The Cheap Man and The Thief

Last Sunday Scrooge Fakeman’s car got broken into. He called me at work to tell me the bad news. As usual I had packed the baby bag with toys, a book, and extra clothing. I put in it the jacket I knit for my son, his sippy cup and his milk bottle.

My ex was using my baby as babe-magnet at his friend/girlfriend when the thief hit. He should have known better, we never used to leave a bag in the car; we have been living in this country for almost a decade. The baby bag and all its contents were gone, and my ex phoned to ask me where he can get nappies. This might seem a strange question to ask, but knowing my cheap ex I directed him to a place that sells nappies singly.. Of course he is too miserly to buy a full package. Next, the “poor” man had to go and replace things.. He bought a bottle and a sippy cup and when he dropped my boy off he gave me  R100 to replace everything else !

Yesterday he came to fetch our son and asked me to pay him R 50 for cat food. He is giving my cat shelter but not board, I guess. He added that babysitting our son last week has cost him so much money (the theft?) and he has all these expenses.. He figures that I can pay up for his stupidity, and next he will want me to support his life of leisure. He hasn’t paid me up yet for the blood tests he did in his last check up. I wonder what he will say when I bring the subject up next.. But come on, if he can remember to charge me for cat food, I have to charge him for the checkups he runs on my medical account.

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Getting Out

It is cold and rainy, but Robert and I still managed to get out today. I wanted to go to the Cape Town Book Fair and I was on a mission to increase my mobility with the baby. I do not have a car, and it is unlikely that I will acquire one any time soon, but I am not going to sit at home with the baby or be confined to the radius of few kilometers around Jackie’s house. The stroller that Ron bought us before Robert was born is a huge and bulky thing. It is a mission to push it around in supermarkets, and a drag to stow it into the boot of a car. There is always an epic struggle to get it in and out of the house, even though we only have three shallow steps at the front.

I have been looking for reasonably priced buggies for a long time. The cheap ones I found were likely to last for a day or two, and the good ones were horribly expensive. My objective today was to visit the shops on the taxi route and maybe buy a mini stroller that I can take on board the minibus or the bus, and thus give myself more flexibility. I strapped Robert on my stomach and got on board a taxi. I think the first time I took him aboard a minibus he was small and unaware of his surroundings, this time it was different. He socialized and “talked” with other passengers and tried to charm a lady into allowing him to take her cell phone, it was really funny. On our first baby shop stop we found what we were looking for, a lightweight Aluminum buggy, that looked easy to fold. I used it immediately and proceeded towards town.

The Book Fair was interesting but a little bit too noisy for Robert. The buggy was also a little uncomfortable, and he started acting up after a couple of hours. I still manged to enter a competition, buy a map book and get a few goodies from the fair. I also met one of the moms from our Moms and Tots class. The trip back home was relatively uncomplicated. I was able to travel on the minibus with baby, baby bag and stroller. Tomorrow I will try to take the bus to the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront. I want to buy a backpack, to put baby’s things in it. Then I will be all set to make some mileage.

The stroller is a pleasure to drive around, and I can’t believe how I ever used that heavy unwieldy pram before. Of course, my little buggy is much more expensive than the big pram. But I always believed that one has to pay good money to get real good stuff. I also love to spend money on little treats; Robert and I shared an ice cream at the Book Fair. I hope that we will cover many more miles together in the near future.

Robert’s update this week:
He can stand by himself now for a few seconds, and watching him is becoming more challenging as he wants to explore everything. He is also beginning to cruise, walk while holding on to furniture. For example he moves from one side of the sofa to the other to get to my cell phone.
On the vocal side he now makes a whooping noise on an indrawn breath, and speaks complex syllables with tongue clicks.

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Reclaiming My Space

Robert’s mom has moved her virtual space. I decided to change the blog address and make it un-googleable. This is now my private space to curse, scream, laugh and cry. The only person who got hurt by leaving it open to my ex and his family was me, and therefore I decided to reclaim it.
Now I can say whatever I like about my ex, but mostly I can grieve in peace, without him eavesdropping or gloating over my sorrow. At times it is very difficult to keep my feelings apart: I am angry, then sad. I am driven by a powerful hatred, then I feel the awful pain of rejection. It is an emotional roller-coaster.

