Open Letter to Father of Brock Turner

There is nothing like a heart-breaking case of sexual assault to make me immediately want to hold my daughters close and never let them go. Don’t get me wrong, there isn’t a single case of violence against women that isn’t heartbreaking, but a detailed letter recently published by the young woman who was sexually assaulted  by Brock Turner just over a year and a half ago, has left me in absolute ruins. She describes so vividly the pain and anguish she has had to bear, it really brings to light the torture that rape victims endure in their everyday battle to overcome.

And I’ve learned something so important from this story: while I may teach my girls to run from the weird guy, to stay away from the suspicious men, the ‘pervert-looking’ guys, and ones that make the hairs on their neck stand up in fear… the golden boy, star-of-the-swim-team-boy might just be the most dangerous of them all.

I’m struggling with how to teach them to listen to their instincts and to trust their gut when Brock Turner probably never set off anyone’s danger radar. I’m torn between protecting them and instilling a deep mistrust for just about every man on this planet.

And while Brock Turner will forever be lumped with the special kind of scum that is reversed for rapists, I think his father has a lot to answer for.

 

Dear Mr Dan Turner,

I recently read a letter you had written. You certainly have a flair for words. Your letter taught me about entitlement and privilege. It also gave me a little English lesson when I learned the synonym for ‘sexual assault’ is “action”.

So forgive me if my letter doesn’t measure up to your linguistic talents, and that I may not be very eloquent when I say this: You are a first class a-hole.

YOU are everything that is wrong with society today. Your son may have been the twisted little douchebag behind that heinous crime, but you and your kind fuel the Brock Turners of this world.

You are the reason young men continue to rape women. You are the reason why ‘privileged’ offenders get negligible sentences. You and your kind are the accountable for the fact that many women will never report crimes committed against them.

I don’t have a son Mr Turner, but rest assured, if I did, he would know that sexual assault and rape are wrong. He would know that a lack of consent (or consciousness – in this case), means ‘NO’.

He’d know that women deserve to be valued and treated with respect. He’d know how to communicate and listen. He’d know that his achievements doesn’t make him superior than anyone else. He’d know that he wasn’t entitled to everything he wants, especially if what he wanted was another human being. He’d know that his privilege wouldn’t set him above the law.

You see Mr Turner, these are values that a loving parent instils in their child. I do not doubt for second that you love your child. You standing by his side through this ugly ordeal only cements the fact that you love him deeply. And you should.

But you have failed as a father. You have failed to help him see a difference between ‘wanting’ and ‘having’. You have failed to teach him that while the world may be your oyster as a young Stanford undergrad, that doesn’t mean you can simply take something of great value with ease.

And you failed miserably this week when your letter to the Judge referred to his unlawful deed as “20 minutes of action”. Because which young man doesn’t like a bit of ‘action’, right?

That there Mr Turner, was your teachable moment. An opportunity to love your child, but condemn his actions. An opportunity to be the father he is obviously sorely lacking. And you botched it up pretty royally didn’t you?

We understand you didn’t want to see your boy rotting away in a prison cell for years of his life, but to excuse his behavior on the ‘culture of alcoholism and partying’ is pretty pathetic. I know many men who drink, even occasionally to the point of excess, who don’t end up raping women in their drunken stupor.

To justify his assault on the fact that this ‘culture’ exists in the swim team baffles me. How many other Stanford swim team members have been accused of sexual assault?

In my family, we were introduced to the concept of right and wrong from the earliest of age. If I got into a spat with anyone at school, you could be certain I was getting a spanking from my mom when I got home.

I bet your son has never had a spanking in his life. And while I don’t condone corporal punishment as valid teaching tool for children, my point is that I wasn’t coddled and made to feel like I was right at every turn.

You failed your son, and you failed that young defenseless woman when you set him loose on this world with that giant chip on his shoulder.

I hope you bear that burden for the rest of your life.

