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The clichéd blink…

I really don’t know how it happened, but I’m sure it was overnight.  Yesterday when I went to bed it was July.  And when I woke up this morning it was September.

July was always going to be a busy month for me.  School holidays.  Isabella’s birthday. And in the last two weeks, a frantic catch-up where my multitude of art deadlines is concerned.

August was supposed to be a relaxed and easy month.  A month where I enrolled in a new Yoga school.  A month where I’d pick up on running again.  A month of breathing easy.

But it didn’t happen.  I enrolled in the new Yoga school, but attended a whole 3 lessons for the month of August.  I went to gym only once.  I did not breathe easily at all and the weeks flew by as, again, I ran through getting my artwork done on time.

Some of my days were a complete write off as I grappled with a school event and keeping my house tidy.

Weekends were filled with all sorts of fun activities and memories; I will never give up my weekends for ‘work’, unless I’m really pressed for time.

We’re halfway into our second week of September and already it has been full.

Bluey had her third set of grommets inserted on the 2nd, as her hearing had become pretty bad.  All went well, thank goodness (aside from how very crappy it was being the only ‘single parent’ at the hospital with her child that day); and Isabella’s hearing has improved by leaps and bounds.

OT is going so very well for her as well, and I am fortunate to get to watch some of the class – she really is put through her paces.  This week she had her third class and amazingly, I can already see a marked improvement in her upper body (shoulders in particular) strength.

We’ve received a batch of ‘home exercises’ for her to do, but rap me over the knuckles because we’ve not done a single one.  I have, however, ordered a new and more age-appropriate jungle gym for her, which is only going to cost an additional R105 extra in hire fees a month.

My 41st birthday has come and gone and, well, it was uneventful.  We just had a quiet picnic out in Franschhoek; just the three of us.  That’s it.  I had made plans for a bigger party at home, but now that I need to shuffle funds around to be able to afford the one-on-one OT that Isabella requires, I’m trying to save and turn over every penny that I can.

And it’s not letting up from here…  Tomorrow is Grandparents Day at her school.  I love to help out with these events; it’s very important to me that Isabella knows that mommy was always there to help.  AND that mommy is one of those few lucky ones who is in the fortunate position TO help.

I think that this weekend coming is the first one in a LONG time where we don’t have any firm and confirmed plans in place.  Bliss.  I am guessing that much of it will be spent couch bound.

And I’m guessing that when I wake up tomorrow, it will probably be Christmas Eve…

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My Parenting Reality vs. My Parenting Ideals.

I like to think that everyone has an idea of how they want to raise their unborn or yet to be born / created children.

For me, I was definitely going to read to her every night, play with her daily, practice letters and numbers, “never allow her to speak to me like that”, never tolerate any form of cheek whatsoever.  The list goes on.

But, in truth, I have fallen face down flat in keeping up these appearances.

I used to read to her.  I used to sit on her bedroom floor and play dolls.  Used to everything.

Now, unfortunately, I’m failing on most of my own promises to myself.

I read to her occasionally – when it suits me.

I play with her even less occasionally – when it suits me.

On both counts, she asks me daily.

She sometimes speaks to me in the most horrendous way and I find myself being so shocked that I’m never really sure how to handle it.  I don’t want to lose my temper, so perhaps I just end up “talking too nicely” to her about why she shouldn’t be such an arse towards me.  Give it a few years, and there might even be a backhand involved.

The result?

A child who says too often than I like to her “you don’t have time for me” or “you’re ALWAYS too tired” or “I’m the worst child ever” or “why don’t you ask someone to just clean the house so that you aren’t tired”….

I don’t want to use my current situation as a crutch. But a big part of me knows that it is what it is.

It is a terrible thing that I’m too tired to spend afternoons with my child.

I live in hope that one day when she is grown up enough to understand, she’ll do just that – understand.

I try my best to make up for it in other ways – some not so desirable.  Like buying her something small each time I do a shop – this has made her always expect something and go into a full blown sulk when I don’t.  Is she ungrateful?  Well, yes, I’ve seen some of that come through and I’m sure to nip it in the bud right then and there.

