Boy to man … almost

It is Connor’s birthday tomorrow – he is turning nine years old.

I cannot believe that nine years ago today he will still firmly incubated where my spleen, liver and large intestines are now resident.

I recall how afraid I was when I was pregnant.

Well, not afraid in it’s true sense, more in the “well, if I do not think about that then it will not occur” – so it was more a denial type of afraid.

I was fine with the pregnancy, and was lucky enough to experience a really easy pregnancy (if it is any consolation I will have two subsequent pregnancies that definitely showed me the ying and yang in life.)  The pregnancy part with Connor brought very little change to my normal life.

I did not experience morning sickness, nor much in the way of aches and pains.  I gained very little weight (oh we laugh now, we do), and it was all quite jolly.  It sort of just ticked by with it’s own time clock – as things if you ignore then tend to do.

I was not terribly opinionated about what I wanted, and was happy to go with the flow (to a large degree).

The one problem I had with the pregnancy, is that my mind’s eye could not (or would not) see past when I was not pregnant any more.  Pregnancy fine, seeing me with baby, not so much.

I was good with picturing the pregnancy.  Not so good with what would happen when I was not pregnant anymore.  I just had no idea.  My mind was using a super coping mechanism of “well, let’s ignore it totally shall we!”

I was really happy with the pregnancy, but had not spent a moment picturing how they were going to get the baby out. (Notice how I had outsourced that problem to someone else, and deemed myself the innocent unconcerned bystander)

I had not pictured cuddling my baby and bonding with him – I had nothing, and I was sort of comfortable with that.

People kept saying “You must be really excited that it is nearly over hey?” And of course I would raise an eyebrow and go: “Not really hey. Much easier in that out I am thinking.” Which would leave them confused and they would shuffle off.

I was not panicking about the “after pregnancy” because I had not given it any thought what so ever, I had not allowed it to come into my head.

Connor did arrive, and I think because I had no clue, I worried and panicked less.

When they did hand him over to me. I then felt the panic start to creep in, as I really had no idea what to do with him – I had not really held a baby before him.

The fact that all the nurses at Panorama Medi Clinic appeared so efficient made me really panic.  They were more from the Gestapo-school-of-nurse training that the Elizabeth Anne school, so they made me a little scared, feel very insecure, and well cry a bit (a lot.)

I realized as I watched them handle him with confidence, that I was well and truly out of my depth.  It took me about 30 minutes to change his nappy – and that was using about 4 nappies as I kept mucking them up, and there would be bum cream pretty much all over him, me, the bedding, the nappy bag, the nurse’s button!

I did not struggle with breastfeeding, but had no clue what I was doing, and that might have helped it just go better.  I stuck him on and then left him.  Great, but the bleeding nipples, not so much.

As the day drew near where I had to leave the hospital, I realized that now I was going to have a full fledged panic.  I called the nurse over and asked in my “you might have overlooked this detail” customer voice: “Er, when will you be giving me the manual.  There is one available right?”

Oh she laughed.  Bless her.  Of course I then had a bit of a cry as I realized there was actually no manual.  Which does appear like a huge oversight.

I received an instruction manual when I purchased a George Foreman Grill for goodness sake, but nothing when I expel a baby from my uterus.  Seems like “someone” is not realizing what a big deal this actually is.

The problem is that when you start crying after you have had a  baby, well you actually never stop.  I proceeded to cry for about three months, and then some.

Ah good times.

So today I reflect on all that and the distance I have travelled (in my head) since December 2001.

I was not sure I wanted any children.  However of course when I was pregnant and had Connor it was clear that we were going to be joined for life through this connection of mother and child/son.  Since then I have had two more, and would have another tomorrow if Kennith would just think it was a good idea.

Connor isn’t a baby anymore and probably has not been for some time.  It is difficult to look at him and see that he is on his way to being a gangly lanky boy-man who will throw a pre-pubescent fit about something and go around slamming his door.

I look at him physically and his development and I think that there is not much time between now and when he starts to sprout wiry hair on his body, and starts to do strange things in his room with his door closed.

I like that he still likes to come and get a cuddle from me – albeit when his friends are far away from him and don’t see him.

Last night when I asked him something he answered by going “WORD!” in an American slang accent, I was not sure whether to laugh or smack him against the side of his head.

