Going Potty..

Yesterday was officially the first day of Easter Holiday for Robert. The creche has holiday care for about one week of the school holiday and remains closed for a week after Easter, but this time I opted for him to stay home with me because I wanted to finish his potty training.

I think I underestimated the task, and my confidence was boosted by minor successes at introducing the potty and keeping Robert’s underpants dry of pee. It is, however the big stuff that I am battling with. Robert insists on making a poo in his nappy/pants. There was even the memorable episode on Sunday when he stubbornly sat in the buggy, soiled pants and all for over half an hour.

This setback demotivated me and made me question my method. I am ashamed to admit that I even started to taste some resentment against my son.  Somehow his aloofness and refusal to communicate on the matter of using the toilet brought back memories of his father, and the way he used to behave.  I had nightmare scenarios in my mind of the son I love beyond reason turning into a carbon copy of his father. The prospect made me want to scream, run away, hide and even give Robert up to his father – Thankfully these black thoughts did not persist.

The whole situation may seem comical now, but I was definitely on the verge of depression, and I always teeter on the brink of it with the onset of PMS.  So for all of yesterday I was battling these emotions of resentment, depression and anxiety. I think my son reacted to my unbalanced state and added his own mix of naughtiness and mischief. Yesterday marked several disasters on the home front: One liter of yogurt spilled all over the table and floor; One of my two Yucca plants completely denuded of leaves and the other missing half of them; and floor tiles lifted in one section of the lounge. That, in addition to the normal set light to medium misbehavior, such as throwing toys and screeching tantrums, all of which did not contribute to enhancing my mothering instinct but made me rather more inclined to fight and/or flee this little terror.

Today things look much better. The battle for the potty has been removed to a lower priority and with the pressure off I think I will have better success. Robert is sleeping peacefully like an angel, and my feelings for him are back to normal. It is all a matter of attitude.

Apart from taking a step back and de-emphasizing the problem issue, here are some of the things that made the difference for me today: Venting off to my parents on Skype, fixing the chairs that Robert broke ages ago, and good old comfort food of Macaroni and cheese for lunch, finishing off with a cup of chococcino in the evening.

A friend of mine told me today that the difference between a good day and a bad day are only a bunch of chemicals in the brain, and I bet these small doses of comfort fixed the imbalance in my brain – You are absolutely right G !

Neighbors

As an antidote to yesterday’s unsettling experience with my neighbor from upstairs I had another unsavory incident with an unfriendly anonymous male person from -I assume- one of the houses next door.

I was determined today to keep my volume down and did my usual negotiations with my toddler with firm but low tones. My control, however, did not extend to his volumes and tones.

I had the usual difficulty, with him sleeping late, waking up late, and showing up late for his first day of the new school year on one of the hottest summer days.

Things continued to go wrong when he missed (or firmly resisted) his nap, and I thought that the best solution was to take him out in the late afternoon and let him walk off excess energy. I was hoping he will quickly settle to sleep after a shower and supper. But when we returned home he was in over-tired mode and started howling in the shower. I was doing my best trying to keep cool and weather the storm when someone next door shouted :  SHUT UP, SHUT YOUR CHILD UP !!!

That made me mighty angry. I had a couple of foul-mouthed retorts ready in my mind, but mostly I wanted to tell the smart-ass that I was glad he was suffering.   I was ready to let my child continue his tirade out of pure spite.  I do not know the guy, or where he lives, but I recognize him as the voice who often barks at dogs to SHUT UP as well; I do not consider this normal behavior.

Perhaps this happened to bring yesterday in perspective and protect me from placing too much blame on myself. I will still try to keep my volume down, but some people will keep complaining no matter what..

Ashamed

One of my neighbors knocked at my door at bedtime yesterday. Apparently she was concerned that I always shout at Robert. We were having our usual bedtime argument, because he does not want to go to bed.

This incident brought me up short and made me as usual question myself and my rearing method. Yes, some people are better off minding their own business, but if an outsider views my behavior as wrong or disturbing then perhaps I should take account and correct it if necessary.

