It only took a second

Living in the Middle East has meant that the boys are experiencing a different childhood to the one that I had.  Instead of apple trees they’re climbing palm trees, there is no lush green field, there are no real seasons to be seen.  It is a completely different setting to what I ever imagined.

Yet there is something that is similar to my childhood, something that they wouldn’t be able to do if we lived in England still.

I am able to let my five year old outside to play with his friends.

By himself.

Giving him the much needed confidence and independence to grow.  Letting him have the opportunity to blossom and come out of his shell.  Allowing my cautious child to realise his own limits and the running round with kids to help him grow.

We live on a small compound, with gated security, and neighbours where we know one another.

The kids run in and out of each others houses.

They have the freedom they need, that they crave, that they want.

It is something that I love about living where I do.

But he is only five

And an incident this weekend reminded me of just that.

For whilst I am able to let my five year old run around with his friends, my two year old is a different matter.  And if one goes out the other follows.  So I go too.

Which is what happened this weekend.  I went outside too.

Six children, two adults and a whole lot of running round and laughing together.

The the overtired kicked in.  The fighting.  The wandering off after a cat.

My five year old pushed his friends little brother off his scooter.

I shouted.  Loudly.  It was not ok to push.

My friend picked up her son and out of the corner of my eye I spied my two year old wandering off to see a cat.

I chased him.  I turned my back for a second to grab my other child.

We came back.

One.  Two.  Three.  Four.  Five.

Where was my five year old?

Unpanicked I went back to the house to check.  Our door is always open, he knows where we live and often comes in and out.

I call his name.

No answer

I go out and check the compound.  Remember, it’s only small.

No sign of him.

I come back in and check again, shout louder.

No answer

I really start to panic.

I only turned my back for one second.


And he wasn’t there.

We searched.

We screamed his name.

One second.

Where was he?

The security guards were searching, the neighbours were all looking.


One second

That was all it took for him to slip away.

Beating myself up because he ran away from me.  If I hadn’t have shouted he wouldn’t have ran.

Telling myself over and over it was because I shouted at him that he was now gone.

One second.

Then I heard my name being called.

He was hiding

He was in the house.  Under the bed.


Amongst the boxes we are yet to unpack, hidden well under the bed.

He didn’t answer because he thought I was going to shout.  Again.


One second.

That’s all it takes.

Will I let him play outside still?


The confidence it is building, the friendships he is foraging, are all things that I want to continue.

I want him to be independent.

HE needs it.

Are there new rules around it?

Definitely – no matter how scared he is that we are cross he MUST answer.  He has no go areas.  And although he has his freedom to play I can see him.  I watch him from a distance.

But still I let him go.

Against all of my instinct to lock him away with me in the house forever more, to helicopter parent him to death, I let him go.

I trust in him to obey the rules.

And I watch him fly.



#parenting #expat




  1. November 5, 2017 / 9:30 pm

    Gosh, what a scary moment for you. You’re very strong for still letting him play outside, I hope that I would do the same but I’d be in the same dilemma as you. It’s great that they can still do that.

  2. November 6, 2017 / 4:48 am

    It does take only a second. I’m glad you let him go outside to play again. That’s a brave parenting choice, but I think a good one.

  3. Julie
    November 6, 2017 / 12:59 pm

    Happened to us once in a large shop and my youngest wandered away. You only need to turn your back for a second but it was awful, felt such a bad person. Now I get fretful if grandson is out of sight, but you can’t keep them tied down and I’m glad you have such a secure place for them to be free. My little escapee has grown up to be quite adventurous so obviously no lasting effects there!

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