We’ve been away, which you wouldn’t have guessed because there isn’t too much evidence of it. There aren’t too many Instagram posts or Facebook updates and I haven’t tweeted, which begs the question, if there’s no social media evidence of it did it in fact happen?
But I digress. While we were away Emma and I took a walk along the beach to collect shells. It’s something I love doing, and Emma loved doing it with her granny. So there we were, the two of us, chatting and looking, looking and chatting.
I asked if she remembered how she and her granny would look for shells and hermit crabs, and she asked me which granny. “Dad’s mom. Knysna granny!” I said. Reminding her we hadn’t taken any holidays with my mom.
“Oh ja,” she says. “Remember we were supposed to visit granny [my mom] and swim in her pool and have a picnic?”
“But we never did ‘cos you said the traffic is always too busy or that it’s too far to go for just a swim…”
“But now she’s in heaven going to her house would have been a lot closer, hey mom?”
I'm not sure if you've noticed it or if it's just me but social media platforms, like Fakebook, seem to have led to fake friends and friendships.
I suppose that's a little unfair because some people have become really good friends, despite us never having met and it's tricky when you're a 'part' of someone's life albeit virtually – you kind of feel as though your bound by something, even if it is just gigs gigs or fiber.
I remember growing up and best friends were exactly that. Throughout school, into adulthood and if you were really lucky, through marriage, divorce, babies and everything else life throws at you.
Maybe you hung onto friends because you interacted face to face. Fights or disagreements were had in real time, as was making up and if the damage was irreparable you went your separate ways…but you knew where you stood.
Nowadays in our social worlds we unfollow, unfriend or block people when we no longer want them in our lives. There is no explanation, no reason and if there is, chances are you're not actually told. Instead other FB friends are told which leads to them no longer taking to you either.
I've even noticed it with Emma's friendships. At first I thought it was just me but today Mark also mentioned it so I know it's not. In her year and a half at her new school she's had a handful of steady friends but her 'besties' have come and gone! One day they're all over each other, then there's a play date and BOOM next time they see each other Emma is completely ignored. Like completely! The best friend from the week before doesn't even acknowledge her…or Mark and I, the same people they nagged non-stop for a month for the play date.
Are we influencing the way our children interact and view friendships. Are we teaching them that friends and friendships have very little value and are completely disposable?
It's gotten to the point where I'm wondering if there's something wrong with Emma or if there's something wrong with us as a family. Over time I've come to understand that friends come and go but it's not how I want Emma and Ben to think.
Have you experienced the same with your children?
This time last year I was lying on my bed with a heavy blanket of misery over me. It was my mom's memorial service and it had been a day of keeping a brave face, mingling with people I hadn't seen in years, and that I haven't seen since and trying to keep my shit together.
By all accounts I had done well as I went over the day's events. I had spoken at the service and had kept it as formal as possible in order not to break down (one of my biggest regrets ever), I had spoken to and with more people in those 2 hours than I had in an entire month and I had survived some really ugly whatsapp messages from a rather nasty person. I had survived and could pat myself on the back.
A year later apparently that's not the case at all. Since my mom died our family hasn't been particularly close. Not that it ever was but I somehow thought that an event of this magnitude would bring us all together. Well, it didn't. It hasn't. In fact, it seems to have pulled a plaster off of a sore festering wound.
I met up a few weeks back with my brother to try and work things out. We didn't. In fact he said so many things that cut through me then and are still swirling around in my head at the moment. I doubt he'll see this. He told me he had unfriended me on Facebook because he couldn't handle the way I portrayed myself – this caring loving daughter and excellent mother who did no wrong. He also told me he hated the way I put everything out there, for everyone to read…
He raised a lot of things. From me being a shitty sister to being the worst daughter on the planet. He lay into me with an onslaught of words that left me speechless. And thinking. Thinking a lot about myself. My roles. And yup, I probably do suck. Did suck. Will always suck.
But the part where he told me how disrespectful I had allowed Ben to be at my mom's memorial service still hurts. He told me Ben's behavior was shocking but what was unforgivable was my reaction. Or rather lack thereof. To put it into context, the service was at the jhb country club. A small group of us gathered and when we had all left the seated area to go have tea and cake Ben got hold of the mic, which was still on. Next thing we hear "yo yo yo! One two three! One two three!"
