Lina, my daughter, was two years old when I lived and worked in Abu Dhabi. My wife was in Egypt for work and I looked after Lina by myself. Every afternoon I would take her to one of three large royal parks to play and meet other children.
Lina loved the park’s slides, each shaped like an animal. I watched her trudging up the steps of the Camel and then swishing down the Elephant with other children, her little face lit with joy.
She did it numerous times, trying out the Horse one time and the Hippo the next. Then she came back to me and pointed to the much taller slide older children were using.
I explained to her that the taller slide was for bigger kids, not her. She did the smaller slides a few more times and then came back, pointing again to the taller slide. I repeated that it was for older children, adding that it was very high and the many steps to the top would not be safe for her.
Lina went back to the animal slides, but returned within minutes to point again at the tall slide. Her heart was set on it. Despite strong misgivings, I said, “All right, you can play on that slide, but be careful.”
Lina climbed the steps, one after another, while I stood anxiously on the ground below, half regretting my reluctant approval. She finally reached the top, and plunged down the slide. In a few seconds she landed safely, quite radiant with triumph.
I had noticed, however, as she climbed the last few steps of the tall slide, the worried look on her face and the anxious glance at me standing below. I asked, “Lina, you weren’t afraid, were you?”
In reply, she just hugged me, her small arms tight against my neck. She had faith in me: she knew she would be looked after.
The writer is a Washington-based international development advisor and had worked with the World Bank. He can be reached at [email protected]