I’m so thankful that right now I do have a man in my life that “sees” these things, even though he doesn’t have a child himself. We talk about it daily and he has offered some very useful insight for me.  He’s opened my eyes.  And things have and are gradually on the change.  It’s not easy undoing all of this, but I like to think that things are way better now than they were, say, 6 months ago.

Such a struggle being a parent. Such a struggle trying to live up to the greatness you (very, very naively) set out for yourself sans kids.

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Hashtags : THAT mom vs NOT THAT mom

Each parenting generation has been different.  Each has ‘learned’ from the other.

But let’s face it.  THIS generation, our generation, is so vastly different to, example, how my grandparents raised my parents vs. how my parents raised me.

In “the old days”, which really, in essence, spans two generations of child rearing (i.e. my grandparents raising my parents vs. my parents raising me), things were so “normal”. So everyday… so bring-and-braai-kids-sleep-on-the-floor…

I think that my grandparents raising my parents vs. them raising me had its differences, but compared with todays’ day and age, it’s leagues apart.  Right now, OUR generation raising kids is damnwell Back To the Future stuff, were you to make any direct comparisons.

I am, naturally, referring to technology and social media.

Growing, when I think about technology, my distinct-ess memories are of when Betamax changed over to VHS.  We had scalelectrix (excuse my spelling). I cannot remember the gaming system – but is was DOS based and it was a huge plastic gadget which had to be plunged into a receiver in order to play.  The most “high tech” thing I recall, is those hand-held gaming things … my old memory fails me now with exact names, but the most popular one was brown, it clipped open and involved a monkey banana grabbing something.  It ran on BATTERIES (i.e. no wall charging) and it was FUN.  It was AMAZING, because it had two separate screens, yet the monkey or character could move from one screen to another.

Anyway.

Let us fast forward now to 2016.  I refuse to do the maths because (a) I don’t want to do it because it would make me feel terribly old* and (b) my maths is just TERRIBLE!

*my parents are building a new house in Langebaan and my poppy has decided to fill his ‘man cave’ with old stuff -one is a traffic light and the other, I was asked to source – a parking meter.  I found one, won the bid on it and two weekends ago went to my brother for a gathering so that we could present it to daddy.  My 14-year-old nephew looks at this contraption after we’ve all gushed over it and says “What the f*ck IS that thing anyway”.  Instant deflation.  Instant grey hairs.  No dude.  NO!

My intention with raising my child is to NOT expose her to too much social media / high tech ‘stuff’.  I want her to have as much of a childhood – within reason – as I did.  I say within reason, because there is absolutely no way in sweet poop that I would ever allow her to climb on her bicycle (the way I did, we ALL did) and just cycle around the neighbourhood for, what, TWO hours plus?).

I err on so many more ways with the way I intended vs. the way I do now.  TV?  Instant baby sitter.  She has a TV plus DVD player in her bedroom – both of which she sorts out from A to B, herself.

HUGE judgement on that front.  BUT, please allow me to defend that, because I too, judged when I heard that parents did that.

No, I don’t limit her TV time, unless it’s a gorgeous day and then I will throw her outside.  BUT, my child (like me) loves WORDS and phrases and sentences and rhyming.  So, more often than not, the things that spew forth from her mouth will not only be from momma, but from something she’s picked up (and understood, put into context) from TV.  So, for the moment, I think that we have that balance piqued.

And then off the technology thing.  My intention was that I’d always read to her.  Mom read to me, and – I stand corrected – but by the age of 5, I could read smaller words.  By 6, in Sub A, I was already reading Afrikaans.

I’d hoped to instil this in my own child, but this was a hashtag-fail of mine.  In my defence, the reading only really stopped in the last 18 months…………

We’ve both just joined the library, so here’s to some changes… And she’s being introduced to Afrikaans (YAY!!!!!!!), so yes please.

Okay.  So now the ‘other’ thing.  The thing that I have been ‘shouted’ at about.

I AM “THAT” MOM.  I am that mom who will throw my entire self at, for example NOW, a birthday party.  I will do every little thing myself – except entertainment.  I hire people for that shit.  But I will do the cake, eats, décor, hunting for goodies, etc.  I purchase and plan at least a year in advance and I’ve had mothers playfully (??) roll their eyes at me for doing so.  My fingers and my body are literally worked to the bone for this once-a-year (thank fuck) event – because I will live off cigarettes and beer / wine and one meal a day.

