The Mommy Wars……

The Mommy Wars.

I’m sure many Moms have experienced the competitiveness that flares up from the minute you give birth (sometimes even from the moment you announce your pregnancy!).

With my firstborn, K, I had it pretty easy.  Apart from the normal childhood illnesses, he was healthy, he reached all his milestones ahead of time and never gave me much to worry about.  He sat, crawled, walked and talked right on cue.  He was toilet trained at age three and never had one accident at night.  He was always a healthy weight and “normal” (I hate that word – there is NO NORMAL!).

But the Competition Monster is always there, just around the corner, waiting to pounce.  K slept in our bed until he was at least four or five.  Even after we convinced him to move to his own bed in his own room, he still climbed in with us during the night, every night.  We were happy with this arrangement – why weren’t others?  What’s that you say?  Your child has slept in his own room since birth?  Wonderful!  That’s fabulous!  My child doesn’t.

It was during Grade R that the competition began to get serious.  First it was the reading phase.   If your child could read at four years old, that is truly lovely.  I’m happy for you.  K couldn’t.  He wasn’t interested in sitting with a book.  He wanted to make mud pies and dig for worms.  He was discovering how deep his sand tunnel could be before it collapsed, figuring out how high he could stack stones, trying to see just how fast he could race his scooter down the passage.

My hubby A shared this little gem with me:  Yes, he/she can read at four years old….guess what, K will be able to read in a few years…..then they will all be able to read – race over!

We developed a motto then – we’ll get there when we get there.

Once formal school started – oh the race had begun in earnest!  Every term when report time came around, it was a flurry of messages “how did K do?”.  Some Moms would want an exact rundown on percentages that K achieved for each subject….why?  What does it matter how my child did in a formal exam?  And so it has continued for seven years – each and every term!  Early on, no matter if K did excellent or not that great, I would simply say this:  he did fine and we are happy.

When R was born four years ago, the competition appeared to be in full swing very early on.  R was not an easy baby.  He was born with a tongue tie, which meant he couldn’t feed properly and was therefore underweight.  He had surgery at five months old.  He was also lactose intolerant and after many hospital stays and tests, was confirmed to have one Cystic Fibrosis gene and is a carrier of the disease.  My gorgeous baby was also extremely sensitive to light, sound and touch.  He cried a LOT and didn’t like to be held by anyone except Mom, Dad and brother K.

R was behind on almost all of his milestones.  He crawled late and only walked at 18 months.  He never spoke any legible words until he was three years old.  Only those close to him could see the incredible intelligence he had, how he developed a sense of humour very early on and how he understood everything he saw or heard.  He is thin and small for his age.  Throughout the very difficult period, when we ourselves lived with a constant fear that there was something we were missing, we were constantly asked…. “isn’t he walking YET?”, “when is he going to talk?”, “why is he so small?”.  We are judged constantly because once again, we chose to co-sleep.

 

R is still in nappies at age four.  He simply refuses to use the potty or toilet.  We continue to coax him, but we decided very early on with R, our attitude will be:  he’ll get there when he gets there.  Just to annoy people I often reply to their nosy questioning with a sarcastic retort:  as long he is sleeping in his own bed/out of nappies by the time he starts high school, I’ll be ok with that!

I’ve often thought that this constant pushing of children to “perform” and be better than the rest is sometimes more for the parents than for any real benefit of the child.  Obviously, you are thrilled when your child excels in something.  It’s only natural to want to share your joy.  I’m the first one to do so – any achievement from anyone should be shared and praised.

Please don’t get me wrong:  I am not an expert in any form, I’m simply a mother.

A mother who believes that children should be children and allowed to develop at a rate that suits them.  And any mother whose child is not reaching their milestones as determined by the “experts” is bound to be concerned.  Don’t add to that concern by making her, or even that beautiful child, feel that they are lacking in some way and need to “be better”.

At the end of the day, each child is an individual.  They have their own timeline.

They’ll get there when they get there.

As R continues to struggle with toilet training and as he learns to articulate himself better each day…..as K writes his final exams for his primary school career, when their reports are brought home, I will say exactly the same thing as I always do.

They are fine and we are happy.

I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends – “The Beatles

We all have them.  Friends.  People that we have grown up with, people we have met through others, work colleagues who become friends….the list goes on.

I have been blessed to have all kinds of friends, from all the different stages in my life.  And I’m lucky enough that we all have the kind of relationship that, even if we don’t see each other for months, or even years, we can pick up exactly where we left off.

Let’s break it down a little….

The work colleagues who have become friends.  I have so many of these.  Literally, A LOT!  Of course there is one that I cannot think of fondly, no matter how I try.  Picture this:  age 19 and at my first “real job”.  Eager to impress, I worked my butt off and was liked by most people.  Except “Mrs In Charge of the Department”.  Oh, don’t get me wrong, in the beginning, when I didn’t know a filing cabinet from a fax machine, we were besties.  But once I became competent, got promotions, she turned on me like a rabid dog, frothing at the mouth, snapping at my ankles at every turn.  After years of making my life a living hell, the powers that be finally caught on to her and she was demoted to the basement of the banking institution we worked for (the basement department in a bank is where people “disappear” from sight lol).  I will be totally honest with you and say the revenge was sweet when I slid effortlessly into her position (maybe I am actually reprehensible?).

