Mar 30, 2012

Just how far are we taking good parenting?

If you did not know, the term helicopter mom is an in vogue term invented for a mom who hovers like a helicopter over her children to see that they do everything right and that they have the best of everything; the best clothes, the best schools, the best tutors, the best everything. The parent means well but is so claustrophobic and unwavering that it does not at all benefit the child in the long run. Yes, you can help the child make up his bed, but if he starts standing one side while you do everything, you have just shown him how to rely on you. And if your two year old child comes to your bed to sleep with you, calm her down but take her back to her room. Explain in ways she can understand that everyone has his own bed to sleep in at night. Don’t encourage sleeping in your bed; you will have a hard time fixing the problem and raise a child who expects things to go her way all the time.

Responsibility important for a child

Hard as this may be to swallow, children need to make mistakes and learn from them. You teach them how to make up the bed, not make up the bed yourself. One of the worst mistakes a helicopter mom can make is to encourage lazy behavior and a demanding individual by doing all the paperwork and submissions to college in the belief that she is helping her child as the application will be accepted. The child does not learn anything from this exercise except that his parents have clout and can get him into university. He does not experience failure, he does not learn responsibility. He will expect that what is allowed to him in his home should be allowed by others also. This is the end result of a helicopter mom’s constant interference.

Old style values

In the forties and fifties you got a wholesome breakfast of porridge or oats with thick cream and fruit. Now our children are eating super brain foods of nuts and seeds and drinking green juice. It is of course good to eat from the earth and the tree and the sea, but are we not going just a little overboard with all this over-parenting? I read somewhere that the state of Georgia provided newborns with a CD called ‘Build your baby’s brain through the power of music’ after researchers claimed to have discovered that listening to Mozart’s music could potentially raise IQ scores by as many as 9 points. Just how high are we on our own supply?

Maintaining safety in the house for toddlers

When you have two and three year old toddlers climbing up on cupboards and running up and down stairs, especially if they are active, you have to make sure that there are safety measures in place. A child who tries to climb up on something to reach the cookies on the shelf will hurt himself if he falls. One has to have eyes in the back and the front of one’s head to constantly see what they are doing. My daughter who has two toddlers, both girls, and who does everything right when it comes to her kids – my grandchildren – has a great system in place.

Keeping toddlers safe

When Ameera was nine months old, my daughter had a great part of the living room cordoned off with plastic fencing and rubber flooring to accommodate a fairy tale world for toddlers to have their own little stove – made of plastic – children’s table, washing machine, soft toys, hard toys, muppets and puppets and educational toys. When her two year old toddler is finished eating, she can find a dozen fun and educational things to do by herself. She is occupied and happy and her parents do not have to worry much about her. There are, however, things in the house that require a special safety check to protect toddlers from harm:

• Have safety covers on all electrical outlets. A child can easily stick a finger or something in it and receive an electrical shock. It is surprising how many parents with toddlers overlook this.

• Have a smoke or carbon monoxide detector in the house in the event of an emergency or a fire.

• Have a gate at the bottom of the stairs so they do not go upstairs when no one is there.

• Have slippery child proof covers fitted on the door knobs so they cannot open the doors.

• Keep chairs out of the way for them not to climb on.

• Be careful of bunk beds for someone as young as two. You want the child to be as close to the floor as possible.

• Have a plastic shield fitted to the front of the stove – they’re common in North America – if you have a child whose head is at the same height of a gas stove and she has big hair. This kind of accident has happened before.

• When going out, make sure you have the right car seat, that it faces the right way, and accommodates the right weight.

• Toddlers have many ways of reacting to potty training and while some of them are cute and funny, it is messy work.

Mar 29, 2012

Should you leave your toddler in the care of your ten year old?

Whether your ten year old is smart, brave, quick to react, it is just plain foolish to go out shopping and leaving a pre-teen in charge of things. Anything can happen. Your toddler can swallow something he should not, he could hurt himself, he can reach into dangerous things, he might fall from his crib; anything. It will first of all be a traumatic experience for your child should something happen to him or the baby and your ten year old is not equipped if a stranger should knock on the door and he is faced with a possible intruder. A child that age can dial 911, but he should not be placed in such a position – and can he react when there’s an intruder in the house? And should he be given that responsibility? He is not old enough to be a baby sitter and should not be placed in a situation where he is responsible for a toddler for two or three hours while you go out. And what is the legal age for a baby sitter? The answer is that there is not a lot of information about it; some states have a legal age of thirteen, and some states do not.

Responsible teens

Having said that an appropriate age does not mean that the babysitter is necessarily equipped and in fact there might be younger teens who are quite responsible and who have helped with siblings in the past. Here are some good ways to judge whether a teen is the right person to look after your children while you are out.

• Is your teen responsible and has she looked after siblings or other people’s children before?

• Can she apply CPR if there is an emergency situation and she cannot wait for the ambulance if a child is choking?

• Does she stay glued to the television or play computer games while she is supposed to look after the children?

• Does she know how to care for a toddler? Some ten year olds are very responsible and can help, but are you using good judgment? What if something happens? Looking after the house is a big responsibility for a child. Someone might play with matches and cause a fire, or the baby can fall into the bath.

• Does she know never to shake a baby who is crying no matter how angry or tired she may be?

• Does she have your names, the address of the house and the telephone numbers?

• Has she helped out before? It is up in the air whether a child under twelve should babysit unless they have helped parents who need help with the kids when they are home.

A good way to get a sitter is if you have a trusted friend with children and you can have the kids take turns doing a babysitting job – provided these kids have babysat before and shown good judgment. Test your children with the babysitter. See how they react when she is around.

Great birthday party ideas for three year old toddlers

My daughter who lives in New Jersey has two little girls; Ameera, three years and two year old Zara. She is friends with moms her own age with little ones and always tries for something innovative and fun for the kids. The group of moms discusses parenting and always come up with surprises. In the previous two years when Ameera and Zara were still learning to walk, they would invite the moms with their toddlers to a party held at MacDonalds where the kids could jump around on the props and the parents could watch. This year she wanted a more intimate party at the house and wanted both fun for the kids and economy. She came up with a great idea.

Cultural benefits

It was interesting for me to compare the American way of doing things and the South African. In South Africa a birthday party is a big affair. Entire families come over for lunch and at four in the afternoon bring out the truffles, puddings, trifles, cakes, and of course the special birthday cake which has a number on it. The family all bring gifts and the kids run around the house and play. Kids learn to have fun together and more importantly, can keep themselves occupied. There are no organized games and it is not all about the birthday boy or the birthday girl. It is a celebration for everyone. The party lasts from lunch time to way beyond supper and everyone reports that they have had a good time and the children are worn out from all the fun and that night go easily to bed.

Toddler treats

In America, my daughter, married to Dirty DJ Harry came up with a great party idea for the kids. She invited ten moms with their little ones to the party, and in addition to all the traditional party hats and games she bought ten baking kits with rolling pins, cookie pans and utensils for children, and gave each of them dough to cut out cookies and to bake whatever they wanted. The kids loved it. There was mayhem in the kitchen as they worked happily at the table getting flour on their hands and face and seeing the end result of the experience as moms monitored the oven to bake everything. The kids had great fun, as well as learning something new. The moms too had fun as they watched how the kids enjoyed themselves. When the party was over everyone got a little loop bag to take home their cakes and sweets.

Mar 28, 2012

Protect your kids from child molesters

Did you know that according to www.Sex-Offenders.US a child is molested every four seconds and that molesters know their victims and try to buy houses near schools and parks where there are children they can approach? They blend in with the background and even talk to children long before they strike so that the child can feel comfortable in their presence. Some stalk children for months and the children know them well when they finally make a mistake to get into that vehicle. Children have been taught to be kind to strangers and so they think they know the perpetrator, and go along to look for the dog which is supposedly missing.

Pedophiles in the neighborhood

There is nothing redeemable about a pedophile or a kidnapper; they have no conscience, no remorse, they have one goal only; an irresistible urge to have sex with the child. According to statistics by the time they reach your child they would have molested about 260 victims during their lifetime. And here is the rub; a pedophile can be convicted over and over again for the same offense and come and live in your neighborhood again after he has served out his sentence.

Your only way to protect your children is to have a serious talk with them and apprise them of what can happen to an innocent child when he gets into the car of a stranger or the car of someone he does not know. They are your children; you cannot afford for them not to know. It is your duty to teach them the danger of talking to strangers and getting into strange people’s vehicles. If someone you don’t know asks you to get into the car, you don’t. You run away as fast as you can; even if it is a woman asking you to get in. In Canada years ago there was a husband and wife child molesting team driving around the neighborhood looking for someone they can molest. They stopped for a girl supposedly looking for directions, and took the girl to their house, raped her, drugged her, took photographs, and eventually killed her. One has to be as aware of female predators as one would be with males. The most serious repeat offenders show early signs of strange behavior.

• Don’t let your children open the door of the house when nobody else is home; in fact do not let your child be on his own unless he is old enough.

• Don’t leave your children with a babysitter who is the same age as the children.

• Never send your young child on his or her own to the shop.

• Teach your children how to use the alarm.

• Teach them not to get into anyone’s car, not even the uncle.

Give your child a whistle and tell him or her to carry it in the schoolbag and use it when someone wants you to get into the car to give them directions. According to a report there are about 400,000 sex offenders in the United States. Protect your family by educating your children on the dangers of strangers luring you to come with them.

Mar 27, 2012

Dealing with a long distance relationship

Are you in a relationship where you go frequently on business trips and a lot of time is spent on the road and apart? Do you fear that your long distance relationship will suffer one too many bumps in that your wife will get bored and that she will meet someone else? It is not unusual to be concerned and not easy when one of you lives in one state and the other lives in another or one of you is away on business all the time. If the trip is an overnight one and he is back the following day, it is all right. If it is something that happens two or three times every week it might cause problems if you are not on the same page about the absences and you end up being responsible for everything at home. Ease the strain by employing some of the following.

Tips for long distance relationships

• Call your wife or partner from wherever you are at least once a day to keep in touch and find out what is going on at home.

• Send a ‘thinking-of-you’ message to your wife so that she knows she is not alone in the marriage.

• Bring her back something nice from the trip to show how much you care about the way she always understands.

• Try to celebrate her birthday by not being out of town and to thank her for looking so well after the children while you are away.

• Try to spend all your weekends at home so that you have several days in a row with the children.

• Don’t change the children’s activities when you are at home although you still want to spend quality time with them.

• While your mate is absent keep in touch via telephone, email, or Skype. Surprisingly, these methods of communication work very well to keep the home fires burning and are a blessing for long distance relationships.