 

 

 

My Love-Hate Relationship with Online Mom Groups

I belong to a few online mom groups. When I found out I was pregnant with the Twincesses, I was overjoyed … aaaand overwhelmed.

I had a million questions and none of the answers. Google scared the crap out of me each and every time I tried to research symptoms or foods to eat during pregnancy. So before I poisoned my unborn babies with mercury, listeria or salmonella; I turned to an online community of moms and moms-to-be, for support and guidance through the daunting process.

Fast forward to a year later, and I now belong to a total of FIVE mommy groups, all existing on the wonderfully social world of Facebook.

Online mom groups CAN be a great place to ask questions and get valid, honest answers. But it’s extremely important to choose your group well, and take what you read with a grain of salt and a very thick skin.

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New-mom syndrome

There’s one group I’ve hung out with since the minute my pregnancy was confirmed. The ladies are AWESOME. I can be 100% myself without fear of judgment, and everyone’s diverse opinions are accepted and respected. There are moms who I can rely on for a much needed pick-me-up when I feel like I’m doing everything wrong, and others who tell me like it is when I need to hear the truth. I feel like part of a family and even though we’ve never really met in real life, these moms feel like my BBFs.

Then there’s the other groups. The ones where ‘Sanctimommies’ rule, and judgement and assumptions run rampant.

It’s a cesspool of know-it-alls who are under the firm belief that THEIR methods of parenting are superior to anyone else’s. They all wear Doctor Google hats and throw their ‘knowledge’ around as if they’ve accumulated degrees and diplomas on parenting.

It’s the groups filled with Anti-vaxxers who spew misguided ‘science’ and tear down the newbie mom who dared to ask a vaccine-related question.

It consists of (very) vocal opponents to ‘Sleep Training’ (said in hushed tones, because Sanctimommy hears everything) even when it doesn’t involve prolonged cry-it-out. Because of course, their babies have never, ever, cried. Sanctimommy pre-empts any wailing and picks her baby up precisely 30 seconds before that first squeal ever leaves her cherub’s lips, just as Google recommends.

It’s where mom-shamers congregate like sharks around fresh meat, to pounce on the mother who uses baby formula, who forward-faced her car seat or started solids before 6 months.

They’re filled with competitive attention seekers who just had to let everyone know that little Andy started walking at 4 months. Yep, ‘my little angel didn’t even crawl, he just stood up one day and was walking around like the champion he is’. Little Andy was also reading at 6 months and did a backflip before he turned one. Good for you and good for little Andy. Will we be seeing him on Ellen next week?

Which brings me to the next point…its overrun with liars. So many pants-on-fire mommies, you’d need a fire extinguisher attached at the hip. Whether it be their children’s milestones or their grades, these mommies lie like it’s a rite of passage. They lie about how clean their house is, and how adoring their husbands are. They lie about their cooking skills and their craft ability. Why? I’ll never understand.

Don’t get me started on trolls who join precisely for the joy of tearing other mothers down. Doesn’t matter the topic of discussion, the troll knows you’re doing it wrong. Worryingly, many of these trolls aren’t even moms themselves.

There’s nothing like online mommy groups to make you feel like you’re 5 years old again, back on the playground, dealing with the school bully.

 

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Sanctimommy has great eyebrows. Obviously.

So why are these groups so popular then?

I think it’s due to the fact that most moms are seeking interaction on days that seem to blend together, endlessly in piles of laundry, vomit and poop. Moms are reaching out to hear how others are coping and to find a friendly face (or avatar) in the midst of the numerous struggles motherhood presents.

And if you’re able to sift through the bullshit of the various types above, you’re bound to find some real, caring mothers, who actually do offer good advice. You’re guaranteed to find at least one mom who tells you you’re doing a good job no matter how badly you think you messed up.

If you can block out the Sanctimommies and the trolls, the liars and the shamers, you may even be lucky enough to find your soulmate-mom … that one mom with whom you just click and feel like you’ve been friends with your whole life.

