Okay bunnies- its Spookie’s birthday today. So pop over there and wish her because my sister is celebrating her 32nd birthday on this very day!

Spookie- what can I say… when it comes to my family I am exceptionally blessed, and I am particularly blessed when it comes to the sisters God gave me!
Okay yes- being just 14 months apart in age, we fought like… well, like sisters. But no matter how we fought- we were always close. We stuck up for each other and protected each other and are even closer as adults than we were as children. Our tastes were always very different, so we didn’t fight over “things” necessarily, we just fought. I think the stupid ideas were often mine- but after enough nagging you’d often go along with me. And then when we got in trouble, you’d tell me to “take my punishment like a man”… when you were like five! I was the hysterical screaming one that mommy couldn’t catch if we were to get a hiding; while you were the quiet one who didn’t bat an eyelid.
You always stuck up for others as well as yourself… “I’m not into fungi…” ring any bells?
Dearest Brigitte.
When I think of you- I think of love, purple, compassion, hydrangeas, wisdom, elephants, kindness, magic mushrooms, perception, smiles and thoughtfulness. And of horses. And of kindheartedness, cats, gentleness, laughter and consideration. And of course music. And of empathy, palominos, bravery and poetry. And sunflowers… ooh- and toothpaste… and drinking games… ooh ooh- and the Red Hot Chili Peppers… and the “Robber’s Dog”… and of course the Violent Femmes… and prayer… there’s just no room here for all the memories!
Words fail me when I try to tell you how much you mean to me…
I truly hope your birthday is a fabulous one and I just know you’re going to have many, many, MANY more!
Lotsa lotsa love
Angel!

How We Got To Here (Part 5)

Damien started school and- to put it mildly- disaster ensued.

At the outset, his first day at school obviously started with photographs and an early morning trip to Mommy and Daddy Darling for photographs and good wishes. Then when he started his first class that morning, he was in a class of almost FIFTY scholars- and he had no desk. I was very worried when I left. It was a dual medium school (English and Afrikaans) and their plan was to have two Afrikaans first language classes and one English first language class- I dunno how they miscalculated so badly, but they had WAY too many English speaking grade ones. They then decided to hire another teacher to take half the class, and this took two weeks. Within a couple of weeks of Damien starting with the new teacher I started getting phone calls and letters. Now bear in mind that grade ones have one class and one teacher, they don’t change classes or anything… Then came the first parent teacher evening of the year (between mid-January and about March) and I was very excited! I arrived on time (this was before I was given appointed times for parents evenings) and Damien’s teacher met me at the classroom door. There were already a couple of other parents sitting at their kids desks on tiny chairs and marveling over their little darling’s class work. That was what I wanted to do. I introduced myself to the teacher and she immediately adopted a defensive stance with her arms crossed (I didn’t even get an invite to sit down) and launched into an obviously prepared speech about Damien’s lack of control in class. Right there in the doorway. We had to move aside for other parents who were coming in and out of the class. She said Damien never stopped talking/ making noises/ giggling/ shouting/ playing; he was never in his seat; he never did what he was told; he didn’t listen when she spoke… Obviously (and I think I had good reason) I disliked her instantly, and when she finished talking (while I was having flashbacks of Damien in nursery school) I asked her what we were going to do, and what I could do to help. Her exact words were (and I’ll never forget them) “Well I dunno- I’ve given up.”

I swear wanted to hit her!

Okay hang on- I’m getting upset just typing this out- I’ll be back.

Sorry- it’s about 30 minutes later and I’m back, and calmer.

The year did not improve either. After the devastating parents evening, I went to see the principal and requested that he be moved to the other English class, but he said it would be disruptive because someone else would have to switch with him. He suggested waiting to see how it went. I was not happy, but I figured they knew what they were doing. At the end of the second term (round June) and after receiving a shocking report, I again asked that he be moved. The principal now said it was too late in the year to do something like that. I was not at all happy, and neither was Damien. He was failing miserably and they had already started speaking to me about him repeating grade one. Oh how his nursery school teacher’s words echoed in my head…

Poor Damien got painted with the wayward brush early on, and it stuck, of course… One of his favourite stunts during his first year at school was to go out at break and disappear up a tree. After break someone would be sent to find him (usually a prefect) and he would then flat ignore the prefect once he was discovered. Eventually a teacher would be dispatched to get him down and back to his class.

