Of Lice and Pen(s)

Image result for child scratching red hair lice clipartMy  children  are sufficiently removed in age now for me to smile (tentatively) about those horrific (and I do not use this term lightly), emotionally desperate cataclysms in my household when they had lice (whispering) … Just writing this elicits a visceral shudder, automatic head scratching and implicit feelings of remembered shame.

And yet almost all children at some time have fallen prey to these nasty little parasites. As we speak, some mother is expressing dismay with angry, Anglo-Saxon words and screaming for the other parent to sort ‘this disaster’ out, while blaming ‘that’ school or ‘those’ urchins with whom Little Princess has had the misfortune to be playing.

I know I did.

I shall always remember with dread that moment in the middle of the July holidays, in my small kitchen in Batten Bend when my 8-year-old daughter came in for a snuggle and I looked down at the teeming plain of wriggling larvae that was her once-beautiful head of red hair.

I confess I leaped away in horror.

Then I realised in one of those ooh-vrek-I’m-the-mother moments that it was my job to fix this invasion. So while privately (actually not so privately) cursing the mother who according to my infested child, sent her daughter who sat alongside mine, to school on break up day even though she had goggas in her hair because the family was moving house and she didn’t want her daughter to be underfoot, I assessed the unspeakable misery of my crisis:

  • One 7 year-old with an army on the move in her hair
  • Her 5 year-old brother with several nits in his
  • a 9 year-old son with curls so tight anything could have been living in there undercover of a silent incursion
  • a 2 year-old who couldn’t sit still long enough for me to examine her Annie ringlets and
  • a brand new baby.

And then I washed. Everything.

Over and over for at least three weeks, I de-loused everyone’s hair, twice a day, combing through all those thick tresses meticulously, trying hard not to show my disgust in case the victims of this family disaster were scarred for life by my assumed maternal rejection. My own hair proved to be a bit of a challenge because my squeamishness convinced me that I too was infected (I wasn’t) and the night I attempted to apply the shampoo, just in case, I ended up with an allergic reaction which caused burning in my eyes and on my face so bad that I had to ring my sister to come and stand in for me in the middle of the night so I could go to the emergency room.

And I washed and ironed ALL the bedding every day and forbade the children from reusing towels. Thank heavens this was pre-Cape Town’s water crisis, or perhaps this frantic laundering is what caused the depletion of Theewaterskloof Dam.

And then my long-awaited, lounge suite arrived (sixth months after returning to the country without furniture). And no one was allowed to sit on it, such was my aversion to the risk of loathsome re-infection. My girls’ buns were the tightest after that.

Of course by the time, the youngest was in Grade 1, and he and his fellow gangsters took turns in being off school with lice, I was fairly prosaic about such things, only shuddering occasionally. I sent him along fairly regularly to visit his father, who had hair clippers, for a #1, although I suspect that it was the girlfriend in situ who ended up doing the trimming. We still chuckle at certain photographs and can tell by Liam’s haircuts what had been going on at the time.

Primary School and Nursery School teachers do not bat an eye at what for high school staff is worse that diving with sharks – the lice test! they nonchalantly pick up two pens and confidently check their charges’ hair on a regular basis. The biggest problem schools have is parents’ assumption that one shampoo and combing will cure you of the nasty critters. You have to remember to do it again every week or so after an infestation or else the ‘cooties’ return. Our standard letter takes care to address the embarrassment that comes with the unwelcome missive and gently advises how to remedy the detestable situation, without making parents feel bad.

It’s the social stigma associated with having lice that is bothersome though. The fact that lice love clean hair should have removed such thoughts, but I suppose we feel unkempt and dirty and somehow ashamed that this could have happened to us – we’re decent folk after all. However, I bet that even those hoity toity playschools for the rich and famous have a lice policy. Even someone called Beckham or Windsor might have to be sent home from a posh school to do not nit harvesting from time to time. Forget that knighthood, darling, if your offspring infects a royal head, mind you.Image result for shame meme

Funny how language evolves: take the word ‘lousy’ – it comes of course from the meaning ‘lice-infested’ – perhaps we should remember that when we say our meal or the service at a restaurant was ‘lousy’ – perish that thought!

Next time you say that the weather has turned ‘lousy,’ thank your lucky stars it actually hasn’t. Eeeuh! The thought of that makes me need to go and scratch my head a little and thank the Lord for metaphors.

Pack up your troubles

Image result for labrador with head out of the window

Nellie our almost-Labrador is a bit of a bangbroek when we walk her on the beach. Starting with the short trip in the car,  she is overly hesitant and needs a backseat minder to prevent her from leaping out. She immediately goes into submissive mode if a dog is even remotely scary, as if anticipating future trouble. Yet on the ride home, tongue lolling out of her mouth she happily drools all over the seat.

Sunday morning walks do that for us too: we set out tired and stressed from the work week and return home soul-fueled for the days ahead; troubles, if not forgotten, are seemingly more manageable.

My 81 year-old aunt who still manages the office of a busy law firm, always tells us not to ‘borrow tomorrow’s troubles’ and she makes a good point about anxiety which I have taken to heart over the years.  I often took beach walks with all 5 children in the early days of being a single parent. Mainly because it was free, but sea air seems to soothe hurts and even betrayal. (And a cheap ice cream satisfies even the most restless of lads).

My little kit bag of daily worries has felt quite heavy enough generally so as not to give me time to anguish over the future, however there have been those desperate moments when the present turmoil  stretches out seemingly interminably into the distance, and one wonders when it will never end ; like trying to soothe a colicky baby; like waiting for the final whistle of your son’s hockey match when you are so cold you can’t feel your toes anymore and the south-easter has penetrated every layer of bulky clothing you have on; like wondering how to make a few rands last until payday. Like waiting for child support payments that never come …

The thing about borrowing troubles is that they may never happen. I once applied for a head’s post which I wasn’t really sure I wanted, but which I felt I ought to apply for because my skill set was sorely needed and I agonised for a whole weekend about what I would do if I were offered it. Of course I didn’t get it, but what I did get was a clearer idea of what I did want and what I do love so it wasn’t an entirely wasted angst; yet the interest on my borrowed troubles wasn’t really necessary.

