Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Tick tock - a cry baby's countdown

Last week Tharaa (10) reminded me of something I'd been trying to forget. ''Mommy, I'm so excited for my school camp next week''.

Oh no. I am such a wimp about my kids spending time away from me. I pine, I weep and feel sorry for myself. Shakeel (13) has been on two of these school camps already. I remember his first time two years ago - I'd stared after the departing bus, eyes brimming with tears, lip quivering uncontrollably, snot suspended threateningly, trying desperately not to start bawling in front of the other parents, who calmly waved to their kids and then proceeded to chat to one another as if it were just any other day. I'd waited until I got into the car before bawling like a baby, sobbing madly at the cruelty of the school for ripping my baby out of the arms of his needy clingy adoring mother.

Then Tharaa asked, ''Mommy, will you cry for me the way you did for Shakeel?'' Yes, the fact that I'd been avoiding the thought of her leaving was an indication of how I felt. But suddenly I felt pressured. What if the morning of her departure arrived and I couldn't cry? What if I felt sad, but only burst into tears once she'd left - would she feel unloved? What if I had grown emotionally since Shakeel's last camp - and am now a normal well-adjusted mommy, no longer emotionally dependent on her kids? (And now I'm trying to ignore the rude laughter in my head).

But I needn't have worried. In fact, my concern should have been that I'd, once again, be threatening to embarrass myself and my daughter. Each time I looked at her as she excitedly queued and chatted with her little friends, I had to clench my jaw and pinch my thigh to distract myself from my threatening tears. ''Stop being such a baby,'' I rebuked myself, but the wimp in me ignored the reprimand and proceeded to tear up, smiling bravely at my daughter, who I am sure, no longer wished for her mommy to express her love through her tears, but by not embarrassing her.

Eventually the bus left. I swallowed the lump in my throat and smiled at parents' jocular comments to one another. ''Be normal,'' I warned myself sharply, '' for just a little while longer''. This time the wuss in me complied, docile and defeated. Resigning myself to the fact that my kids are growing up and embarking upon their own adventures without me. Trying to be happy for them so that they needn't feel guilty for abandoning me. And counting down the hours until the return of my baby - and the restoration of my incomplete and temporarily dismembered family.

Chilling with the birds

Titan, our quaker parrot, has always been free to roam about the back yard. Whenever weather permits, we leave his cage outside with its door open, so that he is able to come and go as he pleases.

For the past few summers we noticed that he'd been getting some visitors. At first, one or two sparrows hopped over to his cage tentatively to share his food. Later his cage became 'the place to be' for all birds in the area. I was surprised at Titan's popularity - he is not exactly the most charming individual. Once in a while I can be seen streaking across the lawn from the washing line in terror, with Titan at my heels - trying to attack me for my audacity at disturbing his peace and quiet. So, it's quite amusing to watch him become the popular kid in the playground - looking all aloof and colourful amongst his duller-looking devoted hangers-on.

In the colder months we moved his cage into the separate entrance at the back, leaving open the door of the building and that of his cage. But this did not deter his posse, who just moved the party indoors.

Once in a while, however, some of his more adventurous groupies, will wander into our house. On many occasions I've entered the kitchen, just to find two (for some reason they always enter our house in two's) sparrows chilling on the counter tops, with an air of casualness - until they spot me, which is when they'll fly about hysterically and aimlessly looking for the nearest exit.

Recently they have been travelling further into the house - the two below actually entered at the kitchen, flew past the bathroom, down the passage and into the girls' bedroom. I found them relaxing on the desk. They then spotted me and then spent the next few minutes trying to find the nearest exit. In their panic they did not realise that the window was closed, so you can just imagine the unfortunate escape attempts they had to endure before I opened a window and liberated them. 


Behind the curtain - with freedom so near, yet so far


Monday, 28 May 2012

Caught - using bum cream as lip balm

Caught in the act!

And - all is forgiven

Living anxiously

''The bow too tensely strung is easily broken''  ( Publius Syrus )

I remember my morning walks to school from Harfield station - repetitively muttering very specific prayers and supplications in a very specific order (selected by me based on the last time I'd said those prayers in that order - and had a really really good day at school). A really really good school day was a day no teacher drew attention to me by making me answer a question. Or worse, if that horrifying situation did present itself, that I might not know the correct answer / might answer the question incorrectly.