But I digress…..The many that I consider friends, I keep in touch with, mostly through Facebook, but a few meet me for coffee now and again and it’s so great to see how far we have all come and how we have all branched out into different fields.  At my last position, I made wonderful women friends, a truly unique group of dynamic women, who supported each other with none of that bitchiness you often find.  We were a great team and still support each other, through shared work opportunities and in our personal lives.

The childhood friends.  Again, Facebook is a wonderful way to stay in touch.  It’s been wonderful to stay abreast of the lives of my best friends from school.  We were quite a close knit group, boys and girls, coming all the way from primary school together, all the way to Matric.

Recently, we were devastated to lose one of our childhood group.  Our wonderful, beautiful friend with the kindest soul, who took her own life last year.  This was a shocking loss to us, but it brought us together again and it was wonderful to find that we still had so much in common and we hadn’t changed a bit.

The friends you randomly meet along the way.  I have only one of these and if she reads this, she will know who she is lol.  This bestie started out working with my then boyfriend, now husband when we were all just out of our teens…..I really didn’t like her at first, because she had a thing for my man.  But as time passed and many clubbing nights later, we became better friends than what they were and we have supported each other for over 20 years.  We’ve been through countless men, all hers (!), and she has been there for me whenever I needed her.  If anyone does me or my boys wrong, I know I can make one call and she will show up with a baseball bat.  She has my back in every way and I cherish her for it.  In November, 19 years ago, we went to her 21st party…..in three weeks’ time, we are going to her 40th party!

The family friends.  By this I mean, my sister, my sister-in-law, my cousins and my nieces and least but most certainly not last…..my dear mother.  I’ve left the boys out, because you know boys….they are so nonchalant.

You know what they say about family….you may argue and irritate each other beyond belief, but if you mess with one, you mess with all.  Should any outsider make trouble for any one of us, we close ranks immediately.  We will literally freeze anyone out instantly.  We’ve done it before and will do it again.  No second thought!  My mom is a far kinder, but push her buttons about any of her children and she transforms from a sweet old lady into Attila the Hun.  It’s actually quite a thing to see.  My sister is the one person, aside from my hubby, that I can call up, or even show up at her door, anytime of the day or night and she will listen, support me and take my side, no matter what.  I would do the same for her.  We’ve been through so much together, we keep each other’s secrets and I can say honestly, that without her in my life I would be lost.

At this point, I must be a little negative and talk about the fly in the ointment….the toxic friend.  We all have them.  Everything starts off great….she’s amazing.  Until you start to notice things…..how she puts you down “are you carrying that baby in your bum?”….. “you really look ugly today”…… “did you even brush your hair?” …… let me slip your husband another drink after you’ve asked him to slow down.  All little things to undermine you.  They start freezing you out of your own family occasions, oh so subtly though!  One day you start to realise…….they are not really your friends.   They may pull the wool over your eyes, but not for long.  Funnily enough, my sister alerted me to this long before I saw it for myself (she’s one perceptive woman).  Now, having been raised to respect myself, I would not put up with this.  I choose not to have people like this in my life.  So we cut them out of our lives.  My hubby A and I made the decision that they were toxic and no good for me, us or our relationship.

I choose to rise above the lies that have been told about me in the attempt to “win”.  I bear them no ill will and wish them absolutely the best in life.   But I can honestly say, life is sweeter knowing I stood up and refused to accept being treated badly.

Ok, back to positivity!   The friends you meet through your children.  With K, who is now 13, I met some amazing women and we all have so much in common.  Some of us have photos of our boys in the same crèche and they are still friends today – even going to the same high school next year.  One friend, M and I, became really close.  We had our second boys very close together and over the past 13 years have been lucky enough to have an extremely solid friendship.

But the best friendship I have ever had is the one I have with my husband, A.  We met when I was seventeen and he was eighteen.  He has been “my person” from the minute he held my hand for the first time.  I would have literally run away with him to Siberia in a heartbeat if he had asked me to!  Through all the years, although like all couples, we have had our ups and downs, he is the one person that I turn to with absolutely everything.  I knew the turning point in our relationship had come when he was the one I wanted when I was ill.  Before that, I wanted my Mom….at the sign of a sore throat, she was the one I called immediately for sympathy.  When I had a tummy bug, I wanted her to stay by my side.  One day, it simply became him.  He was the one I needed.  When I’m sad, I call him.  When I am happy, I call him.  I call him first with every single thing.  When he walks out the door, I miss him after 2 minutes.  I’m never totally at peace unless he is with me.

So at the end of the day, cherish the friends who cherish you.  And move on from those who don’t.

And I can honestly say this:  “The greatest gift of life is friendship, and I have received it”.  Hubert H. Humphrey.

A Teenager….how did this happen?

So my firstborn baby is now a teenager…..the big 13.

Where, I ask myself, whenever he walks past me, where did the time go?

I remember being pregnant with him so very clearly, my much longed for baby.