People comment on how “lucky Isabella is” or “oh, you are SO creative” and and and and and…

While I love those comments (especially when they come from my kid), a part of me cringes for the mom’s who don’t do that.  The mom’s who hire people to do EVERY LITTLE THING.

But.  The THING about those mom’s is this.  And don’t think of it otherwise, because I will always defend them.  (A) They don’t have the time or (B) they don’t have the inclination (which is SO NOT a bad thing) or (C) it really is just not their thing or (D) it’s easier to just hire someone – and that’s not bad either because regardless of how you approach your kids’ birthday, you are going to all lengths to ensure that it is memorable!!!

I’m sorry to the mom’s who come to my parties and see all my shit and posts on social media; I’m sorry that it might ‘appear’ that I’m throwing my entire being at this event.

Just hear this.

Just because I do it, doesn’t make me a better mom.

Parenting is not a competition or a race to see who can do more or best for their child.  You and I, as parents are insanely unique and individual; as are our children.  At the end of the day, all ‘business’ aside, haven’t we all just strived, in our own personal capacity, to make a day such as this (or any other, for goodness sake!) a memorable one for our child/ren???

In ending, what I’m trying to say is this.  Our generation of raising kids in a social media world, where eeeeeeveryone gets to ‘see’, firsthand, how we raise our child, has a bloody full plate.  Everyone is watching.  It’s almost as if there is some kind of unspoken race to see who can do the best, hire the best planner, bake the best cake.

And isn’t that sad?  At the end of the day – as my brand new sister-in-law just told me – our biggest critic is our own child.

So.  Question: who matters more?  Your followers and the bloody judgement which you know you’re sure to get, regardless?  Or… your CHILD, who, ultimately, you want to create memories for?

(Edited to add that this is just in my HEAD and my INTUITIVENESS – it has absolutely nothing to do with all the beautiful comments I’ve received on my pictures leading up to tomorrow’s party!!  Gawd…. when you have to tread on eggshells, just in case!!!)

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On Blogging.

People blog for a myriad of reasons.  My reasons for blogging stem primarily for a need or, more honestly, WANT to inspire and to be a voice and to make others not feel like they are alone.

My blogging journey started about a decade ago when I decided to write about my infertility and the turmoil that comes with it.  Once we became parents, I saved the entire blog as a .pdf folder and then deleted it.  That journey was over and I no longer wanted to dwell there.

Then I started an art blog.  This too, was to showcase my work, share even more stories of my life and my memories – both in the hopes to inspire.

And then came my grief journey blog – Dear Beary.

See, writing is very, very cathartic for me.  I don’t need to have everyone who reads it comment, though those that do, are my many voices of reason and encouragement.

Dear Beary has been paramount to my healing, moving forwards (not necessarily moving ON) and an affirmation of sorts.

I’ve been told by one person that they cannot believe how I put myself out there with the posts that I do.  But if not me, then whom?  I don’t do it for attention sake.  I do it not just for me.  I do it for those who find themselves in a similar position and nod in agreement or shed fresh all-knowing tears because they just *know*.  I do it for my family who don’t really know what I’m going through, because in person, I’m pretty much a closed book.

The challenges that come with being a single parent, I will now be able to talk about and document right here.  The challenges that come with being a single parent to an adopted child, I will now be able to talk about and document right here.

All of this, most of all, I WANT to do for my child and share with her when she is old enough to understand.

I want to be her fucking hero.  I want her to look up to me.  I want her to be proud of our journey.  I want her to be proud of how I have fought with every ounce of my strength to make it all okay – just for her.  In every single sense.  I want her to know of the challenges I have faced and how I strove to resolve them.

I want her to know that – above all else – she is just so incredibly loved.

One day, I will find out how I go about publishing my grief blog.  I want people to read it.  I want to speak for many.  I want people to know that they are not alone.  I want people to know that they can grow, learn and conquer their very worst nightmare.  I want to publish my book.

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On Adoption – my personal perspective.