Some background information : I come from a very vocal culture, where people are normally loud. My ex husband used to comment that when I speak on Skype with my parents it is always like we are having a fight, but in the meantime it is just an animated argument.

My son dropped a cherished toy that I received from my family in Germany down the balcony yesterday, and I was at a loss at what I should do. I was in my nightdress,  and the toy landed on the street at the back of the building where I had to walk all around the block to get it.  So I carried him down (I could not leave him alone in the apartment), and was running my mouth at him calling him an idiot… I may also have said that I hated him sometimes, I was not aware that the neighbor was watching. The truth is that I was covering my embarrassment at running in a unpresentable manner on the street, and making a little bit of a fuss for my son so that he doesn’t do this  again.  I do the same sort of thing when he runs on the street without holding my hand (even if it is a perfectly quiet street) and when he tries to make dangerous acrobatics on the railings overlooking the ocean below.. I consider a loud and angry voice an intimidating parenting tool.

Yet, there is this moment, and another one a few months back. It makes me realise that perhaps I am over-using or abusing this method.  Yes, we do live in a very close street, and I hear my neighbors flushing the toilet, and the people next door talking on the stoep. But this is all the more reason for me to be careful and respectful. And If I am ashamed to display such episodes to strangers then I should also control them in front of my son. I should not complain if he has tantrums if I frequently have my own.

I do have a wonderful little child and I do not want to be seen as anything but an appreciative and fond mother. I hate the image my loudness and my temper portrays to other outsiders.

Granted they are not there for the good times. They do not see me cuddling him every night, or telling him that I love him several times every day. They do not see us laughing and playing together,  and they do not comment on the fact that I spend more time with him than with anyone else.  I did not say any of that to my neighbor, who was perhaps brave, perhaps selfish to come and confront me. I was muted by my shame, at inadvertently showing a part of myself that I am not proud of.

Starting to Crack

Wednesday was a hopeful day, and I thought I found our new flat and started planning my life -sort of- around it.

Today was a terrible day in contrast. I am stuck with a proofreading job, part of a translation that I already did last month and got paid for. It should only take one or two passes with an experienced layout artist but I am dealing with a rookie, and she is driving me around the bend. I have been trying to work with her for about two weeks now and there is very little progress, so I finally decided that perhaps it is good to try and do the job myself and embarked on a downloading half a dozen of trial software, using up my internet bandwidth and purchasing extra. I feel sick just thinking about the bill that I will get next month for my usage. This in addition to the upcoming bills of moving and admin related to rent.

Lastly when I called the property management company to enquire about the lease for the apartment I viewed, one of the workers there gave me lip and retorted that I was “not a good tennant” because I argued that they should please give me feedback soonest, I do not even know whether I will be getting the flat or not. Life is not easy when you are me.

My place looks like somebody just dumped a truckload of broken toys, dirty dishes and laundry haphazardly everywhere, I am demotivated to no end, and blogging about it to the whole world is not making me feel much better about myself.  Hopefully today is going to be a better day.

Poor Robert has to put up with a grumpy mother today. I feel sorry for the little boy, it is not his fault what is happening right now.

My Home My Castle.. where are you now?

Another erratic week has passed, with rain and floods in the Cape. My life is no less flooded with news, worries and small irritations.

It started last week Monday when Robert had a fever again while at school. He was sleepy and lethargic, and appeared to have problems swallowing. The fever did not break on the next day and I was forced to phone work and simply tell the truth : My child is sick and I cannot take him to day care and therefore cannot come to work.  Before resorting to this I tried Robert’s father but obviously his work is much more important and critical than mine,  so I just have to take whatever management deals me for this since I have no sick days or family days left – or so I believed at the time.

Robert improved ever so slightly on the next day, mercifully an off day from work for me,  and I decided that we tough it out this time and do not run to the doctor, which proved to be the correct decision in this case since he was well enough for school on Thursday, although I took precaution and gave him a dose of fever medicine before school on the day.

