When your children become friends

children

Friends

Obviously age gaps have never really been an issue for me.  Those who know my story know that I was 18 years old when I met my husband. He was 39, going through his second divorce, had 3 children and had already lived a HUGE life. One I could hardly begin to understand.

Yet I was so drawn to him, so attracted and absorbed by him and his story that I didn’t care about the 21 year age gap. I just wanted to be with him. Age didn’t matter then, and now at 33 and 54, it hasn’t mattered yet. We were meant to be together, we just fit, and the years between us do not define that. I remember people asking me what we could possibly have in common, and surely this was just a fling because, well  “he IS TWENTY ONE YEARS OLDER THAN YOU!” Honestly, it’s been 15 years and we haven’t run out of things to talk about yet, and he makes me laugh every.single.day, so whatevs? The very apparent connection between us has always made people look twice when they meet us. We have often giggled at (mostly middle aged) women staring at us mouths gaping open as we walk past hand in hand.

Fast forward a few years and we now have this houseful of boy children in varying ages. Michael was 8 when we finally fell pregnant with Mason. Everyone commented on how big their age gap would be. How they would never really be friends because Michael wouldn’t be interested in the baby, would be a moody preteen when Mas got big enough to play. And how the little guy was going to just going to annoy his older brother and break his things. I mean… Come on people.

My boys

My boys

Why do people say these things to a mom? Like there isn’t enough to worry about as you’re transitioning from one child to two. I already had so much on my plate during that time, too much to mention in this post, but adding another baby boy to our little family where Michael had only ever known himself to be the centre of everyone’s world was weighing heavily on my heart.

As a child, my sister (5 years younger than me) and brother (7 years younger than me) and I had never been friends. We are now as adults, but never as kids. I’m not sure if that was because I was just awful (totally possible), or if our parents just believed that the gap was too big and never really kindled that relationship. It’s unfortunate because we missed out on special childhood moments I see my boys sharing.

I made a promise to myself that my boys would be friends. That they would love each other, respect each other, and their brotherhood bond would be strong. Because age gaps don’t mean a thing. And you know what? Those 8 years that separate the birth dates of those two boys of mine, have never been an issue. In fact my 11 year old and 4 year old are the very best of friends. They will tell you that themselves.

Love them

Love them

Add in another little brother 2 years later and I was way more chilled. I’d paved the way and the boys were thrilled to have a new brother in their pack. Again the critics warned me to be prepared for Mason to act out and be ugly towards his baby brother because they were close in age and he would be jealous. Apparently you can’t win and everyone has an opinion. Thankfully Mason loved his baby brother from belly to Mom’s arms and has never shown any jealousy towards his baby brother.

Mika has been the baby and up until a few months ago he wasn’t really much fun to play with. Read: destroyer of toys and clinger to mommy. But there has been a shift recently and suddenly they play together all day long. Whether it is growling dinosaurs or racing cars, stacking colors or building Duplo blocks. They play. I’ve also noticed how they’ve made up their own little games and even though Mika only says a few words, they all communicate perfectly. They giggle little secrets. They share their snacks, toys and clothes. They hug and kiss and comfort each other. And if Mika cries after hurting himself, Mason will be the first to run and wrap his arms around his brother and say “Don’t worry Mika, I am still your best fwend.”

Michael is honestly the best big brother that ever was and plays with both of them equally. They adore him. He is “the fun big brother” – often WAY more fun than mom. And it is regularly him who will settle any disagreement between the smaller boys. I totally lucked out or I just wished it so.

Whatever the reason, I glanced over yesterday and saw my three children sitting on the couch, in our hotel room in the middle of Lagos, sharing a roll of sweets and giggling at something I will never understand and I got a little tearful as I thought : Wow. these little humans that I made are my whole heart. They love each other. Really really. They are not only brothers, but they are friends. Best friends. I can’t believe how blessed I really am.

This is honestly my biggest achievement to date. And my heart explodes.

I pray that this relationship, this bond they share only grows and prospers through the years. Because in this scary world we live in everyone deserves to belong to a strong brotherhood of their own.

Being a Mom is HARD.

Being a Mom is hard.

Grace

Being a mom is HARD

All of it. So hard. But we make it so.much.harder on ourselves. Why do we do that? Why do we give everyone else so much grace, empathy and patience, yet we punish ourselves relentlessly?

