Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Realities of Life

It was the second week of second grade.

Things were going well, but it was a sad weekend for the UAE.  As if there was not enough happening on this side of the world, the UAE and some other countries have been clashing with rebels in Yemen. The UAE lost 45 soldiers over that weekend.

This may be the biggest loss of its kind for this 43 year old country - it has been in the several years I have lived here. Officially three days of mourning were observed.

Until now, I have somewhat sheltered my son from the harsh realities of the world. I am very matter of fact with him, but I figure in time he will learn what a challenging place the world is, so let me let him enjoy innocence as long as possible.

The morning after the announcement, he caught a glimpse of a picture in the newspaper I was reading and asked me to go back to it. It was an image of the caskets returning home covered in UAE flags. While we are not citizens, my son was born here and he is quite proud of our residency. He loves the UAE and feels a sense of pride about living here.

He asked me about the picture. I decided it was better he take that step with me than learn it from the playground. So I told him. I explained to him there was a battle in another country and the UAE lost many soldiers.

"How many?" he asked.  When I answered that question his mouth stayed open for a long time as he digested the information. He asked how they died. Unsure how deep to go, I told him it was in a battle and I was not sure.

I went on to explain that this was a very sad day for the UAE and there were three official days of mourning - including 24 hours of classical music or continuous prayer on all radio channels.

Being the curious child that he is, he asked to hear what was on the radio. Our usual morning show we listen to on the way to school was now a continuous stream of classical music.

Thinking he might become too melancholy, I offered to play some music from my phone. "No. It's okay. Leave it." he said.

After several minutes he asked me if the flags would be at half mast.  I hadn't even thought of that, but I told him they probably would be. Sure enough when we arrived at school, all the flags were half mast.

I left school looking at the flags again knowing that this is the day I opened the door to the other part of the world he has yet to be informed about. I barely opened it. It was just a crack, but there are so many things behind that door that we can't hold it closed forever.

.... I wrote the above article the night after this discussion happened, but did not publish it right away.  A few days later, the UAE had another official mourning period. This time not due to a battle, but because Sheikh Mohamed bin Rashid Al Maktoum lost one of his sons, Sheikh Rashid bin Mohammed. May he rest in peace.

My son heard the praying on the radio and asked if it was for the soldiers. When I explained why, he did not ask too many questions this time, but spent more time thinking.... The door ever so slightly cracked a little more.

Flags at half mast in Dubai during the mourning period

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