Mothering in Bahrain

Chanelmama blogger Ouiam Charkani El Hassani says raising kids on the island is a uniquely rewarding, if sometimes painful, experience.

Bahrain is such a lovely place to raise children; the people are so warm and kind, always welcoming and pretty much OK with crazy mums running all over the place, chasing their little rascals. So before deciding to start a family, my husband and I discussed whether Bahrain was the right place or not. We both said yes with great confidence, as we knew that the island and its people offer a great community for families with kids. Three years later, I still believe strongly that Bahrain is a wonderful place to raise a child. However, now I have more insights from my own personal experience that are almost too funny not to be shared. Along with their generosity and kindness, the people of Bahrain have their own way of making you feel at home. Let me take you on a journey of discovery of things that only happen on this blessed island.

Sharing/offering food. People here are so generous, they will never eat in front of you without offering some of what they have. When it comes to children they almost feel obliged to offer them candies and chocolate whenever they see them. It’s not ideal for parents who are already looking forward to that quiet time when the kids are in bed, sleeping soundly, or for the parents who don’t want a trip to the ER, because their kid ate something he was not supposed to. I’ve learnt to pull off Jackie Chan-style moves and quickly take away the candy with a smile promising ‘’He will eat that later! Thank you!”

Free hugs, kisses, and those pinches on the cheeks. The first time the pinch happened, I cried! I didn’t know quite what was happening or how to stop the person who was obviously taking immense pleasure in torturing my baby’s soft little cheeks! I just wanted to scream: “Why!” Why would anyone want to do that to a baby? As if he didn’t cry enough already! With time I learnt firstly to keep my baby at a fair distance and to always have an arm ready to block any unwanted hands coming for my baby’s cheeks. Now my three-year-old son is pretty good at telling people that his cheeks are NOT FOR PINCHING! So I just watch the scene and secretly laugh because I am off the hook, and my son is doing a great job protecting those beloved chubs. The same goes for the kissing, hugging, stroking the hair or even asking to take pictures with the little ones. It does irritate me at times but I do know deep down that people here love children and like to be around them — they feel the need to show you that they like your child, which is very sweet and loving. Throughout the last few years I have learnt to understand where they come from, and that it is totally harmless. Now try asking a mother in the US, UK or in Europe if you could take a picture of her son… You will surely enjoy a little visit to jail for child abuse lol!

The kids’ nightlife. One thing that will never cease to amaze me is seeing young children in malls and restaurants at 9, 10, 11pm and even midnight! They probably just sleep in the next day, and get more memories made at night as opposed to kids who sleep early, I guess. It is also not unusual to see babies at cinemas because… hey, they shouldn’t miss anything, right?

There is nothing I love more than raising my child in such a warm, generous and very kind environment. Once the culture shock wears off, as a mum you will always find ways to divert pinching fingers or develop a nice phrase to repeat each time you decline an offer of candy, chocolate, or a picture, and it will all give you such funny stories to tell when you go back home.

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