Mar 17, 2013

The Oldest

by Hend Hegazi


I needed just a few moments to myself. Just a few moments away from the constant demands and whining. Just a few moments to smell some fresh air before I would have to change another diaper or wash another dish.

So while my four kids played quietly together in the living room, I took the opportunity to step out on the tiny balcony attached to my bedroom.

There is no view from that balcony; just a street and more buildings. But I watched the cars drive by and the people walking along. It was not the change I needed, but it was enough. Just when I decided to head back in, I heard the troops calling for me.

I figured it was only a matter of seconds before they found me anyway, so I just stayed on the balcony. I heard their voices getting louder and their footsteps approaching. “This is it,” I thought, “my break is over.” But, to my surprise, no one came onto the balcony. The calls persisted, “Mom! Mom! Where are you?!”

Now, we do not live in a mansion with multiple wings. We do not live in a three story villa with maid’s quarters and secret rooms. We do not even live in a house. We live on the sixth floor in a three bedroom apartment that boasts a medium sized living area, kitchen and one and a half baths. The main balcony comes off the living room, which is also where the one and only door to the apartment is. This is where, if you will remember, the kids had been when I “escaped.” The only bedroom with its own balcony is mine. Our apartment is not tiny, but it is not big either. It is definitely not so big that you could not find a grown person in it.

But despite this, they never found me. They kept walking up and down the hallway, calling for me, and peeking in my room. They never actually took the three steps into my room that would have ended their hunt.

After the first time, they went past my room unsuccessfully. I started cheering them on in my head, hoping they would find me. “Come on! Come on! I’m right here! Just walk in the room and you’ll see me.” I did not really want to be found but I wanted them, namely my oldest, to put in a real effort. I wanted him to think of all the places I could be, and I wanted him to check them carefully. I wanted to be assured that he had that essential problem solving ability. Especially since, just a few weeks before, we had all played indoor hide and seek, and my oldest hid with me on that balcony!! I was disappointed that he never found me.

A few moments later, the shouting stopped. I could hear my five year old crying. At this point I wondered, “Is it considered cruel and unusual punishment to hide from your kids until they cry?”

I walked down the hall and found the four of them huddled around the telephone. “What’re you doing?” I asked, startling them.

“Mom!! Where were you? We looked all over for you!”

“No, you did not look all over for me, because if you had, you would have found me on my balcony. Now, what were you doing?”

“We were calling dad.” They figured that at least dad could tell them what to do now that mom had gone AWOL.

I was so disappointed at how quickly my oldest had given up. I mean, can walking up and down the same hall repeatedly even be considered searching for someone? Why did he not put in a genuine effort? I mean, when I ask my four or five year olds to look for something, I expect them to say, “I don’t know where it is” before even turning their heads. But should I really expect the same from a nine year old?

The fact is, I never really think of how old he is. He is my oldest; that means he is my right hand man. He helps with his siblings, cleans up messes that he did not make, puts the trash out when I ask. He is my oldest; that means he is forced to take on responsibilities that he neither asked for nor wants. I always expect too much from him and I never give him enough credit.

I see now that even though he never found me, he did a great job of keeping his siblings together, and of following through with a very respectable plan B. I will try to remember that, even though he is my right hand man, heis only nine. And nine year olds lose at hide and seek sometimes. But for all he does for me and for all I put him through, he is my biggest winner.

I'd love to hear your views on this topic. Please post in the comments section below!


So true! Lovely post :)

very true, my 5 year old always searches the roof when i ask him to find somthin, :p n hes my oldest but yea resposibilities can wait he is still a kid .. n lovely post :)

Mashallah habibti! This was the perfect article to read this morning. My oldest (hes's 10) woke up at fajr with a massive nosebleed. He took care of it, showered, and afterwards I asked him too cleaned up his own bloody mess. Which he did without complaint. I felt bad bc he is still a kid and i forget to treat him like one. Thank you for this gem.

jazakum Allahu khairan for a beautiful piece. i too have four kids: my eldest being my beloved daughter. and i felt each word coming from my heart. may Allah protect our kids and reward them.

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