A long distance relationship can work if you have a plan and an understanding between you. Keep in mind if your overnight trips are glamorous and provide nights out with the boys, that she is alone with the kids and waiting for you. Relationships that are nurtured work better than those that are allowed to stagnate on their own.

Mar 26, 2012

Can you live without friendship

Friendship can never be outgrown unless you allow it to dry up and draw seed and it is forever lost in the wind. Friendship has to be nurtured – kept alive with postcards and phone calls, emails and little gifts throughout the year. I am talking about the kind of friendship where you can pop up out of the blue after having been married or on vacation or working in the African bush for half a century, and able to pick up after all that time and carry on again.

Different kinds of friendships

• The snapshot friendship which is a hi and bye kind of acquaintance relationship;

• The office friends who go out with you and discuss things in the workplace;

• The spiritual friendship you have with someone you go to church, mosque or synagogue with,

• The rat pack friendship you have with three or four girls where you go out and party together and have each others backs.

• The best friend at high school you got into trouble with, and that you were friends with throughout the years, even throughout marriage and divorce,

• The friendship you have with women at religious meetings or book clubs,

• The friend that stood with you in the divorce court queue to fight for custody of the kids, helped you out when you were broke, watched you cry as your daughter was hooked up to lifesaving equipment, knows all your secrets and even some your partner did not know of,

• The friend who is there for you 24/7 who will get out of bed in the middle of the night to come and turn off the water that has started to leak from the geyser,

• At the top of the list is the friend who not only knows you better than anyone, but a friend with whom you have a strong emotional connection. You can talk about anything and everything and know your privacy will be protected as the friendship is based on respect and love. A strong emotional tie with someone of the opposite sex is sometimes stronger than physical love relationships.

Parenting a child with dark moods

Is your four year old a quiet little boy who spends most of his time alone and is preoccupied with dissecting frogs or hurting the kitten or dog? Have you seen him perpetrate an evil act against another child? Have you been to a doctor about it and do you have a gut feeling that what he is doing is strange and unusual? Trust your instinct. A parent knows instinctively when something is wrong. Your sister has children and her children aren’t like that; they play with other children and have the usual playmates. We have also seen films where children indulge in strange behavior and are called bad seeds no one wants to play with. Would your child push another child off a high ledge?

Not normal behavior

Just as you would take a sick child or one who has an infection to a doctor, you should make an appointment with a child psychologist to see if something is the matter with him. We have had several examples of child killers who have indulged in strange behavior with other children and who have also swung cats against the wall, kept a dead body in a fridge, or disemboweled his or her own pet. This is not normal behavior and should be taken seriously and investigated. No one wants to believe that someone can be that evil but history has shown that debauchery and crimes against children are alive and well everywhere in the world. No one wants it to be their child, but the reality is there for all of us. We can’t blame the child if his wiring is faulty and he needs psychotherapy, but we can do something by telling a family member who is in denial that the child needs to be examined by a doctor and seen to.

Signs to watch out for

• The child has no friends and does not even play with his sister.
• He is preoccupied with lizards and mice which he keeps in his room and eventually dissects.
• He is afraid of children getting too close to him.
• He wards off friendships with other children.
• He is secretive and evasive and displays no love and affection towards his siblings.
• His mother is afraid to chastise him or say anything and the family lives in fear and disbelief.
• He locks his bedroom so no one can enter.

That is not to say that every child who is broody and a little strange is a killer in the making, but it is better to err on the side of safety. You will satisfy your own mind and also protect the rest of the family by seeking professional help and sticking with the therapy for as long as it is necessary.

Mar 25, 2012

You love the dog more than you love me

Are you dating a man who gets up at six every morning to take his dog for a walk, have special towels for the dog, had a water-proofed wooden house built for him, lets him sleep in the sun room if there is too much sun, and constantly shakes and airs out his bedding? Is he such a dog fanatic that he lavishes more private time on the dog than on you? We all know such a person; women who fuss and dress up their little long-haired canine snappers and men who are constantly at the vet checking out the best food for their Alsatians and Boerbools. For a dog lover such as this, it may seem that he loves the dog more than he does his partner, but really it is not so.

Is there a tinge of jealousy?

Men who love their dogs do not purposely set out to hurt the feelings of others. In fact, a person who loves animals will not ill-treat living beings. Only a compassionate dog lover will go all out to see that his dog has the best care, the best food, the best exercise and the best natural supplements. Think about it for a moment. Are you really concerned about the attention your partner gives to his dog? Do you want him to spend more time with you? If so, turn things around by participating in some of their activities. Going for a walk with the dog is fun and refreshing and you have a chance to talk. You can also make an effort to interact with the dog. When your partner sees your interest in his dog he will be happy and think of more activities for the three of you. Do more fun things with the dog on your own to really get your mate’s attention.

He still sees his ex on the side

Maintaining a good relationship with your man is hard work and it is difficult enough to repair cracks in the courtship, but it is especially painful for you that whenever his ex-lover calls for one thing or another, he drops everything to go and see her. It does not matter what time of the day or night it is, if the rubber washer on the tap becomes faulty or she needs to talk to him, he is off. You believe him when he says the other woman is just like a sister to him now, but you don’t need another sister and do not need an extra person in your relationship; a couple means two.

What women want from a man

Most women will tell you that they are in a relationship because of the intimacy it affords them and that for them it is not just about sex. A woman wants a strong man in her life; one who can protect her and make her feel safe and one who can discuss all his innermost feelings with her. This is her domain, not the domain of an ex girlfriend. An ex-girlfriend must know her place. If it happened once, that’s okay; if it becomes a habit, it is not acceptable. And your lover must know this. An emotional relationship is far more dangerous than just a casual exchange of bodily fluids.

Remedying the situation

This need not be a difficult task if you handle it well; there are enough books on dating and relationships that you can check out to give you some ideas. The most important thing, however, is to approach the discussion you will have with dignity and without being accusatory. Tell your lover that you cannot play the third wheel in your courtship and that it is not a bad thing to tell his ex girlfriend that she should not come between them. These are jungle tactics where the male lion roars and all the females do his bidding. Roar back. Tell him that you absolutely believe that he is just friends with the other woman, but that his allegiance is with her and not someone he has broken up with. Buy her a special gift and give it to her over dinner.

Mar 21, 2012

Internet-speak for idiots

The thing I love most about writing and blogging on the internet is that I love the challenge, the different ways to make money, and burning the midnight oil to finish an article. The thing I detest about this new online way of working is all the technological terms, that no one explains to you how to do things or show you in person. There is no personal contact and for a job where you have to know how to upload sites, add blogs and post links, it is all a little frustrating. For a person who wants to get down to the business of writing, it takes a long time to really understand how AdSense works, how to get traffic, what to do with the links and so on.

More articles equal more traffic and more money

For instance, ask anyone outside of this industry what a newbie or AdSense means, they couldn’t tell you. Assignments and tasks should be easy explained. If at the top of an article it states that you pay $4 an article, it should not state $2 at the bottom of the article. Times have changed in the workplace since the boss dictated to his typist and she could stop and ask questions when she did not understand, or had missed a word, or wanted to check a spelling. With online writing, deadlines, and monitored work we are fast becoming an assembly line of robots. Here are some aspects of online writing that bloggers and employers might benefit from.

Clarity of instruction

• Don’t take for granted that a writer who is commissioned to do an article on a certain subject or one outside of his or her expertise knows the language of that particular field. Every occupation has its own language and computer speak is one of them.

• When you employ writers it might be a good idea to give them a booklet in hard copy they can refer to for computer actions and SEO talk.

• Besides frequently asked questions and live chat, have a blog on the common things writers need to know about. If someone applies for an online writing job and on her first day finds out she has to spin articles, post the blogs, and a whole lot of technical things, it is not fair to her and you can potentially lose a writer.

• Be clearer with your instructions. We are getting our tasks and assignments online. We don’t have tutors who can show and explain things to us. Technology changes all the time and so too people have to be educated and clearly kept up to date.

• It frustrates writers when they have to stop writing to figure out an instruction they cannot get right. Was there a school for computer boffins growing out there while I remained glued to my laptop? Don’t get me wrong. I love the competition, the work and the buzz. I just freeze when I have to do any technical stuff. Clarity and patience is all a writer wants.


The Semites

What happens when a Jewish son brings home a Muslim girl and tells his parents he wants to marry her? There’s a kind of war that immediately starts up and the family on both sides respond likewise. As a Muslim myself I know the reasons parents of the couple would not like that to happen. Marriage is hard enough when there are no problems; it is doubly so when you mix faiths. But the Muslim and Jewish faiths are brother and sister faiths, you say; they are both desert religions, they are both Semites, they are both people who worship an Unseen God and despise idolatry, they are both named the People of the Book in the Qur’an; and they both have Moses, Muhamad, Jesus and other prophets in common. What then is the problem?

Firm identity crucial

Having been involved with a Jewish man myself when I was young, it was hard for me to accept. I understood it from a rational point of view, but my heart did not accept it especially as I was dating a man out of my faith and was looking for someone to agree with me that it will not affect our relationship. I was wrong. I was reminded by everyone that you just cannot change your faith and that the man’s Jewish family would feel the same way. Then my psychologist said something to me in one of our sessions in the nineties, ‘Rayda, when a child reaches three or four he must have an identity; he must know who he is – what place of worship he is going to. Is he going to church, the temple, the synagogue or the mosque? Where are you going to take him? Are you going to wait to make that decision when you’re older?’ It was something I could not argue against and words I never forgot. And ironic too, for my psychologist is Jewish and always gave me the best advice.

Importance of having a faith

Having a faith is an important thing for a child. It’s his starting point for all that he will learn, do and become. It is one thing you should never try and talk someone out of; everyone needs God in his life whether you are Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Hindu or Hare Krishna. To tamper with someone’s faith is akin to throwing him out in the wilderness. Years later I met an old Indian man who was spending two weeks in Cape Town after heart surgery and we talked. He said something that night that stayed with me. ‘Marriage is a strange thing, he said. It is a chance you take with someone to live a life together. What I’m scratching my head about is how you will be compatible. What do you have in common? A fish cannot make his home with a bird. For a marriage to work you have to be compatible. And I don’t see compatibility here.’ The answer relieved me as I take an interest in the good teachings of all faiths. And yes, I sometimes go to the Hare Krishna Temple on Sunday afternoons; I love the chanting and the dancing and the selflessness of the Hare Krishnas. Whether we chant 109 times, say prayers five times a day, or talk to God while we are driving, we are all invested in wanting His Love. There are no favorites with God, and no one religion owns Him. As far as changing faiths, there’s an old saying that goes something like this: don’t tamper with a man’s faith unless you have a big net under him.