Per my previous book review – I want to stress that adoption is not just a once-off and simple process.  There is so much more to it that I am certain the average Joe doesn’t realise.  It simply does NOT end with placement!  I want people to be educated on this!  The book I reviewed will do that!  And then some…

You don’t just get to take your baby home and live happily ever after.  You don’t just have the usual parenting woes that a “normal” (for want of a better word!) family has.  There is a constant awareness; a white elephant if you will.

Moreover, every adoption placement scenario is different.  Completely different. Not all of them are happily ever after either.

When we embarked on our adoption journey, I struggled with wondering how, just HOW, I would go about raising “another woman’s child”.  Would I be stricter?  Would I be too complacent?  Would, when the child did something ‘wrong’, I think to myself “if this were MY own flesh and blood, he/she would NEVER have done something like that” or “oh, if only they had inherited my (example) creative genes”. The biggest and most painful thought I had was that *I* was the infertile one and I failed at giving Travers his ‘own’ child, with all his genes…

My fears extend further than that and remain a constant.  I’m petrified of the day she might say to me “you’re not even my real mom” in the heat of an argument.  Those words are going to cut me to pieces.

What if Isabella has underlying feelings of being rejected?  I see it now already, how it affects her, when she is excluded from certain circles of friends.  This is why my protection of her – and more specifically THAT aspect – is so fierce.

I’m incredibly sensitive in my parenting style, to the fact that my child is adopted.  I’m fearful of making mistakes that will impact her as an adult.  She will have enough issues to cope with as she grows older and I do not want to make matters worse by not being the parent to her that I know I can and should be.

You must understand, someone CHOSE you to raise the child that they cannot.  That, in itself, when you pick it apart and really think it through – that is just so huge.

Isabella knows she is adopted.  She’s always known.  To her, right now, at the tender age of almost-six, it’s really not that much of a big deal.  It’s “normal”.  It is not a taboo subject in our home.

My personal view on parenting is based on trust; call it the hub of the parenting wheel.  These little sponges, naïve little souls trust us implicitly; why break or meddle with that?  We did not want Isabella to find out about it any other way than from our very own mouths.

We talk about it often; we mention her Birthmom’s name often.

While reading the book yesterday, I turned to her to ask her if she would ever want to meet her BM.  A strange thing to ask such a young child, but I know my daughter – she’s deeper and more intellectual than I give her credit for and I would never have asked her such a very significant question if I knew it would affect her in any adverse way.  She looked up at me with those soulful brown eyes and said yes.  So I asked her what she’d say and her response had me in tears: “I will say thank you to her for looking after me inside her tummy”.

I’m completely open to them meeting; Isabella has every right to that option, I feel.  I don’t know whether her BM would be open to that though.  And therein lies yet another fear… what if she’s not?  What if she doesn’t want to see Isabella, for her own set of very personal reasons?  Will Isabella feel rejected by her and what kind of emotional state will ensue from that?  Will she come to hate her for that?  This is something that I do not want for either of them.

The book touched on whether the adoptive mom feels threatened by the BM.  This had me thinking long and hard about if or when Isabella finally gets to meet her BM.  Would I feel threatened by it?  Would I feel threatened if they were to establish some form of relationship and keep in contact?  Would I want to “piss on my territory”?  Would I feel like a third wheel?  Would I be the one to feel rejected?  Would the BM feel threatened by ME?

I had no answers to those questions, no matter how many spewed around my head.  Not one.  Because I just don’t know.  I cannot and will not stop this highly likely inevitable process.

Sharon has an open relationship with one of their own BM’s and they are in contact.  When I first found out about it, my thoughts were scattered all over the place.  I was scared – for both of them; but I was also a little envious of it.  I wondered what I would do and how I would cope if our BM was in our lives in the physical sense (because really, she IS in our lives anyway).  I wondered how she would ‘cope’ with seeing all the constant updates I post on social media.  I think it takes some kind of special to have that relationship in place and I take my hat off to both Sharon and her BM for that.  That really is an amazing space.

I know her name and I have popped on to her FB page (though we are not friends).  I am certain that she knows my name and I’ve often wondered whether she has done the same.