My troubles for the week though were not over because last week I also received notice to vacate my flat, by latest August 31st. This came as unwelcome shock for me, even though I hate many things about my current place, mainly its dilapidated general state, filthy carpet, pealing paint and leaking plumbing, but I am the kind of person who puts up with a lot of inconvenience and I do not particularly care for major changes and upheavals in my life. No, I am not a mover and a shaker and I HATE moving with a passion. This will be the fifth time I move since I came to Cape Town in 2005, and that is too much for anyone.  It is even too much for me because I only moved a dozen times in my adult life.

Small consolation for me is that the whole block has been served notice, on the pretext of major renovation to the building. The place does look shabby even on the outside and there is no denying the need for a major facelift, and some serious maintenance, but the timing is very unfortunate, for me that is. For the landlord it is probably just right to get the whole place done up and ready to be rented out during the World Cup.

I am starting to think that this whole World Cup thing is a curse for us bottom feeders, and regular citizens.  Everyone with a little stake in this city thinks that the World Cup will be their chance to make a fortune.  Not only landlords are licking their lips, taxi drivers are also starting to flex their muscles, unhappy about the public transport system which will start running in 2010, since they expect that it will take a chunk out of their profits. Workers Unions are exploiting the opportunity as well, and pressurizing construction workers into a strike that has hampered the construction work at the Green Point Stadium. Of course the workers are normally unwilling participants in such actions, but do not dare to go against the unions and the threats from more belligerent members.

I was euphoric many years ago when South Africa won the bid for hosting this World Cup, but now I am beginning to think that the best thing that can happen to me personally is for this spectacle to move elsewhere.  The properties will be selling like crazy, rents will be cheap, transport will not increase in price and my city will be my own again. Now I feel like I am being squeezed out for some wealthy foreigner who will take my apartment, and maybe even sleep in my bed when I am on the streets. Yes, this is over-dramatizing the situation, but I am a wee bit paranoid about being homeless.

Ah well, tomorrow I am going on my first -probably of many- flat-viewing errands, I hope that this time Robert and I will get to stay in the same place for two years at least. I want to move as soon as possible and will not wait until the end of next month if I can help it, because I do not want Robert to spend another birthday in the chaos of moving.

On a happier note, today is Bastille Day, my father’s birthday : Happy Birthday Dad, and thank you for being a great father and role model. I am trying to emulate you as best as I can.

A Rough Patch

I ran into a friend yesterday as I was going back from a walk along a very cold beachfront.  She said she found this blog by chance and she liked it. This is the first time I get independent feedback on my writing in this corner, and I am really pleased.  She wondered -among other things- what happened after the cream cupcakes and why I have been away from this blog for so long.

The short answer is that I have been overwhelmed with so many things.  I figured out this month that while I juggle so many committements and responsibilities it is impossible not to drop one ball or the other at any given time.  It is challenging enough when things are running their normal course, but when things start to go wrong it is plain awful.

It all started in the middle of last month when I was called at work to get my son from school because he had pink eye. I haven’t blogged about it at the time, but this turned out to be the first of a chain of ailments. He later had diarrhea which lasted almost a week. The week after that he developed a cough, which turned out to be a pneumonia, we spent two days in the hospital for that.. soon after that he had another ailment a combination of stomach bug and sore throat with temperature.

Between the middle of May and today I visited the GP at least five times for Robert and once for myself, it has been rough. In the middle of all that I had two demanding freelance projects to work on and on some days I had to go to my day job… It was just too much.

At times like these, and I am merely human, things start to drop or come close to unraveling.  I needed leave from my daytime job to attend to my son in hospital, and I had to extend both my translation and proofreading assignments. The level of care I took at the household level went to near zero. The chores that did not relate directly or indirectly to the well-being of my son were postponed indefinitely. My clothes lay in a pile,  I wore the same thing two days in a row, and I ate whatever was left on Robert’s plate.  I know it sounds desperate but sometimes you do what you have to do. The worst though was the lack of sleep. I survived on four to five hours of sleep a day and worked every free minute that I had..

