So much has happened in the last month, but I would like to start this update with what has me all fucked up today.
Today, I am triggered.
Today would have been Lyle’s 30th birthday.
I have no feelings about him particularly, but trauma is real and there are memories and feelings that surround this day that I would usually care to suppress into unhealthy knots in my stomach and shoulders, the way I was taught to suppress all negative emotions as a coloured girl from the 90s. It’s my sweet spot.
Regardless this morning amidst my memories of gender based violence and rape and other guilty feelings that accompany those memories, something happened that made me cry.
Let me preface this anecdote with; my son is a sweetheart. I say this fully aware that he is only 9 years old. I am also not clouded by the notion that my children are innocent and perfect. The truth is that kids are mostly sociopaths who haven’t learned empathy yet – and my children have their days of being vile little shits. Regardless, intrinsically, though; my son is very kind and gentle. At least so I assumed.
This morning I drove the kids to school like every morning and the drive was ordinary, unlike the other day (we will get into this in the next segment). Sidney-Jonah is currently doing a project in class that requires him to take recyclable art materials with him, so he was carrying two bags – one on his back, and one across his front. In his right hand, he kept an overly sealed Tupperware of wood glue (my anxiety and OCD teamed up to wrap this bietjie glue in foil, plastic and an extra packet because children shouldn’t play with dangerous shit – and Jonah is the type to stick his hand to his hol by mistake and I don’t think my medical aid covers that sort of thing).
Every morning, I wait outside the gate as he walks his sister to class. He holds her hand (with his right hand).
As I watched them walk in, talking and laughing with each other as they usually do (when they don’t want to fucking kill each other over who drank the last juice and whose turn it is to choose the movie on Netflix), I see Sidney-Jonah’s best friend greet him and Syria at the gate. The three walk to the Grade R area, and almost reach the quad, when a different kid comes and jumps on Sidney-Jonah’s besty, very obviously trying to hurt him or bully him somehow.
The kid forces the three of them to stop in their path, and proceeds to clap his hands in Jonah’s besty’s face.
My brain hadn’t yet computed what was happening, when I saw Jonah let go of his sister’s hand, and while still holding the glue potjie in an upright position, grabbed this laaitie by the throat.
I have never seen my child look so fucking angry before. The bully’s legs literally buckled, and Jonah held tight, choking the child to his knees.
My heart raced wildly as the realisation dawned on me that my son was ready to fight this laaitie to the death.
“Siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiidneeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeey-Joooooonah!!!!” I think the whole goddamn playground turned and looked at me, in the same dress I wore yesterday, stink koek and bek, standing bewildered, shouting at my child.
I promise you, Jonah looked at me, and after releasing his grip on this kid’s neck, he turned to his sister and his besty who had at this point just continued walking to Grade R.
I looked at the bully, who was now on the ground, pulling himself together while another girl-child helped him to his feet. Sidney-Jonah caught up to Syria and his bra and walked with them casually, and took Syria to class. I shouted for him to meet me at the gate for a fucking debriefing. As he made his way, I saw Syria walk to the grade R section of the fence, to come talk to me.
“Mommy, my boeta choked that rude boy”.
“Are you okay?” I asked her, but she looked frazzled. My children have never seen violence up close, so I knew Syria would be shaken by the situation, regardless of who was in the right.
“I’m fine’, she looked teary. Her first brush with masculinity in its rawest form; on the school ground – finding its place – creating the social pyramid.
“Okay baby’, she gave me a smaller wave than usual, and walked back to her classroom. I shouted something about her raffle money, but she didn’t turn back around.
At the middle gate, Jonah and his friend came to see me.
“Guys, what the actual fuck?” I heard myself say. I didn’t want them to see me shaky, so I compensated by being too chilled.
“Aunty Shana, that boy always plays rough with me” Sidney’s friend now took his turn to defend Sidney.
“And you didn’t like that? the way the boy was playing? He isn’t your friend?” I asked, to be sure that my son’s actions were valiant and not unprovoked.
“No, he always bullies me”.
“Okay. Are you guys okay?”
“Yes”, they said in unison.
“That kid is mean, mom. But we’re okay. I handled him”.
“Okay, cool guys. Enjoy your day”.
That was all I could say at that moment. I was both proud that I am raising a defender of the underdog, and terrified that he may not always be the stronger one in every righteous quest.
I am raising a boy – and what that means changed for me today.
My son is developing into the man he will eventually be. And so are the other boys around him.
No matter how much I teach him respect and honour and sensitivity, he is still in a world governed by the opposite, in which he needs to display the other versions of masculinity to survive, and those lines can be blurred so easily.
I find this terrifying.
I cried all the way home. Although, I am not fully sure why I cried.
It was partially pride in the fact that he is a good guy, fear for his safety, a traumatic response to violence, and seeing my child enthralled in it. I have a lot of deep healing to do.
On a different note; a drive to school last week was less ordinary, when at the STOP street, my brand new car, with two of my children inside of it, was rear ended by a bus. A whole bus.
Now, before I discuss the more important parts of this story, I feel I must highlight; “ek hettie geldtie”.
I just renovated and bought a car and I have a family of five in a country that charges r20 for a loaf of bread; a bus denting my car is so inconvenient, that I am not even going to try to save up and fix the damage. This is just how my car is modified now.
Regardless, when the bang launched me forward, chest first into my steering wheel, I checked on my kids, then got out of the car, ready to hit a driver in his poes.
I’m kidding I was calm. At first.
This man looked at me from his seat in the heavens and for the first few seconds, didn’t even de-bus.
He didn’t say sorry, he came down and wouldn’t even give me his name. Many things transpired, but it ended up with me shouting at him, in the middle of Old Strandfontein road that he can at least just say sorry for fucking nearly killing my children.
But after the ordeal, I went about my daily routine, and when I arrived back at 12.30 to fetch rose, I looked down, to see that my clothes had been on inside out … all day… even when people were shouting “Shana Fife” at me in the street.
This is the type of 2020 I have been having.
And this, after a whole month of being very ill.
My STD has resurfaced, and last week, while I laid there in the filth of my youth, Syria decided to make me feel more awkward than I had in a very, very long time.
“Mommy, why do you and daddy like to have sex so much?”