Dealing with an obnoxious young adult

Do you have a teenage son who’s a bully, is mean to his younger brother and sister and is even rude to you? Does he swear at you and stand up to his father and kick things around the house? Is everyone in the home afraid of him and avoids him? If there is a father in the home the two of you have to sit down and decide what to do and then carry it out. If your son is mean and hurts his siblings and everyone is afraid of him, it’s time to take matters in hand. If you don’t you will all be at the mercy of an eighteen year old tyrant; and it is not his house, it’s yours.

Practice tough love and stick to the plan

There is tough love and there is tough love with allowances. This is not the latter. This is no-holds barred ‘getting your kid to face up to his obnoxiousness, stop his abusive behavior, and become a useful, participating member of the family. If he is not interested in changing, the worst thing you can do is sweep it under the carpet until the next time an explosion erupts. Suggest that you all see a family counselor and discuss what is going on, when the behavior started, what was done about it. Be firm in expressing what you want; do not act like someone who is afraid. Tell him straight out what the consequences will be if he does not obey.

If he tells you to go to hell and that he is not interested in someone else’s advice, you and your husband both sit down with him. Let the husband do the talking; if the husband does not think his son is rude and laughs at his obnoxious behavior, you know that this will be an uphill battle but one that you will have to win. It does not take a genius to know that your husband is part of the problem and that he has been a bad role model for his son and this necessitates even more the reason for a consultation. Here are some ways to deal with your son if he refuses all your efforts for rehabilitation.

• Do not give him an allowance; anyone with a big mouth and who is rude to his parents has no need for a family and can move out.

• Take back the house and car keys.

• Tell him that if he does not come with you to see a family counselor that you will go to the police station and report his abusive behavior.

• Ask for an officer to show him the inside of a jail and a chance to meet some of the inmates who will be only too glad to give him a lesson in humility.

• Tell him to stay away from the other kids and not to hang about the school grounds. Bad news travels fast and you don’t want to embarrass your other kids
• Tell him you still love him, but you have other children too and they need your attention.

• Tell him the door is open if he wants to come back and earnestly become a member of the family which comes with rules and regulations.

Mar 20, 2012

Who is in charge - the parents or the kids?

I can understand why some parents are forced to get nannies; they just do not have a clue how to raise kids. Some kids are precocious and will test you. Others take rudeness to a new level and the parents do nothing about it. They have screamed so much at their children, they don’t know how to parent. On a program I watched recently on Dr Phil three toddlers had taken over the house with shouting and screaming and throwing things around the kitchen and living room. I watched in amazement how the oldest boy, five years old was crying and refused to do what he was told. He already had a broken arm from a previous fight, and absolutely had no control over his behavior. The nanny would suggest one thing and the parents would say another. It didn’t take long to see what the problem was; the father. Instead of helping the children calm down and being nice to his wife, he made snide remarks and told her this was happening on her guard, and she was to blame. In the middle of all this mayhem he was defending himself and she just sat down and cried.

Figure of authority

The first thing that had to be done was obvious to everyone. The parents had to be taught how to be parents first before they could parent their own children. They did not know how to set boundaries. They did not see through a time-out or a punishment. They gave in to the kids at all times and the kids ran the house. The nanny succeeded because she would say something and mean it. She would tell the kids in a firm voice that they had to sit at the table and eat their food without fighting or interruption. She would open her bag of tricks and take out the timer which would measure their time-outs. If the child did not complete his three-minute time-out and came out of the room, two more minutes would be added to it. Of course, the nanny was a strapping lass from yonder meadows and just the sound of her voice would get you hopping. The most amazing nanny tool she had was how she spoke to the children. The kids would have kinder feelings towards her than to their own parents.

Raise your kids for others

One should not have to rely on others or a bag of tricks to parent our kids. First, it does not say much about the parents and shows that they are weak, and second, children who are rude and unmannerly at this age will be a lot worse when they are teens. Remember parents, you are raising your kids for other people’s kids. What kind of grand kids do you want – the same rude and out of hand kids that you had? It is not the fault of the children when they act out. They need listening to. They need respect. They don’t have direction. They don’t know whether it is mom or dad they should listen to. The first step for this couple would be to see a marriage counselor. They are just not any good for their kids if they don’t go for counseling themselves. Instead of shouting at them, teach them to be productive human beings.