Even within my own set of priorities things started to suffer. My son had to put up with a preoccupied mother,  I arrived frequently late at my day job,  I had to phone sick once, and had to leave early at least twice because of my son falling ill at school. It is small wonder under the circumstances, that I neglected this blog.

During this difficult time I also came to realize that the way I am doing things is not working. Sooner or later something is going to give, and I do not want to breakdown or loose my health. I need to be here for Robert.  Some of my responsibilities and commitments need to be rethought, delegated or let go off completely. Maybe then I will have more time to devote to things that give me pleasure like blogging, knitting and reading. Amen.

Green Tea for Breakfast

We certainly have a stomach bug, and I mean both of us. Yesterday Robbie’s condition did not improve and I had to phone work to tell them I am not coming. Later we took the trip to the doctor again who prescribed re-hydration fluid, anti-cramp medicine and some pro-biotic.

The trip exhausted us both because among others we had very little sleep last night, and I crashed next to Rob on the bed. Later I got up to do some work and had to rush back to his bedside at the sound of retching. My poor boy threw up what little breakfast he ate all over himself, the pillow, the duvet and the mattress. It was a scramble to get everyone and everything in shape again.

Today my stomach also feels queasy and I have a terrible sore at the roof of my mouth -something I remember having often as a kid accompanying a sore stomach. I am trying to relieve my ailments by drinking green tea for breakfast.

Robert just woke up and I have to go through the routine of giving him breakfast and trying to force some medicine on him. Pharmaceuticals really have a weird sense of humor. The medicine against stomach cramps -which is clearly for little ones judging by the dosage information and the picture of a smiling infant- is so bitter, I think I would have trouble if I had to give it to myself, let alone a squirming toddler who needs convincing even when the (medimed) sweetly tastes of strawberry.

Making Assumptions

Assume is making an ASS out of U and ME.  Well it turned out that I owe the Post Office an apology. My mother was the one who took out the item from the package because it came over 1kg. As much as I am happy about this I am ashamed at my rush to judgement.

The possibility did occur to me at some point, and although I am usually a trusting person who does not make accusations lightly,  I was influenced by my state of mind. I also have a deep-rooted mistrust of the Post Office which really had a bad reputation here in South Africa, and even a worse one in my country of origin. I haven’t lost any items in the post since I came to South Africa but my ex husband and I were victims of  fraud back in Johannesburg,  which was done most probably through intercepting mail statements.

A lesson learnt: Always be patient to do not make assumptions or jump to conclusions, there is always a possible benign interpretation.  My faith in the post office has been restored -somewhat- because despite the delays and frequently bad service things do arrive eventually.

Sad

I went today to a sheriff’s auction. The house was on a street I passed often with Robert on our way to the park, so I thought I might as well go and see how these things are done,  because auctions are usually where you pick up bargains. I was going for an educational excursion, I did not want to buy the house which was clearly beyond my means. I was not prepared however for the emotional aspect of watching this happen.

First I was surprised to recognize the place, because I often looked at it with envy I am ashamed to say. The outside renovation preserved so much of the character of this old building, then I went inside and I was struck by how much of a building site the place was. There was a living room at the front of the house which looked disorganized then a hall with nothing but cans of paint. The kitchen was a dark place with merely a fridge, bare counters and boarded up windows. There were exposed pipes and wiring, floors that still required tiling and naked roof rafters. The upstairs is where those people probably spent most of their time, and here you stumble on their personal lives. There were three bedrooms with books, computers, and study desks. I saw posters, and personal items. One of the beds had a small aquarium with tiny goldfish right next to the bed. It felt so wrong to be tramping around people’s belongings, as they were about to lose the roof over their heads.

I spoke to the owner briefly. He was taking it very graciously but his pain and regret was palpable. He is an architect, who overextended himself loving and preserving what he thought would be his permanent home. He said that the hardest part was telling his children that the bank has foreclosed on their home, because they lived with them in this mess for two year, I could relate to his pain. I briefly experienced living in a renovation site while I lived with my ex husband in Gonubie, and the situation was a threat to sanity.

