Some photos from last weekend

Last week Megan’s mother visited us on Sunday, as she had some time in Johannesburg between two flights. It was good for Josh to see his other grandmother, since he last saw her when he was about 18 months old and didn’t remember her.

Both Josh and Aishah insisted on swimming in the complex pool – even though it isn’t warm enough for that yet, and I took some photos.

In the first shot, Josh is wearing the tracksuit he got from Megan’s mom. It’s size 11 to 12, and he’s 10, which is why it looks so big on him.

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Aishah can’t swim yet; she plays on the steps. If Megan and her stick around long enough, I will have to swim with her and hold her. She’s been asking me about that almost every day, but it’s way too cold for me to get in the pool now.

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I didn’t get any decent photos of Josh swimming in his costume. There’s a video of the two of them, but I can’t upload it here. In these, taken right after they got out the pool, it seems Josh really is feeling the cold.

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Why do we make things so complicated?

I’d make a terrible judge.

I’m thinking of those TV judges like Judge Judy and the like. They’re presented with two people who have some sort of disagreement, and who make their cases. I watch those programs with fascination, often being quite unable to see through the layers of bullshit to find who is right and who is wrong. Instead, I see both sides. I see degrees of right and wrong on both sides, and layers of complexity hiding the truth. Sometimes those layers may be deliberate obfuscation by one party, but more often than not, they’re really just signs of the way we all make everything so complicated. All of us, to some degree, are selfish, self centered, self serving creatures who make everything about us, and seldom see anything from each others’ points of view.

There’s been an interesting development with Josh (who is ten) and Aishah (who is five) lately. Suddenly all their arguments and fights are being resolved, by the five year old. She has figured out that all she needs to do is say “Sorry”, and ask him to “Say sorry” too. He does so, albeit reluctantly, and then they move on. They play together and all is well. While her view may seem naïve and simplistic, it works. The amazing thing about it for me is that she does it even when she knows she is not wrong. That makes her, at five years old, in some ways more mature than the ten year old. It also makes her smarter than him. Heck, that makes her smarter than me.

I never did that by myself when I was a child. My father had to teach me, and then I still didn’t catch on to why straight away. It’s a lesson I’d since forgotten. Children are amazing.

As for Megan and Aishah returning to Cape Town, that’s probably still going to happen. But I think there is more to it than I know. There’s something she isn’t telling me, and anyway, I did originally say they can stay as long as they like. I was hoping for it to be longer than this though…

Is feeling loss before it happens a good coping strategy?

Time for a personal post again.

I mentioned a couple of months ago that Megan (my ex) and Aishah (her five year old daughter and our son’s half sister) are back. This was after agonizing over it for months, with her pleading for me to let them come back. So now she is talking about going back to Cape Town and there is absolutely nothing I can do to change her mind.

I should have known.

Things are not going perfectly, but they are going pretty well. I love Aishah like my own child, and she loves me. She’s happy here and I think it would be in her best interest to stay. There have been issues with both children fighting for my affection, issues with sibling rivalry, but on the whole it’s getting better.

Aishah meanwhile, wants to spend more and more time with me and less with her mother. She wants me to brush her hair, bath her, cuddle with her, and even help her brush her teeth. The teeth brushing thing started last month when Megan went away for a weekend. I had to make sure both children brushed their teeth, and take her with to Josh’s school sports day on the Saturday. Ever since then, the normal custom we have of Josh and I brushing teeth together at night has changed. Aishah wants to brush her teeth with me too. The bathing thing started last week.

A while back, we had a “bring your kid to work” day at work, so I took them both. Now every day Aishah asks me when she can go to my work with me. She also takes turns on the Xbox, playing one of our demon hunter characters in Diablo, playing standard rifts and bounties. Besides playing the levels, she even knows how to sell items she picks up, and upgrade gems. She’s actually pretty good at the game.

I tried telling her that Mommy wants to go back to cape Town soon, and she doesn’t believe me… She replies with, “No, we will stay here for a looooong time”. It breaks my heart.

Anyway, I’ll spare further details. The thing is, while I’m there at home, I am still just as happy. Anywhere else, I remember to be sad that they will likely be leaving soon. I’m not sure if this is a good coping mechanism or a bad one, but I have this habit, when something bad is going to happen, such as when they will leave (or someone will die and so on), of feeling some of the emotional pain in advance.

I don’t know why or how it works exactly, but I always do this. When I was younger, I thought it would prepare me for the real loss that would come later. But it doesn’t. It still hurts just as much when the time comes… All this “coping mechanism” achieves is that now I hurt beforehand, when I don’t have to.

I wonder… Is this normal?

Some recent photos

I bought a new phone last weekend, and it takes much better photos than the old one.

A couple of Aishah from the other day…

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Last night, me with Josh and Aishah. They were fighting over me and I suggested a compromise holding them both while a photo was taken. Also, they are heavier than they look.

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Josh and Aishah yesterday (21 June 2018)

Megan and Aishah are with us again. I can’t say if they are visiting or if this is more permanent, because reasons… As far as Josh knows, this is a visit, but let’s see how things work out. They arrived at 2PM yesterday afternoon, which was in time for Megan to attend the school’s parent/teacher meeting for this term with me. And Josh passed the term.

My phone is a piece of shit, so these photos are bad quality, but it’s all I have so far…

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My beautiful son is ten years old now

Last Monday Josh turned ten years old.