And then… I do wonder whether she knows of Travers’ passing.  I remember, a few days after he died, Sharon sat down with me and in tears told me of her anger at the situation; particularly because THIS is not what should have happened; THIS is not what the BM would have chosen, had she known.  She’s right and last night, I wondered if things would have been different…

The book also carried a lot of synchronicity for me; there were events and place names mentioned that are significant to my life too.  And then I started to really sob, because all I wanted was to share this book, these thoughts, with Travers.  As I sat crying, my hand that was placed on the book suddenly turned icy cold.  Icy, icy cold, despite the heat from the fire I’d made.  And I knew that it was him, telling me that he WAS right there.  Since his death, I have never wanted my husband more than at that very moment.  I wanted his reassurance that this was all going to be okay and that, so far, I was doing an okay job.

The way I have been and still am, raising my adopted treasure precious blessing is to literally shower her with love.  There is just SO much love in this house, that you could swim in it.  I reassure her every day that I LOVE her and that I waited so long for her and that she is my GIFT and that I will always be there for her when she needs me.

I live in hope that the awesome relationship that I have with her, will carry her in good stead through any trials and tribulations that adoption brings.  It just seems so much harder doing this on my own.  I cry now still when I think of everything.  EVERYTHING and EVERYONE involved.

 

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Book Review | Umbilicus by Paula Gruben

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Today I want to talk about a book that was recommended to me, an adoptive parent, by my fellow adoptive parent friend, Sharon.  Her review on the book can be read here.

When she tagged me to the post about this book on FB, I did not hesitate ordering it immediately; it arrived yesterday. I sat down next to my fire and finished it within 4 hours.

I love to read, but I never keep my books.  This is only the second time in my life that I have sat down with a book and read it in a single sitting.   This is also the second book that I intend keeping in the hopes that Isabella will read it too; the other book is So Close by Tertia Albertyn (an autobiography on infertility, treatments, miscarriage, etc).

I am going to do another post of how this book impacted me, because there is much I want to say on that topic.

I want to thank Paula, personally, for bravely sharing her story with the world.  I want to thank her for giving the gift of the other perspective; the perspective of the adopted child and all that comes with it.

What she voiced in her book throughout, touches on every fear I have with raising my own adopted child.  Made that much more difficult now that I am a single parent; no one to bounce issues off, no one to correct me where I might be making a ‘mistake’.

Many parts of the book struck me – and I think I will read it again so that I can make notes in the margins (which I have never done before).

The chapter that hit me the hardest in this book was Chapter 23 – Psychobabble.  I am a sensitive person by nature – specifically to my surroundings and when it comes to parenting, I am sensitive to how I treat or talk to my child may have an impact on her as an adult. Here is an excerpt from that chapter.  I read it over and over and over.

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And further, she goes on to talk about ‘hereditary ghosts’. And this paragraph hit hard too.  Very, very hard.  I’m not going to give too much away – just get the book and read it.

I kept on thinking about our own Birthmom and what she must have gone through; what she probably still goes through, particularly around Isabella’s birthday.  Mothers’ Day too.  I cried not just for her, but for me and for Isabella too.  I cried because what Paula had to say on so many pages in so many paragraphs may just happen to my child.

I have never read such a raw and open book before.  I have never wanted the world to read this book too; whether you have adopted yourself, whether you ARE adopted yourself or whether you have friends or family in those positions.  This book is a wake up to people who really don’t know just how involved and intense adoption is.

It is NOT as simple as putting your name on a list.  It is NOT as simple a child simply being abandoned!  The circumstances for placement are all entirely different – with different “repercussions”.  I believe it to be an ongoing process for all parties concerned.

This book covers all of that and even though I’m sensitive to many aspects, there are some that run deeper than even I could ever have imagined.

Please get your hands on this book.  It’s a very powerful read.

 

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FEAR!

On Monday I had to have my car serviced.  While waiting, my Wolfie called to say that there’d been a warning released to SA citizens to be on the alert for terrorist attacks against American citizens now living here.  My car is an American brand.  I was shaking with fear and suddenly everyone bringing their cars for a service that morning were suspicious.

The warning included avoiding major malls.  I’ve not been to my local ‘major mall’ since; nor will I for quite some time to come.