I’m lucky I’ve found about ten of them. And before you ask: no, you can’t join my group!

 

 

 

 

Open Letter to the Mom whose Kid Fell into the Gorilla Exhibit

To the mom whose kid fell into the gorilla exhibit,

I admit it: I mommy-shamed you. My first thought at hearing an endangered animal had been killed due to a child entering his enclosure, was to think that the parent – you, had been irresponsible. Then I heard you went to the zoo with 4 other children (5 in total), and I shamed you again. I further read that you worked at a day-care, and I questioned who would trust you to look after their kids?

So yes, I admit it: I shamed you. I sat behind my keyboard and screen and let the anger flowing within me come out the only way I knew how.

So today, when the social media universe has (somewhat) calmed, and pictures of the majestic Harambe is not flooding my feed as much as it was yesterday, I sit down to think about why I was so angry.

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I have always been an animal lover. I don’t eat meat, although this is not the standard by which an animal lover is measured. I am vocal against soulless trophy hunters who carry out atrocities in the name of sport. I stand up against dog fighting rings by signing petitions for harsher sentences for perpetrators of this heinous crime. I donate to charities that are actually doing something about the rapidly dwindling numbers of rhinos on our planet. I stand outside circuses and protest the use of elephants and lions for entertainment. I write challenging letters to laboratories that carry out terrible experiments on monkeys and beagles.  It’s not nearly enough, but I try to do what I can to ensure the animals entrusted to us on this earth are treated with dignity.

I wanted a scapegoat. And you made an easy target.

So when I heard that Harambe received a bullet to his head, and your son was sent home with a mild concussion and a few bruises, I lost it. I wanted someone to blame. I wanted a scapegoat. And you made an easy target.

But now that my anger is in check, I will admit I was wrong to shame you. In the realm of parenting, there isn’t a single one of us without sin. You made a lapse in judgement, a terrible mistake even, but you do not need to be crucified for that. I know I have made plenty mistakes of my own.

I heard about a toddler in my neighbourhood who drowned in his family pool a few weeks ago. His mom was meters away. The 2 year old just slipped away for a second, and now his distraught mother will live with that guilt for the rest of her life.

I am SO glad that you will not have to live a life of guilt without your son. I assure you, I was never one of those ‘activists’ saying “the kid should have died”. Even when my anger was at its peak, I realised the zoo officials had done what they felt was right.  I am heartbroken that a magnificent gorilla is dead, and that hopes for his species’ survival dwindles even further.

But I know that Harambe’s fate was sealed the moment your little boy entered that enclosure. They executed him for fear he may have harmed your son. And had he actually hurt/killed your boy, he would have been euthanized anyway. It was a horrible, no-win situation.

I will never claim to have the privilege to deem one life more important than another, be it animal or human. All I know is, if that was my child in there, I would have pulled the trigger myself. Because while I love animals deeply and passionately, there isn’t a single animal life I value over my child’s. Come to think of it, there isn’t a human life I value over my child’s either.

So, I’m sorry I shamed you. There are a million things you could have done differently…and I am sure you play them over and over in your head daily since the incident. I can only hope you learn the various lessons to be learnt from this ordeal. I know that it has taught me many lessons myself:

–          I have learned toddlers are sneaky little beasts, who are prone to doing precisely the opposite of what they’re told to do (or NOT to do).

–          I have learned that I need my village. And the next time I think of going anywhere that may be potentially hazardous, I will take along Grandma, Grandpa, Aunt Patti, neighbour Sue and her cousin too. All hands on deck.

–          I’ve learned that accidents happen in the blink of an eye, so I will do my utmost best to pay attention at all times. I will try to stay off my phone and live in the moment.

–          I’ve learned that hindsight makes everyone an expert, so while I read about these tragedies around me, I’ll strive to be better and do better with my own kids.

And finally, I now place the blame where it should have been all along: on the people who think that animals in captivity, for the entertainment of others is acceptable. On Zoos and Seaworlds. On circuses and petting parks.

