Rice ‘n Cheese fritters

Rice ‘n Cheese Fritters

I’ve got left-over rice from the night before. Let’s say it’s basmati brown, because however they spin it on the latest white bread packaging, anything white is nutritionally a bit like eating paper – which I’d rather not feed to my children **.  Basmati has a nice taste anyway, and I’m thinking rice ‘n cheese fritters would be good; if my son can tear himself away from his Star Wars lego game, he might even want to cook.

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But let’s hold the fritters right there. As I have raised the subject of food and children, I need to get something off my chest.

If you’re reading this I don’t need to ask whether you love your child more than your car. But I will put it out there that some people treat their cars better than their child.

Spaghetti is fun, penne is cool, but if we’re talking about growing healthy children here, my layman research (with a couple of my TV doccies as background) will reveal that pasta is essentially an empty carbohydrate, which means it doesn’t offer nutrition to growing bodies. I’d like to say it’s like putting sugar-water into your petrol tank, but that would be a bit drastic. So it’s fine for a weekly dish.

Let’s face it, no child was born screaming for pasta, or sugar on strawberries. It’s the parents’ choice; grown-ups who are driven by advertisements, peer pressure and the obvious fun involved with twirling long strands of spaghetti around the fork.

I make a cool macaroni cheese. But I serve it once a week, and it’s brown. Oh wow, that sounds so sensible, spoken like I’m part of a normal family, a nuclear unit. But I’m not. ‘We’ are not.

We’re broken on a few levels, nutrition being one of them. If my efforts at inculcating positive values, eating habits and regular activity are the macaroni, it’s as if my significant other left the dish under the grill and tossed its blackened self into the bin.

Eating well is, to a large degree, about learnt behaviour. And balance.

As with the bicycle helmet, saying thank you and brushing his teeth, if my child grows up eating badly, he’ll carry that behaviour forward into his adult life. I’d like to think we should eat to live, to sustain ourselves, to operate at our best, with a lashing of yumminess. Living to eat speaks to a psychological, emotional condition that I don’t want visited on my child.

But it doesn’t have to be like that if we feed our children correctly from the get-go.

In contrast to pasta, brown rice, potatoes and sweet potatoes all offer complex carbs packed with what nutritionists call the right glycaemic index and nutrients valuable for my children’s growth. As for the fruit ‘n veg, I make a real effort to encourage his interest in the range of colours available, like the multicoloured peppers, carrots, superfood broccoli and steamed beans for ‘the green’. Served with lemon, a little butter (while they’re hot) and rock-salt, they’re crunchy and tasty, and my son  doesn’t need to be told to finish his beans. Yes, it takes time, but…hello ?

Now back to the fritters.

So, to the left-over rice add a third of that quantity in flour. Don’t be anal about it, but organic if you can (I’ll explain why on another occasion).

Mix in two eggs, grate in a mature, strong-tasting cheddar and whatever herbs you like; grow them, it’s a healthy focus and distraction (if you need it).

Cut in some peppers (which you can grow btw by scraping the seeds from the peppers you slice up and leaving them to dry). Or add in some sliced up beans or broccoli. Maybe some chutney or slow-cooked tomato and onion mix, and fry them on a ready, hot pan.

 

My mom made simple versions of these for me when, as a six year-old, I didn’t want to go to my new school after moving back to South Africa. It was a bribe.

Please let me know how it tastes, and share your own ideas. I’m running out of easy dishes, and anyway spending time in the kitchen alone – while waiting for that woman-on-a-white-stallion who will eat my fritters – is over-rated.

** For instance,  what about the plastic polymer found in mass-produced commerciall breads to make them more spongy and fresh-seeming? The following story speaks about one global franchise  http://abcnews.go.com/Health/subway-takes-chemical-sandwich-bread-protest/story?id=22373414 – but it’s probably best, since we eat so much of the stuff,  to make sure the stuff used in yoga mats and shoe soles  is not in our breads.

 

Human Origins: A Significant Cave On The Beach: Affordable Stuff

However. Before nailing down Joburg plans, there is this social pressure of his school-mates and their holidays. From my admittedly adult perspective I think what better than a beach or camping holiday with mates for children, something for once other than Jo’burg. Which sends me off exploring both options, how I could fit it into our half of the holiday, combining a little exploratory ‘adventure’ with the needs of family.

