Seven

My big boy!

I will admit to having a little cry on the way to work after I dropped you at school this morning, my mind still boggling at how my baby boy is already seven! Still euphoric after a great party, you were excitedly greeted by the friends that joined us yesterday to celebrate. We invited a small group of special friends to the bird gardens, and it was such a pleasure seeing you have such an awesome time. You and your friends ran around freely, enjoying the birds and other creatures on display, pure joy emanating from your hearts and your faces! Half the time I didn’t even know where you were, testament to the fact that you are a big boy now, and don’t need us to watch you all the time.

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The change in you in the year between turning six and turning seven has been huge. You have grown taller and more solid, and your face has lost all remnants of toddlerhood! You have become so responsible, more assertive, and happier in your own skin. You are still, however, a bit of a day-dreamer, disappearing into your own little world every now and then, oblivious to the goings-on around you. You have learnt to read and do sums, and can finally tie your shoe laces by yourself.

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You are a gentle and kind child, and always care about other people’s feelings. We are so proud of you my boy. Your reading and writing is excellent, and you love to read aloud to your sister (especially “Cuddle Bear”.) I love receiving little letters from you that say things like “I love you mom, you are the best mom”. And you even write love letters to the dogs…

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You love animals, and enjoy telling us facts about various creatures such as the birds in your birdie book, and the reptiles that you love so much. Your favourite thing at school is “show and tell” day, where you get to talk about all the things that you love (mainly various animals)! You love to swim, and can literally spend hours in the pool, immersed in your own imagination as you dive under the cool water. You love our new puppy, Saxon, and I just know that the two of you will be life-long friends.

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It’s so bittersweet watching you grow up my boy; becoming your mom has changed me so profoundly. I cannot imagine not having you near me. If I compare your first day of grade one to today, I cannot believe it’s the same child. The thought of you not needing me as much frightens the life out of me as I witness your growing independence.

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I am so blessed to be your mom, and I love you more than all the stars in the sky.

Stay as sweet as you are, my big boy, you will always be my baby.

 

 

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Growing up…

There is a scene near the end of Mary Poppins that always causes a lump in my throat. I have seen the movie many, many times, both as a child, and recently with my own children. In the scene, Mary is having a conversation with the children while she readies them to go and fly kites in the park with their parents. The children plead with her not to leave, and question whether she loves them. She replies “And what would happen to me, may I ask, if I loved all the children I had to say goodbye to?” Gets me every time.

I always wonder if school teachers feel a bit like this, as they say goodbye to their class each year. I think about how sad all the children are to say goodbye. Change is so hard when you are only little, but they manage to move on so quickly. I know it must be sad for the teachers to say goodbye too, despite their hard Mary Poppins-like exteriors.

Alex was very teary towards the end of grade R. The thought of going to “big school” frightened the life out of him. He kept telling me that he wasn’t ready. Grade R had gotten off to a rough start but ended up being a really wonderful year. His teacher, Georgia, was phenomenal; she had the right balance of toughness and nurturing to help Alex grow and thrive. She was absolutely amazing when he broke his arm and handled him so gently and kindly. Alex loved Georgia. So naturally, saying goodbye was very hard for Alex. He could not contain his tears when he hugged Georgia goodbye on the last day of school. A few days before Grade one started he pleaded with me to take him back to Grade R so he could be in Georgia’s class again. But saying goodbye and moving on is all part of growing up. (He still pops in to visit Georgia after school whenever he can!)

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We had many teary upsets during the December holiday, and anxiety about school starting. The first day of school arrived, and dressed in his brand new uniform, we joined the scores of parents seated in the hall with their little ones. Excitement at seeing all their friends after the long break helped soften the anxiety that everyone was feeling in their hearts. Lumps were in every parent’s throat as we waited for the classes to be announced.

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Once the excitement of the selection was over, the kids all settled down in their class-rooms, and it was time for the parents to leave. Alex looked up at me with his big blue eyes glistening. We were both fighting back tears. His eyes pleaded for me not to go. My heart broke for my baby boy, he suddenly looked so small in his over-sized uniform. But I left, and he was fine. The second day was worse, and he was fighting back tears on the way to school. But that too passed, and each day got easier.

