thoughtsfromthepanda

I do my best thinking while driving. I drive a Fiat Panda.

Archive for the tag “boys”

Going to the gypsy fair

My boys are slightly annoyed with me at the moment. I recently changed the CD in the Panda when they weren’t looking, which caused a certain amount of consternation.

For now, it’s au revoir American rock, in the form of Journey and Steve Perry’s famously-ranging tones…

steve perry journey

 

…and hello to Irish rock and soul band Hothouse Flowers and the heartfelt vocals of Liam Ó Maonlaí. Life is about change and variety after all, is it not?

Liam Hothouseflowers

 

I tried to tell this to my children, politely and diplomatically, but they weren’t impressed. My response was to be greeted by two very mulish little faces. Ah well, they’re only ten and eight, and to their great credit they really do like the music of Journey.

When diplomacy didn’t work I simply reminded them that it is, actually, Mom’s taxi. Therefore, Mom’s music rules, she has final veto powers and she will turn bear-ish if pushed too far.

polar bear

(I know – I’ll tell Liam that this new lead singer shares his name! Maybe that will impress him.)

Anyway, that was a short while ago. We’ve since had a few instances when the CD was sneakily changed back to Journey when I wasn’t looking, but we managed to keep these at ‘instance’ level and not ‘international incident’ level.

So now the boys are starting to thaw just a little, having finally permitted themselves to discover a couple of tracks that they actually like.

My own current favourite Hothouse Flowers track, during my drives in my Panda, beckons sweetly and enticingly of running away from current responsibilities:

bareback horse

Blazing eyes, bareback horses
And a redhead smile
I’m tempted strongly, strongly tempted
By the call of the wild

Going to the gypsy fair
I’m gonna find some freedom there
I wanna dance ’til I don’t care
At the gypsy fair.

Because, you know, sometimes a girl just likes to dream of a brief hiatus with no responsibilities for a while. However, that’s not on the cards just yet, and so I will look for other inspiration from my desk area at the office, where I have an image stuck up that reminds me to ‘Look up, get up and never give up’.

But I think I could be allowed to permit myself one heartfelt sigh before I get back to work. And then I’ll put my nose once more to the grindstone, with just one proviso: every now and then, I plan to look out of the window and dream of the time when I will be free to go to the gypsy fair.

And I will dance till I don’t care.

dancing gypsy

 

Precedent setting

“Mommy,” said Matthew, gracing me with his most winning smile and then flinging his arms affectionately around me, “Can I please have a three-day birthday this year also? Like Liam did? Pleeeeeeeaaase?”

He was, of course, harking back to what had turned out to be our three-day birthday celebrations for his big brother a few months before. I noted with some interest that Matthew was also admirably demonstrating his solid grasp of the concept of ‘setting a precedent’.

Considering that he was turning only seven, I thought this was quite sussed. Not entirely unique – I think all children who are over three and have siblings pretty much get the concept. It lurks under the umbrella of general fairness, usually prefaced with remarks like, “Well, he/she has already got an XYZ and so I think you should buy me one also otherwise it’s not faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaiiiiiiiiiirrrrrrrrrrr.”

My real reason for being amused at Matthew’s understanding of precedent-setting lay mainly in how he’d presented his request.

Frank and I have long been aware of Matthew’s uncanny ability to turn on the cuteness factor when he wants to get his own way. We believe he went to a charm school for babies when we weren’t looking.

 

Matthew sunglasses

We have no idea where he gets it from but when he wants to be, he is a winning flirt. This includes flirting, as may be required, with his parents.

Under the circumstances, we had no option but to acquiesce. It did seem only fair. We were slightly disadvantaged in accommodating Matthew in that Liam’s birthday had fallen this year on a public holiday, and I’d then been obliged to take two days leave from work straight after that because it was school holidays. And thus had occurred the ‘three-day birthday’.

So, in the absence of a convenient public holiday for our second-born, we started a few days early with Matthew. The weekend before his birthday we went to Bambanani to spend his birthday voucher. Once again the children ate spare ribs (not an everyday treat).

So all good.