And there are all those times we google our symptoms (big mistake) and are convinced that we are in the grips of some rare, but always fatal condition. (I have imagined myself  about to die from brain tumours, various latent cancers, twisted intestines, imminent heart attacks, dangerous abdominal conditions and shattered bones, only to have a mundane ailment diagnosed upon visiting le docteur …

Take the current water crisis in the Cape, when Day Zero seemed imminent: normally sedate matrons were filmed trampling one another when water deliveries arrived. We all began stockpiling water and worried that we weren’t storing enough. Then, out of the blue, the crisis evaporated (pardon the pun) and we are left drowning (sorry can’t stop with the ironic puns) in plastic 5l bottles. Now we are fretting about plastic waste …

Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting we do not take steps to avoid conserving water and living as eco-warriors; we should just beware of being eco-worriers.

Then there is crime. I refuse to live my life in fear of attack at every moment. Sure, I take precautions; I drive defensively (‘It’s not you it’s the other idiots on the road,’ my dad used to say); I am alert, but I refuse to allow criminals to win by constantly living in fear. I am fortunate though to live in a fairly safe street, so I suppose I am speaking from a position of privilege.

What do folk tend to worry about? In general, financial fears, concerns about health and relationships are common, although a quick poll of my own offspring added things like death and the pointlessness of life (always one nihilist among us), failure, going blind, double hand amputation (dramatic artist in the house) and never finding real love.

There is an interesting monthly online poll, which tracks national fears around the globe. In three years South Africans’ have remained fairly constant in their brooding.  This year these were the recorded concerns of South Africans (with access to the internet)

Top five South African issues

  1. Financial/Political Corruption (68%)
  2. Crime & Violence (63%)
  3. Unemployment (55%)
  4. Poverty/Social Inequality (29%)
  5. Education (27%)

These are not that different from the worries of 2015:

  1.        Crime (79%)
  2.        Lack of employment (79%)
  3.        Government corruption (78%)
  4.        Energy Shortages (72%)
  5.        Poor quality schools (61%)

(Statisticians don’t panic, I know the percentages don’t add up – these are percentages of people who mentioned these things. )

So we are grappling as a nation with pretty fundamental concerns. And these are constantly with us, creating huge burdens on our sub-conscious and implicitly affecting the country’s zeitgeist. And let’s face it, these are not worries a brisk walk and ball-throwing with the pooch can cure. They are the cause of things like road rage, family murders, suicides, domestic violence and gangsterism.

And there are those days when that last straw just tips us over into profound desperation. I remember in my own life, having dealt with all 5 children, including myself, being beset by a particular virulent gastro bug which resulted in my standing stuffing sheets into the washing machine at midnight, only to have the washing machine go on the blink. I have a distinct memory of standing there in untold despair and angrily raising my arms in the air, shouting at the Creator in my moment of doubt, ‘Where are you?!’ Do you really exist?!’

At that moment, my phone rang and a close friend of mine, Bernadette, was on the line, saying she had been thinking of me and wondering how I was doing. That care banished my sense of hopelessness and feeling of being alone in the world … and I haven’t ever raise my voice in anger to the Lord again. I wouldn’t dare.

Three years ago I was suffering enormously in a position which became more toxic every day, yet like the proverbial frog in boiling water I didn’t realise it until I was ‘retrenched’ quite out of the blue. Despite the enormous shock of it all and the incredible hurt, and anger, and a deep sense of betrayal, I didn’t cry much, even though, since I was three days post my fiftieth birthday, there was immense dread of the future looming with no job ‘at my age’, I think I was carried on the wings of angels and eventually was offered a hugely challenging and immensely rewarding position as leader of a massive school with a definite mission.

So how do we combat this weight of societal ills that permeates our lives? I don’t want to seem frivolous, but despite all the worry, 3 years down the line, the same issues are still there. So either we accept them as constants, try to change them in every way we can: with our vote; with our outreach; with our sweat at the coal face of life, OR when all is said and done, take the mutt out for a walk, put your faith in the God of your understanding and remember if you go in your daughter’s car you don’t have to wipe up the drool when you get home!

Image result for labrador running on the beach cartoon

To Believe or Belieb? That is the Question

Image result for justin bieber and christianity

Image from faithit.com

This may well have been the most unpopular assembly address I made a few years ago when the Biebs was here before, but I have never shied away from speaking my mind on important matters and as a teacher, a principal in charge (now) of  153 staff members, a mother of 5 blood children, 2 step-children and nearly 1700 learners I am responsible for, I am used to being unpopular:

“Contrary to some of your assumptions based on the title of this speech, I bear Justin Bieber no ill will and despite cringing at some of his inane utterances like ‘I want my world to be fun. No parents. No rules.  No nothing. Like no one can stop me. No one can stop me.’

And: ‘Ann Frank was a great girl. I hope she would have been a Belieber.’ Besides the fact that he’s not quite my cup of tea, I think he’s cute. Not sexy cute; sweet cute. Although I must say I dare anyone to say we had big hair in the eighties…

But your parents have entrusted you all to this school and we have promised them that we shall provide you all with a values-based education. The values we teach are based on Jesus’ life and teachings. This week’s Bieber Concert has raised some issues that I cannot remain quiet about and still claim to be the leader of a faith-based school.

So what did I have a problem with? Here are 10 things that worried me:

  1. Why did people feel the need to leave school early? Or bunk a whole day? Fans who queued all night told reporters it was to be the first to see him; to be the closest to the stage; to have what no one else had. Yet Jesus teaches us ’the first shall be last; the last shall be first.’ Our faith teaches us to stand back generously for others; not to be the first through an intersection or at the front of a queue, not to demand the gratification of our own desires.

Contrary to what many of you were grumbling about, we had no desire to deprive you of the joy of the concert – it was only due to start at 8 o’clock however. It worries me that scrambling for places suggests a need to trample on others or need to get there first to get what you want – that is contrary to Christ’s teachings. It was fitting therefore that Ashley gave a Golden Circle ticket to someone who made the effort to be at school. She ended up with a better ticket than many. Good things really do come to those who wait. Patience really is a virtue.

  1. I know some of you planned long in advance for this concert and many took on odd jobs to save up for it. That is good. And I am glad that you have had the opportunity to enjoy the spectacle of someone you admire. It worries me however that often we only work so hard for ourselves. Jesus said: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Will you work so hard to benefit someone else? Do you love other people enough to work for months on end in order that someone else may benefit? Matric students are encouraged to donate evening wear to the poor after their dance so that their fun benefits someone else too – that is this school’s way. Ashley’s devotion on Wednesday also points to this principle – could you have given up your ticket to give joy to someone else? Jesus gave up His life for you. # just saying
  2. Reporters commented on how diehard Bieber fans braved the rain in the morning and John Maythem on Cape Talk commented in Afrikaans that a good caption for his photo would be: Beliebers bibber in die koue. Jesus speaks of giving our life for others. Would we stand in the rain to feed the homeless or protest abortion or speak out against human trafficking or child soldiers. Would we stand in the rain to worship if our churches had no buildings? No one wants to pray at lines when it rains.

