Friday, July 25, 2014

Teenage Mutiny

I am writing an article on iPad and screen entertainment use for my favourite, most faithful and most regular employer/client: Your Baby and Your Pregnancy magazines. (It is by the way very very lovely indeed to have such a client; a dream client. I love my work there and I love what I get to write for them. At R30 or so every two months it's a good buy. Feel free to buy it regularly so that the circulation levels go up and up. It's obvs available electronically too. http://www.yourparenting.co.za/subscribe-to-your-baby in case you are interested. Okay, enough marketing.

It's fair to say I used to feel relaxed about iPad use. It was the one thing I thought I didn't need to stress about - Richie can take or leave a screen and Felix is remarkably self-regulating, so it was all going to be fine. Besides, they both had plenty of other things in their rich, stimulating little lives and I made sure they only watched CBeebies and Disney Junior and all the iPad games were fun and educational and so on.

But then Felix started, inevitably, wanting to watch cartoons and things with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Spider-Man and Transformers.
 
Felix as Raphael
 
 
And I thought, what's the harm? Felix is WAY behind his peers in terms of the sophistication of the TV material he consumes, he is easily scared, I thought it would be ok to follow his lead when it came to choosing the electronic media he consumes.
 
I have changed my mind.
 
He is freaked out by what he sees, often. His mood is down, he is jangly and grumpy. Look, as per last post, he is also having an introduction to the fact that hell is other people, and that there is 12 years of schooling ahead of him. But to me at least, the link between the mood and the iPad games was clear.
 
We survived a week or so of Felix's demon-child doppelganger, and then Sean and I climbed on the PVR one night and pressed delete. Many times. We use a timer to control Felix's iPad use - he is allowed an hour after school now. Nickelodeon and Boomerang no longer exist for us. And like is so often the case when you stop being "afraid" of your child's reaction (thank you strict British nanny for giving us another way we fail at being parents), you are rewarded because the child actually secretly wanted you to take control. His job is to push boundaries, yours is to enforce them. Everyone feels safer again.
 
Richie as Raphael too
 
 
So the expected teenage mutiny never materialised. Much. Felix has been moved to another table at school and it very relieved and much happier. I am so glad I intervened even though I felt like the mom to avoid at PTA meetings.
 
Also: Felix is just developing and changing SO FAST. He has had such a busy year. The chubby little guy we sent to Grade R is a lean, tall, talkative person who has embraced school and rules and extramurals so much better than we had dared hope for. So I mustn't lose sight of that. The odd glitch is not unexpected after all.
 
Felix has finally become attuned to the idea of work and reward (must be a school thing) and therefore has responded to the idea of using a star chart to do chores. The stars will eventually translate into a "pocket money" - and he is already saving up for a Teenage Mutant Half Shell. He was all aflame and even made his own star chart. We are having fun collecting stickers. So while there have been a few wobbles, in general positive reinforcement has been working well and it's still possible, even though he is growing up so fast, to say thank you to Felix for behaving well and see his pride and resolve to aim for more praise, rather than get into a destructive fight.
 
Love that boy Felix!
 
 


Friday, July 18, 2014

Fuck everything

I should probably say if you are feeling depressed look away now.

Does anyone else get older and feel - hell, what the fuck is all of this FOR? Why do we work so very hard? Should we really pour our energies into some kind of humanity project; is there any point to it or are we farting against thunder? We humans are a deeply disappointing lot. With massive amounts of potential, we still live in a world where we destroy and plunder and basically turn to shit every thing we touch/were given (depending on your perspective). We have enough food to feed everyone yet there is hunger. We know how to fix most things and we don't. We kill, main, exploit, abuse, hurt and harm each other in astonishing numbers. We know things are wrong yet we remain complicit. We align ourselves into tribes and kill and oppress those from other groups and we justify it. We draw up national boundaries and keep poor people out of rich places. We pretend we have property rights and we kick others off our patches of earth - which who entitled us to, exactly?

