The other night we went downstairs to visit our doorman’s family (see other story). One of the girls of the family, Hibba, was having a birthday, and wanted us to come down. Due to her mom’s health, still having trouble recovering from her brain surgery, Hibba wasn’t able to have a party, but it seemed important for us to at least stop by. It was kind of an awkward time as I think Hibba was busy doing things for her mom and she wasn’t around much. We ended up sitting at her mom’s bedside and talking a little bit with her as she drifted in and out of sleep.
There was one other member of the family present most of the time, and that was the four year old, youngest child and only son, Omar. Now, if you ask Emma, she’ll probably tell you Omar is one of her friends. He is the first child we met here at our apartment, and they have played together a few times. He was the only child to attend her three-year old birthday party as we held that a couple weeks after moving into our apartment. I have invited him to our apartment numerous times to play, but his whole family–sisters, mom and dad–have all said that, no, he can’t come, because he is a naughty boy… in their words, a “satan.” (Now, this may just be a language/cultural thing that I don’t understand, but if a child is misbehaved and somewhat or very out of control, they are called “shaytaan,” which translates “devil or Satan.” I don’t think it’s quite literal, but as one not a part of the culture, I kind of hear it as literal.) I feel bad that he has this stigma, but truthfully, I have seen it exhibited. However, I still wish he could come to our house to play sometimes. On the selfish side, it would be so much easier for me to be in my own place with the kids, but on the positive side, I, perhaps proudly, feel that I could handle him in our house. I wouldn’t let him get away with things, and he would have no choice but to stay within our boundaries … or leave. I may be naive in thinking that my “child-raising techniques” could work with him, but I guess that the challenge would be fun too. Anyway, regardless of my lofty ambitions, his family doesn’t want him to come to our place. This means Emma’s chance to play with him is down at his house.
One of the things that makes it difficult for me to take the girls there is that so much of their property is outside, with lots of dust, dirt and animal droppings, not to mention miscellaneous trash that attracts Hannah’s attention. I have a hard time sitting, drinking tea, and listening to the mom talk, while keeping one eye on Hannah and the other eye on Emma. Now that the weather is getting cooler, it may be easier as we move inside, but that has its challenges too. And this particular visit, the challenge was Omar.
When we arrived at the house, the birthday girl was busy, but Omar quickly ran to some special spot outside, and retrieved a large bag of mostly broken toys and toy parts. He seemed excited to show Emma his toys and play together. Take note that he did play in our house during Emma’s party and enjoyed the two boxes of unbroken toys that she has. So, at first, he took the toys out one by one and seemed to let Emma and Hannah play with them as they wished. At one point, he pulled out a pair of binoculars and this grabbed Emma’s attention. She asked for them, but he put them around his neck instead. No big deal, they are his toys, he certainly doesn’t have to share. Emma really wanted to play with the binoculars and made her request known the best she could without really speaking the same language as him. It seemed that the more interested she was in what he had, the more he wanted to withhold things. I think at one point, either I or his sister conviced him to let Emma hold the binoculars, but after about 10 seconds, he started to cry. Now, I’ve seen this before with him … he is finally convinced to share something, then he starts to cry, and his sister says, “sorry Emma, I’m so sorry.” Meaning: Omar wants something; you can’t play with it any more … give it back. So, she gave the binoculars back at which time he put all the toys back in the big bag, and stuffed the bag under the bed as far as could reach. Emma looked at me sadly, “why is he doing that?” Hmmm, what to say. “Because he’s a spoiled brat.” “Because he is mean.” “Because he is a bully.” These were the responses that came to my mind immediately, but I don’t want Emma to see him as the “Satan” that people say he is. (By the way, they call him this to his face as well, so he has a reputation to live up to.) So, I thought about it awhile, and said, “I’m really sorry, Emma, that Omar isn’t being very kind right now. It’s not nice to not share your toys. But they are his toys, and he can do with them what he wants. You know what else, his mom is very sick, and he is probably sad, but he can’t understand what’s happening. I’m sorry it makes you sad, I would be sad too.”
I hope that was a good answer for Emma. I know I can’t protect her forever from getting hurt by others, but of course, I want to as long as I can. I want her to learn from kids who aren’t nice, that it’s exactly that, “not nice.” At least this way, it’s useful for something to interact with kids like this. Maybe it will prevent Emma from being mean in the future. But really, what’s most important? I want her to see Omar as a person who isn’t perfect, but deserves our love and kindness, regardless of what he does. Sure, that’s the ideal, but in such a simple offense, we can do that. As Emma grows and the offenses do too, that will get harder and harder. I pray God gives us wisdom to help Emma learn these things, as we do too. We all have a long way to go.