I’d been meaning to visit a friend in BoggomsBaai (bay), outside Mossel Bay on the southern Cape coast. To make it sound more alluring, not that it needs it, I could mention that BB is a nature conservancy, and that it is around the coastal corner from Pinnacle Point, which houses a collection of live archaeological digs, among them cave 13B, discovered in ; in here are the first examples of modern man learning to fish, honing tools and using ochre for decorating purposes. http://www.humanorigin.co.za/pages/pinnacle-point/

Ok, so that’s probably sounds a bit academic for a 6 year-old. But it was the size of cave 13B that I knew would interest my son Plus the restricted-access walk (stepped) down a relative cliff-face to get there, with waves pounding the rocks below.

So I decided we’d do both. We needed to get to Johannesburg and George from Cape Town. The only airline I found flying to both without asking an exorbitant price was that relative new entrant to the low-cost runway, FlySafair. With legal fees these days ever-present in my mind, and knowing the two-day drive would rob us of half Fynn’s time with his family, I contacted the airline and offered a true editorial – critiquing the flight in exchange for our tickets. They said yes, and this is the way it was.

I’d always known it in my younger days as Safair, the commercial arm of South African Airways, which, however complex and Machiavellian the goings-on at our national airline, meant it wouldn’t be a fly-by-night.

The decision was an easy one; a five-hour drive to George is fun, and as Fynn’s aunt and cousin had meanwhile decided to join us for three days, we could drive up together, stopping for refreshment and adding to his bank of memories along the way.

The CT-Joburg leg we flew, and the reason was simple. At about R500 one-way (the same as the George flight), it was far more cost-effective than filling my car’s tank at least six times (at roughly R700@) and adding significantly to the wear and tear of a ten year-old car. Plus, if I remember correctly, it beat the other low-cost offerings by roughly R300 per flight.

Most importantly though, driving would’ve stolen two days of four with his family.

As it happens the flight was good, in what looked to me like a Boeing 737 maybe two years old. The food on offer was the standard low-cost offering of a refreshments cart being pushed up and down the aisle (although I prefer to make our food at home, in a possibly vain attempt at demonstrating that we don’t have to buy everything.

They even had a kiddies box which we didn’t end up buying (R60), as when he wasn’t playing with his Star Wars lego troopers I would read to him, and he played a little on the iPad.

Nevertheless, the box had contents suitable for children from 3 to about 9, colouring and drawing games included, giving them the option to be creative. For that reason, if their fares remain competitive, when I next need to fly up with my kids I will choose this airline again.

The Perfect Co-Parenting Model ?

I’ve made a bundle of questionable decisions in my life, but I am so grateful that I everyday learn to be more conscious. Primarily conscious of our environment, of life, and how the effect of what we consume on a daily basis impacts on the life of so many – as immediately seen with the water crisis we have in Cape Town, and doubtless replicated around the world.

But I’ve also become conscious of how we treat each other, how we act as humans. It’s the reason I didn’t really mind driving all the way up the N1 to the baking arid centre of Worcester, rubbing shoulders in a courtroom with abusers, murderers (well they sat a bit further away) and guys whose luck had run out. I went to plead my innocence, rather than ‘just pay it’, because for me, despite the cost of the journey in time and petrol, we should allow ourselves to respect and nurture our principles and values.

So when a friend sent me this article, I felt it would be responsible to share it, hoping that it speaks to the many of us who need to see it. After all, we don’t know what we don’t know.

It’s about being conscious of how we act as ‘grown-ups’, because we set an example to little people, of how to live life. I can’t think of anything more important. We have the choice; let them grow up with our own baggage and complexes that they don’t deserve, or let their souls be happy in love and respect, free to create and pursue a remarkable life.

http://distractify.com/trending/2017/03/14/ZeaGTd/mom-ex-diaper-bag-tribute

#singleparenting #singleparent #singledaddays #parenting #childmag #famsa

Road-Tripping South Africa with My Boy: Part 2

And so we set off for Boggomsbaai, 20 minutes shy of Mossel Bay, in South Africa’s western Cape province, for the first part of our December school holidays. Me and my seven year-old road-warrior.

In our language we had the scent of a real holiday coming up. Although only a few days, it was the type where a little boy gets to play at the beach, discover stuff and ride his new bike on quiet holiday-village streets.

