One peculiar side effect of having a child living in a place like Oman is the tendency by some people to tell me how much danger she confronts.
First off, I don’t think that’s true. The Wall Street Journal recently classified Oman as “arguably the Arab world’s most-stable country.” Various measures of criminal activity show Oman to be far safer than the United States. And, from what Linden tells us, she lives a tightly controlled life—far more so than if she were living at home and we were letting her bike to town by herself every weekend.
Of course, I read newspapers. I follow blogs. In fact, I spend way too much of my life staying well informed. (I mean, to what end?) Certainly, I know all about the latest atrocity from ISIS. And, of course, when something terrible happens in the Middle East, I always find myself thinking, hey, that’s just up the gulf from Oman.
So it strikes me as strange that some people evidently like to compound my anxieties. Thank you very much for sharing the State Department’s advice to Americans in Oman. But how exactly is Linden supposed to vary her daily travel schedule? She goes to high school! Should she tell the carpool that today they’ll be taking evasive maneuvers? Maybe she should notify the principal that she’ll be skipping first period today for security reasons.
And yes, I am very concerned about the sultan’s health. The most stable country in the Arab world is surely a product of his enlightened personality. But I was already aware of the sultan’s physical challenges. Your reiteration of those issues doesn’t really do anything for me. You can be sure, when the sultan sneezes, I go to bed praying for his rapid recovery.
And let’s not even talk about Linden’s potential health concerns. Yes, I do indeed know about MERS (Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome). And yes, it is possible Linden could come in contact with camels (which are known to carry the disease). In Oman, many people have close ties to their ancestral villages—out in the country. Camel country. But, if Linden gets a chance to ride a camel, I wouldn’t blame her for saddling up.
At least no one has brought up the possibility of Ebola. Oman has ancient cultural ties to Zanzibar and east Africa. Yes, that Africa!
It’s crossed my mind that this fear mongering is some kind of karma.
I am well known as someone with a strange zeal for natural disasters. In fact, people have called me “the master of disaster.” When there’s a tornado/hurricane/flood/blizzard/earthquake, you’ll find me glued to CNN or YouTube to watch footage. But I consider that a personality quirk. Generally, I don’t shove the pictures into other people’s faces. (Well, maybe my wife, but she is patient with me.) I certainly don’t offer them up to victims. I’m pretty sure I show suitable concern for anyone who has suffered through a natural disaster, including my Angeleno neighbors—all thirteen million of them—when we all lived through the ’94 quake.
After pondering this phenomenon, I’ve decided to view my friends and their nuggets of alarming information in a charitable light.
One of my favorite songs is “What a Wonderful Word.” Louis Armstrong made it famous.
There’s a lyric in it that always struck me as being very wise:
I see friends shaking hands.
Sayin’, “How do you do?”
They’re really sayin’,
“I love you.”
(It sounds smarter when you sing it in a deep gravelly voice.)
I think that’s what all the masters of disaster are telling me.
Raising a child is a process of constantly letting out the leash. The playpen yields to the child-proofed room. The back yard gives way to the first day of kindergarten. As the child marches forward into each new realm, you let her explore a new piece of the world with the hope she becomes a better person for having seen new things—and that she returns safely. Meanwhile, the child is training you to accept the reality that they have bumped themselves up to a new orbit and there’s not much you as a parent can do about it.
By moving to Oman, Linden abruptly spun out the leash 10,000 miles. (So much for that metaphor.) It’s a difficult adjustment. Not just for parents but anyone who cares about her.
The doomsayers haven’t been fully trained about Linden’s new orbit. With their words, I believe they are attempting to process those many miles.