#EmptyTheTanks #EmptyTheCages #BoycottAnimalCircuses #RIPHarambe

 

Raising Women Who Value Themselves in a Society that Doesn’t

So a recent TWar (that’s Twitter war for those of you who aren’t as hip, happening and generally all-round cool as I am) has broken out between a TV presenter/socialite Lerato Kganyago and South Africa’s True Love Magazine.

It all went down when the magazine released its latest cover, graced by Lerato. The Twitterverse shot back, claiming the TV personality looked completely Photoshopped and unrecognisable. Lerato stepped in to say she was “disappointed” at the cover but still urged fans to go read the ‘beautiful article’ where she spoke openly for the first time about her miscarriage.

True Love Magazine, in one of the most bizarre PR moves ever… decided to release the before and after pictures of Lerato’s cover shoot in an aim to body shame her by subtlety implying that they did her a favour with the heavy-handed Photoshop.

True Love Magazine purports itself as an iconic lifestyle magazine for empowering black women. Not only was their response to their use of Photoshop vile and misconstrued, they entire debacle has drawn focus away from the gist of the article i.e. a woman speaking about her pain and triumph over grief at the loss of a child.

And while the keyboard army focusses on this latest episode of body shaming (which is essentially a type of bullying), I am thinking on a grander scale and wondering if it is possible to teach my Twincesses just how much value they hold in the world that frequently shouts women aren’t good enough.

I sit here thinking of their future, and all the times they may feel the scourge of society’s hatred towards women.


My girls will have to deal with body issues at too young an age: whether it be too fat, too thin, too tall, and too short.

They will deal with teachers (male and female) who will undervalue them and their performance based solely on the fact that they are girls.

They will deal with obnoxious juvenile boys who have learnt from their equally obnoxious dads that girls are the weaker sex.

They will deal with horny teenage guys filled with a sense of entitlement because she wore a skirt to their first date.

They will deal with sexist office jokes and lower salaries for equal responsibility.

They may marry men who feel that chores, cooking and child-rearing duties are the ‘woman’s job’.

I want to lay my head down and weep for my babies. For while these scenarios may be yet imaginary, I realize a heavy burden lies on my shoulders.

I know I have been given the great responsibility to build my girls’ self-esteems in the midst of a society that’s seems to want to tear it down.

So today, I make this promise to myself and to my daughters:

  • I will impart strong values in both of them, teaching them to respect others as they demand respect in turn.
  • I will let them solve problems and make decisions, even at the youngest age to instil a sense of control over their lives.
  • I will teach them to speak up when they feel their needs are being dismissed I will listen to their problems without labelling them as trivial.
  • I will teach them to trust their gut instincts when a situation makes them uncomfortable, and to run when those bad butterflies in their stomach signal something unsafe.
  • I will teach them that their value doesn’t decrease based on someone’s inability to see their worth. She will know that her own, affirming voice is louder than any hater’s.
  • I will teach them their worth will never be based on what they look like and to love themselves, flaws included.
  • I will teach them that it’s ok to make mistakes in love but that they don’t, and never will need a man to complete them.
  • I will encourage them to take risks for people and projects that set their hearts ablaze.
  • I will embolden them to dream big dreams and teach them that they can be and can do whatever they set their mind to.

Above all, I will love them unconditionally so they will know – deep within themselves – that they will always have me, always on their side… NO MATTER WHAT.

In a society where an alarming number of girls (some so young it breaks your heart) are suffering from eating disorders, and turning to self-mutilation and even suicide; the responsibility to raise sound-minded, self-confident girls has never been greater. And while I may want to cry at the state of this world my daughters will grow up in, I will not be crushed under the weight of my responsibility.


Product Review: Joie Stages LX Car Seat

Product Review: Joie Stages LX Car Seat

When South Africa finally introduced the compulsory car seat law for children under 3, I was one of the many parents doing a happy-dance.

With the high rate of fatalities on SA’s roads, the law was long overdue, and very, very welcome.

