When Aishah says she wants a McDonalds toy for Christmas, here’s what she means…

I’m writing this one for Aishah’s family and sending them a link…

You might be a little confused when Aishah tells you she wants a McDonalds toy for Christmas, and it’s pointless asking Megan, since she won’t know either.

Aishah has several YouTube channels she likes watching, one of which is called Toys and Colors. This channel features videos, mostly of two girls named Emma and Jenny, playing with various toys and their aunties and uncles.

So when she says a “McDonalds toy”, she doesn’t mean the toy she gets with a happy meal, she means something like this one. That’s not exactly what she wants, but basically, she wants a toy shop-front, where she can pretend to make food for your orders. (The channel features toys that are made to look like a McDonalds shop front with logo, but I don’t know if you can get them in this country.) Her other favourite toy, sadly left here, was a toy cash register. She likes to play shopkeeper, and you go to her and pretend to order things from her shop, and then pay for it, either with toy money that comes with cash register toy, or Monopoly money.

It’s a fun and interactive game, and I was trying to teach her to add and subtract the play-money properly, so she could work out how much change to give, but we never got that far.

She also loves playing Monopoly, but you need to be the banker for her. She can read some of the Chance and Community Chest cards, so give her a chance to see if she can work things out for herself. But watch out for her cheating… she will manipulate the dice to “throw doubles” if you aren’t paying attention, and might sometimes cheat when moving her piece and doesn’t like where it will land. Also please buy her a deck of cards – she can play Solitaire. And encourage her to play properly and not to start by finding the aces since she likes cheating there too.

Some of her other YouTube subscriptions from my account:

  1. 123 Go!
  2. Troom Troom
  3. The Rybka Twins
  4. Shot of the Yeagers
  5. ToysPlay
  6. Brent Rivera

A sad goodbye

Josh and I at least had a chance to say goodbye to Aishah, after Megan’s mother stayed with us for the weekend and had Aishah there on Sunday. But that’s not what was planned.

She arrived in Johannesburg on Friday, and was meant to meet Megan, who had been messaging her all the way asking where she was. But Megan didn’t show up, telling her that she would meet her “tomorrow”. So with no other choice, her mother came to my place. At least Josh had some time with his grandmother, whom he hardly knows.

Then, somehow they made arrangements for Megan to drop Aishah off at a friend, who brought her to us. But her and her grandmother are leaving for Cape Town today while I’m at work, and Megan has agreed to go to rehab.

But she is still sticking to her story… still claiming I molested Aishah, based on things the child “told” her in a conversation where she came home out of her mind around 4AM. A conversation that never happened. It hurts. It hurts to think that she will be in rehab telling people her nonsense sob-story that’s probably based on the voices in her head. It hurts after all I have done for them, showing them nothing but kindness. It could have all worked out just fine, if she’d just looked for a job Aishah would have been going to the same school as her brother next year, and all would be well. But now, she has done so much harm, caused me so much stress I am on antidepressant medication. Oh, and last night I found that my mother’s wedding ring, which I was keeping for Josh, is gone too.

What gets me is I have put so much into this… 4 of the six months I was taking Aishah to school and collecting her in the afternoon, along with Josh. Megan has been an absentee parent from the beginning, even when she was there, it was me playing cards or Monopoly or hide and seek with Aishah. And she left the child with me many times, sometimes days at a time, and once for four weeks. Then suddenly this nonsense where she is accusing me. Even this morning, when I mentioned how concerned I am about what Megan is saying about me, Aishah said, “Mommy is telling everybody Jerome did these things to me, but he didn’t”. It makes me feel physically ill.

So while I am very sad, overcome with sadness, at least we had a chance to say goodbye. And most importantly, Aishah is safe.

Edit: Heather and Aishah are on their way now. She called me to say goodbye.

A year of despair

I’m shaking all over and feel physically ill. My stomach is upset and my whole body is tense, and I’m worried about my blood pressure, because, thanks to the overwhelming debt due to Megan, I haven’t had enough money to get more hypertension tablets, so I’ve rationed them, taking one one day, and then going two days without to allow me to wait until the end of the month to get more. And today I called in sick to work so that I can go to the doctor and get myself checked out. Hopefully it’s not too bad.

