Posts

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

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.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Single Parenting Holidays: Joburg for Christmas again ?

 

So Christmas has passed and December’s approaching yet again. A little quicker than last year, which was already a little quicker than the 12 months before and so-on and so-on.

That’s what I was thinking last year in about August. Such is the calendar of a single parent battling to see his children; I was thinking this would leave me four months in which to arrange what has become the annual Cape Town–Johannesburg flight to see ageing grandparents and maintain connections with cousin, aunt and friends.

Without being morbid, the thing with the sharp end of ageing is that you don’t know which trip to see the children’s gran or grandad will be their last, so going elsewhere, like a holiday destination, doesn’t happen. Just in case. Like my Dad. He hardly got to know his grandchildren before he moved on. My son has meanwhile learnt about ageing from these visits, and is far braver than I remember being about ‘old people’ at that age.

IMG_4473Drawing with Gran.

There hadn’t been timeous agreement regarding the previous three Christmas holiday suggestions with the my boy’s mother, and again I had no option but to book flights the week before the big day; which for me and my 6 year-old pretty much cost half the price of a ticket to London.

Which, heading off on a tangent, leads me to think how our holiday expectations evolve . If not my son’s friends’ going to the proverbial family holiday house at Kenton-on-Sea or ‘Plett’, favoured holiday spots here in South Africa, my now-global school friends are taking their kids to Europe and the US for skiing holidays.

Cousin T has joined uncle pat as a firm favourite for Fynn. Sassy joined in.  IMG_1057    IMG_1213_2

In comparison, spending my share of the annual big Christmas vacation with my boy and our family down the road from Westpark cemetary in Johannesburg was ok. That’s another  reality of the single-parenting world; if you’re close to your family and not necessarily flush, horizons often don’t extend much beyond remaining families.

We enjoy the relative peace. Well I do, my boy obviously lives for the moment, and if he’s surrounded by love and his holiday animals – with a swimming pool as a bonus – he’s happy.

He loves being with his aunt and cousin. So does his four year-old sister, but unfortunately she only gets to see them on one day a year (for reasons that won’t be addressed here).

I appreciate the quiet of Jo’burg, driving avenues lined with the trees of my childhood (the Joburg-Pretoria conurbation represents the world’s largest urban ‘forest’). It reminds me too, earlier comments or morbidity aside, that the children spending quality time with their fast-ageing and generally immobile granny is also pretty key, to nurture their sense of paternal family.

IMG_4481

And anyway, peak-season airports are hell.

 

 

Dating For Dads 2

She was my first internet date, and I was a bit nervous.

Firstly because I knew that this was my first journey down the dark side of online dating, that murky avenue where the discarded remnants of failed relationships lurk in search of company and maybe some form of social acceptance.

To set the scene, it was a popular, well-frequented suburban watering—hole-cum-restaurant roughly halfway between us. The sort of place where your husband-brother-or-father would watch rugby. But on entering the crowded and chatty building from the always full, pine-fringed car-park that night I felt as if all eyes were on me, that everyone knew why I was there.

At least that was my thinking then. Because who does this sort of dodgy online dating stuff anyway?

That was about two years ago, and not long before a boyhood school-friend and long-time New York city resident announced to the table over dinner at a Cape Town city restaurant that it’s the done thing in his part of the world. ‘Hey man, it’s the boss!’

Essentially, it was the validation that I needed, and translated the concept into a ‘good enough’ reality for me.

I had tried to call her number a few times before we met, but with no luck. So I went ahead and agreed to meet nevertheless.

Turned out that she didn’t she didn’t really live where she said she did on her ‘profile’. If you’re from these parts (Cape Town), you will appreciate that broadly speaking, while physically not too far down the road, Muizenberg is on another level, far removed from Strandfontein. In the way that socie-economics is the great separator, it just isn’t the same.

She also posted pictures of herself as a teenager. It could’ve been someone else altogether.

I could’ve walked out, accused her of ‘social fraud’, of wasting my time invested in the communications we’d had over the past couple weeks, of misleading me. But I felt bad; she had travelled far, and being all alone she would’ve been totally out of place in what for her was a clearly foreign environment.

That’s internet dating for you, and I suppose the reason why I finally relented and opted to try the Tinder app. What I imagined to be something trashy, without even having tried it, turned out to be an effective application, populated by people like me, and with no charge.

It pulls limited personal information from your Facebook page – like your profile pictures – and even highlights mutual connections you may have. So the odds are good that the person behind the profile is genuine. If the person is suddenly 30kg heavier, well therein lies the baggage gathered over a lifetime – at least youve had the time  to develop the skills of diplomacy and kindness to deal with it – and  a real person with real stuff.

And there’s a bonus that I suppose was every bit intended. Because it’s an app, you interact with it when it suits you, no shotgun-scatter emails and weirdos flooding your inbox. Welcome to the new dating generation. It beats sitting at the bar and bugging your buddies.

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.

IMG_1932
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.