I was the loon who kept her eyes focused on her lucky colour (green) and did everything with her right hand - just two of my silly superstitious practices, which I'd hoped would ensure my protection from unpleasantness at school. I had no clue that my religion forbids superstitious practises - in any event, at the time, I did not see it as superstition. To me it was a tried and tested method to ensure that I'd get through the day - painlessly. They were concrete steps providing the illusion of control over the terrifying paralysing anxiety from which I've suffered since I can remember.

Now this is probably the point at which you might be expecting me to launch into an inspirational story of how I overcame my anxiety, or perhaps a more practical ''how to'' guide, providing useful tips as to how I successfully dealt with this problem.

Sadly, I am not able to do so - I still have knots in my stomach each time I have to go out in groups of people. In fact, this even extends to family gatherings now - in the past these gatherings had been a safe place - a comfort zone.

I panic when the phone rings, as I have no idea what uncomfortable situation might be waiting for me on the other side.

I get knots in my stomach before I drive - I still resort to the old 'say selected prayers in a specific order' routine. I'm still afraid that failure to do so will result in something bad happening on the road - and then very often it does. Most likely as a result of the Law of Attraction - obsessively focusing on the occurence of such unpleasant event, often causes something negative to materialise. [ A negative event could be someone hooting at me, or even a dirty look from another driver/ pedestrian].

I admire / envy calm people. I admire people who couldn't give a damn about what others think of them. To me, someone's negative opinion of me is sufficient to ensure a series of sleepless, restless nights.

Someone told me that there is medication to deal with anxiety. But I'm a bit mule-headed about that - I don't want to rely on medication to feel normal. I just want to be like other people - able to function and interact without almost falling apart.

Strangely, I was always able to cope well with work pressure. I even thrived on it. It's 'people pressure' that I cannot handle.

Although anxious by nature, I tend to have bouts of increased anxiety now and then. These are usually triggered by an extremely stressful / negative event, the trauma and effects of which permeate throughout my being for a while thereafter. Two weeks ago a huge truck swerved into my lane without indicating. I narrowly escaped being hit. Aisha (2) was in the car with me. I have been re-living the moment since then, tormenting myself with the various horrifying scenarios that could have played out. I've been losing sleep and suffering from nightmares when I do manage to sleep. Getting into the car now has me anxious - driving a few blocks to drop the kids at madrassah has me shaking like a leaf. I feel so out of control.

This event has resulted in heightened anxiety in every aspect of my life. I am just not coping well with even the most basic demands in my life. The girls' formal assessments and Shakeel (13)'s examination, which are at present the main focus areas of our household, have become overwhelming for me. Meeting people (even unthreatening family members) has me feeling anxious - a rude remark made by a family member last week - which normally would have upset me slightly, now has me feeling overly hurt.

I find that going to gym helps tremendously. It calms me and takes me to my happy place. But, unfortunately, it's effects are short-lived. I need my regular fix in order to maintain my feel-good state of mind. But, getting to gym regularly would require me to get into my car and navigate a very tricky interchange - bounding with potentially unpleasant experiences (and huge trucks) and, hence, more anxiety. Notice my catch 22?

I focus on everything for which I am grateful. I try to stay in the moment - attempting not to worry about unpleasant past events nor to anticipate future problems. I remind myself to trust in the Almighty, as the solution to all my woes rests with Him. And that my constant worrying is of no use, neither as a solution to existing problems, nor as a means to avert future obstacles.

And perhaps I'll get some Rescue Remedy, which I'm told, works wonders for anxiety and hypersensivity.

''Every faculty and virtue I possess can be used as an instrument with which to worry myself ''. (Mark Rutherford quotes )

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Remembering the days of juggling work and pregnancy

 Cartoons About Mothers: mom, mommy, mother's day, motherhood, parenthood, parenting, maternity, vomit, throw up, barf, morning sickness, pregnant at work.

[''If you plan to stop working to have your baby, please do it during a coffee break and try not to disturb your coworkers.'']

Images obtained from this link

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Who's fooling whom?

On Saturday night, on the way home from our family gathering, Tharaa (10) said, ''Why, oh why does it have to be Monday tomorrow? I really don't feel like going to school tomorrow!!''