We know battery farms exist where we pay labourers to strap animals down in order to extract liquids and organs from their bodies which we call "delicacies" and speaking for me because there's that lovely convenient disconnection between the beautiful package in Woolies and the suffering out there I close my eyes and consume the evil. We fail utterly to be consistent in our moral judgements - I read about "A Day In  The Life of a Maid in SA" and I think, yes, please don't treat a person in a dehumanised way. But similarly, we send workers into mines and farms and government hospitals where we also make them shovel shit for long hours and they earn a disgustingly low wage and that is "acceptable" because of "economic forces". Let's be honest: it's no more or less "okay" to let someone change bedpans for peanuts in a hospital than in a suburuban Jozi home. It's definitely not okay to have let the hospitals become cesspools of filth, degradation and inhumanity, which is something that feels like it is filtering up and down into every sphere of South African society.

So I see on Jezebel this morning some writer needs to tell us why she can't bear the thought of having children. And I'm like, shut UP about it already. Reproducing like lemmings is what we do, there is no rhyme or fucking reason to it, it makes no freaking sense, and your choice not to add to the gaint scrabbling mess of humanity is fine and probably wise - we should all arrest it all right here, shouldn't we, if we were rational about it? - but it doesn't change a fucking thing so shut your self-indulgent face about it already.

I am so deflated that South Africa's twenty-year dream has turned into the cliched nightmare. It turned out to be pointless to vote for the party I helped vote into power - turns out whoever you vote for The Government always wins.

I feel like I pissed away the idealism and faith in humanity of my twenties and now here I am, chin deep in my midlife crisis. Everything is terrible. You pour everything into your children and you still can't guarantee that they'll just be good and content, nevermind happy. And I am happy. I actually am a happy person. Not right now obviously, but mostly. Do you have to suffer in order to be happy? Probably. Do I have to watch my children get there though? It's killing me.

Felix is discovering that humanity is disappointing, that the fairy tale is a lie. Other children are not always nice. His disillusionment is hitting me hard. Felix gathers himself up with his fairly fucking limited social skills every morning and faces school - a place he loved with a passion a few short weeks ago, and yes I realise I am being overdramatic and he will probably like it again soon, but in the meantime he, naive, is being teased for a friendship with a girl who is on his wavelength, and some kids in class are hassling him about his drawings and his work, and he is confused and angry.

No more the Felix of old who would watch Richie rip shreds of skin off his face and not retaliate. Felix has tapped into his inner anger and he is letting it out. He is giving me stick too, which I am a little bit encouraged by as I do worry about learned helplessness with Felix. He is quick to whine "I can't..." and "Ouch!!!" and not getting dressed/wiping his own bum/etc by himself. (Having said that he still selfregulates pretty damn well. The other day he planned his homework and had it done, out of his own volition, before his buddy Vinny arrived so that they could play.)

Felix the law abider is probably being a bit of a goodie two shoes at school and I am sure it can be annoying. He has yet to learn a very important life lesson: My stuff is my stuff, your stuff is yours, AKA don't get involved. He apparently threw away another child's crumpled-up piece of paper which was being used in a ball game as a ball because "we are not allOWed". After a bit of genius impromptu role play I got Felix to see that having his ball taken away must have sucked for the other kid. This is the kid who has his knife out for Felix now. So we see said Kid at school and I say, "Hey, kid, I heard Felix threw your ball away. Felix?"
(Mumble Mumble) "Sorry for throwing your ball away Kid."
"Hey, I don't think Felix will do that again. Do you think we could make friends again?"
Kid: "No."
Ah well Fuck You Very Much Kid.
I do realise Kid is only six years old and there are worse things he could have done. Why my disproportionate rage?

For a week now Felix has alternately cried, shouted, slammed doors or shouted at me. We have had no interaction that has gone smoothly. Ask him to change out of his school uniform: drama. "WHY do I always have to..." Limit iPad and TV use: massive drama. Ask for a chore to be done - OMG don't even go there.

Richie meanwhile, while not the ball of rage of yore anymore - he is actually being very cute - has basically fallen way, WAY behind in speech. I know he has the words, he just chooses not to use them. It has become painfully obvious to me, seeing other children his age, that there is a verbal gulf.
Richie astonished me - truly - with a Lego project the other day where we looked and looked for and failed to find a winch/level thing that would allow the helicopter's cockpit to open and close. Richie very quietly and unobtrusively went to dismantle a digger he owns, found the teeny tiny piece (he plays real Lego, not the under-fours Lego; the pieces are tiny) and asked me, "Do you think this one will work?" (It did.) There is nothing wrong with Richie's cognition, I still maintain he is the brightest out of all of us. So why won't he speak? (He has a relatively nonverbal friend at school, it could be an influence.) His silence makes me feel helpless. His shrink would say that this must mean he is feeling helpless. I am sure he is! We are all helpless! We can't help you!

