The guilt propeller

It’s funny how a seemingly small thing can propel you into a state of guilt for an entire day. And please don’t offer me any big-girl-panties-psychobabble after reading this, I’m feeling vulnerable enough as it is.

Quite serendipitously I am going out tonight to see Michael Buble. When the tickets went on sale it was just not Etienne’s thing and life got in the way of making alternative plans with friends, so I didn’t pursue it. I’m so very happy to be going with a bunch of cool gals, but anxious about all the things OCD people like myself get anxious about such as parking, driving at night by myself (see psychobabble comment above), not seeing the kids tonight, hoping Daniel does well in his Xhosa test today and so on and so forth.

This morning the kids were up and about earlier than usual, so they were almost ready by the time I was ready and rushing to leave the house, already running a few minutes late. Mignon asked me to do her hair, so I said, sorry darling, Mommy has to go to work now, but Daddy or Norma will help you in just a minute. I also knew that, if I did her hair I would end up doing Isabel’s hair and then another 15 minutes would have gone by and I would be really, really late.

So I said, not today my darling. And, in the mirror, I could see something on my child’s face that was akin to disappointment. I didn’t click right that very second as my mind was already wandering to all the urgent things waiting at the office, but when it hit me I almost turned the car right around to go straight back and apologise and do the best hair ever. For her and her sister, work be damned.

Instead, I have spent a large part of my emotional energy today berating myself and wishing that I made a different choice this morning. Wishing I could take that crushed and disappointed look off my child’s face. An exercise in complete futililty, but still.

Then this popped up in my timeline this morning:

I think our kids need a Yes-day, almost like a Love-Bombing day, but probably something that would be more practical for us as a family. It feels like we live in a world of NO, a world of pushing them to do everything they *need* to do and don’t indulge them often enough or make them feel as important as they should know they are.

For now though, I’ll re-learn the lesson about being in the moment and continuously re-evaluating priorities and moving on. Thinking on my feet at 06h45am is clearly just not my strongest point.

Dinner table conversations

Some nights I wish I could record the things said around our dinner table. It really is one of my most favourite, albeit noisy, times of the day. Second only to when they are almost asleep and you sneak in to have that last kiss and hug.

For context:
Yesterday Mignon tells me on the way home that they had to be separated in class because ‘Isabel spat on her head’. Isabel retaliated with ‘and then Mignon tore up my picture’.

Spitting is a complete no-no, so as punishment there was no tuck shop money for them today (Tuesday’s their class-tuckshop day). I also mailed their teacher to let her know that they had told us and about the subsequent punishment.

At dinner tonight, when we were doing our usual ‘Best/Worst part of your day’ thing, Isabel tells us, beaming with pride, that the teacher (bless her, I love her) made them get up in class and thanked them for telling their parents what they did yesterday. I’m sure there’s some kind of reverse psychology going on there, but Etienne and I giggled into our food.

Next up, randomly, Mignon says that she can’t wait! Tomorrow ‘she’s getting Waterpokkies’. We were beyond baffled until they told us it was the title of a book they’ve been waiting to read. I love how into reading they are. All those nights of reading the same books over and over again are hopefully paying off. It’s such a beautiful thing to see all 3 of them so enamoured with reading.

And Daniel? He talks up a storm with them. Today it was a tale about a run-in with the local chess-hero in chess class.

They usually all talk at the same time and often about three things that are completely unrelated, it’s sometimes hard to keep up.

But. It’s always, always entertaining.

How did we get this lucky?

When you love to hate Aftercare

Warning: Ranty post.

Our kids are in aftercare and I have a rather interesting relationship with them. Read: I love to hate them, for various reasons I don’t have the energy to go into right now. They are an unfortunate necessity in our lives.

I know, that sounds terribly ungrateful, but there you have it.

Today, when I collected the kids, Mignon was very upset and crying because the Aftercare lady ‘forgot’ to collect her from ballet. She did, however, not forget to collect the 9 other children that also do ballet.

I then ask the class ‘teacher’ what happened.

‘XXX did say she only came with 9 kids and she was meant to have 10, but we did explain to Isabel.’

You read that right. She said Isabel.

At this point I would like to say that I get that they are identical twins and that it can be confusing, but not knowing which child you FORGOT about is rather alarming.

I would also like to say that ‘explaining’ to a 6yo little girl why she was left behind is just not good enough. It shouldn’t have happened in the first place. Which is what I kept asking: Why did it happen in the first place?

It probably sounds like a huge overreaction on my part, but coupled with other things that worry me about Aftercare this kind of pushed me over the edge today.

