My Control Freak is dead. She died a short, painful death yesterday in the VW Polo driven by my 18-year-old son who is learning to drive. The words that delivered the fatal blow were, Mom, please don’t keep telling me what to do. I’m just about to do it when you tell me. I know to do it. He said it kindly and gently (thereby saving his own life) so I didn’t need to defend it. And right there my Control Freak shrivelled up and breathed her last. I relaxed in my seat, stopped using all my leg muscles to push imaginary pedals on the floor, and unclenched my death grip on the plastic handle on the door (which creaks every time I squeeze it, so Joshua knew I was stressing even though I was trying to disguise it). I de
cided if I was going to die, this would be a good way to go. Doing my motherly duty, serving my family, teaching my son to drive.
Ugh, I really hate letting go, surrendering, releasing, letting them fly, cutting the ropes, setting them free, and all the other beautiful poetic phrases which really suck and really hurt when you do them. I feel like if the words are in the air, indicate… change to third… brake… BRAKE! have you seen that car… etc. then there is no risk of them not getting done. And so all is in order, because it’s in my control. And I can deal with it if I make a mistake. But to TRUST my first baby to drive us 10 kilometres to his extra maths lesson is excruciating. But I have weighed up what would happen if he did make a mistake. Well, he does still stall the car sometimes when he’s nervous about the line of traffic waiting behind him, so the good people of Durbanville will learn patience, and if he makes a big mistake and gets a fright or causes an accident, he probably won’t make that mistake again. It’s called “deep learning.” For him AND me, I think. According to The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle (a must-read for every parent… or person, really), “struggling in certain targeted ways- operating at the edges of your ability, where you make mistakes- makes you smarter… experiences where you’re forced to slow down, make errors, and correct them- end up making you swift and graceful without you realizing it.” I can’t wait for the swift and graceful part. For now, we’ll stall the car, jerk the brake too hard, and grind the gears, because he’ll learn more in those snippets than hours and hours of…say, driving with your mother dictating your every move. Sigh. Dead; totally dead, I say.
We won our Visa court case in early February this year, and still await reimbursement of costs. I am now jumping through the same hoops for Permanent Residence application.The 25th May, the day I begin writing this, marks two years of our arrival in Cape Town. Feeling more unsettled than I did at one year. This may have something to do with losing a house. Well, not a literal house, but the value of a house, which we were about to buy when our lease expires in a few months. In summary of a very long story, a good, low-risk, safe (yeah, you know what’s coming, right?) investment gone very bad. Poof. Proverbs 23:5 says, Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle. Well, there goes our damn eagle. House gone. Reeling, snot, trauma, tears, disbelief, world crumbles, despair, etc. But we have learned, and that is surely the most important thing. We have learned how fickle as human beings we really are, how self-important we feel when we can provide… although on a good day, where the self pity does not overwhelm, the story goes that all that money was from God anyway, dating back to when we paid cash for our first home, even though the Catholic priests who owned it refused to sell for several months, and we prayed…and then they said okay, and then we didn’t have enough money, and then the exchange rate literally changed our money overnight to what we needed, and we bought a house.
So we remember those milestones, and keep faith.When Moses was about to die by wading into the Red Sea, God exhorted him and said,
Hold your peace.
The Message Bible says, God will fight the battle for you. And you? You keep your mouths shut! Ha! That’s written for me. We don’t even go the route of, How could God let this happen? because that is one rocky road of doubt that’ll kill faith every time. Also, I don’t have time for the resulting bitterness.
I just have to go back to what I have always known. That God loves me, I can trust Him, He is faithful, He will make a way. The End.