Last night I caught Georgia out doing something  wrong, and I heard him comment in a low voice “busted!” and that made me laugh.

Connor has grown into a sweet, soft-hearted loving child, who is a bit OCD about fishing.  He is friendly and caring about others, and really has such a genuine pleasant nature.

Wow what an incredible nine years! It is hard to fathom that in another 9 years he will be 18 and then might retract his statement about “I am never going to have a girl friend, girls are yuck!”

So humour me this little pictorial meander down the road that is Connor.

Connor being born – 10 December 2001.

All red lipped and puckered in the incubator …. he really was a beautiful baby …..

Connor 6 months old …. he dribbled from birth …..

3rd Birthday … notice how long his hair is …. people kept saying things like: “what a beautiful girl…” and then Kennith went to cut his hair, about a week after this photo.

Connor 4 years and 6 months (his sister had just arrived on the scene)

Nearly 5.  He had just cut his own fringe, and the only solution was to cut all his hair off really short to try to make it look like we really wanted a hairstyle with big chunks of hair missing from the front.

5th Birthday – we always open presents after everyone has gone or even some days the day after.

Connor 5 1/2 at Zevenwacht with Georgia ….

Connor 5 years and 10 months ….

6th Birthday party … a boy on a boat with his mates, what could be better?

Connor 6 and a half ….

Connor turns 7 – this is the school party at his Pre-Primary ….. (and the teeth starting leaving the scene)

Connor’s first day of school …. I have no idea what is going on with the pose ….

Connor’s 8th birthday party …. as you can tell wildlife, snakes and so on feature quite heavily in our lives due to Connor’s little obsessions (I think we all go through the stage of two HUGE front teeth)

Connor 8 and a half … sort of starting to lose that gangly little boy thing and the little man is starting to show through.

Nearly nine ….

Decriminalise consensual teen sex…..

I was listening to a discussion on Cape Talk last week by John Maytham and there was a discussion about the decriminalisation of consensual teen sex.

In short (and I am cutting and pasting from the Cape Talk site here) Laws that make consensual sex between teenagers a crime are unconstitutional, the Teddy Bear Clinic, and Resources Aimed at the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (Rapcan) said earlier this week, when they launched a court application to challenge sections of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act.

The case follows the highly publicised Jules High School case, where two boys, aged 16 and 14, had sex with a 15-year-old girl.

The 16-year-old was charged with statutory rape and the others with “consensual sexual penetration” under the act.

The National Prosecuting Authority’s decision to prosecute the teenagers, including the girl, provoked criticism. The charges have since been dropped.  Guest: Samantha Waterhouse – Organisation: Community Law Centre, UWC – Position: Parliamentary Programme Co-ordinator

I must confess that when I first heard about the decriminalization of this law, I got my panties in a bit of a knot.

The do-gooder in me jumped up, found a soap box, put on a shirt that buttons up to my neck and has sleeves that go all the way down to my wrist.

Once on said soap box I started to make speeches about how if society decriminalizes sex between consenting under 16 year olds.  The world will just be rampant with sex, and people will go around having sex younger and younger and blah-blah-blah.

There will be total anarchy and people might start listening to Jason Donovan again.  Basically all hell would break loose.

I did have this discussion in my head, as well as putting on the long sleeve shirt.

But then I was driving and listening to a portion of the show – between fetching kids, getting milk and all the stuff that is fun in the school run.

I did miss parts of the show, but caught the gist of it between traffic, and kids screaming at each other and me saying “shut up, let me listen to this damn show” in my best motherly voice.

I must confess that there were some points that made me stop and go “hmmm you could be right” and it sort of challenged my point of view.

One of them was:  if kids are going to have consensual sex and they are under 16, it should not be a legal issue, it should be a parental issue (Ah-hah moment for me there).

Another was (according to the guest Samantha Waterhouse) that kids who decide not to have sex, other than for the fact that they are under 16, has got nothing to do with the fact that there is a law telling them not to.

But all to do with influences that come from others i.e. often good influences that explain that sex has it’s place, and is part of a relationship, and that the burdens of sex are often better to deal with when you are older and can handle all the ramifications that come with it.

