This weekend past was spent marking Shakeel's entry into adolescence. Although his thirteenth birthday is still more than two weeks away, he insisted that he wanted to celebrate it during the school holidays.
So after months of him begging and pleading, I agreed to a boys' camp away from home. His dad was secretly ecstatic - he had wanted to go camping for ages, but this had never come to pass, since I was always reluctant to stay in a tent with two-year old Aisha - since not even the brick walls of a building are enough to silence the shrieks this child emits during her hour-long tantrums. I knew that we'd be evicted from any camp site after just one night.
So Mo, while pretending to resign himself to the awful duty of going camping with Shakeel and some of Shakeel's friends, booked a spot at Miller's Point near Simon's Town.
Accompanying them would be Mo's older brother and his son. They would be using a tent which sleeps 8 and two smaller 2- sleepers.
But I didn't care about their sleeping arrangements. Nor did I care about what activities they would be enjoying while away. Nor about their meals. Instead, as the weekend approached, I started to become increasingly apprehensive about them leaving.
I mentioned a while back how much I hate my family being split up when we have available family time (like weekends). I don't even like the kids to spend the night by their grandparents - I can't help feeling as if it is a waste of the time we could have spent together. (Is that selfish?)
When this happens I feel lost and incomplete - as if part of me is missing.
So, in anticipating this past weekend, in addition to me inevitably feeling lost, I also dreaded my time with the three girls who would be remaining behind. I did not look forward to the moans of ''Why does Shakeel have all the fun?'' and ''Now what fun activity can we do'' (since I owed them for allowing Shakeel to have more fun than what they would). Mostly, I dreaded Aisha's tantrums. Although I deal with her tantrums all day while Mo is at work, I am usually comforted by the fact that there is an end in sight, i.e. when Mo get's home at the end of the day. And what would I do if she threw tantrum in the middle of the night (as she so often does these days)? Oh, the horror!!
So on Saturday morning, I walked about the house with an air of sadness, wondering if anyone was appreciative of my laudable unselfishness - putting the desires of my son and his dad above my own needs. When it was time to leave, I greeted Shakeel with a lump in my throat and a forced smile - secretly impressed with my own stoicism. What a mother I was!
I greeted Mo with a hug and a kiss and, as he turned to walk away, I heaved a sigh of relief at my own triumph - my victory over the urge to mutter in his ear, '' This is all your fault! I hate you for doing this to me!'' Instead, I smiled at him through my clenched jaw and quickly went back inside before I said anything which could dethrone me as the Queen of Self-Sacrifice.
My weekend with the girls was everything I'd expected. Thinking that I'd be alone with them, I'd promised them an afternoon of cupcake making and decorating. But when we unexpectedly received visitors (including their little cousins) I spent the afternoon in the kitchen preparing supper. Every few minutes either Tharaa (10) or Nuha (7) would whisper in my ear that I was breaking my promise to them. Although they were having a blast playing with their cousins, they also wanted me to ignore the parents and spend the afternoon with them as promised.
I was on egg-shells with Aisha all the time. My attempts at hiding her dad and brother's departure were thwarted when an over-excited Shakeel ran back into the house to throw his arms around my neck and to give each of his sisters a very dramatic goodbye kiss-and-hug. Since she was unable to verbalise her confusion, she spent the day grumpily clinging to me and throwing the odd tantrum.
She ended up going to bed at 1:45 on Sunday morning.
My mum, niece and unmarried brother slept over. The following morning mum-in-law brought breakfast, enabling us to carry on our weekend tradition of breakfast with rolls, spiced beef and mustard.
While we were sitting at the table chatting, Mo and the boys walked in. Despite it being extremely hot in our neck of the woods, the weather at Millers Point had been icy. It had been so windy that they were unable to pitch the tent - in fact the wind had torn the tent and caused one of the poles of the BORROWED tent to bend. Mo spent yesterday trying to establish the cost of repairing the tent and replacing the pole (before returning the tent to its owner).
So the boys had slept in the cars, while Mo and his brother had attempted to sleep in the tiny two-sleeper. Needless to say nobody had gotten much sleep.
The boys arrived back exhausted. In addition, a few of them returned with diarrhoea. (I suspect that one of them had had the virus before embarking upon their adventure, and then kindly shared it with the rest of his buddies). While all the boys lazed about in the lounge (either playing Playstation or PSP), one of them vomited right there on the floor. Needless to say, Mo took him home immediately.
Despite their discomfort and the fact that nothing had gone according to plan, the boys had enjoyed themselves. In fact, owing to their reluctance to leave each other, two of them accompanied us to our Sunday night prayer gathering. At the end of the one and a half hour long prayer meeting, the boys looked as if they were about to collapse.
''My bum hurts!'' one of them complained (since we sit on the floor for the entire one and a half hours).
''My head hurts!'' another groaned.
''One would think you just came from playing a vicious rugby match - instead of having sat through a peaceful prayer meeting, '' I cruelly mocked.
''Try sitting through a long prayer meeting after having had less than four hours sleep the previous night,'' one of them retorted.
I laughed with glee - not at the three zombies walking toward the car with me, but at the fact that my life had returned to normal - or at least to the level of normalcy to which I was accustomed. My family had been restored. Once again, life was good.