Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Aisha's struggle to adjust at school - and my resultant heartache

It is almost June - almost halfway through the year. By now kids are usually settled into their new schools and routines, have established their friendships and alliances for the year and know who their favourite teachers are.

Last year I remember telling Mo that I wished it was April 2013, because by then, we'd be over the worst. Shakeel (14) would be settled at high school (he started Grade 8 at the beginning of this year) and Aisha (3) would have adjusted to creche/playschool by then. She was of particular concern to me since, until then, she and I had always been at home alone; playing, arguing, crying and laughing. By the beginning of this year she had not established many relationships outside our home - she was even shy of her aunts and uncles whom we see fairly regularly.

Everyone assured me that it would be okay - she'd adjust quickly as children are resilient. Although I have 3 other kids, I had none of my own experiences and memories to draw on, since I was working at the time and, clearly had not been very tuned in to my other kids experiences [I admire moms who are able to do it all]. Either that, or I have just managed to block out some very unpleasant memories.

But, as it turned out, I was right to be concerned. In fact, assuming that she'd be settled by April had been too optimistic an assumption. She still cries most mornings, especially after weekends or holidays. The fact that she is suffering from creche syndrome - getting sick every other week - just makes matters worse, as staying out of school so often makes the adjustment process so much harder.

This happened over the past few days. She was home ill since Friday. This morning (Tuesday) went just as we'd expected - if not worse. She refused to dress at home, so we packed her clothes and bundled her into the car. Upon arriving at the school she started to scream hysterically. Mo put on the car heater and started to warm up her clothes, while I had the unenviable task of dressing a kicking and screaming toddler. Each time I'd put on an item of clothing, she'd pull it back off.

I felt frustrated and sad. My heart broke when, through her tears she kept saying, "Mommy, listen to me - please just listen to me". But what was I supposed to do when all she wanted to tell me was that she really didn't want to go to school. I tried to hug her, but she was hysterical and pushed me away angrily.

I realise that coddling her makes things worse, so - although it breaks my heart to do so - I treat her with firmness. She has this routine where she wants us each to kiss her thrice and then hug her thrice. If it ended there, all would be well, but she then proceeds to ask for more kisses and hugs merely to delay our departure, which seems to irritate her teacher, who is usually holding her by that point.

I am doubting our decision to send her to school. On the one hand, she is okay when I fetch her - in fact last week she was actually upset that I'd come to disturb her drawing and colouring time when I collected her from her after-care class. But, on the whole she really isn't over-enthusiastic about school. When I ask her how her day was, she'll often respond with, "I'll tell you later", which she hardly ever does.

Her sadness breaks my heart

Mo and I discussed the idea of keeping her home, but this doesn't seem to be the right thing to do if I consider how she is when she and I are at home alone. She still refuses to play by herself - she needs me to sit and play by her all the time. Yesterday, she cried each time I left her to do household chores. She wanted me to sit and play with her or read to her all day. She even resisted the idea of us heading outside or to a mall. My concern is not only that I am unable to get anything done with her here (I only made my bed when Mo came home at 17:00 yesterday afternoon), but more the fact that she becomes COMPLETELY dependent on me when she is at home. I am also concerned about the fact that she refuses to go outside with me, preferring to sit indoors and draw, read  or watch movies all day. I often wonder if she is emulating me - since I, too prefer to be indoors than out and about at malls among other people.

Should I leave her be - will it worsen her situation and well - turn her into me? Or should we just power through this? Is this amounting to character development or am I scarring her?

Then, of course, I have to consider whether this school is the right match for her. My other 3 kids loved their time at this school. But perhaps she might benefit from much smaller classes and individual care (there are about 20 - 30 kids in her class), but this might present a strain on our budget. I really don't know.

I am just feeling really sad and despondent this morning. I know that by now she probably is playing contentedly, but the question is - is there something else we could be doing to make her happy?

I just wish I had the answers.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Long overdue post - Birthday weekend (2) - Breakfast at La Rocca and visit to our favourite beach

I know that this post is so late [I'm well on my way to turning 41 already], but I finally have a domestic helper here today, which frees up my morning considerably.

On Sunday morning Mo treated us to breakfast at La Rocca at Canal Walk. I felt slightly guilty at the fat-laden meal I ordered - a mixed grill, which - though not really my style - was simply delicious. I undertook to watch what I ate for the rest of the day.

From the moment we sat down, the kids started an annoying routine - alternating between bickering and sulking. That is, until Mo put a stop to it using his most intimidating voice. He reminded them of how blessed they are compared to so many others; that they had no reason to sulk and be grumpy and how so many children had nothing to eat - let alone sit in a lovely sunny restaurant on a beautiful Sunday morning. This quickly changed their mood and they were back to their chirpy selves in no time, thank goodness.

Later we headed out to the little beach next to Camps Bay beach. We have no idea what this place is called, but this little piece of heaven was always my and Mo's favourite summer hangout in our early marriage. Once the babies arrived though, the steep walk down to the beach unfortunately put paid to our visits to this spot.