Afterwards we would head for our ultimate destination, upcountry Johannesburg, to see what remains of our tiny family there – a gran, an aunt and a cousin. But any plans to head inland from our southern Cape beach breakaway had been scuppered by a co-parent insisting (with the assistance of our facilitator) our son return to spend a night with her before we headed upcountry.

That meant returning to Cape Town for a night, and then engaging that long, flat and hot Karoo road with the son in your eyes. That’s the single-parenting package for you, unless you strike it lucky and can have your ex as your best friend, as many do. Luckily I love the Karoo, and my son had loved his first cross-country road-trip to East London earlier in the year. But that was for later.

First up was Boggomsbaai (pictured top of page). We stopped, many times, wherever we wished, for a coffee or diesel or just to shoot some snaps. After 45 minutes, with the N2 urban traffic crawl and the steep climb over Sir Lowry’s Pass behind us, we stopped at Houw Hoek farm-stall for things we like; a quiche and a pie (for later), a swing, a pee and a stretch. Mutual need. Mutual appreciation. Appropriate father-son democracy in action. No squabbling.

Spying with new eyes, inventing new games, discussing wind farms and renewable energy and making up ridiculous stories, the time flew by. That’s how we got there.

 

We rode bikes, visited an archeaological dig at a cave where the origins of modern man were discovered, got to dissect a squid with his fingers, and took a boat-trip around an island. It would’ve been better for him with a mate, but planning ahead can diffiuclt in separate parenting world if  both parents are on the same page. We stayed in a really cool cottage, (‘Mosselkraker); from the kitchen window, surrounded by nature, I took this image, looking to the corner of the bay in the top-left corner, with the ocean and largely empty beach just to the left.

Live with it, show love and affection, that it’s ok to be vulnerable, and move on. You can still have happy times in beautiful places.

 

Contact

Annemarie Beukes
info@sandpipersafaris.co.za
Tel+27(0)44 699 1204
Fax to Mail 086-2281985(SA only)
Fax+27(0)44 699 1951 (International)
Mobile0824660471
www.sandpiper.co.za

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Blended Families: One Step to Success

“It’s been a helluva year, and it’s only January 12 !’ What with looking for a house, organising a wedding and starting a new job, OMG I’m stressed. The wedding is just around the corner…three months is just ‘round the corner !
Stress? I’m just like that, having to organise dresses, colours, outfits, making sure that everybody is happy and then the family circus follows. It started out relaxed, but y’know, too many chefs in the kitchen…so that’s changed now.
He has a five year-old son. I met him when he was two, he’s a wonderful child, and he’s a wonderful Dad. Navigating the waters of a blended family has been a real journey, but I am also a child of divorced parents, and that’s maybe one of the reasons why we have a very special bond.. Y’know it’s the questions of the year-old, who will become my son, that helps put things into perspective. Yes, we’d like to have kids, and his son has put in a order for a little sister.”

This is Robyn as she featured in my #humans_of_cape_town Instagram post. Prospective partners and parents must think extra-carefully when combining families. I was a newbie at being a dad, but simultaneously being a step-dad, and it’s not easy.

Blended Family Checklist:

Have you lived together?

Is your new partner willing to really let you parent?

Are they willing to let you establish your own relationship with their child, or do they insist on governing it?

Do they shout in front of their own kids – it’s not easy, but important to know how he / she is when you’re not around.

Check how their childhood was, how their parents treated them. That – and how they dealt with issues they might have had with their folks – is a major indication as to what you can expect. It can also raise necessary flags.

Values – they have to be in synch. As you wil have your own idiosyncracies, so the most normal seeming people can turn out to have their own challenges in particular circumstances. You need to understand and be able to deal with each other.

 

I have an idea that Robyn has done her homework.

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Hard Work vs Raw Talent

Why instilling admiration for hard work rather than raw talent is the key to fostering a well-adjusted mind.

Despite ample evidence and countless testaments to the opposite, there persists a toxic cultural mythology that creative and intellectual excellence comes from a passive gift bestowed upon the fortunate few by the gods of genius, rather than being the product of the active application and consistent cultivation of skill. So what might the root of that stubborn fallacy be? Childhood and upbringing, it turns out, might have a lot to do.