Toilet training will need to happen this year if Richie is to move to Felix's school next year. (We are debating it.) We have looked at a bowel management program. We have bought the enema set. We are playing with it at home and talking about spina bifida and making poos and this poo machine which can help you make a poo whenever you want to. It's a first step of grasping the next nettle.

It is SO tempting to revert to postwar parenting. I want to stop all the crazy acting out in my house. I need it to stop. How tempting just to bitchslap the offending behaviour out of them. You unhappy? I'll GIVE you something to be unhappy about.

From more than one source I have heard now the assessment that Felix's school is not as academically rigorous (in the preprimary section) as other private schools in Jozi. It is true that even in my day SHC was considered the poor relation of the private schools. What Jozi (the materialistic hussy) doesn't get it, is it's intentionally so. Try explain that to Dainfern and Fourways and even and especially Jozi's selfproclaimed Ivy League imitators and you'll get le blank stare. What, you don't want your child to be bombarded with manic "iPad in every class!" "Outperform every government school milestone!" Leistungszwang-for-the-sake-of-it? You don't want them to become a Captain of Industry ruthlessly stomping on others in their own self-advancement? No comprende.

If there's one glimmer of hope for me in this Debbie downer of a post, it's that this school exists that worries more about compassion and nurturing good human beings who will become functional adults and certainly stand a better chance of digging us out of our selfcreated steaming pile of shit. Whether they are plumbers or doctors (although my children will not be allowed to become doctors) or politicians or yes, "businesspeople" of some description. It's my happy place and I am very, very invested in Felix continuing to manage there. I hope to God it gets better for the little guy. It's a bloody steep learning curve for my sweet, gentle son. And I want the real him back.

Monday, July 14, 2014

A consequence

My kids woke up whiny and unpleasant on Sunday morning. Who knows why. We can try to blame the extended bug of this particular winter - hasn't it been disgusting? I still have the "100 day cough" as a friend of a friend described it.

Felix was playing iPad and was informed that his grandpa would be coming to visit. Grandpa Hammie is a soccer fan and a favourite activity is for them to play soccer together. Felix was all excited about putting on his soccer boots and looking forward to the visit. But when they duly arrived, he was apparently right in the middle of slaying a new baddie in a game and, while he handed the iPad over without audible protest, he then curled up into a foetal ball on the couch and became uncommunicative and unresponsive.

Richie - possibly picking up on this - also put his worst foot forward. He's been regressing a bit anyway these days - not speaking clearly but rather whining and squealing in a way that can shred your soul. Continuing his bloody fucking boob obsession. (I am so sick of having my breasts clutched at and palpated like some overeager but underqualified gynaecologist's examination.)

Both kids rude and unpleasant. Richie generally just buggers off to his room to go do his own thing in a mood like that. But Felix can linger in his suffering. LINGER. Oh how he LIIIIIIIIIIIIINGERS. Sean and I told him that if he didn't snap out of it and start behaving well we were taking the iPad away for the whole day, because he wasn't keeping up his end of the bargain (= losse the iPad during the visit, get it back afterwards).

He didn't improve, just cried and lay on the couch for the 90 minutes while we sipped coffee outside and had a rare adult visit.

So we had to enforce the rule though now, didn't we?

Great.

"Can I have the iPad back now?"

"No, Felix, you can't. We said if you kept being rude to your grandparents there would be a consequence. This is your consequence. So we can't give you the iPad back. I know you are sad. I know you really wanted it. Grandpa is also sad you didn't speak to him nicely, and he was also looking forward to playing soccer. I think his feelings were hurt too. There was a rule and you didn't follow the rule so now you have this consequence. What is a consequence? It's... Etc Etc Etc."

(I am not attachment-parenting enough to tolerate total rudeness like that. I have seen arguments about validly expressing feelings and so on, but that argument hasn't convinced me. However, we did manage to remain calm and matter of fact about enforcing the "punishment" rebranded as "consequence".)