Last night while the boys were playing after bath, I made myself a cup of coffee as I was finishing straightening my hair and doing my make up for dinner. Then I remembered I hadn’t made Mika’s bedtime bottle (yes he still goes to bed with a bottle. Call the parenting police.) I walked to our little kitchen area and the baby raced past me towards the bedroom to see his daddy. Or so I thought.

He actually ran straight to my desk / dressing table, grabbed my huge mug of really hot black coffee and poured it all over himself.

From the other room, I heard the dreaded “sore cry” scream and knew exactly what he had done.

Oh Shit. Oh No. Oh crap, this is BAD.

These Mother instincts just kick in from some foreign place deep inside and it’s like some super power just takes over. Within half a second I had grabbed him, pulled his hot onesie away from his chest and we were both standing under the cold water in the shower. G hadn’t even had the chance to stand up to get to him in the time that it took me to do that.

I held Mika close and let him cry while I cried. I beat myself up for being such an idiot for leaving the cup in his reach. I was so mad. I felt like THE WORST MOM IN THE WHOLE WORLD. Seriously. The whole world. I can be really ugly to myself.

I apologised a million times to the scared little boy crying in my arms and I prayed that there would be no burn.

Turns out my fast acting superpowers worked and the cold water cooled his bright pink skin right down. By the time we got out, we were both shivering and there wasn’t a mark on his soft skinned little body. He was smiley and cheerful. Forgiving. Phew.

I, on the other hand, was a total mess. My just straightened hair was dripping and bedraggled, my make up was a smudged blurry raccoon eyed mess on my face, my clothes were drenched. My heart was thumping. I was crying.  And I was cross. Mad, in fact, with myself.

Now if my BFF had called me and told me that that had just happened to her baby and she was angry and cursing herself, I would have told her to just STOP. Stop being so utterly ridiculous. Accidents happen. We do our best to protect these little people, but we can’t do it all. I would have been gentle and reassuring with her. I would have told her to stop being so harsh on herself. Yet I am still, 24 hours later, angry at myself for being careless. Still hearing that nagging little voice in my head saying how lucky I was (this time) that he didn’t burn.

The point of this whole post is this. I need to be nicer to myself. I need to give myself the grace and understanding I would give to my friend, my sister, a stranger even. Because I do try my best. Accidents DO happen. Babies get hurt. It happens.

So if you are reading this and are beating yourself up for something you wish you had done differently with your kids today, take heart Momma, and give yourself a little grace. Forgive yourself, like you would forgive your BFF. Tell yourself this “I’m not a perfect Mom, but I AM the perfect mom for MY children.”

Five on Friday

A Quick Five on Friday Post

1. We have been hotel-living in Lagos for 6 weeks. On one hand it has flown, but on the other, it feels like we have been here for ever – in a good way.  We are settled. We have a routine. The days seems to fly by with morning school and afternoons spent swimming, walks around the grounds and ice creams in the garden. Cuddles, giggles, story time and hotel passage races.

2. Mika is changing. Growing up fast. 6 weeks ago he was clingy and needy and getting into everything. Over the last few weeks he has completely chilled out. His vocabulary is growing daily and he can communicate really well now. He is starting to play happily on his own or with me and his brothers. I think it’s because he feels safe, comfortable, content. He is happy here with his daddy and I love that.

3. Michael and Mason are totally loving sharing a room. Mika is in an adjoining room off theirs. Mika goes to sleep at around 6:30pm and the big boys go to bed around 8pm. They each go to bed with a book every night and while Mic reads his required chapters, Mason invariably falls asleep with a pile of books all around him. They sleep well and often Mika only wakes up after 8am and shouts for the big boys to wake up. All I can say is : WHERE HAVE THE BLACKOUT CURTAINS BEEN ALL MY LIFE?

4. Lagos Traffic is crazy. And while I have noticed that most of the roads are in fact in excellent condition and well looked after – it is the rainy season here and there are some areas that are flooded and have GIANT potholes. It can be scary and I am so super grateful to have a driver. I could never ever imagine driving on these roads.

