Lessons From a Queen

Source: ABC News

July 29, 2007

In her role as the world's youngest queen, 37-year-old Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan has learned many lessons. But way before she became a royal, she had her first ground-breaking experience: a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

It all started when she was a child in Kuwait, with a schoolmate's little lunch box.

"One day, I sat next to one of my friends and watched her open her lunchbox," said Queen Rania in a speech before 14,000 women at the Women's Conference 2007, held last week and hosted by California first lady Maria Shriver and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. "But what was inside? Not a hummus sandwich, but peanut butter and jelly. And I thought, 'How revolting.'

"And then one day, my friend suggested I might like to try her sandwich," she continued. "I didn't want to hurt her feelings, so I braced myself and took a small bite. Do you remember Scooby-Doo, how Scooby would literally float off the ground at the thought of a Scooby-snack? Well that was my reaction to peanut butter and jelly. I thought it was heavenly."

With that bite, her life lessons began.

Lesson One: Learn to Love the Old and the New

Rania met her future husband when she was 22, a well-traveled business school graduate who had done stints at Citibank. The commoner met Abdullah bin Al-Hussein II at his sister's house.

ABC NewsJordan's Queen Rania said she believes women will bridge the cultural gap.

It wasn't long before Rania was invited to meet her future father-in-law."In a situation like this, you have to wait for him to make the first move because he was who he was and I just didn't want to make any assumptions," said Rania.

"Growing up, King Hussein was someone I always admired and I always looked up to him," she said. "When he first invited us for lunch, I kind of in my mind envisioned something very, very formal, kind of like a banquet or something."

But when the two did meet it was much more casual -- falafel sandwiches from a takeout joint.

"There was no protocol, no pretense," she said. "That was an important lesson because we have to show up in our lives as ourselves no matter what roles we play or what title we carry."

She has passed this lesson on to her children, including her eldest son, 13-year-old Prince Hussein, who may one day be king.

The queen said she doesn't want her children relying only on the family name.

"It scares me to think that my children might grow up just identifying themselves as the son and daughter of so-and-so, because that's just going to make them very vulnerable," Rania said. "It's very important for me to make sure that once we enter our home that it is a home and it is a family life there. "

Rania said that like most parents, she tries to limit what her children have access to.

"My son does not get a free ride and he can't sit in front of the computer endlessly," Rania said. "He knows that there are limits. He can watch some of the shows that he likes to watch but again, there are limits. It's something I continuously try to insure they have and my husband plays a very, very important role in that."

Lesson Two: Everything Has Its Time

Rania's guidance is not like other parents in every way -- she must explain to her son all that comes with being a king. It's a conversation she has yet to have with him.

"He's 13," said Rania. "He's more interested in how to get his hair cut and what movie he's going to watch. Those issues are way above and beyond him, and I wouldn't want to burden him with anything about that. It's just not fair."

Lesson Three: Even Queens Suffer From Guilt

Rania said that like most women around the world, she suffers from feelings of guilt. "Sometimes we're very hard on ourselves," she said. "We don't cut ourselves enough slack."

The act of balancing career and family effectively can have an emotional toll on women.

"We expect to be great mothers and great wives and great career women and try constantly to achieve this balance in our lives, and it's amazing how much we have in common."

But aiming for perfectionism isn't the goal, Rania said.

"Once I realized that, I started to just be a little kinder to myself. To say to myself that, you know, sometimes I won't be able to do this.""If you are trying to be a perfectionist, then you're always going for either 100 percent or zero, which means that you go through life averaging 50 percent," she said. "But if you accept the 70 percent, then you're averaging 70 percent in your life, which is better.

Rania said she is a strong believer that women can bridge the divide between cultures. For example, when terrorists attacked her country, she immediately went to the hospitals to visit the injured.

"It made me realize that if American women had been with me, they would have shed the same tears and our tears wouldn't have been distinguishable," she said. "Whether you're an American or you're an Arab, we have the same of loving a child and losing a child. It feels the same way."