The owner said that he spent so much time an effort recycling the old brick and trying to preserve whatever he could of the character of the old home, he was not doing it for comercial purposes he was doing it in pride of ownership, and Ironically this was what brought on his downfall.  On one kitchen wall he taped the architectural drawings and concept of the house, which he could not finish. Now all his and his wife’s efforts are going to become some investor’s gain. I never saw the wife, but I could imagine her, as her husband told me, scraping away 12 coats of paints from the wooden steps.

There were more than twenty people like me tramping around the old house, but when the auction started only four or five where active bidder in addition to the bank.  In the end the bank representative ( a woman and apparently they are always women) told the last remaining bidder that the bank would buy unless they got a certain price, and the bidder met the required price. There was handclapping and the auction was over, a family lost their home, just like that.  Everyone went on to congratulate the new owner. There were insensitive comments like : Ah, you can knock the whole place down and sell the empty lot, and you can get your money back. I thought of how the owner may feel hearing these jibes. I left with a heavy heart, wondering whether I really had the stomach for auctions, perhaps they are the domain of hardcore investors only. All the way home I kept thinking of the man and his two teenage boys who still do not know where they are going next, I was grateful to have my own roof, even a rented one.

The gray cloud of sadness did not lift when I came back home to examine again a package I received from my mother. I collected it earlier today at the post office and discarded its empty box, noting with disinterest the post office tape which said it was found open and secured by postal workers. The package contained the items I expected and some additional ones, so I was happy. Only much later I discovered my mother’s little note where she said that she had included a packet of wine gums (gummy Bären) which was not in the box. The realization left me bitterly disappointed. The sweets are perhaps the least valuable item in the package but they were still sent with love from my mom to her grandson and the fact that some crook in the post office had actually taken them out makes me feel betrayed.  It is such an effort to send things halfway across the world like this. The postage is frequently more expensive than the item itself, and I am definitely going to complain at the post office. Mostly I will be wary, and I will ask whoever sends me stuff to give me a listing of the items sent, so that I can at least confront the post office right away. Now I will have to complain without valuable pieces of evidence, like the box I threw carelessly away.

Two Definitions for Nasty

Robert and I both can attest to the definition of nasty this week.

The little one has been teething and his canines (eye teeth) are giving a lot of trouble. At the beginning of the week I noticed that his top right canine has cut through, and two days later the bottom one followed.  The of course it was the turn of the teeth on the left side. I saw him during the week rubbing his gums, and even resurrected the teething ring which was a gift from his ex-aunt Jackie. He now frequently asks for it, calling it “bite” and rubs it vigorously against his aching teeth.  I always heard that canines are the worst, and now I know that this is probably true, because this was the first time I saw Robert crying with teething pain. This did not even happen when his four molars erupted at once.  On Thursday, he developed tiny red spots of rash which were localized to the left side of his face. I did not think much about them at the time but on Friday the teachers were worried and asked me to get the ladies at the office to have a look. One of them gave me the diagnosis of “measles” and I was extremely annoyed with her.  She is already out of favor with me because she keeps calling me Mrs Jxxx, which annoys me to no end because I never took my ex-husband’s surname while we were married,  and was definitely not going to start adopting it after I divorced him. Her grim diagnosis not withstanding, Robert was allowed to stay at school, because he simply did not have any other symptoms. The principal said that they will call me if he developed a fever.  As my luck will have it, Robert did develop a little temperature, but only when we got home, and we spent some miserable time on Friday night and all through Saturday. I still maintain that the teething is the culprit, because it is obvious that only his gums are hurting.

While Robert slowly gets used to his teething. I am suffering my own teething pains with the translation project I am currently working on. I have never experienced such slow progress since I started freelance translating. I sleep very little, I eat on the run and only get out to buy the necessities,  but still I cannot seem to catch up. A good friend of mine is in Cape Town on holiday at the moment and I was only able to meet up with her for two short visits, I feel bad but I cannot help it because my deadline is looming and I am not even halfway there. All I want is for this job to end, and I promise myself and my son that I will never ever accept such horrible work.