What was interesting about a not-very-cheerful day was that while Felix did ask for the iPad eleventy million times, each time we calmly said we couldn't give it to him, he sorta-kinda accepted it as the inevitable consequence of a wrongdoing on his part. We did lots of other stuff. We gave Sean a haircut and pottered around the house and went for a trip to the hardware store and baked muffins and made magic milk (with milk, food colouring and dishwashing liquid - it's fun, look it up), and built Lego, and blew up balloons using vinegar and bicarb, and for almost every one of these activities was boycotted by my brattish children who only wanted to watch TV (Felix) or whine and manhandle boob (Richie).

Oh the glamour of parenting.

At about 5PM(S), I finally blew up after the children had gotten into their fivehundredth fisticuffs of the day and were now screaming-slash-mockcrying and I shouted at them. "That's IT! I've HAD ENOUGH! Your father gets one day off in three months and we are TRYING to spend it with you doing fun interesting stuff not sticking you in front of the fucking TV for ten hours! I CAN'T HANDLE ANOTHER SCREAM OR WHINGE TODAY! Stop it, just STOPITSTOPITSTOPIT!"

They did stop it until bedtime at 8 so there's a small mercy. Richie crawled up to me and hugged me and Felix said sorry and it was over quickly, but my point really here is that when I asked Felix my traditional bedtime question of what were the highlights and lowlights of his day I wasn't expecting much joy, yet he told me his "worst part" of the day was when he could't have his iPad and his "best part" was making magic milk. Really? I thought. You certainly didn't seem to appreciate it at the time... Is it possible our kids see our investment and interest and willingness and hard work etc, and even though they are being arseholes, some part of them appreciates the gesture?

And lastly. After his bath, Felix got his iPad back. "Thank you for giving me the iPad back, Mommy," he said. "I'm sorry I didn't play with Grandpa. I'll defintly (that's how he pronounces it) play with him next time I see him."

There's more to tell about young Felix-son. Next post.

But I do hope he learnt something, this weekend. I wonder what he will remember from this "lesson"?

Monday, July 7, 2014

Pictures








Aren't they cute? I do want to say I had a horrible experience with the photographers and my kids really do look as if they are wearing makeup and their eyes are actually blue not brown (easy on the photoshop, guys). There were other issues with the photographers too, not least that they refused to give a digital contact sheet so one had to make selections off tiny fuzzy thumbnail prints, and that's probably because the pics don't actually all even have eye contact etc etc. But even with these issues I still think my boykies are looking SO GROWN UP when the hell did this happen????


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A deeply odd thing to say, or two

I am about to turn 40, and I guess a midlife crisis post should be de rigeur, but I don't feel much about the milestone, other than that it is right and fine. This could not contrast more with how upset I was to be turning 30 ten years ago. Ha! Best (as well as tough) ten years of my life, these last ten. I finally turned my reluctant boyfriend into a husband and father, bought a house, got attacked in it, as you do, discovered the world of "special needs" parenting and freelance careering, edited a magazine, killed a magazine, and said goodbye to too many young family members who died. I did give myself the gift of being nicer to my body and appreciating its abilities rather than lamenting its little bit of flab. Many of these are terribly common turning-40 memes. But the one stereotype to which I conformed which amused and surprised me was this promised avent of no longer giving a royal fuck.

Surely this is how we were designed. We turn crazy at a time when many people (not people like me and everyone else in my immediate frame of reference who started breeding mid-thirties) have older children - teenagers, even, simply so that we can embarrass them to the maximum.

I was in the car park of my local shopping centre when I spotted the car wax salesmen. You will have seen them. They are trademarked by red and black pop up tables on which tubes of car magic are displayed, while highly trained extremely speedy and accomplished salesmen liberate you of an obscene amount of money for what is essentially soap. I once fell for this trick years ago. Maybe it was because Sean's car was still relatively new at that stage. But to pay R600 to clean my 1997 Toyota Corolla with more scratches than pristine surfaces is madness. And I seem to be walking around these days with equal amounts compassion and compassion fatigue. I didn't want to be harassed - yet again. The only time you are harassed these days is when someone needs something from you, I thought, but try to make change for the parking meter or purchase a shopping bag and you are invisible.