Mayhem in the desert

And there was God in a furl of cloud and mist nodding at the tasks ahead when He saw Abraham in the distance trying to light a fire. A wind lifted Abraham’s robes and he came up with the baby Ishmael in the crook of his arm. He greeted God by lowering his head and waited for God to speak first.
“What are you doing, Abraham?”
“Oh my Lord, I was trying to please you, but I can’t get the fire lit.”
God looked at him curiously. “The fire lit?”
“Remember, my Lord? You told me to-“
“No, no, Abraham, you misunderstood. I was just testing you, to see if you would obey me. A God that loves his creation would not ask anyone, not even his enemy, to sacrifice his child. Do you know what people would say if you told them that a voice had told you to put your infant on a stake? They would laugh at you, and I would not like that to happen. You are Abraham, the Preacher, first to believe in the One God. You chastised your own father for believing in the moon and the stars. You were the first to destroy the idols people believed in. You are Abraham the Idol Smasher.”
“Thank you, Lord.” Abraham stood humbled before God. “I won’t take up any more of your time.”
“Just one moment, Abraham. I meant to ask you this question long ago. That whole thing with Hagar and the baby, looking for water in the desert. I never understood that; why she was there on her own.”
Abraham blushed and lowered his head.
“Was it Sara who made you do that?”
Abraham stood silent.
“Was she jealous and told you to leave your second wife?”
“I fear that I might say the wrong thing, my Lord.”
“You are not one for gossiping, Abraham. I will accept that you have learned a lesson from that. Every year three million people come to the holy house in Mecca to see this place where Hagar had wandered by herself looking for water for Ishmael, and to walk in her footsteps seven times between the two hills.”
Abraham said nothing.
“You are excused, Abraham.”
Abraham greeted Him and turned to leave. Just then the mist shifted and God spotted Jesus with Mary Magdalene talking to people in the street. God watched for a minute. He had an immense love for this Messenger with the long hair. Jesus was the Quiet One, the Mystic. His disposition and good deeds said more about who he was than words could explain. When he saw God watching him, Jesus bowed his head in respect.
“What are you doing out at this hour, my beloved. It is the Sabbath.”
“Mary and I are trying to clean up the streets of Nazareth. But first we have somewhere to go.”
“The last time I saw you, you were heading for the land at the tip of the continent. Any luck with the people there?”
“Not much, my Lord. The people are angry. They say they have suffered enough under the people with the milky complexions. There’s a long-standing feud between them and the alabaster blacks. I say alabaster black, my Lord, because there are also the brown skins who feel they’ve always come second to everyone. They are almost regretting that Mandela has come out of prison, as they now have to put up with the ineptitude of a fat cat who knows how to dance and indulge in polygamous activity, but is a complete dunce when it comes to running a country. They think me a crazy pale face to come and live in amongst them.”
“They will, yes. Transformation takes times; it must take place in the heart first, and you are my best candidate for the job. People love you, beloved. Many of them have changed their ways after listening to the words I have put in your mouth. But there is a plan, and there will be a reckoning. They must heed the signs.”
Out of nowhere a man appeared and asked God permission to speak. God told him to go ahead.
“My Lord,” the man started, speaking softy so only God would hear, “did you know that the woman with Jesus is a prostitute?”
“Who are you?” God asked.
“I’m a born-again Christian. I was a scoundrel before, but I’ve been saved. I follow the true way.”
“The true way?” God asked. “Explain.”
“I believe in You as the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.”
“Isn’t that the rumor started in the year 325 when the Emperor Constantine came up with a new doctrine to appease the Romans, and said that I, Almighty God, was three-in-one?”
“I think it is, my Lord. He was under pressure, they say, and just grabbed at anything.”
A cool breeze swept over the desert, and the man shivered as God spoke.
“That is the problem with my flock. They don’t know who I am. I am not a three-headed god, or three gods in one. I am your Lord, the One God, there shall be no other God but I. Those who believe in the Word will have peace in the grave. Now what is your question of me?”
The man cringed and looked down at his feet. “I just wanted to know if it was allowed to befriend a prostitute, my Lord – to be in the company of someone like that.”
“How do you know she is a prostitute? Were you there?”
“Where there, my Lord?”
“There – where you saw the act take place.”
The man lowered his eyes. “No, my Lord, I have not seen it with my own eyes, but I have heard about her.”
The sky rumbled in the distance, and the ground shook beneath their feet. “This is man’s greatest weakness; idle gossip, repeating stories, taking pleasure from other people’s pain. Listen to me, forget that old saying about people in glass houses throwing stones; you’ve convicted someone without proof. You are not a follower. When you have four witnesses who have witnessed the act, you can speak. And even then it is not your business. Your business is to sweep your own backyard with a big enough broom to keep it clean.”
The man retreated in shame. There was a clip-clopping of hooves coming towards them. It was God’s last Messenger, Muhamad Mustapha, the son of Amina, in white robes and a black cloak galloping up on his white horse Burak. The prophet got off his horse and prostrated himself before God.
“Peace and greetings, my Lord.”
“Peace be upon you, Muhamad. It looks like you are on a mission.”
“I’m looking for Moses, my Lord. We’re supposed to go to the oasis where a crowd of people are waiting to hear the answer as to how many times a day they should pray. Fifty times a day is too much, Moses says. He said I should ask Almighty God to reduce the number.”
God listened. He had a special fondness for this last prophet who had been an orphan and now cared for orphans in the same way.
“Perhaps you are right, Muhamad. The world is getting busier. People have many things to do. I will reduce the number to five.”
Muhamad coughed.
“Is something wrong, Muhamad?”
“No, my Lord.”
Moses arrived with a stone tablet on which the Ten Commandments had been burnt. He looked at Muhamad’s face which looked crest-fallen; he had caught some of the conversation, and cleared his throat to speak.
“My Lord,” Moses said to God, “it is none of my business and not for me to say, but five times a day is still too much. I know the Arabs. They will not stick to the plan.”
Hearing this, Muhamad blushed deeply. He loved Moses; he was a good leader, but sometimes Moses forgot that he was speaking to God.
“It is all right, Moses,” Muhamad said. “I will deliver the message to the Muslims. They will obey.”
“And the ones who don’t obey – what will you do?” Moses asked
“I will be with them until they see the value in prayer.”
Jesus who had been silent during the whole discourse asked if he could be excused. He and Mary Magdalene had to visit the house of a blind man who had lost his wife, and wanted to see how he could help.
“And you, Moses?” Muhamad asked. “Are you not coming with me? I could use your support.”
Moses leaned on the staff that he had used to separate the Red Sea. “Something came up, not today, brother,” Moses said. “I have a line of people spanning the desert waiting for me to lead them out of Egypt. I just wanted to make sure you asked Almighty God about the prayers.”
“What about the people waiting for us at the oasis? They are expecting you.”
“You will handle it, Muhamad. You are the unlettered prophet. The words will come to you.” Moses turned slightly so God wouldn’t hear what he had to say. “Ask God one more time to reduce the number of prayers.”
“I heard that Moses,” God said. “Have you forgotten that I see and hear everything?”
“I have not forgotten anything, my Lord.”
God smiled benevolently. “You see, Muhamad, this is my thinking on the matter of prayer. If a man or a woman takes a few minutes five times a day to reflect on his deeds and keep in contact with me, he is less likely to commit sin. A man who comes from the church or the mosque is not thinking of wrongdoing; he would not have gone otherwise. And the prayers are not for my benefit. I don’t need prayers. The prayers are for you, to keep me in mind. A man who knows the difference between right and wrong will know that temptation can lead you along the wrong path. Talking to me regularly every day keeps you safe.”
“Does this apply to women too, my Lord,” Muhamad asked.
“Prayer is incumbent upon everyone, but a woman need not pray when she has her monthly bleed, or has given birth. All of you are exempt from prayer if you are sick and unable to do it.”
Adam came upon the scene, looking terribly guilty about something. “My Lord, a terrible thing has happened.”
Adam couldn’t look directly at God. “Eve ate a piece of the apple you asked us not to touch and she is terribly sick.”
A knot of wind stirred the dust under their feet. “I asked you one thing not to do, and you did it. I gave you everything, all that you desired. I told you the punishment for doing such a thing.”
Adam prostrated himself before God. “Forgive us, Lord.”
“Us? You ate of the apple too?”
Adam remained with his head on the ground.
“You have disobeyed me, Adam. You and Eve will be banished to earth. You will spend your life there amongst the wicked, the greedy and the arrogant until you are ready to be brought back to me. Now get up. You are in the presence of Moses and Muhamad. They have been involved in spreading goodwill and helping the poor and the destitute while you have abused my generosity.”
Just then a cold wind touched Adam’s cheek, and he shivered. There was a derisive laugh, loud and vainglorious. An angel with huge wings appeared.
“Hah! I told you I would get you to eat the apple.”
“I did not eat of the apple because of you, Satan.”
“Oh yes, you did. I made Eve enchant you. I have won.”
“Behave Iblis,” God roared. “And bow before your prophet, Adam, and apologize.”
“I will not,” Iblis said. “I refuse to lower my head to a man who was born after me.”
Moses, the lawman, could not bear such disrespect and could not contain himself. “Prostrate yourself before your Lord.”
“You do not have to defend me, Moses. I know Iblis. He is lonely and lost and a necessary evil to show up the weakness in man. Now again I tell you, Satan, acknowledge your prophet or I will destroy you. You are a fallen angel. You can be annihilated with a whisper of breath.”
With that Satan spread out his wings with such force that Muhamad fell up against Moses who caught him in his arms. “I promise I will mislead man until the end of time,” and with that Iblis was gone.
For a moment no one spoke. God noticed the dust rise up in the distance. “Go now to your daily prayers. Then talk to the people about what I have told you. There’re a few hundred of them coming this way.”
“They are anxious for your ruling, my Lord. Five times a day then is the absolute minimum?”
“Five times, my beloved prophet. And you, Adam, go back to Eve and tell her the news. Take off that ridiculous leaf. Your time here is over. You will leave paradise.”
Moses stepped forward. “Can I leave now, my Lord, before the people arrive?”
“Yes. And I hear Jonah is in the area. Don’t ask him to go with you to the Sea of Galilee. And don’t talk about it. He’s got water issues now.”
Moses stifled a laugh. “Thank you, my Lord. We’ll be on our way.”
“Go then. Hurry and perform your ablutions. I need a few quiet moments. In one part of the world there are people starving due to man’s selfishness, and in another part of the world there are nations rising up against each other. Just in the past few days I have had to deal with a mountainous water attack that wiped out part of the land. Still, people do not heed the signs. They see only with their eyes.”
Later that evening, after prayers, the lanterns were lit and the camels were resting beside their masters who waited anxiously for the prophet Muhamad to deliver the news. But before the prophet could utter a word a woman, chased by a man, ran up to the prophet and kneeled before him, crying, clutching her infant to her chest. The prophet enquired what was wrong. Before she could lift herself up and speak, she was interrupted.
“My sister is evil! Her husband has died in the Battle of Uhud and I found her with a man in the house!’ He was so livid his face was red and the spit flew from his mouth.
“What was the man doing in the house? Perhaps he was an uncle.”
“He was there to make zinnah. I arrived at the house in time.” He went on and on. The prophet listened, waiting for him to run out of steam. He turned to the woman almost clutching at his feet.
“What is your side of the story?”
The woman looked up at him with tears in her eyes. “Rasululah, my brother is speaking the truth. There was a man in the house. He was waiting for my brother to come home. I lost my husband six months ago. The man offered me a home and offered to be the father of my child. We were waiting for my brother to discuss the marriage with him.”
The prophet turned to the brother who looked back at him in astonishment.
“Where is this man?” the prophet asked.
“He is in the crowd, afraid of my brother.”
“No one will touch him. Bring him here.”
The man stepped forward from the crowd and addressed the prophet with the utmost respect. He waited for the prophet to speak.
“It is true you want to marry this woman?”
“Yes, Rasululah. I have a child also who needs a mother. And we are both poor. We can struggle together.”
“Yes. That will keep you busy for a good many years. You know how to treat a woman?”
“I do not know very much. My wife died when she gave birth.”
“You cannot hit a woman, no matter how angry you are. And a woman can make you angry. You cannot force yourself on her when she is bleeding or has just given birth. A woman is not a possession. She is entitled to keep her name and keep her own property.” The prophet looked at the brother. “Speak to your sister and give her your blessing. He is a good man.”
The onlookers watched in astonishment. They had never witnessed such kindness to a woman. One of the men in the crowd asked if this was by the Will of the Prophet.
“It is by the Will of God. I am but God’s Messenger.”
The prophet blessed the couple and performed the nikkah. The man took the baby from her and walked up to his sister who was also holding a baby, and carried both infants in his arms.
The women in the crowd clapped. The prophet looked at them kindly. “Kindness does not need applause. Be kind to all, but be especially kind to those you don’t know.”
Another man stepped forward and said his neighbor was not sticking to God’s laws and was a bad influence in the neighborhood.
“How so?” the prophet asked.
“He has food passing his lips during the holy month, and has never fasted. I fear for my children.”
“Don’t fear for your children. They are learning from what you do in the house. The man you are talking about does not fast, but he is kind to those less fortunate than himself. You pray five times a day and fast the month of Ramadan, but you turn away those who come to your door. The man who does not fast makes charity in silence. His left hand does not know what his right hand gives away. A man who does not hide another’s shame has a weak standing with God.”
Suddenly there was a sound in the distance such as they had never heard before. It was an animal sound, a roar. There were no wild animals in the Arabian steppes, and as they strained their ears to determine the sounds more accurately, a lion came charging towards them. An old bearded man with robes and a long line of animals waved his staff and the lion stopped. The procession came closer.
Muhamad recognized the man with the staff. “It is Noah,” he said to the people. “He has a message from God.”
“There is another message from God?” someone asked.
“There are messages all day long,” Noah said, “I am here to warn the people of impending danger if they care to listen. You have ignored the word of God and worshipped false idols. You have ignored the messages and warnings of past prophets. There will be forty days of rain and darkness; the waters will rise to the highest of mountains. Life on earth will be destroyed. Those of you who want to put evil behind you and are interested in salvation can decide now if you want to live with the light of the Lord, or drown with the disbelievers.”
There was grumbling in the crowd. Muhamad watched sadly as no one came forward to join the long line. He noticed as well the behavior of the animals; two of each, a male and a female, quiet and docile, from a pair of grizzly bears to twittering pigeons.
Noah picked up his staff. He was familiar with the nature of people. That they were even gathered at the oasis to listen to the injunction on the matter of prayer was a mystery to him.
“My animals need water, Muhamad. Is it all right for them to drink of what you have here? I know it is the waterhole of your tribe.”
“My brother, the water is here for anyone who is thirsty. It is the bounty of God.”
God, who could choose to be visible or invisible, marveled at the good behavior of his prophets. Behind some of the scraggly palm trees God spied Iblis watching the goings on. Iblis was a troublemaker and a misleader. God could see some of the people hesitate, not knowing which way to go, and smiled. Iblis appeared suddenly in the midst of the crowd with a rumbling of wings. The people jumped back in fright. Ibllis told them not to listen to the words of two old men, that he was much more powerful, and showed them the length and breadth of his wings. The people screamed. Some threw themselves down in fear, ready to follow Iblis.
Against the prayers and invocations of Noah, Iblis continued to guffaw and brag. From nowhere, a swirling wind snatched Iblis up and threw him to the end of the earth.
“Who’s your God now?” God asked.
Noah looked up at the sky and sniffed; he was ready to go. The animals rested, having drunk their fill were also anxious to get to the ark before the rains came. The birds were restless as they smelled the rains coming and twittered back and forth.
“Salaam, Muhamad. I have to go now. Take your leave from here and take cover.”
“I have to stay with the people, Noah.”
When Noah was gone, women, men and children crowded around the prophet for the truth.
“The truth is that God is angry with all of you. Will you not then listen to the warnings of God? I am but a deliverer. You want the truth and then you discard it. You will listen to the voice of Satan rather than take the guidance of God. Are you even interested in what God has to say about prayer?”
The voices were weak and unconvincing. “We are, Rasululah.”
The prophet was about to deliver the injunction on prayer when a young girl and several women came chasing down the hill. The young girl was the prettiest of all of them and easily outran the others.
“Raslulah!” the young girl shouted above the shouts of the others, “help me!” The prophet turned red. His wives were a lively lot and did not always choose the right time for their squabbles.
“What is it, Ayesha?” he asked lovingly, aware of the people looking on.
“She is lazy to help with the mending of your clothes, Rasululah,” one of the wives said. “She wants to play all day.”
The prophet smiled at the wife who had spoken. “All right, you were young too once. I will speak to her.” He turned to Ayesha and said something only she could hear. Ayesha pouted, but followed the women back to the house.
Finally there was silence and the prophet delivered the news on the matter of prayers having to be performed five times a day. There were those who received the news joyfully, and promised to abide by God’s wishes, and those who said there was not enough time in the day to do so many prayers. The prophet tried to appease his followers by joining them and leading the prayers. They watched his ablutions, washing the hands and feet three times, and rinsing the mouth and washing the face.
A man came forward, lurching on his feet. The prophet asked him if he was drunk. The man wanted to say no, but his behavior showed otherwise. He was standing in line at the water hole waiting his turn to perform ablution. Others asked if the man was allowed to come into the mosque in such a condition. The prophet said that the man was in line to perform his ablutions and to perform his prayers; perhaps God would grant the man freedom from his disease. No one should stop such a thing.
A little boy, prompted by his mother ran up and touched the prophet on the hand. The prophet smiled at him and picked him up. The prophet had children, but only daughters. He had lost his only son. It was believed by many that it was the Will of God and that the last prophet could not leave behind a male heir. He had been specially chosen by God for his humility; prophets were chosen not for material wealth, but for their pureness of spirit.
The little boy put his finger on the prophet’s hand in an effort to remind him that he was still there and wanted to ask him something. The prophet allowed himself to be interrupted. The boy said that his father wanted to ask the prophet a question.
The prophet hailed to the man in the crowd to come forward. “What is it, my brother?”
“I have heard, Rasululah, that King Solomon has had many wives. Is it allowed for a man to have more than one?”
The prophet stood silent, contemplating his answer. “How many camels do you have?”
“I have no camels, Rasululah.”
“How many goats?”
“I don’t have goats.”
“How many sheep?”
“Nothing, my prophet; not even one.”
The prophet stared at him. “How do you propose to feed your family?”
“God will provide,” the man said.
There was a rumble over their heads. Muhamad trembled. He was easily disturbed and tuned in to atmospheric divination. “Do you think it is easy to have more than one woman in the house? It is hard enough with just one, even for a prophet. Every so often I have to seek refuge away from my wives and do my contemplations in a cave. How will you manage?”
“My wife’s sister lost her husband in the Battle of Uhud, Rasululah. I fear that she may do the wrong thing to feed her family. My wife has agreed to share me if God agrees.”
The prophet nodded his head. “If your wife agrees, and you are able to feed both women and children, and not favor one wife over the other, it is allowed by God’s grace. But be warned. It is hard for a man to be fair. It is permitted by God, but not recommended. Don’t cross the line.”
The man bowed before the prophet in thankfulness. “And more than two wives, Rasululah?”
“You don’t have sandals on your feet, don’t take on more than you can handle. This is not an idle revelation. No more than four wives in total. And there has to be agreement in the house.”
“But, Rasululah…with the highest respect, you have more than four wives.”
“You are not a prophet. Do as I recommend, not as I do. Trust me, you don’t want this job.”
There was a twinkling of bells in the distance. Everyone turned to look. A man came running forward to say that a group of men with shaven heads and saffron robes with sandals on their feet were coming their way. The prophet looked. There was a twinkle in his eyes.
“It is the Hare Krishnas,” he said fondly.
“Who are they?” several people asked.
“They have come to talk to me about God. They have a good message, I have heard it, but the desert is a tough place to teach something new.”
“What will you do, Rasululah?” someone else asked.
“I will listen to them. It is good manners.”
The Hare Krishnas approached, chanting a beautiful mantra. The people looked on in wonder as they floated towards them in their pink dhotis and clay markings on the forehead, with the little tail of hair at the back, singing all the time Hare Krishna, Hare Rama.
The leader separated from the group, and came forward. He had a garland of flowers in his hand which he placed around the prophet’s neck.
“Namaste, Muhamad, and God’s blessings on you.”
“Namaste, Krishna. I see you are not giving up.”
“A man in service to the Lord never gives up, Muhamad; you know that. The last time we met, your people didn’t listen to me. I am wondering whether today is a better day to say a few words to them.”
Muhamad chuckled. “Please do, Lord Krishna. But do not be hurt if your words fall on deaf ears. The dust in the desert clogs more than the ear.”
“The devotees and I will try, if you give us as long as the sun goes down in the sky.”
“Why do you need such a long time?”
“We have to chant the mantra sixteen times. There are a hundred and nine beads. That means chanting the mantra sixteen by a hundred and nine times.”
Muhamad looked flabbergasted. “How long does it take?”
“If you start when the sun is directly overhead, you can finish just before it sinks in the west.
Muhamad looked at him in astonishment. “And they say the Muslims pray five times a day?”
Krishna looked hurt.
Muhamad’s face took on a solemn expression. “I beg your pardon, Krishna. That was a wrong thing for me to say. It is just that since I received this revelation, I have been fighting with people trying to get them to pray regularly to keep their souls clean, and they have been questioning God. In fact, they are all here at the oasis for a final answer on how many times a day they should pray.”
“So we have interrupted you.”
“An interruption is all right if it is made in service to God. You may hear the message if you wish.”
Krishna bowed his head, and the devotees sat down on the sand.
The prophet finally got down to delivering God’s verdict on the number of prayers to be performed. There was grumbling and jubilation in equal measure amongst the crowd. Mustafa, the holy prophet’s favorite companion, came walking up. “There is a man waiting in your house, Rasululah. Ayesha asked me to come and get you. You look tired. You should have a rest.”
“How can I rest, Mustafa? Do you know what the man wants?”
“He is not making much sense. From what I can gather, he has traveled for days without water and food. He is looking for someone.”
Muhamad arrived at his house. He found his wives in the kitchen with the strange man sitting in front of the hearth. A single plate with five dates stood on the table. Muhamad picked up the plate and offered the dates to the man. The wives looked at one another. It was obvious from the sparseness of the kitchen that there was no food in the house.
“You have come to see me?” Muhamad asked.
“I am looking for a man I don’t know. People say that his house is next to the mosque, and this is the only house next to a mosque I could find. This man I am told is strange in that he disappears for days and weeks at a time and comes back with messages from God.”
“I am that man,” Muhamad said. “Why are you looking for me?”
“You are that man?” the man asked in wonder, blinking his eyes several times.
“I am that man. How can I help you?”
The man didn’t know how to start. His robe was without dust despite his travels, but he was incoherent and nervous. “I have a message for you,” the man started. “But I am not able to describe the sender.”
“What do you mean?”
“He had wings.”
“Wings? Have you come to this house in a drunken state?”
“No, no, please believe that I am telling the truth. He was tall, frightening, and whichever way I turned to escape him, he was in front of me. When he stretched, his wings reached to the sky. He could speak in several tongues and changed his voice all the time. He said I must find you and tell you that all your good work is for nothing. He has power over the people. You will not succeed. When the mountains crumble and the sea washes over the earth he will believe it then, but that that day will never arrive. He said you must give this message to God. I blinked, and he was gone.”
Muhamad sat for a long time in silence. “You have met Iblis. You must not be afraid. To avoid Satan, you must do as I say. Five times a day you must call on God; when the sun rises, when the sun is overhead in the middle of the sky, when the sun throws long shadows in the afternoon, when the sun sets, and finally, when it is completely dark. This is the only way Satan’s wings will be clipped. Prayer is your lifeline – your conduit to the Almighty. Tell everyone you meet what I’ve told you, and tell them to pass this message on to everyone they know.”