I politely (ish) suggested that if she needs me to give her some pointers on how to tell them apart I would be happy to oblige. No, no, she says, I know exactly who is who.

And then proceeds to hug Isabel and apologise for her being left behind at ballet.

I can’t. I just can’t.

And no, I didn’t have the heart to point out her mistake.

We have spent the last almost 7 years celebrating the differences between our girls and treating each as their own person, knowing that the world will often see them as the same person because they look so much alike, but this infuriates me beyond belief. These people are responsible for taking care of our kids, the least they can do is get it right.

Ok. Rant over.

Ps. I am completely aware of the fact that my anger is partly fuelled by guilt. What. Ever.


Tonight I want to take a moment to express gratitude for our children.

We have been together pretty much 24/7 since Christmas Eve and they have been amazing.

Yes, we have the usual make-your-bed-get-dressed-brush-your-teeth-battles, but in general they are super cool.

They are funny, they play, they swing and they sing (sometimes at the same time). They make up games. They are happy whether they are swimming in the pool or setting the table. They make jokes. (Just tonight I found plastic flies and spiders in my salad amongst giggles)

Yes, they bicker like, well, children, but in general the 3 of them get along so well.

I love that they are a pretty much imprenetable unit. They defend each other and are generally kind to children they cross paths with and include them in their play.

They are generous with their affections, I love the random hugs and kisses we are showered with.

I also love (and am a little sad) that they are pretty much independent now, they require very little to be done FOR them. You can send them to get dressed, brush their hair and teeth and pack everything they need for the day, with minimal prodding and guidance. I was watching parents with tired toddlers at a restaurant this afternoon and was very grateful that we are past those days, with most of our sanity intact. (Ha. Ha.)

I almost want to freeze them as they are now and hope they remember this holiday and keep the joy in their hearts in the year to come when times may be difficult for them.

Surviving Christmas

minionIt seems as if everyone I speak to has something about family/extended family and Christmas this year that is causing them stress or pain.

If this is the case for you, I am popping in to tell you: you are NOT alone. Most families have at least one asshole, even though that asshole might even be you. There is probably no such thing as a completely harmonious Christmas. Why? Because family. It is the one day of the year you may be forced to spend with people you are related to (either by blood or marriage), but might not actually like. We are all trying to survive the Potential Political Minefield of food, duties, gifts and company.

It’s the one time of year we tend revisit old resentments and often family arguments erupt over long-forgotten slights.

Here is what I have learnt:

Stop trying to impress people, they’re so wrapped up in their own shit they really don’t care (this was a very painful lesson for me)

Don’t expect anyone to thank you for anything (enough said)

Don’t over-commit on duties (it is probably the first year as an adult I’m really going to achieve this, will let you know how it goes..)

If someone doesn’t do/bring/make what they said they would, nod and smile and top up your wine.

Immediate family (i.e.husband/partner and/or children) FIRST. Always. If you’re spending 3 days cooking and cleaning you didn’t *actually* spend Christmas with the most important people.(yup, another lesson I had to learn the hard way)

If someone doesn’t like what you gave them: whatever. Smile and hand over the slip so they can go and exchange it. Then top up your wine again.

If someone doesn’t make an effort IGNORE them. They’re probably not worth the mental energy you waste on them anyway. Rather go and hug a child.

If none of the above helps, at least back away from the cutlery, you don’t want to be stabbing anyone with a fork on Christmas day. Then sit back and watch the day unfold, you might be amazed by what you see.

Lastly: for friends who are not spending Christmas with their children, suffered loss this year or are spending this time under extraordinarily stressful conditions: I hold you in my heart. I know how hard the day will be for you, but I promise you that it will get better, either through a change in circumstance or through acceptance. Failing that: just smile and wave.

And DON’T, for the love of Christmas, be an asshole.

Let’s be Festive

People that are in the service industry hate Christmas. There. I said it.

Why do they hate Christmas? Because customers are assholes.

I say this with confidence as, when young(er), I had the dubious privilege of working in the hospitality industry. For 8 Christmases. And 8 New Years’.

It is hell. For many (many!!) hours a day you listen to the same music on repeat. Long days on your feet that are stretched longer because, inevitably, someone doesn’t arrive for work. People are miserable (and that’s just the customers).

I have been watching people in malls* this past week and just shake my head. The amount of women that have aggressively pushed other trolleys/people out of their way, often accompanied by some choice words, astounds me. Couples with children that grumble and bitch at each other and their kids. Little wars in parking lots. People that drive like assholes. Moaning on Social Media.Oh, the moaning on Social Media!

