To shoe or not to shoe – Captain’s log – Day 2

When I was about Daniel’s age I forgot my PT clothes at home early in the first term and felt completely freaked out when I was the only one that didn’t change into my PT clothes at break time. The following day I dutifully took my PT clothes to school and changed at break time, only to realise after break we didn’t have PT that day. The shame, the shame. So I have, to this day, a thing about being appropriately dressed for all occasions. It’s funny how a little thing like that could be so traumatic for little me.

This morning my own personal worst fear came true: Daniel’s school shoes were missing. I screamed a little on the inside, but also knew that this is potentially a valuable lesson for him to learn about taking care of his stuff.

There were tears and a rinse and repeat of yesterday’s drama to get him into the car wearing his takkies, but we finally got to to Aftercare to see whether they had found the shoes, but no such luck, all the while with the Sussies in tow.

I was cross. And sad for him. And then I was cross some more.

So, we all walked to his class, him clasping my hand for dear life as he did the walk of shame past hundreds of school children in school shoes.

When we arrived at class we explained to his teacher what happened, but that this was an important lesson in taking care of your things and she nodded sagely.

The shoes are gone. Gonner than gone. I try not to dwell on what might have happened to them.

I went to buy some new shoes, but he’ll be paying for them out of his pocket money for a very, very long time. And I’ll only tell him in the morning, when we have our next argument about the takkies. Mean, I know, but maybe he’ll sweat a little.

My folks came for supper tonight and I hugged them extra hard as a very dear friend of mine has just lost* her Mom. It’s been a melancholy day, made marginally better by having my family and my children close, those last hugs and sniffly kisses when they’re soft with falling asleep. It really is the best time of day. You want them to go to sleep because you have so much to do, but you desperately want to hold them for just a few more minutes, just for in case they forgot to tell you that one last thing about their day or they need to hear you say ‘Mommy loves you’ one last time.

Tomorrow will be better.

* I never understand the word ‘lost’ when someone passes away. You didn’t lose them, but they are irrevocably gone, your heart ripped out.

Mancation – Captain’s Log – Day 1

Etienne left on his 5 day Mancation this morning.

At 5am I had Daniel in bed with me, at 6am both girls were crying after their Dad left, nothing serious, they just tend to wind each other up.

Off to a great start then.

It was going well until Daniel had to pack his clothes for hockey this afternoon and point blank refused to. What follows is a loose transcript, I’ll spare you nasty in-between detail:

  • D: “I will NOT play hockey today, it’s match day and they always make me goalie”
  • Me: “Do you want me to email the teacher and ask that she doesn’t put you at goalie today?” (whilst putting on my face, trying not to stick the mascara wand in my eye)
  • D: “NO. Ok, what really happened is that I don’t like playing with some of the boys”
  • Me: “Oh, that’s quite different then. Why don’t you like playing with the boys?” (whilst I’m busy getting dressed)
  • D: “They’re not very fast, just like me” (this is true)
  • Me: “That’s not a good enough reason not to play hockey, you were having fun on Monday? I still don’t understand?” (by this time I’m putting on my shoes)
  • D: “Ok. What’s really wrong is that the teacher never gives me a bib and the team in the bibs ALWAYS beat my team”
  • Me:  “That doesn’t seem fair, have you spoken to the teacher about it? I can’t let you quit hockey today, it’s only one lesson, we can talk about it when your Dad gets home” (Yes, I went there!)
  • D: “NO!” (runs off to his room to sulk)

By this stage I have moved on to the girls’ room and found them with bemused expressions, having listened to the whole drama playing itself out in my room. I’m busy with their hair and we are chatting when I hear Daniel crying from his room, so I go and have a look and he really upset about the freaking hockey, he had worked himself up into such a state and there was very little I could do about it. At this stage I probably should have given up, but noooo, I persevere, because clearly I’m a sucker for punishment.

This was followed by him not wanting to leave the house, not wanting to get into the car, not wanting to get out of the car and refusing to walk into school. I tried leaving him at the gate, but he ran after me, to the horror of some Mothers that were on school traffic duty. So, I did what every self-respecting Mother would do: I walked him to class, even though parents aren’t really welcome at the classes in Gr 2. There I finally managed to leave him, not happy at all. As I passed those very horrified Mothers I suggested it was maybe not to early to start drinking and they assured me that somewhere a plane had gone over. Mothers in arms, I tell ya.