5. Having a full time husband = AWESOME you guys. I’ve been missing out. We get to go for a drink at the pool and dinner in the restaurant every evening once the baby is asleep. We go on a date night every single Friday night. We get to watch our boys doing funny things and share the cuddles every morning when they race into our bedroom. We’re having the most fun. I want to savour this time. I am flourishing :)

image

Have a great weekend!

Some days just suck…

Some days just suck.

Like when someone close to you passes away faster than you can fathom and it makes your heart hurt.

Especially when it’s your husbands mom that dies, and you feel inept because there is no way to make that better, to make his heart hurt less.

And then you can’t fall asleep because your mind is buzzing, wondering if you did the best for that person while they were still alive. So you stay up till 1am reading and watching documentaries so you don’t have to think anymore.

And then your baby randomly wakes up at 1am and vomits all over his cot, and in the process of cleaning him and his bed, he wakes right up and wants to play. And then you sit up with him until he eventually falls asleep again at 6am! Because there is no way you can leave him when he is calling “mommy mommy mommy” so beautifully. It’s his newest word. It makes my heart burst.

And at 6am you roll into bed for what feels like 30 seconds and all of a sudden its 8am and time to get up.

And ordinarily I probably would have growled my way through the whole day today,  getting cross, moaning about unimportant things. Being over tired, snappy and short tempered with my children. Because we all do that. Because some days just suck.

But today I woke up with intention. I woke up and told myself that there was no need to get grumpy. It certainly was not all their fault I was sleep deprived. There was no need to waste today. And it felt good.

Being intentional with my moods and how I behave in front of my children plays a huge role in their behavior and how they react through the day. And of course I’ve always known this, but it’s not always easy to follow through. But making the decision to “make today a good day” before my feet hit the floor in the morning really works for me.

My boys were super well behaved today – we talked about their granny, we cried, we laughed, we remembered, they were loving, cute, funny and I even got to nap with the baby while the bigger two played together quietly after lunch. It was awesome.

This afternoon I looked at the little huddle of boys around me, the way they love each other, learn together, play together, help each other. The way they love me unconditionally, forgive me when I’m grumpy, shouty mom. I cannot believe how much grace they give me as their mom. I want to give that back to them.

Being intentional

Because some days suck

I want to be more intentional with my parenting, my mothering, my teaching these little humans. I want to be more aware of my words and make sure I am nurturing their sensitive hearts right.

I want more days like today. Because some days suck, but I don’t have to…

 

Missing “Me time”

Pinings.

In my post yesterday I wrote about how we have taken this huge step and moved our family to Lagos. I wrote about how happy we all are. And we really really are. I’m the happiest I’ve been in a long time. I’m also feeling a little worn out…

One of the biggest adjustments for me so far though is that I have lost any and all “me time”. It seems selfish even typing that out.

Being a stay at home, homeschooling mom to my three boys has always meant that taking a little “me time” every day is essential to the smooth running of our lives. Happy mom = happy children.

Pining

Mine

My boys are bright, busy and demanding. Michael is intelligent and while his curriculum is fulfilling it’s also thought provoking – he asks questions all day long. This means that our learning doesn’t stop, and often a “quick” bible reading can lead to hours of discussion, looking up passages, googling questions, watching documentaries etc. It’s incredible! Mason is learning to read and write and needs me to completely focus on him while his attention span holds. Mika is constantly testing boundaries, climbing, getting into everything and anything he can. He loves listening to our read aloud stories, but he is less tolerant during writing practice or spelling tests. It’s wonderful and gratifying, worthwhile and exhausting and pull-you-hair-out crazy all rolled into one. I wouldn’t change it for anything.

At home in Johannesburg, we lived in a large 5 bedroomed home with so much space, a full time nanny and the freedom to get in my car and get out for a bit – whether that was to do the grocery shopping, workout, meet a friend for coffee or have a pedicure. Me time doesn’t necessarily mean I needed to leave the house though. Escaping to my room to read for half an hour, having an uninterrupted bath or getting some writing done while the boys were being entertained saved my sanity. It makes me a better mom. Living here, we are in a 3 bedroomed hotel suite and while it’s comfortably big enough for us to live in, there is nowhere to hide. We have not had a nanny*. And if I need to go anywhere alone, I need to plan ahead with the driver and work around the baby’s nap schedule. (His 2,5 hour naps are now 1 hour *sob*)

It’s an adjustment for me. A big one. And I know I probably sound like a spoilt princess. But I know that I NEED some quiet time everyday, away from my children in order to give them the best of me. Is that so bad?