She and Shakeel (13) exchanged wicked knowing glances, waiting for the obvious response from Nuha (7), ''But today is Saturday. It's not school tomorrow - tomorrow is Sunday''.

But the diabolical duo persisted, '' No, silly. It's school tomorrow. Today was Sunday''.

The argument continued for  the entire night, with the older two deriving much delight from their little sister's bewilderment.

So much so, that they awoke Nuha on Sunday morning and urged her to get ready for school. Snickering, Shakeel got dressed in his school uniform, while Tharaa - who could not find her school uniform in the chaos inside her wardrobe - pretended to be sick, and thus unable to go to school. She was however more than willing to help Nuha to get dressed in her school uniform and ready for school.

They ushered the poor thing into my bedroom to greet me, before supposedly leaving for school. Their glee, at what they undoubtedly thought was an extremely well-executed and successful prank, annoyed me. As Nuha leaned in to kiss me, I whispered in her ear that it was not school and that this was just a silly practical joke.

Smiling, she leaned in and whispered in my ear, ''I know''.

The little darling had been allowing herself to appear to be the unwitting foolish victim of their roguishness - all for the purpose of providing them with the entertainment and cheap laughs they so desired.

And suddenly, she was not the one looking foolish.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Reconnecting with my roots

Since my father's death in 2000, I have been guilty of neglecting his family - his brothers, sister, nephews and nieces.

Thus I was really looking forward to the family get-together, arranged to take place at my cousin's place late yesterday afternoon.

It was an easy-going affair - upon our arrival my cousin had laid the table with various cakes - with the iced cupcakes being a firm favourite with the children (endearing my cool cousin to them forever as the 'cool aunty', who allows them to feed on cupcakes just before supper time).

We sent out for take-aways, allowing us all the time to catch up on months passed and important moments missed (instead of having to fuss about in the kitchen preparing meals - a brilliant idea!). We chatted about our kids, husbands, ourselves. We chatted incessantly - compressing months of information about ourselves and our lives into a few hours. Determined to fill every gap in the other's consciousness with information about our lives we absolutely had to share, and to glean as much information about each others' comings and goings - in the limited available time. Just imagine the incessant raucous babbling of over-excited voices - delighted to be in each others' company. Feeling at home amongst people whom most of us have known since birth, with whom most of us had grown up - the sum of whom defined us.

I learned about one multi-talented cousin's hairdressing business, the health concerns of another's daughter. About one amazing cousin-in-law's approach to dealing with grief after suffering the most intense loss imaginable. That another's son (who I still see as a little boy) is now coaching soccer. I observed what an amazing mommy one cousin was - she spent every second doting lovingly on her little boy.
 I learned that one cousin reads this blog after she's put her kids to bed for the night (Yikes!)

I stood by the stove learning the correct viscosity of the syrup used to glaze doughnuts and koeksisters. I learned that it cannot be measured - it has to be felt. Yes, my skilled cousin, poured some syrup onto my inept fingers, making me feel the correct viscosity. I suppose that mastering this art comes with practise.

Standing by the stove waiting for water and sugar to turn to syrup, I laughed heartily as two of my physically well-endowed cousins told how they use their bras to store important notes and other items they might need to access quickly. One told of her son's horror as she pulled a cell phone out of her bra and handed it to him to use. Oooh, I was so jealous - I have to use a handbag.

I had the most enlightening discussion with my aunt. This woman, who uses her self-deprecating humour to make others laugh, amazes and inspires me with her wisdom. We spoke about finding peace and contentment in times of adversity. She spoke about loving one's kids and loving one's daughters and sons- in-law as if they are one's own. This made me realise that I might have to slightly amend the terms of the agreement I'd reached with Shakeel (13) when he was about six years old - that he'd never marry or, if he did, his wife would sleep by our feet while he lay in the arms of his adoring mommy. I left that discussion with much to ponder and contemplate.

I had an interesting discussion with my aunt about my family tree. We were told about about one of our ancestors, who had been a bit snooty (and possibly not very popular, as a result), but who had married the most delightful man. So while most of the family takes after the down-to-earth father figure, there have been a few who have inherited the snootiness of the female ancestor. At this point, not only did eyes fall on me, but some of my more outspoken cousins actually pointed their fingers at me and said, ''Yes, this one - she's really stuck-up''. At which point I had to set the record straight, saying that my shyness and social awkwardness has often been misconstrued as aloofness.

