My Little Boy Turns Five

I received my last age-based email from BabyCentre today. The site congratulated me and Robert on reaching this great milestone. The implication was that the parenting journey is still long but it can now be enjoyed at leisure, as the years rush by and the little boy slowly evolves into the man he is destined to become. Robert was just a tiny bean when I registered to receive weekly updates, describing in breathtaking detail every development my tiny yet unnamed baby has achieved, deep within the warm darkness of my womb. I would read them with a sense of wonder, grateful at my ability to procreate and nurture, after years of hardly daring to picture myself as a mother.

Shortly after Robert woke up today his father called from South Africa. Lest I confuse myself endlessly with this unexpected generosity, he was quick to explain that he was calling from an office internet phone. He pointed out that he can hardly believe it has been five years. Reminisced about the first time he saw Robert, just before he gave his first cry.  “I remember the doctor saying, what a serious little guy”, he said, “Do you remember that?”. I had to make him repeat this over the static of the line, and then told him honestly that I never heard that, immobile from the waist down as I was, with my head at the opposite end of the table. Robert turned out to be quite a funny little fellow, he cannot resist using daily objects as comic props. Walking along one day on 2nd avenue he picked up the handle of a public phone and mimicked lathering himself in a shower. He cannot stop clowning around at school, but deep down he remains a serious little guy. After posting yet another picture of him on Facebook, a distant friend commented, “does he ever smile?”. Only then did I realize that his smiles on camera are very rare.

If I take a snapshot back at this last year I am amazed at the progress my little boy has made. Only a year ago he was a little more than a baby, who cried almost every morning when I left him at school. Today he walks in happily, starts immediately working or interacting with his friends, and cheerfully waves me goodbye.

A week before his fifth birthday I took him for a playdate with his friends at the Victorian Gardens, a small amusement park for kids exactly his age. Initially I thought that I would have to force him on one or two of the more docile rides, and steeled myself for having to go along with him. To my surprise he ran along with his friends and went on all but very few rides, we left when the last of his friends had to go home.  A year ago this was not possible.

He is still shy with strangers he meets for the first time, but he quickly warms up to people, and I watched him make friends easily with peers and some adults.  I have no worries about him socially as the day of starting in the big new school approaches. He would have some difficulties though in a team environment. He can be sometimes very stubborn, and that could prove detrimental in any group setting. I believe that this fierce individuality cost him a Kindergarten spot at the only private school I applied for.  But I also think that he will be better served in the Gifted and Talented class, amongst equally bright kids. I also have plan for enrolling him in sport, and other creative team activities on the island. The first step is soccer practice, then perhaps creative drama for kids. I think he is a natural performer, I used to be like that as a kid too, but shyness got the better of me.

I know I am starting to sound like an ultra-competitive North American mother, but I will never push him into anything he doesn’t want. This is a time for exploration and experimentation to discover his aptitudes, and his talents. I will be happy when a few years from now, when he would start to tell me what he wants, even if he concentrates on one or two activities he really enjoys, or is very good at. I just hope to help him develop to his full potential, and I am optimistic that I am at the right time and place to do so.

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.

The Way We Talk: Introducing the Adjective

I have been doing more reading than writing in the past week. I waste my time reading a large blogroll consisting of must read news articles and analysis, knitting blogs, parenting blogs, language and translation blogs. I should perhaps cull this unwieldy flock and start over, but I cannot bring myself to do it. The bloggers I read have become like friends, and it is not easy to cut them out of my life after following their trials and tribulations for so long.

In addition to this electronic reading addiction, I have succumbed to procrastination syndrome. I always feel I have time, it will be done some day, but that someday never really comes. I still have a large hole in the blog that needs to be fixed and updated, and I have my notes about many missing posts, but it is all some day. Now yesterday I got this huge translation job that will keep me busy for the next month, but instead of putting my head to the grindstone and starting to work on it, what do I do? I feel this irresistable urge to update my blog, so here I am.

I think Robert’s first adjective used correctly merits a post by itself. One of the knitting bloggers I follow has a daughter who is approximately two months older than Robert, so it is interesting to read about her development and anticipate what will come next. Around 18 months the little girl made up a sentence that went like : flower .. pretty.