Luckily I had the sense to call Aftercare and warn them that my son was just not that into hockey today and I did get “your son refuses to go to hockey” call. So I said to put him on the phone and said it was ok, but that we will talk about it tonight. What. Ever. It’s really not worth it, but his timing sucks.

Fast forward to tonight and the child is adamant. I’m just going to leave it for now.

The kids are now safely, but only just, tucked into bed, all fed and watered and read to after many jokes and farts and begging to brush teeth.

I am now huddled on the couch in the fetal position with my favourite things: wine, my iPad, my crochet work and Longmire on AppleTV. Yes, I’m a closet cowboy fan..

1 day down, 4 to go.

Tough Love and Parenting Purgatory

To say “Daniel is attached to his teacher” would be an understatement of note.

The last time, a couple of months ago, when her child was ill she wasn’t in class for 2 days and Daniel had a bit of a meltdown. On the second day we received a phone-call from the school, right after break, to say that he had a tummy ache. Like the caring parents we are we rushed to his rescue and wonder of all wonders, the stomach ache disappeared the minute he was collected from school by Etienne. It was nothing short of a miracle!

This week his teacher went on a Netball tour so she was away from class most of yesterday and the whole of today. We could already see by Daniel’s sleeping patterns (3am nightmare alerts and the inevitable bedhopping) and sudden excessive chewing of nails that he was not too happy about this state of affairs.

Like all good Helicopter Parents we tried to acknowledge and discuss his fears and give him extra love without getting sucked into the drama, but most of all we wanted him to know that he can survive without her as he only has a few months left in her class and then has to move on to the next teacher. Because, that’s life you know. We also had to trust the school that they wouldn’t send in Miss Rottenmeier is a replacement teacher, which they didn’t.

Yesterday he was fine, last night Etienne did the bed-hop and this morning he seemed ok, if a little muted. We reminded him that it was only 1 more day and then it it weekend and of all the great things we will do this weekend.

Like clockwork, right after break I receive a call from the school: Daniel has a stomach ache, he is not feeling well. Luckily the reception lady is really on the ball, so I ask her if she thinks he is really sick. She says she doesn’t think so. So, I ask her to put him on the phone.

  • Me: “What’s wrong my boy?”
  • Daniel: “My stomach hurts”
  • Me: “Did you go to tuck shop? What did you buy?”
  • D: “Only 1 sweet” (barefaced fib, he had R10 and I bet you spent every last cent of it, he is his Mother’s child)
  • Me: “Are you still worried about your teacher not being there?”
  • D: in a really small voice “Yes”
  • Me: “It’s almost time to go home, you are going to have to stay at school. It’s not long now, you just have to be brave a little while longer my boy” I didn’t plan on saying it, it just kind of popped out of my mouth, but once it was out there was no taking it back.
  • D: in an even smaller voice “Yes”
  • Me: ” Mommy loves you, I’ll see you later”
  • D: doesn’t answer

Don’t get me wrong, this upset me on many levels, but we explained to him last time that, if he isn’t really sick we cannot collect him from school and that, next time, we may not believe him if he really is sick. Cry Wolf and all that. I also realise that, if we don’t make him learn some of the tougher lessons in life now he will never be forced to learn otherwise, or will only learn them with a great deal of unnecessary pain.

I called home after school and he was happy as Larry, playing away, whilst his Mother was at work, counting the minutes until that first glass of wine tonight. It’s been one of *those* days.

People. Parenting is HARD.

Ps: It’s our beloved Au Pair’s last day today and from Monday they’re back at Aftercare, so that may also be why he’s feeling unsettled

Pps: Etienne is away on his annual Mancation for 5 days next week, so this may also be a contributing factor. At least I will have much fodder for blog posts

Ppps: This tough love thing must be an annual event, check out the Tough Love post below WordPress cleverly picked up. Click here if you can’t see it.