I learned about how my paternal grandfather's mother, who had been a young Afrikaaner girl from the then South-West Africa, had left her family to marry my Cape Malay great-grandfather. And how, a few years later, her brother had come to instruct her to ''los die goed'' (leave these things) - referring to her husband and kids - and to return home to claim her share in their ostrich farm and the rest of their estate. When she refused, she was disowned. I was saddened at what must have been an agonizing situation for my poor great-grandmother - being rejected by one's family because of the race of one's spouse and kids. On the other hand, I was amazed that my dad had cousins in Namibia whom he had never even met.

I was sad when it was time to leave. But not as sad as Tharaa (10) was, as they had just started with the karaoke (and she just loves singing). She made me promise that we'd return to the fun Aunty's house soon.

Being with my family has made me realise how I've lost touch with who I am and where I've come from. And how serious my life has become. Last night I, once again, experienced unbridled, carefree and unrestrained laughter.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

A contemplative 39th

39. My last birthday as a thirty-something. Embarrassingly - and very unexpectedly - I awoke feeling really sad.

Not for the obvious ''What do I have to show for my 39 years?'' or ''I haven't accomplished what I'd set out to'' - having four kids truly makes me feel more blessed than I'd ever thought possible. My sadness seems to be rooted in a deep nostalgia - a grieving that the past has passed, never to return. Despite my awareness and belief that there is still so much to be experienced.

My sadness is making me feel guilty. Ungrateful. At least I've made it thus far. So many people, who had been my age, didn't - Faghmi Smith, Gary May, Gadija Abbas etc.

I think back to my 20s. A period in my life when stupidity ruled the day; when bad decisions were made, the wrong people trusted. Yet, a time still filled with so much hope and (often misplaced) faith in others. Intense emotions - a spillover from my delayed adolescence. Happiness. Sadness. Hope. So much hope.

From my 20s to my mid-30s - wasting so much time thinking about what I should have done, could have done - instead of seizing the day there and then. Spending too much time caring about what others were thinking of me, saying about me - instead of spending every precious second savouring, capturing and revelling in my time with my babies. Moments lost - never to be retrieved.

My mid-30s - a HUGE epiphany. An ugly, rude awakening - resulting in a spiritual and emotional journey which taught me to survive grief and sadness by taking the time to appreciate, to savour and to enjoy every blessing granted by the Almighty.

Blessings comprised of the little things - thoughtfulness on the part of Mo, an unexpected hug and kiss from the Shakeel (13) a heartwarming note of love and appreciation from Tharaa (10), a goodbye/ hello kiss from Nuha (7) during which she has to be pried away from me or giggles and kisses from Aisha (2).

Craziness on the part of the kids - like this morning when I stood in the driveway to see them off, the car doors were simultaneously flung open, as the occupants leaned out and delivered a loud (and rather drunken-sounding) rendition of ''Happy Birthday to you''. Or Shakeel's birthday card in which he pasted pictures of my family and loved ones - of Mo posing beardlessly, of him (Shakeel) holding a newborn Aisha, of Tharaa pulling a funny face, of Nuha smiling sweetly - and of Michael Jackson doing a signature Michael Jackson pose. They really know how to make me smile.

Already I'm feeling better and more contented. (Making sense of one's emotions by writing them down is one of the benefits of blogging). Not even a grumpy Aisha yelling and screaming, ''It's MY birthday, not mommy's!'' will disturb my peace of mind or minimise my gratitude for my 39 years of blessings.


Monday, 14 May 2012

A lovely Mother's Day from my quirky kids

I might have mentioned previously that my kids have a flair for the dramatic. This quirky tendency reflected adorably in the presentation of their Mother's Day breakfast.

As usual, I had forgotten that it was Mother's Day. I had not noticed the hustle and bustle up and down the passage, past my bedroom where Aisha (2) and I were lying on the bed, lazily chatting.

When we eventually rose for the day, I heard a loud whisper from Nuha (7), ''Guys, it's Mother's Day! How could we forget?''

She then approached me, throwing her arms around me, ''Happy Mother's Day!'' she said and started to play with Aisha and joke around with me. Little did I know that she was the devious decoy - sent to keep me from noticing what was happening behind the scenes.

