REFLECTIONS ON PARENTAL TAX

If you are a parent of many children, as I am – you will be familiar with the usual phrase that follows  the gasp after you say that you have FOUR children. It goes like this: ” shoo, I’d have more but it’s too expensive”, or “yoh, but kids are expensive” or even worse: “its way too expensive, I don’t want to struggle, so we stopped at …” and so on and so forth.

 

I give you and unequivocal YES with a nod – it is indeed expensive. I thank God, that Sean and I are not struggling, but that doesn’t mean we don’t feel the pinch. Yes we feel that very specific ‘eina’ (Afrikaans word for pain – for our non South African readers) when the school fees invoice arrives or at the beginning of term when new extra murals are to be paid. But we feel it acutely when  costs escalate for unforeseen unplanned circumstances.  I like to call it the parenting tax. It’s the one that is levied against you by the natural laws of life, and the more kids you have the higher tax to be imposed.   A  classic example took place over the last two weeks when blogs from this site were scant. Why, some readers asked, have you not been blogging. And my mental answer was I was busy paying a parenting tax. One of my 4 delights, found their way into my “off-limits” office and dropped strawberry milkshake on my laptop keyboard.

 

I swooped off to my repairman who called me back with the cost of repair at R848. A week later when the new keyboard finally arrived they called me again and said they had to rerun all the software and do extra repairs because the milkshake had done more damage than expected. The extra repairs would cost a further R848 and now the costs had mounted to R1696.

 

And so it is with so many things, broken chains, smudged lipstick, sandy swimming pools etc etc. Sigh!

 

My children never did own up to who dropped the milk shake, but after R1696 it doesn’t really matter. I am told by older wiser parents that “they’re alive and its all part of the journey” or  “they’ll grow and it will get easier”. So for now I’ll take a deep breath, have a “patience pep talk” with myself and move on.

 

CARVING OUT THE TIME

I remember asking a friend once if she went on dates with her husband. She replied mockingly: “dates, what’s that?”.

That’s how so many parents feel. I sometimes think that I when Sean and I had kids we somehow disappeared into them. They came from us and became us. The chaos of parenting is often all consuming. Sean, when not wrapped up with demanding work is being a dad. And when I’m not working or writing, I’m mothering. And when all is said and done and you have that sought after moment (usually after 8 when cherubs are asleep and dishes cleared) – the quite sets in.

That’s when Sean and I have time to ourselves and it’s often at that time that we fall into craved sleep. Or we do a magic trick and turn into vegetables, I a pumpkin and Sean a potato in front of the TV. Admittedly brain numbing TV takes all the strain of the day away but it’s like white bread – good to taste without nutrition. And as for sleep – when you do manage to sleep through or sleep deeply, you wake up energized having taken a break from your kids but gained nothing for yourself.

That’s why Sean and I entrenched date night. I thank God for live in nannies. Sharon watches over the bubs while we escape, albeit exhausted to a night out with friends, a movie or dinner alone. Ah the bliss of date night!!!!!! I can dress up. I can eat warm food, sometimes gourmet food, that I haven’t cooked. I can drink delicious warm coffee. I can hold my mans hands and his gaze and not be pulled away by little fingers. And we can talk and listen and catch-up, connect, flirt and under stand one another again.

We try not to look at our phones or talk about our little people appendages. It forces us to find one another in the fast pace of life.

It’s not always possible to carve out the time away for just the two of us. But we do it because we need it. My husband is my best friend. I need him to know my head and heart space. And he needs the same thing. We need to stay strong as a couple to parent effectively. It’s fundamental.

 

BIRTHDAY PARTIES – A FRENZIED AFFAIR

Is it just me, or does everyone find birthday parties a mad rush.   Tali’s eighth birthday celebration turned into a  roller coaster.

It was supposed to be fuss free,  we had it at a venue for that reason. And as per usual, the latest craze for kids was served up as the main course. This time round it was Emoji’s. My daughter is at the age where everything technology (from tablets, to phones to computers) is all the rage. She’s become adept at  sending and receiving whatsapps with Emojis.

Tali also loves – as do most little girls – painting her nails. And so its was with much excitement that she agreed to a nail salon as the venue for her party. Admittedly Emoji’s and a nail salon are an unlikely pair. Not so when the nail polish has little shiny emoji’s’ embedded in it.

And so my only job for the day would be to supply a few eats and a bit of decor for the space. The plan was helium balloons, a large Emoji cake, a few Emoji biscuit pops, party favours, stylized cups and paper plates and voila – Emoji party. I would relax with a cappacino served by the salons waiters and engage in chatter with family and friends. Wow could anything fall further from the plan.