We’re busy. Heath is enjoying his new job, and learning so much about construction project management, which he is loving. He is considering doing a diploma in Business Project Managment to speed up the process of getting to where he wants to get to, so that’s terrifying. Studying at 43, not for the faint-hearted. I, of course, still run through in my head the world-changing fantasies of My Great Life over sinks of dishes. I did have a desk job once where I wore heels and skirts every day (I hear you gasping), then decided to start my own clothing business; I have helped out with our restaurants over the years; pushed out 4 babies and raised them; run an enormous Children’s Ministry; and now I do laundry and dishes mostly. And grocery shopping. And feeding programmes. Oh wait, that’s just mealtimes in our house. I don’t know what God will have me do…but it’s a future tense used on purpose there, because for now, he’s not saying much, or leading me anywhere different. I decided to make more time in my day for writing and painting, both of which I love but never seem to have enough time to pursue, hence a blog which is bi-annual, if you’re lucky. (Maybe I should aim for under 1000 words, that would help. Some things I just find impossible.) So I started getting up at 4:45am, to do my exercise thing whilst I prepare breakfast, and lunchboxes. Make a sandwich, squat reps. Muffins in the oven, luuuunge. I look like I’ve been dragged through a bush backwards when I go to wake the boys, but at least the fright gets them up quicker. So that is supposed to buy me 45 more minutes in my day, but it doesn’t, really. It gets sucked away somewhere else. Seriously, I’m not doing nothing (this goes around in my head on a daily basis, now you get to hear all about it). In fact, I only really get to sit down (besides the driver’s seat) at dinnertime, and that results in one of those contortion-like stretch spasm things, because it feels so good. I went to make a cup of tea one Monday morning, and when I began thinking I might get some writing done, it was Thursday. It’s driving me crazy. Although one day, I did stop and record what happened over the course of the day, and that may explain some of the enigma.
6am- Everyone wakes up, except Heath, who’s already been to the gym and back by now.
7:15am- Dropped older boys at their school, then younger boys, one of whom suddenly remembers something forgotten. Call Heath from car park, he was still home, and could drop if off. Phew. Yes, I hear you thinking how I’m not teaching responsibility blah blah. I chose to overlook this one out of the 152 that occur monthly.
7:40am- Home, do gym (this was before my time-gaining 4:45am decision): 45 mins of weight-bearing exercise to prevent bones from disintegrating; devotion time; shower; dress. (30 mins spent standing staring into cupboard…I want to be warm and comfortable, but I have to be seen in public, dang it.)
9:40am- Grocery shopping today. That takes almost two hours, even though I jog with my trolley and carry 6 bags in each arm when unloading the car. At 10am, however, Heath calls me. He just got a call from the Head of Discipline (brr, shivers) at the primary school. About Ethan having a knife at school last Friday. Not a butter knife. An ‘I-could-stab-someone’ pocket knife. Whaaat? We knew nothing about this. Anyway, she says she’s giving Ethan the benefit of the doubt- truly, she believes he didn’t INTEND to bring the knife to school (this is like a drug mule story from an airport)- it was left in the small zipper of his backpack after a weekend camping trip, which he then took to school with his hiphop clothing. When he discovered pocket knife, he gleefully showed his friends. Some mother passing in the passage then alerted the Authorities. Seriously, does that mother even have human children of her own? She could have just chatted to the cute boy with the huge brown eyes and killer lovely grin and she would have realised he wasn’t gonna stab anyone, and she could have helped him hand it in to the teacher. But no, it’s sirens blaring and heavy meetings, and thank God the Head of Authority had some discretion, or we may have been looking for another school. Pray for grace, patience, peace, sanity.
11:37am- Luke calls me from the Receptionist desk at Kenridge. He’s left his sports socks, and he’s got cross country today. Could I drop them off. Arrgh. I do. Arrgh, I know. No excuse for this one, I’m just a weak, spineless, overthinky (sweaty feet, ruined shoes, teasing for no socks? Averting possible bullying, I take socks), over-doer.
12pm- Quick bit of dinner prep so that I can do homework and manage teenagers all afternoon. Sometimes I remember to eat something, usually half the dinner prep.
2pm- Collect all from school; home by 3, when they all have to eat again, like starving, mom! So snack time, then strip down to underwear (boys, not me) and settle to homework.
3pm to 6pm- Madness. Homework, with intermittent breaks of song renditions, underwear parades, studying, shrieking, wrestling, reading, trampolining outside, testing spelling skills, skateboarding down the road (if I feel up to coping with possible blood later) and cooking dinner. Heath usually arrives home mid-chaos, just after 5pm. Ethan’s knife incident is discussed, and now has to write a note to apologise. Luke had an incident in his class with a friend/enemy (just depends how her adolescent hormones are on any given day) who, after Luke had already given her one earlier, took another of his chewing gums after he’d said no, shared it with her friend and hurt his heart. So he writes her a note, because then he can get his thoughts out on paper, and hopefully bring some understanding. I help with notes whilst doing dinner.