It was a long year. And it was about halfway through the year that the school started talking about Damien repeating the year and that I started looking for a doctor to check out this ADD “thing”.

To put it mildly- I was desperate.

part 1part 2part 3part 4part 6

How We Got To Here (Part 4)

I clean forgot to mention how much Damien has always loved bandanas and hats- since he was tiny! Just a little thought that struck me as I was ending part three.

I also feel I need to clarify… or detail rather… something about how our life together was at this stage. We had lived alone for about two years by the time Damien was diagnosed, a boyfriend of mine was living with us at the time, we had started seeing each other and he had moved in shortly after we had moved into our flat. Of course- when we first started dating, I thought he was just the sweetest thing- but it didn’t take long for him to show his “true colours” and to this day I dunno why we were together for nearly three years!

So, for all of you who think I’m so fabulous (and you know who you are, LOL) – it took me a helluva long time to get to this point- “this point” being where I can be patient (among other things) with Damien. I can see the progress I’ve made and I must be honest- I am proud of myself- but I still regret how I WAS because it affected Damien profoundly. His mannerisms now- his way of speaking to me- all stem from how I was. He had many years to learn how to speak to people by simply watching mois. Lemme see if I can explain. I didn’t ask questions or make conversation- I kakked people out, then I’d get pissed when they got offended! My tone of voice and mannerisms and everything were offensive to A LOT of people, especially at work. I was constantly in trouble at work because people complained about how I handled them. And I got pissed at everyone because they were upset by my (what I considered normal) way of speaking. And this is exactly what Damien does. It’s also what my Daddy Darling does- and it took me years to teach myself not to get pissed at him for it because I had to train myself to listen to the underlying “message”- so to speak. I also have to keep reminding myself not to speak to people that way. I was also one of those mom’s who screams and shouts ALL the time! I had zero patience with him and I am ashamed to admit it, but at one time I was even pushing him away or getting annoyed when he wanted to hug and cuddle me (Mommy and Daddy Darling called me out on that one and I realised what I was doing- I stopped doing it and luckily for me it wasn’t too late). I also started seeing a psych at this stage, I was afraid Damien might have a problem with not knowing his father and I wanted to eliminate- or at least start working on- any emotional problems he might have. The psych was very quick to tell me that Damien was well adjusted and I had nothing to worry about at that stage- but he said I had “a problem” and would I like to tackle it? I was stunned, but I agreed. We worked through several things- I won’t go into detail, but one of the things he said that stuck with me was that all my plans for the future were for “me, myself and I”… they were not for an “us”. That was a BIG wake up call for me people. Changing the way I looked at my future opened a lot of doors for me that I had closed all by myself! Of course, when Damien was diagnosed as an ADHDer I had to practically relearn all those lessons to the nth degree and some of them took me literally years to get under some modicum of control.

Right- I think that’s enough background info… I’ll continue with Damien starting school in part 5.

part 1part 2part 3part 5part 6

How We Got To Here (Part 2)

Right.

So.

Home with baby Damien.

Damien and I lived with my folks and my siblings until he was four years old. The first few months were pretty much normal development wise… he started on solids- went through a “colicky” phase- said his first words- got his first teeth- normal stuff like that. By 5 months old he was sitting. Yup. By 7 months old he was pulling himself up on the furniture- he did NOT crawl- and by 9 months old he was walking, in fact- he took his first steps at midnight on New Years Eve 1991 (going into 1992). Our party noise woke him up and I went to change him- he was very excitable and I brought him out to wish everyone, it was hot so I stripped him of his wet nappy and baby-gro… and he promptly walked halfway across the room on his own!

One morning (before he was walking) Mommy Darling and I walked into the living room to find Damien- still in nappies- at the top of the front door security gate (which was kept closed so I would know where he was most of the time) with a massive grin on his face!! This was just one of my many heart stopping moments.

Another time, I had put Damien to bed and gone back to the lounge to watch some TV. We shared a bedroom at the time. I think he was about 18 months old. I went to check on him a while later and in the dim glow of the passage light I could see he was sitting up in bed with a very guilty look on his face… I switched on the light and found he’d opened my cupboard- climbed up the shelves and was eating my pills! I forget what they were- I think they were anti-histamines or birth control pills… result- a quick trip to the emergency room and induced vomiting! This was when I started locking my cupboard!

