If you've been finding one dirham coins in short supply these days, you should blame the kids. As Abu Dhabi doctors told The National recently, they have been seeing plenty of cases of kids admitted to hospitals by harried parents for swallowing the coins during playtime.
Their message to the public was simple and stern: parents, pay more attention to what your kids are doing. Sure, that's fair, but I also believe we should take it easy on parents. Because no matter how vigilant they are, they simply can't beat the recklessness and curiosity of children.
It is these qualities, I suppose, that make parenthood such a joy and drain. I say “suppose”, because – full disclaimer – I am not actually a parent, but when recalling some of the antics I got up to as a child, I begin steeling myself for the worst for when/if I do become a dad.
Where the kids of today are swallowing dirhams, I was drinking petrol (bear with me!). I was about five years old and living in Abu Dhabi at the time. My parents decided to visit some old friends who lived in the Tourist Club Area and I remember being expressly told to sit in the living room while the adults chat with each other.
I got bored out of my mind, of course, and I decided to go for a little wander around the apartment. My curiosity took me to the storage room where I saw a water bottle filled with a bright red fluid. Immediately, I thought this was some special berry juice that was being hidden from guests, so I discreetly opened it and took a big swig.
My stomach was on fire. My mum recalls my anguished scream to this day, as well as the subsequent rush to the hospital where I had to get my stomach pumped.
She obviously vowed to keep a better eye on me after that, but, despite her best efforts, I still managed to get myself into more trouble as I grew up, like the time I nearly burnt down our kitchen at the age of 10. My parents were having their regular Friday afternoon siesta and I decided to act the chef and fix myself some fish fingers. Let's just say I was a little too liberal with the cooking oil. Now, it is me who shudders when recalling waking up my dad – a huge sin in itself, let me tell you – to announce there was a "wee" fire in the kitchen.
My list of misdeeds continued throughout my teenage years. They ranged from the comical – such as the time I bit into a microwaved boiled egg that exploded over my face and singed my growing moustache – to the more serious – like when I disobeyed my mum’s driving advice and crashed her precious Honda Integra into the side of another car. That was a long night.
I’m sure there are many other stories of mishaps I’ve forgotten (or somehow suppressed).
And yet, I’m still here. Recalling these tales has made me appreciate the love and strength it requires to be a parent.
The fact they choose to become one, knowing full well their child will surely bring them a seemingly endless run of worrisome nights, is nothing short of heroic.
I salute you all.
That said, it is always a good idea to do what the doctor says – and hide those dirhams.