I can hardly believe it. This time has passed so quickly. While there were ups and downs that I have mentioned recently, I could not love my son more, and we are closer than ever. I still remember his birth as clearly as if it happened yesterday.

A couple of days ago, he fell asleep on my bed after tiring himself out playing on the Xbox. I took a quick photo, but thought it came out blurred, and didn’t even check it, as I have not taken many good photos with this phone. So I forgot all about it, until he found it last night.

I sent it to Megan as well, and she reacted quite emotionally, saying she wished she could kiss him goodnight. Yeah, things are not what I wanted, and they aren’t perfect, but this son of mine is the closest to perfection I know, especially when he’s asleep…

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Daddy Bear for nearly two years now

It’s just over two weeks to a significant date for me – 15th December 2017 – and I don’t mean the release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. I mean the two year anniversary of the court date when foster care ended and I got my son back.

Although I’ve had my share of problems this year, the relationship between myself and Josh couldn’t be better. We are closer than ever, and it has been a joy to have him back. And will continue to be so.

The post title refers to his name for me… When he first came back, after being in foster care from 18 months to 7 years old, although he saw me regularly and used to call me “Daddy” when I visited, over time that became “My daddy” and eventually just “you”. He’d gradually become accustomed to calling my brother Daddy, and his wife Mommy. Although he quickly got used to calling them aunt and uncle, he couldn’t get comfortable referring to me as Daddy. So he came up with his own work around…

The first book he read in grade one featured Goldilocks and the Three Bears, so Josh asked if he could call me Daddy Bear. At first it was just a name he used at home. Then it became his actual name for me, the name he uses to refer to me when talking to others, the name he uses when we go out – the name he uses for me all the time. I don’t mind as it’s endearing. Others seem to think it strange. His cousins and others have made fun of him for it, but he doesn’t care. When people don’t like what he does, he does it anyway, and declares that they are idiots. Definitely my boy and I love him more for it.

So, things are not perfect. Being a single father isn’t what I wanted, and I did try to make that relationship with his mother work out for years after everybody told me to give up. But we make the best of what we have, and having my son, as well as being a parent to him, being the best parent that I can be… is the best part of my life.

Josh and Aishah from 24 December 2016 to 01 January 2017

I’m not handling this at all well. I can’t look at photos or videos of Aishah without my eyes filling up with tears. I don’t often take photos of Josh lately, as much as I love him, because I see him every day. But Aishah and their mother are far away again, home in Cape Town. I love you and miss you, my adorable little girl. Without your arrival three years ago, I may never have got my life in order. I wish you and mommy could have stayed with us a little longer.

This one was taken the evening they (Megan and Aishah) arrived on December 24th:

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On Christmas morning:

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Christmas evening:

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And on the morning before they left, January 01: (Megan is in this next one. I hope she doesn’t mind. She hates photos of herself apart from selfies, but she looks fine to me.)

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There are also two videos of Aishy on Facebook here and here.

I’m a basket case right now. I miss her so.

One year since my son was returned to my care

I don’t normally write at the end of the day when I’m tired, so this will be short…

It’s ironic, given the subject of todays post, that I’m writing it while Josh is away. We just spent lunch and the afternoon with my brother, his two children and his fiancé, and Josh will be there until Wednesday evening. I’m not on leave anyway, so he would be bored sitting at home with his grandmother.

On December 15th last year, we spent the morning in family court, and the end result was that the magistrate ruled that “there is no reason for the foster care to continue”, and so he came to live with me.

It’s been a good year. Josh is happy to be living with me, and I am happy. Everything else fades in significance compared with that.

Things are not perfect. I was thrust back into parenting an eight year old, who is intelligent and happy, but also moody, manipulative, and always willing to take advantage and test the boundaries. In other words he’s a normal boy.

I had to get used to that. He had to adjust to me no longer just being the dad that plays with him, but also someone he must respect and obey. And I had to learn to put rules and boundaries in place – easy enough… and enforce them – not so easy. And it’s especially difficult when my track record has been such that I never did learn to discipline myself. But it’s been a year now, and we’ve got into a routine. I think I’m getting a handle on this parenting thing.

His behaviour also deteriorated at school in the first half of the year, and this led to some horrendous marks in spelling tests… 2 out of 20 for instance. After that, I made him do a spelling test with me ever day, such that by Wednesday each week he was getting all his words right. Then he’d still get a couple wrong in tests, and honestly I don’t understand how those tests work… He’d have a fixed set of words to be tested each week, and then have to write them in sentences, so invariably he’d get other words wrong. That’s not how it worked when I was in school. Anyway, he was promoted to grade 3.

I’ve also had to learn not to compare him to me… That just wouldn’t be fair. My schooldays were a breeze… I was always lazy; never did much work, and always did well. But he’s not me. Maybe he needs to work a little harder, and I hope it will get easier as he gets older.

What I haven’t gotten right is to teach him to listen to my mother. He backchats all the time, and when I’m not around, he refuses to obey her. The other day he refused to pick some clothes up off the floor because “Daddy Bear didn’t say I must”. (Daddy Bear… one of the first books we read this year contained the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, and he started calling me Daddy Bear then.) I’m sarcastic to my mother, because frankly she annoys me. She’s not supposed to be here but has nowhere to go. So my attitude rubs off. I think his attitude to her is totally my fault.

Also we miss Josh’s sister and mother, but they will be coming up from Cape Town to spend a few days with us, from December 24th. We are both looking forward to that.