I did nothing. I laughed and said my mom was probably giggling too. Apparently it was unacceptable and I should have stepped in. But I was too tired. I didn't think it was the worst thing ever. Apparently I was wrong.
A little later we could hear laughs and giggles and when we looked up ahead we saw Ben and Emma had managed to talk themselves into a golf cart ride and were careening over the slopes with one of the staff. That too was inappropriate and my lack of discipline and inability to control my children had left everyone upset and disgusted.
This has been swirling around in my head. And I am so torn. Did I really disrespect my mom by not controlling my child? Am I truly a bad mother with very little control over them? I sit and wonder if it were happen again tomorrow would I do it differently? To be honest I don't think so. Emma and Ben are kids. They were kids in an adult situation. I let them be because I didn't have the energy to scream and shout at them. But even if I did I don't think I would have done it differently.
But no matter how hard I try I can't get those words out of my head. That I had disrespected my mom. That I had disrespected her memory. That I am an awful mother and I have children who are rude and badly behaved.
I don't know if I talk too much about my and Mark's mom, who are both angel grannies but when I fetched Ben from school on Wednesday his teacher mentioned he had been talking about his granny who had died, and he seemed quite upset about it.
When we got in the car I asked him if he misses granny to which he answered yes, and then he asked if I wanted to play "I spy"?
To be honest I'd rather talk about death than playing "I spy" with a phonetically challenged child who has us guessing things like:
I spy 'in' my little eye something beginning with an "a"!
And we try everything; apple ant umbrella ape apeman alien aerial…
Only to be told it's 'a' for 'eina'!
Back to death. We stop and fetch Emma and in the car we hear a song that my mom loved. "Ah this was granny's favorite song!" I say.
"Yup" says Emma "and granny Dawn liked "I can see clearly now".
Out of the blue. Emma asks me what missing my mom feels like? "I feel empty, like there's a big hole in my tummy."
"Like a donut?" says Ben.
"Exactly like a donut Ben. Exactly like that!"
After a little while Emma says "Well if granny is an angel and she's all around us
maybe she's the icing and sprinkles on it."
In loving memory of Sally Louise
Always the icing and sprinkles on my donut xxx
I haven't been given anything to write this post but it's something I definitely want to share with you.
Things are a little tough at the moment financially, which is probably the case for a lot of people but Emma's needed to have her eyes tested for a while but it just hasn't been doable.
Then I saw a post on FB from a friend, mentioning the Spec Savers Kids Right to See initiative. Free eye tests and specs for children aged between 6 and 12! No way!
I asked whether it was legit? It couldn't be! My first thought, like The Trump, is that it's fake news. Then I thought there are probably 101 ridiculous terms and conditions. But low and behold. It's for real!
Today I took Emma for her test and she needs reading glasses. She chose a pair; of course, they're blue, her favorite color. And she looks so darn cute!
If you, or if you know of anyone, with kids that might need to have their eyes tested, take advantage of this initiative. It's been going since 2008 and has helped over
193 243 193 244 children.
Yesterday I messaged a well known speakers company who represent a host of professionals, personalities and *shudder* celebrities. My question was a simple one:
Do you ever have any requests for speakers on sexual abuse, surviving it, the impact it has on one’s life. She came back promptly and politely, and me posting her response isn’t to name and shame or humiliate but to get your opinion on this
“Hi Melinda. Thanks for your message. Unfortunately not, in my experience. I think our society is still severely suffering from ostrich syndrome about this issue 😢”
How in this day and age where sexual abuse is rife, with one in three women experiencing it are we able to keep our heads in the sand? How do we pretend that an issue that affects millions and millions of people doesn’t exist because we have ‘ostrich syndrome’
How many of you would like a safe place to tell your story, feel loved and understood with no judgement? Would you pay for a workshop or a talk where you’re able to network and find kindred souls brought together to heal and be healed?
I am looking forward to your input and comments xxx
Can you remember when you were younger and you would say “if I die”, as if you were immortal, untouchable. The idea of living to thirty was an achievement in itself because that seemed so old!
And then you got older and the semantics changed. It was no longer “if I die” but rather “when I die”‘
It’s almost a year that my mom left me, alone and feeling lost.