# justsaying.

  1. Idolatry is a sin according to the Ten Commandments. Folk are quick to point out to Catholics their distaste for the statues that abound in our schools and churches, suggesting that we worship Mary and idols. We do not of course – statues and pictures of the Sacred Heart or Divine Mercy are mere reminders of Our Lady’s good example and the glory of Christ’s life, much like photos are reminders of those we love. But think about shows such as ‘Idols’ whose very name points to how we treat celebrities like The Biebs who become more than just heroes, but figures of obsession. When our behavior becomes extreme, we should be worried. When we disengage our brains and blindly follow our heroes, we should be worried. ‘Derek Watts’, a satirical journalist interviewed Beliebers outside the stadium: when asked if they thought whether Justin Bieber was a tool for change in society, they squealed, ‘Yes, yes.’ When asked whether they thought he was an ‘absolute tool,’ they again bleated ‘Yes, yes.’

#just saying.


Do we hang on every word of the Bible and sing worship hymns with as much gusto as we sing ‘Baby, Baby, Baby,’ or ‘As long as you love me’? Not in this hall we don’t. That worries me.

  1. I worry about the sexism inherent in teenyboppers and groupies. It is a fact that most Bieber fans are girls as have been fans of most popstars over the years. In your grandparents era female fans were throwing their knickers at the stage when Elvis Presley and later on the Beatles took to the stage; in fact they reckon that Frank Sinatra was the first such idol – all these men seem to have the same packaged popularity: safe sexuality; easy songs to sing along to and a dream-like allure. Why do boys not throw themselves at the stage of female stars in the same way too? Perhaps because men do not see themselves as needing to be completed only by a fantasy person? They are happy to be themselves. We women should consider that? All people should crave the love of God alone to complete them.
  2. I was annoyed and it took me a whole Tempo bar to unannoy myself that despite the ruling that no one would be given permission to be off school on Wednesday, given verbally to you in lines and in writing in my newsletter to your parents and you, if you read it on the noticeboard, many of you bunked, ignored my instruction or had your parents send me notes/calls instructing me to release you for the day. Let me make it clear that neither your parents nor even I have the right to give you permission to be off school. Only the Minister of Education may do so by law. And just because you may get away with the law, does not mean it is ok morally to break the law. Laws are there to benefit society. If you miss school for reasons other than illness or a death in the family, you are breaking the law. Schooling is compulsory. The minister’s representatives in the Department of Education made it clear that Wednesday was a school day.  Added to that even though you are students at an independent school, you are required to adhere to the College Code of Conduct. That includes obeying instructions of the principal. Why would you think that you were exempt? We live in a society though that seems to think that the laws apply to everyone else, but not to me. We are angered by taxis which ride on the pavement, but gleefully break the speed limit ourselves when we are late. Dagga is illegal, but if you think it’s not dangerous it should be ok; night clubs and movies have age limits, but ‘really, the bouncers should stop all those other young people.’

There is an inherent self-centredness in this. I wasted over an hour of my professional time dealing with those who believed they were exempt from the rules. I was then faced with trying to deal justly with those who quite correctly felt aggrieved that some simply bunked or came at the last minute with notes from their parents, when they had obeyed the rule. Strictly speaking, all who disobeyed the ruling should spend those hours in detention Will I do that? Not this time, but most definitely in the future. But of course since this ‘once in a lifetime experience’ has happened – there will be no need to do it again. No absentee note will however have resulted in a demerit. That’s the rule. It’s how we keep note of attendance. And if you have missed a test, oral or task deadline, no opportunities will be given to make these up. There are always consequences to one’s choices. Do not even think of asking my teachers to give up their free time to teach you work you missed. When Jesus was asked whether the Jews should pay taxes to an occupying power, he told his disciples to ‘render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar.’ This teaches us that civil laws must be obeyed.  None of us is exempt.

  1. I worry also about the damage we do to young people who give themselves over to the Big Business that is the music industry. One only has to look at damaged child stars like Michael Jackson, Brittney Spears, Drew Barrymore and Macauley Caulkin, and megastars like Jim Morrison, Amy Winehouse, River Phoenix and Whitney Houston to see that the media industries do not care about the person of the star. What damage is done to young people who are treated like gods? It is our adoration that does this to them. Even too much love and attention can be bad. How can a nineteen year old survive intact? Already Justin Bieber is showing signs of the arrogance (look at the time he started – an hour late is rude) and possible substance abuse that comes from the adulation of millions – how would you react if 35 million people wanted to follow you on Twitter, yet it’s not the real you they know? If Justin Bieber caves to a celebrity syndrome of self-destruction, his fans will be partly responsible. Jesus said: ‘I am my brother’s keeper.’ We are required by our faith to look after each other. His mother has tried really hard to keep him real with chores etc, but she is no match for the showbiz machine. Agents, like Scooter Braun who discovered Justin Bieber on Youtube when he was 14, care far more about how much the star is worth to them than about their emotional stability or eternal souls.
  2. It worries me that the wholesale avoidance of school, to be over 12 hours early for a pop concert shows a casual disregard of the value of your education and the teachers and authorities who administer it. It may annoy you to be reminded of the relative suffering of others, but I wonder if you would be so careless about school if you understood how truly privileged you are to attend a school like this. No under-qualified teachers who take off when they feel like it, no over-crowded classrooms or violence in the playground. Just last week in Heideveld a Grade 9 student was stabbed by a group of other girls with a pair of scissors.

Your parents would definitely have objected if the staff members attending Bon Jovi on Tuesday night had left early to catch a glimpse of Jon Bon Jovi. I would have been inundated with complaints that their children were losing out on their education. Why is it different if you choose to be absent? Saying that you pay school fees, so you can choose to go without a day of school shows an arrogance and foolishness that no student of this school should have. Wisdom is so respected in the Bible that there is an entire book dedicated to it. Why would you waste the time of those dedicated to impart wisdom to you; why would you disrespect that? In the seventies and eighties students ‘bunked’ school to protest injustice and bring about change in society, not to be early for a concert.

