Celebrating Freedom

Apart from marking my son’s 20th month today has other implications for me, and for South Africa.  Today would have been my 10th marriage anniversary and it is also Freedom Day here in South Africa.  It marks the first democratic elections in South Africa in 1994.

Last year at this time I was still living with Jackie and although I was not officially divorced yet, she said to me cynically that from now on I can celebrate freedom on Freedom Day. Only my brain got the joke at that time because my heart was still sore, but today I can say that I am celebrating my freedom.

It took longer than I expected for the feelings to completely die, even as late as January this year the emotions still competed inside me, I wanted at turns to hurt, to impress, to punish and to hurt my ex husband. Now I really do not care anymore and the absence of feeling is such a relief.  In the past weeks he came over a few times and visited with Robert here.  And although this prompted me to put some order in our space,  I felt no obligations whatsoever towards my ex, he was visiting with Robert, not with me, so I mostly ignored his presence.

I am glad that I can live for myself and my son. I have arrived to a space where I am self-sufficient and content. I am proud of what I achieved. I can glance back at my previous life as a married woman without bitterness or sadness, because when I go to sleep and holding my son I know that I am holding everything that ever mattered to me.

20 Months : The Chatter Box

I will remember this phase in Robert’s life most as the phase of developing conversation. He is now at the stage where he watches people and things and gives running commentary about what he sees.

The other day I was walking with him at the beach front and one of the information billboards was about seals and how they can be strangled by fishing ropes or even plastic bags if they get stuck in them, since they have no arms to release themselves. I was amazed that he explained it to me by saying : rope hurtin’ seal… I think that his dad showed it to him before. It doesn’t take long for him to register information and new vocabulary. After a brief introduction to pitta and Humus he now regularly asks for : pitta bread (bed) with Humus or pitta with avocado. He also learned the word “cucumber” in one afternoon after filling up on it at his dad’s place.

At night he gives me a run down on his day, or remembers past events. Last night after he mentioned his teachers and his friends in class, he said suddenly : Noma .. gone. Noma is his teacher from last November who left without notice at the beginning of this year. I think his memory and power of observation in already better than mine. He knows exactly where to find certain signs on our daily walk from the taxi stop to the house, and he points without fail the gate behind which the “doggy dog”  is to be found.

It is very hard to fool him as well. While he was sick last week I tried to give him effervescent cough tablets by adding them to his juice. I thought the taste of the juice would mask the medicine, but he always detected it at the very first sip, and gave me back the sippy cup with the single comment : medimed,  so there was no cough medicine for him.  Yesterday he made me laugh when for some reason he flashed back to these incidents as he was enjoying a drink from his sippy cup, and he said : no medimed !

Another amusing behavior he started this week was wearing my slippers and trying to walk with them.  It is funny for me because I remember my younger sister doing that very long ago. He is also starting to get bossy, trying to impose his sense of order on me – for example he tells me to : put cap on.. or  orders : “sunglasses on”, “shoe on”. These orders do not always imply that he wants to go out, he just feels that this is how it should be at a particular time.

Although his development amazes me on some aspects, he is still far behind on the subject of toilet training. He knows what the toilet is for, and he observe me (and other kids at school I believe) while using it – so he knows sitting toilet (toiten), but it is something that other people do at the moment, and he does not associate it with himself yet. So it seems that more effort is required from my side in this area.

Winter For Sure

Today it rained almost for the whole day and Robert and I stayed at home. We listened to oldies on the radio, we built tower, and I tried to knit.. I had soup for lunch and finished with chocolate pudding with custard – not healthful at all. I hate to admit it but Robert liked the pudding and finished almost half the custard by himself, I hope I am not developing his sweet tooth too much.

Just before sunset there was a little break in the weather and we went out to the shops. Shopping used to be uneventful with Robert, but now it is starting to get more interesting because he is now noticing the things that I try not to buy… Today he said again : want chocolate bar (in his own pronunciation) and I successfully diverted his attention until we headed towards checkout, passing through temptation alley, where all the sweets are strategically placed, and then it became a nonstop call for “open chocolate bar.. open chocolate bar” and this time I ignored his whining completely – it was a small whine really nothing like some children’s tantrums I had the misfortune to observe. Yesterday I bought him a nut and fruit bar when he did the same stunt at Woolworths, and he ate it all on the way home. But even though I would love him to eat more I am not turning this into a habit.

Mom and Son Day

Yesterday I battled against another translation deadline, and my efforts in the past two days with this urgent translation ran my body down and I ended up with a terrible case of the flu.

I was excused off my day job for being sick but deadlines know no mercy, and the job had to be out by yesterday afternoon. I was totally exhausted by the time I picked up Robert from school, and I missed out on a beautiful warm autumn afternoon, I simply had no energy to get out with him.