The holy Prophet Muhammad Mustapha was a man of exceptional genius who during his lifetime managed to bring nearly all the tribes of Arabia into a new united community. He was often presented as a warlord, but he was fighting for his life and never forced anyone to convert. He died in Medina in June 632, and it is said that the earth of Medina is blessed, and that many a man would dismount from his horse a long way outside of the city and walk the rest of the way to be respectful of the land which contained in its bosom the earthly remains of God’s last chosen Prophet. He had lived a simple and modest life. When he died, he left nothing to be inherited except a white mule, a few pieces of ammunition, and a piece of land. Among his last words were, “We the community of Prophets are not inherited. Whatever we leave is for charity.”

The long winding road to God

There is a saying in all the holy books that invite you to come close to God and God will come closer to you. Drawing nearer to God means dispelling all things evil from your life. You cannot read your holy book in the morning, and in the evening rob someone of his dignity or self-esteem. It is better just to be a common sinner then; God despises hypocrites. Drawing nearer to God is a desire to live life having cognizance of those around you. You can’t buy a ticket to grant your salvation. You can only reach God through love and service to others.

Guidance and Mercy

There is a saying in the Qur’an (x.57): “O mankind! There hath come to you a direction from your Lord and a healing for the (diseases) in your hearts, and for those who believe a Guidance and a Mercy”. The commentator and translator, Yusuf Ali in footnote 1446, explains: “Those who do wrong have a disease in their hearts, which shall cause their spiritual death. God in His Mercy declares His will to them, which should direct their lives and provide a healing for their spiritual disease. If they accept Faith, the remedy acts; they find themselves in right guidance and receive God’s forgiveness and mercy.”

A clean heart and a willingness and desire to benefit mankind are therefore necessary attributes in order to draw nearer to God. This does not mean that you engage in prayer all day and neglect your duties as a parent and a provider, and that you have no care or regard for the plight of others.

You kill and covet

In the Bible, James 4:1-3, it states: “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”

One can benefit from the guidance of all holy books. We live in a material world. We are greedy and envious and think that our wealth comes only from hard work. We dismiss the beggar on the corner and find an excuse not to give. We want to repent for our sins at the last moment when there is no life left anymore to continue our arrogant and avaricious behavior – and even then from our grave want to direct how the money should be spent.

Money is the earthly deal breaker in almost every transaction in our lives. We covet money. We want more. And when we have it we want to accumulate it and watch it grow in leaps and bounds on the internet. When someone asks us for money, we become haughty, and say: “Why don’t you get a job?” We are insulting as well as greedy, and pull away in a rush of speed in case guilt should overcome us and we give the man a one rand coin. When the Angel of Death is upon us we want to shower him with all the money we have to secure a spot in heaven, but money has no currency in paradise; only your good deeds count.

The road to God need not be a circuitous one. You can take the long road and continue a selfish life, or a short one through submission and love. The mere thought of submission will unlock the hardness in your heart. No matter how you may resist the notion of a Higher Power, there is a Protector and a Sustainer.

Mar 19, 2012

Should you report what you've witnessed to the police?

