what we are considering, but waiting for his school that is slow to schedule their after school activities may be causing us to loose places elsewhere.  

One of the many beauties of Dubai - you can find a class for anything and everything here, and a lot of it is really good quality.  I want my son to be exposed to, and try different things, but how much is really too much?

Every year I see one or two local newspaper articles about over scheduling one's child.  They must have enough downtime to be bored.  They must feel bored.  I used to read those articles and think, ya, awful parents.  How dare they over schedule their child?  Apparently some mild form of modern abuse.

After some internet search, I see there are even books written on the subject. By definition, I now fall into a certain category of parent.  But really, I am NOT that parent.

In the NYTimes last year there was an about this very subject.  It was written by a parent of two busy children titled Overscheduled Children - How Big a Problem?  Bruce Fieler and his wife both work, and their kids participate in a fair amount of after school activities.  

I can totally relate to everything he said in that article since both my husband and I work very full time jobs.  And even if I didn't work, would it matter?  I would probably not enroll my child in any fewer activities.  

The "experts" say that children need time to be free and be bored.  I totally agree, and we experience this.  However, I also agree with the NYT article.  Boredom leads into the "Can I have the iPad?" request.  No.  

My son is very happy to draw, play legos and do other things, but iPad is The Bomb in their world. And once they learn more about apps, download, etc, they want more.  Who doesn't?  Look at all the adult Candy Crush addicts out there.

Last year he still had plenty of free time to play, and many of his friends were in the same activities. Like Fieler, I also feel these activities are helping him grow and learn about different things.

What they are not is me coddling him or competing with other parents or kids - the main criticism in the books cited.  Be sure, I could care less about what the next kid does or what other kids' parents think.  I'll let someone accuse me of being too interested in my son, but caring about others to the point it is a competition? ...No. For us, it is about trying, or doing your best. 

Once when my son was three, he told me he "can't" do something.  All of my hair stood up on end. I basically explained to him that this is not a word we use.  I'm not sure if he got it at that time, and in all fairness to him he was just being a whiny three year old that day, as you do.  But "can't"? It is a 4-letter word.  We "try".

I emphasized the word so much that when he was frustrated putting together the cute little car track he had, from that day on, those tracks were fondly known as "tries".

I don't want to sound like one of those people that walked up hill both ways to school in the snow, but... When I was young, I played in the forests of rural Ohio.  (Okay, maybe I wasn't in the forrest that deep, but it felt like it).  My friends and I played outside all day, and our parents didn't worry about us being abducted.  I do not really worry about this in Dubai, but I am aware that we live in a much different time.  We also do not have forests here either.  

When we later moved to Texas, I recall being outdoors with my friends at the playground a lot.  We have a playground here, but its not the same.  This is a big city, and we can't easily rally the neighborhood for a game of anything, or playground experimentation. 

My favorite quote from the article,  “As a general principle, there is a line between a highly enriched, interesting, growth-promoting childhood and an over scheduled childhood,” he said. “And nobody knows where that line is.”

So if no one knows where this line is, why are we trying to define it?  Experts always want to put kids or parent behaviors, in some kind of box.  Maybe this doesn't fit in a black or white box.  Exploring and learning can be grey.  I should actually not walk a straight line, but maybe zig zag a bit?

I do not have all the answers, but to all those other parents that are genuinely trying to do right by their child and keep them busy, learning, healthy and happy without being overly competitive - carry on.  

For the NYTimes article referenced above, please click here.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

... and there was Palio


Palio di Siena, Italy
We happened to be lucky enough to catch Palio di Siena this summer.  Palio is held twice a year, in July and August.  After seeing Piazza del Campo several years ago, I tried very hard to imagine how that worked in what seemed like a small space for a horse race on somewhat banked cobblestone street.

I learned that they lay thick, hard dirt over the brick around the square so the horses can race.  This doesn't always keep the horses from slipping, but more humans fall than horses.  I read this is quite common as it is a bareback race.  

Piazza del Campo filling up with spectators to watch Il Palio

According to information on Wikipedia, the event dates back to the 14th Century.  The races replaced bullfighting, and the first races were on buffalos and then donkeys.  It was not until 1656 that the "modern" Palio was established.

We caught a practice run two days before the big race day.  The crowds still come out for it, so you can experience the real thing even if you are not there for the finale.

We went back to Siena the day of the final to meet some friends.  While we did not watch the event, we did see the Contrade, or districts, parade their horses through the streets in full traditional dress.  