This time I am not going to write this and delete it, and this time I am going to write it all. It’s time to burn this bridge.

After my mother died on December 7th last year, I was struggling with depression. When I heard that Megan was in trouble, I naively thought that having her here might help. She could help with Josh’s homework and maybe finally make some kind of bond with her son. Aishah could be in a stable and secure environment, and go to Josh’s school. We could be a family. I was wrong. And I should have known.

I paid for Megan to come here from Cape Town. Four times, I paid, and she didn’t get on the bus. Eventually her mother informed me that Megan was locked up in a police cell for five days (which didn’t explain why she missed the other three busses and I should have realized something was wrong). There was a case against her, for stealing someone’s phone. Under the impression from her mother that the case had been dropped, and having been promised that this time would be different, I allowed her to come here, with Aishah who was then five years old.

They arrived in late March, so she was in time for Josh’s birthday on April 2nd. And things were good at the beginning. Too good. In the first week, she persuaded me to take out a loan, for R120 000, with a company called Direct Access. The repayments are steep, R5 500 a month, but I thought that if I used it to consolidate my debt, that would be OK. But that didn’t happen.

Late in the first month, I was told that she had a court date, in Cape Town. (1400km away. We live in Johannesburg.) Again, I was assured that this was a formality, that the case would soon be dropped. “What if it gets postponed?”, I asked. “No, that will never happen. Van Graan (the lawyer) says it will be dropped”. Of course it wasn’t.

I ended up paying for her flights, four times up and down to cape Town, each time leaving me with both children to take care of alone. The last time, she stayed for a month, and in that month, I paid for two flights back, where she failed to get on the plane. Each time… a story. A ridiculous lie about why she didn’t catch the plane.

When she finally returned, she showed up with Jenna, from her her previous relationship. Jenna who was on the run from the police, apparently because she stole a car. Jenna who used to abuse her and pimp her out. Jenna who she had run away from. Needless to say, I didn’t let her bring that person here.

Eventually that case was settled, but she has to complete a NIKRO program to avoid getting a criminal record.

In those four weeks, and the various other times when she left Aishah alone with me for days at a time, we ate takeout. Yes, that’s my fault. We blew that money on food, flights, dentist bills of over R10000 for Megan and her new dentures, Aishah’s bicycle for her birthday in May, watching movies, going to Gold Reef City with her cousin who came to visit for two weeks, my new phone, and various other things. That money is long gone, but the debt isn’t. With my bond, the loan repayments, and my other expenses including old debt that I’m still paying off, I am struggling to pay my bills. Actually I can’t pay all my bills.

Aishah was in school. We found a good creche nearby, and Megan’s aunt paid for it. Again, I asked her, “What if your aunt stops paying?” and she assured me that would not happen. of course that was not true as well. her aunt stopped paying at the end of July, and I didn’t know straight away. After two months of unpaid fees, the told us she can’t come back to that school. It broke my heart because Aishah was doing so well there. I dropped her off every morning, and collected both children from the two schools in the afternoon. And Aishah would pretend that, like Josh, she also had homework. She ask me to help her with it, with her Abacas maths.

In around June, Megan asked me to buy drugs. (Meth, our preferred drug from the past.) When I refused and reminded her that I was almost six years clean, her response was “Who gives a fuck?” (I do.) So she found a friend in the area, and started going out some nights. Other times, she had a friend further away, and would stay out for four to five days at a time, again, leaving me with both children. I have never known where she goes or what she does.

In these six months, I’ve build quite a bond with Aishah. We’re close, not as close as her brother and I, but close all the same. And even when Megan was here, she never spoke to us or interacted with us. Also has the headphones on, always singling along to the same songs in that awful flat voice of hers, leaving me to attend to both children. Aishah loves to play hide and seek, or Monopoly, which she’s got quite good at for a six year old, although she prefers using the board and the paper money to the Xbox version of the game.