You and your girlfriend witness a fight one evening on the way home from the movies and recognize one of the fighters as your best friend’s son. You are horrified and surprised to see what is going on. The attacker is kicking and hitting the victim who is trying to squirm his way to safety holding his arms over his head to shield it. You know immediately that you have a dilemma. The mother of the boy is your best friend. You know the boy personally as he has done little errands for you and has always been willing to help with little chores. How did she not know this side of him and what is she going to do? Is she going to report it? Her girlfriend has already run off to get to the house and to dial 911. You wonder whether you should keep quiet about witnessing the fight and say nothing at all, or do the right thing and go to the police and say who he is and where he lives.

Covering up

Answering this question is easier said than done. You did not ask for the situation. You have come upon the scene unexpectedly and seen something you should not have seen and whichever way you turn it will not be an easy decision to make. Still, bad as it may seem, the truth is always best. You cannot withhold important information from the police. Your friend’s son may quite possibly be a nasty bit of work and beat up on people if he is not stopped. His behavior should be investigated in that case.

Loyalties and conscience

If this is his first run-in with the law it will be good for him to have a wake-up call and see what it is like to be overnight in a prison. To keep quiet about the situation and not name the perpetrator, will also send the wrong message and mother and son won’t benefit anyway from the lie. There is also the price one has to pay for harboring a fugitive or aiding and abetting a person who should pay the price for his crimes and misdemeanors. It could be your child who was attacked. What kind of justice would you want? You would want the punishment to fit the crime. Hard as it may be for the other family, you have to tell the truth. Your friend may never speak to you again for reporting the details of the crime to the police, but you would have done a service to the community – that you don’t tolerate bullies and will not be drawn into a lie. If your friend does not understand your predicament it may be time to examine whether the friendship is worth having.

Mar 17, 2012

What makes us fall in love

And what is love? How do we fall in love? What makes us fall in love? These are only some of the questions that have been asked about love. Sages and poets and experts have all tried to answer the question; yet one is not satisfied with the answer or the right answer has not yet been revealed. Is it catching a whiff of perfume? Is it a glimpse of a woman with haunting eyes in a black billowing raincoat standing in the wind? Is it a primitive need to protect?

The business of love

Some say it’s a cocktail of chemicals to the brain, others say it’s a template buried deep in the subconscious for the ideal partner and when we come close to it we respond. I could go with both these answers as dopamine is a euphoric hit to the brain, and the ideal template makes a lot of sense; remnants of the past, that kind of thing. Yet, it does not reveal all that love is or what makes us love and want love. Love is probably one of man’s most important needs. For example, a mother can still the cries of a baby just by putting her arms around her. As an adult a woman goes out into the world looking for something or someone. She cannot articulate what it is, but it’s a need that stills the senses and makes her feel safe.

The Bachelor Pad

Last night on the Bachelor Pad I watched a beautiful couple vying with other couples – all single – to compete for a prize of a quarter million rand. The first time we see this couple, they have just paired up in the game. The next time we see them a few days later they have spent the night together and were getting up. The woman asked the man straight out if he loved her. He did not answer. She then said she loved him. He still did not respond. As I watched I felt a little sad that these women put their desperation on display. They had all just met recently. They believed they would find their man by coming on the show. There were some recycled contestants – those who had either been the prize or those who were there for their second or third time. They all looked like little Kardashians with blond hair hoping to make it big and find the right man. They were in a fairy tale setting but wanted real-world commitment answers.

Marriage not a fairy tale

As I watched the couples I was nevertheless fascinated. Beautiful and stunning as this girl who had asked the big no question was, she was insecure. She needed to be validated. She needed to lean on the arm of a man and be seen. She needed to show that she had succeeded in finding a man. Am I surprised? No. We are all looking for that one particular person with the ready made template. In cavemen days men hunted, and women gathered firewood and berries. We have ingrained inside all of us the notion of family; a momma bear, a poppa bear, and the little cubs. We feel out of sorts if we do not have that experience. The prize was a quarter million rand. The price was pain and humiliation.

Mom's boyfriend asked me out

The most degrading and under-handed thing that a man can do to a family is to date the divorced mother in order to get close to the woman’s daughter. The man has made overtures to the girl on several occasions and is behaving inappropriately in her company, always teasing her when mom is not looking and asking her not to tell her mother that he had asked her to go with him to see a movie. Should the daughter tell her mother what is happening? Will her mom believe her? Will she immediately ask him to leave? Or will her mom think she is the cause and had led him on? There are women who have sided with the boyfriend and not taken the word of their own children.

Truth is best

There are several reasons why the daughter should immediately tell her mother what has happened; that her boyfriend has made several advances towards her and even asked her out. The best way to approach the matter and move forward includes the following;

• The daughter should not keep this secret as it will lead to more deception from which it might be more difficult to extricate herself later on. The lie will become larger, some strange things might happen; the girl might even turn against her own mother.

• He is behaving in a disgusting manner coming into their home under false pretences and trying to draw her, the daughter, into an affair.

• He is hurting the mother who is lonely and probably will feel devastated when she learns of the man’s real motives.

• The man should immediately be exposed. The woman should not try to work things out; he should leave the premises immediately.

• He is a sexual predator and not to be trusted. He has no remorse and does not care who he hurts.

• Let the man go. You don’t know this man and don’t know if he might hurt someone else because he hasn’t yet been caught.

• A man who can come into the home of someone for the daughter and not the mother is a skunk and should be reported. He has not committed a criminal act yet; don’t wait for it to happen. Do something. You don’t want to read in the paper one day that he has hurt someone else.

• When you tell him what he has done is sick and disgusting, tell him at the same time that you will tell the police if he comes near you or your mother again. Tell him further that you have written about it and the letter is in a place where it can’t be found.

Mar 16, 2012

Fears children have when a parent leaves

When parents divorce and the father moves out of the house, it is a hard time for all, especially the kids who fear that they will be lost in the scuffle and end up alone and on their own. While the parents may be adult enough to handle this most painful period, the children are not and their fears will not easily subside. They have become moody and morose in the time leading up to the split, and have developed anxiety.

Fears and tears

• Children need comfort and reassurance at a time like this as they worry about all kinds of things. They are afraid to lose their father and worry that their mother will not be able to care for them on her own,

• They fear that a new man will come along for their mother and that their father will meet a woman and they will have to live with a stranger in the house. What will they do? How will they pay for things?

• They fear that either their mother or father will leave them or that someone else will come into the family,

• They see their mother in distress and feel helpless,

• Their go to bed at night feeling sad and alone and compound the anxiety they are already experiencing.

It is not easy being a single parent with a low-paying job who has to pay rent, school fees, food and utilities and has to be totally responsible for the family. It is normal under such circumstances for a child to be worried. He is used to having two parents in the home. He does not want his father to leave. His life will be interrupted. A few months later he watches his father sullenly with the new woman in his life and hates him. He hates his father for not doing enough, and blames him for the mess they are in. He wants to speak his mind but he is too angry to articulate what is bothering him.

Reassuring children that things will work out

1 Tell them repeatedly that they are safe and ask them to tell you if they have any particular concerns,

2 Make an effort comforting and reassuring the kids no matter how devastated you are and sick about the whole thing. Listen to what they have to say. Draw it out of them. Tell them to express themselves, and if they want to talk privately, let them, and don’t push for an answer.

3 If their father has left and they are feeling sad, sit with them, let them talk, make a pot of hot chocolate, do some of the things you have always done, like watching a movie together that everyone can enjoy.

4 Do all the normal things with the family that you used to do, like inviting friends over for supper or going bowling on Friday nights.

5 Believe in God and believe that you will all be all right again.

When your six year old son is the bully

It goes without saying that school grounds around the world have become less safe for children. It is not only in the United State, Britain, and Canada where teachers are being bullied by kids. In Ontario, Canada alone, 40% of teachers have been subjected to non-fatal crimes. Parents complain to the schools and are horrified to learn that they themselves are to blame for their children’s uncontrolled behavior by encouraging or ignoring bullish behavior. Parents are especially concerned when they learn that it is a daughter of theirs who is the bully and responsible for most of the fights on the school grounds. What is happening to children that they are so angry? And what will settle them down? What will make parents also own up that they are part of the problem?

Discipline starts at home

The first thing to acknowledge is that if your child is a bully at school and hurt other children, there is always a reason for it; something has happened in his life, his parents do not stop to teach him when an event occurs, they are afraid of their own child, or he has a problem that should be discussed and treated accordingly. Here are some telling signs to look out for:

• Is there a history of bad behavior and cruelty to animals? A child who flings a kitten across the room is not being playful; he is being cruel.

• Is he sullen and rude and speak to his parents and siblings in an offensive manner?

• Is he preoccupied with the topic of guns even though he does not have one? If he is, this should be reported to the school psychologist.

• Is he destructive to property even if it is his parents’ goods he is destroying?

• Do you fear your own child and give in to him for fear of his wrath?

• Do you not trust your child to be alone with his own siblings?

• Does he watch a lot of television where guns and violence are involved?

• Does he study and complete school assignments? Is his work substandard?

• Is he a latchkey kid and on his own for most of the time? This might be a huge part of the problem.

• Does he have a father and is there communication with him

• Does he have many friends, and if he does, are they a bad influence?
• Does he get beaten at home when he misbehaves or do his parents talk to him?

Tough love

The first thing to recognize and do something about is take him to a child psychologist who can pinpoint the problem and give you direction and a place to start. The school psychologist should be involved.

Practice tough love and take your child to the local police station and let him see how people in jail live, and tell him if he does not shape up and follow the program that has been suggested for him, that he will end up in prison one day.

Monitoring kids' television time

With the advent of television, computer games and electronic toys, children today are bored, distracted and easily lured away from their studies. Kids of two and three years of age know how to turn on the television set and parents actually put their kids in front of the television to keep them occupied. They don’t know the drawbacks and dangers of radiation and too much technology. Watching too much television is bad for any child and should be monitored to ensure that your kids do not become computer game junkies and addicted to television and video games. Yes, children as young as four and five are glued to their electronic toys and to the television screens. For some kids it starts at age one and two with toddlers in diapers watching cartoons, being entertained by an electronic box.

Things you can do to avert problems later on

• Introduce your child early to the magic of words and read to him or her every day. You could start off with a children’s book with the different pictures of animals, as well as their names and what sounds they make. Ask your child to repeat the names of the animals.

• Take your toddler in a stroller to the park for an hour of fresh air rather than have her inside the house watching television. Watching too much television is unhealthy and if not curbed by how many hours they watch television or play with the computer, they can become addicted.

