Category Archives: Parenthood

The Superwoman crisis…

Do you ever feel like you’re fighting the snot wars? I do. All the time.

It’s winter in Africa and the little one I raise has had three colds in five weeks. Of course, I’ve had most of those colds too. Single parenthood, toppled with colds and oh, winter holidays. Because crèche here closes for three weeks?! And parents are meant to…pay even more for childcare? During COVID?

So you work from home, while blowing the little one’s nose. Over and over again.

The other night, I had the pleasure of being awoken in the middle of the night and then peed down. Literally. I was peed down. Ever tried to night potty train? Oh yeah, that.

In the middle of the night, I swore. I said a long line of unsuitable words only a Londoner would know. Then, of course, I felt ashamed of myself. So I swore at myself instead.

Some days, I feel like we’re fighting poverty, world hunger, the education crisis (on a micro scale) and a few other things at Little Angels. Some days, I feel like my movies will entertain, enlighten and make the world a better place. Some days, I feel like all the work I do in the personal development field is turning me into the next Dale Carnegie. And some days, I’m fighting the snot wars and learning how not to swear at midnight.

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Filed under diary, Humor, Musings, Parenthood, Parenting, Uncategorized

To my mother in heaven…

Today is Halloween. All Hallows’ Eve. All Saints’ Eve. The day, when where I’m from, we light candles for those we’ve lost because it’s said that the veil between this life and the next is the thinnest, which makes me wonder: if you could have a dinner, inviting any ten guests, dead or alive, who would it be? 

Personally, I’d like to meet my mother, but I’m also scared of meeting her. I don’t really know who she was when alive. She died when I was six. 

One day, several years ago, I suddenly realized I always thought that my mother, if I met her, would have been disappointed in me. The fact that my finances were always a disaster while I was off on some adventure to live my dreams and rescue kids in Africa. That she’d read me the riot act. That she’d see me as the black sheep of the family — the artist, entrepreneur and hopeless dreamer who didn’t have it all figured out. I was scared we’d have nothing in common beyond wanting to heal people. She was a nurse. I almost became an MD. And I still desire to aid people in healing; mentally, physically, spiritually. 

In short, I was scared all my mother would do, was judge me.

I’d gotten so used to being the person everyone wanted to be someone else, I figured I’d just be a disappointment to her. 

Isn’t that a fucked up way to live life? To think that your mother wouldn’t love you because you’ve made mistakes? That she wouldn’t even want to see you, because you’re not like her? 

Today, I’m not the woman sitting on that couch, wondering if my mother would love me. As a mother myself now, I know that all we dream of for our children is for them to find happiness. We do not care that they screw up, we only care about them finding their way again. We do not punish, we love. 

Yes, many of us, as parents, will use punishment, just as we will use encouragement, as a way of making our children follow a path we believe to be right. Be that to brush their teeth, or stay off drugs, but in our hearts, all we seek is their happiness. Their joy. For them to be loved. For them to live a life they love. 

Maybe, if my mother came down from heaven, all she would do, would be to hold me and tell me it’s OK. That my mistakes are alright — that we all make them. Maybe all she’d want would be to see her daughter.

The thing with life, is that none of us were born with a map. We all get lost. Some more than others. But that doesn’t mean we don’t deserve to find our path. Nor does it mean we don’t deserve to be loved. 

In short, I don’t think our loved ones in heaven want to punish us for our sins; for our mistakes; or for getting lost. They just want us to find our way to happiness again; find our path. Because that’s the highest desire you can have for anyone else. And, most likely, they’d want just one more day with us.

I don’t really miss my mother. I was too young when she died. I miss my gran on the other hand. I’d like to take my gran for a trip to Paris and walk around the streets, spending hours talking, laughing and baking. I bake pancakes pretty much every weekend and I know it’s not just because I love pancakes, it’s because when I do that, I carry a piece of her with me. I also listen to French radio to calm my nerves. I find strength in doing the things we used to do together; feel her love when doing them. 