  1. The Bieber Fever reminded me of how superficial some of our heroes really are. Last week there were complaints about celebrating the life of a man like Edmund Rice in a mass; yet we glorify Lady Gagga and Madonna, who dedicate themselves to anti-social and sometimes immoral ways. In the same year that Diana, Princess of Wales died so tragically, Mother Teresa also passed away. Yet the passing of the woman who alleviated so much suffering and made the world a better place paled in comparison to the death of the media idol of a princess. Please do not get me wrong – I am not condemning celebrities, but am saying that we treat them so differently from those whose lives have so much more gravitas. Shouldn’t all people be equally important and shouldn’t we recognize those who make the world a better place. How many of you would have queued for hours to meet Madiba or be in the Dalai Lama’s presence? Do we only want to be around those who entertain us? Our faith should teach us that a meaningful life is more important than the frivolity of fun alone.
  2. Some of you were outraged that you were not given permission to have the day off before the concert; yet fail to be outraged at moral injustices in our country. This was brought home to me when I heard someone complaining that the MyCiti buses were not running and that this would affect transport to the concert. The bus strike meant nothing until we were affected. Did you know that hundreds of domestic workers in this area alone travel from Khayalitsha daily to clean our houses. They now have to spend nearly half of their income or more paying for taxis (R20 each way) Did you know that the bus drivers on strike are complaining that their take-home pay is less than R2000 per month? What did you spend on your ticket to the concert? A girl I heard being interviewed on the news spent R4500 on a room at the ‘One and Only’ Hotel to be close to ‘The Biebs’ and then R6000 to meet him. Whew! How many bus drivers’ families could have eaten off that? What about protesting conditions in Cape Flats schools for a day? Or is that not important enough to risk the consequences of bunking?

# justsaying.


No one is saying that we should not enjoy ourselves, but we should be aware of the relative value we place on things in life. And that there are really important issues that face society. For example did you know that the amount of money needed to feed everyone on Earth for a year is spent every 8 days on the world’s military. Would you buy food for the poor with the cost of your ticket, or donate it to the class charity?

# justsaying.

We criticize the Guptas and deplore the R40 million spent on a recent wedding in Sun City, but are we thinking carefully about the morality of how we spend our money?

Remember the story of the widow’s mite in the gospels? That woman gave all she had to the temple collection.  Do we give even some of what we have?

So I must disagree with Justin in this: Life should not be about fun alone; parents and those in authority like your parents here at school are important; rules do exist – for a reason, even if you do not agree with them, you are obliged to obey them. ‘No nothing’ actually suggests that there should be matters of substance upon which we place importance. Wanting to have no boundaries is not true freedom. In fact true love requires that we prevent those we care about from losing themselves in limitless abandon.

If you are sitting here rolling your eyes and thinking how lame your principal is, you have missed the point of this address.

If you think I hate Justin Bieber and want to criticize him, you have missed the point.

If you think I am trying to guilt-trip you, (ok I’m a Catholic mother so perhaps there is a slight element of truth in that), but if you think that’s all it’s about, you have missed the point.

If you think I am still angry with you or condemning you, you have missed the point.

If you think I don’t understand what it is like to be young and crazy about someone, you have missed the point (To be honest I confess I gave John Travolta’s poster a kiss every night when I was 14. Another teacher who ‘cannot be named’ admits to going gagga over Cliff Richard).

If you think I am just an old killjoy trying to put a dampener on what was for many of you a fabulous evening, you have missed the point.

If you are sitting there complacently thinking this does not apply to you because you’re not a Bieber fan or didn’t attend the concert, you have really missed the point.

My point is we must think carefully about what our choices say about us. There is a saying which states that we should choose wisely because our choices become our actions; our actions become our habits and our habits become our character.

I would be a very poor mother of this school if I did not speak out about character. Because it is people of character and principles who make a difference in this world. I want you to be people of such character. And true happiness comes from God. I want you to have that real, deep, soul happiness.

I shall risk unpopularity to guide you to God.”

A Scary Story

My Family’s Fears and Phobias

Image result for picture of monsters in the dark

Fun Game to Play:

Write a scary story in just four words. Mine is: Children drive my car. But most people will confess to a fear of monsters, whether they are Donald Trump or Hilary Clinton with a finger on the nuclear button, Chocolate or Coffee thieves or your common or garden sort ghouls.

Shannon used to be terrified of the Garden Service, yelling, ‘Weediteaters; Weediteaters,’ whenever they arrived to trim our lawn in Batten Bend. Indoors, she would race to me and need to be picked up where she became a human koala bear,  until they left. Once she wrapped herself in a curtain to escape their savage threshing sounds.

Liam has developed a clown phobia (now this one makes sense) – coulrophobia – which the experts link to the distortion of familiar humanoid features. I’m convinced this can be related to his gaming habits which have him spending hours shooting zombies which frankly would frighten the life out of me. (Ha ha – funny – then I could frighten him!).

Lizzy used to hate having ‘Happy Birthday’ sung and thought Imagination was a monster because the Teenies used to say ‘ it’s your imagination’ when they were afraid of billowing curtains.

Andrew hated Father Christmas as a child, quite rightly. What right-minded parent encourages a beloved offspring to sit on the lap of a strange old man in red and says to him to tell him what he wants?! And then we wonder why they won’t smile for the photograph! What were we thinking?! Not to mention the fear inspired by this hulking geriatric invading our safe homes in his Wellington boots and fannying around in an ill-fitting red suit in the lounge – especially  one inebriated by the obligatory alcohol left out for him.

As a littlun, Sean hated the dark and slept with the bathroom light on for years.

On the other hand, Michael is afraid of washing up and has to leave home when it’s his turn and Mika can’t eat real food. True story; we have tested it. But that is another story.

How many of us remember racing back up the passage to the living room at night, fleeing from unimaginable darkness and ‘things.’ I have distinct memories of nightmares from watching a film called The Mummy, which we watched on a reel at the CBC Welkom Friday night ‘bioscope,’ about an Egyptian mummy which emerges from its sarcophagus and steals around the submarine transporting the stolen artefact to America. It has periodic psychotic moments when it stalks and kills the sailors. To this day, I am not a fan of Egyptology.

I am more scared the kids will never leave home now however.

The girls don’t like to fall asleep without their laptops playing series. Now personally I think that is worse and probably feeds ongoing other issues, but hey, I’m just the mother; what do I know. Tonight my adult munchkins were ensconced under blankets watching Game of Thrones’ White Walkers. I am wondering who will call out at 3 am, ‘Mommy, I had a bad dream!’ as they did when they were little. Mind you, Shannon confessed recently to fibbing about bad dreams when she was little just so I would let her sleep with me (an experience not unlike sharing a bed with a rotating bicycle).

I am convinced that many of these fears are caused and fuelled by film and television and raise the issue of the effects of the media on our mental health. And the studies bear this out, including the continuation of childhood ‘scary movie experiences’ into adulthood.

