Parenting Daniel

Daniel presented us with his first written story tonight.

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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?

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.

THIS IS A BIG DEAL.

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.

The Beauty of Boys

Daniel1Today is Bible day at school, or as Daniel calls it: Egyptian day. He was really excited about putting on his Egyptian outfit, but was very cross that he had to wear ‘normal’ clothes underneath.

The first 6 months of the year were a little rough on our boy, I think getting his head around Grade 1 was a lot tougher than we gave him credit for. I know it was tough for Etienne and myself.

But, he is mostly back to his generous, affectionate, gentle, happy self. He’s never been a rough and tumble kind of boy, even as a baby he never used to like being handled too roughly. (in a playful manner, for the Parenting Police)

He’s also never going to be a Springbok Rugby player, which is completely fine by me as I think Isabel is the only of our children that got the Sporty Gene from their Dad. The other night we were lying in bed chatting and he asked me about being in the C Team.  “Mom, is the A Team and B Team better than the C Team?”.*

What a tough question to answer without making your child feel like a complete loser! So, I just said that we don’t care what team he is in as long as he gives his best, always.  At which point he promised to. Mostly.

Last night at the dinner table he also declared that he wanted to be a policeman, not just any policeman: a Secret Agent.  Bless.

I’m often reminded these days, looking at the fabulous little people in our house, that as long as a child feels loved, hugged, heard and accepted at home they can take most of the knocks the outside world gives them. As long as they feel safe at home life won’t be so very scary.

wordsLastly: I have been wanting to paint a family mission statement on wood for ages now and even made a friend make me a ‘slab’ to paint on which has been floating around the house for months now. I was sure I could do it free-hand, but the thought of actually putting paint brush to wood scared the living crap out of me.  I finally pulled myself toward myself on Sunday and did it.  All I can see are the mistakes, but the words are important to us as a family and life isn’t perfect, so whatever. If we can try to live by these words I think we’re good.

* His school is that big that there are 3 rugby teams.  True story. It amuses and terrifies me that some parents already pressurise their kids to be in the A Team.  At age 7.

An ode to Tannie Emsie

emsieThere has been much dinner table conversation in our house about manners lately (oh, who am I kidding, we are ALWAYS on about manners).  I got sick of whining about elbows off the table/don’t wipe your hands on your clothes/eat with your mouth closed/don’t talk with your mouth full of food/sit up straight, so we made it into a game.

The game is called: what would a Princess/Prince do.  It wasn’t on purpose, but it’s been fun.  Although it does get a little out of hand with helpful suggestions like “Princesses don’t fart at the table” and “Princesses never burp out loud, especially not in front of strangers” and “Princesses don’t scratch in their noses AND eat their snot”.

All this talk of manners reminded me of Emsie Schoeman, that old stalwart of Good Afrikaans Manners.  Who remembers her?  My Mother used to terrorise us with Tannie Emsie.  We had her book, it was required reading in our house and heaven help you if you stepped out of line and broke the Rules of Life According to Tannie Emsie.

Tannie Emsie is the Afrikaans equivalent of Emily Post (thank you Vanessa!) and if you don’t know who Emily Post is, well, you’re on your own.

At this point in my life I’m not complaining about Tannie Emsie as hopefully some of it stuck, but I came across this gem from Sarie magazine that was published in 2009.  I apologise, it is in Afrikaans, I’m not even going to attempt to translate it (that’s what Google Translate is for), but it is truly special and truly Afrikaans. I see she is even on twitter!

In a nutshell, a lady doesn’t put lipstick on in public, always ALWAYS take something for your hostess if you are going to her house and always remember to thank her afterwards (something I often forget to do, especially with really good friends).  And here I thought it was part of my OCD, not ever wanting to arrive empty-handed at someone’s house.

Right at the bottom of the Sarie link there’s a question about “Oom” (Uncle) and “Tannie” (Aunty) and the varying opinions on whether you make your kids say “Oom” and “Tannie”.  I know many people hate it when other people’s children call them this and prefer to be called by their first names, but man, it goes against my grain to make my kids call an adult by their first name.  I’m getting over it, but it’s really awkward and I find myself avoiding the use of that adult’s name when there’s an interaction between them and one of our kids.  It’s almost a “Er, sê dankie mumblemumble vir die roomys” and I would usher the child away quickly lest I embarrass someone and the dreaded Oom/Tannie slips out.

On the topic of Tannie/Oom, I found this little gem too.  I may or may not have done some ill-mannered snorting at the You-Tube clip.

What do make your kids call other adults that aren’t related to you or really good friends of yours?

What were the things that your parents were really hectic about when it came to manners? 

