Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

No Whining!

The other day AdventureMan and I happened to be in the same room and the TV happened to be on and a woman on one of the morning shows (shown in the afternoon in Kuwait) was talking about how to make your kids stop whining.

“I don’t remember (our son) ever whining,” I said, “do you remember him whining?”

“When he was very little, sometimes he would get fussy,” AdventureMan replied.

“Yeh, but fussy is different, when you are little and overtired, or have an ear infection or are hungry – even we get fussy!” I laughed.

I do remember a few awful times when, after standing in a long line in the military commissary on a payday I finally got to the checkout stand just as my son was totally losing it, having to get a month’s worth of groceries paid for and packed while he was screaming bloody murder and the groceries are being packed and people are looking at me like I am a criminal because I can’t feed him there in front of everyone. As soon as I could get him to the car, I could nurse him, but meanwhile, I was hostage to his relentless desparate wailing. Is their any sound as compelling as a wailing baby?

But that is to be expected when you have a baby; babies sometimes have to wail.

But whining?

I was lucky, I was able to be a stay-at-home mom when my son was little. We spent a lot of time together. I could usually distract him, I could usually put him down for a nap if he was tired, I could usually schedule myself to be around to feed him when he needed feeding. I remember ear-infection fussing, and teething fussing, but I don’t remember any whining.

AdventureMan said I wouldn’t put up with whining, not from him, not from our son.

Our son had a lot of expectations on him. AdventureMan was an officer, and we had obligations. (What? You thought only Kuwaitis had expectations and obligations?) Sometimes, when our son would rather be playing, he had to attend an event, or an official function, and he had to behave, because he was his father’s son, and his behavior would reflect on his father. When he would rather be wearing a sweatsuit and trainers, he had to wear dress pants and a dress shirt and tie, and dress shoes. If he complained, I would say “you don’t have to like it, you just have to do it. I don’t like it either!”

I had two tools.

First, as soon as he could talk, I taught him to say “can we negotiate?”

Most of the time, we can find a way to make a bad situation better. Often, he had great suggestions, like “can we go to La Gondola and have a pizza afterwards, and can I invite Michael to go with us?” Whatever gets you through what you don’t want to do, I would think to myself, and agree. Occasionally, but not often, there were non-negotiables, like moves, and then, you just have to grit your teeth and get through it.

Second, I used incentives. Some people might call them bribes, but here is how it worked.

I knew it was in his best interest to get good grades, and that it was my responsibility to help him learn how to get those grades. On the first day of school, I would take him to the toy store and he could pick out what he wanted to work for. We would set goals for each class; we would write down those goals and post them on the refrigerator. At the end of the semester, when those goals were met, he got his prize. The hardest hardest part for me was NOT giving him a prize when the goal was not met, but encouraging him that I know he will get the prize next time. I think it was harder on me NOT giving in than on him, not getting the reward.

My Mother thought I was spoiling him because we would negociate. “You are the mother,” she would say. “You are the boss.”

“Yes, Mom,” I would respond, “but I NEED for him to cooperate. I need for him to feel like he has some choice.” It was just a generational difference.

Now I am getting to see a new generation having their babies. My niece taught her baby basic sign language, and continues to teach him more as time goes on. Even pre-verbal, he has ways of telling her he is hungry, thirsty, wants to be picked up, etc. What an amazing and wonderful idea, what control it gives a baby to be able to express these basic desires, to communicate needs and wants. I am in awe of these young mothers and the care with which they are raising their babies.


Kuwait is blessed to have a blog written by young mothers for other young mothers, full of great ideas. Many of the ideas I THINK are great, but because some are written in Arabic, and my vocabulary and grammar are not that strong, i can’t really read them. That blog is Organic Kuwait; they even have books published for children explaining Ramadan and Hajj in age-appropriate language. Makes me wish I were a young mother again! 🙂

March 31, 2008 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Biography, Character, Communication, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Generational, Language, Shopping | , , , , | 5 Comments

Stroller Brigade

People laugh – or worse, look like I am crazy – when I tell them living in Kuwait is not unlike living in Alaska in terms of climate. When the climate gets extreme – too cold has the same impact as too hot – people stay at home more, going from their heated/chilled homes to their heated/chilled cars to the heated/chilled stores and malls or theatres. When the milder weather comes, everyone spends every minute they can outside.

In Kuwait, there are groups that head for the malls early in the morning for some serious walking when it is too hot to walk outside.

In Seattle, I ran into another group of serious walkers, but here, they are avoiding the rain and cold. When you see the stroller brigade – and there were between fifteen and twenty women with their babies – you had better get out of the way! These are some serious strollers!


November 21, 2007 Posted by | Community, Cultural, Family Issues, Health Issues, Living Conditions, Seattle, Shopping, Social Issues | , , , , , | 5 Comments