I can’t meet my mother, but I can honor her as a parent, by seeing myself through her eyes; loving myself and supporting myself in finding my path, instead of beating myself up for getting lost.

I can’t go with gran to Paris, but I can go to Paris with someone else who loves me as much as she did and loves doing the things I love, the way she did.

There are many people I’d like to invite for dinner, ranging from Tim Ferriss to Leonardo da Vinci and Shakespeare. I wouldn’t mind Branson, Jolie, Di Caprio, Scorsese, Mandela, Musk and a bunch of other people to gather around my dinner table. I’d invite half of Silicone Valley too, for good measure. There are many, many incredible hearts and minds in this world. So many. The thing is, by looking for those who are not there, we miss the ones who are. Our children. Our family. Our friends. Our partners. One day, all of them will be in heaven too. Now is our time with them; our chance to honor them by creating beautiful experiences with them.

Or as Angelina Jolie said: “That’s the reason we kind of exist. To give to each other. And learn from each other. To capture the moments of people. So I find it really strange to have somebody ignore the obvious human being right in front of them.” 

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Filed under Death, Inspiration, Inspirational, Love, mourning, Parenthood

Dirty nappies and jalapeño sauce…

There are things in life that we all experience, but don’t necessarily speak about. Take dirty nappies for example — they’re part of every parent’s life. That doesn’t necessarily mean we start a conversation at the next cocktail party saying: “You know last night, I got poop all over myself when changing my toddler’s nappy.” Or: “My toddler peed all over me when changing a nappy the other day.” (True story.)

It’s natural not talking about poop at a cocktail party. After all, we go there to forget about it. The poop I mean. We have enough of it at home and it wouldn’t look good with our little black dress and high heels.

There are other things we don’t speak of for fear of what others would think, or because of our own sense of shame, guilt, or whatever it may be. Personally, I’ve been avoiding the topic of one of the children I raise for ages. I have mentioned it sure — my kid with behavioral issues. But did I speak about the day he took a bottle from a car guard and peed in it? Or when he last assaulted me? Or broke a window in a fit of anger? Or when I called a friend in exasperation saying she had to come round because even if there was me and the neighbor working to hold him down, I was about to have a breakdown myself.

You have a child who swears at you, attacks you, doesn’t want the kindness you give (every time you say something positive, they turn it around)…and in the end you end up feeling like a horrible person because your nerves are frazzled, you’re grumpy, you bark at the slightest irritation and you have no idea of how to get out of bed the next day.

My situation may be fairly unique in that I raise three kids that were practically born into drug dens. Their first few words were likely unsavory. Their idea of manners just as unsavory. But I’m not alone in raising a kid on the autism spectrum who is suffering from PDA (Pathological Demand Avoidance Disorder). I’m not alone in dealing with someone who doesn’t understand emotions the way the rest of the world does. I’m not alone in fighting a furious fight to find help for a child I love. A child I know can be wonderful, but who has, as of late had anxiety attacks coming out as aggression so much so that I’d almost lost hope.

I didn’t know what to say about it, because I was unclear about it. I was told he had symptoms of ODD, ADHD and PDA. I was also told I needed to be firmer. Fiercer. Set boundaries. And the fiercer I became, the more I held him down during outbursts, the more I started seeing it as a behavioral problem, the worse he got.

As the situation derailed I spoke to therapists, psychiatrists, the ER, the parenting centre, social development…the list goes on. I was lost looking for solutions until last week when the Neurodiversity Centre in Cape Town told me that my child isn’t lost forever — he’s suffering from PDA gone awry and he can get better. After speaking with the psychologist there I felt like I could breathe properly for the first time in months. I went and sat down in my favorite coffee shop and as I looked out the door I could see the sun. I wasn’t stuck in a bubble. I was there. Because for the first time I saw a way out of the hell that had been going on where it seemed the only options were to detain my child somewhere or keep him at home dealing with aggressive meltdowns at all odd hours of the day. Neither option was one I wanted to pursue.

