So I’ve been thinking about writing this post for a while, but there are some things even I find hard to put into words.
As most people know I’ve been involved in a few kids life in South Africa for the past two years. Four kids really. I said to Liezl if I could help out by mentoring some kids I would. I had no money – I’d just started out as a freelancer, but maybe I could hang out with the kids? And if I ever got money maybe I could help in other ways.
At first I mentored the Three T’s. A pair of twins and one other boy. The boy spent a lot of time with his grandma in another township so I didn’t see that much of him. He was gone for months on end. The twins on the other hand ended up staying weekends with me several times and I’d take them out pretty much every week.
I’d also bring the Three T’s some food when they were at Little Angels. As a result a little girl, let’s call her Miss Z, decided she was going to get food too. She’s the one I always say adopted me – she can be pretty persistent. Queen of the World. The kid has an unbelievable faith in me.
I was always upfront with the families. Told them I had no money. Told them I’d travel. Told them I would not give money nor adopt till I could. Some asked me to take their kids, funnily the two who I didn’t take. I took on the twins because I spent the most time with them and they were pretty battered. In short, they were abused. Their mom is using and they live with their great grandmother’s sister, who has fully grown sons who are using and are abusive.
Last year their auntie, as they call their great gran’s sister, begged me to take them in. As I had just heard some very upsetting stories about what was happening to them I agreed. On the condition that I was still setting up my business, I could only give them board and food and I would only adopt them when I had money. I was told by authorities several times that I could adopt the kids – it was easy.
The kids moving in was difficult as it happened just as I lost my main income from one client, Liezl’s sister was in hospital and later died, another teacher’s husband was very ill with cancer and two people close to us relapsed to drugs. Later a family member of mine also became ill. It also so happened that the twins had sever abuse to process and the boy was not handling things well.
My best friend made me watch an episode of the UK Super Nanny last week and that episode pretty much summed up my life at the time. A kid trying to take out years of abuse on those around him.
I soon discovered that my wanting to help by getting the kids away from abuse wasn’t enough. They would need professional help and getting away from the school they were at. But I had no money.
Someone stepped in to help though and I learnt to use a way similar to Super Nanny to help the boy. He drastically improved, though there was still a long way to go.
During this time I feared I would have a breakdown. Because I was run down. I kept thinking it wasn’t how things were supposed to be – this was exactly why I had wanted to wait to look after the kids. I wanted to give them everything. And there I was sleeping four hour nights, working like a maniac and barely putting food on the table.
All my dreams of a happy household didn’t seem bright with a kid having tantrums, breaking everything in sight when angry, hitting you, calling you a bitch and so on every single day. Whilst things got better I was still in shock because I felt like a complete failure. While I know that’s not the case, ask any parent about what kind of home they want. How they want their kids to feel. You want to give them the world. You want to make them happy.
I also knew the boy loved me. He was desperate for love. He called me mommy. The girl also started coming round to that, but she needed me less, because she had handled things differently and was the family favorite.
By the end of the year things really were much better and the kids had a nanny they stayed with in the afternoons and started sleeping there one night a week. Someone they had known for years. They were drawing pictures of us all being one big family in a huge house. And all along they knew Cali was my second home, I had traveled for as long as I had known them and whilst they may not like it, they were very excited about one day going to Cali themselves. And the fact they were starting to love being at their nanny’s, staying the night and called us all family helped me enormously. I just wanted the kids to feel safe and loved.
I started feeling some sort of calm.
During the months that had passed I had learned of events in their family that was far from pretty. The day they moved in their mom’s boyfriend was trying to stab their mom and the kids got in the way. Just to give you a glimpse.
I also learnt that foreigners can’t adopt unless they’d been to SA for five years. Some laws changed when Madonna took out a kid from Malawi. Never mind over a million kids in South Africa are in need of adoption. Laws say it’s better if they are with family members in the townships. Which is ludicrous in most cases. Rules also say that if a kid says they want to be with their mommy, they are with their mommy. Even if she’s using, abusive, etc.
This shocked me as the same authorities for years had said I could adopt. What I found out though was that you could adopt from abroad. It makes little sense, but you can.
When I took on the kids I gave myself one year to launch my business in Cali, or I’d stay in Cape Town. One year.
I went to America for Christmas, desperate for a break. I was scared the moment I felt I was in Cali I would break down. You know how the body sort of lets out everything that’s happened when you hit solid ground? Well, I didn’t. I was just very, very tired.
