But i simply must tell you about the children in the compound.
First of all, I have to explain that to a British parent, paranoid of pedophiles lurking behind every bush that is dense enough, this compound life seems shocking. Compounds in Doha vary from small ones,for about twenty villas, to much larger ones, for over a hundred. Most of them have a central point- a club house, or a gym or both, security at the gate and a communal/shared swimming pool. The roads inside the compound are quiet, with mainly residents' cars driving very slowly, and children as young as 3 often playing outside, on the bikes and scooters, with phillipino maids or alone. The excitement from this freedom of being able to pop to the club house alone, or with a new friend, hit my six year old daughter like a tsunami wave- impossible to control or stop.
Not only do the children play outside, they also go in and out of each other's houses.
Husband, who is safely tucked in his new grey suit somewhere at a meeting, exclaimed happily: 'But that is so lovely for her! Remember how back in the uk, whenever there was a school break, we would have to organize playdates or something else to do so she would not get too bored? No need for that now! She just has all these easily available playdates inside the safe compound!'
Well, yes. Theoretically, it is simply wonderful.
But, in reality, and also, in a mean mother's reality, it is somewhat complicated.
The other day, for instance, my daughter ran downstairs with three other girls following her, all wearing her best jewellery.
'Excuse me', i said. 'Where are you going?'
-What about all the stuff you are wearing??
-They are just borrowing it.
'Ok...' I glanced them over. 'You can borrow that necklace, i said to the German girl. But please take that bracelet off. That one, i am afraid, has to stay in the house.'
Fine. Away they run. I sit down with a cup of tea and a sleepy baby attached to my left boob when there is a ding dong!!! at the front door again. The girls are back to get some bunnies. No, i said. It is too dusty outside, the soft toys remain in the house.
The girls get kicked out. Ding dong! The door goes again, in a few minutes. The three visitors reappear, comfortably squeezing past me, taking their shoes off.
Ahmm...hello? I say in my very nice, friendly voice, trying to keep the outrage out of it.
Where are you actually going?
The taller girl i had never seen before looks up at me like i am retarded. 'Upstairs to play in E's room?!'
-Yes, but where is E herself? i dare to ask
-Oh, she did not want to come home, she wants to play outside!
At this point i just had to laugh nervously. But, sweetie, i said. You cant just come in, and play in her room if she is not there. That is HER room and her toys!?
'But we want to play with her toys!' Says the smaller child- i think?- Called Sarah.
'I am afraid', i say, blocking the way and physically pushing the crowd towards the exit, 'this is NOT how it works.'
I mean, honestly?
Back in the UK, where getting invited for a playdate was usually a carefully planned, scheduled and dutifully taken in turns event, this would send some of my friends over the edge. And understandably, I am finding this unlimited freedom somewhat irritating. Wonderful, yes. Don't take me wrong. I am pleased my child is settling in, and enjoying herself. She is making new friends, she barely watches any TV, she is not bored at home, and is getting plenty of fresh (if somewhat dusty) air. But i might have to introduce some basic rules to this chaos. Today i started off with switching off the annoying door bell. Now, when her friends come for my child at 7:45am and try to break into the house while we are all peacefully asleep...they are going to have to work harder. And i run to the door when i hear them approaching like a sand storm, and stop them running in screaming and giggling into the house where the baby has just settled into a nap. Let me be the most cruel mother in the compound, i don't care. My house- my rules.