The last time she stayed away was at the end of August, and she returned on September the 2nd, a Monday. I remember that Sunday before clearly… Josh was at a friend and I’d taken Aishah to the shop with me. She chose a toy, and I let her take it but insisted I can’t buy her anything else. The she picked up this powdered milk…. called Nespray Fortigrow and cried to get that too. Eventually I relented, and she put the toy back,asking me if she can get it for her birthday next year. I agreed, but reminded her it’s a long time until then.

After that last time, I wrote on Facebook about Megan being away for a few days, she returned on a Monday. That night I went to an NA meeting and announced I was six years clean. When I returned, I heard Aishah’s excited voice as I closed the car door, shouting “Jerome’s home! Jerome’s home!” We then called Megan’s uncle who had tried to call me when I was at the meeting as he wanted to speak to Aishah. Then Megan went out with her local friends.

Aishah has nightmares, and she had a cramp that night. She insisted on sleeping next to me, which is fine with me. In my room, we have two beds, my queen size bed and Josh’s old bed. Normally myself, Megan and Aishah all sleep in the same room, and Josh has his own room. After Aishah went to sleep, I got up and was busy on my computer. I recall being on there until after midnight and Megan had still not come home. I heard her return and make a lot of noise at around 4AM.

The next day, although Aishah wanted to go to school, Megan complained that she wasn’t feeling well and Aishah could “take care of me”. Josh was also not feeling well so he stayed home, but I went to work leaving all three of them there.

When I returned, I complained as I walked in the door that I was low on petrol. “You’ll lose everything because you touched my child!” Megan accused. Aishah was sitting in the lounge, looking afraid, huddled next to Josh on the couch. I didn’t know what she was talking about so I pressed further. “Aishah told me everything!” she shouted, as she waved the knife around that she’d been using to cut vegetables. That also doesn’t mean anything to me. Eventually it came out that she claimed Aishah had told her something (I still don’t know exactly what) and that I had exposed myself to her on the bed, and told her that if she told Megan, I wouldn’t give her a birthday present the next year. No such thing ever happened, and the only conversation I had with Aishah about her birthday was the one I wrote about earlier, where she had to choose between a toy and powdered milk, and asked that I give her the present next year. Wen Megan asked Aishah to repeat what she’d said that morning, it became clear that the child had no idea what Megan was talking about.

But that’s not all… Megan was moving around nonstop. Twitching, scratching, twitching some more, then turning her head from side to side. And mumbling to herself, “Mmmm, mmm-uhmmm”, then singing. I heard her later that night, as she did fuck-knows-what in the kitchen around midnight… In between the mumbling, and singing, she exclaimed “Aishah!” as if the child was there in the room, but Aishah was fast asleep in bed.

The next morning when I drove Josh to school, he asked me if it was his imagination or if Megan was making strange noises throughout the night. I answered him honestly… Megan was probably high. I asked about the things that Aishah had supposedly told her the day before and he remarked that he was in the same room as Aishah all day and no such conversation had taken place. Aishah confirmed this to me as well.

This is what I honestly believe: Megan is using. I don’t know when she started and I have not found any evidence of drugs here, but she must be. I think that was the only day she used here in my flat, but that night when I got home and she was acting strangely and accusing me of molesting Aishah, I am convinced she was high. And hallucinating. I am certain she hallucinated the whole conversation and she actually believes it – she doesn’t know the difference between what’s real and what she has hallucinated. I believe Aishah is in danger and I don’t know where she has taken the child.

I need to get to my doctor’s appointment and then I need to get some rest because I feel ill. So I’ll have to stop writing this now.

But to end off… Megan was away with Aishah for the whole of September after that week.  She only returned last Friday. Then she stayed for the weekend, and left with Aishah yesterday while I was at work. Josh was here; it was his last day of school holidays. She told him she was just going to give away some clothes that were too small, then she left and didn’t come back; taking most of her clothes but leaving all of Aishah’s toys.

This breaks my heart. Every day Aishah told me what she wanted for Christmas. I love her as much as Josh, even though she isn’t my daughter. To be accused of molesting her… It’s unthinkable. To think that Megan actually believes this? It kills me inside. I am broken, deeply hurt and in despair.

