The Ugly Duckling – a real story

In elementary school they used to make fun of the kids wearing glasses, the one with the fierce red hair, the one with the terribly long legs. The kid with the braces, the smart ones, always studying, getting great results. The freckled face, the chubby one. Kids express terrible creativity when it comes to hurtful nicknames. The group against the individual. The ‘normal’ kids against the ‘weird’ one.

Years later and – all of the sudden –  glasses, red hair and long legs are sexy. Intelligence, straight teeth, freckles and curves are flattering. The initiation of admiration and lust.
A lot of adults still seek the safety of being an invisible part of the group, but it’s no longer a sign of strenght and power. It becomes the exact opposite. The one who stands out in a crowd is now the one they wish to be (but are probably too afraid to become). The group now looks up to the power of the individual.

Do we need to be tormented before we get appreciated?   Is it faith that the one who struggled his or her way through childhood and school now becomes the center of attention? How much sense does it make that being bullied for being different turns into being attractive for that exact same reason? Is the story about the ugly duckling turning into a beautiful swan inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s personal experience? If not, he was a great observor.
The underlying messages in fairytales never fail humanity. Morals and norms taught in a beautiful story. It’s a pity we stop reading them once we become adults. And it seems like a lot of grown-ups forget all about the fairytale lessons. Even though life really is better when you allow some magic in it…

“Mommy,what are condoms?”

“Mommy, what are condoms?” I was caught off guard when my 5 year old asked me this question. She and her sister were watching a kiddie program about surviving in the wild. I sat on the couch with them, but I wasn’t paying attention to the program.

“What did you say?” I asked, trying to disguise my surprise and buying myself more time to find a kids-proof answer to the question. Answering a question with a question always works if you want to postpone a reply.

“What are condoms?” they now both asked at the same time. Still thinking about how to answer while trying to prevent more questions, I asked them what was said about condoms on tv. “Well he puts water in it and then puts it in his pocket”.
“Oh, but I guess he uses them to carry water while he’s in the woods, because they are water proof. He can tie a knot in them and that way he won’t loose any water.”
“And condoms are also used by men who don’t want to make babies” I added as if that was just one of the many things you can use condoms for.

They both said “oh” and luckily for me the next program started and their attention shifted back to tv. A relief.

This is the second time that I got really close to having “the talk”. The first time was when I was talking about the baby in my belly. Badu asked if O. will be the daddy.  I said that he put the baby there so he’s the father. Two seconds of silence. I was just waiting on the question: “How did he put the baby there?” I was bracing myself, but I was ready to explain. They didn’t request more details. They just continued talking amongst themselves about whether the baby would look like O. or like me. It was a close call, but I was safe.

I know, one day I won’t be able to avoid this conversation. They are very curious about everything.  But if possible, I would like for my kids to make an appointment and give me at least a week time to prepare for it. I won’t forget. I promise. I will write it in big red letters in my agenda. I’ll even add a few big fat exclamation marks…

Pointing fingers

Sometimes I find myself sitting with my face resting in one hand, 3 fingers bent against my cheekbone, my thumb under my chin, and my index finger stretched across my cheek, with the fingertop resting right next to my ear.

As soon as I realize the position I’m in, I correct myself. A small but significant correction. I bend my index under my chin too. Why? That exact same position reminds me of my father. He used to sit like that when he was drunk and his mind was racing. Nobody knew what was going on in his head, but I knew, if he would sit like that, with his finger stretched across his cheek, trouble was about to happen.

The very moment I realized this is imprinted in my memory. Very vividly. Like a snapshot. Very sharp, clear image. Not a moment that took long. I don’t remember what came before it, nor what exactly happened next . I just remember the breakthrough, the AHA-moment.

When we were little and we went somewhere by car, I would sit in the middle on the back seat, with my brothers on the left and the right. I was like a barrier to prevent them from fighting (eventhough that didn’t stop them). I also had the best view on the road ahead. And the front seats.