I am still hurting and will continue to hurt for a while. The long nights I spend in front of the computer are devoted to an obsessive search for my ex. I try to find his profile on social networks, so that I might get an inkling of what he is up to. Outwardly though I try to appear as if I couldn’t care less. I did make the decision to stop loving my ex, but sometimes I still miss him, or more accurately I miss the person I thought he was. I have to figure out the extent of my responsibility toward the disintegration of my marriage, and I am desperate for answers. Yesterday I discovered the online presence of the first ex-wife and I had to stop myself from typing her an innocuous email. I don’t know what I am trying to accomplish by contacting her, find answers, revenge or vindication? Maybe one day when my emotions cool down, I will be able to understand my motives. Until then, what I do with the information is irrelevant because the woman I found does not match the unfair portrait he has drawn at the beginning of our relationship.

Although I did reclaim my private virtual platform I do not want to remain a prisoner to the inner dialog of internet ranting. I want to get out and get a life. Towards this end I am going to get mobile and take my son wherever I want to go. Tomorrow will be the beginning of this plan.

Some Random happenings:
– Looks like I do not have sufficient credit rating to get a contract with my cellular provider. I am trying to get a new camera phone without success. Even the cell phone company does not believe that I am a good person. God knows what put me in the dog box this time: My divorce, my new ID number since my naturalization or my poor salary.
– Jackie is a great sport: She took Robert yesterday to get his immunization for the month, then drove me to the wool shop. I bought some delicious new yarns because I want to knit Robert another a sweater and a new jacket to replace the one that got lost on dad’s watch.
– Robert had two injections yesterday, and I expected him to have a rough night, but he handled them better than last time. His weight was 9.38 kg, height 74 cm, and his head circumference is 45cm. He has dropped to slightly below average in weight, but he is still taller than 90% of babies his age. I think I have to feed him more.

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Random Musings / Taking the Fun out of Blogging

The past few days have been a mixed bag of happy, scary and thought provoking events. On Friday my friend Britt took us to the Aquarium, and she gave me a year’s membership card as a present, which I thought was pretty generous and thoughtful. It is sad to observe that I got to see precious little in my previous life as a married woman. My social life, which was dismal during my marriage years might be even improving. My ex is probably doing better as he hangs out with the DINK crowd ( Double Income No Kids) but I have my own circle of mom friends, and we can all swoon over the latest antics of our little ones.

Aquarium was great, and I hope to spend more time there in the future with Robert. He was very taken with the colourful displays and the movement of fish and other creatures. Our first visit was somewhat rushed because we had to chase the little firebrand Demi around. We then met up with Trish and her two little girls, the younger one is a fresh rosebud, only a couple of weeks young. As much as I would loved to have another baby, I do find mothering two or more children a very challenging job. It is the ultimate multi-tasking feat, and I am not sure I could survive it. So maybe it is just as well that I am not likely to have another child. As mother of one, I had some time to look around and take in my surrounding, something that both my friends weren’t able to do very well. There is also the added advantage of my single status; I do not need to be home to for my husband at a specific time. Even divorce has some perks, I can say.
Robert and I had a quiet evening at home, we had supper and then a warm bath. I must have looked away for a split second after I finished putting on his pijamas and getting him ready for bed, and in that split second he tumbled from the changing table right in front of me. I caught him just before he hit the floor, but I was still petrified that I hurt him. I must have checked on him a dozen times during the night.

Saturday went uneventfully at work, and I came home to a very happy baby, I am so lucky to have Lucy. My phone camera has decided to quit on me so I cannot put any recent pictures of Rob’s latest antics. He loves to do what I call the “bench press”; he stands holding on to the bench by the door and squats up and down, especially to the beat of the music. I have noticed also that his repertoire of sounds and syllables has increased dramatically. He doesn’t stop now at the bland: ma-ma, ba-ba, da-da, but adds on complex and guttural tones, such as ag and ach. His latest vocalizations are: whooping on his indrawn breath, and smacking his lips. Jackie and I aren’t yet sure whether the latter is a kissing noise or just a random noise he newly discovered. I think he will soon master a form of a Xhosa click as well, yes perhaps I am exaggerating on that one.