A horse entering Piazza del Campo for Palio

Tickets to watch the event on shop balconies are sold for a premium price.  We stood in the square, which was free. While we did not have a bird's eye view of the race, we were still able to enjoy the event.  If we needed to use any facilities, the side street bar where we had drinks before had no issues with us going back there.


The streets of the piazza are cleaned before Il Palio


Palio requires a lot of waiting for a short race, but it is worth the wait.
Blink and you might miss the horse running by!


Saturday, August 23, 2014

Never Underestimate the Hashtag #

Back in Dubai. Summer is almost over.  - Almost sounds like a Haiku.

This month I made the very long trip to the US for a few days.  As it was just my son and I, with some encouragement from my husband, we decided to fly from Dallas to Houston.

My son had been asking me what it was like to fly on a "US plane".  Without being blunt and informing him the service is not typically as good as Emirates, he got to experience a lot of challenges first hand.

There was a lot of confusion about gates and things prior to take off.  The "go to gate A2", only to be told "go back to A1" that told you to go to A2 is par for the course.  I know if this were to happen in other countries, the manner in which it is done would be more polite.

I flinch a bit when the employee working to check people in at the gate gets assertive because I am standing in line patiently.  I realized this is a norm.  Airline employees do not realize they are doing it, but the needed service tone of "may I help you" comes out more like "why are you standing there?"  I received a very stern "Can you PLEASE move over here so I can check you in?!"

We arrive to Houston fine.  Unfortunately, our luggage does not.  Sadly, it seems to happen to me almost every time I fly in the US.  My luggage never arrives with me.  But this one - a 45 minute direct flight?

I go to report the luggage.  They write it up, and I can check back after 24 hours.  That's a long time for only a 45 minute flight away.  I figured they would recover it, but I am impatient.  And while I am always prepared for luggage loss, the rest of my son's diabetic medical supplies were in those bags.  I had much more to loose than clean clothes if they were not recovered.

It bugged me.  So, before I went to sleep I decided to take it to Twitter.  I hashtagged lostluggage as well as the name of the air carrier.

As our metabolism is not completely adjusted, I wake up in the early hours of the morning to check my son's blood sugar when we travel. When I looked at my phone to set my alarm for the next check, I saw I had a response on Twitter.  Wow - only about 2 hours after my tweet!  That was impressive.

After the exchange of a few public tweets, the airline suggested we take it offline and they sent me a few numbers and other websites to contact throughout the ordeal.  This was very helpful in locating the luggage, and much more pleasant than speaking to a computer.

My luggage arrived the next day.  Pleased to have it, I was disappointed it was damaged and incredibly dirty.  I have never seen that much dirt on a luggage.  Ever.  Nor has my luggage been damaged in other places I have travelled to.

I am still working out the damage bit, and the airline sent me some alternative sites via Twitter messaging that I would not be able to find easily myself.

The moral of the story is, if you have a customer service need that is not being met, or needs some facilitation, do not under estimate the power of the hashtag. Those companies that are smart will address your need quickly.  It doesn't take a harsh tweet. Just put something out there to get the issue moving.

Happy, safe travels to all.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Thoughts on Immigrants, Guest Workers & Refugees

It has been a few weeks since I watched the World Cup final between Argentina and Germany at some ridiculous o'clock hour at a random smokey bar with some coworkers in Dubai.  While I was hoping for an Argentina win, Germany played a very good game.  I also had the privilege to watch them clean up Brazil on their journey while surrounded by Germans.

Better than the game they played was one of the stories that came out after the event was over.  Mesut Ozil, one of the players on the German team made a donation to pay for the surgery of some needy children in Brazil.  Before the event started, he payed for the surgery of 11 children.  After Germany won, ESPN reported that he increased the number to 23.  The previous 11 represented the number of players, but 23 was the number of the entire team.

Mesut Ozil is not a very German name.  It is obviously Turkish.  Previous articles I read said he is a second generation Turk who was born in Germany.  While he may be a rare case of extreme financial and athletic success in any class, his family at one time were migrant workers.  In a time where one of the consistent headlines in many countries is how to close the border to keep foreigners out, I wonder what would have happened if Germany kept out Ozil's grandparents.

Reading this story, I can't help but wonder who will be the next Mesut Ozil.  Will he or she play football, get a university degree under extreme circumstances, find a cure for cancer, foster world peace....

Just maybe some of our much needed resolutions will come from the offspring of a refugee that has fled a war torn country, or from someone that has moved somewhere else for a better life.  There was a time when a list of the most famous refugees circulated the internet and there you saw Madeline Albright, Albert Einstein and others on the list.

Twenty-three.  It might be a small number, but for those children and their families, it's a huge deal.