It was a sunny day and if I remember it right, it was a grey car. I was probably around 7. I don’t know if we just left to go somewhere or if we were on our way back. I know that my father was drunk. My mom annoyed. They started bickering back and forth. Tension was building up. My brothers were there, but it felt like it was just me in the backseat, staring at my dad.
I was scared for what was about to come. My heart started beating faster. My muscles tensing up and I subconsciously start to breathe a bit more quiet. You know that feeling, when you are watching a movie and the plot is about to unfold? The music builds up and you are sitting on the edge of your seat, anticipating what’s about to come. That might be the best way to compare it. Except this wasn’t a movie, but every day life for me. I didn’t choose to pop this movie in, I was born in it.

They kept snarling at each other. All of the sudden it got quiet. I looked at my dad. He was slightly leaning to the right. His elbow against the window, his forearm stretched out alongside of it. His left hand against his face. 3 fingers bent against his cheekbone, his thumb under his chin and his index finger stretched across his cheek, with the fingertop resting right next to his ear. Like it was pointing out the danger of what was going on inside his head. And I remember thinking:”That’s it! He always sits like this right before a fight breaks out!”

I leaned back and pushed myself against the car seat a bit more than usual. I wanted to sink in it, disappear in it. This was not a good sign. Did my brothers see what was about to go down? How bad would it be this time? Maybe if my brothers would just start fighting now, my parents were going to forget about their bickering-on-the-edge-of-becoming-a-full-blown-fight.

I don’t remember anything after that revelation. It was a valuable lesson though. Growing up, I learned to observe people, as a survival skill. Read the small changes in body language, voice intonation, even pattern of breathing. It told me when to escape to my room. Pretend I couldn’t hear anything. Silently crying when the pillow over my head did not block out the sounds of screaming and yelling, the accusations, the beatings, the breaking of plates and glass, the pain and frustration being released as a atomic bomb. And then I would cry louder. Scream. The sound of my voice was more comfortable than the sonic picture being forced onto my vivid imagination.

I moved out when I was 19. My father stopped drinking almost 8 years ago. They are older and calmer now. It’s more than 20 years later, but I still correct myself when I sit like my father sat that day in the car. It’s intruiging how little details can trigger a whole series of memories…

No room for a single mom

The family as a cornerstone of society. A  nice principle. Unfortunally the term ‘family’ seems to be pretty unflexibale when it has to be a cornerstone.

People used to get married young, have kids, and stay together until death did them apart – literally. They might not always been happily married, but there was a time when divorce was taboo.

Things change. Now the term ‘family’ can mean anything from married-with-children to a commune of friends to being just one person. It’s been like that for a while. And it still functions pretty well. Unless  you are a single parent.

Let me explain myself. First of all, nobody (but a few exceptions) chooses to be a single parent. Whatever the reason might be why you end up being a single parent, I’m pretty sure that it wasn’t something you planned for yourself. Raising children isn’t easy (and certain people should think twice before they have kids, but that’s a whole other blog entry). Raising them by yourself is twice as hard. You have to be mom and dad. Good cop and bad cop. Provide for your children and still find time to be there to actually raise them.

Life is expensive. If you just have one paycheck and two children, like I have, with no money coming from the dad whatsoever, you know that you live from paycheck to paycheck. Counting and recounting to see how you’re gonna make it to the end of the month. Which bills can I pay and which will have to wait? If the kids need new shoes or a winterjacket, you will either have to save for it, or let a bill go unpaid. You’re denying your children certain things (trips to amusement parks, going on vacation abroad,…), but you work hard to raise them the best you can and give them all they need. They might not have the luxury that their schoolfriends have, but they are happy nevertheless.

But there’s more to life than the financial part. Have you – as a single parent – ever tried to find a house (without social services helping you out)? I don’t know what it’s like in other areas, but where I live, it’s close to impossible. What if you want to educate yourself so that you can find a better job, have a better income? Going to school full time is pretty much impossible: school is expensive. Plus you will have to find a daycare/babysit for your kids, which adds to the expenses. Sure, there are enough adult schooling opportunities in every city, with all kinds of different subject you can learn. Very interesting and motivating. Until you check both price and class hours. Yup, you’ll  need a babysit.

Well, then let’s try something as simple as picking up a hobby such as swimming. Which is pretty inexpensive, right? So that shouldn’t be a problem…. Think again.
In my city, the swimming pool is only open for the public between 6pm and 8pm. Between those hours I’m cooking, washing, preparing schoolbags, helping with homework and putting kids in bed. Sure I could take my kids with me to the swimming pool in the evening, or during the weekend. But I won’t let them alone in the water, not even in the playing pool for the toddlers. So I won’t be able to get a work out by swimming the amount of lenghts I want. What’s the solution? My family and friends live far away. So I’d end up paying for a babysit. Again.