• Watching too much television also makes a child lazy. They don’t study, don’t do their chores, and become couch potatoes. If a child has no homework to do that day, it is better for him to be outside playing basketball with his friends or kicking ball. There should be balance in a child’s life.

• Children who spend too much time on the computer or watching television hardly ever read. Don’t let your child become one of those brain-dead kids who look like a zombie, and don’t let him make the rules. Just turn the television off.

• Don’t encourage the habit of watching television in the morning, turn it off; you don’t want to establish a regular morning routine.

• When the children do get their time to watch television, stick to how long you said they could watch. You would obviously not turn the television off before the program has ended.

• Let your child have a play date with the neighbour’s little boy or girl and get used to socializing and playing with other kids. This also allows the mothers to have a break and have tea.

• When it is time for bed, spend some time with her in her room and tell her a story. Establishing story time will create a bond and also introduce the child to the magic of words. Let books play an important role in her life, and have enough of them lying around in the house.

Coping with change after divorce

Divorce must be one of the most devastating interruptions a person can experience during his lifetime. Whatever the reason for divorce, whose fault it is, what tipped the apple cart, the outcome of separating a family is the same; loss of love, loss of affection, and loss of spirit. You are so bewildered by what has taken place you don’t believe you can recover, especially when you see the children grieving and your life as you know it disappear. There is a deep sense of loss and bewilderment.

Necessary changes to strive for

• Pray to God and believe that you will be helped. Your spirit and the way you feel is important for recovery and reaching out to God can take you a long way. Believe in your heart that things will change for you and the children.

• As the parent, you are responsible for them and are expected to do everything you can to make sure they understand what is happening and do not suffer pain.

• When there is an argument coming on between you and your former partner over support payments or whatever, do not involve the kids in the argument. They cannot take sides and you must not expect it.

• Spend extra time with the kids so that they don’t feel they are losing out on life because of the changes.

• Continue to do, with or without your former partner, the things you all did as a family on weekends or holidays.

• Don’t confuse your kids with the kind of relationship you have, and do not make sudden changes. Kids are funny about moving and change. They need time to digest things.

• Sign the kids up for activities they really enjoy. Spend more time with them and speak to each child individually.

• Make friends with other singles and join a group. Single parents have many things in common; you can talk about the changes you are experiencing. Talking about a problem you all have in common makes you feel you are not alone. Your self-esteem has suffered a blow; you want to restore the way you feel, and part of doing that is not becoming hard and vengeful yourself.

Coming to terms with change takes time. Take each day at a time. Visit your friends. Get a babysitter and have some away-time by seeing a movie with a friend. There are many things you can do where the kids can come along. You basically have two seasons in America; hot and cold. There are activities for both the warm summer days as well as many activities you can enjoy in wintertime skating or skiing with your kids in the outdoors. Whoever it is that got the divorce rolling, be sure you will get up again, and be stronger. Don’t rush into a new relationship. You need time to think and recover. A relationship in distress needs time to repair, and the repairs you make today may be for the benefit of someone else in the future. Don’t begrudge it; that is how the world works.

Do you need to read parenting books in order to make a good mother

A new mom who has grown up with siblings and experienced life with a baby in the home is less likely to need a book on how to care for a baby although the baby shower presents will in all likelihood include one or two books on parenting. I myself did not need a book as my father remarried and I was present most of the time in my father’s home where there were several siblings. My daughter, however, benefitted from my experience as she is a superb mom and does not even allow sugar in the children’s diet. Any question she might have she will research on the internet for the latest innovations. In fact, my daughter has been granted a patent in the US where she lives for a special diaper.

Motherhood is about instinct.

There are many things that can happen when there is a new baby in the home, and much of it is resolved by the mother trusting her instinct. I lived in South Africa at the time and there was one frantic afternoon when my daughter, four years old, had a fever that was so high that I put her in a cold bath to bring her temperature down. It may have been the wrong thing to do but by the time the doctor arrived, her temperature was much lower. You don’t want to play around with high fever.

Grandmother’s remedies

My grandmother was an old-fashioned South African woman who was called the Medicine Lady in the neighborhood as people came to her all the time for home remedies. She put on cut potato peels on a wound once, and on another occasion a new mother brought the baby to her; the baby was around five or six months and was constipated. My grandmother crushed the stem of a plant, inserted it into the infant’s bum, and the child was relieved. Today of course you have to have a book which is nicely indexed to handle emergencies.

Parenting books

One or two parenting books are good to have to keep up with modern ways and means to do certain things. When it comes to mothering with a book, the most inexperienced new mother will know instinctively what to do when a child suddenly stops breathing or something serious has happened, and that is, call 911. My own son was saved in the 70s by my calling 911. He had had a triachitis attack which happened mostly to boys between the ages of one and three. Mothers react with amazing speed when it comes to danger to their kids and would know when a child has a fever that that could lead to complications. Whether they would make better parents when reading books on parenting, I don’t know. It would depend on the mother’s own psychological makeup. If I am making it sound easy it is because I have been around kids for a very long time; I am the eldest of three kids in my father’s first marriage, and also have three stepbrothers and a stepsister.

Mar 15, 2012

When the addict in the home is the parent

What do you do? As a child you are the one to get advice from your parents, not the other way. At the same time you have the unpleasant task of having to tell your parent that what he is doing is destroying the family and that he has to stop. What a position to be in. Parents are to correct and teach their children right from wrong and not vice versa. How does the child tell the parent that he is a liar and a thief, that he never keeps a promise to sober up, and that unless he seeks help and does something about his drinking that you are going to ask him to leave? How do you do this without creating embarrassment and without causing hurt? Addicts are in denial and will lie about their addiction even if you find them red-handed with the whiskey bottle.

Stepping in and taking charge

Usually the first step would be to attend Alcoholics Anonymous and go to the meetings every week. If the person refuses to acknowledge his addiction and argues and tells you to shut up as you are the child and he is the father, don’t get into a whole brawling session. Addiction, whether alcohol, sex, or drugs is a disease and he needs help. It is clear if your mother or father is the addict that you involve their brother or sister – your uncle or aunt – and plan an intervention. Your uncle could head up the group and you invite the addict to come and have some tea with you, and when he arrives at the house he is confronted by you and the relatives and the friends who all come prepared with a letter that they have penned for the addict. The addict will offer up excuses and try to get away, but you will persist in your efforts to get him to go to rehab.

The intervention

Addicts are some of the wiliest characters you will meet. They can be friendly and affable, but will turn on you in a second if you have what they want. Unfortunately also when the addict is a parent or someone in a position of authority it makes it harder to be firm as you do not want to lose respect. Prepare to kick all that parental respect to the curb. It is crunch time; you have a tough decision to make; either help your parent by giving tough love support, or be taken in by the fact that the uncle is older than you and you should agree with him. Here is what you do: whether it is your mother, father, brother, sister, or uncle do NOT budge from what you have set out to do and carry out the promise you have made to yourself. If your adult family member does not want intervention, does not want to acknowledge that he is an addict and needs help, and refuses your offer, very simply ask him where you can drop him off with his clothes as he is no longer welcome in the home. Hand his suitcase to him which has already been packed by one of the family members and let him go. This may seem harsh, but not half as harsh as what might happen to all of you if his alcoholism goes untreated. You cannot destroy a whole family with your disease.

Mar 14, 2012

Review of The Iron Lady

Review of The Iron Lady

I watched the Iron Lady this morning and could not help but marvel at Meryl Streep’s performance and portrayal of Margaret Thatcher. As a scriptwriter and director I curled up with a cappuccino and started to watch. I had expected a fairly stiff and stick-to-the-rules kind of script but was wonderfully captivated. The story line was carefully nourished and developed with extreme detail to the flashbacks – flashbacks can be a problem – and the film almost made me want to be British. Almost, I say because of the legacy Thatcher left behind.

The Streep magic

First, there is no one like Meryl for those delicate and nuanced performances. Every word was studied and thought out and her moments of confusion had extreme delicacy. I savored every nuance and sound that came out of her and wonder why it took so long for her to get another Oscar. As in The French Lieutenant’s Woman and Bridges of Madison County, Meryl is a master at her craft and has proven herself to be a first class actor. She has the knack to slip easily into languages and into a role and was already noticeable and noteworthy in Kramer versus Kramer filmed decades ago. I particularly delighted in the scene where Thatcher tells her daughter not to fuss so much …fuss, fuss, fuss… and her voice dips and has that mystical quality. I watched that particular performance three times and there were plenty of them.

Performances that resonate long after the curtain has closed

Meryl Streep is a consummate performer and a star. She has been a bitch, a witch, a devil, and a French Lieutenant’s woman. She surely has the gift and in my humble opinion is one of the top five actors in the world and a real star. There are many actors; there are few stars. Marilyn Monroe was a star. Ava Gardner was a star. The top actors in my estimation include Helen Mirren and Bette Davis. Mirren is the queen when she puts on the crown and the face. Bette Davis in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane makes your skin crawl. Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest is frightening and the performance still resonates with us. These are the master manipulators of our emotions and we pay willingly to experience their art. I can still see Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons as they meet for the first time in the barn. Yoh! I felt instantly in love.

Mar 12, 2012

I count the bullets sometimes

I reckon before I tell you about Jeremy Vosloo, I should start with two years ago, the year the blacks started protesting the use of Afrikaans in their schools in Soweto and the protests grew into riots, setting off a wave of demonstrations spreading throughout the country until it arrived ugly and angry in Cape Town and my father had this bright idea to send me to private school. He always had these bright ideas, my father, from the brooders and turkey-cocks he brought home one Saturday afternoon in a cage in the back of the bakkie declaring that we no longer had to buy eggs from Mr Doep, the chicken pen eventually growing into a cacophony of red-combed birds snapping at your heels, no one collecting the eggs or raking up, to the sheep and goats, and a stubborn ewe charging all the visitors.

My father, you see, had grown up one of nine sons in a box in District Six, and had dreamed of a backyard where he could swing his arms without knocking into his neighbour's lavatory. When his clothing factory landed this big account, taking fashion stores from Cape Town to Mafeking, we moved from a comfortable house on the slopes of Walmer Estate, where there was life and civilisation, to this remote place in Philippi he likes to call the farm. Now, despite all the sudden complaints after the lorry pulled away with our things -- the place had been too cramped, too high on the hill, the hot-water cylinder didn't hold enough -- there was something about that Ravenscraig Road beauty, all highly polished oak smelling of lavendar wax and my grandmother's crunchy pine nuts tamaletjies, that was hard to resist. The kind of house you could run through from front door to kitchen and out the back in four seconds flat and travel years with all the history and life steeped in those high beams and plastered walls.