It’s really very unnecessary. Could everyone please just calm the fuck down? Think before you lose your temper WITH ANYONE. Don’t take your kids to the shops unless you absolutely, absolutely have to. It’s really just not worth the anger or accompanying exhaustion.

When you address a brand in Social Media to complain CHECK before you hit the send button and look like a doos. (Yup, still my favourite word)

People that are providing a service to you are not your punching bags, they often work for very little money just to have to suck up your crap.

Try smiling at that cashier/packer/waitress/petrol attendant and ask them how they are doing, you will be amazed at their response. It gives me great satisfaction to see their faces light up when I ask them how they are holding up. Be a human and think about the next person. Go on, try it.

Isn’t that, after all, what Christmas is all about? Where is all the friggin joy?

Failing that, try watching this as a reminder. (It was shared in my FB stream by someone yesterday, but I can’t find who, so apologies for not crediting. If it was you, thank you, it’s all kinds of awesome.)

* I spent very little time in malls this Christmas by the way. Online shopping FTW.

PS. I’m blogging in the middle of the day at work because my computer is borked

PPS. One more sleep before I’m on holiday. (well, after all the Christmas prep, the Big Eat, followe by The Big Clean)

PPPS. Our gifts are ALL wrapped. We win at Christmas.

A meandering on spanking

At the risk of opening a Pandora’s box, I want to chat about spanking. Or not spanking.

This post is not about whether spanking is good or bad, I’m long over judging people for their parenting decisions or trying to force my opinion down anyone’s throat.

This post is also not about war stories of the hidings I got as a child and the miniature cricket bat a teacher used to smack our open hands with in St 5. (that would be Gr 7 for the younger folk reading this). Or my extreme fear of my Mother’s big wooden brush that could sometimes be wielded indiscriminately. (I hesitate to say deservedly so as I was a master at driving my Mom up the walls)

This post is about what replaced spanking, because, lets face it, in giving up spanking as a method of discipline something else has had to take it’s place. Yes?

What are we left with?

1. Threat of spanking

Yes. Most of us has done this, whether we intend on following through or not. “Pick up XYZ OR there will be trouble”. Which is fine, but WHAT trouble? I’ve always been of the opinion that, if you’re going to make a threat, you best be willing to follow through, especially as a parent.

2. Manipulation

“Father Christmas is watching”, “Granny won’t come visit if you don’t stop doing XYZ immediately”, “we won’t go to the movies if you don’t stop teasing your sisters”. Useful, but only up to a certain point. After that they will simply shrug and give you the middle finger.

3. Withholding of treats/privileges

We end up using this quite often. Bad behaviour = no device/TV. Once again, useful, but I wonder if it drives the right behaviour and it certainly will not work forever.*

4. Time Outs

This works fine with smaller children, but I suspect our 8 yo is getting a little old for this. I also suspect that he drove us to putting him on time-out the other day just so he could have a break from his loud twin sisters. I was tempted to join him, to be honest. Peace and quiet bliss in the bathroom.

5. Positive reinforcement

Whether it’s pocket money, star charts or any other carrot that is dangled. Not something that has worked for our lot so far and, quite frankly, it’s far too much admin for me to get my head around. When Daniel was potty training we tried it and, besides the fact that he actually just didn’t give shit about getting stickers and then a toy, when you’re juggling life and not with him the WHOLE day it’s a little hard to keep up.

6. Shouting/Hurtful words

I was in Ackermans the other day, on the first day of school holidays, when a lady (I’m assuming it was the Mom) was swearing at a child at the till. “Jy maak my mal, jy gaan maak dat ek in die fokken malhuis opeindig en dis nog net die begin van die vakansie” she said to the toddler. Everyone in her vicinity cringed, hopefully herself included.

That, coupled with a link posted yesterday by the lovely Shannon about spanking, prompted this post.

Look. I’m a shouter. I hate that powerless feeling of repeatedly being ignored by the children when I make (what seems like) a reasonable request. What I, however, will NOT do is belittle our children or allow anyone else to do so. What I have realised this year is that words are often much more harmful than actual violence.

Daniel was being bullied at school. With words. This is almost impossible to prove, because, you know, no bruises. We had a hard time initially convincing the school that there was, in fact, bullying going on. Gone are the days where boys came home with bruises and cuts and the bully could be sorted out. We teach our children to use their words and to express their emotions, but whilst we are doing this some parents are victimising and belittling their children with words, rendering our work futile. Whether those kids are being spanked or worse at home I wouldn’t know, but it did make me think about the power of the words we use, especially with our children.

Yes, we get angry. No, we aren’t perfect.

BUT. Surely discipline should be constructive and meant to guide. Surely we should pick the battles that are worth fighting and not sweat the rest.