Robert is very much a boy, so he is not interested in flowers. I doubt that he has a word for plant either, and his interest there stops at pulling parts from growing things. The poor jade plant sitting just outside our door bears sad witness to this activity.  So it is normal when his choice for a first adjective was  typically male as well : it-di-gadin (it’s disgusting). This came about while Robert and I were having a bath. He was happily playing in the warm water while I washed my hair. Because my child is such clean freak (at this tender age, and he does not get it from me either) I continuously fish out my stray long hairs from the water while we bath. I roll it into an unappealing but perfectly harmless hairball for later disposal.  My son however, caught this thing, wrinkled his face and nose at it and exclaimed : it-di-gadin. It did not take me long to understand what he was on about, because yesterday this word was cause for much amusement. I told him that his nappy was disgusting, and gave emphasis to the pronunciation. It’s obvious that he liked the sound “disgusting” made, because we repeated it time and time again to the chorus of his laughter. Today he remembered the word and used it appropriately.

Babies apparently start to remember more and more things at this particular age and I am beginning to notice that. A week ago I pointed out the waxing gibbon which rose just before Robert’s bedtime. Yesterday he pointed to the direction where the moon was and said clearly : moon.  Maybe he thought I was pointing to the palm tree which is in the same general direction, but still the fact remains that he remembered something I showed him once a few days back. I still fail sometimes to understand him, paper and pepper sound exactly the same for example, and there are things that he remembers or connections he makes that I do not know anything about.  In our daily commute, for example, from home the kindergarten and back we pass the Sea Point library on Main Road. And if Robert happens to look towards the library he would get excited, and start shouting Ki-kah, Ki-kah repeatedly until something else catches his attention. I have wracked my brain for the meaning of this ki-kah, and I even asked his father but we both remain clueless. It could be the library, the fountain in front of it, or even an experience he had inside it,  but I cannot figure it out.

We are also at the very early stages of combining words. Yesterday Robert was climbing the steps barefoot, when he suddenly stopped and started whining and pointing to his foot. I think he said: bain..foot (pain..foot?). He might have stubbed his foot in his rush, but it is also possible that I misheard or overinterpreted his reaction.

Seventeen Months

My baby is growing into a toddler and his personality is developing rapidly. The re-introduction to school at the beginning of the school year was much easier, but I hope his health will not suffer much this time around. Today I had a scare when the school supervisor called me to fetch Robert because he was not feeling well and had a fever. As I walked to the school I was so despondent and unhappy and started seriously thinking again quitting work. It is really not worth it to make my little one suffer in this way.

Robert’s father is now working full time and I cannot rely on him too much for looking after Robert and even the situation with my nanny Lucy seems a little tenuous as her employer(s) do not like her to come and help me out even in her off time, so I really did not know what to do. When I arrived at school my spirit was somewhat lifted when I saw that Robert was fine and I did not feel that he was feverish. His teacher told me that he perked up as soon as he heard that I was coming to get him. I don’t know what could have been wrong this time, the adverse effects of teething should be gone because his fourth molar cut already last week. He has a little bit of a runny nose but I am hoping that this time his body will fight it out, we will wait and see.

His teachers at school say he is always busy in class especially pushing the little chairs around. This is his favourite activity at home as well and it is quite unpleasant for me and my next door neighbor when he starts at it first thing in the morning. Also I am noting his increased independence; the daycare encourages that, for example at snack or meal time the children sit in on little tables and chairs and start feeding themselves. Robert is starting to get good at eating by himself, but I can still tell what he had for lunch by examining the stains on his shirt. He also insists on “brushing” his teeth on his own. I usually start out the proper brushing then I leave him to bite and suck the toothbrush for a few minutes.

Robert’s verbal skills and his diction continue to improve. Instead of Naah for no he now says noo, it sounds quite cute like a little kitten miau. I still speak to him primarily in English but I encourage German vocabulary sometimes whenever I feel he is receptive.
The most obvious advantage to his growing verbal skill is his ability to tell me what he wants. He names the books he wants me to read “oppodi” (Opposites) and tells me that he wants “gam” (jam) or egg.