So I went to America and found the seed funding for my business. I was also calling around to adoption lawyers, getting nowhere. I had a “unique” case.
I was still frightened. I would talk to South Africa every day and as usual there was a disaster almost every day. It’s a township.
One day I got the news that my boy was being kicked out of school. I almost fainted. I think it’s as close as I’ve ever gotten. Instead I got a behavioral therapist to step in, very kindly, and he started getting stars in school. I was so relieved I remember crying when talking to the twins on the phone, hearing how happy they were and getting reports their behavior was changing.
It seemed like we had turned a leaf.
I was still not happy about leaving the kids, or the situation though. I wanted to give them more than I had and it was still doing my head in. I knew I would never be happy just to live like I had in Cape Town. I knew what I wanted to do with my life and I knew I had to do it. But it made me feel guilty.
The past year I had first had RSI which led to me for months fearing I might never be able to type again. During that time I’d had to go away as my visa was being processed and I went to LA. I remember sitting in bed crying because I felt so damn helpless not being able to type, not knowing if I would ever regain my hands fully and so on. And I don’t generally cry. I was at my wit’s end before I found Dr Sarno and my cure.
During that time the teacher’s husband fell ill with the cancer. And things in general at Little Angeles were upside down last year and Liezl often gets sick. As I spoke to Liezl every day I was pretty traumatized. Because I felt helpless. This is something that happens to most volunteers at some point…basically you start feeling guilty. You see so much suffering and you can’t do anything about it. So you leading a normal life (though mine at the time was far from it) seems absurd. Hey, they have no food and you are having a coffee in a cafe? Because you feel like getting out once a day as freelancer? You could give those five dollars to someone starving.
During that time the twins mom was apparently running around calling out for me to come home and adopt the kids. She also went to Liezl and told her as much. That made me incredibly happy.
Point being, when I came back to SA I was still traumatized by the hands and the suffering around me, which went completely out of hand at the time with people falling ill and so on. And what happened with the twins did not help. In fact it’s one of the most scary things I’ve ever been through.
I felt…helpless. Of course I gathered my shit together and did what I could to make more money, go to the States and launch my business and find a way to adopt if I did get the money for the business.
I usually figure there’s always a solution.
And in California it started looking like things were coming together with the kids being happy and behaving and me finding money for the business. I started taking my first calm breaths in a really long time.
Then I found out two things – the kids’ family started acting up. From having received very encouraging reports of the family spending time at the nanny’s to be with the kids, they started taking them away and “whispering” things in their ears. The kids started acting up.
Liezl was running around trying to deal with family members abusing them. It was nasty. And I was in pain about it. But I didn’t have money to fly back and get things sorted. I knew my best bet was to launch the business and make money.
Then the kids’ family took the kids. They did a number of other things, but that’s basically it.
I also found out that non-citizens can’t adopt in America. Because the kids become citizens if you do.
I started thinking I was a right idiot – if I had only had the kids in the weekends last year the boy would never have acted out. I would still be Miss Favorite Person in the World. I wouldn’t have had to upset their lives by coming and going. I could just have been that favorite auntie and when the time was right done more. Instead I just felt guilty.
I couldn’t know any one of the things that happened after I took the kids in – from adoption laws to family members, etc. I couldn’t know. But I still felt guilty about it.
By the time I reached Sweden I was left alone with my thoughts and for the first time I really faced them. And the nightmares started. Every day I dreamt about the kids. I still do. I woke up from one particularly bad one today.
Of course, I’m a pretty spiritual person and normally I’m fairly grounded. I have worked my way through many ups and downs in life and healed from a childhood most uncomfortable. And I don’t like being shaken, because I think I shouldn’t be. I know too much for that. But the past 18 months shook me.
I started finding my baring properly again in Sweden. I cried for the first time. I started dealing with my own self-blame. It wasn’t until Liezl called and said that the twins family had said I’d never see the kids again and told them to hate me that the self-hatred really lifted though. It’s funny, but for all I’ve seen and heard about that family doing, that’s what made my head click.