In The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves (public library), psychoanalyst and University College London professor Stephen Grosz builds on more than 50,000 hours of conversation from his quarter-century experience as a practicing psychoanalyst to explore the machinery of our inner life, with insights that are invariably profound and often provocative — for instance, a section titled “How praise can cause a loss of confidence,” in which Grosz writes:

Nowadays, we lavish praise on our children. Praise, self-confidence and academic performance, it is commonly believed, rise and fall together. But current research suggests otherwise — over the past decade, a number of studies on self-esteem have come to the conclusion that praising a child as ‘clever’ may not help her at school. In fact, it might cause her to under-perform. Often a child will react to praise by quitting — why make a new drawing if you have already made ‘the best’? Or a child may simply repeat the same work — why draw something new, or in a new way, if the old way always gets applause?

Grosz cites psychologists Carol Dweck and Claudia Mueller’s famous 1998 study, which divided 128 children ages 10 and 11 into two groups. All were asked to solve mathematical problems, but one group were praised for their intellect (“You did really well, you’re so clever.”) while the other for their effort (“You did really well, you must have tried really hard.”) The kids were then given more complex problems, which those previously praised for their hard work approached with dramatically greater resilience and willingness to try different approaches whenever they reached a dead end. By contrast, those who had been praised for their cleverness were much more anxious about failure, stuck with tasks they had already mastered, and dwindled in tenacity in the face of new problems. Grosz summarizes the now-legendary findings:

Ultimately, the thrill created by being told ‘You’re so clever’ gave way to an increase in anxiety and a drop in self-esteem, motivation and performance. When asked by the researchers to write to children in another school, recounting their experience, some of the ‘clever’ children lied, inflating their scores. In short, all it took to knock these youngsters’ confidence, to make them so unhappy that they lied, was one sentence of praise.

He goes on to admonish against today’s culture of excessive parental praise, which he argues does more for lifting the self-esteem of the parents than for cultivating a healthy one in their children:

Admiring our children may temporarily lift our self-esteem by signaling to those around us what fantastic parents we are and what terrific kids we have — but it isn’t doing much for a child’s sense of self. In trying so hard to be different from our parents, we’re actually doing much the same thing — doling out empty praise the way an earlier generation doled out thoughtless criticism. If we do it to avoid thinking about our child and her world, and about what our child feels, then praise, just like criticism, is ultimately expressing our indifference.

To explore what the healthier substitute for praise might be, he recounts observing an eighty-year-old remedial reading teacher named Charlotte Stiglitz, the mother of the Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, who told Grosz of her teaching methodology:

I don’t praise a small child for doing what they ought to be able to do,’ she told me. ‘I praise them when they do something really difficult — like sharing a toy or showing patience. I also think it is important to say “thank you”. When I’m slow in getting a snack for a child, or slow to help them and they have been patient, I thank them. But I wouldn’t praise a child who is playing or reading.

Rather than utilizing the familiar mechanisms of reward and punishment, Grosz observed, Charlotte’s method relied on keen attentiveness to “what a child did and how that child did it.” He recounts:

I once watched Charlotte with a four-year-old boy, who was drawing. When he stopped and looked up at her — perhaps expecting praise — she smiled and said, ‘There is a lot of blue in your picture.’ He replied, ‘It’s the pond near my grandmother’s house — there is a bridge.’ He picked up a brown crayon, and said, ‘I’ll show you.’ Unhurried, she talked to the child, but more importantly she observed, she listened. She was present.

Presence, he argues, helps build the child’s confidence by way of indicating he is worthy of the observer’s thoughts and attention — its absence, on the other hand, divorces in the child the journey from the destination by instilling a sense that the activity itself is worthless unless it’s a means to obtaining praise. Grosz reminds us how this plays out for all of us, and why it matters throughout life:

Being present, whether with children, with friends, or even with oneself, is always hard work. But isn’t this attentiveness — the feeling that someone is trying to think about us — something we want more than praise?

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Occupational Therapy (OT): Why Do So Many Children need it?

This article is borrowed from www.babble.com, with local input and images from SingleDadDays.

A harsh reality I have come to learn about separate parenting is that one parent can’t parent for the other. It can be a bitter pill, especially when you see parenting behaviour directly contrary to what you believe are healthy values. I’m not talking physical abuse.

In fact as long as the child is not being physically abused, a parent can pretty much do what he or she wishes, irrespective of whether or not it’s good for the child. It’s easy for a 7 /8 /9 year-old child (especially a boy) to end up at occupational therapy if they aren’t given play-dates with mates, climbing, running and roughhousing – those activities that help develop their muscle tone. Climbing trees and messing around with other boys only every two weeks, for two days, for example, is insufficient, and will probably result in that unnecessary visit to the OT therapist. As parents, we have to be aware of a child’s developing needs, as the years from 0-12 are critical to their development. The below article is a instructive at many levels.