This week (or last?) photographs were released on FB of an older lady taking pictures of children at a mall in Somerset West – a little over 50km from where I live. She was approached by the parents, but that’s about all I’ve read.  Today it has been re-shared, saying that the same woman is doing the same thing at a mall in Caledon (much further away).

But yesterday something happened literally on my doorstep.  Less than a minutes’ drive from my home.  At my child’s school.  In the parking lot right next to her Grade R class.  Mere metres from where she was.

A balding man and a woman in a white van called one of the students (a little girl, apparently in Grade 3) of Kenridge Primary over to them and told her that her parents had asked them to collect her…  She was obviously well educated enough by her parents to run away, crying.  Literally.

I want to add here – HUGE Cudo’s to her parents for teaching her the right thing.  Really.  Can you just imagine how utterly fearful they are right now, at this very moment?

The scary thing for me is that this girl is older and definitely knew better; my child… I live in hope that she’d know better too.  But what if they lured her with something that she loves?

Isabella was taught about stranger danger at play school last year; I’ve talked to her about it – not as relentlessly as I will most definitely do now.  And I’m fairly certain that the teachers at Kenridge Primary will be touching on it this week.

These same two people apparently targeted two other schools in the last week plus.

Isabella wants to know what they do to the children.  I’ve tried to be as honest as possible with her – within reason! – and told her that they hurt the children or take them out of the country or give them medicine to make them sleep or cut them.  Yes, those are probably seriously brutal, but my feeling at this very moment is to put the fear of God into her to make her realise, in her own little way, just how damned serious this is!

Being a single parent makes things that much harder when we go out. At the shops, I ensure that she is always beside me, holding my hand, etc.  When I need to pay, I make her put both arms around my leg, because my attention is otherwise focussed.  Because this shit – this shit of stealing our children, it happens in SECONDS.

Now I’m looking at my little girl with very, very different eyes.  I look at her and neither my heart nor my mind can fathom what it would be like if someone stole her from me. I cannot process what these beastly people would do to her.  That beautiful innocent face.

I’m going to be spending a lot of time driving home “stranger danger” to her.  She’s already rolling her eyes at me each time I mention it to her.  But I’m not going to stop.  I can’t.  I can’t lose her and if there is ONE tool that I need to equip her with – it’s THIS.  I wish that I could have faith – but my current issue with it is that she’s still so young and easily influenced.

I’m utterly petrified about this all and each time I think of it, my stomach fills with lead.  I’m going to stay at school until that classroom door is firmly closed.  I know that security at the school will be beefed up considerably now.  I know that the policy with collecting kids at aftercare are strict and require signatures and prior permission, etc. if you can’t collect your child (I’ve seen the aftercare teacher phone the parent of a kid who was being collected by a friend).

BUT.  Anything can happen in a matter of seconds – and then how long until an adult in charge notices your childs’ absence?

I’m so so scared of losing my child.  She is everything.  She is all I have left.

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Arming our little people.

I’ve heard many people say – and indeed, I’ve said it myself – how, as their children grow up, they wish to have them smaller again.  They wish to have a baby again, etc.

While I do sometimes still long to cuddle with my baby and nuzzle my nose deep into her warm neck to smell that delicious baby smell, that longing is short lived.

I find it exciting to watch my child grow and thrive and learn!  I don’t want to have my “baby” back, because this phase is fascinating to witness.  Every day, she blows me away with what she’s learned – and with great big words that she uses, in context.  The sarcasm and teenage-style eye rolling however, I can certainly do without!

I had a long chat with someone yesterday about how children who are overly molly coddled can, generally speaking, be a little ‘behind’ their peers because they lack the ability, in some ways, to do the smallest thing for themselves. I do use the term ‘behind’ very loosely.

After Travers died, I did everything for Isabella.  Because it gave me something else to focus on.  Because I was sad for her and wanted to show her that I was there for her in everything she did.  Because it was just easier to do it myself than to have to deal with the ensuing whining and arguing.

By doing this, while I realise that it was merely a survival issue (I’ve managed to drop the guilt on that front, thankfully!), I am also aware that I did her no favours.