Raising a boy

I grew up as a single child for almost 7 years and then along came a sister, so I didn’t grow up knowing what boys can be like. Then, along came our first-born, a son, and my mind is still blown.

In a nutshell: boys can be gross.

It’s a constant battle of eat-with-your-mouth-closed, are-you-wearing-underpants, please-put-socks-on-your-boots-will-stink, pick-up-your-towel-this-is-not-a-hotel, your-shirt-buttons-are-skew-yes-you-have-to-fix-it, do-not-toe-your-shoes-off-undo-the-laces, have-you-brushed-your-teeth-come-here-let-me-smell-your-breath, hands-out-the-pants-at-the-dinner-table-please.

It’s exhausting, but the look of guilt on his face gives him away and makes me smile, no matter how hard he tries. Every. Single. Time. Especially the underpants thing.

But he is a funny guy. Now that he is old enough to understand the difference between fantasy and reality he can be quite creative with games, I love to see how his mind works.

Yesterday in the car he was telling us how he is moving out of the house when he is 16. He is moving into a house he is going to build with friends (and then named them)

“Who will build the house?” we ask

“We will, duh. And then the builder can just paint the one wall yellow and paint Lego over it. And Emmet” he says

“What will you do for furniture?” we ask

“We will have an X-box, and A will bring his X-box as well”

“But you need a TV to play the X-box on, in that case 2 TV’s” we say


And yet, he is such a softie (in a good way). Always a hug for his sisters and girl BFF, upset to the point of waking up at night when he knows his teacher won’t be there the next day ( like last night)

Yet, getting out of him what upsets him really is like pulling teeth. You walk the fine guessing line without always having all the facts and running the risk of him just agreeing to what you think is wrong and not getting to the bottom of the problem, but I guess this is what parenting is about.

I just don’t feel that I’m grown-up enough to anticipate and read them well enough, but we will get there.

Do I make any sense of was this just a mad rambling?

On managing expectations

I have had an (albeit a little late) epiphany.

When we have children we have conscious and unconscious expectations of how we want them to turn out beyond the obvious good manners/not a serial killer stuff.

We sometimes assume that they will enjoy (and be good at) the things that we did or could not do growing up.

My parents wanted me to have a degree because they never had the opportunity to go to University. We, unconsciously, assumed that our kids would want to participate in team sports and probably a truckload of other stuff we haven’t even realised yet.

Then, along came this beautiful soul that is our boy. He doesn’t enjoy team sports. It’s just not his thing. It’s a bit of a square-peg-round-hole thing.

So my mission is to learn to know our children as they were born and for who they are, not as we thought they should be because of our insecurities or history.

Thanks to the lovely Sally who introduced us to jiujutsu and to a lovely horse riding school in Durbanville, suggested by my darling friend Sue, I think we are now moving in a better direction for Daniel.

All I want is for them to enjoy whatever they choose to do. I want to cry every time I see their chests puff out or when they stand a little taller because they achieved something doing what they love. That look of joy on their faces is just spectacular.

So. If it means that they enjoy playing the ukulele whilst humming South-Sudanese love songs, well, I’m going to do my damned best to make it happen for them.

We have one job: find out what excites them, what they are passionate about and nurture the shit out of it.

Sermon over.

Things I will not do

We have now been parents for 8 years and during this time there have been things I have said, BC (Before Children), that I would never do and ended up doing.


Allow them to eat junk food. Ever. Ok, they only get junk food when they’re with my Mom, so I guess I didn’t do too badly there.

Pick things up from the floor of a shopping mall and lick them clean to give to my child. (In all fairness, I usually make Etienne perform this particularly onerous task)

I have done poo nappies, scraped poo out from under my fingernails.

I have mopped up vomit. Repeatedly. In one night.

I have walked around naked with flaming milk-filled boobs in order to feed twins.

Sacrificed many hours of sleep.

Made pots and pots and pots of butternut boiled and mashed to make and freeze for baby-food.

Pram and nap fails.

Trips to the hospital.

Threatened, cajoled and bargained to get kids dressed in the mornings.


If there is one thing I never thought would give me the living heebiejeebies it is pulling the tooth of a 6 year old. I can’t. I just can’t. No matter how much wailing and gnashing of loose teeth, I refuse. I categorically refuse.