The bottom line is: heed the warning in the prologue to DVDs. Make sure your children are asleep before you watch horror films or gory movies. We worry so much about exposing our youngsters to sex, but violence is way worse. Better still get to grips with a witty romcom or intense drama) and re-consider allowing the teen sleepovers to revolve around the latest spooky spirit movie. None of my children report being willing watchers of this fair and yet they all ‘happily’ went along to the all-night-frighters.

But never mind, they’ll grow out of it. Having children of their own will soon make them realise that the other fears were NOTHING. There is nothing the screen can show you that equals parenting for the fear factor. I have birthed and raised five children and now ek skrik vir niks[1]!

And they’ll blame me for all their issues!



[1] I am afraid of nothing.

Dear Fitting Room Designers:

Image result for fitting rooms in stores cartoon

I made the mistake of trying on a pair of pants for size in Woolworths, yesterday in their brand new shiny change rooms. Too shiny. I didn’t buy the trousers. And it was the place’s fault.

If I were asked to survey fitting rooms in clothing stores, I could really give them some pointers.

Firstly: subdued lighting is a must. Harsh neon lighting just doesn’t do it for my skin. The last thing you want if you’re trying to flog clothes is for me to be so grossed out by my own face that I cannot look in the mirror. I do not know anyone who looks good under fluorescent lights. For me it is certainly not my best look – the freckles stand out, surrounded by pasty, creamish blahness, no matter how many layers of face paint and contouring have been applied. I have dark rings under my eyes too which make me resemble a nagapie at the best of times. I do not need stage lighting to assist. Also if I am tired, the little critters are Gucci-carry-on-luggage- sized bags, so they definitely detract from the garments I am fitting on.

And it’s not just our faces that we have to see in this light: it is our derrieres, which are normally…well…behind us, where we can pretend they are smooth discs of even, beach-ready roundness. Instead we are confronted by massively cratered moons which are nothing like Queen imagined in ‘Fat-bottomed Girls’ – multiplied by three – going all the way to infinity if the looking glasses are angled into Alice’s bizarre world. Personally I believe the dark-side of the moon is a better look.

Mirrors should also be artfully angled so as to make one be longer and slimmer. Even if we know this is a clever illusion, we still want to imagine ourselves looking a bit like the impossibly slim wax mannequin, adorned outside on the shop floor in the garment in question. (Have you noticed that they are always on tippy toe – probably so they can show off outrageously uncomfortable high-heeled shoes too – but that makes them seem even taller.) Every film study student will tell you that a low angle shot makes one look taller and more powerful. I’m happy to go with both those delusions.

Curtains versus doors? Definitely doors (which lock, please). So often, one ends up with a faulty door latch. One that bolts is preferable. While sumptuous curtains look good, draped dramatically across the opening in oh-so-elegant boutiques, I am always terrified that some over-eager stick insect assistant will just pop her head in and reveal me in my big panties so that the creepy chap lounging outside will have an eyeful of the rear end of the Bentley.

The door should fit all the way to the floor, I beg you.

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For those of us who have had divide clothes into ‘Not-in-this-lifetime,’ Maybe-if-I-lose-10kg’ or ‘Oh-Baby-You’re-So-Hot! hooks (there must be at least three hooks) while dodging a pair of boys playing with a car, and hopping on one foot as you attempt to free the inside-out trouser leg from the shoe you should have removed first, it is no fun then to have said vehicle be sent down the back strait and under the door, out of reach of the soon-to-be screeching boys (even men-children hate shopping).  Then you have to twist around quickly, with your boot still caught in the once neatly ironed pants, to prevent over-helpful big sister from lurching out to fetch it for them, at which point, once again the dodgy oom outside is treated to a gander of your moon broekies.  If it’s not your own children who reach under those awful saloon-style doors, it’s other matrons’ sticky fingered brats whose fingers appear like tentacles of slimy, Nik Naks goo tempting you to injure said digits with a healthy tap dance. So, dear retail outlets, given us full-figured doors I beg you.

While pondering whether objects in the rear view mirror are closer or really just as large as they appear, you realise it is the fault of those disturbingly deceptively sized numbers that are the right size, but too small:  You could swear they will fit you and then you get the bodice on and your arms half in and ‘gasp’, you can’t breathe, and – worse – it’s not on properly and no matter how much you attempt to make like Connie the Contortionist, you can’t get it off. Inevitably it is at that moment that Shannon will have put a Jelly Tot (the bribe to ‘behave’) in Liam’s ear or Caitlin will have swallowed yet another R2 coin. And you are, like ‘Chad’ in Charlie’s Angels – well and truly STUCK. ‘Ripping your clothes off’ takes on a whole new meaning, but the temptation is real.

And you can’t really leave the cubs outside the cubicle because then just as you are realising that  what appeared to be stylishly loose fitting on the rack merely hugs all the unmelted baby fat, you hear Michael’s infectious giggle becoming louder. And you just know something is up out there. Dreading that it is your children’s paws which have invaded another patron’s shopping nightmare and which are about to be pierced by a suburban stiletto heel, you burst out to check/glare/chide so you at least appear to be in control of the five worms lined up against the wall, catching the eye of the petite assistant who frowns at the sight of you balancing a dress on your hips and once again there are those knickers for the old man who is seeing more of your skin than a Russian dancer at Mavericks.

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She shakes her head knowingly as you hand her the unpurchased hangers of clothes as you leave shamefacedly, wondering why you can never find anything to buy. Or else you avoid the body-shaming experience entirely and just buy whatever looks attractive on the hanger, only to end up with a cupboard full of ill-fitting clothes.

Well that’s my excuse anyway.

Thoughts on thoughts

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Sometimes I make the mistake of asking my family members what they think I should write about. More than anything else, it gives me a glimpse into their thoughts.

‘Write about me,’ one giddy teenager proclaims, while spilling toothpaste on herself, next to her pyjama clad twin, who at least suggested the more mature topic of the crisis in higher education. That tricky topic was echoed by an older sibling who maintained I should consider the debate around decolonisation of universities.

‘Explore why one moment they (our offspring) are watching Barney and Noddy and the next they have rejected their childhood,’ said Andrew, ever conscious of the aging process in others, ‘or sadistic teenagers’ (corrected by one to ‘edgy’ teen) without taking his eyes off FIFA ’16, handed down by Michael who is now on to FIFA ’17.

I won’t ask him, the footballer, I thought, because he will either suggest how they have not yet solved the FIFA cheating glitch with the new version, or something like the vagaries of the English Football transfer window. And the only thing I know about that particularly confusing aperture is that it is now closed.