This morning we both woke up refreshed, I think we clocked about 13 hours of sleep. The weather was cloudy and drizzly but we still got out. I visited Lucy at Jackie’s place, and saw her granddaughter Bulelwa there too. I was prepared to talk to Jackie had she been at home, but perhaps it was just as well she wasn’t. Later we went to the shops and I finally bought sunglasses instead of the pair that got broken last year on boxing day. Now I am sure there will be very few days of sunshine in Cape Town. I also bought some hair accessories, plastic bands that hold my hair in place if I want to keep it loose. My ex husband used to hate them and my son broke every single one I had so far so maybe he agrees with him.  One last thing that I treated myself to was lavender foam bath. I know I never was a bath person, but I developped this new love for scented foam baths, and it is also adds a lot of fun to having a bath with Robert making a lot of bubbles and foam.

The shopping trip put Robert to sleep and since I was feeling hungry I treated myself to a burger at a nearby family restaurant. During the meal Robert woke up and had a bite of my burger, and took a liking to my bean salad, which incidentally was also my favourite; he at every single kidney bean, perhaps he was attracted by their purple color.  I should perhaps go more often to this burger place, they have a play area where facepainting is done, and kids get baloons and coloring leaflets as gifts. There is also a girl in the play area who does face painting for the children. Unfortunately I discovered all this while we were about to leave, so Robbie ended up with only the baloon. Maybe next time he will get to appreciate more of the fun stuff, this time he got absorbed as usual in stacking the little chairs in the play area.

Frogs and Beasts

I have many problems in my life, big huge headaches that are not going away anytime soon.  For once in my life though I do not have men problems, I am happy to spend some time completely without the company of a grown man. For the time being I am sure they bring more problems than they are worth. I really, really do not need a man in my life at the moment. My life is so full with my little boy, caring for him, and coping with the demands of his active body and mind, I hardly have time for myself. Besides, I am constantly battling with this feeling of transiency and looking for permanence to our life-style. A permanent home, career, and long-term goal. At the moment there is only Robert for me, and if I was to be honest he is also sufficient as destination and a long-term goal, but humans are greedy, and I do need a little more..

For some reason, however,  some men look at me and figure that all I need in my life is a man to “help me”.  At the moment there are two dear little guys hovering in the background who are trying to convince me that this is what is actually lacking in my life. Although I am always pressed for time I explained to these two separate men that I am not even remotely interested in a relationship. I even went as far as saying that I am actually happy and relieved I do not have a man in my life. Yet each of these men thinks that my mind will miraculously change if I sat with one of them over coffee.

All god’s people are equal, they are in my eyes. But I seem to attract men who are in terrible financial straits.  And I really do not want to talk about my octogenarian admirer, or the elderly workers from solid waste who occasionally try to flirt with me on the taxi. At least these two men are younger than me, one is a refugee, and works for a charity organization. The other is a work colleague but may also be a refugee judging by his messed up country of origin. I have no doubt that each of them is a lovely person in his own right. But I am and old duck, a hard-working, middle-class woman, I do not need to be burdened further by a hard-done by man.  If I were a princess, maybe I would have had the time for the charming penniless fiddler or could have bestowed a loving kiss on a frog. But please, I am almost a frog myself and if I ever wanted a man, then he will have to be a prince who can fish me out of this rut.

Not bloody likely.  The fairy tale world tells us that only male protagonists can risk being beasts and frogs and still be redeemed by the love of a willing princess.   Now if these boys think I am one, then they have a huge problem with their judgement. Then again, I have yet to find one man with a completely sound judgement.


No matter how hard I work I do not seem to be getting ahead.  This does not only relate to small domestic chores and projects, but I am beginning to detect a certain futility in my attempts at getting out of the rut in general. Getting ahead in life and recovering from the setback posed by divorce.

At one point when I was married we owned the place where we lived and we saved our income for something more,  now I am just working to pay the bills. I am luckier than most people, for one I am debt-free, I pay off my credit card every single month, and do not have to procrastinate in payment of rent or school fees.  I can say very proudly that I am doing that without having to rely on the token child support I get from my ex, because that money goes straight into my son’s bank account,  a 30-day account which I am planning to grow into a significant long-term investment for his education.  Given all this, I should be proud of myself and of the astute management of my finances, but sometimes I get mad and resentful against my son’s father, because I know that I let him off the hook easily and he owes me much more that just this measly monthly payment.

I am in a rut because my job and the bank interests are paying off the bills, but there is no growth in sight. The salary will not increase in the foreseeable future as our management blatantly told us – we should actually be glad for having our job and tighten our belts (so that the giant multi-national could recover from making less of a killing than they made last year).  And even if I only spend the interest and preserve the nominal value of my capital, the falling Rand and the inflation is surely shrinking its actual value. I am observing that year-on-year as the price of staples, rent, school fees increase.  The salary which has not been increased will surely shrink in 2010 when deductions for medical aid go up by their usual 10%.

Also, since I am using the interest on my capital to pay my living expenses, I cannot actually afford to put it all as a payment for an apartment.  I have only two obvious solutions: either I buy a really cheap place using half my capital or work full-time for a decent market related salary. There is also the solution of the desperate : Throw in the towel,  pack up everything and go someplace where there is help.

