On First Impressions- Jordanians

The Jordanians are are open and kind, and love to celebrate.  There is celebratory fireworks (and the occasional celebratory gunfire) to everything from the Eid celebration to the release of the various school exam scores.  The release of exam scores is quite fascinating.  Since the schools are private based, all of them are on slightly different schedules and run from August through May/June, with a few that are even all year I think.  But it isn’t until late July or early August, that the exam scores are released at a stagger across a week or so. This is when families find out how the children faired academically through the previous year.  There are fireworks and gunfire and processionals of cars honking horns and driving in file as they celebrate their success.  The teenagers drive with windows down, music blaring, and celebratory shenanigans ensue.  H and I laugh- there are few constants throughout time and space, and one of those is that of the teenager.

And of course, as many people know of the ME, the driving is horrendous, without rules or laws or lines in the road, and when there are lines in the road they are most definitely arbitrary guidelines per say.

However, the thing that stands out most given our circumstances, is their absolute love of children.  I’ve never been anywhere where my kids were so openly adored in public.  Rather than frowns and scoffs when my boys act like boys and get a bit unruly, I’m greeted with smiles and re-assurance.

Seriously, we had a great demonstration of this just the other day as we were touring the Soap House with Little R on my back and Little P running around crazy.  The soap house is the location of Trinitae- a company specializing in dead sea mineral products.  They hand make everything from bath salts to scrubs and lotions to diffuser oils in a beautiful 100 year old home overlooking downtown.  The boys had been wonderful walking companions during a tour sponsored by the CLO, and I think Little P had had all the behaving he could handle.  He needed to expend some toddler energy, and so, as toddlers are oft to do, he had a burst, not unlike the ones our Australian Shepherd has in the yard.  He ran behind the counter, and into their kitchen, and into the storage room!  He explored the bathroom and ripped the beautifully crafted soap on a rope from the decor.  H and I chased him around, with Little R strapped to my back, red with heat and embarrassment, apologizing between scolding, wishing our group would buy their stuff so we could move on.  But the older gentlemen whose family owns and operates the place just smiled with a twinkle in his eye and said “Ah, it’s safe here, let him run!  Let the little one down, let him run!”  And later, his young attendant just kept laughing at them both, she kept saying “It’s okay, it’s okay!  They are so cute!”

My inner mom, with her apron, oven mitts and firm but gentle smile, who is constantly ridiculing and critiquing my parenting, gauging my aptitude by the behavior of my children, had a hard time wrapping her head around this.  It really is an eye-opening thing, to be somewhere that embraces children as they are- full of attitude, energy and other antics- vice fitting them into a mold involving dance recitals, two year old soccer leagues and impeccable manners.  For the time being I feel like I’m far away from the ridiculing stares in the aisles of the Leesburg Target whenever one of my kids gets too tired or throws a tantrum because I told them, indeed, they do NOT get a toy every time we go to the store, regardless of whether it’s only a dollar.

The Jordanian love of children can be also very overwhelming. When we are in the shopping malls, we are inevitably bombarded with a gaggle of teenage girls who want to kiss and pet and take photos with the Double Troubles.  Little P eats it up, playing shy and blushing at the pretty girls.  Little R, introvert like his mommy, immediately feels the intrusion of his bubble and runs to hide between my legs or behind or wherever he can.  I can only imagine what he’s thinking:  Help!  They’ve come over the walls!  We’re under attack!  The zombie apocalypse is among us!  so I smile and hug him, trying to be as encouraging and serene as I can, because I too am all Get out of my bubble!  They are on the offensive!  It doesn’t help that the Jordanians, and most of the population in the Middle East, are especially fond of blonde haired children, because they are such a rarity.  Needless to say, we don’t take the kids to the mall very often.

Also, since they are so keen on letting kids be kids, I often find that there is little discipline amongst the elementary and middle school set.  You can tell the kids really rule the roost at home, or at least it seems so.  Since it is summer they run around through the night, into the early am, screaming and playing and carrying on, often throwing fits and tantrums from what I can only think is exhaustion, while we are trying to get our kids to sleep through the night!  Thank goodness for the shutters and our white noise phone apps!

Still, as Little P announces a proud “Shukran,” or “Thank you,” to a worker in the little family bakery we found, I realize that I’d take this over the ridicule of the American mommy wars any day.  We love our little bakery- more on that later I promise- where we are always greeted with big smiles and one of the regular employees there gives the boys free cookies and watches as we pick out a box of treats, diligently picking out the cookies Little P points out.  He even gave them cookies during Ramadan, and gave Little R a kiss on the cheek, which I felt was so very kind, given their sacrifices during Ramadan.  They lift their hands and laugh it off when Patrick runs around and grabs breadsticks out of baskets, while I follow him and toss them in the bag to purchase.  Whenever he says “Shukran,” the locals, even the taxi drivers, light up with joy, and you know that they appreciate our efforts to fit in the best we can, fair hair and all!

~M

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