6pm- Sit, stretch like contortionist, eat dinner together. My favourite part of the day. It’s like a loud circus, with animals and clowns and everything.
Straight after dinner, we have Tech Time, where the newest member of our family, Technology, is shown off to be educational, inspiring and sometimes just plain hilarious and entertaining. Technology has been previously despised and suppressed by the old fogeys (that’s us) who, due to ignorance and fear, have been prone to resisting and fighting against all tiny screens. (We like the big screen ourselves, so don’t fight it.) And heaven knows, we could never live without our own smartphones. So whoever has a video or picture to share, does so. It has opened up points of discussion from current news stories to politics to the latest movie trailer. (I didn’t say it was always educational…)
Thanks to Technology, I have learned a great deal recently about 12-year-old girls. We found out recently that Luke has been messaging a great many on his phone. When three of them were sending heart icons, I got involved. Well, first the phone was confiscated for a week, because he’d been sneaky. Fasting an addiction is often a good start. Then coaching began. We sit together each day and go through the people, and his relationships, and how he views and relates to them. We began with setting the 3 girls down gently, apologising for leading them on, etc, and that Luke was making some changes in his life, and would not be anyone’s boyfriend right now. And Luke is a people pleaser- very worried about offending others, so it’s been a great learning curve for him to balance between lying and fearing man.
Proverbs 29:25- Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.
Then, due to his sneakiness, he also forfeited going to a party that weekend (birthday of one of the 3♥, not a good idea…) and so I messaged the mom, and apologised, saying something had come up (didn’t tell her it was a warning flag for my son’s life, and he was acting like a crazy person) and he wouldn’t be able to make it. About 14 seconds after I get her gracious response, Luke’s phone begins to ping non-stop. Her daughter is freaking out. I’m wondering if mother and daughter are living in the same house, because daughter is going off the rails. Luke’s phone sounds like it’s ringing, but it’s just the frequency of messages coming through. She is cussing him out for ‘ditching’ her, but at least her ‘real friends’ weren’t doing that to her. Well, she’s now blocked on WhatsApp. Best WhatsApp function ever in the world.
The half hour we spend each day on his phone is one heck of a scary half hour. The most chilling message to receive from a 12 year-old girl (even when you’re a 40 year-old woman and she doesn’t know you’re there) is, Can I ask you a question? You know it’s not gonna be about the weather, or the Geography homework. It’s right to it:
Do you like me?
Are you angry with me?
Why didn’t you hug me today? (Note: Everyone had been downgraded from hugs to fist bumps. The things you gotta do…)
I don’t really remember being 12, to be honest. I’m pretty damn sure I was insecure and searching too. But I didn’t have a phone to use to put those out there. Instead I made pom-poms for my keyrings and crotcheted blankets for my dog, and got through. My heart hurts for some of these girls, whose profile pictures depict loneliness and longing for something they should be getting from God. Not from a boy whose only focus is food and sport. Although
his anxiety levels are off the charts. He has compulsively begun biting the skin around his fingers, like, chronic. So life puts its pressures on him, and his character is tested, his self-control and his self-belief. It’s terrifying and exhausting, because we believe that we are responsible for instilling those in him, and it’s like we’re failing. We are constantly re-assessing, re-arming ourselves for this battle, renewing our determination to love him, encourage him and train him.
Jesus spoke to God about his disciples in John 17:
I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one.
That prayer has been revelation for both Heath and I, as we were considering moving Luke and Ethan to a smaller Christian school, to avoid all these conflicts and problems, thinking it will help Luke with the anxiety he is experiencing. It’s not the answer, though. We have to walk our children through this life in this world, teaching them along the way, and praying for His grace daily!
So we navigate the world of adolescence and technology, which together form a challenge of mammoth proportions, but one day after being instructed how to respond to another text message seeking attention, requiring Luke to meet emotional needs that he is not equipped to meet, Luke says to me, Mom, I don’t know how I did this without you. Sigh. This is the same child who spotted all my grey hairs one day before I was going to re-colour my hair (i.e. they were really showing by now…) and says, Hey Mom, you’ve got grey hairs! That’s so cool; you look so pretty. Oh, I love this boy.