There is no help here, that is for sure. I have arrived to a point where I could not care less about my ex.. I really don’t. But sometimes his lack of sympathy and his attitude of  ” deal with your problems I have enough of mine” makes me want to kick his teeth in.  I always feel that if I had the resources and finances that he has at his disposal I would have at least a plan or a schedule for getting out of the rut.  Instead I am reduced to just waiting for an opportunity to knock me on the head, and this is something that does not happen very often.

In fact I might have missed such a rare opportunity because I allowed myself to be affected by his lack of vision. An apartment was sold in the same block where he has his furnished unit, and it went for exactly half its market price.. exactly half the money I have in the bank. I saw the notice of sale and was tempted to go check it out, but instead I asked my intelligent ex about it. He did not sound too keen, and I let it go. The next time he spoke to me he was berating himself about a lost opportunity, and telling me about the price it went for.

I have calmed down some since my initial intense frustration. Sales in Execution are tricky, and a purchaser has to register before bidding and there are certain procedures. So, there was little or no chance that I could have bought the place on my first foray there, but still. Knowing that these things exist, a window of opportunity for people with a little bit of market savvy. And here is little me trying to get hold of such an opportunity -however passively. While my ex with all his oversees assets sits here, content to work as “project manager” for a solar heating outfit, and paying child support to two households, such a loser.  And to think that I was fooled by the airs he put on for almost ten years.

Playing Catch up … Again

I had so many plans for my time off which started on Monday, but apart from an almost complete thorough cleaning project, defrosting a fridge that closely resembles an ice-age glacier and scheduling long-delayed dentist and ob-gyn appointments,  I managed very little progress elsewhere. Needless to say that my blog is one badly neglected area.

For one thing it seems that I do far more reading than writing, and reading the web has become one major time-suck for me, and my problem is that I am addicted to my reading from Slate, Salon and the New York Times in addition to a number of “selected” blogs in my numerous areas of interest, it is the curse of the curious I suppose.

Apart from this little window for my curiosity and my little ray of sunshine I have a very boring life, so lets move on to the real and metaphoric sunshine.

After a brief cold spell, then a few baking days of 30+ temperatures that are more worthy of summer, the weather has now mellowed into my favorite seasons, the beautiful autumn, we have settled on pleasant mid-twenties with golden warm sun and just a whisper of sea breeze cooling us down early morning and late afternoon.  Perfect day at the park weather.

Robert has come out nicely from a nasty episode of ear infection, flu and cough, but just as I thought we had the worst behind us he started on with an eye infection which I treated with a little of left over eye-drops from a previous episode. Once the eye cleared I decided to keep him home an continue treating the eye with an over-the-counter ointment, because I cannot stomach taking him to the doctor again, we have been there twice already this month.

The teachers at school are all very nice to my little one, and school seems to bring out the sunniest parts of his personality,  giving him a lot of space to his curiosity and urge to explore without allowing him to wreak havoc in the surrounding. Unfortunately I cannot say the same for our home environment, where the limited space and the existence of “adult” tools make it a potentially dangerous grounds. I either have to frustrate his every effort at explorations, or put up with collateral damage. This week’s list include:  Breaking an almost full bottle of my favorite bubble bath, smearing bum cream all over our duvet cover, and of course the very frequent accidents with food.  So I find myself constantly wiping up greasy hand and thumbprints from table, and all baby-height surfaces. The clean-up of my late beloved honey-almond bubble bath was a little less complicated, but at least I got to enjoy a sweet-smelling lounge for a couple of days.

Apart from being a mess generator and a very physically demanding toddler,  I am proud to notice Robert’s developing social and mental abilities. I bet this is the reason why his teachers love him so much, because he is an absolute charmer. One of his teachers said that he learns new words every day, and it does not take long for him either. Yesterday he insisted that I give him “denta foss”. I can hardly remember teaching him the word.

His observation of the world and his surrounding has also improved. When I went to pick him up from school on Monday, he was sitting in the hall in the middle of a row of children, watching some cartoon movie on the large-screen television. He was so absorbed in it, he never noticed me at the door. This is the first time I see him showing any interest in television content, and his teacher said so as well.

He has also taken to watching and noticing what other people are doing. Whereas in the past there were only isolated observations of likeness – I still chuckle when I remember the story his dad told me : Robert pointing out the picture of George W. Bush and saying: dada-  He still does that of course, when he calls any oriental woman he notices : A-man (his name for my neighbor May-Lan). Now he also points out people in action, yesterday morning he pointed out a man walking ahead of us “man walking”, then a woman eating a banana in the minibus : “eating a-bana” and then when she finished “A-bana gone”. I am waiting for the day when he points out potentially embarassing things… He always comments that “bus boken”, but that somehow escaped the notice of the proud taxi drivers/owners.

He might be developing some sense of humor as well. Today I took a picture of him which I called “peanut butter face” and it amused him so much he wanted to see it on the camera time and time again.  The picture of course is cute, but it gives an idea why a toddler mother does not have much time for anything else when the little ones are awake. Yet like every mother I am torn between taking him to school for the day or enjoying his company on my day off.  I am all too aware that these toddler days are very short, so I might as well enjoy them while they are here, mess and all.