When the Twincesses were born, we invested in Recaro Young Profi Plus infant car seats, as my research suggested they were of a high safety standard and one of the best on the French market at the time.

Fast forward to 9 months later and the girls were getting a little snug in their car seats. It was time for an upgrade.

After looking at various options, we decided to go with Joie Stages LX.

The beauty of this car seat is that it is designed to grow with the child. We could have saved thousands of Rands if we had discovered the Joie stages before the Twincesses were born, because this car seat can accommodate an infant from birth to 7 years!!!

Yes, you read that correctly: from birth to 7 years.

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The stages falls into the 0+/1/2/ categories, and comes with a newborn insert designed to safely transport the littlest of littles.

The seat can be used rear-facing up until 18kg and then forward facing from 9-25kg, although its strongly recommended to keep your child RF as long as possible.

The Stages has won a slew of design and safety awards, and it noted for its superior side impact security and the Baby Armor steel frame. The thickly padded 5 point safety harness meets all industry standards and the seat has adjustable headrests that again reinforce the philosophy of ‘Grow with the child’.

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The Stages reclines a long way in both the rear and forward facing modes, which was important for me for those long trips when the Twincesses would fall asleep in the car.

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Another little detail that I love is the side pockets that somehow come to hold so many bits and bobs that I never knew I was carrying!

The air holes/vents along the side means that even on Durban’s hottest day, I am confident the Twincesses are cool and comfy in their Stages. The fabric on the Stages LX is plush and is easily wiped clean to ensure those unavoidable spills don’t remain an eyesore.

The prolonged rear-facing option of the Stages made it my number 1 choice, and I couldn’t be happier with this car seat!

 

 

I’ll Find Myself Tomorrow

Today my nails are chipped and in need of a manicure. But the laundry is piling up, the printer needs a new set of ink cartridges and the Twincesses are eager for me to read their new book to them. For the millionth time.

Today I need to get on the treadmill and finally do something about the pregnancy weight I can’t shake. But one twin needs to see a doctor because her snotty nose won’t quit, the plumber is coming by to fix the upstairs toilet, and we’re out of coffee. Again.

Today my hair needs a wash. But the Twincesses are teething, I have an important work deadline to meet, and the groceries must be bought.

Today my eyebrows need a serious waxing. But dinner needs cooking, my manager wants a 1-on-1 meeting and the Twincesses have a vaccine appointment.

Today I need to schedule date night for the sake of our marriage. But the other twin has an ear infection, I need to call our service provider about the sketchy WIFI coverage, and that darn toilet is leaking again!

Today I need to see a doctor about that nagging pain in my right arm. But the cat is AWOL, I need to research some healthy snack ideas for the Twincesses and I need to visit some schools in the area to get them on a waiting list.

Today I need to eat something more substantial than Cheetos. But the ironing heap is officially a mountain, I have a 2 hour conference call for work and Twincesses want to play another round of ‘Ring around the Rosie’

Today I really need to get some sleep. But yesterday’s dishes are still in the sink, the Twincesses hate their dinner and the cat just gifted me a dead rat.

Today I should really find myself, the old Me. The ‘me’ that existed long before I was ‘mom’. The Me that had leisurely showers with the luxury of putting on lotion afterwards. The Me that ate colourful salads for lunch and attended Yoga classes. The Me that got pedicures and massages and slept 8 hours a night.

Today, I’d like to find my old myself, in the midst of the nursery rhymes, the cooking, the appointments and the cleaning. I know she’s in there somewhere…


Today I need to find myself, yet I will have no choice but to give myself away.

You see, I know it will not last forever. One day, sooner than I’d like to think, the sloppy kisses will cease, and the arms that search frantically for ‘mommy’ in the wee hours of the morning will learn to sleep through the night.

The little songs and silly dances we call our own will give way to trips to the mall, and concerts I’ll have no part in.

The baby giggles and clumsy cuddles will evolve into secret jokes with their BFFs.

