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Adel's problem




"Go on, tell Abah"

I heard Salmah tell Adel. Immediately, alarm bells started to go off. Tell me what?

"Tell Abah your problem"

Sirens were adding to cacophony in my anxiety at what was going to come next. What did he do? Was he in trouble? Did he break something?

And so, hesitantly at first, he started telling me what he had told his mother in confidence. He was in a dilemma. He had two friends at school what wanted to play with him every day, at the same time.

What?? I thought. That's it??

He continued - he didn't know what to do. Normally he set a challenge for his friends to see who got to play with him, and it seems like every single time this one particular one kept winning. Leaving the other one in the lurch.

So?? I asked. Why not play with them at the same time?

Adel murmured something that I couldn't quite hear.

I was getting a bit impatient as in my mind I had more important things to do. I was in the middle of editing a photo, and I was slightly annoyed at being dragged away from my interesting and engaging task/hobby.

"Problem is both of the friends don't like each other" Offered his mother.

Ahhh.. so that was it.

"Adel, just tell the one that keeps winning that you need to play with the other friend today, and that you'll play with him tomorrow".

There. Problem solved. I got up, put Aaron on a pillow ( I had been holding Aaron while this was happening), passed to pillow to his mother, and headed out the room.

But I glanced back and I saw that Adel still looked troubled.

Maybe he didn't understand my logical solution, so I repeated myself, rather brusquely I might add, and suggested that he try it.

And with that I left the room, headed back to my study, and continued what I had been doing.

Fifteen minutes later, I get a text from Salmah (she sometimes texts me if I am locked in my study, and she is in the bedroom breastfeeding Aaron). The text said:

"Listening to Adel's story.. just thinking what was he feeling?"

And then it sunk in.

My son had a real problem that he was feeling down about.

I did the first thing an insensitive grown-up tends to do - downplay it, pish-posh it like it was something silly, and offer a token answer without really taking the time to understand what the child is going though.

I felt so angry at myself.

I do this all the time.

And when the realisation sinks in, they are normally fast asleep, and it is too late to do anything about it.

As adults, we need to listen to our children more.

And realise that ALL problems are big when you are a child.

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