Any loss is terrible. I cannot begin to comprehend the loss of a child or a life partner but I can tell you that losing a mom has left me broken. There is no bond like a mother and a child. None. And when she left I lost a part of my identity, a sense of who I am.
My mom knew everything about me. And even though I never thought she understood me and my complex ways she did. The hundreds and thousands of broken and damaged pieces that made me who I was. She knew all my secrets. She knew my first marriage was a mistake. She even told me so. And 4 years later when I met her for a coffee to tell her I was getting divorced there wasn’t a “I told you so!”
My mom loved me with all my perfections and flaws. She didn’t see a broken person. She saw a beautiful mosaic with all the potential in the world. And then she left. Suddenly and without a goodbye.
And now my dad is is in hospital. He’s been there for almost 3 weeks now. And what initially looked like a quick visit to sort out some renal issues has now turned into a far worse situation. He doesn’t know I’m there half the time. He calls me Sally (my mom’s name). He sobs a lot of the time. And it’s probably for 100 things, like missing my mom, maybe been in a lot of pain, maybe for some regrets along the way, perhaps because he thinks he could have done better.
I never felt like anything I did was good enough for him. One night, a school night I went out drinking (yes I was that teen) and when my mom fetched me from my accomplice’s house I was blotto. My mom screamed and shouted at me the entire way home, and when we stopped at robots or stop signs she would take it as an opportunity to ‘smack some sense into me’. It hurt but I didn’t kill me.
I got home, went to my room, out of reach of my mom and my dad walked in. I was expecting a lecture and a good talking to but all he said as he pulled the blinds down and drew the curtains was “I have never been so disappointed in my life”. From that moment on my sole purpose was to win my dad’s approval back. And I don’t think I ever did. I got divorced (a taboo), I adopted (more of a taboo) and I adopted two black babies (the tabooist of all taboos).
Life is precious. Life is fleeting and we’re all of a dieable age. And this has put so many things into perspective. When my dad dies I will be an orphan. I will truly be alone and I don’t know how I’m going to live with that.
It’s also put other things into perspective – don’t hold onto grudges. Don’t forgive but not forget – do both. Tell someone what they mean to you. Be real at all times. Be kind to anyone, a stranger, a friend, anyone who looks like they need a bit of kindness. Be humble. Be modest. Strive for what makes you happy and love your life with purpose.
I’ve never wanted fame but I am that point where I keep thinking this can’t be all there is to life. I need to leave a legacy behind. I need to leave a piece of me behind. I am now on a mission to figure out how what that purpose is…I hope you find yours xxx
*for disclosure purposes I was flown to the Baby Dove launch to be a part of the panel and was paid a small fee*
**for further disclosure I would have done it for free for two reasons. One, the first night away from home on my own in a very very long time and two, because I have only used Dove soap on Emma as she really battles with UTIs and eczema**
When the mail arrived asking if I would like to be a part of a panel of moms for the launch of Baby Dove, Unilever’s new range of skin care for babies, I was over the moon excited. Yay! People finally respected me as an ‘expert’ mom I thought to myself.
On reading further my ego deflated a little like my left boob – the panel was more about how there is no such thing as ‘the perfect mom’ only ordinary moms doing their best and trusting their own way. Not so yay anymore – I’d been caught out as an imposter, as a not-so-perfect mom, and now I was being asked to talk about all my failures in front of a group of media, influencers, mom bloggers and other important people.
How wrong was I? I had the most amazing time. In fact, maybe one of my best EVER! I met amazing moms and inspiring career women. I met a young 24 year old (who happened to be black) who works as part of the the R&D team at Unilever. She was an intergral part of this new range and when I looked at her I just saw all the possibilities that lie ahead for Emma.
I also met one of only two paediatric dermatologists in SA, Dr. Hlela, who has more dregrees than I have issues, and again I was excited for Emma’s future while feeling a little underachieved myself. But this wasn’t about me.
The day before the actual launch we had a dry run, which turned out to be little wet, with a few tears shed as we discussed miscarriages, our (perceived) failures as moms and how it’s so easy to feel judged or be judging of each other.
There were also loads of laughs and in the evening Mark phoned so Ben and Emma could say goodnight. I told them I was a little nervous and Ben said I should just be myself (‘because who else are you going to be’ which is what he tells me when I say the same thing to him). He also wanted to know if it was snowing and what the time difference is between Joburg and Cape Town.
