‘Tis the season…

14 Aug

The season of birthday parties has started. And by ‘season’, I mean ‘curse’ (probably an exaggeration…).

My youngest has turned 7 in June. That in itself is a curse. What’s up with that? It would be a totally depressing time if ‘having no kids under 7’ did not come with some advantages.

Here are 3 benefits from having kids 7 up:

1. This birthday party was a total pleasure to organise because I didn’t have to organise it. A couple of weeks ago, my 3 children went into their room and became very quiet. Like an other parent would think, I assumed they were up to no good and prepared myself psychologically to what the extent of the damage might be (they hit each other with bats, they dissected a dead rat, they made a homemade explosive device… who knows? The possibilities are endless!). No! They sat down and organised Matty’s party all by themselves: the theme, the cake, the games, the program of the day.  Is this what comes with children older than 6? Bring it on, I say!

2. It seems that my friends are desperate to give us more board games. I think they know I barely handle them but they want to challenge me  – who needs enemies with friends like them, right? We received 2 ‘family games’ this birthday. And you know what? It ain’t that bad. I developed a hatred of board games over the years simply because my one child is unable to cope with the frustration of losing. It makes the experience for everyone an absolute nightmare. But I’ve noticed great improvement. It gets better. It does!!! We’ve played Go Fish, Rummikub, Monopoly, 30 Seconds and Mille Bornes (a French card game that brings me right back to when I was 10, camping with my cousins!!) and we all came out almost unscathed! Be encouraged!!

3. Having kids older than 7 also means that if you play it right, they can be your mini-slaves. “Can you bring me a glass of water”,  “Please won’t you fetch my phone. It is … somewhere in the house” or “Let’s see who can carry the most logs of wood… and while you’re at it, fill the fireplace with them!” have become recurrent phrases in our home. And they can do it, without breaking the glass, come back empty handed or with a splinter in their hand. Almost every time.

4. I couldn’t come up with a 4th benefit.

Let’s be honest: while the 7 and up stage brings its fair share of exciting moments, I miss not having to carry any of my babies anymore.

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French kids don’t have ADHD? Well, mine does.

22 Jun

An article from Psychology Today was published last year. It was called “Why French kids don’t have ADHD” and it resurfaced a couple of weeks ago on Facebook.

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/suffer-the-children/201203/why-french-kids-dont-have-adhd

Now you might not know me at all or maybe just a little but you should at least know these 2 things about me:

1. I’m french.

2. I have a kid with ADHD.

Obviously, it appears to be a shaky start for the writer of this article because I am the living proof that French kids can have ADHD. Maybe it is because we live in a plagued-by-ADD South Africa, or maybe because we are the exception to the rule – since French love exceptions. 

A few of my friends shared that article with me and wanted to know whether it’s true (Don’t they know the first 2 things about me??) My first two reactions were:

1. Mwahahahahahahahahaha! (after reading the title)

2. Roll of the eyes (after reading the article)

But being french with an ADHD kid, I felt compelled to look deeper into the article.

Marylin Wedge, the writer of the article, starts by comparing how ADHD is labeled differently in the US and in France. On one hand, the US  call it a biological disorder, treated with medication like Ritalin, while in France, it is considered a  psychological disorder, treated with counselling. The difference is ‘treating the symptoms’ vs ‘treating the cause/ root of the problem’, the difference between ‘chemical’and ‘psychological’.

I don’t really want to dissect the article (you’re disappointed, I know!) because the topic of ADHD is so vast and so controversial that even after reading up so much on it, even after living with an ADHD boy for 8 years, I don’t feel like I have enough knowledge to do it justice. However, reading the writer’s observations about the french way of raising children (2nd-hand observations, taken from a french book), it made me think about what I observed; first, as a French person raised the ‘French way’ and second, as a mother of an ADHD precious boy.

The part of her article that makes me uncomfortable is when she states that French kids are better behaved than American ones.

French kids are awesome. I wish I had one.

French kids are awesome. I wish I had one.

I would argue that it is debatable. The French society is without a doubt much less permissive than the American one. When I go back to France for holidays, I am always reminded (‘shocked’ is a more accurate word) of all the rules – said or assumed – that my children are expected to follow. Starting with wearing shoes (winter or summer), not walking more than 3 feet away from me, not climbing, jumping, leaning over or reaching for anything higher that their knee-level, sitting quietly at a restaurant, not speaking too loud or making sudden moves… I find that often kids have to live through the old adage of ‘being seen, not heard’. In my observations, the discipline that the writer mentions is not a thought-through decision taken for the sake of the child but rather a discipline enforced when the child’s behaviour becomes inconvenient for the parents.

Every child is off to school from 3 years old until 18, 8.30am to 4.30pm, 4 and a half day a week. If they are not ‘Sage comme une image’ ( literally ‘as well-behaved as a picture’), they’ll quickly learn. The way kids were brought up 50 years ago is the way that they are raised today because, after all, why change something that worked so well at the beginning of last century?

It might seem strange that I would take a stab at the french way of raising children. Being French myself, I’m sure that I have – consciously or not – adopted some of the French behaviour, even when it comes to raising kids. A friend of mine has been incredibly helpful when my kids were younger, reminding me that it should be an age-appropriate discipline. In other words, expect a 2 year old to behave like a 2 year old!