And to top it all off, I didn’t notice until I got home yesterday that money was missing from my wallet (and laptop bag where I hid it from Megan). A little over R3000 altogether… There was R2000 in my wallet and there’s R700 left. And there was R3000 hidden in my laptop bag; with R1000 remaining. The rest is gone. And she did this knowing I drew the money out before my debit orders could go off, knowing how much I am struggling. And this is after I bought her a phone on Saturday – honestly that is all she cared about. I went to the police, and they won’t let me make a case because I didn’t witness her stealing the money. That’s crazy – there was no one else here.

So that’s it… I haven’t written everything because there’s too much. But it’s enough. Everything I have written is 100% true, and I’m going to share it to my Facebook and hers. I know her password, so I’ve changed it, locking her out of her Google account and both Facebook accounts, and I wrote a status on both of them last night asking that if anyone knows where she is, they contact her mother. (You can reach Heather on +27 84 795 1607.) Maybe she can have more luck at the police and Child Welfare… whatever it takes.
[Edit: She has the main Facebook account back. And she deleted my status there. I can’t share this to her wall.]

I’m terribly worried about Aishah. We only applied for one school for next year, Josh’s school, and I don’t know if she was accepted because Megan would have received the message. I don’t think she has any plan, any thoughts about getting Aishah into school even though she legally must do so next year. I don’t think she is thinking at all. Also, her mother was supposed to come here and help, so I heard, but we have been waiting for three months now, and now maybe it’s too late. We don’t know where Megan and Aishah are, or how much danger Aishah is in.

Sometimes we need perspective

Lately I’ve been angry. Every day it’s been this way. Things just haven’t been going my way. But earlier this evening I went to an NA meeting for the first time since 2014. I went there to share that I’m six years clean, but also to share my feelings and frustration with others who might understand. And by pure chance, the topic of the meeting was perspective.

Sometimes life is shit. It has been for me, what with the death of my mother, the only person who stood by me in my years of struggling with addiction, and it’s been difficult to cope with my financial issues. Plus there’s that feeling that she who shall not be named has left me in the lurch once too often, such that I am often caring for two children on my own while having to endure the most pressure I’ve ever faced at work.

Add to that… today at around lunch time, someone I know showed up at my work claiming to have received a call from Child Welfare, after an email to Child Welfare sent from my son’s school alleged that I am back on drugs again. (There is no conceivable reason anyone at my son’s school would claim that I am back on drugs. I drop him off there in the morning and collect him in the afternoon. No one there has any context to make such a bizarre claim, so this implies that somebody who has an issue with me “pulled some strings” at the school to make such an email happen. Or the whole thing is a fabrication.) In shock, I took the allegations at face value, and complied with his absurd request for a drug test. So I went to the toilet with him, and pissed in a cup, taking extra care to shake off hard enough afterwards to get some piss on him. (Oops!) Test me all you want… I’m clean so it doesn’t matter… It only occurred to me much later that, if I am accused of using drugs, why didn’t anyone call me and request a formal meeting, or do an official test? Anyway, this is all very strange and pointless because I have been clean since September 2013 and will remain so for the rest of my life. Still, it made a shitty year even shittier.

By the way, this isn’t the first time such a false accusation has been made. Someone made such an accusation when I was two years clean as well. I suffer from rosacea, a chronic skin condition that causes inflammation on my face, including redness, sometimes pustules, and a burning sensation. At face value (pardon the stupid pun) it vaguely resembles the type of marks one can get from “picking” on meth, but only vaguely. The pustules in particular are small, yellow, and hard, unlike pimples. This is not a characteristic of meth sores, which are a result of picking at dry, itchy skin and typically include obvious scars, open wounds, and infections. So someone made such an allegation back then for this reason, and I have a recent flare-up of this skin condition again, so this is a possible reason for the accusation. Yet I’ve had the condition since my twenties, ten years before my meth addiction, and I’ll be 48 next month. (The condition was only correctly diagnosed around two years ago. Before that, doctors prescribed various cortisone concoctions that only gave temporary relief.) Unfortunately the medication I have for rosacea is 300mg of tetracycline every day, on a six month repeat prescription. It’s expensive and I have skipped it for a couple of months because my finances are tight. My point is, I am not convinced that anyone believes I’m using… more like they’re making deliberate false accusations for other malicious reasons.