“When Dina Petringa’s son, Winston, was born, he was “definitely on the ‘floppy’ side,” she says. At ten months he was diagnosed with “hypotonia” – low muscle tone – which can present various developmental challenges. Through California’s early intervention program, at 18 months Winston began to receive occupational therapy (OT), a type of hands-on intervention designed to help children (and adults) perform the tasks that make up daily life, from writing to concentrating to motor skills to following classroom rules.

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IS OT ALWAYS NECESSARY…WHAT ABOUT LATE BLOOMERS ?

While Petringa, who lives in Los Angeles, is positive that Winston benefited from OT, she says her intuition tells her that Winston was just “a bit of a forest creature – a quiet boy with developmental delays” that he might eventually have “evolved” out of on his own schedule. But in navigating the system, she did encounter parents with children who, in a different generation, would just have been called “late bloomers,” she says, “and who now want OT to get extra help.” To be sure, the increased availability of OT has allowed us to identify and treat issues that might have left certain not-quite-special-needs kids floundering back when today’s parents of young kids were in school. But when we were in school we also weren’t expected to know how to add 3 + 1 by the time we were four. Is it today’s intense, achievement-oriented school culture or what some have called “the learning-disability industrial complex” – and not the eccentric, poky, or “different” kids – that needs an intervention?

OT BOOM: STATS

What no one denies is that there has been a boom in OT in the past 20 years, as students with disabilities from mild to severe have received special education services, including occupational therapy, through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 1975. Data from the Department of Education shows that between 1991 and 2001, the number of five-year-olds receiving special services under IDEA increased 31 percent; the number of four-year-olds increased 76 percent; three-year-olds by 94 percent. The numbers have continued to rise. But the prevalence of occupational therapy today is also measured more anecdotally: in the not-uncommon waits of several months for services, or even preliminary evaluations, both in schools and in private practices.

“OT is definitely on the rise,” says Shannon Roberson, founder of the Total Poss-Abilities pediatric occupational therapy clinic in Oklahoma City, who was inspired to go into OT when her first son, now 10, was diagnosed with autism at the age of two. Although Roberson ascribes much, though not all, of the intense demand she sees for OT to increased incidence (or at least awareness) of autism – according to the CDC’s 2009 figures, 1 in 110 8-year-olds had an autism spectrum disorder in 2006, up 57 percent since 2002 – OT is also commonly used to treat manifestations of ADHD, ADD and, more and more, sensory processing disorder (SPD). With SPD, the brain has trouble handling information from the senses, resulting, for example, in unmanageable aversion to certain smells, sounds, fabrics – even to sitting still. Where in the past the consequent restlessness, overstimulation, or total freakout might have been considered bad behavior, now kids with these issues may be evaluated for OT.img_5502 ABUSE OF OCCUPAITONAL THERAPY: PRESSURE & SUCKERED PARENTS?

No one’s really questioning whether OT is legitimate or effective, for isolated delays or full-blown disorders. One thing that has come into question, though, is OT’s alleged misuse by uber-parents – as portrayed in a recent New York Times article, for example – whose kids, they fear, will flunk their interview at a fancy preschool if (God forbid!) at age three they still hold a crayon with their fist. “There was this pressure: if your kid is not making X milestone by X age, you need to ‘get evaluated!’” says Tawnya Gibson, now of Salt Lake City, of her experience while living in San Diego. (Her late-to-talk son, after OT in California, has now caught up with his peers.) “When you’re a first-time mom, it can really freak you out. I was even like, ‘What if his limitations are my fault? If I hadn’t scrubbed that tub that one time and inhaled fumes!’”

Still, the implication that OT is just a trendy tool of the Ivy-bound rankles experts and parents alike. “Parents do not want their kids ID’d as needing any kind of therapy,” says Paula McCreedy, a founding partner of New York City’s Special Programs in Occupational Therapy Services (SPOTS). “Parents want their children to be happy, to have fun, to play.” img_5047One Manhattan mother, whose 5-year-old daughter was recommended for OT (for an apparent brain-body disconnection that caused general “klutziness” and reading and writing delays) by her public school teacher, did not rush to get an evaluation until her daughter started to show signs of distress (“I’ll never learn to read and write!”) “In our school, at least, this is not some privileged white person trendy diagnosis,” says the girl’s mother. “This is not the fibromyalgia of the elementary school set.”

UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS?

What some experts cite as a more pressing concern than fussy parents or fancy schools is the academic rigor of your average kindergarten. “There’s so much pressure to move them through the curriculum,” says McCreedy, speaking of today’s educational culture in general. “There is a developmentally appropriate rate and time for all these tasks. School is supposed to socialize our children to participate in society. But when we start pushing them too quickly we don’t realize that there are other foundational skills that are as important.” With school standards intensifying and school budgets shrinking, children are expected to accomplish much more, much sooner and often with less recess. If, for example, you need to know all your letters and numbers by kindergarten, you’re going to need to sit still at some point to learn them. If so many kids have trouble with that, do we need to evaluate them – or the ramped-up expectations?

“I’ve been in kindergartens where the kids are expected to sit in circle time for 30, 40 minutes – that is too long,” says Shannon Roberson, the Oklahoma City OT. “Then they’re cutting out recess and PE time which kids need in order to be able to go back and focus in class, whether they have sensory and attention issues or not.”

CHICKEN NUGGETS VS EATING W UTENSILS, AND WRITING…THEY NEED TO USE THOSE MUSCLES !

Likewise, when it comes to the 3 Rs, it seems they’re teaching too much of the 1st and 3rd, not enough of the 2nd. By many reports – and as kids spend more of their time typing or texting than writing – lessons in “penmanship” are rare. And when it comes to kids on the less dexterous end of the spectrum, more handwriting instruction could go a long way, experts say. (Kids these days are more likely to eat with their hands than with forks – hello, chicken nuggets and fries – which can also delay manual dexterity.)img_5117Larger economic and societal issues, such as affordable childcare and family-unfriendly workplaces, mean many children are in school too long to begin with, points out one occupational therapist in Brooklyn, NY who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “Some kids are in school from 8 to 6, if you count the after-school program,” she said. “How frazzled are you at the end of a workday that long?”

This is not to say OT isn’t a godsend for those who need it or that all problems warranting OT would magically disappear if we brought recess and penmanship back and let kids read and add at their own pace. OT, McCreedy argues, should be part of a “wellness” as opposed to “deficit” model in which all children are given the best possible opportunity to function and participate in their world. But perhaps the explosion of OT is, in part, a symptom of an educational system that, in its focus on helping kids perform, may sometimes fail to help them flourish, quirks and all. There’s no more, “Eh, he’s a late bloomer,” says the Brooklyn OT. “That’s great for business, but it’s a little ridiculous.”

 

Encouraging Interests – When to do it ?

_dsc4022Do you worry if your daughter plays with a tractor, or one of your son’s clone-troopers or cowboys ? Exactly. It doesn’t matter what your boy likes. I write this because of a Facebook post about boys playing with dolls, and if parents should be worried.
Everything he shows interest in adds to his development, is another brick in the eventual house that he will become. They see moms with children, maybe their siblings, or being pushed by the woman in the greed dress in a pram in the park; it’s a part of life they may be curious about.
 
It’s our function as parents to encourage and guide when it comes to our children’s interests; obviously we steer them away from the stuff that does harm to the develping mind of a young child who is not yet emotionally capable of processing complex thoughts and actions, like shooting, sex and violence. When our son was two he developed an obsession – not a passion – with aircraft. A few years later Lego star wars took hold. He still loves them both.
With the planes, I made the conscious effort to see if he still loved planes, driving a few hours out of town to an aerobatics airshow at a small, rural airfield. He couldnt get enough.
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Since he’s been small, he’s loved his planes. So you don’t have to wait until he’s seven, you can encourage from day one.

Which brings me to the age when interests start, and when they should be taken ‘seriously’.  Those professionals who study children and their physcial development tell us that it is around age seven that big mental leaps occur; whether reading, hobbies, activities or simply curiosity, like how long it it will take for jelly to set in the freezer (which is what happened occasionally when I forgot it the night before my girl came for her visit), and “imagine if that road just kept going uner the sea all the way to America, wouldn’t that be cool….can it go to America, Dad ?”.
 My son has this past year been showning an intense interest in soccer. It pretty obviously stems from him seeing me watch the odd game, maybe getting excited (we’re big Liverpool FC fans), but also his interest in kicking the ball around, with me or his half-brother mastering some basic skills and being part of a team.