A while later, on another day, Mommy Darling and I realised Damien was a little too quiet- you know those moments- and we went looking for him. We searched the whole house, calling him and calling him, no Damien. We ventured outside, calling and calling, Mommy Darling went one way and I went the other, and Mommy Darling found him sitting on the tippity-top of my the washing line, you know the square ones that turn around a middle pole? So Mommy Darling asked Damien how on earth he was going to get down thinking we could “scare” him into not doing it again! No problem for Damien- he simply shimmied down the pole like a fireman who had done it everyday for years!

For his first Christmas (the end of 1991), Damien’s godfather gave him one of those plastic three wheeled motorbikes, a blue one. His godfather did motorcycle off road racing back then. Once we got home from out holiday, it didn’t take Damien long to discover that my folks long veranda was long enough to make an excellent runway giving him enough speed to launch himself off the end of the veranda and onto the lawn… over the three big steps that led to the lawn. Result? Chipped teeth and lots of scratches and bruises… but miraculously, no stitches and nothing broken.

When he was about 7 months old I started working, part time at first, and then full time. I needed a medical aid since Damien was not covered by my dad’s scheme as I still was and I needed an income. Up to that point we had lived on money invested for me by one of my uncles and my Ouma and “charity” (for lack of a better word) from my parents, everything from baby formula to furniture had come out of the money they gave me.

The first morning I spent at a nearby mall without him while I looked for a job was also the first time I saw with startling clarity just how much he looked like his paternal family. I had known it, but never seen it as clearly as I did when I looked at the little photograph I carried in my wallet.

part 1, part 3part 4part 5part 6

How We Got To Here (Part 1)

Lately I’ve been reading Kids And Coping With ADHD about how her journey with her ADHDer son started and progressed over the years. Considering I started MY mommy-blog when Damien was already 14, I am going to try and go back in time a bit… it may serve to help moms who are starting out to know they are never alone on the journey that I have completed some of.

To reiterate- I had a perfectly normal, perfectly healthy, full term pregnancy. In fact- if I knew for sure that it would ALWAYS be that easy (and had circumstances allowed) I wouldn’t have hesitated to have more babies!

I think I must be honest and say that I suspected I may have a “hard time” raising Damien alone when his bad temper surfaced before we even left the hospital. I may have mentioned it before- but lemme recap.

I woke my folks up (I was 17 and lived at home) at a little after 11pm and told them I had a backache and couldn’t sleep and thought I might be in labour. Mommy Darling asked if I could feel contractions and I said yes I think so, so she suggested I go back to bed and try and time them. When they were five minutes apart- around midnight, I went back to my folks and said “I’m pretty sure I am in labour now.” I carried my own long packed suitcase to the car and Daddy Darling woke Sister B (then 16) to tell her we were leaving and to keep an eye on Sister C (10) and da Bruvva (9). I think my Ouma would have been there in the morning but I can’t remember. We drove to the hospital, found no-one in reception so we made our own way up to the maternity ward- suprising the nurses on duty that should have been called by reception. The nurse who examined me told me Damien would probably arrive at about 7am and I must try and relax- Mommy Darling and I both said we didn’t think he’d be waiting that long… but what did I know! He was born at 02h47! Mommy Darling was my coach- we’d had several ante-natal classes so I did all the breathing I was supposed to do- with Mommy Darling’s help! The nurses were very impressed.

Anyhoo, my darling Damien was three days old (back when new moms spent a week in hospital) and they diagnosed jaundice and said he had to sleep naked under a “black light” in an incubator for a couple of days until his Bilirubin count came down to normal levels again. So the nurses wheeled in a big box incubator with a light on the top and a disposable nappy in the bottom… and a little black mask that Damien was supposed to wear to protect his eyes. Lemme tell you people- maybe its ‘coz I wasn’t used to anything like this, but it took me AND Mommy Darling to get that mask over Damien’s eyes! Then I had to put him in the incubator. He was supposed to lie on his tummy on the disposable nappy because he had to be naked. Lemme tell you people- Damien screamed blue murder and wriggled and squirmed until he had flipped himself onto his side with his back and bum against the glass of the incubator… then he was happy- and went to sleep! The nurses moaned at me for not putting him on his tummy, and of course didn’t believe me when I said he did it himself… what three day old baby can do that I ask you!?! Well- I made them stand there with me and watch as he did it again!

Talk about speechless…

part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6