The sentence, when I hear it, floors me. It’s one I’d never imagined I’d hear being uttered. But there was 5-year-old Yaqeen, standing in the centre of his bedroom, saying something that had never crossed my mind when I was his age.
“Dad, I just want the holidays to end.” After I recover my composure, I ask him why.
“It’s just taking too long. I want to go back to school. I miss my friends. I’m so bored.”
Unfortunately for the little guy, and his brother and sister Aqeel and Saabirah, there’s only so much you can do during the summer in Qatar before you find yourself on rinse and repeat.
Daytime temperatures that hover around 50°C limit the time one can spend outside to, well, nothing.
So you tend to seek out indoor activities. Which we have. Movies? Check. Indoor play area? Check. Mall? Check. And check again.
It is an obscenely long holiday that the kids get, from June 6 until August 26. Almost three months of battling boredom, unless you’re a part of the exodus of expats from Qatar every year about this time, with many going home and others travelling to temperate climes.
It’s easier to disappear for a couple of months when only one parent in the family is working, allowing either mom or dad to pack up and go with the kids.
With Shihaam and I working and juggling our own leave schedules and those of our teams, we had to look for alternative ways to keep the kids occupied, and decided to enrol them in one of the many summer camps on offer in Doha.
Entrepreneurs have recognised there is a need to provide all kinds of outlets for children with energy to expend during the hot summer months.
Arts, crafts, musical lessons, drama clubs, football training - you name it, you can find it on offer. We decided to opt for a multi-themed camp, which promised to give kids from 4 to 13 years old a holiday camp experience they’d never forget.
To be honest, we were just happy to have somewhere to drop them off for a few hours every day. The activities were a bonus.
Of course, everything comes at a price - in this case, one that meant two weeks of summer camp were enough as far as we were concerned.
We decided there were better ways in which to spend our hard-earned money, one in particular that was guaranteed to warm the hearts of the kids more than any summer camp could.
“Yaqeen, don’t worry, soon the holidays will be over, and you’ll go back to school and see your friends again. But before then, mom and dad have a surprise for you, for all of you,” I say, calling Aqeel and Saabirah to join us. “You’d better get your winter clothes out of the back of the wardrobe - we’re going to Cape Town next week.”
* Ridwaan Bawa, a former newspaper executive editor and magazine editor, is writing a weekly column about the life and experiences of a proud South African living as an expat in Qatar. Follow him on Twitter @ridwaanbawa
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.