Ps: I also seem to spending an inordinate amount of time discussing things that don’t belong in pants.  For example:

“Daniel, take the Bushbaby out of your pants”

“But Mom! I like the bush down there”

and another one of my favourites:

“Daniel, take the Angry Birds (soft toy) out of your pants!”

“But Mom!  I like having a bird down there!”

I couldn’t make this stuff up, not even if I tried.

PPS: Tannie Emsie is apparently very much alive and well and living in Wilderness and entertaining Nataniël on a regular basis.

The Stroppy Sevens

I recently mentioned on twitter how stroppy Daniel has been and my darling friend Caz very helpfully pointed out that it is an actual thing, this being stroppy at seven or the Stroppy Sevens. Or as a New Zealand website tactfully puts it, the ‘sensitive sevens’. I may or may not have rolled my eyes.

I can go on and on and on about how badly behaved our darling, affectionate, old soul, gentle son is at the moment. I could tell you about the sulking and the ‘NO!’ and being ignored and kicking (!!) and shoving (!!) his sisters. The crossing of arms and slumping of shoulders. The point blank refusal to do basic things like brush his teeth or take his plate to the kitchen. The throwing of books (!!!!) and telling us how he doesn’t love us anymore.

The constant, constant demand for physical touch and affection, to the point of literally hanging on Etienne or myself at every conceivable opportunity. I feel terrible writing this, but I am generally a very touchy-feely, affectionate person and I find it exhausting. Exhausting. Especially multiplied by 3. A friend and I went to a market on Saturday and all 3 my children were physically attached to me (or my poor friend) for the entire time we were there. We were a wall of limpets, wading through the market.

But I don’t want to scare you, especially if you are currently trying to survive the Terrible Twos or the Fucking Fours. Yes, I said Fucking. If you’ve ever had a four year old you’ll understand.

We are choosing to deal with it by being firm and consistent.

By firm and consistent I mean we threaten to punish/take away iPad privileges far too much and we drink (a lot of) wine. Etienne handles it better than I do, he makes light of the lip dragging on the floor and play-fights when Daniel punches him or point blank refuses to do his homework. He tickles and tries to drag Daniel out of his slump. Me, on the other hand, I linger on the edge of rage. It feels like I’m sending him a message that I don’t love him and I feel like a complete bitch all of the time, but I refuse to pander day in and day out to bad behaviour.

I realised how much this is upsetting me when I dreamt this the other night:
I dreamt I was in town (as in Cape Town CBD) with the kids and we were waiting for a procession to come by, we were sitting on the curb, right in that bend in the road where Adderley turns into Wale. Daniel was really angry with me and stalked off. He got into a taxi and all I saw was the back of his head as the taxi sped off. And then Etienne was cross because I let Daniel get in the taxi. I literally woke up gasping for breath, realising that it was just a horrible dream. That feeling of my child being gone, ai. No words.

So, we shall rally on and survive the Stroppy Sevens, but it’s not for the fainthearted.  And he is only turning 7 on Friday.  Pass the wine.

It of course has crossed my mind that we will have a double whammy in 2 years when the girls turn 7.

Girl Moms, how bad is it with girls?  Please don’t say BAD.  I don’t think I can handle it.

His Mother’s Child

One of my BFF’s was over for supper on Saturday evening for a way overdue catch-up (Hi I!) and I remembered to ask him about a movie his boys used to watch when they about the ages our kids are now, a good few years ago.  The movie is called Spirit and his boys used to get all excited and shout “Spirit! Spirit!” when they watched it and it was very endearing.

Daniel spirit

Etienne managed to find the movie and the kids have watched bits of it over the last couple of days.  Last night we got to the bit where one of the horses gets seriously hurt (I don’t want to give away the story) and the kids were all mesmerised, I have never seen anything like it.  Mignon’s literally didn’t blink so desperate was she not to miss anything.

Daniel got very upset when the horse was hurt.  So much so that he cried.  Our softhearted boy was very upset by this horse, poor guy.  He was fine 2 minutes later, but this was the first time a movie made him cry. This is clearly my child as i cry at the drop of a hat.

In fact, just this weekend (Camilla was it you?) posted this beautiful clip of Michael Buble on Facebook that was so beautiful it made me cry.  I must confess, I’m not a big Michael Buble fan, but this blew me away.

 

I loved it.

Do you cry easily?

Lastly:  Daniel is clearly not just MY child, but also Etienne’s.  We found him fast asleep last night, on the coldest night of the year so far, with a pair of shorts and no top as he had taken his winter pj’s off.  Etienne wears plakkies in winter when he is cold.  Clearly his Father’s child.

Grade 1 is not for sissies

20130326-204307.jpgEtienne and I went to our first Parent/Teacher meeting with Daniel’s teacher this evening.

