As the school year comes to a close and most expat women take the children to greener pastures, the grapple for nursery places is at a high in Abu Dhabi before the wild birds flee. Unlike Ireland where children start nursery at the age of “whenever the government provide the free year” and big school at five, children in the Middle East, start nursery just around the time that they begin to melt mommy’s brain being at home all day and big school starts from three years old.
Being Irish and inherently against anything that could compromise the suffocating relationship between an Irish Mammy and her only son. So while all the other nationalities are busy developing their sons sense of independence and responsibility, this Irish Mammy is galvanizing her sons grasp on the apron strings. I use the term apron strings metaphorically, as microwaving noodles does not warrant the use of an apron. Despite the deeply ingrained mindset, it is difficult to turn a blind eye to even the possibility of letting baby boy experience a world outside of Mammy and so just to prove a point (I am open-minded, I am open-minded) I decided to have a look at some of nursery school options available.
Metaphorical scissors in hand I took to the highways and dirtracks of Abu Dhabi to find a nursery competent of offering my messiah stimulating surroundings for his first break from Mommy’s apron. Little Steps, High Hopes, Little Treasures, Baby Acorns and many more English managed but Pilipino run nurseries dotted the dusty landscape of the grid like Khalifa City, my equivalent of the local village.
Taking a punt on the first one, Little Einstein’s, a suitable title I thought, particularly for the intellectual direction my cherub was obviously headed. On further investigation it transpired that the promoted atmosphere in this playing and learning environment was silence. Hush signs decorated each and every wall and low voices and hushed tones filled the silent play areas. This would suit, I envisaged my baby becoming a Zen like-child, happly playing with his battery free xylophone while I rested on the chaise reading a book, no TV, no noisy interactive toys, no happy laughter but no constant whinging either, I was willing to compromise. All seemed serene until my beautiful nightmare decided to have a full on throw down tantrum, the hush signs shuddered on the calming apple green walls, the serene atmosphere punctured by the spoiled screams of my expressive little boy. The teddy which lay just inches away from over the knee high partition in the “sleepy zone” was really eons away from my restless boy. We’ll will call you ma’am should a vacancy arise was the line delivered by the obviously irritated assistant, and so, for the want of a teddy that place was lost. The tumbleweed rambled across the car park of the nursery which was at atmospheric as the interior; we needed something a little more tolerant.
Potential nursery option two and the entrance to “Happy Playtime” had lots of potential, Laugh, Play, Chatter, Learn, were the words shown on the walls. This was a good start. The theme here was that all activities play and learning was child-led. So whatever the children showed interest in, that’s what was promoted and developed, no set structure. Letting my former Einstein join in with the activities, I stood beside the play attendant and we both observed his play technique. Through this ten minute exercise we could determine the play area to which my baby was most suited. I stood proud, waiting for him to make towards the jigsaws and stacking blocks, however, he passed these out and apart from kicking two saucepans of his way, he showed no interest in the play kitchen either. He headed in the direction of the books, my clever boy, I could have sworn he was about to reach for the Osborne Children’s Dictionary when his attention turned to a plastic red bucket. He placed the bucket on his head and proceeded to walk around bumping into things. “This is good ma’am he is playing” went the sing song voice of the Sri Lankan room assistant.
The other options included a nursery with his being the only child without “Al” in front of his surname. An Indian owned nursery full with cash registers and toy shops, and many English nursery schools with non-English speaking assistants and large sleep areas. I put the scissors away until an Irish Naionra arrived in Abu Dhabi, the apron strings were well and truly knotted.