So, I’m not pining for the convenience of Woolies down the road, or meeting my sisters for coffee. I’m not pining for the big garden and swimming pool. I’m definitely not pining for the freezing winter temperatures. I’m not pining for you Joburg, I’m pining for that daily quiet hour I got to escape, exhale and just be.

How do other mom’s cope? I feel like I’m being completely selfish and failing as the mother I try to be because I crave this sacred time out. Am I being a princess? We all need a time-out, right? RIGHT?

*We have recently hired a lady to come in a few hours a day to help with the littles while I teach Mic and we will see if it works out. Currently her hours don’t allow me to escape, but hopefully we will get there.

Life begins when you step outside…

Doors and windows…

I feel all out of my depth with this writing challenge already. I think I managed 4 days, and now I am lagging behind badly. But I’m not going to beat myself up about it. I signed up to do this bootcamp to get myself back to writing every day. To get out of my comfort zone. To get my blog back up and running. So, if I fall behind because life gets a bit crazy and I haven’t had an hour to myself to actually get a decent post going, or if I look at the topics and feel zero inspiration – thats ok. I will do what I can, when I can.

Doors and windows

Happy boys

So, we are living in a hotel in the middle of Ikeja, Lagos. It’s been an incredibly fun ride so far. When we were making the plans to move to Nigeria, G and I discussed the pro’s and con’s at length. There were always so many con’s. But we decided that leaving Johannesburg and moving our life to Nigeria would be completely worth it and it didn’t matter what sacrifices needed to be made, we would make them. Because having our family together was the number one priority. We’ve been living apart from each other for too long. So I packed up our house, gave almost everything away, put the rest into storage, and packed our bags. I was ready.

I was ready to arrive in this strange, bustling city I had only visited once before and make it my new home. Because I don’t do things half measure. I don’t do things with half my heart and a safety net to catch me. I do everything in life with all of me, a kid on my hip and a smile on my face. And that attitude has served me very well in life.

I embraced this adventure, this new door opening into our future. I embraced it hard, and it has embraced me right back. I know it is early days and every day still feels like a holiday. We haven’t really had a chance to miss home yet, and I’m sure that will come. But for now I am just relishing every moment. Lagos is wonderful. The weather is incredible. The city is clean and well kept. There is so much to see, so much to do. The markets are still bustling at 2am when we drive home from date nights. The people here are warm and welcoming. My boys are just the happiest they have ever been. I walked into this thinking that it would be hard, but no matter what, we would make it work. But it has been such a pleasant surprise to find that everything is better. Because we are together.

Traffic in Lagos

Bustling city

Because this door is the one we were supposed to walk through. Because this is our future. This is our home. And I am breathing in every new, exciting moment. Thank you Lagos, we are loving you!

I just couldn’t live without…

For the last few years my husband and I have lived apart. Only seeing each other every few months for a 2 week holiday. Not by choice. But due to circumstances where he has been working and living in Nigeria and I lived in South Africa with our boys. It’s been a tough road. Tough on us, missing each other. Tough on the kids growing up without their daddy. Tough on G missing out on all the special moments. Tough on me trying to run our household and raise our children without being able to physically share the work and have someone to lean on.

Thankfully, our marriage has only grown stronger and stronger as we worked hard at communicating, loving, sharing and continuing to run our family as a team. I am forever grateful that our time apart only brought us closer as husband and wife, as a family. I love how we are always on the same page.

We have spent many hours talking, dreaming and planning this giant move with our children to live in Lagos. It’s been a long time coming and a huge step, one that took a lot of planning, but we have now been here a month.

A month of kissing him goodnight and again good morning. Everyday. A month of date nights and breakfasts in bed,  exploring a new city, grocery shopping, sharing cupboard space.  A month of watching my boys race into our bedroom in the mornings to check that Daddy is really still there. Watching them get to know him in a way there really hasn’t been time for before. A month of watching Michael and his dad laugh together. A month of noticing Mason climb onto his Dad’s lap at every opportunity he finds. A month of Mika grabbing his bottle and climbing onto his daddy’s chest before bedtime. All three of them are eating better, sleeping better, playing better. They are happy. These moments have been incredible.