The day arrived and there I was. As a mom. On a panel with other moms. One of the questions during the discussion was “how as a mother, with all the advice from others (well meant or not) do we trust our own way?” My answer was that as a mom, who literally had a stork deliver our babies, there was no time for reading and Google. I wasn’t pregnant so no one felt inclined to rub my tummy while passing on advice like a baby/parent whisperer.
With Emma I literally got to change her nappy once while she was still at the shelter and was given a quick run through on how to bath her. That was it. The rest was on a wing and a pile of Xanor.
But flying home that night I sat on the plane thinking what ‘trusting your way’ really meant. And I realized it meant so much, even before becoming a mom. When I came to terms with the fact that I wasn’t going to be the mom of my own destiny I had to trust my way of becoming one through adoption. There weren’t any cheerleaders in my corner. Even my mom, hopefully her soul is resting in peace, couldn’t quite come to terms with it. When I told her I had found my baby she couldn’t hide her disappointment and asked me whether adoption didn’t feel like 2nd surprise? Other family members asked if we would consider surrogacy and IVF. Even Mark, from a much more pragmatic point of view, asked the real questions I didn’t/hadn’t/wouldn’t consider – could I love someone else’s baby? Could I really love a baby of another color? But Emma, from the moment I saw her, was mine. And there was no way of changing my mind.
I had to trust that my way was going to lead to unhappiness within my very own family; it was going to rock boat socially and politically but I didn’t care. As a woman I had to trust that this was the only way I was ever going to have my own children. When Ben arrived there was no second guessing or doubt. Again I trusted my way and look where we are today. A funny and strange little family making our way in the world.
Thank you to Unilever and Dove for allowing me to share my story. Thank you to the other amazing women on the panel, and in the group, who opened up to a room full of strangers. As other women told their stories heads nodded in agreement, a few tears were shed where common experiences were shared and relived. We all realised we’re on this journey together and while we’re all struggling each and every day, our way, our instinct, is what gets us through.
PS I was given the most amazing hamper of Baby Dove products to use and review but when I was checking in to fly home the lady behind the desk asks if I was expecting (I’m assuming because of the box of goodies and NOT my untoned belly). I replied that no, I wasn’t, and asked if she had little ones. “Yes, I’ve got a 3-year old and a 10 month old” and so I asked her if she would like the hamper.
I will be buying the new range of Dove, for all of us, especially for Emma, and I’ll definitely be buying their baby wipes, regardless of free products or not.
I’m also hoping to do a giveaway soon and go into the far more technical side of range, share the necessary links and Facebook details. It’s definitely a skincare range you want to consider for your precious bundle…
How have you, as a parent, had to trust your own way? Would love to hear from you xxx
If the number of missing women isn’t scaring the shit out of you at the moment I don’t know what will.
I’m not sure if we’re just more aware of it or if there’s a definite increase but the statistics of women being raped and murdered has me losing much needed beauty sleep.
What frightens me beyond belief is that you no longer have to look out for boogie men or not talk to strangers, because for me, and countless other women and girls, it wasn’t a creepy guy in a trench coat frothing at the mouth with a sign reading “predator”. My abusers were all known to me. Except for two occasions – one in a public bathroom at Eastgate shopping centre while my then boyfriend waited in the queue to buy movie tickets and another time in my house.
I speak freely about the abuse nowadays. It was a liberating experience mentioning it to a friend the first time. And you want to know what made it easier after that? The fact that almost every girl I told had been through something similar, something far worse or not as bad (as if there’s such a thing as ‘not as bad’ abuse).
And so I now tell my story. Openly. Freely. I’m not the one that should be ashamed and I refuse to walk with that label around my neck any longer.
A friend approached me recently and asked if I would tell her story. She liked my style of writing, my honesty and my ability to talk to people, even on a rather formal platform like a blog.
This is her story. Names, dates and places have been altered slightly to protect her identity (for now) and I might add a little of my character to keep the story interesting, although I’m not sure it’s necessary.
At seven or eight I remember my cousin groping me in the swimming pool while the adults sat sipping on tea and scones, a couple of feet away from us. Everytime he dived under he would grab either my breasts or my crotch area. When I mentioned it to my mom she told me that it’s harmless fun and ‘all boys do that’. I soon stopped swimming at my aunt’s house.