A few months have passed now since that first day, and Alex has really become a big boy. He is physically taller, his hair is shorter, and his face has lost the toddler chubbiness. I’m not going to say that grade one has been a breeze so far, because it hasn’t been, but he has slowly found his way to feeling comfortable in his skin again. The school day is longer and the break periods are shorter, but he comes home happy most days, despite having homework to do when we get home. He is learning to read and do maths, and received full marks for his recent maths and spelling tests, so he is definitely coping with the workload and the new school routine. He loves bringing interesting things to Show and Tell  on Wednesdays and enjoys the days they have sport after school immensely. He still has some trouble making new friends, and just fitting in, in general, but I can see the confident boy inside him lurking much closer to the surface than it has ever been before.

His new teacher is nice, and Alex seems to like her, but gone are the days of the nurturing, loving pre-school teachers, who chat to you every day and end up being your friend by the end of the year. It’s different now, they are on the Big-School hamster wheel, that is spinning way too fast for my liking. Communication with the teacher is limited to a quick hello in the mornings, as Alex usually rushes out of the class by himself in the afternoons as soon as he sees me outside. It’s sad really, that the days of our children being little are so very short. It seems like just the other day that we were walking into the pre-school for the first time, and its already over three years ago!

Before I know it, Grade One will be over, and we will be dealing with the changes of the next phase of Alex’s school career. Play-dates and toys will make way for school sport matches and homework and assignments, and soon the short pants of primary school will become the long grey ones with blazers, preparing our baby boy for wearing suits to his jobs one day. I want to scream “Stop, this is all going too fast!”, knowing that nothing can stop time from marching along relentlessly.

I am enjoying watching Alex grow up and change as each new phase passes. I would be lying though if I said it wasn’t breaking my heart in the process.

 

 

Breaking bones

Around 11 o’clock last Tuesday, I was in a meeting with limited cell phone reception. A message suddenly came through announcing that I had 9 new voicemail messages. Excusing myself, I listened to the messages, 5 were from Alex’s preschool. All the messages went something along the lines of “Hi, it’s Gina again, Alex has fallen and hurt his arm quite badly, we need you to come and get him!”, the urgency rising in her voice with each subsequent message.

I got to the school as quickly as I could, but driving from Bryanston to Senderwood late morning holds a ton of traffic along the way. I got to the school 45 minutes later. The poor boy was sitting in Pre-school reception with his teacher, clutching his damaged arm. The accident report said that Alex had fallen off the monkey bars on the green jungle gym at 10.45 AM. The teacher had wrapped his arm in a splint and an ice pack. His eyes were swollen from crying, and as soon as he saw me he started to wail. And I started to cry too. The teacher that had seen him fall appeared out of nowhere with a glass of water and some rescue remedy. “Drink this, you’re going to need it!”

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(As luck would have it, Gary was away in Knysna playing golf. He also discovered a few voicemails on his phone from the school when he came off the course at around one.)

I got him to casualty as quickly as I could, trying to navigate pot-holes and speed-bumps along the way as gently as I could. There was no parking at the hospital and I ended up parking at the ass-end of nowhere. Luckily a golf cart was on hand to take us to the building, and the driver kindly organised me a wheelchair to take him down to casualty. They rushed us through as soon as we got in, as it was evident that Alex was in a huge amount of pain. By this point he was screaming like someone had chopped his arm off. They gave him some pain killers (2 x 25mg Panamor and 2 x 250g empaped) but they didn’t even take the edge off. He must have cried for 3 hours solid before he literally passed out from the pain. (Side note: I saw his paed the day after, and after looking at his x-rays on the hospital system, he was completely surprised and annoyed that they hadn’t given him morphine in casualty! On a positive note, there was no damage to his growth plates.)

The x-ray revealed that he had broken both the radius and ulna clean through about a centimeter from the wrist. The bones were close to having pierced his skin. He needed to have surgery to fix it. His arm was buckled into an unnatural position.