In the last 5 or so months, I’ve let those reins go.  And it has been an easier transition than I anticipated.  I think that part of the reason for that is because since moving to Grade R, where she became a little fish in a great big pond, she has had no other choice but to get those big girl panties to fit snugly.

She’s gone from having me help dress her, bath her, wash her hair, etc. – to doing all those things completely solo – and more!  It is incredible and I am so very proud of her!  And her pride when I praise her is a beautiful thing.  So beautiful in fact, that I get the odd bout of goose bumps, burny nose and teary eyes.

This is what I’m posting about today.  The fact that I have moved into a place where I can equip my child with and encourage her independence; and prove to her little self just how capable she is.  It has stressed and driven home how very independent she really can be; and, if I’m being frank, it has changed my life!  Every day, every moment, we totally underestimate their capabilities.  And their minds too.

All it takes is simple explanation and encouraging words like “I KNOW that you can do this” or “I have FAITH in you”; these are the very sentences I say to her daily when she whines “But I caaan’t do it”.  Yes you can, my love. Oh, and when she does!  I ensure that I praise her over and over; even going so far as to tell others how well she did something – all by herself!  She’ll often come to me afterwards and ask again if I’m “so proud” of how she did XYZ.

It is so easy to molly coddle and just do things for them.  When you’re running late and they take a little longer than you to put on their shoes.  Or when you’ve asked over and over and over for them to take their cup / juice bottle to the kitchen and you’re fed up of nagging.  Or when they take what seems like forever to dry themselves after a bath.  Or when they haven’t made up their bed or tidied their room.  The list goes on…

I firmly believe that by doing all these every day little things for them, we are in effect, robbing them of finding their independence.  I do.  I believe it completely.

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Conversations With Kids.

I’m talking about the conversations that involve the more serious side of life.  The ones about respecting your body; not talking to strangers; sex; periods…. etc.

And then there’s that other one.  The one about death and what happens when someone dies.

Isabella is of the impression that your body floats up to heaven.  She does not know what a casket really is.  She does not know about burial.  She certainly does not know about cremation.

(Heck, even I struggle to process those last two).

A few weeks ago our sickly cat, Emily, died.  I found her body in the lounge shortly after I woke up and had to work swiftly to “hide” her away before Isabella woke up, so that I could bury her later that morning after dropping Isabella off at school.

When I told Blue later, she took it relatively well.  And then she asked me if I saw her body float up to Heaven…  I had to say No.  So in effect, I guess I didn’t really lie to her…

Similarly, she has made reference to the movie Tangled; where she asked if “daddy turned to dust when he died, just like Mother Gothel”.  I answered her by saying that “No.  Mother Gothel was hundreds of years old, but magic kept her young, so when the magic ran out, she was so old that she turned to dust”.

Last year at her play school, they found a baby bird and kept it warm and safe.  She told me all about it the entire afternoon, but in my heart I just knew it wouldn’t survive and I had hoped that by the time she woke up the next day she’d forget about it.  Sadly, it was not so and the bird had actually died overnight.  She was absolutely horrified and devastated to learn the next day that it was buried…

Yesterday I had to tell her that one of our goldfish is dying.  I told that it’s different with goldfish and that we can do one of two things when it does die.  We can wrap it up in some tissue and then bury it (cringe, waiting for response) or we can flush it down the toilet (don’t judge me, isn’t that what everyone does?).  She opted – surprisingly – for the latter.

I’m making baby steps towards having this conversation with her because I don’t feel right that she doesn’t actually know.  Even after her sessions with the play therapist; where I was advised that I should just leave it as is, she believes what is safe for her.

But perish the thought that she should find out at school (which, as we all know, is where kids find out most things and at best, at a very exaggerated and overly dramatic level).  It’s just that I want to be the one to tell her!  Our children trust us implicitly and I don’t want to break or shake that trust in any way.  Ever!

I have most of the conversation – either way – plotted out in my head in case it comes up.

Now I’m sitting here wondering whether I should just gently explain it to her when the opportunity opens itself up.  Perhaps when the goldfish dies?  Depending on the circumstances and her mood?