This is where I draw the line.

What is there that you categorically refuse to do?

Daily talks

As part of trying to getting to the bottom of Daniel’s worries we were given a great tip: talking about their day.

I know, wait, don’t go yet, there’s more.

The trick is to get them to tell you one good and one bad thing about their day. We were doing the whole smug we-eat-dinner-around-the-table-as-a-family-thing each night and totally thought we knew what was happening in our kids’ lives.

Surprise!! We had no idea.

Initially it was tough going. They must have thought we were mad. What? You mean you want to know an actual thing from my day? Good AND Bad?

It’s 5 months later and they are telling us stories that make our jaws drop some nights. They are funny, they are honest. Sometimes they need a little prodding, but listening to their stories is like having the door open into their beautiful minds. They remind us over weekends, even if it’s late and we rush to get them to bed.

Some stories are like unravelling a terrible piece of crochet, you just keep pulling and pulling and eventually, if you’re lucky, you get to the end. Where the knot is. And then you unravel some more.

I keep reminding myself that if we don’t get into the habit of really REALLY taking the time listen to them actively now we may miss all the cues when they’re teenagers and grown-ups. Life is so crazy, we have to force ourselves to calm down to a mild panic and just BE with our kids.

I’m not telling you this because I’m any good at it, it’s a conscious effort I have to make every single day. To put my phone/iPad down. To look in their eyes. To listen. To take those last minutes to hug and kiss them for the 3rd and 4th time before they go to sleep if they need it.

I have realised that now is the time to parent gently, to let them make mistakes and not crowd them. We have to be their safe haven, not their judge and jury.

Who else will do it otherwise? It’s our sole purpose as parents.

The day Isabel broke a leg. Literally

It was Voting Day and I was doing what you do on Voting Day: enjoying a well-deserved glass of bubbles with some girl-friends, our kids messing around in the garden.

A few of the kids were jumping on the trampoline and suddenly Isabel starts crying uncontrollably. Isabel NEVER cries, she is as tough as nails. This should have been clue number 1.

I saunter run over to the trampoline, more out of curiosity than worry, help her down and she refuses to put any weight on her leg. This should have been clue number 2.

I dispense hugs, take her inside and proceed to look at her leg, not seeing anything amiss. She, however, is still crying. We shall call this clue number 3. (refer to “tough as nails” comment above)

By this time the play-date has come an abrupt end and, in a bid to calm Isabel down, we put her in the bath, but she cannot bend her leg. Yep. Clue number 5. (it seems so simple when you see it from this perspective)

We dispense some anti-inflammatory, bandage the leg up to stabilise it and settle in for the night. When I took the bandage off the next morning to have a look and the entire area around her knee was warm. The 6th and final clue that it really, probably, was time to get her to the hospital.

You know how it goes at the Emergency Room. Wait for doctor. Get 3rd degree about what may or may not have happened. Have extended, awkward conversation about whether X-rays should be taken, seeing as how the child is acting really cool about the whole thing. Wait for X-rays. Wait for results. Wait for doctor. Wait for second opinion. Wait for third opinion. Wait for cast. (in this case a back-slab cast that extended from her bum to the tips of her toes). Wait for crutches. Wait 2 weeks for follow-up X-rays to determine the extent of the break.

Here’s the thing though: You should always ALWAYS get the opinion of an Orthopedic Surgeon when a child breaks anything, something I forgot. The cast came off and, when she was still limping a week later, I was very nervous, so off we went.

Official verdict: wait and see, but it should get better, even without the cast. Let the good doctor know if it get worse. No ballet, no gymnastics, no jumping (ja right) and no climbing on jungle gyms (scoff)

I’m petrified of messing up my children’s bones by not being pro-active enough, but I always wonder where you draw the line between Caring Mother and Munchhausen’s. Either way, I feel like Mad Mother. BUT I know that everything has been done to make sure that it isn’t anything that should be dealt with swiftly.

This parenting thing, it’s hard.