A caller/sms commented that retail stores should be prohibited from selling “not age appropriate clothing” (translated as dress my 12 year old like a hooker, and not a well paid hooker, more of a lady of the night who might only get one paying customer on Somerset Road) clothes to an under 16 year old.

Obviously as this came in as an sms made me realize that the parent in question had to actually have sufficient brain cells to either fill in a cell phone contract or have the sense to go to a retail store and purchase air time.

She had the sense to make that retail decision, but somehow lost her sense when she gave her daughter R250.00 and let her go out to a mall-near-you and purchase a slutty outfit or two.

But because she (the parent) was unable to control/set rules/have any parameters regarding what is appropriate dress for your child she (the parent) feels that retail stores need to put the rules in place.

That did make me wonder: “What the hell is going on here?”

When exactly did we decide to hand over the charge of our children to Pick n Pay/Woolworths/Naartjie and allow them to give, or take permission away from what our children regarding what they wear.

I was pretty sure that responsibility should lie with the parent.

Later in conversation Samantha (who was being interviewed by John Maytham) said – and I am totally paraphrasing here – that the law should be changed, because for a child/person who is under 16 to consent to sex, is not a legal issue.

It is a parental or a societal issue, and should be dealt with as such.

I did not have sex when I was 16, or under 16.

I must also confess that I did not realize there was a law governing such issues. I am not sure that would have acted as a deterrent, or a motivator – I think it would have been a non-issue.

At the time, I was dealing with too many other social issues to even consider that sex was a great idea.

I also had a huge fear that I would repeat the mistakes of “past generations” and girls around me, and be pregnant at 16 or 17 and find myself married to someone who I did not love, who could not support me, and face living in some seedy suburb with a child on each breast and another on it’s way.  All while my (imaginary) husband drank beer out of a can, and wore one of those not-quite-white vests around the house.

But the issue I am trying to raise, is though I totally disagreed with the amending/scrapping of the law, once I had heard the opinion of loosely sane people, I realized that a part of me agreed with the law.

Maybe not totally (as the idea of my children ever having sex, freaks me O U T!).

I personally would prefer kids not to be sexually active while in school – and this is assuming they remain in school.

I  feel a person under 18, with so many other social/peer pressures is just not ready for sex and the emotional consequences.

I think without a doubt their bodies are ready for sex, but emotionally and mentally, not so much.

However if my son (for instance) had sex with his girlfriend (imaginary girl friend as he assures me almost daily that he will never have a girlfriend), who let’s say was 15, 10 months, and he was 15 and 11 months – and it was consensual for both of them, I really would not like to be standing at Wynberg Magistrate’s Court having a discussion about this with an attorney and a judge as to why my child was having sex.

Sure I might handle it by drinking copious amounts of wine and puking into the toilet bowl as I screamed at Kennith that “It is all your fault!”

If that should occur – the sex and under 16 kids,  not the wine and puking, which sounds like a normal Saturday night out – then I would like to use that as a “wake up sign” to reflect on how I was raising my son, and how this situation became “alright, for him to make this decision.”

I am also not naive and think that at 16 we can control what our kids do and watch them every second of the day.

We can try to ensure that they know what they should or should not do, and then ensure that there are rules that are followed i.e. no girls sleeping over in your room for instance, and then sort of hope from there on in, that kids “do the right thing” – what ever each family’s interpretation of that is.

I am not even going to use the example of my daughter being 15, 10 months, and her boyfriend being 15 and 11 months – as Kennith would go and shoot him (literally, not figuratively) and then we would be having an entirely different conversation at Wynberg Magistrate’s Court.

Parenting needs to be a hands-on affair, we need to be aware what our kids watch, who they speak to, how they speak, and constantly keep dialogue channels open so they (hopefully) they feel they can talk to you about the little stuff and the big stuff.

My kids are small and this a rather premature thing to be worried about (in my world) – but I speak to the kids about sex so that it sounds about as thrilling as a cheese and paprika sandwich, and becomes such a ho-hum subject that it is the equivalent to “pass the margarine” in their world.

I want it to be something they know about.

Something they do not feel embarrassed about, and more importantly when Rugby Captain Brad wants to show Georgia what sex is in the backseat of the car, she can answer matter of factly that she is all up to scratch on that subject – and mom said never to have sex in the back seat of a car, any car!!