During primary school I was one of the first girls to wear a bra and everyday I had boys pulling at my bra straps. In class. In line. On the playground. When I did raise it with one of the teachers I was told to cover the bra straps up by wearing a vest or a spencer because ‘boys will be boys’ .
In standard five (or grade 7 as it’s called today) my Afrikaans teacher accused me of cheating in a test. Apparently my final mark was much higher than it should have been and the only way it could have happened was because I had crib notes with me. He made me rewrite the test during break time, in a locked classroom with him. There was no test. Instead I was fondled by this man and told how special I was. He didn’t do that kind of thing with just anyone. He then deducted 20% off my test mark and submitted it as ‘final’.
Oddly enough even with my cousin and the pool incident I was a really good swimmer and went for coaching 5 days a week. During school holidays the coach ran an academy which started at 7am in the morning and finished round about 5pm. During rest time he would kindly smother me with suntan cream, in front of the others, always pulling my costume line higher because ‘those were the areas the sun burnt when your costume crept up while you stretched your arms doing crawl or butterfly’. Strangely it was only me he was concerned about.
By around 10 I was abused on a regular basis by an uncle. And on different occasions, his son. A friend’s dad owned a cinema complex and I was allowed to watch movies all day with my friend. As long as I was sitting next to him in the dark, so he could fiddle and fondle to his hard-on’s content. By 15 I was involved with a married man who was 35. His daughter was two years younger than me.
In standard 7 I attended Star Schools for extra math lessons and I remember walking from the class to my mom’s car but before I got to her I heard a “psssst” behind me. I turned to look and there was a youngish guy, looking directly at me. As I made eye contact he looked down and my eyes followed his. He was masturbating and after ejaculating he picked up his pace, rushing past me and wiping his hand on my blazer.
In standard 8 I changed schools. I was tired of the constant harassment from older boys about my ample bosom and figured an all-girls school would be better. It was. But everyday I waited at the bus stop in town with a man sititng next to me, wearing shorts with a newspaper strategically placed over his crotch. And he would be playing with himself. Everyone knew he did this but no one ever confronted him. I, along with other girls, were always told to stand away from him. It was our fault because we aroused him.
My first job I was sexually harassed by male colleagues all the time. I was promised promotions and increases if I would ‘just’ let them feel me up, or ‘just’ suck them off. Men would look at me and tell me I looked ‘filthy’ and up for a good time.
Years later I was sexually harassed to the point where I mentioned it to a manager, almost half joking about it because at this point I figured it happened to everyone, all the time. But he took the complaint very seriously and reported it to the MD. By this time I was apologizing for causing a ruckus, for putting people in uncomfortable situations. The harasser responded as follows:
Nothing like that happened
What? She wishes. Have you seen her?
I would never do something like that unless I knew she was up for it
She came onto me. She knows I’m happily married
And the matter was laid to rest.
I was married for a couple of years to a good man. A man too good for me. Every day thoughts of me not being good enough plagued me. Sex and love to me were two very different things but completely interchangeable. Looking for love, in all its wrong forms, I would have sex with whoever, whenever but my husband and I were hardly ever intimate.
To sabotage it all, because why would trash like me deserve someone like him, I had affairs. Loads. All with men who treated me like an object. All with men who held me in the same regard I held myself.
Needless to say my husband found out and he left. I knew he would. I didn’t deserve someone like that.
I remarried. Have two perfect children but my experiences still affect me. I abuse over the counter medicines, don’t consider myself worth very much and battle with depression and thoughts of suicide.
I am not a woman. I am a statistic. One of many whose life has, and always will be, affected by men.
I am that girl. Too scared to walk alone. Too scared to wear clothes that are sexy or provocative. I am that girl that blames herself for acting trashy, for being too available, for being in the wrong places at the wrong times. Again and again and again. I am always aware of my surroundings, never letting my guard down.
I am that girl. The woman next to you in the mall, she’s probably that girl too. As is the lady who packs your groceries at your local store.
But we’re the lucky ones because we’re here to tell the tale unlike those women found in ditches, burned beyond recognition, murdered in their homes, gang raped and shamed…
We all have the potential to be THAT girl.