Different, but the Same
Parenting in Egypt
I went to breakfast this morning at an elegant French bakery called Paul, which is nearby the home where I am staying. "Nearby", by the way, means a half-hour adventure over Cairo's roads and highways, past miles of sand that would look undisturbed for centuries if it weren't for the endless power lines and cell phone towers, most of which are semi-disguised as gigantic palm trees. Gaily painted buses and trucks share the road with creaking jalopies and elegant foreign cars--and the occasional motor scooter or donkey. There are speed limit and no-cell-phone signs posted, but everyone ignores them. In fact, Egyptians may be more attached to their mobile phones than Americans! Impressive villas stand next to unfinished concrete-and-brick skeletons, and boys stand in the sun watering newly-planted trees. This new Cairo is not a pretty city, but it is compelling, fascinating, and buzzing with energy. Things are happening here; you can sense it.
I have now completed a three-day Positive Discipline in the Classroom training and a full-day event for parents. Both were wonderful experiences for me: the parents and teachers I speak with are so open to new ideas, so hopeful for their families and schools. Change is in the air in Egypt. I spent all day on Saturday in a beautiful hotel in Heliopolis, a suburb just north of downtown Cairo. There were professionlly-produced banners and backdrops, a film crew to record the lectures, and a shopping bazaar for Mother's Day, which is in March here in Egypt. There was a family photo booth and a children's activity center. And each participant received a packet full of information and a delightful sit-down lunch in the hotel's formal banquet room.
And then there was me. I spoke for four hours and yes, I was nervous. I've done this many times before, but never at such an impressive event and never where the majority of my listeners speak Arabic. (There were real-time translation headsets available for everyone--and I am thoroughly impressed by the fluent English so many Egyptians speak.) Most of the women wore lovely hijabs--head scarves to cover their hair--and occasionally, the niqab, which covers everything but the eyes. But beneath their coverings, these women are formidable, courageous, and hopeful. It may be mostly men who are creating the revolution in Tahrir Square, but I believe it will be the women who change Egypt, gently but irresistably.
Above everything else, I have learned--again--that people are far more alike than different, no matter where you travel. These people nodded when I talked about connection, misbehavior, and family life. They laughed at stories of my own mistakes as a mom. And they came up and asked questions--so many questions about how to make their lives with their children better. (If you're curious, you can see photos of the event and watch a brief promotional video at Positive Parenting-Egypt's Facebook page.)
Tomorrow we will begin work to train a team of Positive Discipline trainers who will remain here in Cairo to teach and encourage parents. It is an amazing privilege to be here and to have the opportunity to know and work with these amazing people. I am blessed. Salam alikum.
| Posted by cheryl | Monday, March 19, 2012|