Aiden has begun wearing contact lenses, and loving it. We’re still doing trial pairs. And he bought a bicycle a few days ago. After saving for about a year. Well, first he bought an air rifle a few months ago, thinking he could find sport in the neighbourhood pigeons, and as a jackpot, the neighbourhood guineafowl. But he was nearly arrested on the camping trip when using it (no shooting of anything, anywhere, anytime allowed in Cape Town), so he got a refund and now has a bicycle, which he is allowed to use, and the wildlife are safe. He has been far and wide and will use it to cycle to gym and back to get his workouts weekly. His bum and legs are already sore from the mileage he’s done, and he is slowly realising the joy of freewheeling down the enormous hills here is soon cancelled out by having to get back. Heath and I are practising breathing, release, trust. Phew.
Ethan too, has been spending many hours at the optician, and is the only one in our family who is long-sighted- mildly. He was complaining of his eyes being blurry and when the complaints got daily, I eventually relented and got the eye test done. He is now even cuter with his new reading specs. Next budget breaker: the orthodontist. Geez.
Schoolwise, Ethan is having a tough year with a tough teacher, who is one of those teachers that has you wondering why she is a teacher. Although Ethan’s bringing knives, running in corridors, skipping ahead in lines (and other anti-boy rules found in schools), plus his expeditions to the bin to sharpen pencils 96 times a day, doesn’t really help his case. So he gets to exercise self-control more than most, and then I put him on the trampoline as soon as we get home. He and Luke are still learning Afrikaans; Aiden gets to choose an alternative subject at the beginning of next year, as he is exempt since he only began schooling here in Grade 7. The younger two are doing okay…I have some concerns with Ethan- he used Google translate the other day to find out where their field trip destination was, and in disgust, he announced, the BREAST museum? Eeeeyew. How can we go to a breast museum?! Incredulous, I grabbed the phone to see he had typed in borsmuseum, instead of dorpmuseum. Dorp-village/town, a word used ALL the time, even by English people. Sigh, I shall have to resort to sticking Afrikaans words all over the house again, and I won’t be labelling breasts.
Joshua has just survived the first week of mid-year exams, which are very intense, especially when your schedule has a major subject on each day, with only one days break, then 2 weeks of boredom/anxiety before the next one. But he’s feeling positive and has been working really hard. I have not succeeded in finding concrete evidence about how teenagers should NOT listen to music whilst studying, so Joshua is often spotted getting down to the beat rather than the equation, so results may be telling. Aiden sometimes listens to music but I have managed to stop the rot with Luke and Ethan and they have to read everything out aloud. I tell you, I could become a primary school teacher and not need notes, with all the information I have been bombarded with. Gaah, and some of it is so mindless. Maybe I could find evidence that headphones with music would be okay…
With all the boys writing exams right now, it’s not much fun. And with winter beginning, it’s even less fun. There are no beach pictures, or happy family outings, because we’re at home listening to “Metals and Non-Metals.” And if we do go out, then Joshua gets to practice driving, so maybe I prefer to hear about the properties of iron and steel, actually.
Joshua’s life and career decisions are a regular discussion around here. He’s headed for a business degree, ideally. Second choice would be teaching (although it’s parents’ first choice). Last year’s results were most important, as they are used in most University applications. So Matric- written at end of this year- is not done in time to apply with. The illogical-ness (you know what I mean) of it all is mind-numbing. Besides which, if Matric year is supposed to be so important, why is it spent planning dances, and attending functions and assemblies and dress-up days, and basically not having any time to do any WORK? Anyway, his mid-year exams which he’s doing now are also valuable in any applications that he wants to make, so we shall see what happens. Exciting times. Yes, sirree.
Here are some pictures from a camping trip where Heath, Aiden, Luke and Ethan went 2 hours away for 2 nights, on a boys-only camp with friends. Joshua went to Prefect Camp on the same weekend. I was Home Alone. Very surreal, weird, wonderful and strange all at the same time. And quiet.
Some songs that I belt out over sinks of dishes: Thy Will by Hillary Scott; Lauren Daigle: Trust in You
May the lessons learned in the quiet or the chaos lead you closer to Him.
Lots of love,