Then came his actual birthday on a normal weekday, and cupcakes went to the school to be shared out among classmates and teachers. Presents, of course, were also given out in the morning before school, the big one being the PSP. We didn’t really have an option here: Liam had been given a PSP four months previously and there was no way that this particular gift could NOT be repeated for Matthew.

Happiness is… both your children engrossed in their portable electronic games while their parents get to read books/chat/catch up with chores/watch favourite TV programmes without being interrupted by the sound of piping voices from the small beings in the house.

And then, on the Friday afternoon after his birthday, Matthew, big brother and some of his friends went to play battle games. After putting on a cool jacket over the child’s normal clothes, the aim is to shoot laser guns at each other in a dark maze-like place that I personally find to be claustrophobic and frightening, but then I’m a girl so I suppose I have an excuse. (Apparently this game has been around for years and years but I missed it because I was perennially reading.)

WorldDominator and DeathStar

Code names like ‘Armageddon’, ‘World Dominator’ and ‘Death Star’ (well, something along those lines) are given out and you can watch the children climb up the rankings of the games on screens outside the Battle Zone. The birthday package includes three games in total, each lasting 15 minutes. Besides a brief scare during which Matthew skidded and fell onto his laser gun while running gleefully out of the second session because he was so pleased with his performance, all was, thankfully, incident-free.

incident free

After the Battle Zone, eight happy small boys plus assorted parents and family members then moved on to a nearby restaurant for the pizza and birthday cake part of the birthday celebration.

This included handing out a small gift for each child in the form of a brilliantly simply flying object resembling early helicopter dynamics, apparently based on a long-ago Da Vinci invention.

Well, actually, this particular theory is absolute surmise on my part, but the 21st century’s ability to borrow from the past in the name of reinventing the wheel never ceases to amaze me. Just look at how legwarmers and clogs occasionally pop up again, albeit briefly, and don’t get me started on the bubble skirt (and really – who would EVER have predicted that?).

So in between munching on pizza, pasta and birthday cake, a happy time was held by all children while they played with their unidentified Da Vinci-esque objects in a safe place outside.

birthday cake Matthew

And so the birthday party officially ended shortly afterwards, and I was very grateful that the next day was Saturday and I could have a bit of a lie-in and relax, in the sure knowledge that all parental birthday duties were now over – and, moreover, fairly executed.

“Mommy,” said Matthew early the next morning, when I was still waking up, “you know how I’m having a three-day birthday this year like Liam did? I still have one more day to go…”

He said this while flashing me his most winning smile, and while I was still a bit vulnerable and not quite compos mentos.

“Okay, my love,” I said absentmindedly.

“…Wait a minute!” shouted my brain synapses as they finally started firing on all cylinders again. “Oy! We have actually fulfilled the mandate here!”

So nice try, little man. I am NOT setting a precedent for a four-day birthday celebration next year.

Unless it begins with mine.

 

 

 

My daughter, my dad

In the midst of a life that has blessed me with our two amazing boy children…

LIam and Matthew philosophers

…I have still, at moments that always take me off guard with their painful intensity, yearned and yearned for a girl, as well.

A girl child.

I breathe out sometimes when I think it, with a tiny stab of hurt.

A soft, small, mini-me who would grow up understanding what it is to want to wear dresses (or not), apply make up (or not) and understand the trauma of a bad hair cut that needs to be grown out.

 

A girl child.

A soft, green-eyed (maybe blue?), fair-haired being like I was when I was younger, who would understand me in a way that my little boys just don’t always get.

 

A girl child.

A delicate baby to dress in pink or white or pastel green; a little girl whose face and body would stay soft and eventually grow curves and never stubble; a young woman who would read the kind of books I read and react to emotional issues as I do, and who would eventually speak the language of women with me.

 

A girl child.

And I did not have her, and I have mourned.

Even as I loved my boys with all my being, there was still a little hole in my heart that felt not quite filled, which sometimes I forgot about and which sometimes came back to haunt me unexpectedly.

 

It returned to haunt me about ten nights ago. I was sitting in our back garden enjoying the moonlight and the wind on my face, looking up at the night sky and the stars. I was feeling peaceful. I love a big open sky, night or day, and I don’t sit under it often enough.

