thoughtsfromthepanda

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

Archive for the tag “parents”

First day of school

From: Panda’s work name 

Sent: 20 January 2014 10:14 AM
To: Panda’s boss
Cc: Panda’s neighbours at the next-door desks
Subject: First day of school

 

Hello Boss  (And copying my office ‘neighbours’, and Other Office Mom, for whom this all awaits)

Thanks very much for letting me take a half day this afternoon and work from home this morning. The photos show why. As you can see Matthew is beaming from ear to ear at having now officially started Grade 1!

Liam and Matthew 20Jan14

You will all be very pleased to know that I got my children the last two pairs of brown school shoes in Woolworths Cresta that could fit them.

When I went to Edgars initially, all confident-like of a quick in and out, tick-that-box and move on to the next school requirement I had to sort out, I went dizzy and faint for a second (okay slight exaggeration) when the Edgars assistant told me very sadly that due to some horrible error, Edgars Cresta had not received a single pair of brown boys’ school shoes.  Only black.

I squeaked in horror, “Do you have any idea how much business Edgars is losing right now?” and he shook his head in sad acknowledgement. I trust that somewhere in the Edgars supply chain there is a headless body sitting at its computer frantically trying to prevent a final written warning from being issued…

Anyway it was a very close thing.  But we now have school shoes and all the other bits of required uniform, as well as stationery, lunch boxes, school bags, stationery boxes duly art-worked (okay I’m an over-achiever)…. It is all Done with a capital d.

Matthew 20Jan14

So all good. Proud Mom now signing off and getting back to work. Less stressful, come to think of it…

See you all tomorrow!

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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

Charting the moments

(Upfront: with grateful thanks to Heather Costaras for all the photos, as discussed. Check her out here.

When you are the parents of two little boys under eight, time to fraternise with your partner and have a really good, meaningful conversation – preferably involving a bottle of good wine and truly ‘chewing the fat’ – can be a rare and precious thing.

This is why Frank and I are eternally grateful to the clever people who opened what we call ‘the B place’. B stands for ‘Bambanani’ and it’s a place in Melville, close to where we live, where both children and adults can be happy. The children can play safely in a variety of innovative ways, with or without caregivers in the mix depending on their ages, while their parents can enjoy good food and decent beverages (at decent prices) while enjoying some precious moments of adult conversation and ‘time out’.

It’s licensed to please.

Bambanani coffee bar

We were spending some time at the B place recently (so-named for the days when we would discuss going there in code, and the children wouldn’t cotton on if we changed our minds) when I suddenly realised, with a little shock, that we could actually chart our children’s ages and progress by where we habitually sit in the restaurant.

There we were, Frank and I, with our children off elsewhere having fun (together, and without us). We were sharing our regular bottle of excellent dry rosé outside on the upstairs deck, which overlooks both the main play area and the downstairs deck, and is roughly bisected by a large apricot tree. It’s a nice touch – the wooden deck has been built around the tree, which is whimsically and atmospherically hung with translucent glass balls. Get up carelessly and you are liable to bang your head on its low-hanging branches, but somehow nobody ever seems to mind that much. Off to the left, another, much bigger tree offers shade to the clientele in the bottom area and from above, you can watch the busy sparrows flying and squabbling in the leaves.

At that moment, it was good to be back on the deck and watch the birds flying through the skies of dusk, because throughout the winter, and into the beginnings of a quite wet summer, we had mainly been weather-bound during our visits and forced to sit inside.

From my elevated view from the upstairs deck, I found myself looking out over the bottom-most level to where the more anxious parents of babies and toddlers tend to congregate for the baby- and toddler-friendly facilities and services. Although the child-minders habitually offer excellent care, the bottom level does tend to ring out sometimes to shrieks and howls of baby outrage and tiredness: those little bumps and bruises will happen, or perhaps other, bigger toddlers will try to steal a toy upon which a baby’s heart is determinedly set.

Bambanani bottom area and deck

It’s a mini-jungle, the bottom area, filled with little cubs and potentially growling parents ever-ready to spring up from their chairs. (Do not go there if you are not associated with a little cub at the time.)

And that’s precisely where we had Matthew’s second birthday party, when he was just a little cub and Liam not much bigger. Frank and I were then habitual guests of the bottom area. It was our spot. At that stage, we had been regular visitors to Bambanani (still quite newly opened) for perhaps six to eight months. Liam, then aged four-and-a-bit on Matthew’s birthday, was now a veteran of the bottom area’s play places and starting to venture into the hallowed spaces of the bigger kids’ wonderful climbing frame area. It was a wrench, watching those first shaky little steps towards independence, but it was okay because Frank and I were right there, down below, and alert to his every call – should it come.

Yes, indeed, we were at the time the archetypal parents of the bottom area. We belonged there. It was our Bambanani ‘hood’.