The writer seems to imply that this strict discipline is what saved France from the ADHD that afflicted other countries.

For me personally, I rewind a couple of years: the year my son turned 5, the year we took the decision to try out Ritalin for our ADHD son. A decision not taken lightly, a decision that came after taking him out of his preschool because the teacher asked us to, a decision that came after having him assessed by a paediatric neurologist, a decision taken after realising the impact that his behaviour had on the rest of our family, a decision taken not just for my sake, but also for his.

When parents – and I include myself – find that no strategic parenting style seems to work the way it should, when your child is unable to sit still long enough to learn, when his relationships with friends, siblings and parents suffer because of his lack of impulse control… when these parents turn to the help of Ritalin for the sake of not only the ADHD child but also everyone else in the family, I cannot but roll my eyes at this kind of article.

I do not know whether the french society has less ADHD kids or whether they suppress their symptoms and spirits through rules and punishment. What I know for certain is that there is a place for Ritalin for those overwhelmed children who suffer academically, socially and emotionally. I know for certain that Ritalin brought balance into my son’s life and into our home and I know for certain that he is grateful that there is a medication out there to help him control his emotions.

I know what I aimed to achieve when I put my son on Ritalin. I am confused as to what the writer aimed to achieve with her article.

Weddings Galore

16 May

We recently attended two very special weddings. Special weddings because people very dear to our hearts got married. And I don’t know about you but I love weddings. I love everything about weddings.

Here are my top 4 reasons why (there are many more reasons but I do have a life so it’s compacted!):

1. Weddings are awesome because I get to dress up, nicely. Heels and everything.

One of the big let down of South Africa has been the lack of opportunities to dress up. You would think that Christmas, New Year’s eve, and birthday party dinners are all events where we dress nicely…Well, you’d be wrong. Here in SA, they are only another excuse to braai more meat. Back in France, a Sunday lunch is good enough to take out your sexy blouse and your stilettos. Fortunately, weddings managed to pull through even in laid-back-SA and people still dress up. So in the space of 2 weekends, the husband and I (and the kids!!!) could clean up good and look like this:

Léa as a flower girl and me as a dressed up happy woman.

Léa as a flower girl and me, a happy woman, all dressed up.

The really handsome boys, tie and all.

The really handsome boys, tie and all.

The nervous groom and the best man aka my beaaaauutiful husband.

The nervous groom and the best man aka my beaaaauutiful husband.

 

2. I love weddings because it challenges you to think about the promises of love that were made however many years ago. Those sweet promises are staring at you in the face and asking ‘So??!! How is that selfish behaviour of yours doing??’ and there is no escape! Weddings are a great place to ask yourself how you’ve loved your spouse lately, and while you might shift uncomfortably in your seat, there are two love birds up front saying ‘I do’ thinking that the hard work was planning the wedding. Mwahahahah!!!!

Matty, already pondering the meaning of marriage (not really, I just love this pic)

Matty, already pondering the meaning of marriage (not really, I just love this pic)

 

3. Weddings are also exciting because it’s good food, that not only is for free but it has also been prepared for you!! Life – As good as it gets! Any food that I don’t have to prepare myself is fantastic food. I’m not going to add a picture to illustrate because, really, who takes pictures of food!!! As for this blog, you can just imagine the ‘filet’, the ‘lamb stew’ and the ‘chocolat fondant’. It speaks louder than any photos. But if you do need a picture of the food, contact Lauren. She takes great pics of the food she makes 😉 (Lauren, I love you and the picture of your bobotie. Really I do!!)

4. Finally, weddings are an easy way to spend time with some of your favourite people without having to plan anything. Okay, that might not apply to everyone but most weddings that I’ve been to, are people from my church. That means that the biggest part of the invitees are cool cats that I really enjoy seeing!  I get to hang around these cool cats (whether they like it or not!) for a whole evening.

Great friends!

Great friends!

Precious Melies

Precious Melies!!

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My silly Andy Pandy…

Basically all the girls of our Bible study!!!! Great girls all around! (Notice how Lauren and I, the shortest girls are the one crouching. We are basically the crouching tigers)

Basically all the girls of our Bible study!!!! Great girls all around! (Notice how Lauren and I, the shortest girls are the ones crouching. We are basically the crouching tigers)

 

And those are 4 great reasons to love weddings!! There are no more weddings that we’ve been invited to for now, but we’re always happy to gate-crush. That’s how servant-hearted we are 🙂

 

 

A month full of Jion…

14 May

Three times a year, at Jion, the karate school that my kids attend, there is a grading. A grading allows a child to get his next karate belt if his Sensei (teacher) thinks that he is ready to grade.

Before sending your child off to grading though, they have to go through what is called a’ mock grading’ – which is almost like the idea of a ‘staged combat’. In the Middle Ages, the jousting games were also referred to as ‘mock fights’. So there you have it, a piece of not-so-useful information to drop at your next dinner party. A mock grading is therefore like a dress rehearsal before the premiere of a theatrical play. Stress levels are on a rise and performing at your best is important if you wish to prove to your Sensei that you are in fact ready to go to the real grading.