 He also enjoyed rugby, but as it required the permission of the other parent on her Saturday mornings, that didn’t happen. So wIth the involvment of a facilitator he ended up being allowed to play the game he loves, for the first time. We joined a club here in the Cape Town city bowl and he’s thus far loved every minute. It’s the same with reading, whether Dahl, blyton or activity books; until his mother took the kids when he was 4 yrs old, I read to him every single night. We still do on our nights together.
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No matter how tired you are, try to encourage every interest they show. The stuff they’re serious about will rise to the top, and you will have set an important foundation for their future.
As for playing with dolls, one day there’s a good chance they will be Dads too.
 
* even tho’ it is engineered that my children’s time with me is restricted, with their mother insisting that I have a supervisor (nanny) present when I see my daughter, she created them with me, for which I will eternally be grateful and acknowledge her.

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Parental Alienation

So I had to check with her creche ‘teacher’ to find out how my little girl (4) is. She’s well apparently, and told the creche teacher that she wants me to take her to our local park. I’ve seen her once in the past month at time of writing; our contact is entirely at her mother’s whim. The ‘facilitator’ – he who is appointed to negotiate communications in difficult relationships – has not acted within the powers of the brief given to him by the court. But as the first psychologist noted, my ex ‘presents well’. The fact that she is attractive, with acting skills, won’t harm her cause.
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This is where my heart goes out to those fathers deprived of seeing their children; women acting with no regard for the consequences of such deprivation. Just because they can, because they have ‘the power’. Ditto the case for women similarly deprived. This surely questions love for one’s children? 
 
In some countries, the infliction of such deprivation on children is called parental alienation. The sad truth is that the Family courts here in South Africa don’t seem to have the resources to deal with anything beyond the obvious – like alcoholic fathers and abusers. The bar for fathers is set so very low. I couldn’t sleep, and often still struggle, thinking about blatant fabrications manufactures and even perpetuated by men in ties and women in power-suits. That some parents get away with what they do, always ‘in the interests of the children’, is deeply sad.
 
That’s how I lost my main work when this saga started three years ago;. I couldn’t get my head around the fact that this woman I loved, who, along with her father had said what a good parent I was, suddenly claimed I could not parent because I had been in an accident, resulting in a coma, in 1992, 15 years before I met her. And even then, she chose to have a second child with me three years after the first. That’s how ‘bad’ I was as a father.
The psychologist we were sent to by a mediator ruled I was a good father, and that we should share parenting 50-50. So the mother found and hired her own psychologist over the next 18 months, and changed her story – preventing the children from accessing the love that their Dad had to give. 
 
I’ve already seen my children;s mother before a small claims court commissioner, who said ‘madam, you stretch the levels of credulity’, while she stood in the dock and fumbled through answers she couldn’t possibly have.  But I apparently can’t even use that, according to ‘the law’, so I’ve had to abandon my need to get the children’s mother before a judge, to answer the most basic of questions, just to avoid spending my remaining savings and ending up on the streets.
I nevertheless still try through public resources, because my children will one day need to know how hard their Dad fought to be present for them, so my girl doesn’t later have to grapple with rejection issues regarding her Dad, wondering why he took only her brother to sleep at their house, and only took him on holiday.
So they both know much their Dad appreciated the joy they brought in into the world. That they were so very worth it, and that irrespective of the hurt she caused and damage she did to my career, that I wouldn’t have had them without meeting their mom. 
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Road-Tripping South Africa with My Boy (7) Part 2: Hog Hollow (The Crags) & Monkeyland

The Crags (Monkeyland) to East London

Day 2: Waking-up at Hog Hollow is always a good reason not to leave. An early riser, unfortunately or not, I often set my internal alarm by the first bird-calls of the morning, which in winter sneak through the walls well before the first rays light the leaves.  The sky opens in tandem with eyes that have been getting used to the darkness – the bedlight lamp on the headboard is way too effective, a relative floodlight that would wake my road-tripping partner, the little man who doubles as my son. The ceiling-to-floor window reveals the grey-blue outline of the Outeniqua range, the same that first captured me when I visited here over ten years ago; it’s a good way to start a day, in that happy-to-be-alive sense. ‘Ben’ stirs, has  the shower he escaped the night before, we pack and head for breakfast. “Y ou sure you don’t want to stay around here?”, I ask over a muffin while he makes friends with Matty-the-cat. “It’s a long drive”.

