I sit here writing on the eve of my son’s 7th birthday, with tears descending down my cheeks. I am not sure if it’s the nostalgia I’m feeling from spending the last hour lost in old home videos of him when he was a baby, or the fact that I just kissed my 6 year old goodnight for the last time. I can’t believe this fun-loving, silly, gentle, warm hearted child is mine. His eyes and curiosity for the world are so big and that makes me so proud.
We have now been living in Kuwait for close to 7 months and one of my biggest worries was always how Noah would adjust to this new culture. In the beginning it was very hard on him, all of his cousins would be playing together laughing and joking in Arabic, he would become frustrated and discouraged about not being able to understand. (Much like the way I felt at a family lunch). It was heartbreaking to witness my child’s difficulty trying to fit in with his own family.
Raising a child is an extremely difficult job, raising a multi cultured child is even harder. There are different sets of cultural norms and rules, something that was perfectly normal in America is looked at as strange here. In Kuwait, when you walk into a room with adults a child is expected to greet the adults with a kiss on each cheek; it’s a sign of respect. Noah refused to do this when we first got here. He would wipe his face if someone kissed him. In America he would wipe off his family’s kisses and burst out with laughter. So it was a bit embarrassing how this little joke of his turned into something he needed to be respectful about.
My husband and I both came from opposite sides of the world, and experienced completely different upbringings. We discussed what it was that we didn’t get from the adults in our life as children, and as parents we do our best to bring those things into our sons life.
One of the things Aziz told me was when he was growing up he didn’t hear the words I love you, it’s a common part of this culture not to express emotions. It’s more shown in action rather than words. There would be times I would tell him something about how I was feeling and he would tell me there isn’t even words in the Arabic language for that. The power of telling your child that you love them has such an effect over how they perceive themselves and their worth.
Aziz’s sister mentioned to me that she noticed I talk to my son, like he’s an adult. I look him in the eye, I listen to him, and am genuinely interested in his words. She also said that in Kuwait, it’s not something she sees very often. It’s much more “badain, badain” (meaning later, later in Arabic) or go play. For me this was eye opening. It’s so important to me for Noah to feel like I’m always listening. I want him to always feel like I am the person to talk to, especially when he becomes a teenager.
So much of what we do as parents has a lifelong effect on them. We are not only responsible for their health and safety, but for their inner voice that carries on into adulthood. What we put in their mind is what they become. When we fill it with love, confidence, trust, belief, success, and possibility, they will believe that’s who they are.
As the time goes on here, I am amazed at how well he is adjusting. He is learning the language, started a new school where he has made many new friends and even earned student of the week for “always having a positive attitude and great sense of humor.” He is even warming up to the double cheek kiss! I know that this move was the right thing for him now. I know that immersing him in his fathers culture and teaching him the best of each of us is what is best.
The day he was born was the start of my life, and my first feeling of true love. As I go to bed tonight, I pray that all of these things I am doing in hopes that he will have a fulfilling childhood do just that.
Happy Birthday, Noah. I love you.
To follow along on Instagram—Click here