It is interesting to note also the way he perceives things and people. His father told me that he exclaimed “dada” when he spotted a picture of George W. Bush in a magazine. I am surprised that my ex even mentioned the story to me because I am sure he was not impressed. I cannot ask Robert why he made this comment but maybe he sees his father as an older person who is not too bright.
One morning he watched me write his name with a marker on his milk bottle and sippy cup as I was preparing his school bag. I pointed to the writing and said Robert, and the next thing I know he surprised his father by pointing to the writing and saying : “bobbet”.

Another area of marked improvements from previous months, is Robert’s appetite. He eats regular meals and does not snub his food after the first bite. The experience of feeding him is still quite messy, because he loves to try feeding himself, and explore the texture and substance of food with his fingers, but most of the food ends up in his stomach rather than on the floor and the furniture.

One thing that I am still procrastinating at seventeen months, and this might come as shocker to my family, is complete weaning. Robert still has a nightly breast milk dose and sometimes he wakes up twice for a little sup.  I believe that it is time for him to move on, but I do not have the heart to go through with it. For one I still enjoy the special loving connection of breastfeeding and secondly I find it easier just to give in to his demand at night, rather than tolerate his prolonged crying. I think I should get some backbone and be firm about it, I do not want to break any records on extended breastfeeding.

Robert’s Adventures at Sixteen Months

The most remarkable progress Robert made in the last month was with his vocabulary and with recognizing himself as a separate entity.

When I recently ask him where is Robert, he points to himself and says: Ah-Peh, which is what he calls himself these days.

Among other words and vocabulary: , Out, hat (at), ball, up (refers to both up and down for him), water (Ah-ti), book, back (he orders me to put back the food he does not want), bike – the new toy he received from his father(sounds exactly like back), Apple (ah-pi, and refers to all round fruits), open (ah-pi), baked (for baked beans), head (ed),  hug (ug), kaka (anything dirty), tick tak (his name for the clock or anything that looks like a clock) bucket (bah-ki refers to the small play buckets he has), cup (for his play cups) and baby. This in addition to his favourite sentence : don’t go down (dungoda).

Britt gave Robert a big picture book of all the animals and among those he recognizes are : dog (pronounces it like duck), and puppy. The cat in the book looks remarkably like Petey, and perhaps this is why Robert points at it and just grunts. Him and the cat do not like each other that much.

There are other words that he says, that I do not remember at the moment. He says car (cah – which is the same sound he uses for cow referring to the milk bottle), and he says papa, but unfortunately whenever he says mama he is referring (and demanding) the part of my anatomy that still provides him with a comforting snack. Lucy said that perhaps this is his pronounciation of nana (with a Xhosa click sound) which is their baby language for food, but I do not think my son is that gifted to speak Xhosa as well.

Gregarious as my little one is, his new flair for words sometimes only makes for new frustration for both of us.  There are many words that sound the same in his diction, and for them I go through a process of elimination. Robert’s patience sometimes runs out and he does not understand why it takes me so long to get him what he actually wants.

Apart from the words he can actually say, there are many more he understands. Today when I said Christmas he turned and pointed to the Christmas tree, and when I asked him whether he wanted music he pointed to the radio.

I am starting to notice patterns of behaviour as well:  He gets very impatient and frustrated when things do not work, and this is when he has a fit with a pointing finger. He also cannot tolerate any dirty hankies in his vicinity, this includes the paper towel which I keep handy at feeding time. He keeps, however, throwing it to the floor with the exclamation: kaka !

When he wakes up and finds me working on the laptop he starts trying to get my attention, and usually demands : Back ! ( I should put away the laptop I guess).

During these days we spent at home Robert’s appetite returned and he started picking up weight again. Maybe it is because he is away from the daycare and all the germs from other kids, but it is could also be attributed to less teething pain, as two more molars have already cut through (he now has a total of three). When it comes to food, Robert is very hands-on. He opens the fridge himself taking out the food he wants (or the food he thinks he wants).  Baked beans are by far his favourite food and he calls them by name, or finds them in cupboard, fridge and pantry and brings them over. He amazes me by holding the can from the top using only one hand.