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We then got taken to the ward and waited for the surgeon. The surgery was scheduled for 4PM. He was very scared at the prospect of surgery, and kept begging me to take him home. It was absolutely heart breaking, I felt so sorry for him, and sorry that I couldn’t take his pain away. The doctor manipulated the bones back into place under anesthetic and had to secure the bones with wires, which they put in through the skin. (Which are incidentally removed in 4 weeks time under anesthetic, by literally pulling them back out through the skin. Ouch.)

We were eventually discharged just after 7PM, with his arm in a half cast and sling. What a day!

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On the bright side he wasn’t in a lot of pain anymore, and managed to have a fairly good night’s sleep. He even insisted on going to school the next morning, and was quite the hero amongst his peers. (Caris, however, was completely horrified that her brother was broken and couldn’t stop crying when she saw him. Sweet girl.)

Yesterday we went to have the half cast removed and a hard one applied. (The poor boy has been like a caged animal for the past week, and all he has been wanting to do is run and be physical!) He was so excited to go to school today so that his friends could write and draw on it. I am amazed at how quickly he seems to be recovering from what was a very nasty break. Even the orthopedic surgeon remarked that children have an incredible ability to heal and just get on with things.

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Case in point: playing soccer in the garden with his sister, cast and all!

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Six

My darling Alex,

Six is not a very big number.

It is the number of legs on an insect or the largest number of dots on standard dice.

Six is half a dozen; or the most harmonious of single digit numbers (if you are into numerology.)

According to Winnie the Pooh, it is when we get CLEVER! (And you are so very clever!)

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If you are in the mood for mathematical titbits, six is the only number that is both the sum and the product of three consecutive positive numbers. A Cube has six faces, and a six sided polygon is called a hexagon.

A guitar has six strings, and the Star of David has six points. (Although according to you, a Star of David is not a real star, because a real star only has five points)

In Astrology, Virgo is the Sixth sign of the zodiac. (And happens to be your star sign!)

Six is also the number of years that I have been a mom. I still cannot believe that six years have passed since you made your way into my life and into my heart. Six years that have changed my life in the most indescribable and incredible way. Six of the best years of my life.

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But despite six not being a very big number, it is so very, very big.

You have grown so much this year between 5 and 6, both physically and emotionally. You have blossomed from a shy and sometimes anxious little guy into a confident, rambunctious boy. A boy who seems to have transformed from a baby into a big-boy overnight. A boy who can fetch his own food, and swim by himself, and asks questions that are way beyond his years. A boy who has lost six baby teeth, and is getting so, so tall. A boy who loves running and swimming and being outside. A boy who looks after his sister, and makes sure he always holds her hand in a busy parking lot (or on the beach). A boy who loves to wrestle with his older brothers, and lick their faces while pretending to give them a kiss. A boy who loves animals and wants to be a vet when he grows up. A wild animal vet, to be specific! (And thinks that the solution to saving the rhinos is to kill all the hunters!)

A boy who will be going to Grade 1 next year. Big School.

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A boy who doesn’t really need me that much anymore with each passing day.

A boy who LOVES dragons.

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And yes, you asked for a Night Fury Dragon cake this year …

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This growing up thing is bitter-sweet. As much as I want you to be independent and do things for yourself, the thought of you not needing me anymore breaks my heart. Even Daddy said that at your party this year he felt like you never really needed us to be there. You played and ran and laughed with your friends, and it was the most beautiful thing to watch.

You are the most kind and caring boy, with an infectious laugh and the sweetest smile.

And to quote a lyric from a Styx song: “Don’t ever change, stay as sweet as you are…”

I love you my boy, forever and always.

DandA

 

 

 

 

 

The trouble with being little

Barring the last week, Alex has been having a bit of a rough time since school started again this year. Being quite a reserved child, he sometimes struggles to fit in with the crowd. I can relate, because I was never really a mainstream kid. He has always been quite an intense child, we even saw him frowning in-utero during his 4D ultrasound! Even from tiny, he would suss things out before engaging with a new group of kids, or trying out a new activity. He doesn’t particularly care for crowds and much prefers one-on-one attention. I always assumed that it was because he only started school at three, and was naturally shy, but the more I observe him, the more I realise that he is a little different to the other kids. And specifically to the other boys. But not in a bad way. Alex is a sensitive child, and is clearly a thinker (a trait he has gained from me, and from his dad, so he has a double dose!) He is always polite and waits his turn, sometimes to his own detriment, as the other kids barge in front of him. He is a worrier and seems to carry the weight of the world on his tiny shoulders some days.

