When I was about 12 I began to form an idea of who I wanted to be when I grew up. I can’t say there was ever any urge to do anything heroic, I had no illusions of going into healthcare, no hopes of playing cops and robbers and certainly no inclination to run into burning buildings to rescue kitties. My passion was then, as it is now, words. I wanted to use words and my passion for languages as the basis for my future.
I didn’t just want to write, I wanted to be a journalist. Not a Cosmo feature writer mind you, I wanted to be a hardcore news journo focusing on politics and economics. I imagined being the person hiding behind the sandbags in some war torn country, writing in my notebook as the dust from an explosion fell and dirtied my page. I wanted to live the making of history, I wanted to be the person who gave those stories to the people. Honestly, this is the only thing I ever really wanted to be.
Then in the year 2000, sounds a bit naf but bear with me here, I had just turned 15, and believe me, I was every bit as stubborn, rebellious and plain nightmarish as any 15 year old girl. I had my own opinions, I knew better, I did what I wanted without fear for repercussion and for the most part acted 15. My mother and I were always at odds, nothing much has changed there, haha. We fought, she screamed and yelled and threatened while I ignored her. It would always end up with her phoning my day, the conversation was always the same, “Michael, you need to sort your daughter out…” He never took sides, but he always stood up for me, while begging me to please give my mother a break. He was the only buffer in that less than ideal relationship.
On the morning of Sunday 20 August 2000, I woke up feeling uneasy. I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was in fact very wrong. At around lunch time a police car pulled up on our driveway, they asked for my mom, she wasn’t there. When she got home we told her they had been and were looking for her so she went to the police station. In the hour or so she was gone, I knew, I don’t know how but I knew, something had happened to my dad. When she got home, with tears in her eyes, she said, “Guys I don’t know how to tell you this, but your dad, he’s, he’s gone.” I can remember feeling like someone had just kicked my foundation out from under me. I was winded, shocked, scared and completely overwhelmed. My mother walked toward me and put her arms out, all I remember telling her is not to touch me and that I was going to my best friend’s house. With that I turned and walked out the door. In hindsight, I definitely could have handled that better, but hey I was going through the worst moment of my life, right then, my feelings were the only ones that mattered to me.
My dad dying was the match that lit the fire. I stopped caring about studying and being a journo. My marks went downhill. My mother was home less and less, every weekend my brother sister and I had a house party. I drank, I did drugs, I had sex. It was easier to be reckless and hung over than it was for me to accept that my every belief had been destroyed.
The one person who had always been there for me was gone. I no longer had unconditional love in my life. Instead of hurting, I stopped caring. I let sex and booze replace love and honestly thought I was having the time of my life.
In October 2001 I was 16 and I peed on a stick for the first time in my life, there were two lines and I was devastated. I cried for what felt like an eternity before switching to pretending it wasn’t happening. In my mind if I didn’t think about it, it wasn’t there. Pretty darn stupid for a smart girl huh? There was no denying my ever expanding waist, or the flutters of feeling the baby move. I was scared to death, but knew for certain I loved this baby and had to find a way to make things work. I told my mom I was pregnant when I was a good six months along. She promised it would be ok, that we would make it work. That moment, knowing I was going to keep my baby, that moment saved my life.
Suddenly I had a reason to try again. I had another life to consider. I had purpose. I was having a baby. When my Monster arrived on a freezing cold morning in May, all perfect blonde hair and big blue eyes, for the very first time I knew what unconditional love meant, and it emanated from my very core. I knew my life would never be the same, and as I kissed the top of his tiny, soft head, it was with gratitude that the tears flowed from my eyes.
Now I get this is how every mom feels about having their baby, well most anyway, but you need to understand, when I had a life plan, it never included babies. I never wanted kids. I wanted to travel and to write. To be the cool aunt my nieces and nephews saw every couple of months. The one who took them clubbing and bought them beer. I never saw myself as mother material.
Anyhoo. Monster happened along in May of the year I was in standard nine, I went back in July and finished the year off rather well all considered. I was still with Monster’s father, he was abusive, drunk and high most of the time. So yes I was 17, had been kicked out of my mother’s house, about to start Matric and had a baby and an abusive boyfriend. We lived on his mother’s plot with her though I do think for the sake of the story, a good old trailer park setting would likely work better.
My Matric year was a challenge in every way, I tried to do homework and art projects while pushing the baby’s pram with my foot. I got up every hour with him at night cos he was quite a sick baby and his father was usually passed out drunk anyway.
I pushed through school and my less than ideal home life and managed to pass Matric with distinctions in English, Afrikaans and History, I broke up with the loser boyfriend and for the first time felt like I could breathe a bit.
Between then and now there are almost eight years. There are two more babies. There are many more victories, many more heart breaks. There is a man I am going to marry and there is the family we have become. I never lost my passion for words, I like to believe I have just postponed using them to make my living.
I work because I need to, because there are bills to pay. I am a mom because I choose to be. I choose to love my children through temper tantrums and learning problems. I love them enough to love them when they say they hate me. They are my reason for trying, my reason for doing and my reason for never giving up.
I had a plan, I knew what I wanted to be. Destiny had other ideas. Life is indeed what happens while you are busy making plans. Would I ever take it back? Would I change anything? If I had the chance to do it over, would I do it differently?
I tell you now, I would not, for all the rice in China, change one single thing. When Monster with his long gangly legs still snuggles on my lap, or the Princess giggles or the little Squish gives me a rare kiss and cuddle, those moments, the watching them sleep, feeling my heart glow with pride when I look at them, without a doubt, that, beats the adrenaline rush of reporting on war, it trumps expensive cars and designer clothes. I work hard for the right reasons, and those reasons are my children.
So despite being everything I never wanted to be, there is not a single thing I would ever change.