After a few minutes, Mo called me, telling me that there was something I should see in the garden. That was apparently the extent of his involvement in the planning.

Stepping out into the garden, I was so surprised and impressed by what awaited me. In the middle of the little lawn was a single table, laid with my favourite breakfast - eggs sunny side up, pan-roasted veggies, garlic bread, homemade orange juice (from the tree in the front garden, which bears fruit that look like lemons, but taste like oranges) and green tea. For dramatic effect, there was a fire in the pathway adjacent to the table and a tall singular candle, making my meal look rather classy. (I really wish I had had my camera at that point to capture that moment). Up on a chair stood Tharaa (10) , the queen of melodrama, theatrically holding a black rain umbrella to shield me from the sun, while I enjoyed my breakfast. (This was later replaced by a more sensible, but less interesting beach umbrella).

I wished that I could be both enjoying the spectacle, as well as recording it on camera. It was beautiful, special and bizarre - all at the same time. Eventually I started to feel uncomfortable with being served, so I asked everyone to join me - especially the domestic worker, Elizabeth, who is the mother of two kids, who had been left behind in the Eastern Cape while she came to work in Cape Town. Elizabeth smiled shyly as the kids served her and giggled as Aisha kept her entertained with her version of a conversation (including the most delightfully-pronounced English words intermingled with the most baffling - but equally delightful - gibberish).

Mo and John (the previously-homeless guy who now lives in a tiny section of our back living quarters), carried out another table before joining the kids, Elizabeth and me for breakfast. The kids insisted that our other family member, Titan - our quaker parrot - join us. However the latter was grumpy - he is not much of a morning person bird - so he absolutely refused to step up onto Mo's hand to be carried to breakfast.

John entertained us with stories about him and Titan - and how they'd managed to catch a mouse together. He is such a skilled storyteller - to act out their (his and Titan's) victory over the shrewd mouse; he stood up while giving a blow-by-blow account of the moments leading to their victory. He ducked and weaved, all the while holding imaginary conversations with an imaginary Titan and then eventually pounced on the poor imaginary mouse, who just had not stood a chance against this formidable pair.

(Above) All of us, except Shakeel (13) who had been the event co-ordinator and photographer (and who had sat on the wall like a monkey to take this picture)

John, in a more docile moment, entertaining us with a story

We lazed around for the rest of the morning. For lunch, we headed out for pizza, but abandoned our plans to eat in a park, as the clouds had begun to gather and the temperature started drop at an alarming rate. Instead we enjoyed our meal sitting in the car, overlooking the waves at Mouille Point. The kids leaped out as soon as they'd eaten - to examine whatever marine life had been washed ashore. They found what appeared to be the skeleton of a sea-horse (but I'm not so sure) and a spongy star-shaped organism (I have no idea what it was, but it looked pretty).

The kids then insisted on a few minutes in the park / playground. Despite the drop in temperatures, the Mouille Point Park /playground was packed. Since I was already shaking like a leaf, I used sleeping Aisha as an excuse to remain in the cosy warmth of the car.

I had such a lovely day. The kids were well-behaved and happy (for the most part). Their effort in making my day special, had been touching. I was really relaxed, contented and happy.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Tharaa gets dealt the race card

Shakeel (13) has always been the type to have a best friend - he's always wanted or needed to have a special friend, to whom he'd show undying loyalty. Tharaa (10), on the other hand, has always been the type to flit from friend to friend, clique to clique - as the fancy took her. She's been this way since creche and I must admit that this has worried me in the past - would she be able to commit, show loyalty or receive the benefits that come with having a deep friendship?

So, when the kids started madrassah (islamic school) a few weeks ago, there was no reason this should change. Tharaa chatted to one girl / group of girls the one day and then moved on to the next the following day - just as the fancy took her.

This has never been a problem for her - until last week, when, instead of chatting to the same two girls from the previous day (let's call them X and Y), she started to spend time with Q. This is when X and Y levelled the accusation, which completely baffled, horrified and devastated Tharaa.

''You don't want to play with us anymore because we're black,'' they concluded.

No amount of explaining, defending or arguing could get the girls to change their minds. Tharaa got into the car close to tears.

To understand how bizarre that accusation was, one would need some background about my kids' exposure to race and racism.