I knew what I was going to do. But I thought I would offer the man one last chance. I strode past him, aggressively avoiding eye contact and walking fast. But no. "Hey! You are a fast-walking lady, you know where you are going," was his opener.

I stopped at my car, took a deep breath and went,

"BALOOLOOLOOLOOLOOLOOLOOLOOLOOLOOLOO!"

The man's face was a picture, yet I maintained composure through his flinch, widened eyes and actual step back. Give credit where it is due, he tried again.
"Look at this line on your car," he commenced, at which point I suddenly turned into an alarm.
"BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!" I went, but LOUD, people. The car guard was canning himself. The orthodox Jewish housewives looked frightened. I drove off, further unharassed. I did not give a fuck.

I must be nearly 40.

And on to other unexpected utterances. I have been reading about and researching childhood memory and amnesia for an article I am writing, and been asking around if anyone remembered their own birth. No major luck. A few years ago I halfheartedly asked Felix if he remembered his. Not much luck. But then this interchange with Richie happened (I swear I did nothing to prompt this).

Richie: "Can I be in a nest?"
He likes to play this game, cuddling and making me be all kinds of mother animals - usually a Mommy bird. I know, psychologists go mad. He needs mothering or something.
Me: "Yes."
Richie: "When was I in a nest?"
Me: "I don't know, do you mean when you were in my tummy?"
Richie: "And then there was water and blood"
Me: "..."


Me: "..."

Me: "..."

Me: "And then?"

Richie: "And then I came out."
Me: "You mean when you were born?!"
Richie: "Yes."


PS. Richie was born in a bath. So, yes, there was water and blood. (He was kind enough not to mention any other substances.) Or he may even mean INSIDE. I have no idea what to make of this, but here it is, duly recorded word for word for posterity. This really happened.
 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Using our words

Mindfulness goes out of the window when you A) have children, and as a result have too many tasks crowding your brain so you forget to focus on the basics. Or B) you are simply old. Weeks away from 40, in fact. I left the house this afternoon for a quick Youth Day work stint and on my way out, using Sean's car, I walked over to my car with the express purpose to check if the keys were in the car, if Sean should need to use it. I then walked back to Sean's car, left home, and on the way to work thought, "Oh, I wonder if the keys to my car are in my car. Oh, wait, I went to check, didn't I? What did I find when I checked?" And I couldn't remember. This kind of thing happens far too often.

I admit I was tired of our youths by day three of Youth Day weekend so I relished the opportunity to work for a while. That's another old-person/parent thing I guess.

Okay enough bullshitting, let's grasp the nettle. This post has been waiting to be written for weeks. Richie is still driving us crazy. I am scared of the teenage years. I can't explain here quite how worried I am because this blog is written for Richie and Felix and I want them to read it, and I suspect they may read it at what is known as an "impressionable age". And I don't want my Richie boy to form the impression we struggled to love him - we are simply struggling to react correctly to the coiled ball of rage he is. Or appears to be. Several times a day.

One of the suggestions from "our" therapist is that we speak to Richie as instinctively and honestly and often a possible about his spin bifida - what it is and how it makes him feel.

So when Felix had a sleepover with a buddy, Richie loved having the big boys around to chase and horseplay with, but by evening when they had settled down to a movie, he suddenly, like a little wildcat, pounced on Felix and scratched and mauled him. He was viciously angry - about what I don't know, because it shames me to say I jumped in and hauled Richie out of there and THUMPED him into his room and SHOUTED at him. Things degenerated. I don't think I have ever in my life shouted as hard as I did. Ironically, what I shouted was, "STOP SHOUTING!" Do as I say not as I do.

I tried to bring the emotions back down. "Let's try to speak calmly to each other," I asked. "Let's see if we can make friends."
"I don't WANT to be friends. I WANT you to be angry with me!" responded Richie. He says that reasonably often which worries me.
I took a shot, inspired by The Shrink.
"Richie, I think earlier today you couldn't run and keep up with Felix and that made you SO ANGRY," I said, putting feeling into those last two words and feeling like a tool. Richie allowed for a small drop in the decibellage of his screaming.
"And you must wonder, WHY are Mom and Dad not FIXING ME? You must get SO ANGRY with us. It's our job to fix you and we aren't!"
Richie stopped screaming.
"We would love to fix you Richie, but we can't ever make you the same as other children. We can't fix your legs! We can only make sure you have good splints that help you walk," I went on.
Richie looked at me and said, "You're not going to fix me?"