I hope this makes sense and that I’m not sounding all judgy and preachy. We are all just doing the best we can, but sometimes, just sometimes, you need to ask yourself: is this really worth getting upset about or are you just being a stubborn asshole? (I often find myself falling under “stubborn asshole”)

So anyway,sermon over. Be kind and mind your words, your children go out in the world a treat others the way they are treated at home.

* incidentally, we recently banned electronic devices during the week, not to punish our children, but because we quite like having an actual conversation with them and they *wait for it* actually end up playing games that they’ve made up. WIN.

A letter to South Africa

Dear South Africa,

I want to talk about the elephant in the room. I want to talk about our relationship.

This is very hard for me to write, but I thought that putting my concerns down in writing would give us both some perspective.

I’m worried about the longevity of our bond, it feels like I’m alone in this relationship. You fail to give us letters and packages. You take away the electricity in our homes because of poor planning. You send riot police into the sanctity of our Parliament. You have invested our money in the palace of a King that is little more than a Common Crook. The list is long.

I appreciate that it may sound trite to write you this letter from the comfort of my spacious house in the suburbs whilst our children are happily swimming in our pool in your brilliant sunshine. I know we are more privileged than the vast majority of your other children here. I also know that we are blessed with stable jobs with good companies and that, from the other side of the looking glass, our life is just perfect.

I want you to know that there are cracks in our relationship. I want to tell you that I am worried about the future of our children, of all of your children living in our country of abundance.

I unfortunately find myself in the precarious position of re-evaluating the longevity of our relationship as you haven’t been there for us, your family. It feels like your priorities are all wrong, that you are not invested in us, your family. I worry that you are only taking care of yourself and not us, your family.

I ask myself: what would be the final thing that would make us leave you, but don’t want to think about the answer too much. What would be the final thing that would make us take our children and leave?

We love you South Africa, please don’t make it hard for us to stay. Just a little bit of effort, just a sign that you still care about us, your children, and all your other children.

That’s all I ask for.

The joy in the small things

The crappiest thing about depression and anxiety is that you lose the ability to notice and find joy in the small things.

It’s been a re-awakening the last few months, reclaiming the person that takes note and rejoices in the mundane. The person that sees the funny and embraces the joy. The person that feels, deeply, as painful as it sometimes can be.

On Saturday morning I noticed a beautiful, end-to-end rainbow lurking outside our kitchen door and I felt that joy for the first time in absolute ages.

I have a little list going of some of the small things that bring me joy:

  • Sliding my legs into good, cool linen at night. Life’s too short for poly-cotton.
  • Collapsing on our (newly covered) red couch.
  • The feeling of a clean face at the end of the day. (I’ve never been able to go to bed with make-up on)
  • When our doorbell rings and I know that, within minutes, our house will be filled with more love and laughter.
  • Good wine and whiskey. (if you know me you will know that this does not require any explanation at all)
  • Completing a crochet project, no matter how small. There is true gratification in seeing something you created.
  • Going for a pedicure. (even though I battle to sit still for an entire hour)
  • Our blood red front door. (Husband wasn’t too sure about this initially, but he’s over it now. Well, mostly)
  • Finding the *perfect* red for said front door.
  • Loud music and car/kitchen dancing with children.
  • Rolling out bedrolls to sit on under our tree.
  • Sharing the cool space under the tree with loved friends.
  • When, collecting children from Aftercare, they slip slightly sticky hands into mine and we have full palm-on-palm contact. There’s no feeling like that touch, no words could ever explain.
  • Being able to collect our children, collecting hugs and hearing all their stories, firsthand. It used to be completely soul-destroying to come home later and no-one wanted to talk about their day anymore.

I’m so grateful to be here again, it’s been a year with many hard lessons.

What makes you joyful? Do you seek to find the things that bring you happiness?

Parenting Daniel

Daniel presented us with his first written story tonight.

Last night he lined up his Lego figurines, got into bed with a notebook and a pen and told us he was writing a story with the figurines as inspiration.

I cannot even begin to tell you how proud this makes me. (And a little weepy)

He has come such a long way this year. He has overcome intense separation anxiety, bullying and some other challenges that are not for me to write about.

He is a funny, gentle, clever little man and we are incredibly blessed that he chose us to be his parents.

It is so good to hear him laugh his trademark belly-laugh again. Having twin sisters that are a tsunami of energy and noise at the best of times can also not be easy, I’m sure he feels excluded sometimes. Yet, the three of them are a unit. They stand up for each other, they giggle, they make up silly games. They love with abandon.

How did we get this lucky?