I’m a bit of a cynic when it comes to these things (besides being a little nervous that our child might be a serial killer) as the teachers over the years have pretty much always commented on how he only plays with his girl BFF, how friendly and affectionate he is and how bi-lingual he is. He battled a little with Afrikaans last year in the transition from an English to Afrikaans school and was sent for speech assessment. We then almost got bullied into speech therapy earlier this year which we politely declined, wanting to give his teacher a chance to get to know him first and make her own recommendation.

Thank goodness we did as his vocabulary is great and his speech has improved in leaps and bounds.

Daniel’s teacher is the also apparently the favourite Acrikaans teacher in his grade and some of the Moms were a little surprised that we cracked the nod last year (I see I didn’t blog about it, I’m such a wuss), a couple of them made me feel that I somehow didn’t work hard enough to get my child into the best class. Yes, I know, I sound oversensitive, but you had to be there. In my defense, I didn’t really know anyone, it was at a Friday afternoon birthday party I took leave for to attend with Daniel and there was no wine. I cannot really be held responsible. But I digress.

His teacher really enjoys our son and yes, a little bit of me thinks that she must say that to *all* the parents, but I’m willing to roll with it. She apparently has a system where there are little ‘warning sticks’ to show the kids when they are being disrespectful etc and all the sticks went missing. She eventually found them at Daniel’s desk. He apparently hid them because he didn’t want any of his classmates to bet into trouble, not because he was constantly getting into trouble. The little man wanted to help his friends, how sweet is that?

So all in all, our son is not a serial killer, doesn’t need speech therapy and is doing extremely well overall. And he made friends with some boys, but we could already tell by the new real boy play and some of his language. In fact, just the other day I thought he said ‘fuck’ under his breath and when I asked him what he had said he sheepishly confessed to ‘fart’. Not something he’ll hear in our house in a hurry.

We say poep anyway.

Big boy stuff

I made a horrific discovery today.

I was in the shops, looking for a t-shirt for Daniel, when my eye fell on a really cool loud green shirt. So, I do the mental math about what size I should buy, knowing he will be 7 in May and I start paging through the hangers. No size 7-8.

Weird.

So I look across the ocean of Spider-Man and Ben10 and spot nothing over size 6-7. Then it dawns on me: no more cool small boy stuff for my son, soon he will fall into the no-man’s land of 7-14. We are now venturing into unchartered territory.

Big boy territory.

To say I’m freaked would be a bit of an understatement. All I could think was how I should really just have another baby.

Apparently this is something that happens when your child goes to Grade 1, this wanting to re-Mother, but nothing prepared me for feeling this way. Part of me wants to push him out into the world, but an even bigger part of me wants to keep him in my arms, safe from being stereotyped and bullied and protect him from all the meanness that lurks in the world. But I know that this will also keep him from seeing all the love and the kindness and generosity, even though the hurtful things will stay with him for longer and teach him the biggest lessons.

Now I just need to put on my own big girl panties and deal with it.

How did you cope with your kids getting bigger?

School concert..

I wrote about our shaky track record with school concerts yesterday and I think it is safe to say that our run of horrific bad interesting concerts have come to an end as far as Daniel is concerned.

There are 8 classes in Daniel’s grade, 4 Afrikaans and 4 English and they split it so that the Afrikaans concert was last night and the English concert is next week. Thank goodness they did, the school hall was packed with parents and grandparents, including our motley crew.

I was hugely impressed by the production, our son made us very, very proud and I may or may not have gotten a little teary. But I’m not saying. He danced like a pro with his partner despite his cast and it definitely helped that he couldn’t see us in the crowd of people and cameras. In fact, those kids were all awesome last night, every single one of them. It struck me that they are real people now, no longer chubby toddlers. This made me a little sad.

The girls also loved it and lasted very well, despite a little mutiny about 10 minutes before the end (Mammmmaaaa, ek wil huis toe gaaaaan!) They passed out as soon as we got home.

I also realised that we are a lot less “Afrikaans” than a lot of the people there and more than a little horrified that our children all left the hall singing Baby Tjoklits and begging for the CD. Only slightly more horrified than realising that all 3 of them knew the words already.

But, Afrikaans we are and Afrikaans we shall embrace, we owe it to them.

Where are the pictures I hear you say.

Well. Funny story.

Daniel’s painting of Love

The light was really bad and the video recording I made of Daniel’s performance bombed out.

But I took this really lovely, completely overexposed and utterly un-rescueable pic of a painting he made. You’re welcome.

Every single child made a painting that related to the theme of their individual dance (Daniel’s group did Love) and all the painting were pasted up against the walls of the hall and looked really beautiful.

What does the painting mean? I have no idea, but his was the only one with a sun. So there.