I just couldn't live without

These moments…

These moments are fast becoming something I just couldn’t live without…  I can’t go back. I need to have my family together. Because these are the moments that make my life.

Together.

 

 

Mom Paranoia, Frogs, Snakes and Scuba Diving…

Writers Bootcamp Day 3: My biggest fear.

Ok, so this is a silly question for a mom. Of course my biggest fear revolves around anything horrific happening to my boys. It’s a deep seated terrifying fear that grips you around your chest and takes your breath away. I find that when I was solo parenting that the fear of something happening to them was much bigger. Somedays it can be all encompassing. Obviously because it was my sole responsibility to make sure they survived while daddy was away, and I took that seriously – perhaps to the extreme?  I find that now we are all together, even though we are now living in Nigeria, drive on CRAZY roads, live on the third floor of a hotel with a huge pool etc, I am much less fearful. Sharing the burden, sharing the joy – it’s a wonderful thing this co-parenting gig.

Other things I fear : FROGS. Snakes. Scuba diving!!! I mean…

My biggest fear

Scuba diving fun

 

No thank you!

I don’t know why I thought googling for that image was a good idea. NIGHTMARES.

What is your biggest fear?

5 words that make me feel warm and fuzzy inside…

Writers Bootcamp Day 2: My 5 favorite words in English

I read this prompt and wasn’t sure how to tackle it at first. Should I choose the top 5 favorite words I use everyday. Perhaps the ones I give myself a mental high five for each time I spell them correctly, the first time? Or the 5 English words that I think sound super cool and fancy. And then I decided to just be me and use the top 5 words that make me feel warm and fuzzy.

I’m a positive girl. I like to believe that anyway. I try to always see the best in every situation. It’s not always possible, obviously, but everything is better when you’re happy. I am so very blessed and am surrounded by love. I adore my little family. I am happy.

These are some of the words that fly around my head when I think about way I feel about my life, my marriage, my husband, my children, my family.

1. Faith.

2. Joy.

3. Trust.

4. Love.

5. Forever.

5 favorite words Forever tattoo finger

Forever tattoo…

These 5 words basically embody my heart and soul. My life.  Therefore, they are most certainly my absolute favorite words.

I can’t wait to see what the other challenge participants have to say.

Even if you know me well, you don’t know this…

Even if you know me well, you don’t know that I am completely and utterly insecure.

It is something I have to consciously work at every day. I never feel good enough. It’s like being in a constant battle with myself. And this ridiculous internal fight is not because I am not appreciated or unloved , because I get so much encouragement. It’s all me.  It’s all in my head.

I often get told by friends and family, even strangers occasionally, that I am such a good mom. It kind of makes me feel a little uncomfortable though – because I don’t really know if I am a “good mom”. I am a mom. I love being a mom. And I do my very best to give my boys the best, but I am by no means perfect.

insecurities

My reasons

 

Every single day I get up with the intention of making it a great day for my boys. And mostly we have wonderful days – truly wonderful, but  sometimes by 10am I am frazzled and wondering if I am even old enough / mature enough / patient enough to have three children relying on me to dress and feed them; to teach them how to be good human beings; to teach them how to read and to count or even to get them through the day. Somedays that incredibly HUGE responsibility slaps me hard in the chest and makes it hard for me to breathe.

The choice to homeschool our children constantly weighs heavily on me. I know in my heart that it is working for them. I know that in our current situation, living in Lagos, it is the absolute best option for them. I know that it goes with everything we believe in as a family. I know that I LOVE watching my children learn and take pride in knowing that it was ME who taught them. I know that they are happy and thriving. But I still beat myself up on a regular basis and wonder if I am really doing enough. Am I enough?

Sometimes I need to step away from the crazy, take a deep breath and I tell myself this: Mandi. God put you on this earth to be their mother. He knows exactly what he’s doing. This is your story. These three little humans are the reason you are here. There is no better person on the planet to do this job. You were made to be their mom. Now get back in there, hold them in tight and remember to enjoy these moments, no matter how frustrating, before they are all grown up…

I think the reason why people see me as this great mom is not because I’m naturally confident or arrogant in my parenting choices, but because I’m never really sure if I’m doing this right, so I work very hard at it. I work at it every single day. Because those are MY little humans, and I want them to have only the best parts of me.