Apart from losing the visual component of my posts, a few things happened on the weekend which sort of took the fun out of blogging for me. Firstly while reading my blog roll I was referred to this article (Writing about your daughter’s toilet-training misadventures could net you $40,000 a month and a legion of fans) in the . The article discusses -and questions- the latest trend of parent blogging, throwing it into a very unfavourable light. The article portrays parent blogging as an exploitation of children and a violation of their privacy. The article quoted some famous parenting blogs, and among them Don Mills Diva, which I read regularly. It was claimed that some of these bloggers are cashing in on their writing and thus exploiting their children for profit, while violating their privacy. The reaction to the article was even more shocking. Some readers commented that parents who blog must get a life, and concentrate on parenting rather than writing about it, others accused parent bloggers of being sick to write about mundane stuff such as toilet training, reflux, and colic. Readers even questioned the sanity of people who such stuff. I know I am not in the league of any of these famous parent bloggers, but I found myself getting indignant on their behalf. I do consider myself normal, and I love reading bloggers’ musings. I also think that some of these dissenters must get themselves a small dose of compassion and humor.
We write about our small children because we are painfully aware of the vulnerability of our memory against the swift passage of time. My baby is growing and changing every day. As his face and personality develop, there are little bits of him that get lost forever. I want to hold all these little bits and preserve them in little snapshots. When I hold my son today, I hold a robust 9 month-old baby, and my helpless newborn is nowhere in sight. Tomorrow, my little baby will make way for a toddler, who will then turn into a young child. My love for my child will grow and change as he grows, and I want to capture its evolution as well. this is – or was- the purpose of this blog. I don’t understand how anyone will find such an activity reprehensible. That said, I am still disturbed by what I read, and I need to question who this blog is written for. Nine months ago it was for Robert, for me, and for the family. Today it is still for Robert, and for me, and I have to keep that in mind. I am free to write what I want about myself, I can relate incidents that make me look like a fool or like a bad mother. Recently I have been writing things that speak of my anger, resentment and hurt. I have to be careful how my child will interpret this writing one day, because I do not want it to colour his judgment. This is the argument for keeping it bland, sticking to safe subject and understatements, but to me this spells dishonesty and censorship, precisely what a blog shouldn’t be.
People like me read blogs and subscribe to them because they help us relate to our mundane and difficult lives. Honest mothers writing about their post partum depressions, their struggle with toilet training and the urge to scream or shake a small baby after a long colic fit help us put our own struggles and failures into perspective. It makes us feel that we are not alone, we are still normal even when we are almost driven off the bend… This could be the little reassurance we need to keep our sanity. When I read a blog I do not want read a sugar-coated version of reality, I want to see what real people think and feel. Real people have real problems, their living rooms aren’t always tidy, they have gray hair and wrinkles, they deal with shy or autistic children; but the bottom line is that they survive, they love their children and find some sort of happiness. Life on parent blogs is not a Disney movie, but it still works, and this is what I want to know.

I had more days of ambivalent feelings towards my ex. He was looking after Robert on Sunday, and around two in the afternoon I got a call from him, where he said there was a problem. I cannot explain the fear and the dread I got when I heard this phrase, so when I found out that someone broke into the car and stole Robbie’s baby bag I felt some relief. Even though the bag contained things that I won’t be able to replace: The jacket I hand knit while I was pregnant, a vest from Mountain Equipment Coop, and a book from Rob’s auntie. There was also an extra change of winter clothes, a sweat-top, a sippy cup, a sun hat and a few toys. Dad did what he could and replaced the essentials (the milk bottle and the sippy cup). Now I have to try and replace the rest. I don’t know how this is possible since I am restricted to walking distances.

My ex apparently also wrote to my family, explaining everything and nothing. Now I am in the unenviable position of being judged and reproved by my own family, as they analyze the mistakes that I must have made in the relationship. I might have made some mistakes, but I wasn’t given the chance to correct them in a professional manner. My ex was never interested in counseling. I am damaged goods now, I believe that marriage is completely overrated and I doubt that I will ever be in another relationship. The only hope I have is to protect my son from this conflict, to let him grow unbridled by my feelings of inadequacy and resentment. I still think that moving away from my ex is the best solution. Maybe then I can have some charitable thoughts about him.