Fuck me, talk about words to haunt you forever. It was part question and part confirmation. He knew the answer already. But he had never heard me admit it.

For days afterwards I cried and told everyone in my life the story.

Of course now I wonder how three-almost-four years could have passed without discussing this most crucial thing which we think about every single day as his parents. And it makes no sense. Repression is STILL our go-to position, no amount of psychotherapy and feelings and becoming aware and enlightened could fix that, it seems.

Now I try to say the words a whole lot more. I am consciously trying to say the unsaid.

Richie might need regular flare-ups like these to abreact his anger. Who knows? He has been a bit better since this last dramatic development.

I love that funky, spunky little guy. Man, he is a character. And he carries a lot of info and understanding in that little big brain of his. He carries a lot of fun, and humour, and close observation, and he has figured a lot, A LOT of stuff out already - he is very clever -, and he also carries a heavy weight. He's not always easy to understand, but he is so rewarding when you do occasionally get it right. You rock, Richie.

 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Nobody tried to take us

I took Felix and Richie to the Zoo on a weekend where Sean's work turned crazy and I was unexpectedly one-adult-two-kidsing it. We had a beautiful, unstressed time such as these slices of goldenness sometimes open up before us. We didn't try to see everything. Richie laughed and laughed at the spider monkeys and tried to "sharp!" them through the glass partition, standing face to face with them. We skipped the big hits and went for the weird animals - bats and frogs in the finally finished Amazon/Aztec building. We had lunch at the cafĂ© and Richie consumed an actual hot dog (latest addition to his restricted menu) and hot chocolate (another achievement).

Then I needed the loo. And the two boys were in this buggy I had hired. I skipped my half hour on the exercise bike that morning and knew I would be pushing the cart around the zoo instead. I was enjoying that, but it did make the loo trip complicated. So I parked the cart at the ladies' entrance, scoped out the scene like a sniper and decided to leave the boys outside, sitting in the buggy, while I did the mother's squat/hover/leave the stall door open thing. I was about two metres away from them yet I was still worried, so I said to Felix (the only child likely to mind the brief separation), "I'm going to make a wee. I'll be right back. Stay here, and don't let anyone take you. Scream if anyone touches you."

Reassuring, huh?

I did my thing and heard the boys sustain a fascinating conversation about how they would Spider-Man web and Iron Man whoosh any "bully" who tried to touch them. I got outside as another woman was just coming in. Felix looked up and saw me with relief and shared the following, "Hello Mommy, nobody tried to take us!"

The other lady burst out laughing.

I never know if I am behaving over- or under-cautiously. Partly obsession with children's safety has become stupid and interfering and counterproductive. (Ref: the new travelling-with-kids regulations.) And partly, we still do an incredibly bad job of keeping children safe (our driving standards, our lack of provision of food and housing to the poor.) It's a tough call to make every time.




 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Tea and medals

I had no idea what to expect from the karate tournament. We've just begun having extramurals in our lives, never mind participate in cross-school Saturday morning championships. Felix was (natch) apprehensive (but interested) about going, and I had no idea myself how much or little of a big deal this whole thing was going to be.

Richie however has recently been reigning Champ of the Week at his boxing class three weeks in a row, and has brought the floating trophy home with him. ("When are we going to put it in water?" he asked me. "Why?" I asked. "It's floating." Explain that to a three-year-old.) Felix was rather jealous of this trophy. I did hope there would be medals at the karate tournament.

Having met the coach very briefly, he appeared to me as a gentle man who was nevertheless more proficient in keeping track of tokes had per member of the circle than of times and achievements of several hundred tiny people at a karate grading. I was expecting some chaos but I was wrong. The event had internal coherence and progressed astonishingly smoothly. Coach Steve had commandeered several of his teenaged clients while they still knew everything and assigned them to one of five teams each. The kids, most under 8, were cooperative and interested and relatively attentive. Each child performed a set of challenges and scored points.