But you know what? I have what is important to me. We all die. It’s inevitable. But we are not gone. We may live on in the memories of those whom we loved. I have Josh and Aishah, and at the end of the day, nothing else matters. I’m not going to let anger get the better of me any more. This family member, among other things, said that I think emotionally, like a child, not an adult… Yes, I do think emotionally. And I am proud to do so. It is why I am clean and alive today. I chose to stop using meth even though I didn’t really want to for me, for something greater than myself, for Josh and Aishah, for those whom I love. And then only after I had already stopped, being clean and sober became something I enjoy, but as a side-effect, a pleasant surprise.

We can be like some people and choose to value money over everything else. But the money you accumulate means nothing in the end if you are not loved, and do not love. I don’t give a fuck about money really, although it would be nice not being so broke all the time. I’d prefer to be more financially secure, but at the end, that’s not my priority. My priority is to be the best father to one child and father figure to the other, to love them and help them and build memories with them. Fuck everyone else and fuck anyone who makes ridiculous false accusations against me. (No really… I will comply with a request for a drug test any time, because I don’t use drugs.) I care about what is important, and that is… love. If that makes me childish, then so be it. Judge me if you want. I don’t give a fuck.

“I think they’re having a brother’s day at my school”, she said.

As I drove Aishah to school this morning, just after dropping Josh off, she remarked, “I think they’re having a brother’s day at my school.” I had to explain to her that brother’s day is not a thing.

Kids say the darndest things? It’s become something of a cliché, but they really do…

What happened was, her creche celebrated both mother’s and father’s day on the preceding Friday, with some activities to involve the parent. She insisted that I attend the father’s day celebration even though I am not her biological father, and it was good.

So… since she loves her brother, she assumed brother’s day is a thing too. This makes me happy. Megan and Aishah have been staying with us for about five months now… and it’s been up and down. Josh still doesn’t love his mother. But maybe he likes her a little, although he won’t admit it. But brother and sister, Josh and Aishah, are getting along well. They have grown into a normal sibling relationship and that is all I could have hoped for.

On the indoctrination or deconversion of children

Lately Aishah, who is six years old, has developed an amusing new habit. Whenever Megan, her (religious) mother, mentions Jesus or God, Aishah shouts out excitedly, “Jesus isn’t real!” It really pisses her mother off. She thinks it was me, that I told her to say it. I didn’t.

It isn’t my job as a parent to teach my children what to think. I strive to help them learn how to think. So I would never say “God isn’t real” or “Jesus isn’t real”. Josh might though… He’s eleven now and I don’t know what he says when I’m not there.

I have discussed some things with his sister. She loved my mother too, and was devastated when my mom died last December. So when she talked about her on the drive to school, and said, “I wish granny was still alive”, I talked openly about my feelings. I told her that I miss her too, and also explained that I don’t believe in god; I don’t believe in heaven or hell or any kind of afterlife; I don’t believe she’s watching over us; I believe she’s gone, and you don’t get to see her again. I explained that some people believe in god (and all those other things), and some people don’t. And that’s OK. That’s the big deal for me… letting her know it’s acceptable to disbelieve. I never knew – when I grew up I didn’t know disbelief was an option. As far as I knew everybody was Christian.

So when this little girl started saying, “I don’t think god is real” to me all on her own, I was pleasantly surprised. After all, “I doubt it” is the very foundation of critical thinking. (And to be honest, her shouting “Jesus isn’t real!” is an example of her teasing her mother. She’s a clever girl.)

Of course, religious people do not have the same standards… It used to infuriate me when I didn’t have custody of Josh, visiting him in a house where the children watched Christian DVD’s. Religious people do not teach their children that disbelief is an option. They have no problem with forcing the belief on their children, but they accuse us of doing the same thing. (Tu quoque much?) I hope that I’ve made the right decision in my choice not to impose my view on them, but I think they have. When they grow up, hopefully they will see the double-standard for what it is, and understand that religious indoctrination is nothing more than brainwashing.