I don’t know how to do this teenager thing.  I’m afloat on a rubber life raft, with no oars, just drifting aimlessly, with no direction in sight.  I’m just winging it.  Ok, and reading everything I can get my hands on.  But seriously, have you seen how many “experts” are out there?  Each one advocating a totally different view point naturally.  Day to day, I am navigating a minefield….how do I know if I’m making a right decision or raising a serial killer?

I managed to keep this little human being alive and out of therapy for 12 years and then literally a week after his 13th birthday, BAM!  Hormones arrived in the form of pimples.  Now, not having been a pimply teenager for almost quarter of a century, I was in panic mode.  What skincare products were now the rage?  Surely things had moved on since faithful old Clearasil was the product of choice?

I browsed the aisles of Clicks, amazed at the range on offer.  I finally settled on a cleanser, moisturiser and ointment.  I drew the line at toner, because let’s face it, I don’t even have the energy to bother with that.

Arriving home, I sat on K’s bed and explained to him exactly how to use the products.  He nodded vaguely (eyes glazed over, deep in a PS4 online game and barely acknowledged my in-depth instructions).

Everything was fine, but gradually things began to change in our house.  No more bathing with the door open and me being allowed to freely march in and out.  Gone are the long bath time chats with me sitting on the toilet (lid closed – what do you think of me, seriously?).  Nowadays the door is firmly closed, sometimes even locked.  I can understand the locked door – we have a four year old in the house with NO concept of privacy!

Quick toilet sessions for my erstwhile teen are also a thing of the past.  Now he goes in armed with his cell phone, locked door and stays in there for ages.  Yesterday, I forgot he was in there and when I realised that I hadn’t heard from him in a while, I knocked to see if he was alive.  Naturally I got a sarcastic, “yes Mom” in reply.

Gone are also the days when I was the confidante….when Mommy was the one he came to when anything was bothering him and I could impart my wisdom on all issues.  These days any attempt at questioning is met with “I’m fine Mom, stop nagging and asking the same thing all the time!”.

Now let me be the first to admit – I am the clichéd helicopter mother.  I have a need, sometimes psychopathic (!), desire to know everything that goes on in K’s life and micro-manage his whole schedule.  It’s taken a lot for me to have to back off.  Actually to be honest, I just pretend to back off….I actually obsess about what I don’t know or am not able to do constantly.

But aside from the pushing Mommy out of your room thing, it’s the other things that get me…..

I can handle all the above, its only normal teenage behaviour.  Boys pull away from their mothers at this stage – or so every book reckons.

What really gets to me is the moments that I have lost, never to get back again and that I never even knew was the last time I would experience them.

The last time he held my hand when walking in the shops, or across a parking lot, or along the street.  If I had known that was the last time, I would have cherished the feel of that soft little hand in mine, the warmth, and the security thereof.

The last time he jumped into my bed because he had a bad dream and slept wrapped around my body so tightly that I could hardly breathe.  Instead of trying to move to a new position, I would have held him even tighter.

The last time he was sick and he wanted to cuddle on my lap.  Instead of making him comfy on the sofa next to me and trying to get some work done on the laptop, I would have sat with him, cuddled and watched a rerun of his favourite movie for the hundredth time.

When he used to jump into the car, after a day at school and talk non-stop about his day, perhaps I should have listened more, instead of having one part of my brain thinking ahead about some work issue that needed my attention.

However, all this aside, I am immensely grateful that I got to spend more time with K as a little boy than most mothers get to spend with their little ones.  He went to daycare as a baby and toddler, but very early on I was self-employed, so I used to be able to fetch him early and spend the whole afternoon with him every single day.  When he was a baby he would go to my sister or mom when he was ill, but from the age of 4 I was able to keep him home with me when he was ill.

K was also lucky to never have to go to aftercare, I was there to fetch him every day after school and make him lunch and help him with homework.  Most Moms’ don’t have this privilege and I will forever be thankful that I was able to do so.

As this young man of mine navigates life and becomes that man he is destined to be, I am determined to be at his side, albeit unobtrusively, and I hope to be able to guide him to grow into a man like his father – a man who will respect woman, choose a partner wisely, and work well to support his family.

Although we have a daily battle of piled up clothes and dirty dishes in his room, hygiene and responsibility, I know that I am blessed with this son of mine.

This amazing human being, who brings me tea in bed when I am having a bad day.  This boy who randomly comes to me, his Dad and his brother to tell us loves us and hugs us randomly.  Who loves his little brother, who although drives him crazy, K still gives him the time of day, never teases him and spends time teaching him things.  Teenagers are by nature selfish, self-absorbed creatures.  I am blessed that K seems to have a sixth sense when something is bugging someone.

One look and his Dad or I, or hearing an inflection in our voice, he will immediately sense that something is up.  He is that intuitive.

I love this human being.  I loved him before he was born.  I love him every day and I will continue loving him somehow, even if I am not here one day.

People always compliment me on his beautiful eyes.  Seriously, they are stunning, they SHINE (naturally he gets them from his Dad).

I always say it’s because his beautiful soul shines right out of them.  It’s truly the window to his soul.

And what a beautiful soul it is.

besties