A lunch break finally dawned: Felix scarfed down a hot dog faster than I had ever seen him do. Even Richie, the non-eater, wanted in on the action and demanded a hot dog of his own. He ate an actual hot dog.

Sidenote:
Richie's food issues are well documented. Yet this weekend, when he and Juliet were the hangers-on to their elder siblings' sporting events, they were thrown together to play and colour in and explore jungle gyms outside and snack together. Juliet got started on a packet of cashew nuts her mom had brought along, stopped, and sweetly offered each of us one. Frances ate one. I was fed one. Richie, seeing Juliet's hand approaching, duly opened his mouth and took in the offer: hmm. A cashew nut. As he masticated the unusual flavour and texture he looked puzzled, but not un-pleased. He swallowed. I internally leapt six feet in the air. Juliet offered another. Richie shook his head. The experiment ended. But - a hot dog and a cashew nut in one day. This is astonishing progress.

After the formalities: tea and medals!
Felix was incredibly invested in the medal-awarding. He needed, I think, something to counterbalance Richie's boxing trophy. And he has never had a medal before - this was a fascinating, previously unknown advantage of "extramurals".

Well, his little face when he received his medal was well worth enduring the overlong previous four hours for. He was, and still is, delighted. Yes, everyone got a medal (and his school was probably lowest on points). I have instantly revised my position on the folly of giving everyone "participation awards". They are not patronising nor do they lessen the achievement: they recognise the effort, physical as well as emotional, of simply showing up.

I am proud of my little guy.


Monday, June 9, 2014

Vocab leap forward

You know there are many points where I feel that suddenly, my little babies are all grown up. Too grown up. It's when Felix speaks endlessly of his two great interests, dinosaurs and religion, that I feel part proud of my interesting kid, and part severe nostalgia for that little chubby two-year-old who said Yion instead of Lion.

This morning he was loading a game on the ipad and then commented, "Well, that's not very impressive."
 
An offer from his dad to play soccer with him was met with the answer, "No, thanks, Mom and I have had a discussion and she is going to play with me."
A discussion.

And about a small slight in his day, "That made me feel... disappointed."

My best: When Richie screeches in response to a question, instead of "using his words", Felix will turn to me and say, "I'll take that as a 'no'."

Felix didn't want to accompany his class to a theatre outing. He has a theatre phobia. He is also very scared of movies. It's the apprehension of the frightening stuff in them he can't stand. (He has very high anxiety.) I told his teacher that he was saying, at home, that he didn't want to go, and asked whether they had had discussions in class about it. She said she would chat to him.

You know what happened, right?

Yes.

Felix came home skipping and jumping and full of the joys of how much fun his class outing was going to be. 180 degree about turn.

Teachers underestimate their influence at their peril. And I am very very delighted with Felix's teacher this year. She is a lovely person who exudes a sense of kindly being-in-chargeness. Felix feels safe around her. Could one ask for more?



 

 

Friday, June 6, 2014

It's Feminism HQ over here

I never do this. I don't post pictures of home baking and brag. That's because I don't home bake often, and when I do, I make Woolies extra-healthy muffin mix with bananas and seeds added in and I don't ice them and I make the kids help and it's not photography material.

But Felix had to take a plate of sellable goodies to school the other day, and I bought the pack of Woolies muffin mix and made the butter icing I learnt off the recipe I was subbing at Your Baby magazine the other day and Queeny, who is a far better baker than me, made decorated it all fancy like with blue sprinkles and vermicelli, and while the result is not Masterchef, I feel this weird sense of achievement - yup, pride in fact. Very odd. I even took pictures, look.

I also made my peanut butter cookies, which are amazing in that they are a total cheat: one egg, one cup PB, one cup sugar, mix, squish into shapes, bake in cool oven for 15 min, take out and let them cool and harden, replace sugar with xylitol and PB with almond butter and there's your Atkins/paleo/high fat low carb version, it's a pleasure.

This time I squished the dough down and used cookie cutters and a bit of flour, then sandwiched two cookies together with caramel spread to make a giant PB Oreo. I reckoned this was more sellable at a cake sale than a tiny PB cookie.

I've come over all SAHM. Time for my Xanax with my vodka chaser, then a little lie down before the school run.



Peanut butter cookie sandwiches

Blue bran muffins
I know, I know.