My child is super sensitive.  What do you think she’s going to say or do when I tell her that her daddy was cremated?  Should I include, in that conversation, that the little wooden box behind my bar contains two thirds of his ashes and that the box we buried along with his golf shoes on the golf course contains the other third?  Dude – I can barely even look at that box!  It still floors me.  Every time.

Perhaps it’s time for me to pack that box away for a while…

She has a super enquiring mind which I feed on an ongoing basis and if she asks me a question, no matter how hard it is – I want to answer her!  I just want truth between us – no secrets.  And right now, I do feel as if I am keeping a great big nasty secret from her.  One with a horribly rude awakening.

All I want her to know is that when daddy was cremated, it was just his shell.  His soul and the essence that is HIM left and is now an angel form, watching over us; watching over HER.  His soul and his essence became her guardian angel the very moment his heart stopped beating.  I know that when explaining poop situations to her, I need to stress and sugar coat the GOOD bits to keep her happier.

This is not going to be easy! I might need a drink beforehand!

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Sad Hearts

It’s safe to say that there are many aspects to parenting that is hard and that, in a nutshell, SUCKS.  First and foremost for me is dealing with a child whose heart has been broken for reasons she is still too young to understand or grasp.

This morning I had to witness how my daughter was shunned by one single little girl, from playing with their group.  The other 2 girls usually play with Isabella; and, actually, I’ve been told that the single little girl is her best friend too.

I watched – and overheard – as this little girl laughed at my child; insinuating that she’s a baby.  And laughed while my own daughter cried.

I felt totally powerless to do a single thing about it.  It was, after all, not my place.  I didn’t want to make a scene.  I didn’t want to resort to the same childish level by ‘berating’ her in front of her peers either.  It simply doesn’t work like that in my eyes.

But at the same time, I felt almost as I failed my own child by simply not doing anything about it. Her great big brown eyes beseeched me; yet I did nothing.

The adult in me knows that I did the right thing and I hope in time Isabella will realise that too.

I took her aside and explained to her that there were other children she could play with; other parts of the classroom she could play in.  But obviously, in the mind of an almost 6-year-old, none of that hit home, because she WANTED to play with those 3 girls.  Why now all of a sudden was she not permitted to, when so many other times, she could?

I eventually left her with her teacher, in absolute tears.  All I wanted to do was take her home, as she had begged me to do.

I remember that feeling of hers very well. I’ve been there too, so I could definitely relate.

We cannot protect our children from things like this, as much as we’d like to.  But we can arm them with the correct tools so that they can gain further independence to learn to deal with it themselves.

I fetched her earlier than usual from school because I wanted to indulge her.  She announced in the car en route home that it was ‘the worst day of her life’.  I could see that she was still distraught about it all.

So, on the way home and a few times at home, we discussed friendship.  I tried as best I could – with my 40-odd years of personal experience – to explain to her what I thought real friendship was.  I told her that a real friend will never boss you around, or hurt you – physically or inside your heart, they will pick you up when you fall, they will laugh and joke and play with you all the time, not just when they feel like it, they won’t laugh at you when you are sad and they will never, ever say mean things to you.

It’s such a grey area, really, and I think that this type of conversation is dependant on your child’s unique personality.  Being that Isabella is so very sensitive, I tried to hit on things where I know she’s had past hurt or experienced past “bullying”.

The other side of the coin is that we need to be so careful what we say, because our children can so easily turn our words around and repeat it to the child who has hurt them.  This in effect, could cause trouble between parents where information is inevitably misconstrued.

I’ve really struggled with this today.  Again. It’s not the first time.  What made it worse, I think, was that I actually say the spiteful behaviour of this other child.  I saw how she laughed at and mocked my own child.  And I didn’t do anything.  Was I right?  Either way?  Did I make the right choice?

Often when Isabella tells me of something that happened at school, I’d immediately respond with “What did the teacher say?” or “Did you tell your teacher”.  I just feel that my ‘reprimanding’ of the other party falls out of my jurisdiction when these kids are at school.

It’s rough, this is.  And I know it’s not going to end here.  I know that there will be many such instances in her coming school years.  All I can do now is encourage her to just ignore, walk away and choose friends wisely.  No easy feat and certainly a work in progress.