Today and after our busy time at Christmas and Boxing Day, we got to the beach, and this coincided nicely with Robert’s 16 months birthday. It was an outing sponsored by Robert’s father who bought him a bucket and a shovel to play with. We went there in the morning and it was a perfect day for the beach, the sky was clear and we could even say the cable car on Table Mountain from Clifton Beach. Robert enjoyed the cold water, he still hasn’t learned the word for ocean but he recognizes it as a body of “Ah-ti”. His favourite game was to fill the bucket with water and then walk with it back to the shade of the tree where we set up our temporary camp.  He made quite a few walks back and forth and was whipped tired by midday. I let him sleep sandy nappy and all until three in the afternoon.

So Much Happening

It seems so much is happening I can hardly keep up. I got my computer yesterday. The good computer guru delivered it to my work, and one of my colleagues offered to give me a lift home, which saved me from calling a cab.  So I got my computer home in the rain (again) and had to wait until today to fire it up for fear of shorting one of its sensitive circuits. Today it started and looks that I haven’t lost anything, thank god.  I still need many hours to put back all my applications and little programs back.

In the meantime things are slowly getting organized at home, a few days ago I came home to find a lighting fixture has been hung up in the inside sleeping area, and the landlord sent a carpenter to measure for a sliding door. It would be great if this door is done before I go on holiday because in this rain the French doors have swollen and cracked and I cannot close them anymore. Lucy usually jams it closed with a piece of newspaper, and I have taken to doing the same thing.

I have almost lost track of Robert’s development in all this rushing. A few days ago he cut another upper tooth, and started serious communication. He now points at the things he wants and says about half a dozen words (one of them is cat of course). Sometimes he starts babbling long sentences that are only understandable to him. He is also showing some emotions finally, and blowing kisses to Lucy when she says goodbye.

In the next few days I will be even busier if I want to make my surprise visit to my parents overseas. This plan started long ago, and it is taking very long to take shape.  I still haven’t made any serious steps to obtain a visa, but I am used to getting everything done at the last minute.

Moving On

The past two weeks have been busy. I have put the house again on the market and all its problems are now again on my shoulders. I have to liaise from here the continued cleanup of the pool, and the infighting between the real estate agents. In the meantime I searched for, found and paid a deposit for our new flat, all in between looking after Robert and translating.

I am waiting for the correct moment to tell Jackie about my moving plans. She has been ill all last week, and just came out of hospital yesterday, so I don’t want to bother her with such a serious subject just now.

The singular ray of sunshine in my life remains my little Robert. I spend as much time as I can with him,  and he is now beginning to show some interest in books. He takes my pointer finger in his hand and moves it on the pictures of animals, and I tell him what each picture is.

Sometimes he keeps moving back and forth between only two pictures and I keep repeating the names. I once tried and asked him where is the cat and he moved my finger to point to the cat, of course it might have been just a fluke.

Robert helping mom translate
Robert helping mom translate

The worries I have are many, but I still managed to get a couple of translation jobs. I work at night and whenever Robert sleeps during the morning. Sometimes I go to bed just before Jackie starts waking up to go to work. The strange hours that I keep come at a cost, I am not too energetic when it comes to activities with Robert.  I still value the time we spend at Moms and Tots class, and it is great to watch Robert’s development and his interaction with other toddlers. At this age children show more interest to their individual play rather than interacting with others, but still on the rare occasions he picks up the queue of mischief from Zack, or tolerates rough play from Jake is great fun to watch.

dsc00207_trimdsc00191_trimThe most obvious progress Robert is making -within the play group and outside it- is in mobility. He is  starting to take hesitant steps, mostly between two sofas.  I will always remember that he took his first steps at Jackie’s house.

When I related this event to his father, he said as I expected he would: “I hope you took a picture”. No I did not, I said. I was the one trying to reassure the little one and trying to catch him in mid run before he falls and gives himself a fright, I did not have two extra arms to hold the camera. My ex husband on the other hand always has more interest for the trophies of parenting, rather than the actual down-and-dirty, grunt work.  He does have a picture of his first child taking her first step right under a Christmas tree. At the time I thought it was a lovely picture now I wonder whether taking the picture in this Christmas setting was a higher priority in his mind than making sure the child was ready for the first step.  Robert’s first step was not a singular event that needs recording. In fact I do not really know when or where it took place, maybe he did take it in Lucy’s presence while I was out working, it is not important. What is important is that I am there to see this whole process, the build-up of confidence, and the growing thrill on my baby’s face. It is important to catch him and enfold him in my arms time after time as he half runs half stumbles the short distance towards me, and to share his breathless thrill at the achievement.  These moments will remain indelible in my mind and in my heart.

