Alas, we have returned from Umrah, and what an experience it was. I will surely be writing more about my 10 days in Madinah and Makkah, but for now I want to talk to you about the people. Specifically the people that Baby Z encountered during Umrah.
Every single person that Baby Z came across could probably be put into one of the seven categories described below. So here goes…
1. The Gawkers
Yes, for the first two days of our trip, Baby Z was one of those annoying little children that wailed throughout the prayer. Continuously. Of course, it was only because he is scared of sudden loud sounds and the Adhan speakers were giving him a fright, and believe me I was doing everything in my power to calm him down. The Gawkers sitting in front of us however, decided it would be a great idea to turn around and …well…stare. A vacant long hard stare. No sympathy. No anger. No disgust. No form of emotion whatsoever. Just a blank stare. It was unsettling to say the least, but thankfully the crying got less frequent over the next few days and so did the appearance of the Gawkers.
2.The Sugar Fix Suppliers
This category of people I possibly detested the most. Yes, I am one of THOSE mothers who has never let my child eat sweets or candy or even sip a drop of fizzy drink. Shoot me. (I do allow him the odd bite of chocolate and lick of ice-cream though.) However, the Sugar Fix Suppliers could be found in every nook and cranny of Makkah, offering and often even throwing sweets in Baby Z’s direction. At first, he of course did not understand what the neatly wrapped bright coloured nuggets of pure artificial ingredients were, and I pretended they were stone or things to simply play with and keep in one’s pocket. However, on one occasion the secret got out and Baby Z had a lick. From then on, if the sweet offered was not immediately unwrapped, tantrums broke out and lets just say it was difficult to distract him once again with a healthier option.
3. The Grams and Gramps
This category of people were quite endearing. It was the elderly folk that had traveled for Umrah, leaving behind their grandchildren. As soon as these Grams and Gramps would see Baby Z, they would pinch his cheeks affectionately or try to pick him up, because he reminded of their own grandchild. Baby Z was not always submissive, and would often recoil into mine or my husbands arms, but that’s just a toddler thing I guess.
4. The Boredom Busters
Praying in the more crowded of places meant that we had to often pick our spots an hour before the prayers started. Though a lot of Quran recitation was also being done, there were often people surrounding us that would get bored and these Boredom Busters resorted to playing with Baby Z to not only entertain him but also themselves whilst we waited for the Adhan. They would ask Baby Z for his name or play peek-a-boo, or bring out something he could play with out of their hand bags.
5. The Paparazzi
I do not still understand the motive behind this category of people. The Paparazzi were random passers by who wanted to take photos of Baby Z, or even a selfie with him. There was a case of one mother praying beside us, whose daughter was playing with Baby Z, and she took a photo of him without even asking for my permission. I know it was probably harmless, but it was still strange and I would have at least liked to be asked first! Does any one else find this paparazzi malarkey bizarre or is it just me being an over protective first time mother?
6. The Sympathisers
The sympathisers knew. They knew bringing a toddler along to any masjid, let alone the holiest ones in Makkah and Madinah, was a challenge and most of them being mothers themselves, would entertain or help Baby Z become more comfortable in any which way that they could. Their smile alone was enough to encourage me and lift my spirits, and for that I am truly grateful.
7. The Partners in Crime
The partners in crime for Baby Z were the other children, ranging in age from tiny little babies to bossy big girls and boys. Sitting next to a mother with a child meant that my own was immediately very intrigued and would usually try to hug them after a few glances. I won’t say that they always hugged him back, but at least the interactions kept Baby Z busy whilst I prayed. Another benefit was that Baby Z and the other children would very often share their snacks or toys and thus become partners in crime. One distracted child = Parenting win!
What was your experience of Umrah with your child like? Did you come across any of the categories I mentioned above? Also, is it just me that thinks the Paparazzi category are strange and uncalled for? Please share with me your thoughts in the comments section below!