Let’s talk about bullying

On Saturday morning Daniel and the Sussies hopped into our bed and the 5 of us had a snuggle. Just as we all settle in he pipes up:

‘Did you know, I have a secret hiding place during break time at school’

Etienne and I were shocked. This was our chance to get to the bottom of why he slept in our room for almost 4 months, from right after school started this year.

We managed to extract names of who he hides from, who he hides with and, most importantly WHY.


Why, you may ask?

For 4 months of this year we have seen our vivacious son go from sad to mad. His anxiety was like the big old elephant lurking in the room. He didn’t want to go to school. He didn’t want to leave our sides. It was the single most soul-destroying thing we’ve had to deal with since we became parents.

We got help in the form of a very switched on OT and a play-therapist that have slowly but surely brought him out of his shell. He blocked them, he blocked us. He wouldn’t open up at all.

Until Saturday.

This morning we pitched up at school and refused to leave until we spoke to someone. There was NO way we were going to let him hide for another minute of his precious break time.

Will it happen again? Probably. The world is filled with bullies. I just hope that, along the way, he now has the skills to deal with them and realise that being bullied is not about you, it’s about the other person being a doos. (Yes, still my favourite word)

Here’s what I learnt:
1. Never, and I mean NEVER, show your child that you’re upset. Play it cool, ask questions. Do not, I repeat DO NOT freak out.
2. Create a space for them to talk. Whether it’s lying in bed just before they go to sleep or a casual conversation in the car.
3. Get the facts. Don’t listen to secondhand stories and do not jump to conclusions. This harms not only your child, but potentially other children as well.
4. You are not a drama queen. If you’re child’s behaviour suddenly changes don’t wait. GET HELP.
5. Listen. They may not be ready to disclose when you need to hear it most, but be there to pick up the cues of when they’re ready to talk.

I did all of above wrong, to varying degrees, this year has been ALL about learning the above lessons. They are very hard lessons to learn.

I’ll probably fail them again, but I hope to get better at it.

Did I miss any lessons? What have you learnt?

Ps. Im trying to write this as unemotionally as possible, but trust me, lots of tears were shed. If you were at the entrance of my son’s school this morning, yes, I’m the one that was having a good old cry.
Pps. Stay tuned for the Isabel broken leg drama. Having such fun, wish you were here. If only to pour me wine.

Weekend thoughts

We were lucky enough to spend this past weekend in Mount Ceder in the Cederberg and came home yesterday full of the sound of silence. There’s a very special kind of silence out there, I love it.

There is NO signal. Zip. Nada. You could pay R30 for 100mb of wifi data if you *really* wanted to, but I preferred to go without. I did feel like a bit of a douche walking around with my phone though as I use it as a camera. Oops.

I’m not going to carry on about how great it is to unplug, because we all know that it’s always awesome and you wish you would do it more. And then we get home and we hug our high-speed uncapped wifi.

Then, randomly, Daniel wanted to print something and our printer had run out of toner, so off we went to Tygervalley yesterday afternoon, just the 2 of us. Whilst I was busy buying the toner at DionWired he politely comes to tell me that the Lego X-box game he has been coveting for absolute ages is *only* R450. I simply nodded and smiled, he will probably get it for his birthday soon, so there was no way I was buying it.

Fast forward through a haphazard zig-zagging through shops, DionWired bag beeping every time we walk in and out of a shop as they didn’t deactivate it properly and lots of funny looks from security guards and customers when, finally, we reach Naartjie.

All his winter pants are too short and they are having a really cool special on long pants (the only ones he wears anyway), so we made a little investment there. The lady behind the counter very politely tells me what the final total is, just shy of the price of a certain Lego X-box game and my darling son pipes up “Mom! Leave the pants and just buy me the X-box game!”

Cue uncomfortable silence and awkward little giggle from the Naartjie employee.

I’m beginning to realise how easy it was to hide things from them when they couldn’t read and had NO idea of the value of money, even the Sussies are starting to catch on and read far too many words already. Not that it’s a bad thing, it’s just disconcerting.

Lastly: I’m not sure my blog is working properly this way, but my WordPress guy has gone awol, so I’m in the market for a WP person if you know of someone. Thanks!

Ok, really lastly: Thank you for reading, thank you for your feedback, thank you for your support. You’re awesome.