A few weeks before the mock grading, in our house, we live through a lot of karate moments. Over and above their twice a week karate lessons, there are moments of practicing their kata (organised moves that represent a fake fight), moments of staged fights with dad, teaching and teasing each other and of course a lot of hope and expectations to get the ‘Oss’ signal from their Sensei.

Between the mock grading and the actual grading, there are usually only 5 days (from the Saturday to the Thursday). However, the first grading for this year happened to be over some public holidays which meant that between mock and grading, we had almost 2 weeks. Two weeks over which a lot of bargaining and rewarding could – and did – happen.

‘Mmmh no, you can’t play on the iPad until you practised your karate.’

‘Ooh I don’t think you should behave like this. A genuine karate-kid should know better. Maybe you aren’t ready to grade to green belt… ‘

Aaaah, happy days these were…

These days of easy bargaining came to an end  beginning of May when the kids from Jion that were ready to grade, graded.

Léa and Killian graded to, respectively orange and green belt and Matty got 2 stripes on his white belt. Not yet ready to grade to yellow, his grading stopped at the mock grading. It’s always a positive life lesson when hard work is rewarded with the coveted result and for that day at least, their world remained a just, fair and fun world. Long may it last…

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More than ever before I am convinced of the right choice of sport for all my children. Whether they are competitive, perfectionist, low-confident or just floppy, the values of discipline, respect for each other, hard work, healthy body development and a fun Sensei really build them up and make for a holistic approach to what is good for them.

And the best part is that they love it!!

If you’re interested in finding out more about karate in Cape Town, you can contact Sensei Dirk by going to the website www.jion.co.za

I promise I don’t have share in the business!! 🙂

Take 2 – Surprises work better when people show up!

19 Apr

So after being left in the dark, in the stairways, behind a closed door, disappointed and forlorn, we heard footsteps from below. Recognising the mother’s footsteps, Claude quickly opened the door and we shoved ourselves into the living-room for a Take 2 -Real surprise!

Things I learned from this video:

1. The dog is very important (Just kidding. I already knew that!)

2. Man, but I have big teeth! I never took Phillip’s teasing seriously but he’s got a point!!!

3. My mother is more resistant than I thought! Fair enough, it’s not like I came back from the dead, but coming all the way from the bottom of Africa unexpectedly, I thought she would be more flabbergasted!

4. Last but not least, it was so flipping nice to surprise my mum like that!!!! I love surprises!!!!

Surpriiiiiise!!!! NOT.

18 Apr

Well it only took me a month to get back into the swing of things after my little escapade in France and around.

After struggling with YouTube for a day or two, I managed to upload the first of the two videos I want to post. Here is the story of the first one.

On the Friday, Lea and I finally arrived, with only one hour of delay. Claude, secretly, fetched us from the airport. After ignoring my mum’s frantic calls, panicking about the whereabouts of  Claude (Frejus is a very dangerous town. Who knows what can happen to a fully grown man in the middle of the afternoon downtown??!!), we finally parked at the back of the residency to avoid being spotted from the balcony. We walked like spies on a mission, clucked like excited chicken as we climbed the 3 floors to my mum’s flat, knocked on the door and…

 

 

France baby!!

3 Mar

Tonight it is from France that I’m writing. I know that you’ve all been dying to hear from me because my life is that interesting. Usually it would be a sarcastic comment (because my real name is Inks Sarcastic VB – I know you’re jealous right now!) but today, it is not. After all, I am in a hotel, in Carcassonne, with my only daughter, and my mum and Claude in the bedroom next door. Not too shabby!!

Rewind a few couple of days and the beginning of the big surprise for my mum’s birthday started. In a plane from Cape Town to Nice. Without a tribe to look after, only my very compliant, easy going little girl. What an easy trip it would be: no running after an hyperactive boy, no troop-motivating-general for my I-prefer-the-sitting-position other boy and no holding the vomit bag for my motion sickness husband. No wonder people think women should rule the universe!!

Anywhoo, I wondered who would be sitting next to me in the plane. My daughter’s only request was the window seat so I feared sitting next to a smelly man or a chatty woman. Don’t you hate people that try to make conversation in a plane? I’m not a fan, trying to hear what they say and smiling and nodding. But luckily, the Lord knew that my biggest need at that point was a quiet trip. The guy that sat next to me was a man (grandpa age, to reassure my jealous husband who thinks that men are just out to get me!) who was neither smelly nor chatty. In fact, I seriously doubted he was alive, were it not for him making a move towards his fork. He didn’t move, he didn’t look at his tv screen, he didn’t go to the toilet nor did he use his blanket. The only proof I had that he was in fact human was that he ate – everything on his tray.

Lea stared at her screen and slept. And I stared at my screen and tried to sleep.  I envy all those people who can sleep seated. Maybe my neck is abnormal but my head falls forward making me look stupid and half dead.

Otherwise apart for the hour late departure from London to Nice, it was a very uneventful trip.

That's us - 20 hours after departure. It's our best side.

That’s us – 20 hours after departure. It’s our best side.

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