Sean believes I should review a book and I just might dissect one of the Jeffrey Eugenides novels I have recently finished (if you haven’t discovered this writer and need a chuckle, while coming to grips with deep stuff, he’s your man – Jeffrey, not Sean). Sean’s first suggestion was a self-conscious exploration on the writing of a blog, but, as you can see, I’m way ahead of him.

Liam is MIA tonight, but he told me to stop writing or I would be late for mass (such a good boy! I can say that because he is at the Marais’ house annoying them). Mika on the other hand hummed and hawed and suggested ‘cooking.’ Mwahahaha. But I could mention that Lizzy is now baking banana loaf which smells sublime.

I eventually broke down and asked Michael who merely said ‘I don’t know’ – I hope that is not what he is thinking, but I do have a fair idea now about what each of my other beloved relatives is contemplating. Which begs the question: What am I thinking about and why do I not have a topic of conversation at hand?

The answer is a trifle sad, I must confess: other than worrying about my school’s upcoming Umalusi desktop submission and my own inertia in beginning some of the policy writing I need to do, and wondering whether eight o’clock is too early to go to bed and read my book in the school holidays, I’m not really having any deep insights on life or personal epiphanies. Teasing out the semiotics of such thoughts, what I have realised is that my whole focus generally is on the needs and interests of my family (which is good but can be a bit Betty Crockerish) and my school (Yes, important during term-time); yet I have not cultivated any actual hobbies of my own which often has me getting caught in the middle of trying to please everyone and ignoring my own self.

So, to my horror, on a Sunday night I am having to admit that I am suffering from housewife’s angst. It’s disturbing to admit that even executive women can subjugate their ‘self’ to the vagaries of external views (even though in this case, to be fair, I actually asked the family what I should be sharing in my blog). But I think we women, all too often fall prey to a subversion of self which we mistake as Christian kindness, but often erases ourselves and our own interests or needs, as we try to please everyone.

No more of that. (Even though from time to time – I must remain a bit of a martyr in order to use that against the progeny) I shall employ  a new philosophy which I cannot politely name (it rhymes with ‘bucket’). I shall indulge my own thoughts and share my own ideas.

After that I shall ask my family what they think about my blog.

Mocking Mother

There is a weird thing that happens as one’s children age (We don’t of course): Our role in their lives seems to change from guardian, nurturer, vanquisher of nightmares, stern disciplinarian and provider of wisdom and education, to figure of fun and apparently the source of much entertainment.

Just yesterday my fairy child who used to become paralytic with giggling fear when she knew she’d crossed a line (which was often – she has no filter) declared that I am ‘Hello Kitty cute.’ Cute? Seriously?! What happened to scary Dragon-Mother? I must be losing my touch; gone as soft as my non-existent stomach muscles.

It’s my own fault I suppose. I do make the odd error occasionally, like telling them that Engelbert Humperdinck (Yes we went to his show and it was fabulous) covered Eddie Sheeran’s ‘Thinking out loud’ … well I am sure his mother calls him ‘Eddie.’  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1gW3cw2jodg

But ‘cute’? No, surely not. Worrying that my parting words to Michael before he left for the UK were ‘Stop playing with the door lock; you’ll break it!’ and not ‘I love you’  is normal mother-guilt. It’s not sweet or quaint! Why should they be amused by that? Young folk have a strange sense of humour.

I am a serious woman: I do not fist bump or high five. I use full sentences when I text (even if my fat fingers stray to the wrong keys and I type non-standard words from time to time). I should be taken more seriously. I can still sweep Liam off his feet, using my karate know-how, if I can catch him. I can still do a mean double pirouette and even a fouetté with my right leg. I am NOT cute.

I have perfected the do-not-smile-before-Easter teacher’s glare. Grown men I have taught cannot call me by my first name in deference to their school days. Yet my own children call me ‘cute.’ And not just eccentric-cute or unusual-cute, they say it is mushy ‘Hello Kitty’ cute. What happened to vicious tigers, unlucky black cats or witches’-familiar cats at least? No, the hoyden in question chose the image of a sappy, pink-clad feline with no mouth for me! No one who knows me could agree with THAT! And really, I would NEVER wear a bow like in my hair.

The sparkly outfit is fitting I suppose.

Everyone is a critic. Liam is a world expert on everything, including stuff he doesn’t know anything about and according to now third year Accounting student Caitlin, it is a miracle I have managed to stay afloat all these years (actually it is, but not because I did not have her expertise at my fingertips), let alone have managed to do my taxes without her help. Shannon informed me (as if her cat caricature of me was not enough) that it is entirely inappropriate for me to have Instagram (but when she wants hearts I am called to colour that one in) and I really should not even think about getting Snapchat.

Today in Clicks I heard them panicking that they had lost ‘her’ as if I were some old fart who needs supervision. They smiled pseudo-benevolently when I gestured to them that I was quite fortunately not lost in the cosmetics aisle, but in fact hiding away from them. And now I am ‘cute.’ It’s a slipperly slope to Shady Pines I tell you.

But let them have a bad dream, a large gogga on their bedroom wall or a nasty illness involving projectile vomiting, then I believe I am still copacetic. Then I am still the Amazonian hero of their childhood.

In the meantime I may have to resort to gym to rediscover my abs and my intimidating mojo. If they are going to compare me to a kitten, I need to sharpen my claws. I’m NOT wearing pink (well perhaps shocking pink is ok) or going anywhere in butterfly-shaped bows!




Raising Civilised Children – Part One: Discipline (#Beingthebadguy#NannyMcPhee#Don’tgettothepointofneedingSupernanny)

Raising a family is a rocky road (and I am not speaking about ice cream. In fact if I were to describe my kin as a flavour of ice cream I’d say we are a Celtic sort of Spumoni – various colours and tastes, with lots of fruit and nuts). Discipline is tough, but essential.

Few self-help texts mention discipline when prattling on about raising happy kids and yet it is the basis of order in a home and in nurturing an internal order in youngsters so vital for maturity. Children need discipline to feel safe. If there are rules they know there is a structure to catch them when they fall. And I don’t mean ‘catch them out.’

The trick is in knowing when to expand the elastic boundaries, keeping your nestlings safe and being astute enough to see when to firm up. I used to refer to holidays as ‘parameter redefining’ opportunities because I have been privileged as a teacher to have this time to re-evaluate who needs more independence and who needs…um… let’s call it ‘guidance’ shall we? (They probably called it ‘Back to the Gulag.’)

  1. Discipline begins with routine.

Nebulous bedtimes, vague threats and blurry promises are the surest way to have insecure children. They may grumble about limits, but youngsters feel safe in the fact there are boundaries and that you are in charge.

