Hello and welcome! No topic off-limits, my blog aims to dispel the myth that all expat mothers in Dubai are gin-swilling, diamond-clad, double-kissing Jumeriah Janes who continually palm their children off on the housemaid to hunt down the latest designer handbag (No really, we don't!).
So we’re in that murky zone of the two-month school holiday, where it’s hard to persuade the kids to actually get dressed, and they’re up all hours of the night due to jet lag and day-time laziness. To be fair, they’re not kids when school is on, and they can’t actually go outdoors at the moment as we’re in the UAE and it’s 40 degrees-plus outside.
There’s also something in the air right now: thick DUST – making the air quality in the UAE little better than in China with its belching power stations and fetid smog.
So the kids have turned to electronic stimulation and are on their devices for way tooooo long when DH and I are both at work. They must surely be wiping out the benefits of enforced PE and various sports the rest of the year.
The other day – just after getting home from work – I raised the issue of screen time with them for the zillionth time. “What exactly have you done today other than play on the PlayStation,” I asked, rolling my eyes at the sight of the two boys still in their pajamas at 6pm.
They shrugged their shoulders simultaneously, stared back at me with screen-glazed eyes and said nothing.
So, I went on a little bit of rant about all the things I’d done that day, from the laundry, to dog walking to emptying the dishwasher – not to mention a full day in the office.
Son 2 cracked a smile. “But mummy,” he said, fisting his hands and putting two thumbs up. He waggled his thumbs like they’d become unhinged.
“Look!” he said, drawing his hands closer together, as though holding an imaginary PS4 controller. “Just look how much exercise my thumbs have had!”
A little later, he passed me the console. “See! Sweat,” he declared, triumphant.
Postscript: I’m consoled by the fact it’s not just my lazy kids: a study commissioned by McAfee showed that, with schools closed over the summer, children in the UAE spend up to 8 hours a day on their electronic devices, with 86 per cent of parents allowing their offspring to play online games recommended for older children.
Postscript 2: As an aside, there’s an IT chap in the office with the solution: he has a web cam on his kids’ computer den and can react with a phone call the moment he sees, via his laptop, that his boys are violating screen time rules. Needless to say, my two weren’t impressed with this idea!
The other day I found an old mixtape I’d made sometime last century. It was like discovering an artefact in a dig. A rectangular, plastic blast from the past. Fond memories sprung to my mind of recording off the radio during Simon Bates’ top 40 and copying albums.
A warm, fuzzy feeling washed over me.
I turned it over in my hands like a precious stone, and stared at it in wonder, remembering the excitement with which I used to compile these bulky tapes. I recalled the joy of swapping mixtapes with friends and listening to them on my Walkman, always carrying a pencil around to help me rewind.
“What’s THAT?” Son2 voice snapped me back to the present. He looked baffled. “Is it a phone?”
I laughed. “No, it’s a cassette tape. It plays music.”
He quickly lost interest, but then Son1’s curiosity was piqued. He picked up the rattly old tape, as confounded by it as his brother and equally oblivious to the joys of a new blank cassette waiting to be recorded onto. “What is it?”
“A music tape … I used to listen to these when I was a kid.”
“Really? How?” He looked for an on button, before holding it to his ear. “I can’t hear anything. Where do you plug the headphones in?”
“I know, you play it through the TV,” Son2 interrupted.
“No,” Son1 corrected. “They didn’t have TVs back then.”