Oh,why – instead of complaining – don’t I take my babydaddy to court and make him pay child support?
Well, everybody’s situation is different. But for me, there’s nothing to gain there. No financial gain, no emotional gain, no support. It’s just not worth the stress, time and money I’d have to spend. I prefer to make it on my own, rather than to be dependant on a little bit of money that I might – or might not get every month. It’s pointless. Trust me.

Like I stated before, it seems like there’s no room in this society for a single mom. Or a single dad. Even while there should be more to life than the financial part, as a single parent, it seems that the financial part is the only thing that’s being thrown back in your face over and over again.

Luckily it takes more than money to raise children into responsible and respectable adults. So yeah, my kids might not wear the latest fashion, they might not go on vacation to Spain every summer vacation. But my children are smart, well mannered and appreciative. Which can’t always be said about kids that grow up around a lot of money. Just my two cents…

Early mornings

Forgetting to turn off my alarm clock resulted in me waking up at 5am this morning, even though I don’t have to work today.  Not smart. You know that feeling when you know it’s way too early to get up, but you get annoyed trying to fall back asleep. You toss and turn, trying to get comfortable in the warm bed. Hoping to dose back off. And while your body is doing all the right things, this little nagging voice in your head telling you: “Go back to sleep. Go back to sleep. Go back to sleep!”  And that is exactly what’s keeping you awake.

So I got up. Had a yoghurt. Talked to my man online (living in different time zones does have it’s positive sides haha). Took my time to make some coffee. The girls are still snoring the night – or should I say morning – away. There’s something very peaceful about a quiet house while the sun gets up. Roosters crowing in my neighbours’ backyard. Early birds singing in the tree tops, which I can see from my dining room window. One of my cats is taking it’s time to stretch out every muscle and chase the night away. The dog just left up his head trying to figure out why I’m downstairs at this time of the day.

Coffee tastes good when you’re relaxing. I have nowhere to go, not a lot to do today. I’m just gonna do the dishes, figure out what to cook for dinner and clean the house. By the time I finish, the girls will be up and cause mayhem. Gotta love them though 🙂

This morning is a good morning. Hey, I even got to write before 7am! Call me the early bird and watch me catching that worm!

Choices

It’s been a few weeks since I last blogged. I needed some time off. To enjoy my man who – literally – travelled half the world to spend some time with me. And to think about my life as it currently is. And where I want to take it.

I believe that everything happens for a reason – at exactly the time it’s suppose to happen. But that doesn’t mean that we should lean back and not take control of our lives. And I’m a crossroad now. Trying to figure out what my priorities are.  What am I still passionate about? What was just a phase? What road to choose?

I’m the kind of person that needs an almost constant injection of new things, new challenges, new projects. I hate it when things stagnate. I hate it even more when I work hard to keep the ball rolling, but nothing really happens. I get overwhelmed with this feeling of restlessness. And that’s exactly where I’m at now.

I’ll figure it out sooner or later. But for now, I’ll just have to go through the motions, I guess.

A life saved thanks to Facebook

Facebook is often mentioned in newspaper articles: “Man arrested because of a Facebook comment” – “Double murder announced on Facebook” – “10 reasons why you are addicted to Facebook”, …

There are a lot of pros and cons when it comes to the internet’s social networks. Whether you like it or not, the fact is that it has become a big part of every day life for a lot of people.

Today I’ve witnessed how a person put the word “social network”  to good use. Osmosis Poemz, a poet on my friend list, sent out an alert on his FB status. Apparently someone on his list had posted a suicide message. Osmosiz Poemz didn’t hesitate and prompted people into action. More alerts were sent out, there was contact with his sister and mutual friends and 2 hours later the police had found the man. He’s been saved and is now getting the help he needs.

Goosebumps…

It’s amazing how the care and concern of a stranger helped to save a life. With people using the internet more and more as the main way to communicate, sometimes we wonder if they still care. This proves that humanity is stronger than technology

Today, I am humbled…

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