Don’t ask me how, but those words made me realize that I’m not the one to blame for messing with the kids. The kids were making huge improvements. No, I did not have the money I wanted for them. Far from it. And yes, I felt trapped because I wasn’t creating the life I wanted, neither for myself, nor the kids. I was in emergency mode getting the kids away from abuse and I didn’t think much further than that. I should have. It was wrong. But my reasoning was that I couldn’t live with myself if something happened to the kids. And chances are I’d do the same thing all over again. And the kids improved. Had they continued that way chances are that one day they would see what the family was doing and not like it.
Why they don’t want me to see the kids I don’t know, but I have a fair idea – I speak to the police. I hang with people who bust drug dealers. I started making demands the kids weren’t abused. And it’s likely the kids said something about me always going on and on about it not being right to hit kids.
I’m never gonna give up on the kids, no matter what that family says, but I am gonna give up on my own self-hatred. Years ago when I read that Angelina Jolie had stopped eating after seeing people starve I found it…strange. I understood the concept, but what would her not eating help anything? Not much. Now I understand though. I understand what it is like waking up despising yourself because you can’t do more, or you have enough to eat when people you love don’t. Still, it isn’t going to help. And I think all of me, not just the conscious parts of me, are starting to understand this.
Not that I stopped eating. I just couldn’t feel that I could be happy if the kids weren’t happy. I didn’t know how to live with myself.
I had a very very long chat with Liezl about this and I started to come to terms with it more. It also helped having her exclaim that no one was ever going to make me feel bad ever again because it wasn’t fair. Liezl was so angry she, in a way only she can, had a long speech that no one she knew was ever getting close to me again and behaving like, say, the twins family. I was chatting to her about my feelings about Tony being ill and me not supporting him and so on and she was like “Maria, Tony was here yesterday telling me what a fantastic woman you are. What a big heart you have.” He’s driving my car when I’m away and I’m trying to find all these natural cancer cures for him. I love his kids like they were my nieces though and it hurts knowing he lives in a shack with no proper food trying to combat cancer. It just does.
Liezl also told me another thing. You see last year when things were at its worst and people were sick, dying, relapsing, I lost the job and the twins were having a storm going on in the house, I used to go to Little Angels and just hug Miss Z. We always had a special bond, but when I hugged her then I used to think “at least she doesn’t hate me – she’s not throwing stones at me.” But I’d secretly wonder what would happen if she lived with me. The irony being that her grandma had asked about just that, and the other T’s mom tried to give me him.
Anyway, Liezl told me that she had been worried about me because she was like “I know when you are upset and I know you are upset.” And I just told her I found it hard with the twins and blaming myself. So she told me that it wasn’t just she who sensed my mood – Miss Z did too. She had walked into Little Angles exclaiming that Liezl had to tell me over the phone that she loved me and that she was sending me a hug. The next day she came back and demanded a report of whether this had been done or not. Liezl hadn’t talked to me then, but she was later going to tell Miss Z that her instructions had been carried out.
Little Miss Z always thinks I can solve anything – from teachers in school being mean to her, to her not having enough money for a school uniform. And I guess part of what I have been dealing with in the past 18 or so months is that I can’t always do that. I can’t solve everything. I can’t.
I love the twins and I think I’ve turned the leaf once more from emergency mode, fighting a war and blaming myself, to sorrow. But I will get through. I always do.
I never planned to be away from Africa this long – I got stuck in Sweden. First when I got here I was sick for a week. I had this recurring UTI that just wouldn’t go away. Then I had this big job writing a book for a client. Only they wanted a slightly different book and it took them two weeks to let me know, upon which I had to rewrite the book. And I promised myself not leave till that job was done as I wanted peace of mind I had enough money. Also, because I work like a maniac on both finding new clients, working for clients and working on Magique.
Magique and knowing other things at Little Angels are going really well this year has been my pride and joy. It’s been what’s kept me going. And of course – the idea that one day I will get the twins safe.
I wanted to introduce Magique to my readers with flair, but being my hope and joy is a bit of flair, isn’t it? You can join us on Twitter @CarnavalDuDesir and on Facebook: www.facebook.com/CarnavalDuDesir or Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/CarnavalDuDesir
You see, a carnival of desire is coming to Cape Town and LA. An indulgent adventure. An experience of dreams.
And as with my business as with life – I will fight till it is an experience of dreams. I’ve just realized I have to fight for myself as well. Love myself the way I want to love others. Give myself what I want to give others.
Love is always the answer you know.
Miss Z and I. Just after I’d had some test done to my hands last year. I needed comfort and I knew where to find it. Little Angels will always be a source of love. Even in the most trying times.