When I see the boys in his class playing fighting games and running around pretending to shoot each other, I can understand why Alex prefers the company of girls; he is just not into that stuff. So as a result, all of Alex’s school friends are girls. But by the same token, he loves typical boy things such as cars, planes, ball games etc, and his latest obsession: vikings and dragons. He has told me on many occasions that he does not like the fighting games that the boys play, because they are too rough. (But he is perfectly happy to rough-house with Gary or his older brothers, go figure!) He loves anything to do with animals, and I could fully see him being a vet, or an animal rights activist, in the future. While the other boys are watching Ben 10 and Spiderman, Alex prefers “A dolphin tale” and “How to train your dragon” (and mainly because the dragon is a pet!)

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So the trouble began when we started school again this year, and his friend Bianca was not there. (She has some medical issues requiring surgery this year and her parents decided to home-school her.) The classes are always mixed up at the beginning of the year, and as a result there are new kids in his class, and only a few from last year. And more importantly, the girls are starting to only play with girls. Which leaves poor Alex in a bit of a quandary. We have many conversations on the way home that go something like this:

“Did you have a nice day boy”

“No. I had a terrible day”

“Why?”

“Somebody hurt my feelings”

“Who, boy?”

“Carmen…” (or Vicky or Jessica etc…)

“What did they do my love?”

“Nobody wants to play with me … ” (tears at this point)

“Why don’t you play with the boys then, sweetheart?”

“I don’t like fighting games.” (now full-on sobbing)

And my heart breaks for him.

Alex has been teary quite a lot at school too. His teacher has mentioned this to me on a few occasions and asked me if there are any major issues in Alex’s life right now. She told me that she has asked him if anything is bothering him, and he sometimes gets very teary and (after a lot of coaxing) says things like his tummy is sore or he is missing his brother (Stuart has been away in New Orleans since November last year.) And whilst on some days he is perfectly happy and full of the joys of spring, the kid is clearly on an emotional roller coaster. Being in grade 0 this year also means that the pressure has increased big time, so it is important that he feels settled. By the same token, if I see that he is feeling down at home and ask him what is wrong, he gives me lines such as “I don’t like that movie we saw… ” or “I don’t want to swim because the water goes in my eyes…” or some other random statement, but I never get to the bottom of what is really going on. And the more I ask him what is really troubling him, the more upset he gets.

As parents we just want our kids to be happy, but no matter what I do to try to understand what’s eating him up inside, I just can’t seem to get through to him!

Which brings me to another issue: the sore tummy. I have also been at the receiving end of many complaints of “my tummy is sore”, usually preceded by something he does not want to do, which at the moment is just about everything. Not wanting to go swimming, not wanting to go to bed, not wanting to go to soccer, not wanting to eat dinner, not wanting to tidy up, being refused a new toy at the shops etc. So to be honest, I have doubted that there is anything physically wrong with his tummy, and that he has just been using it as an excuse to get attention. However, I am also not insensitive to the impact that Gary’s kidney issue last year has had on Alex, as he has asked me many times: “What will happen if I get a lump on my kidney? Will I die?” And “What happens if daddy gets a lump on his other kidney? Will he die?” etc. I always try to reassure him that he is fine, and daddy is fine, and no-one is going to die right now. So for good measure, I decided to take him to the paed just to be sure, and the doc confirmed that there is nothing to be concerned about. I also got the good doctor to check his kidneys too, which are obviously fine, but I felt terrible when the poor boy whispered to me as we got into the car: “I was very nervous when Dr Slowatek checked my kidneys mommy!”

Breaks my heart some more.