And as I absorbed the peaceful night air and the sky with my body and my soul, the haunting was back, and with it the sudden tears in my eyes. But I wasn’t ready to go inside and ignore the hole in my heart this time; I was really enjoying being under the stars, and so I stayed and I felt the pain return all the way through my body. And as I enclosed it inside me, I remembered a long-buried fact – two long buried facts.

I remembered that, before Liam and again before Matthew, I was also pregnant for a very brief time: two pregnancies where the babies did not quite come all the way down to earth, or else they did come down but did not stay.

I remembered Frank and I together in the doctor’s office that first time, and the look on the doctor’s face when the expected heartbeat did not sound through the monitor and he braced himself to tell us the bad news. I remembered hearing the term ‘blighted ovum’ for the first time, where there was no heartbeat, only a tiny empty shell.

 

blighted ovum

That first time, there were apparently hormones in my body but no life, and an operation to follow – when enough time had passed for us to be certain – to clean out my womb. And I woke up in the hospital bed with Frank standing beside me, and a shadow hanging over us because we did not yet know that Liam was still to come.

And then we had Liam, and joy returned.

And then we had a second miscarriage when we were trying for Liam’s sibling – before Matthew’s safe arrival, and more joy.

 

But the second time, Frank is convinced, was slightly different, because he swears he saw a heartbeat flicker, and even the doctor was not quite sure but said, “Let’s give it ten more days.”

And I hoped.

And we hoped, together.

But instead my body bled.

 

And again there was the operation, only this time we had felt – we thought – a stronger life pull. And this time round, Frank had to be away on a work trip and so my dad, instead, was beside me at the hospital bed when I woke up – my dad, younger and stronger than he is now, with a sorrowful face and unsure of what words to offer.

And this memory returned as I sat under the big night sky, and as the stars shone their light on me, I sobbed as I have not sobbed for those lost babies for many years. And I sobbed also for my father, who is battling so bravely with the disease that is unceasingly ravaging his body and taking away his strength and his clear speech. And for my mother, who has loved him for so many years and who loves and cares for him still.

And as I sat there, I felt a presence somewhere deep in my body, and words that were not words spoke in my being and told me that there was, indeed, a girl child once.

But she had to go back.

And all these years later, when my dad crosses over into the spirit world, she will welcome him to his final home.

blonde shadow fairy

Somehow this is what I learned as I sat under the stars, through the voiceless words.

And the hole in my heart was almost filled.

 

I believe I had a daughter once.

I shall call her Skye.

 

painting baby

 

Postscript:

I found comfort, after this emotional experience, in these words from Journey (click on the link for the song):

 

“Remember me”

 

 Remember me, remember me
Find myself all alone

In darkness without you

Now I can’t turn away

From what I must do

You know I’d give my life for you

More than words can say

I’ve shown you how to love someone

I know you’ll find a way

 

Say goodbye, close your eyes

Remember me

Walk away, the sun remains

Remember me

I’ll live on somewhere in your heart

You must believe, remember me

 

No way I can change my mind

I don’t have the answers

If you could see through my eyes

You’d let go of your fears

And though I have to leave you now

With the thought of each other

I’ll miss your touch, you call my name

I am with you forever

 

Say goodbye, close your eyes

Remember me

Walk away, the sun remains

Remember me

Be there to watch over you

Remember me

Feel I’m gone, my heart lives on

Remember me

 

Don’t you think of this as the end.

I’ll come into your dreams, remember me

 

Close your eyes, say goodbye

Remember me

Say you will, say you will, say you will

Close your eyes, remember me

Say you will, say you will, say you will

Say goodbye, remember me

Accident prone? It’s in the genes…

Dear Teacher Thea,

Just a little note to let you know that yesterday we went to a friend’s house for a braai and there was an accident involving Liam, a wooden bat and our friend’s child’s nose. The pleasant afternoon ended very abruptly in lots of blood and crying and a sudden visit to the hospital. Liam was very upset and I just wanted you to know in case he is out of sorts today.

…And so it begins. This mother of boy children braces herself and, with a mental shake, prepares for the inevitable physicality and impulsiveness that apparently comes with a boy child’s life.