When my bairns were little, bedtimes were formal (Well they were until they were old enough to set their own routines.) and followed a pattern of eat, bath, calm down time (!), family prayers and reading in bed. And let’s face it, if they are used to following a certain sequence of activities in the evening and you really need them in bed, you simply start with the first task and things follow along nicely. Devious, hey?

Traditions are also part of a family routine. No matter how poor we were, Fridays were (and still are) pizza nights in our home.  So is Christmas tree decorating (although I am finding the elves increasingly slothful of late). Family meal times are a must around the dinner table (more on that in another blog post) and for us, mass on a Sunday is an ongoing part of the ritual of our lives.

  1. Say ‘No’ and mean it.

The hardest thing to do when you have to return home at supper time, especially if it’s to housework, dinner preparations (and load shedding) is to say ‘No’ to a nipper who knows (and they do! They are psychic like that) when you are at your weakest. It is then he will whine for the chips while you are waiting in the supermarket checkout queue. (Damn all canny marketers who know that too and purposely display all those yummy snacks which are both bad for the cherubs and beyond our pockets!)

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And yet stoic adherence to our decisions is what Junior needs from us: a mature adult who has weighed up the issue and made a call. Never mind that your nerves are shot because of having to prostrate yourself obsequiously in front of neurotic, misguided and deranged clients (and/or bosses) and you feel as if you have fallen in front of the taxi proclaiming ‘Game Over’ (There is one driving around in Parklands, I kid you not).

If you say ‘No,’ you must stick to it. ‘No’ must never mean ‘maybe’ either. Because they will pounce on that like the media on a fallen celeb at a press conference. If you oscillate, you are toast.

I used to count to three before ‘encouraging’ my beloved offspring to respond until I realised that the little squirts waited until just after  ‘two’ before skedaddling to make their beds or begin doggy patrol or whatever other heinously cruel chore their mother had ascribed to them. Even the smallest of mitess knows how to work the system.

While I am not a huge fan of James Dobson, he does call his theory ‘dare’ to discipline. So many of us single parents want to be seen as the nice one and, because we see so little of our kids because we are working, or are weekend parents, the temptation is to avoid conflict. But sometimes you have to go there. I remember one infamous encounter with a prepubescent imp who mouthed off at me over dishes, in the presence of his visiting father. His dad, obviously not comfortable with the conflict, put on his coat and took his leave. Not of course without feeling my fury at being left to be the bad guy! Hard though it was, I marched straight back into the scullery and informed he-who-shall-not-be-named that I would not stand for rudeness and that there would be consequences. And there were.

  1. Don’t Threaten what you can’t/won’t do

You are not allowed to kill them so don’t say you will. Tempting though the thought may be to pull out a tongue from an impertinent mouth and tie it around the neglected ears, that feat is probably not humanly possible. And the corollary of being realistic about creative forms of ‘punishment’ is that you must follow through on ensuring consequences happen. If I learnt anything about discipline in the classroom it was that.

Naturally they don’t really know that you are unlikely to twerk in front of their friends, but if you pick those things they have an abhorrent fear of, you might get away with it. But be prepared for that one (there is always one) who will call you on your vow to embarrass them. I practised at home the other day. The Labrador hid her face in horror. Mind you she still didn’t move off my Persian carpet! But I can say no one has put that threat to the test.

The thing is if you have a history of keeping your word, they will remember that. Michael took some convincing on this one and bears the emotional scars of having Mom march in not once, but twice to insist on a more acceptable haircut after visiting the hair salon on his own for a revoltingly trendy cut. He changed barbers after the second occasion, but when I say, Do not shave part of your head,’ he knows what will happen if he does. Caitlin remembers having a playdate cancelled for falsely accusing a sibling of stealing from her. So now I have a reputation of following through. They are not quite sure I wouldn’t twerk. But if I say their cell phone will sojourn in my possession, they are sure it shall.

One should be careful of what one says in frustration however. And let’s face it, we do emit some gems in the heat of the moment. A while back my dramatic daughter mimicked her childhood memory of me saying ‘I. Am. Going. To. Crack!’ (Something I know I threatened often.) Shannon recalls how she pictured me oozing yolk in Humpty Dumptyish self-destruction. What a thing for a small child to be imagining. Mind you, the cynic in me, was mildly surprised that she had been paying attention at all to my rantings.

Apologise if you over-react.

But saying ‘No’ is hard, because we want our children to like us. However sometimes, we have to settle for sullen respect and wait for them to grow up and recognise our wisdom and the strength it took not to choose to be the ‘cool, laissez-faire’ parent who curried favour with them instead of parenting them.

  1. Know when to keep a straight face and when to laugh

As a rule of thumb, it is always a good idea to develop an inscrutable, serious face. I have one child who always giggled nervously when I lined them up ‘tallest to shortest’ (which we don’t do anymore in deference to the older two who have been outstripped in the height stakes). It was so cute to see this tiny redhead, who was seldom the cause of the mayhem, trying hard not to laugh for fear of Mom’s further wrath, and I wanted to chuckle at her discomfort, but I had to glare at her too – because her more devious younger sister and brother would have walked all over me then.  And they tried the charm and cute smiles all the time.

Don’t film your child being cheeky. There is nothing cute about a child backchatting an adult. I hated that youtube clip that did the rounds a while back of a son attempting to reason with his mother, Linda.  Sorry I may be accused of being old fashioned here, but I do believe that she was making a rod for her own back.

Sometimes you have to laugh to show you are human though, but don’t forget Rule #5 then.

  1. Consequences

The problem with youngsters, even teenagers,   is that they don’t have the capacity to anticipate consequences. They can barely see beyond the next text or past the weekend’s party at Giddy Gertie’s house. So teaching them the scientific principle of action-reaction must become part of your teaching at home. I bet you Newton actually learnt this from having to sweep up the mess he made testing whether an egg or a packet of paper would fall faster. Well, he would have if Mother Newton was keen to teach him about consequences.

But chess is a good way to educate our young’uns about what can happen next. The again, it can of course teach them to outthink us so should probably be avoided at all costs.

  1. Be Fair 

One’s offspring are most sensitive to what is fair (nothing really, but don’t tell them that) and are most adept at spotting inconsistencies of treatment among siblings. Chores should be equally distributed and consequences demonstrably consistent.

Quite frankly, Solomon had it easy: he only had to decide who owned a baby. He did not have to draw up a roster for dishwashing or defend the claim that no one is the favourite child.