Bambanani climbing area and top deck

Then Matthew also started trying to enter the big kids’ territory on the climbing frame, not quite a year later. We tried, half-heartedly, to hold him back a bit, but he was following his older brother and that big climbing frame was full of enticing nooks and crannies exclusive to the children (no grown ups allowed, except of course in times when little people suddenly felt a bit overwhelmed and starting yelling for assistance).

It was extremely heady stuff to try and fight as over-anxious parents, so we gave them both their freedom in this small yet significant manner and we moved from our little ‘hood’, suddenly yet quietly one day, to the upstairs deck.

It was a moment that slipped past us with very little pomp and ceremony. All we noticed at the time was that we could now see our boys almost at eye level on the climbing frame as they whizzed past us on level three; that we looked up to them on level four, the top-most level; and that when they slid down the slippery slide from level two to the ground level, we had to peer over the banister to the bottom to find them cheerily waving up at us before they began the ascent once more.

We were slightly anxious, those first few times, but we were proud.

We didn’t hear time moving us inexorably and necessarily into a new phase of parenting. I now know that it’s not just about when the nappies are no longer required, or when bottles are replaced with sippy cups. Some moments are more subtle and, in retrospect, perhaps more significant.

The next big move began when the B place did a renovation early one year. Having endured their annual closure from late December to early January, we arrived back one new year to find a brand-new TV room, complete with updated video games.

Bambanani TV room

Hrmmm. We contemplated this for a few seconds, having to date been a bit anti video games for our children – although we knew it was coming. An avid reader throughout my life, I am quite useless at video games. This was true even when I was a child, but today especially I do know that Frank and I need to let our own children stay current with the popular culture of the times, or risk being isolated from their peers. So my beloved and I exchanged raised eyebrows as Liam took one look and gravitated, apparently in a trance-like state, almost instantly towards the TV room.

And so began the next phase at Bambanani: one of regular and ongoing negotiation.

“Please can I go to the TV room and play a video game? Pleeeeeeeeeeeease?”

“Only when you have run around the climbing frame from bottom to top three/four/six/seven* times. THEN you may go.”

(*The figure subject to various factors including the mood of the parent and whether we had already allowed any TV time at home before visiting the B place.)

So there we were. Alone outside on the deck with our children no longer whizzing along the climbing frame and waving at us cheerily from the various levels while we beamed proudly back. Oh yes, we – and the climbing frame – had been well and truly deserted for the video games.

Came winter, that year, and we moved inside. (In previous winters, we would sit outside and pretend not to be cold while we watched the boys.)

Bambanani inside

So there we were – inside.

Closer to the children for us to peer at them quizzically from time to time to make sure they were all right.

Warmer on a cold frosty day, especially near the roaring open fire.

Sometimes we even move out onto the outermost area now – the ‘stoep’ at the front door. It’s cool in summer and warm enough in winter if we feel like some fresh air (most of the time).

And now that we have our choice of places to sit – except the bottom level, it belongs by absolute right to the cubs and their vigilant pride – we feel free to move around according to the weather and our mood. When we sit on the upstairs deck and peer over to the bottom-most level, I am nostalgic at how far we have come in just four years. Some days I even wish I was back down at the bottom, where the smallest inhabitants are still wearing nappies and the sudden loss of a toy is indescribably sad.

It’s funny, and heartwarming, how the different areas of a child-friendly restaurant have allowed me to chart – metaphorically – some of the significant moments of my parenting journey so far.

Bambanani stoep

Postscript:

Perhaps the strangest thing of all, in terms of this little journey, is that my relatively recent Bambanani memories are being built on the ghostly presence of my previous, single self, when I used to hang out, many years ago, at a Melville bistro called The Question Mark. The Question Mark was great for a while and then less great. But for a long while it was my favourite haunt.

It’s funny how the wheel, invisibly turning, charts the moments. Sometimes, while I’m at the B-place, I look up quickly and seem to see the ghost of my former self drinking red wine over in the corner, laughing with my friends on a girls’ night out. With the joyful carelessness of youth, with that conviction of being utterly invincible, we are almost all of us smoking far too many cigarettes within a backdrop of interesting art and loud music. Inevitably we are complaining about the slow service, and yet inevitably we stay until the small hours of the morning. Sometimes we spot the occasional actor commanding attention from the lesser surrounding mortals with an imperious, theatrical gesture. It’s all full of intense, competing, shouting life.

Yes.

Bambanani is built on the former site of The Question Mark.  

Today my cigarette smoking is in the past, the art has been replaced by white walls and family-friendly images, and I don’t handle drinking into the small hours as well as I used to.

But a little part of my younger self is imprinted in the very air and walls of the Melville site that is Bambanani/Question Mark. I am grateful to have had the venue, in this strange way, morph and evolve with me over time. And it’s still full of intense, competing, shouting life. It’s just that these days, the guests of honour are mostly a lot smaller, and possibly better behaved. 

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