So as much as he seems a little happier at the moment, I still think that he is carrying around some issues, which I don’t know how to help him resolve. I would guess that the problem lies somewhere between Bianca being gone, Stuart being away, and Gary’s health-scare, but when I ask him about any of these things he just gets upset, and cannot verbalise his true feelings. Maybe its none of these things and I am jumping to conclusions.

I have considered taking him to a play therapist, but I have heard so many mixed reviews about these types of therapies. Some kids blossom during the process, and for some it’s a total waste of time (and money.) And my cynical mind thinks that we never had the luxury of therapists to sort out all our problems when we were kids, and we ultimately turned out just fine. But I also appreciate that kids these days are under a LOT more pressure than we ever were. I also don’t want Alex to become completely withdrawn as he clearly already struggles to express his feelings.

So later today I have a meeting with the school psychologist… wish me luck! (And here’s hoping we get to the bottom of this!)

Five…

To my dear Alex
This post is a little bit late, as you have been five for all of 5 days already. Which just goes to show how busy life is at the moment, and how quickly time just melts away.

You joined this world on Sunday the 21st of September 2008, at 5 to midnight, determined to be born on your grand-father’s birthday. (Your C-section was scheduled for the 23rd) And what is quite interesting, is that Grand-pa was born on his Grandmother’s birthday … making the 21st of September a rather popular day in our family!

It is a day that I will never forget, and in fact I will cherish it forever …. It was the day that I became a mother for the first time, and learned what unconditional love really is.

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I am so proud of you my boy, and watching you grow up is bitter-sweet. While I love the fact that you are gaining more knowledge and independence by the day, my heart aches for the tiny new-born nuzzled against my chest that seems to have disappeared in the blink of an eye.

Yesterday, Dad and I went to Ballito for the day to look at the new house, and we left you and Caris with Promise for the day. When we got home, it was late and you were already in bed. I asked Promise if all was ok, and she said yes, but that Caris wanted her to sing a lullaby before you both went to sleep. Promise didn’t know the lullaby that Daddy sings to you guys every night, so she told us that you sang the lullaby for Caris. (Sleep, Sleep tonight, And may your dreams, Be realized … by U2). My sweet boy, this just epitomises what a beautiful soul you have, and what an amazing little boy you have become.

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I love you to the stars and beyond, and I am so truly blessed to have you in my life.

Love you always xx MOM

Meet you on the other side…

At school, there are a couple of pathways that lead from the parking lot to the classroom. When we arrive, I always ask Alex which way he would like to go; past the fish-pond, under the mulberry trees etc. His reply is inevitably “I’ll meet you on the other side!” (Which means: he goes down a different pathway to me and then meets me on the other side.)

It is a little game that we have been playing since the beginning of pre-school, a little reflection of his growing independence, and sometimes, I run ahead, and say “BOO!” when he strolls out of his chosen route. He screams with delight and then runs ahead to the pre-school block reception. During mulberry season, he dawdles along the pathway, squashing purples berries while he walks. On rainy days, he thunders through the puddles, splashing water all over the place. And in winter he runs as fast as he can, trying to stay warm, blowing little puffs of steam from his mouth into the icy morning air. (Our afternoon ritual is similar, but then we go past the fish-pond, so that he can see “daddy fish” – which happens to be the biggest koi fish in the pond.)

When we arrive in the school building, he runs to find his locker, and usually looks to see if his friend Vicky’s bag is in her locker yet. This morning, his Greek teacher was waiting, and he sidled up to her for a hug, saying “Kalimera Kyria Sula” shyly. (…with apologies to any Greek readers, I have no idea how to spell that!) My heart just swelled with pride. He is growing up far too quickly, and I find myself missing the days when he was a baby. Before long, I imagine I will be stopping outside the school gate, with a sulky teenager in the back seat, who would probably rather die than have me walk him to his class room. To add to my melancholy, I went into the playschool on the way out, to hand in Caris’ application for next year. Memories of Alex’s first day at playschool hit me like a hammer; holding his tiny hand, and sitting on the floor with him on my lap for his first group ring. And how proud I was when he got off my lap all by himself to go and sit with the others.

Alex, my sweet baby boy, I hope you will want to “meet me on the other side” always…