Monday Column: Growing up pains

Oman Sunday 27/November/2022 21:16 PM
By: Saleh Al-Shaibany
Monday Column: Growing up pains
Saleh Al-Shaibany

From the glass door, I saw the boy dropping his bicycle on the steps. He was sweating profusely and was almost dazed by the heat. He stood under the shade and leaned on the wall. I opened the door and asked him if he was alright. He smiled weakly but said nothing. I walked back to the shop and bought him a fizzy drink. He accepted gratefully and drank it nosily. He stopped half way, mumbled his gratitude and smiled again. I asked where he lived. It was more than three kilometres. I offered to throw his bike in the boot of my car and drive him home. He refused.

As I was walking away, he asked me if I had a pill for his headache.  I popped in at the adjacent pharmacy and bought him a packet. He said he wanted another drink to swallow the pill. I made another trip to the shop to get another can. I watched him take the pill and I also watched him put his hand in his pocket after that. He gave some money that he thought would cover my expenses I spent towards him.

In my childhood days, that would have been an insult. But these are different times.  I just smiled and asked him to keep the money. I also asked him his age. He said he was eleven.  I enquired for the last time if he wanted a lift home. He declined the offer. I watched him  climb his little bicycle and paddle away. I forgot about the incident until I saw him again two weeks later in a food court of a shopping mall. I recognised him right away. He was not a kid you would forget in a hurry.  He was chubby with rosy cheeks and a flat nose. Our eyes met and I knew he recognised me too. He half raised a hand at me. I nodded my head. His father caught the gesture and turned his head. I waved at the bewildered father, too.  He was  so confused he just failed to respond.

I watched him exchange a few uncomfortable words with his boy. He was obviously not happy that his son had befriended a grown-up man.  I am not sure what the kid had told the father but I was not going to take the chance. The man might punish his son for something that was not entirely the boy’s fault. I left my table and went to talk to the man. I explained my encounter with his son a fortnight ago. The man was not pleased but he pretended that he was. I made it short to spare him further discomfort. As I walked away, I was convinced I did the right thing.  As a matter of fact, it was his fault for not keeping track of his son’s biking expedition. The youngster would have had a heat stroke or run over by mad drivers.

I should not entirely blame him. As parents, we can’t possibly keep track on everything our children do. Though how hard we try, there will always be an instant when youngsters would want to explore a kilometre further than they should. These are the risks parents take every day.  Children must be allowed a certain degree of failure. If not, there will be no room of advancing themselves. That’s how we learned to take care of ourselves when we were growing up. Those days, everybody around was a parent to a stray child. I would like to think it is still true today. I acted the same way to that rosy cheek kid someone did many years ago to me.