'Ben' loves cats. This is Matty, the Hog Hollow resident mouser, who was keen on company over breakfast. So Ben snapped a pic.

‘Ben’ loves cats. This is Matty, the Hog Hollow resident mouser, who was keen on company over breakfast. So Ben snapped a pic of us.

‘Uhuh’, comes the answer, before he takes a phone-shot of Matty joning me on my lap. Then  it’s “shhh, listen !” A drawn out ‘whooooop, whooooooooooop’ is coming from the other side of the forested ravine: Monkeyland. He wants to drive.

It should be five hours from the Crags to East London; our start is slow, with our first stop a little less than a mind-boggling five minutes after departing #Hog Hollow. #Monkeyland is a magnificent free-ranging forest home for abused and damaged monkeys, a few vervets among mostly aliens, like capuchins, gibbons, howler monkeys and lemurs, including what is apparently the highest population of ring-tailed ‘King Julian’ lemurs outside Madagascar.

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Run by the irrepressible Lara Mostert and funded by her husband Tony Blignaut, Monkeyland is large, 20 hectares of free-roaming bliss for simeans and lemurs. The guide for our group of five is the well-practised, Congolese Andy. ‘Ben”s own monkey narrative is not a positive one; he’s been told that monkeys aren’t nice, as his 19 yr-old half-brother was given a nip when he was a youngster. A little exposure is needed to allow him to create his own story, and Andy does a good job with a brief education – Ben even walks past a very funny gibbon on the suspension bridge, and a couple vervets lounging around, one of whom tries nsuccessfully to snatch his binoculars.  And then it’s on to Birds of Eden, a similar themed home to once-captive birds, from Macaws to parakeets, now in a quite speactacular, free-ranging space. Like the monkeys, unknowingly secure that they won’t ever be sold on again.

 

Above: My boy’, reassured by guide Birds of Eden guide Meshack, is nevertheless wary of the macaw’s beak, which as he explains to anyone who will listen, isn’t too different to that of a squid.

 

 

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Road-Tripping South Africa with My Boy (7) Part 1: Cape Town to Hog Hollow (The Crags)

My share of the holidays with my 7 year-old Benjamin* was approaching, and with telephone communications with him where he lives (mostly) at his mother’s house difficult, I couldn’t really  prepare. We don’t really have the spare cash to fly anywhere, but the thought of a 13-hour drive to a best friend and his family – which includes a 9 year-old daughter – is equally daunting.

That was my thinking before we started. The trip has been over now for just over a week as I write, and it was a brilliant bonding experience. Here’s a visual precis of how it went.

Day 1. We left a day late because Benjamin’s mother had not released him on his due day for holiday with me. This is not extraneous to the topic, this is what single parenting can be like if you’re unlucky. So I had to readjust my thinking. A first night in Montagu, about two and a half hours from our Cape Town home, followed by a drive down the R62 – a South African roadtrip classic – had been the plan.

My boy with my friends’ nine year-old girl on th ebeach in East London. He developed his first crush, I was so proud of him.

This wouldve included the Cango Caves and ostriches of Oudtshoorn, and taken in the Outeniqua Pass to George, Knysna and our 2nd night in the Crags, outside Plett on the southern Cape coast. But him not being releases on the day we were meant to start called for adaptation. So we headed straight for the Crags at about 08h30, and at about 3.30 that afternoon – with food-stops and points of interest not only included, but actively encouraged (otherwise it wouldn’t be a road trip) – and pulled in to our sumptuous, very child-friendly accommodation at Hog Hollow.

The scooter in the boot is useful for a child that needs to stretch. Tiny Victoria Bay, just off the N2, outside George en route to Knysna from Cape Town. Surf spot, beach and a rare boardwalk.

 

We settled in with some Lego games and popcorn (already in the room) for the afternoon, before going out for a walk in the brisk and qiet country freshness.  Then went through for the sort of meal that you’d expect of a four-star establishment. The owners are good people, and run a fine establishment that was Fair Trade long before the brand was established out here. And children are so very welcome in this part of the world. The next morning would see us at the quite brilliant #Monkeyland and #Birds of Eden across the ravine, before conitnuing on our journey.

Moneyland is a brilliant facility, built and owned by a caring couple, best place to see lemurs, capuchins etc in their natural habitat.

*Benjamin, a pseudonym

www.hog-hollow.com

www.horseridinggardenroute.com

 

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