As well as two boys, currently aged seven and five, our family also includes a Dobermann. A hound of the female persuasion, our darling Sasha is a big galumph. She is a klutz of the first water. There is nothing graceful about her in motion over short stretches. However, it’s a different story when she is running long-distance through the park, when the Dobermann’s heritage, which apparently includes greyhound bloodlines, then comes to the fore. At those moments, she is a thing of beauty and a joy forever, somewhere over there in the green yonder.

However, when Sasha is not running through the park, but instead through our house, she is a big galumph who skids around on our wooden floors and the occasional loose rug like a ping-pong ball forever unleashed inside a gravity-less scientific chamber. She is a soulmate to my firstborn. They were made to be mates.

Sasha doing ‘the happy dance’

Oh, but I see hard lessons ahead!

We had the hardest of hard lessons on Sunday already. My little man, as my dear friend and fellow boy-mom exclaimed upon hearing the story, is in no way a malicious child and anyone who knows him would know immediately that it was an accident (and for this kind endorsement I thank you most sincerely, dear Z). But he is an impulsive young soul and it will be a torment to him for some time to come that the ill-fated bat was launched from his hand.

He is also a very strong young man, and for his age a very big little boy. Combining my husband’s tall genes with his grandfather’s stocky tendencies, he was fitting comfortably into clothes for a nine-year-old when he had just turned seven. He has always been really big for his age – a baby giant even when he was a baby.

Little Liam – the biggest in his first ever pre-school class

Now add an impulsive, dreamy, accident-prone personality into this physical mix and you can see why I am fretting. After all, he lost his first tooth the day before his fifth birthday – root included – because he fell off a windowsill and cracked his jaw onto a chest of drawers below. (Oh, how we mourned that tooth and its premature departure for the next two and a half years…) And who does he get the impulsive dreaminess and accidental tendencies from?

Yes, indeed, that would be me.

His mother.

The same person who once briefly took up skydiving and flew into a large bluegum tree on her second jump.

I will maintain forever that the Potchefstroom fire brigade did very commendable work that weekend, although I do think that bringing along two fire engines and erecting two ladders was arguably not entirely necessary and that possibly they were just using my predicament for some unusual technical practice. I shall also not mention the ‘reserve ride’ that took place on my twelfth jump, other than to say that the reserve parachute was set to be released automatically anyway and I am quite proud that I actually pulled the cutaway myself. It was, of course, a pity about the hard landing but no bones were broken, after all, and spectacular bruises are inevitable when one’s eventual arrival back on terra firma includes three unintended forward somersaults.

Pause.

Thinks.

Note to self: we will need to steer Liam away from skydiving, rugby and possibly horses. And perhaps mountain bikes and hockey and cricket and…

Yes, I can see straight away that I have got a great strategy going here – not.

Oh dear.

I think perhaps I am not ready to be a boy-mom.

Yes, yes, I know I’ve had seven-plus years of it to date, but that doesn’t mean I’m ready yet. I think I need a little more practice.

Perhaps we can wrap Liam up in cotton wool for a couple of years and I can practise being a boy-mom on his younger brother, Matthew, who seems to have inherited his father’s more careful attitude towards life and a pre-disposition towards being soulmates with the cat – a far more precise and careful animal than the Dobermann.

My friend Vincent

Pause.

Thinks.

Note to self: that would be the same Matthew who’s had his right big toenail torn off twice already in two separate accidents – the second time on his fifth birthday. (What is it about fifth birthdays in our house?!!) And that would also be the same Matthew who hero-worships his big brother and is forever getting banged up running around after him trying to keep up, yes?

Yes.

So no, that doesn’t seem to be a strategy either.

What to do… what to d…

Pause.

To sweep up broken coffee mug shards and mop up coffee from aforementioned coffee mug, which broke when I placed it carefully in mid-air instead of on the table while mentally proofing the early paragraphs of this blog post without looking at where I was placing said coffee mug.

Yes, it would indeed seem to be in the genes.

Case closed, and karate lessons here we come. Apparently karate helps to instill discipline, self control and an awareness of one’s body in space – what more could a boy-mom ask for!

Pause.

Thinks.

I wonder if they take Dobermanns?

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