  1. Forgive and Move on

Always allow them to make amends/ be sorry. NEVER hold a grudge. If you really want to re-hash how angry you were when she borrowed your car sans permission, save it for her 21st – you’ll have an audience then, but more importantly you will have realised that it wasn’t as big a deal as you thought at the time.

Children must be shown that there is NOTHING they can do that will stop you loving them. You must say it. Often. Especially when they have crossed a line. And you must show it. That is arguably one of the most important rules of parenting.

Demonstrate your own penitence when you are wrong. You can do this with dignity and model how you want them to learn to express regret.

  1. Break the Rules Once in a while 

There is a place for unqualified mercy when you let them eat in front of the TV or jump on a bed with them. It becomes a treat and a special memory of fun with mum.


Now before I am bombarded by all the nouveau pc views on how negative it is to start a series of articles on parenting for happy families with ‘discipline,’ let me be very clear that discipline is the framework only for family life. Our progeny need and deserve much more than that.

But that, my dears, is a story for another day.

Raising Civilised Children – Introduction: Happy Families

Remember that card game we used to play called ‘Happy Families,’ where you had to match cards to build a complete nuclear family? Despite the myriad ways in which that game is now appallingly politically incorrect, its core message was: obtain happiness to win – and complete families make for convivial living. Really?

We live in an age of single parent households, for heaven’s sake. In 2013 The South African Institute of Race Relations  reported that only 33% of our children live with both parents, but, as I was always at pains to stress with my own children: we may have had a single parent home, but we did not have to be a broken home and, unlike the card game, we can prevail even in our ‘incompleteness.’

The remnant of that ancient phenomenon ‘the diligent parent’ in me is still drawn to articles entitled ‘5 Ways to have a happier family’ and ‘10 tips for raising teens with no issues.’ (I read a cute one that ran out before the strained writer reached 10 points, so it remained ‘9 strategies for emotionally stable adolescents’) Now far be it for me to knock the conscientious pop psychology of a favourite magazine or negate the zeal of a well-intentioned newly minted counsellor, or, God-forbid, challenge the oeuvre of esteemed academic research, but, seriously, ‘stable adolescents’ is an oxymoron at best and at worst a denial of an integral aspect of human growth: coping with change.  I met a doctor once who asserted quite calmly that teenagers were clinically insane. I wouldn’t go as far as the good doctor, but I have yet to meet a human being without ‘issues’ let alone an adolescent who doesn’t run the gamut of emotions from delirious buoyancy to Gothic angst in one day – unless he is in denial – but I suppose we could all do with being ‘happier.’

What many fail to realise that oftentimes the route to real, profound happiness is not a Brady Bunch adventure or Pollyanna-like family fun. That primrose path leads to overindulgence which borders on believing in the Kardasianesque illusion.

For what it is worth, my next few posts will identify some of my discoveries along my Odyssey as parent, educator and school leader.

They may help you, appal you, or inspire you. Or they’ll just make you laugh at my ineptness and allow you to pat yourself on the back with amused schadenfreude about not being as bad as ‘that woman who thinks she knows what’s what.’


The Family Car

I drive a bus. ‘They’ speak of Mom’s Taxi as if to suggest a vehicle taking in paying customers, but sadly, driving my progeny from ballet to football to eisteddfod or to the endless array of social engagements (that ‘everyone’ is attending and failure to arrive would constitute social suicide) is not a paying job.

Le Moto is a 15 year old Toyota Condor which chugs along quite merrily, thank you, despite being shamelessly neglected by pit crew other than the cursory ministering of petrol jockeys from time to time. Beauty queen she certainly ain’t anymore, having had one too many clashes with a tiresome garage door which used to stick in the winter months, not to mention learner-driver dings and too many close encounters with the grey water at my previous school. But except for a year of menopausal overheating due to a faulty radiator and a bumper which fell off twice (now mercifully secured with cable ties by a passing noble knight), she has not let us down very often. In fact she clocks up quite a speed (well, she would if the speedometer worked) and I have a growing collection of fine photographs which the traffic department keeps kindly sending me to prove it.

When I first managed to purchase my splendid silver wagon, with the help of the children’s Uncle Mark, I heaved a sigh of relief at having the five bairns strapped in and unable to impinge on one another’s personal space, or at least to be far enough away to avoid doing each other grievous bodily harm. Yet still we travelled to the mewling sounds of:

‘Mommeee, Michael’s foot is touching me!’

‘Moooom! He’s breathing too loudly,’ and other such profound discourse.

Another perennial battle is the crying of ’Shotgun’ for the seat of honour besides Mother. For a while I solved that squabble by insisting the winner had to be able to spell ‘hierarchy.’ Now it is eldest in the front. The end.

And naturally Liam (aged three) acquired a crayon to proudly scribble his name on the door; the bonnet became a victim of someone’s really horrible Technology project and sported blue paint until the recycled water used to irrigate the flowers at CBC corroded it, along with the paintwork. Shiny hubcaps bear the scars of a couple of off-road excursions over pavements (I am not renowned for careful driving, the upside of which is that no one argues about wearing seatbelts.) This tendency towards Paris-Dakar motoring has achieved a musical medley of spring sounds over speedbumps, which my family accuse me of taking too literally. They may be right, but everyone loves fairground rides, surely?

Before long of course they started turning 17 and asking to be taught to navigate the streets themselves. Now, I believe you should never teach someone this skill if you gave birth to said learner driver. They turn into sanctimonious law abiding citizens who mutter ‘Fail,’ if you so much as inch over a line at traffic lights. Everyone becomes a critic. And yet they look like chickens on Tik doing all the ‘checks’ which the K53 test requires. No, that’s why God made driving instructors. The end, seriously.

Then they want to drive your car solo. Which is okay, if you don’t watch them pull away into the mist, sans lights and if you ensure you recite maniacal religious mantras while they are gone. What I really can’t stand is getting into my car afterwards and finding the seat is either right on top of the steering wheel (Caitlin) or too far for me (Sean). Not to mention the dog hair and sea sand all over the seats after they have (kindly?) walked the Mad Lab on the beach. And what is with the cheek of changing the radio station?! My car: my music. The absolute end!

Of course they quickly find MyCiti buses a suitable alternative mode of transport again when I say the magic phrase: ‘Petrol money.’  Le Moto is a thirsty gal.

I probably should replace her soon, but that would feel like a betrayal. She’s been the soccer team bus, the friend carrier and a moving van. Like a family pet, this loyal family member has been a part of our history, our adventures and an embrace of our tears (lots of those).

But perhaps I’ll wait until Michael buys new football boots.

My next car will be an Alpha Spider.