WARNING: What I’m about to share may paint us as bad parents. We have never said we were award-worthy parents, but like everyone, we are doing the best we can.
At the tail end of our last weekend before school started, my wife and I were catching up on sleep we’d lost after our family flew home on a red-eye flight. We both went to bed somewhat early — me by 9 p.m. and Amanda by 10 p.m.
The next morning our twin seven-year-old boys left their bedroom and crawled in bed with us. That they’d waited to do so until morning was a nice respite from the sometimes middle-of-the-night visits we receive from them. What was unusual about their morning visit this time is they both immediately fell back asleep instead of, you know, the usual, setting up a Lego building station on our pillows, starting a wrestling match between us, or a World’s Most Annoying Sound contest while cuddling with us. (Twins … sigh … a unique experience, for sure.)
After a while longer with the four of us zonked out, I eventually got up and walked into the boys room to check on something when I noticed the floor was clear. When we’d put the boys to bed the previous evening it’d been covered in a decorative mix of Pokemon cards and Legos. I suddenly felt guilty. Had Amanda stayed up late last night cleaning the boys room after I’d gone to bed? I know I was unusually tired, but I could have helped.
What I’d forgotten was that our house cleaner was scheduled to come this day. It’s a day we’d usually be in school if we are in Saudi, so I absent-mindedly forgot she was going to come. A few minutes later Amanda awoke, and I asked her about the cleaned floor. She said “Maribelle must’ve been here.”
I said “What time is it?”
Wow. I’d just slept for 12 hours, my wife 11 hours.
Amanda checked her phone. She’d received a message at 6:30 a.m. from a neighbor. It read “The softest, sweetest little knock was just heard at my door … Elsa has woken Evie and they are playing.”
So, to be clear, our compound is full of our school colleagues, so basically all people we know, albeit some better than others. And there is a standing rule that on non-school days you don’t let your kids loose until 8:30 a.m. Apparently, our five-year-old wasn’t aware of this rule when she was awoken by the housekeeper, got herself dressed and went to the neighbors to play.
But it is this story that best exemplifies why I love living where we do. I had no fear whatsoever when I’d heard our five-year-old daughter had left the house on her own. (Embarrassment? Yes. Fear? No.) The last place we lived in the U.S. in 2016 was a great location, but it was on a somewhat busy street near a hospital. I wasn’t even comfortable letting my kids walk out the front door alone. Now our kids roam the neighborhood — at 6:30 a.m. on a non-work day toward neighbors’ houses, apparently — without us knowing, and nary a whiff of anxiousness is invoked.
I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again. Never thought I’d move to Saudi Arabia to find the safest place in the world to raise my children.