I remember the day my husband was offered a job in Denmark. We were living in the Muslim world, in Morocco, and had just spent over two years adjusting and learning to speak oral Moroccan Arabic. After quickly double checking to see if we even knew where Denmark was, we went through a wild mix of emotions and long conversations in whispered tones for days on end. We knew that our kids would be unhappy when they heard that we were thinking of leaving Morocco. Despite the fact that living in the Muslim world was tough at times and offered a variety of challenges to us as American Westerners and as Christians, we loved it there and we loved the people.
One of the biggest issues I kept coming back to was the fact that our daughter was getting older. We could see that our eight year old would soon be entering her tween years, followed quickly by her teens and high school. I knew firsthand what it was like to be a female in the Muslim world, walking down the street with groups of young boys shouting lewd remarks at me and hoping to catch my eye. And even though I had learned to be content where we were, there were times when I hated the fact that I could never go for a run alone or make eye contact with a man on the street. On the really hot days I was covered from head to toe, sweating and suffocating from the heat, unable to show any skin without fear of shaming my husband and sometimes I would not leave my house for days on end because I was very limited by the places I could go as a Christian woman living in a small Muslim town.
I also knew what it was like to be ushered into the secret places where only women were allowed and to watch women who were once veiled come alive with hilarious jokes and large hand gestures as they retold wild stories. I had seen the tender relationship between a mother and her daughter, solidified in a world that was still so segregated. I had enjoyed near God-like treatment when I became pregnant with my third child, being put on a pedestal that I had never experienced in the Western World. I had also met so many strong, independent, and driven women in a male dominated world. But best of all, I had become a daughter, a sister, and a friend to countless women whom I could hardly bear the thought of leaving and I knew that my daughter would feel the same way.
We understood what we would be giving up when we left Morocco and the Muslim world. We could feel it and ached to stay and yet felt compelled to leave. In the end, we chose freedom for our girl. We wanted her to know what it was like to roam the streets without fear, wearing shorts on a hot day, not thinking twice about it. We longed to see her take long bike rides, with the wind tussling her long, loose hair and a world of opportunity before her.
She cried when we told her that we were thinking about leaving Morocco and we talked about it together, letting her be a part of such a big decision. We asked her to trust us for things that she could not begin to grasp, because even as a Christian girl in the Muslim world, she was completely happy in every way. She did not long for things that she knew nothing about and loved the life she had, safe among her girl friends and family.
At times I realize that it would have been so much easier to raise a daughter in a place where girls could not roam or party or even drink without sever repercussions. We traded a place of religion and propriety and gained a world where there is really no limit for what a girl can do. Some days I feel so worried and scared over what she will do with all the freedom she has, but, in the end, I am glad that we chose to give it to her all the same.