Lets start with the night before. Expert fondant roller granny arrives to cover the cake. Its around 5 in the afternoon and a large yellow pancake of fondant lay beautifully on the counter ready to be flipped. I bring my freshly baked cake around for the flip. And “snap” – just like that the electricity cuts out.  AAAAAAH. We wait a few minutes. Nothing goes back on. We wait again, and again. Its late. We fold up the fondant. Granny heads home to bake a few more cake treats for the party. My heart begins to sink as I watch valuable time slip away. All the other eats will not be finished on time. Hummus, baba ganoush, zacusca, falafels, biscuit pops etc etc stand about incomplete. My sister Ros arrives for her customary cup of tea to console me. She stays until 10 when the lights go on. I roll the Emoji out again. Its winter and for fondant lovers, we know that winter is not kind to fondant. Its not kind tonight. The fondant gets flipped with my sisters help and cracks around the edges. It feel  just like that fondant – about to crack. Its very late. Ros heads home. The lights go out again.  On. Off. On again like some evil game of ping pong. Defeated, I put the unfinished cake away in the dining room and close the door to ward off any curious little people. Its past 11 and I begin melting chocolate for biscuit pops. I’ll fix and finish the cake in the morning, I think.

Morning hits. Sean is away on a Harvard programme in Rwanda. I am alone in the milieu of party day. I take Tali to school.  School ends at 1:30 and the party starts at 2:15. So Ellie (4) and Zara (2) stay home to avoid any pick up delays. On my way back  from drop off I call a caterer and organize 2 platters at astronomical prices.  I get home. The kitchen looks like a bomb exploded with a whole bunch of half made things. Sharon, my nanny, asks me to look in on the cake as somethings happened. TERRIBLE. JUST TERRIBLE. Ellie found the  cake and dug into the fondant, pulling out pieces to consume. I cry. I sigh and call my mother.

Expert roller granny arrives with a new batch of yellow fondant. The party is now costing a small fortune. We save the cake in the nick of time. My brother arrives to do the cheese platter and help load the car. We fly to the venue to set up and fly home to change. Tali’s home, family’s packed in and its 2:15. We’re still on the road and Tali screams “I’m late for my own party”. We pass guests along the way and meet others as we enter the salon. At least most of the eats are on the table.

I breathe and settle down.  The Beauty Box Northcliff salon is amazing. They’ve spelt out “happy birthday” in rose petals for Tali. She loves it. Twenty kids have mani’s and pedis and a blast. I drink cappucinos and wait for the treatments to end. Parents begin to arrive and the treatment hasn’t ended. It goes on and on and one dad begins to look very irate. We sing happy birthday, dowl out emoji ball party favours, pack up and leave.

“Thank God its over and thank God for family” is all I think as we leave. I’ve pulled off enough parties to know that they require planning. But I now  know, that pulling off even the simplest of parties requires a specific state of mind – the state of mind that plans but also holds the expectation to adjust expectations. Its a metaphor for life. I realize that curve balls  can pitch up at any time in life – the way to deal with it, is to go through it calmly and still enjoy yourself at the party.

 

FATIGUE

Fatigue – that pervasive feeling that dominates all aspects of life when you’re the parent of little people.

You’ve forgotten what it’s like to breastfeed 2 to 3 to 4 times a night, changing nappies in between. You covet Sean’s snores. You lay sleeping beauty down, swaddled and satisfied. You begin to drift into oblivion. And just then when you see it within your grasp – the ever prized SLEEP – the alarm goes off. You’re startled – “really!” You stumble out of bed, tripping over the talking train. “Are you still there?” It asks over and over again.

You scramble to get the kids up for school.

You drink your second coffee for the morning and still you can’t shake it off. It grips you and pulls you down – from your eyelids to your bottom, everything going south. Now you’re looking for somewhere to sit so you can hold your head up. You read the ingredients on the container for the umpteenth time this week – and you’re convinced. This is all a ploy to get people like you to buy the stuff. They say it contains caffeine which is a supposed stimulant. Only you’re not stimulated. You’re in a vegetative state – groaning, waiting for the darn thing to work and wake you up!!!!

It doesn’t and you know it’s all a lie – make believe like your daughters fairy tales. Your lips gave that coffee true loves Kiss and everything is still not ok. The adventure has not ended. It continues as Tal spills cereal on her school shirt. Zaza screams “mine” running from Ellie who lunges foreword to grab or slap. Baby cries for her change. Sean walks in on que “we’re leaving in 5!!!”

It’s all a blur. It’s motherhood on the rougher days when family life is not tinted in hues of pink and gold.