For those who still prefer the material evidence to the intangible feelings, I did capture Robert today in a little cell phone video. He took a few steps on the walkway of Jackie’s front garden, I can very well pretend that these were his very first ones.

The Learning Update

On sunny days it is nice to go outside these days. Robert and I spend time in Jackie’s front garden soaking up the sun and playing some. These past days the main point of interest is the front door. Robert can comfortably reach the door handle and spends endless time opening it and closing it. I have to watch this routine for as long as it takes, making sure that he doesn’t close the door over his little fingers in his excitement.

During the past week I put him down on my bed for a nap and was surprised a couple of hours later when a sleepy eyed Robert crawled into the living room. He now can safely get off the bed, while he learned climbing it a few weeks back already.

Six Months’ Wonder

Happy birthday dear Robert, you have reached the milestone of half-a-year. On this occasion we have scheduled you for a routine check-up at the Paediatrician.

Your measurements on this fabulous day:
Weight 7685g; Length 70cm; Circumference of Head (COH) 42.5 cm.

There is significant improvement from Nurse B’s last measurements (200g increase in weight and 1.5cm increase in length), no real increase, however, in COH. I think you are growing well. You are maintaining your average weight and over average height.
The doctor pointed out that for babies less than 24 months length is measured, and we only start talking about height, at 24 months. This makes perfect sense since infants are not measured standing up. Also, I received some tips and advice regarding feeding, formula and teething. In all I felt that we were doing things correctly; Robert looks healthy and we are all happy with that. I am also happy because the doctor called Robert’s eye colour: Blue eyes, he said, and as of six months the colour is not likely to change.

To end the day, mom made Robert sit for some photo shoots in different locations of the flat. We took our final photo of the day in an avocado box.

At six months you are finally old enough to appreciate the present you received from Jackie when you were born. The chunky little truck is perfect for your little hands and I think that you will have many hours of fun with it. So far, you haven’t discovered the little button that starts the lights and the noisy siren, so mom and dad still think it is fun to turn it on now and then, and watch your reaction.

More Milestones







I did not post for the occasion of Robert’s 5-months birthday. Obviously I was busy doing other things or thinking other thoughts. There aren’t even any pictures to mark the day.

However, I can now comment on some developments in the five months period. I get a weekly newsletter from which charts out the progress of an average baby, and Robert is always right on target. The page for the 5 months development phase is right here : and as usual he has mastered every skill mentioned.

In the verbalising department he is very keen on blowing raspberries and grunting – he gives this low pitched growl which sounds as if it is coming from his stomach. Ron doesn’t like it, perhaps because he feels that it signifies some sort of distress, but I think it is just one more noise Robert enjoys making.







He is definitely able to track and grasp smaller objects. He also uses the raking grasp, for example to get a hold on a bunch of keys lying on the floor.

He is beginning to get a sense of his balance while sitting upright. He can hold on with one hand, and keep his back steady. He also tries to pull himself up while lying down on his play mat. Standing is still his favourite daytime sport, as it has been for a month or even longer. Yes, I hear that it causes bow-legs but the pediatrician never warned us against such a thing, besides Robert is the one who wants to stand up, and by now I think it is safe for him to try anyway.







We do still keep a vigilant eye on baby, but some of our concerns are slowly diminishing. I was petrified one day when I checked on him one night to find that he had rolled over onto his stomach. He does that regularly now, and although I still roll him over onto his back, I am no longer losing sleep over it.

In fact I find him on his stomach in the morning now, and if he is fussy or crying, he always calms himself down and finally gets to sleep on his tummy. Sometimes he even sleeps with his head on his arms, like a grownup. I think it is so cute.

I have been reading some family blogs lately, about women and their experience with motherhood. Some of them make profound statements while others take the comic approach. Here a link to the latter approach, and maybe some profound thoughts will emerge later.

Some unsolicited baby advice, not for the faint hearted:















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