During apartheid, public schools were racially exclusive - black children could only go to black schools, white kids to white schools, coloured kids to coloured schools - you get the picture.

Since the fall of apartheid, schools have opened up and admission criteria are no longer racially -based. They include instead criteria like affordability, area in which the learner resides, etc.

My kids attend a formerly whites-only school which is based in a formerly whites-only area. The school constitutes kids of all racial groupings - funnily enough, with white children now making up a tiny minority. (I have absolutely no idea where the residents of the area - who are still predominantly white - are enrolling their children).

Shakeel and Nuha (7) have been at this school since Grade 1, while Tharaa did her pre-school year at the school as well. They have had friends of all racial groupings since the beginning. It has been really interesting to observe how, compared to us (the products of apartheid) they are completely (racially) colour-blind.

I have always wanted to keep them this way - innocent and naive - when it came to the issue of race. However, I knew that I could not bury my (and their) head (s) in the sand and keep them in the dark about such issues. Doing so would deny our past, which would in turn, fail to honour those who had endured and sacrificed to enable our kids to enjoy the benefits which they do today. Denying/ignoring the past would also mean that the kids would not realise how far this country has come in such a short time - it is so important for them to appreciate what they have today and to realise that the rights they enjoy today, were born from much pain and sacrifice of the previous generations.

So, a few years ago, while watching a documentary on our apartheid past, I took the opportunity to explain to Shakeel the concept of apartheid and racism. He was baffled. Why did the bad guys (apartheid government) hurt people just for being a certain colour? Was he black?

I have to tell you - my heart broke, as I felt that with each bit of information, I was destroying his innocence bit by bit. By introducing the concept of race into his consciousness, I was effectively eradicating his colour-blindness and making him see beyond the person him/herself - but see their race. I doubted whether I was doing the right thing, but once it had been uttered, there was no turning back.

What amazed me was his question, ''Do we know any black people?'' I did not want to answer that question. I did not want to draw his attention to the race of some of his best friends.

Then came the question, '' Is Tharaa white?'', which necessitated a brief discussion on colonialism and how white people had ended up in South Africa, which naturally was followed by, ''Do we know any white people?'' This one was tricky - I was concerned that telling him that one of his close friends was white could make him view the child negatively in the light of the information with which I had just provided him. But he distinguished between the bad guys (the apartheid government) and the white children who were his friends. ( Thankfully, I did not have to get into a discussion about the supporters of apartheid who were not part of the apartheid government).

After that discussion I felt guilty; like I had tarnished the innocence of a child forever. Thankfully though my older two kids have this annoyingly superior attitude when it comes to comparing their youth with mine. It seems like telling them about issues which we had faced - like apartheid, corporal punishment etc, has led them to view their generation as more evolved than what we are. They do not think like us, I'm often told.

Questions like ''Was the girl who won the prize at your school black, coloured or white?'' (often posed by older members of the community, whose apartheid-scarred minds are sadly still unable to look beyond racial classifications) are met with horrified gasps by my kids.

To my kids, the apartheid government and racists are bad guys - akin to Lex Luthor in Superman, the Green Goblin in Spiderman. Thank God for the end of apartheid. Good riddance to bad rubbish. To them, the apartheid government and racists were evil - thank goodness they belong to a different time.

So, Tharaa being accused of not wanting to play with someone because of their race, had me filled with fury - because to my child, she had been likened to the vilest, most unlikeable bad guys - the kind who had actually existed, who had negatively affected the lives of her parents, grandparents and countless others.

''I told them I'm not that stupid,'' she kept repeating. Because to her racists are stupid - choosing to play / not to play with someone because of the colour of her skin is stupid. (For her, a more valid reason to dump one friend for another would be if the latter had a Tinkie).

So when she reluctantly returned to madrassah, she was surprised to find that the issue which had plagued her, had become a non- issue. Life at madrassah was continuing as normal. X and Y had forgotten what they had said to her. And this made me furious.

They had spoken those words so lightly and easily, even though it had been completely unsubstantiated. It had just been a convenient, easy explanation for why she did not want to play with them. Not for a second did they consider that there might be an alternative reason. They had jumped straight for the race card, with awful emotional consequences for my daughter.