So Sunday was really special, as we reminisced about our carefree days lazing in the sun. In fact, I even have a picture taken 4 days before Shakeel (14)'s birth, in which I lay on my favourite rock looking like a beached whale - albeit a very happy contented beached whale.

Although the weather was warm on Sunday, it was not really swimming weather - especially not in the icy waters of the Atlantic. But that did not stop the kids from wading into the water in search of marine life.

For months now (since the beginning of his high school 'career') Shakeel has been really serious and reserved. Very seldomly does one hear his carefree unreserved laughter and this has me really concerned and sad. I know that the pressure of fitting in has been overwhelming. He escapes from all this by playing Playstation or computer games or reading. He no longer spends hours playing with his sisters. I am not sure if this can be attributed  to adolescence or if he is going through something of which I am not aware. Either way, I'm really sad about this.

 But on Sunday, for just a few hours, I had my son back - the little boy who loves animals, exploring the 'wild' and studying wildlife. At one point all four of them built a little pool for a tiny fish they'd come across - the sight of them playing together happily evoked in me mixed feelings of melancholy and joy.


My favourite moments of the day - right here

Tharaa (11) did what Tharaa does wherever she finds herself - executing cartwheels and handstands in the water and clamouring onto rocks.

 Nuha (8) struggled to keep dry as she rolled her pants higher and higher so that she could wade deeper and deeper into the water. 

Aisha (3) quickly overcame her recently-developed aversion to having sand beneath her feet and fully enjoyed exploring the beach. Eventually she too could not resist wading waist-depth into the icy waters.

I had a lovely afternoon - at first reliving distant memories of our carefree days before the kids were born, but then, after watching our kids bond in this place which had been so special to us,  I felt so blessed and overcome with gratitude for the precious moments we were sharing right there - in the present. Alhamdulillah, I cannot thank the Almighty enough for having blessed me with these precious moments with my family and pray that there are many more to come In Shaa Allah (God willing).

And then, as expected, we faced the consequences of having allowed Aisha to wet her clothes, as she moaned and cried that she wanted to go home to fetch dry clothes, but then wanted to leave again for the dinner outing her dad had promised. Needless to say, that was the end of the outing, as we headed home and plonked her straight into a warm bath.

Instead of the promised dinner outing, Mo brought them pizza from Debonnairs, while he and I enjoyed sushi in front of the TV.

I cannot thank my husband enough for creating a birthday weekend so perfectly suited to me. I know that, given the opportunity to have themselves spoiled for their birthdays, many women would have chosen differently - but to me, these simple moments are everything. There is nothing I would rather have done and I, once again, thank the Almighty for granting me a husband who knows me this well and respects/tolerates my uniquely weird character traits and preferences.

I am also so grateful to EVERYONE who sent me such lovely birthday wishes - but especially to my mother and brothers, who - in a nutshell - told me to get over myself and that, instead of whining about my age, I should be focussing on my blessings. Clearly I took their advice to heart and I count them among the graces with which God has bestowed me.

Al hamdu lillah wa shukru lillah, what a lovely weekend! I feel so blessed.

Monday, 20 May 2013

My birthday weekend (1) - eating out and a visit to the Stellenbosch Botanical Gardens

Mo, my long-suffering husband, has long since accepted his weird wife's aversion to attention of any sort. He therefore knew that a birthday party with hordes of people and a huge cake was not really my style - if for no other reason than the significant fire hazard forty lit candles could present.

Also, he knew that the spa day his friends suggested as being the perfect gift, would be wasted on me. I am a simple girl with simple tastes. Give me a breakfast out with my husband/ family and I'm happier than a 12 year old girl at a Justin Bieber concert. Throw in a movie, popcorn and a coke and you can pretty much call it the best day of my life.

So, imagine Mo's disappointment when, a day before my birthday, he was informed that his request for leave from work (for the day of my birthday)  had been denied. I was sad because I had been counting on him to provide me with the much-needed distraction from my entry into the geriatric realm - just kidding, I will grab at any opportunity to spend a day with him doing the breakfast-movie-lunch-roam around aimlessly chatting combo.

But my disappointment was nothing compared to his fury. He ranted and raved about his loyalty to the company; how, when many of his colleagues recently resigned, he had resisted the urge to take up tempting offers at other companies purely out of loyalty to the company and concern as to how they'd cope if he left them at this crucial stage. By Wednesday evening the process of distributing his CV elsewhere had begun.

He therefore decided that, instead of an epic 40th birthday, he'd treat me to a birthday weekend, during which we'd do some of the little things I love doing with some of the most important people in my life.

On Thursday night, the official start of this weekend, we headed out to Canal Walk mall for supper. I felt like indulging my carnivorous desires, so I chose my favourite take-out burger in the world - a Steer burger [The reason I can still confidently say that is that I have not been desperate/adventurous enough to brave the 150m long queues outside the newly opened Burger King in the city centre as yet - I shall wait until the hype dies down and the queues shorten].