And when that time comes, I’ll have the endless hours I wished for. My nails will be perfect, my hair will be clean and cut into the latest style. I’ll cook fancy dinners and get promoted at work.

So today, in the throes of the most mundane, menial tasks… I’ll give myself away. I can find myself tomorrow.


 

A letter to the woman who said being a Mom is NOT hard

I read an article the other day that stayed with me a long time, like a bitter aftertaste in my mouth. The author basically word-slapped women who felt that being a mother was hard work. She rebuked moms who have dared to post what she describes as “woeful” Facebook posts, complaining about the difficulties of motherhood and, even went as far as accusing moms of exaggerating their parental difficulties to ensure they aren’t seen as “slacking off”.

She insisted – being a mother isn’t hard. Having cancer? That’s hard. Being a refugee, that’s hard. Waiting for an organ donation, that’s hard.

The final nail in the coffin? The author accused moms who complained about how hard Motherhood was, as the reason that some fathers wouldn’t step up to their parenting duties…after all “who wants to do the hard job?” she reasoned.

I thought about her words for a long time, and finally came up with a response to her absurdity.

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Dear Miss Perfect Mom,

Lately I’ve been doing a whole lot of complaining about how very hard being a Mom actually is.

You see, I’ve been running on empty these past few months. Stretched really, really thin by a new, demanding full-time job; managing an entire household and parenting my Twincesses.

My girls aren’t babies anymore, but they’re not quite toddlers either. They’re mobile, and curious – so they demand a lot of energy. They are teething – miserably, and have been sick, on-and-off for what seems like months now. They are beginning to become VERY fussy eaters. They have well and truly discovered the presence of each other, and this means hitting, pushing and the pulling of hair…which leads to one of them screaming, and the other in need of a teachable moment. They have outgrown one of their daytime naps, so those precious moments afforded to me for cleaning up the house, showering and eating have dwindled. The cherry on top? Both have regressed as night sleepers and are frequently waking up between 2-3 times a night, each. At DIFFERENT times!

So yeah, maybe my attitude has been one of slight defeat, and I admit my Facebook posts may have been just a little bit woeful.

But you know what Miss Perfect Mom who finds parenting an absolute breeze? Being a mother IS hard.

Between the doctors’ visits and tantrums, the challenging mealtimes and the endless nights, I have to disagree with your rainbow-tinted take on motherhood.

Now please lady, before you throw your feminist views my way, please note: I too am a feminist. I believe women can successfully juggle motherhood and a career. But being a feminist doesn’t mean you have to pretend that everything’s peachy and problems don’t exist. Being a feminist doesn’t mean you can’t complain after a bad day, or when you find yourself in a shitty situation.

I think it’s powerful to stand up and say: “Today was a hard day. I need some help”. To me, recognising you need help and asking for it is not weak. On the contrary, it’s quite courageous.

And Miss Perfect Mom, while your children may be perfect little Stepford kids, mine on the other hand are crazy, whiny and very REAL. They pull the cat’s tail, throw biscuits on the floor, cry when they don’t feel like eating Woolies cottage pie and can manoeuvre themselves into contortions Cirque du Soleil would be proud of when I try to change their diapers… They’re real, and they’re demanding. But they’re also sweet, adorable, totally lovable and the very best things about my entire existence.

You see Miss Perfect Mom, what you fail to understand is: saying Motherhood is hard, doesn’t mean you regret it. It certainly doesn’t mean you don’t love your kids. And it doesn’t mean you’d want it any other way.

I firmly believe that Motherhood is indeed both hard and wonderful – sometimes at the same time! It’s filled with ups and downs, phases that come and go like seasons. Today’s hardship may be tomorrow’s victory, and what was seems impossible in the morning, may be conquered by bedtime. Such is the way of Motherhood.

So I implore you Miss Perfect Mom with the Perfect Kids, get on with your perfect little life and let us real mothers get on with ours the way we do best; loving the struggles along the way.