As a Muslim person, I always become annoyed when some Muslim people regard any and every negative comment as Islamophobia. Sometimes the reason one does not get a job is that one was not qualified enough; or if someone did not smile at you, they may be having a bad day. Yes, Islamophobia and racism as a whole are very real - and sadly, are practised daily. But levelling accusations of either should be based on proof and not paranoia.

On the one hand, I am furious with X and Y for causing my daughter such grief. On the other, I feel sad that they have to be so defensive when it comes to their 'race'. Could this be a result of racism which they are actually experiencing from kids at school? It is so sad that this ugly concept has to be at the forefront of their consciousness - at such a young age.

Later, when I asked Tharaa why she didn't just tell them that one of her closest friends in her class is black, she asked ''Who?'' - she had not even registered what the race was of her friend, whom she just regards as 'the clever one'.

We drew a valuable lesson from this experience: how harmful it is to judge in the absence of evidence. This incident has also reiterated the importance of weighing one's words before uttering them and paying particular attention to how they will impact on others - once words have been uttered, they are impossible to recall and the resultant damage is often very difficult to undo.


in the silence

you wish to take

two steps back

inhale your words

(by award- winning poet Gabeba Baderoon from ''A hundred silences'')
Baderoon, Gabeba, ''Fight''. A hundred silences (Kwela/Snailpress 2006), pg 28

Monday, 7 May 2012

The million dollar question

Yesterday Nuha (7) voiced what had been bothering her since the incident on Friday night (when our car window had been smashed in while we were driving, injuring Shakeel (13) ).... (described here)

‘’Mommy, can I ask you a question?’’ she asked.

‘’Of course,’’ I answered, expecting her to ask for some assurance that the incident would never recur.

‘’What happened to the duck?’’ she asked.

I was confused. ‘’I don’t know what you are talking about, sweetie,’’ I responded. 

‘’The duck that hit the car. Remember, when we heard the loud bang, daddy shouted ‘’Everyone duck! Duck!’’ Did they ever find the duck that hit the car?’’

Thank goodness she saved that question for me and not for her older siblings, who would have mocked her cruelly and incessantly.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Shakeel injured; kids traumatised - once again the victims of crime

It was expected to be a wonderful night. In fact, it had started out that way. On Friday night Mo, the four kids and I decided to take the kids' two grandmothers out for supper - Mo's mum and mine.

Not even the uncharacteristically leathery unchewable meat at our favourite curry joint could dampen the spirits. The kids were bursting with excitement to have both their grannies with them - while the grannies themselves took turns whispering to each other and giggling like naughty school girls (many of the jokes causing Mo and me to cringe while pretending not to hear).

Mo decided to drop my mum off first - she lives the furthest away and he felt it preferable to drop his mum off on the way back home.

After saying our goodbyes we headed toward Strandfontein Road, as it was the quickest route to Mo's mum's house. We had just turned into that road when we heard a deafening bang, which sounded exactly like a gunshot.

We knew that something had hit the car - we just did not know what.

''Everybody duck down! Duck!'' Mo yelled. At that point we had been convinced that a shot had been fired and that the car had been hit. A few seconds later an even louder, more terrifying bang could be heard - followed by shattering glass. The kids screamed hysterically - my blood ran cold as I heard Shakeel (13) whimper. He had been lying sleeping in the back corner of our mini-van (which has 3 rows of seats - he had lain in the left had corner of the 3rd row).

''My back,'' he groaned. ''My back hurts''. He climbed forward to the second row, where Mo's mum inspected his back. There was no blood - it seemed as if the pain was being caused by the miniscule fragments of glass which had penetrated his back. Mo got out to inspect the cause of the incident. By that time there was no-one in the bushy grass alongside the road.

Tharaa (10), who had been sitting on the other side of the back row, sat picking pieces of glass out of her hair. Both she and Shakeel were understandably shaken up and therefore opted to climb into the second row and sqeeze into the available space.

The kids were terrified; feeling insecure and anxious. Mo's mum tried to lighten the mood by informing them of how sweet Aisha (2) had been immediately after the incident when, filled with concern, she had asked, '' Tharaa, are you okay?''

But the kids remained afraid. Mo was quiet - I knew that he was furious. I understood the fury one feels when one is a victim of a crime.