Heading for takeout - here I am with mini-me, who insisted on donning her trench coat,  bag and  hijab like her mommy 

On Friday night we headed to Jimmy's Killer Prawns where, once again, it became evident that the older two are no longer the little kids they were not too long ago. In the past, one of the main attractions of dining at this place has always been the tank filled with fish in an amazing array of colours. They'd gape awestruck as these beauties delighted them merely by swimming by.

That night however, Shakeel  (14) spent the evening the way he prefers to spend most evenings of late - glued to a screen. But, this time, I didn't mind too much as he was not watching some mindless movie or playing some annoying game, but honing his creative talents by drawing terrifying pictures of mythical monsters. Tharaa (11) too chose to spend a creative hour by constructing various interesting objects from paper serviettes.

Shakeel (14) and Tharaa (11)

The other two, Nuha (8) and Aisha (3) are finally at the stage where they are willing to play by themselves - or maybe they've just resigned themselves to the fact that this is how things in this family are right now - with their older siblings preferring to pursue their own interests instead of playing with them all the time. This is so sad for me.

Nuha (8) and Aisha (3)

On Saturday we headed out to the little town of Stellenbosch. We had no particular destination in mind, so - as we often do, we bought our lunch nearby and found a place to enjoy it (we usually do this in whichever town we choose to explore). This time we discovered the absolutely beautiful Stellenbosch Botanical Garden, which is a small enchanting space filled with exquisitely landscaped flora.

We sat down to a little picnic before exploring the Garden itself. Mo and I enjoyed our takeout Thai meals while the kids enjoyed an unhealthy McDonalds sharebox.


The kids were fascinated by the fact that some of the beautiful bonsai trees were "even older than mommy!!" So imagine their excitement when they spotted bonsais dating close to the beginning of the Second World War, which made them "even older than Granny!!"

A 40 year old bonsai - "It's sooo old - just like you mommy!" they yelled excitedly/ heartlessly 

The kids loved the khoi pond and were amazed at how huge some of these fish were. This area of the Garden was absolutely beautiful and we could not resist snapping as many pics as we could before daylight faded.

Mo and I

The kids and I

Yesterday we headed off to a little beach, which had been Mo's and my favourite hangout before we had kids. It was lovely but I'll have to share the details with you at a later stage, since - although I'd love to sit and relive my weekend for a while longer - a very messy house awaits me.

Until then

Friday, 17 May 2013

So life began yesterday - apparently

So, yesterday it happened. The day I'd been dreading for a while now. Something that only happens to other people - people who, from the moment it happens to them, become known as aunty, tietie, gogo or tannie.

Yes, I turned 40.

Image obtained here

Part of me was excited - I had heard that 40 was life-changing. In return for the newly-emerging grey hairs, rapidly-spreading age spots and impossible-to-disguise wrinkles, one is rewarded with a self-assuredness and confidence unprecedented, a devil-may-care attitude to the negative opinions of others and the thrill of knowing that life begins at 40.

So today, at 40 yrs + 1 day, I sat down by myself, preparing for a session of introspection - curious to discover whether any of these magnificent promises had miraculously come to pass on this birthday, which is meant to hold so much promise and magic.

 "Do I feel more confident or self-assured?" I asked myself. Hmm, how would I test this? Then it came to me - I clicked on the link for the magazine journalism course for which I so much want to register, but could never bring myself to do, for fear of failure. My cursor hovered over the 'Register here' button, but a tiny spark of bravery was cruelly snuffed out by my still-very-much-alive feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy. So much for self-assuredness and confidence unprecedented, I thought to myself dejectedly.

As for a devil-may-care attitude to the negative opinions of others, that didn't even require much thought. At 08:37 a.m. I had already spent time and energy obsessing over Aisha (3)'s teachers' opinions of me while we carried our child kicking and screaming into the daycare. "I don't care what any of you think," I muttered silently, trying to convince myself that this was indeed the case, while trying to avert my eyes from the stares from teachers and other parents.

All that was left was for me to consider the final thing which was promised to excited 40-year olds the world over - having the thrill of knowing that life begins at 40. But, sadly, that too had been a false promise, for - since yesterday morning - I have been obsessing about my will and the fact that I had not made any provision for frail care/aged care for my twilight years, which are looming threateningly close by. 

So what? No pay-off for the aching joints and deepening frown lines? I still remain as insecure and paranoid as ever?!!! I ran to the mirror - maybe this disappointing revelation meant that, since I was not experiencing the same character development and growth characteristic of other women of my age, perhaps I would be blessed by a physical regeneration instead. 

But, there they were, staring back at me - proudly; defiantly - fifteen grey hairs (and counting), age spots and fine lines - which, I have to admit, include laugh lines. Laugh lines, no doubt deepened by the antics of my four kids and quirky husband. Laugh lines, therefore, brought about by the people I love dearly. Lines, which serve to remind me of the blessings which the Almighty, through His Beneficence, has chosen to bestow upon me. 

And I realise that my physical 'flaws' related to the process of ageing are testament to a life well-lived; my badges of honour and a constant reminder of the blessings with which I have been showered. I should strive to remember this going forward.