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Precious Gifts

I have a lot to deal with at the moment. The personal difficulties of being a single mother and the emotional difficulties of trying to negotiate some assistance from a reluctant father. The need to ask for help for almost everything, when I always preferred to be the one lending a hand wears me down. At times like this it is important to remember and appreciate the precious gifts I enjoy every day:

* Robert’s first two pearly teeth in a broad grin.

* A taxi assistant giving me back change when I mistakenly overpay.

* My house mate walking down to the shops in the cold to buy Robert new winter track suits.

* A friend reaching out across oceans and time zones with help and concern.

* A kindly word received when needed most from someone I did not expect.

* My parents’ gentle support. The years might have weighed their shoulders, but not their hearts. They still open their arms willingly, ready to embrace us if we need them.

* A woman I do not know smiling and cooing to Robert, then telling me that he is a gift from god, as if she has seen into my heart.

* Knowing that I am blessed, believing that I tried my best, and having no regrets.

* Hope… for a future.

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My ex is tightening the screws on me in order to inflict even more pain. I am past feeling any more hurt from him, but I am getting extremely angry with his low-life revenge tactics. It has been a week since our divorce, and according to our consent papers he is supposed to pay me a lump sum within seven days from the date of divorce. The lump sum is actually my money which I paid over to him last August, and for sure he is sticking to the letter of the law and paying it over, but at the eleventh hour.. seven days almost to the second from the date of our divorce. So today I get this great message informing me that so and so has paid into my account my maintenance and the lump sum. I am now waiting until this windfall reflects on my actual finances.
In the meantime I have all these bills to pay: My rent, the balance of the lawyer’s bill, and many other obligations. Yes, he is doing this on purpose, otherwise why would he pay his portion of the lawyer’s bill immediately and leave me and his son to suffer for the extra week? Yes, he cares, very much.

In my official blog posts I only write a diluted version of the events, and Mr. Fakeman takes pleasure in sending me the poisonous reaction of his family to what I write. Only one family member showed a little bit of understanding to the hurt that I am feeling.
I sent my ex-in-laws a link to some photos I took of my son since I moved out and I copied him on the mail, asking everyone to respect that my baby blog has turned a little personal because of what is happening. My naivety unleashed an avalanche of emails from my ex. He who has mastered the art of ignoring me, whom I have to ask at least twice if I needed him to look after our son, at the times when the nanny isn’t available; started to send me an email every day forwarding me vile comments from his family. They do not know me, they can never judge. And I dare say that they only think they know him.

Last Sunday he sent his family pictures of my son, to mark his nine months birthday. His mother said that mine weren’t half as good. Of course they weren’t. Mine are just snapshots that happened spontaneously. The few shots I was in show me, as an unkempt, tired, and wild eyed woman – not surprising considering my circumstances and the fact that I was holding baby and camera as well. His pictures, in contrast, are carefully staged to look good. His friend/girlfriend must have taken them, so he was able to relax and concentrate on the way the look of “love” should be reflected through the blind camera lens. Yes, the camera doesn’t lie, only he does. I haven’t seen the picture but they were described to me, and since I misread his photos before, I now believe that people transfer their own emotions to the images. Our perception of facial expression are not always accurate, that’s for sure.
Yes, let the whole world know that I am resentful. I am writing this down in order to remember how unfair and fake this man was -and still is- towards me. Because I am the type of person who quickly forgets the injustices they suffer at the hands of others. This time I won’t forget.

On the few occasions he showed up to pick our son, I couldn’t help but notice his fresh appearance, the new haircut and the new shirts. In the meantime I stand before him in my cereal stained clothes, my hair that badly needs styling and new highlights, and my general appearance of fatigue and dejection. For sure he does have enough money for polishing his image, and he has enough money to go on excursions north of the city with his “interesting friends” but he cannot spare the money to pay me and his son our dues in time. I cannot and will not forgive him ever, and god help him if one day I gained the upper hand.

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