‘Sorry?’ I looked up, in the midst of retrieving my bank cards from the toaster, where youngest son had strategically stashed them. ‘What did you say?’
‘Boarding school,’ said DH, who was sitting at the breakfast table reading the paper. Without even looking up, he automatically stuck out an arm to prevent oldest son from whacking youngest son with Buzz Lightyear for no particular reason. ‘You know, when they get to 11 or something.’
‘Oh.’ And then, ‘Oh!’
What a fantastic idea.
Now don’t get me wrong. We’re not uncaring parents who spend as little time with our unruly children as possible. Well, we try not to be, anyway. But just lately, what with almost a month off school for the Christmas hols, we’ve had a belly-full of it. And fantasizing about an alternative lifestyle where you have children, but they’re not actually around to bother/make mess/ torment / beat the crap out of each other /exhaust you, suddenly seemed overwhelmingly attractive.
Up until now, we’d always assumed (if we are still in Dubai in 2018) that oldest son would go to one of the very good secondary schools available in this country. In fact, having never been to boarding school myself, I’d always thought it rather cold of parents to send their offspring away from the family bosom to some academic institution in the freezing Scottish Highlands say, where they’d be made to run cross country in their pants.
But as I watched youngest son, now fed up with dissecting my purse and instead merrily flicking through all the buttons on the control panel of our chest freezer, I visualized a fresh new future; a place where (during term time anyway) DH and I could cook to please ourselves, not be ignored on a regular basis – or abused for that matter. We would only have our own mess to clear up – and as for teenage angst and tantrums, well, they’d be an S.E.P. (somebody else’s problem.) Bliss.
‘Oh yes!’ I cried. ‘Let’s do it!’
You see, boredom as we all know, is the root of all evil where children are concerned, and despite all Dubai’s fantastic facilities for families with young children, there is actually very little for the average teenager to do here. That is, unless you count the numerous sporting activities they could get involved in – skiing/riding/polo/sailing/power boat racing and the like. Bear in mind though, that this only suits parents with a purse bigger than Beth Ditto’s bottom.
And, if DH and I were to consider these options, we’d have to flog a kidney annually just to keep up. Considering we only have four between us – and need two of them to live – well, let’s just say it’s literally beyond our means.
The other drawback is that there’s virtually no such thing as a ‘Saturday job’ for stroppy, spotty teens to cut their discontented teeth on. That’s right – if you can’t afford annual membership to the local ‘Young Ferrari Owners Club’ or it’s appropriate ‘other’, you are literally stuck with the rebellious buggers, lazing about at home and demanding ridiculous amounts of money for taxis to shopping malls and the like, where they will mooch moodily around and eat burgers – or find a bootlegger who will supply them alcohol so they can sniff lighter fluid and get alcohol poisoning – before getting themselves (and possibly you too) kicked out of the country.
One mother we know (nicknamed Jammy Sod because she is one) actually managed to find her sulky 16-year-old a part time weekend job at Ski Dubai. Somehow, she persuaded her glowering sprog, that dressing up as a polar bear and chasing terrified tots around the snow park for three hours every Friday and Saturday for Dhs6 an hour, was a good experience. That was several years ago though – and even Jammy Sod now admits that finding casual labour for argumentative adolescences is an even bigger challenge than coping with the kids when the maid is on annual leave…
Anyway, aside from that, as I’ve said, we’d had a pretty difficult time of late. It began with youngest son suddenly deciding to test his boundaries one lunchtime in December.
‘Daddy – help me take my clothes off,’ he said. And DH, being an obliging sort of parent, helped him out of his sweatshirt, before asking the important question.
‘Because I’m running myself a bath.’
‘You are not.’ said DH. ‘You are three years old. And it’s lunchtime.’
‘I AM!’ shouted youngest son.
DH then stopped and pondered for a moment, before realizing he could hear water running upstairs. Without stopping to argue any further, he bolted up to the bathroom and discovered our ensuite about to burst its banks…
As DH came down the stairs after cleaning up the child-made tsunami, he roared in uncharacteristic anger. Youngest son, clearly enjoying his naked freedom, had gone all ‘Lord of the Flies’ and was now swinging Tarzan-style from the full length sitting room curtains. The rail, as a result, required ‘open wall’ surgery.
A day later, while in the garden, youngest son struck again. Only this time his investigative experiments led to him yanking the mains water pipe right off our garden wall. ‘I was only trying to swing on it daddy!’ he cried – bottom still hot from a jolly good spank.
The garden was duly flooded, and we had to watch helplessly for almost three hours (until the DEWA guy came to switch us off at the grid) as our water bill racked slowly upwards – money and natural resource literally pouring down the drain.
If these had been isolated incidents with school as a form of respite in-between, we could have coped. But they came amidst the prolonged Christmas holiday, during which our sons decided that any social contact had to include some kind of hand-to-hand combat resulting in one or the other screaming in agony and fury.
Oldest son, who has been doing teenage angst and rebellion since he was three months old, was also in fine fettle. ‘I want to watch Ben 10!’ he demanded on a half-hourly basis.
‘No,’ came the well-worn response.
‘Why not? Everyone in my class watches it!’
‘Whenever you watch it, you start attacking your brother and using bad language. So it’s not allowed. You know that.’
‘I hate you – you – you BAD ASSES!’ he yelled…. And so on.
The only comfort we drew from our situation, was that Mum-of-twin-boys confessed to us on the blissful first day back at school, that her Christmas holiday had been ‘an absolute bloody nightmare’ too – and ‘thank God they were going back to school!’
MOM (Morally outraged mum) added her tuppence-worth too. ‘We pay all this money in fees – and for what?’ she seethed. ‘The little blighters are forever blooming well at home on holidays for this and holidays for that! I think it’s disgusting!’
‘So, boarding school it is then,’ remarked DH a little later, as he caught me pouring over the results of my Google search, entitled ‘UK boarding schools for delinquent expat brats’.
‘Yes!’ I replied, with the kind of enthusiastic fervour I haven’t felt since planning our wedding. ‘We’ll have to start saving now mind. The good ones, that keep them even if they’re really badly behaved, cost around 20 grand a year.’
DH physically baulked and faltered for a second.
With ‘comedic’ timing, the pause was filled with an ear-splitting shriek and a crash as something upstairs was duly demolished…
He manned up. ‘Yes,’ he said. ‘Oh yes. But it will be worth it!’