I still don’t know how to speak about this. The reason I have gotten as far as I have is thanks to friends and even strangers telling me I was amazing, inspirational and generally wonderful. I didn’t feel wonderful. I felt like an awful person failing my family. I felt irritable and snappy, angry and sad. But those comments — and random prayers — kept me going. They made me believe I had a spark in me. They made me look at myself in a different light. They gave me hope.

When you’re walking through hell, keep walking. So they say. But it’s a hell of a lot easier when you can see paradise at the top of the mountain. When you’re lost in the fog, having no clue if you’ll ever find a way out, you don’t necessarily feel great.

Today is my birthday. Today I’m speaking about my life. The real life. Today I’m raising funds for my son for his much needed treatment.

Oh and tonight I’m eating jalapeños and chocolate cake, while drinking wine and laughing with my family, who isn’t perfect, nor always well-behaved, but whom I love very, very much. Probably, I’m also changing nappies.

GoFundMe Campaign: https://www.gofundme.com/f/tyreke039s-treatment

MY BIRTHDAY WISH! This year my birthday wish is a little bit different from other years — I’d like some help saving my son. He’s on the autism spectrum and suffers from what can only be described as acute PDA (Pathological Demand Avoidance Disorder). That means that something as simple as having a shower can lead to a complete meltdown due to his anxiety. He says no to doing things he loves if he perceives them as demands, he can get angry with things like the rain thinking it’s against him, he can’t read or write, he has little concept of time and so forth. He doesn’t understand emotions the way most people do and the problem with that, is that it’s left him anxious and the anxiety has caused aggression. And recently, I was actually losing hope. I have been around the block with therapists, psychiatrists, the psych ER, social development and, even, in a bout of desperation: a police inspector I know. The psychiatrist literally told me I could prepare myself to give up my child and the truth was: I was no longer coping at home. Our family was falling apart. His baby brother having recently been diagnosed with a chronic illness put further pressure on the situation, especially as Tyreke does not necessarily know how to treat a two-year-old in all situations and was desperately jealous. To make matters worse, the only mental hospital for children in Cape Town has recently been demolished. For the past few months, I’ve basically been running around town knocking on doors and getting nowhere. However, a friend of mine mentioned the Neurodiversity Centre where psychologists work with children on the autism spectrum. I knew I couldn’t really afford them, but I called and emailed them anyway, because I was desperate. And even if social were to remove Tyreke from the family, I knew I’d need a long term plan where he got the help he needed — whatever that may be. I had my first consultation with them on Friday. After reviewing a lot of information and previous assessments of Tyreke that I provided them with, one of their psychologists explained to me that Tyreke has PDA that’s gotten way out of hand due to his background (the emotional trauma of being raised in what can only be described as a violent drug den and me having visa problems and coming and going). The good news? If I can stick it out for the next three months, he has a very good prognosis. We do need several consultations and help in the home to rebalance the family though as everyone, including his twin sister, have suffered from his meltdowns and aggression. When Tyreke isn’t having a meltdown, he’s one of the most caring kids I’ve ever met. He’s funny. He’s great with art. He’s a drama king. He’s an awesome chef. And he’s incredibly sweet and loving. On the phone the psychologist told me that’s the real Tyreke. And I can have him back. I cried for half an hour. If you’re a parent who has ever felt like you failed your child, or been so desperate you’ve called social services to beg them to do something, you know how painful it is. I can’t even put it in words. For the past few months, I’ve been a wreck. The reason I’m still standing is much thanks to friends and strangers alike — from nurses I’ve met to close family friends — having faith in me. And showing up to help me when I was falling. So please, if you want to give me a birthday present, help me raise funds to the child I love and desperately want to see happy again. In the past three days, just implementing some of the things the psychologist said, I can already see a change. It’s a long road ahead, but for now, I have faith. And that’s one of the best birthday presents I could ever get. In fact, I feel like I can breathe again for the first time in months. You can support his treatment here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/tyreke039s-treatment

My boys…

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Filed under Family, Parenthood, Parenting, special needs