Arab parents come equipped with an arsenal of magical powers, such as a built-in lie detector, a sixth sense, infrared vision, and an extra set of eyes on the back of their heads. But they have also developed a peculiar way of hearing and interpreting what we say. 

Here are a few examples of what you say vs. what your Arab parents hear:  

1. Me: Mama, I'm going out to see my friend

How Arab moms hear it: Mama, I'm going out and on my way I'll take out the trash, get you the 5 kilos of lemons you need, pay the electricity bill, take a plate of kibbeh for teta, and then, if I have any time left, I might go see that friend.

2. Me: Baba, I need masroof

How Arab dads hears it: Baba, I am an ungrateful kid who never appreciates the hard work you put in, day in, day out, to provide for us, and I know you are not sitting on a bank. But can you please give me more money to spend on my stupid friends and buy unnecessary things that you never dreamed about having when you were my age? 

3. Me: Baba, I’m going to study with my friends

How Arab dads hear it: Baba, I’m lying, I’m not going to study. I'm actually going to party with my friends in that place you told me never to set foot in. And that friend you don’t like? Yes, he is going to be there. I will probably be smoking shisha too. Oh, and you might end up picking me up from the hospital after a shawerma and beer binge! 

4. Me: Mama, can you please wash my T-shirt?

How Arab moms hear it: Mama, can you please wash my entire wardrobe and whatever pieces of clothes you see lying around in my room even if they look clean? Can you also change the color of my favorite sweater from blue to orange? And of course I’m going to hang the washing and iron it afterwards! 

5. Me: Baba, my friend Ahmad is coming over for a visit

How Arab dads hear it: Baba, my friend Ahmad is coming to ask for my hand in marriage because I told him my father likes gentlemen who come knocking on the bab (door), not jumping from the shebbak (window). What time shall we call the Sheikh for the kateb ktab?  

6. Me: Mama, I’m tired

How Arab moms hear it: Mama, I’m dying! Can you please make me 5 litres of soup and put cold kammadat (cloths) on my forehead. Could you also bury me under a thick woolen blanket to sweat the fever out and stick a thermometer in my mouth every five minutes to check my temperature?  

7. Me: Mama, I’m not interested in dating anyone now

How Arab moms hear it: Mama, I’m most probably never going to get married and you will never become a teta. The pitter patter of little feet? Forget it! 

8. Me: Hello, mama, how do I cook Mujaddara?

How Arab moms hear it: Mama, I’m malnourished and starving! I miss your homemade food! The expat life is killing me! Can you please jump on the first available flight and bring me makdous and waraq enab?

9. Me: Mama, I’m going to take a nap

How Arab moms hear it: Mama, while I try to sleep, you are welcome to vacuum my room, ask me what I want to eat 10 times, use any kitchen utensil that makes loud noises, and wake me up to ask me if I’m still sleeping.