Towards the end of the conversation on Cape Talk I decided to have a pop quiz and asked if Connor knew what sex was – he said yes without even flinching.

I asked Georgia and she also said yes.

I was suspicious that she was just mimicking Connor so I asked her how babies were made, she answered (without skipping a beat) that “babies are made out of bones with skin on them” – which is true.

Based on what clearly was the rather hazy picture Georgia had formed, I asked Connor if he could tell me what sex was.

So he said: “When a girl lies on top of a boy, and the boy puts his winkie in the girl’s winkie.”

When all is said and done, that really is what it is.

I would like the government and legal fraternity to make recommendations and set out guidelines, but at the end of it all, I would like us as parents to take responsibility for what our children do.

Hostage Drama Negotiation ….

Last night I stopped to grab some groceries.  I also decided to try some McCain Bobotie (ready made meals) and paired it with a Robertson Chenin Blanc, and some other odds and sods.

By the time I got back to the car – the kids were as close to killing each other as two kids could get if they keep their seat belts on and remained in their relevant seats.

Connor wanted a magazine that Georgia had lying next to her (she was not reading it you understand, it was just lying next to her).

Georgia said no.  Connor begged.  Georgia said no. A fight ensued and then Connor took Georgia’s soccer ball to hold as hostage until Georgia released the magazine.

So Georgia is screaming for Connor to give her soccer ball back – screaming accompanied by crying, snot and tears, to which Connor is saying: “No, because you won’t give me the magazine.  If you give me the magazine I will give your ball back …. Will you give me the magazine?”

To which Georgia replies: “No, give my ball back ………” and well then Connor goes: “No, because you won’t give me the magazine.  If you give me the magazine I will give your ball back …. Will you give me the magazine?” and then Georgia replies: “No, give my ball back ………” and that is pretty much how this conversation/argument/sibling love-in was going when I got to the car.

Threw groceries in the boot – quickly assessed the situation.

Gave Georgia her ball back, took the magazine and gave it to Connor (it was actually MY magazine) and then Georgia started screaming that it was her magazine and now I must give the magazine back.

I tried to reassure her/scream some sense in to her, that actually it was MY magazine.  Odds are she might have another one (Cape Town Child Magazine, we have several lying around the house) that looked exactly the same, but was at home.

This was MINE and I was giving it to Connor to read. (He actually did to even want to read it, he really just wanted to have it because she had it.)

Then I lectured Connor that because Georgia was doing something wrong (not giving him the magazine) did not warrant him doing something wrong as pay-back (taking her soccer ball.)

I tried to get him to see that him doing something wrong, did not miraculously make her give the magazine to him.  All it did was make her scream and get more angry.

So his choice of action did not improve the situation, it only made it worse, and now he was also in the wrong because of what he had done.

Of course he was going to give me the “But mommmmyyyyy …….” defense, which I listened to and reverted back to the point that him taking the ball was also wrong and could he understand that his wrong action, did not fix her wrong action (refusing to give him the magazine.)

He did finally acknowledge that I was right. He did not actually acknowledge he was wrong, but he let it go at that point.

The thing that got me thinking was that as parents if we are not able to guide our kids correctly in decision making and dealing with “highly emotional” issues we end up creating an entire generation that thinks WWF wrestling is a perfectly acceptable method of problem solving.

There are several boys at Connor’s school that physically fight when an issue becomes too difficult for them to deal with, or they find a classmate disagrees with them.

Actually there are several kids (boys and girls) at Georgia school who have no qualms about the odd “strangling” or biting and kicking and slapping action to resolve a dispute.

There is value in trying to appear like a reasonable adult when your kids are around.  When they are in bed, you can continue to cuss at the cat for sitting on your monitor and obstructing your view of the latest You Tube video.

Just so you see the balance: I get the kids out of the car at home, reach in to the boot to grab the shopping bags while trying to herd them to get their bags and shoes.  Shopping bag falls over, and the milk, the chocolate spread, the stupid caremello bears do not fall out of the bag, only my 750ml of happiness fall out and breaks on the garage floor.

Let’s say I did not deal with that disappointment in a very reasonable adult manner.

Odds are it might have cancelled out my earlier rational stance on dealing with life.