It appears that someone had hurled a rock against the window, which was the first bang we heard. This only managed to crack the window- possibly because of the tint we had put on all the windows last month to protect the kids from the sun. The second bang we heard had been the result of a brick which had then been hurled against the same cracked window (possibly by a second person). Mo found this brick in the car. It had caused the window to fall out - it seemed as if the pieces of glass were being held together by the tint.

Mo even found pieces of glass in Aisha's baby car-seat, which means that the glass had flown into the the second row of seats (behind the driver's seat) on the opposite side of the car. Yesterday he found more glass behind the steering wheel just under the speedometer! Shakeel is also still bruised, as the part of the brick had hit him on his back.

The kids were visibly rattled. I ranted and raved about leaving the country. I insisted that Mo check the Skilled Occupations List of Australia - I wanted to move as soon as possible. I looked over at my kids who were all sitting huddled together under a blanket on the sofa. And then I realised that we were incredibly incredibly lucky. Alhamdulillah (Praise be to God).

I went to sit by them. They told me that they were afraid. I calmly told them that we had been protected. If God had intended for us to be injured, it would have been so. How fortunate we were - firstly, the tint, (which we had only put on a month ago) drastically minimised the impact of the brick once it hit the window. Secondly, despite Tharaa's attempts to awaken Shakeel, he continued to sleep like a rock - seat reclined with his back facing the window. If he had been sitting in his usual upright position, he would most certainly have been hit in the face.

I shudder to think of how close we had come to a really awful situation. If the window had not been tinted and Shakeel had been sitting in his normal position - I shudder to think what the force of that brick entering the untinted window would have done to his face. The tiny fragments of glass we were picking out of his back could very well have been in his eyes.

الحمد لله والشكر لله (All praise and thanks be to God).

I have had moments of anger at the perpetrators - especially when I see how shaken up my kids are. I do believe that what goes around comes around. I'm not wishing ill on anyone, but I do believe in Divine justice. But I don't ponder upon those feelings for too long; doing so would detract from my gratitude - at having being blessed and protected.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

It's like living in a cave!

Since just after the birth of my two-year old, spending time on the internet has pretty much been the salvation of this stay-at-home mum. It is my primary (and preferred) method of keeping in touch with other people.

Embarrassingly, I have become quite hooked on keeping abreast of the statuses of my facebook friends (Don't judge! You don't live with my two-year old tantrum queen, the stress of which forces me to resort to escapism in other people's lives). Which is also the reason I enjoy reading blogs - to escape, to learn, to laugh, to find people with whom I can relate, but mainly to be inspired.

And then, of course, there's updating my own blog, which I really enjoy doing.

Recently, however, my Cell C data bundle was depleted and we felt that we'd try a more affordable alternative. So after looking around, Mo opted for the 8ta bundle - which was a brilliant option. Unless you live in our house.

We have discovered that we are now able to get internet reception from ANYWHERE ON THE PLANET except from within our house. I take my laptop onto the porch and am able to receive lightning-speed internet, but the moment I step back inside it disconnects. It is so frustrating!

Yesterday morning, in a moment of desperation, I went out into the front garden and sat crouching upon the wet grass - to check Facebook. I also took my laptop along when I fetched the kids from school, to access Facebook and my favourite blogs while waiting for them in the car.

This morning I even considered taking Aisha (2) along with me while I checked the internet in the comfort of the car - in the driveway. But fortunately sanity prevailed and my poor baby was saved from having to brave the cold for the sake of her mother's crazy addiction.

But I do miss updating my blog regularly. I find myself standing in the shower (where many of my blog posts are formulated), and giggle at potential blog ideas - which, sadly, will never see the light of day. Because by the time I manage to connect to the internet to post them, they would either have been forgotten or their moment of relevance would have passed.

We experienced the same problem when we changed our telephone service provider to Neotel (I once lost connection 6 times within a twenty minute conversation - which necessitated me calling back each time). We are able to get reception on our portable Neotel phone from the houses of family members, but not from our own house. But that does not really bother me, as I am not really a telephone person. I prefer chatting by email or gtalk. (Yes, I know how bad that sounds).

So despite having had the problem with our phone reception as well, it is only now that I cannot access the internet from this house, that I have considered moving. To a house with 3 bedrooms, a fully-fitted kitchen, spacious grounds - and, most importantly, internet access.