And that's another thing. Even my illiterate grandmother sitting with her huge bum on our folded pyjamas, pressing them on the stoep, eating raspberry ice blocks with condensed milk with sies Galima from across the street, needed some kind of excitement to survive, and refused to come with us, moving in with my uncle down the street. In any event, my father bought this plot, called in contractors and landscape artists and, with the blessings of Barclays Bank, produced for his family a Cape Dutch-style home, with oak doors and curved fanlights and brass knobs, velvet lawns, stables, servants' quarters, a kidney-shaped pool, and a pack of trained Dobermans. The fantasy was started and all sorts of animals started to arrive. The problem was, the more animals that came, the more people were hired, my father worked harder, not getting to enjoy the smell of all this warm chicken shit. So when he pushed his Argus aside one night, looking at my mother who was the real boss of the house, and broke the news that I was starting at a boys' high school in Bishopscourt, I wondered if he'd gone mad. My cousin Rudwan already said we lived like we thought we'd been born in the saddle when not one of us had raised a leg over a filly, and here he was setting me farther apart. Private school, I argued, was for those coloreds salivating through plate glass windows at the world of the whites. Didn't I already read the news in the Argus every night? Wasn't my English better than my sisters’s?

But I really should start with that first day, my mother driving me in the silver Benz, depositing me new satchel and all in front of this school with hundreds of green-blazered boys on the grounds, the only snoekie in a sea of yellowtail. I knew I was in the right class when I saw my name on the board, and in the wrong school when I stood by myself during break. I cursed my parents. How could they do this to me when I could've been with Rudwan at Sinton High?

I noticed this boy with platinum hair and a cowlick, a garden snake in his hand, chasing after a fat student called Albert Mostert, who was clearly horrified. Albert's short legs carried him chop chop to the principal's office where Jeremy got a warning, and was quickly relieved of his pet. Sitting three seats behind them in Biology class, I watched Jeremy look furtively behind him, take a chameleon out of his pocket, and put it down Albert's neck. Albert jumped up with a scream. Mr Greaves dropped the chalk he was busy writing with at the blackboard, demanding the name of the culprit. Jeremy looked about as curious as the rest of the class to see who could’ve done such a thing. It looked like I'd found a friend.

That weekend Rudwan visited, and watched from the safe side of the henhouse while I waded through a gang of angry birds collecting eggs for a neighbour, my takkies crunching in the grey and white shit. I mean, were we an eggerama or something that we had to supply the neighborhood? We ate so many things made with eggs -- puddings, omelettes, souffles -- you could pull fat worms from our veins. The pittance charged didn't even cover the chicken feed.

``I'm on the swimming team,'' I said to him.
``There's a pool?''
``And a tennis court and pingpong room.''
He hung his head, and the zing went out of the brag. ``But they're too strict, you can't even chew gum on the school grounds.''
``You’re joking.''
``And don't let them catch you wearing your uniform after school on the street. They also have this stupid rule that if a teacher comes down the stairs, you have to stop and let him pass, and say, good morning, sir, or afternoon, sir, and not move until he does.''
``That's stupid. Sinton hasn't got sturvy rules like that, and you can eat and chew what you want. Did you make any friends?''
``Jeremy Vosloo.''
``A boer?''
``Dunno. You want to go catch tadpoles after I take in the eggs?''
We went out with our jars, but it wasn't the same as before. At supper my sisters, taking advantage of Rudwan's presence and my father's good mood, made their own charges.
``I don't see why he gets to go to private school when we have to go around here,'' Layla, my second youngest sister complained. ``He gets everything.''
``Shut up, Layla. You're only in Standard Two.''
``I won't shut up. You get so much things just 'cause you're a boy.''
``So many things.''
``Stop correcting everyone. And keep quiet both of you,'' my mother warned.
``Layla's right. I'm going to high school next year. Will it be private school, too?'' Soraya asked.
``We'll see your marks in June.''
My father waited for his youngest child, but Ruby was too busy sucking on the bone of her chop. Ruby didn't care if she ever saw a classroom. All the notes and phone calls that came from the teachers were about Ruby. Ruby didn't do her homework, Ruby came to school with one shoe, Ruby came without a consent form for the outing to the museum, Ruby's failed math for the fourth time, Ruby's drawings won first prize.
``And you, Ruby? Do you want to go to private school too?''
Ruby licked her fingers. ``I told you, Daddy, I'm going to be an artist.''
``And what kind of money do you think you'll earn?''
``I don't know. But you said we could choose what we want to be when we grow up.''
``Do you want to sell paintings in Greenmarket Square and starve?''
``I'll be married, Daddy. My husband will take care of the money part.''
My father put his fork down, and laughed. When Ruby was three and refused to wear anything but purple underwear, he sent his typist to Woolworths for two dozen in that shade. I had to wait six weeks for Pacman, and Ruby had only to pout and flash those almond eyes and my father would give his okay.
After I'd been at my new school three months, I asked if I could have Jeremy over for the weekend. My mother said yes, but my father couldn't quite wrap himself around the idea of an Afrikaner boy in his home. Family visited on weekends, he said, he didn't want trouble and envy surrounding his son. But he agreed, with conditions and warnings.
The factory closed at four on Fridays, the one day we could count on him to sit down to supper with us, and a favorite time because he would listen to grievances, hand out pocket money, toffee rolls, comic books, putting Milano's troubles behind him for a few hours. I must say I was anxious to see what he thought of my blue-eyed friend – and also a bit nervous about my sisters putting me in the eyes. In between helpings of mash and peas, I found him glancing occasionally at Jeremy; how he held the fork, cut his meat, the way he put the food in his mouth -- not too different from us except he ate a little slower, giving the food a few more chews. But then Jeremy didn't have three siblings rushing to prong their forks into the last chop. Jeremy had a good way of speaking to his elders, sort of well-behaved without being overly reserved, and my father was impressed by things like that. Of course he had no idea that Jeremy was the school prankster and Mr Greaves' worst nightmare.
``What're your plans for the future, Jeremy, do you know what you want to be?'' I suddenly heard him ask.
``Yes, sir, I want to be a pilot.''
My father’s brows raised in surprise. ``That's nice. You like planes then, do you?''
``My father was a fighter pilot.''
``He was killed in an air raid five years ago.''
Something went the wrong way down my father's throat, and he coughed. ``I'm sorry to hear that.''
``That's all right, Mr. Levy. You didn't know.''
``My mom's a designer,'' Layla said. ``She makes all the patterns for my father's factory. And yours?''
``She’s a police sergeant.''
``A woman police sergeant? Does she come home with a gun?'' Ruby asked.
``Don't be silly, Ruby,” Somaya said. “Sergeants don't carry guns.''
``She does have one,” Jeremy responded. “I count the bullets sometimes.''
I sat there listening to my sisters ask the questions I hadn’t asked, and Jeremy answering all of them. But what a combo for parents; a police sergeant and a fighter pilot, protecting South Africa's inhabitants. Who couldn't be proud of that?
The next morning my father was ready to drive off in his bakkie when Ruby ran out to tell me that Rudwan had just called to say that he would get a lift with his father and would be there soon. I was busy wiping the windscreen, and my father leaned his head out the window. ``He's your cousin, you be nice.'' He had this stupid fear that because I was friends with Jeremy, I was going to think I was white. Parents, I tell you. They put you out in this dinghy without a life jacket, then blame you if you drown.
Rudwan arrived in the middle of our gluing together a complicated windmill made out of sucker sticks, and I knew the minute he pretended Jeremy wasn't in the room that inviting him had been a mistake.
``Let's play kennetjie,'' he suggested. He was a whiz at hitting the stubby stick over the roof.
``It's getting dark, and we have to glue everything together tonight. We can't play right now.''
``You can help us,'' Jeremy offered.
Rudwan didn't turn his head to acknowledge his presence.
``You forgot how to play kennetjie, now?'' he persisted.
``Did I say that? I said it was getting dark. How can we see how to play? And we have to finish this project.''
``Let's do it later,'' Jeremy suggested.
``No. Tomorrow it has to be dry.''
Rudwan left mumbling, and moments later my father summoned me into the living room.
``What's going on?''
``He's being stupid.''
``Now he's calling me stupid,'' Rudwan whined, ``He's oorgetrek with his friend.''
``I'm not oorgetrek, you idiot. We have to finish gluing this thing tonight so we can paint it in the morning, and he doesn't understand. He wants to go play kennetjie in the dark.''
``You two always get along, why are you acting this way?''
``He's forgetting who he is.''
It was just the sort of thing to set my father off. I wanted to punch the sneer off Rudwan's face.
``Then why did I ask you to come? And what's the big deal, anyway? We can play tomorrow, and then you can show off!''
``That's it,'' Rudwan snorted. ``I'm calling my father to pick me up.''
``Stop this nonsense now,'' my father raised his voice. ``You're not calling anyone and, you, mister, I told you beforehand what's what.''
``Are you satisfied now, you snot? We asked if you wanted to help, but you didn't want to. What's your problem, man?''
``Who cares about your stupid project anyway.''
``That's enough!'' my father roared. ``Go sort your selves out, or I'm driving everyone home!''
We slunk back into my room, and I cursed myself for inviting him. Jeremy pretended nothing was wrong, and I felt shitty having him there. We were showing a very bad side. Worse, when I'd told Rudwan he could come, I'd not thought of the sleeping arrangements. To prevent war, I threw three cushions between the twin beds and tossed restlessly all night on the floor listening to their machine-gun farts.
The next morning, on my way to the bathroom, I overheard my parents in the kitchen, who were up early for koeksisters and coffee.
``... on his best behaviour.''
``So are we.''
``Do you think he's sincere?''
``What do you mean?''
``You can't change what's in their hearts – what they believe.''
``He's just a child.''
``But conditioned from the time he saw his black nanny staring down at him.''
``It's not his fault. And he has no problem having a Muslim boy for a friend. It's today's children who're going to change things, not us.''
``Today's black children, and coloured children. Not them. Do you think that after three centuries, they can flush it out with epsom salts?''
``You must stop all this politics in front of the kids.''
``They should be aware.''
``What, every kid in South Africa isn't aware?''
There was silence for a moment, then I heard my mother’s voice change. “I still like him, though.”
“Me too.”
“When he said that his father had died in an air raid it kind of did something to me. There is glory in protecting your country.''

1977 had started with black schools reopening amid continued student boycotts, ending with Rhodesia announcing its acceptance of one man, one vote, and Black-majority rule -- a dream held by most but not all of us. Somaya came third in class with eighty percent, Layla passed with above average marks, Ruby played the lead in The Frog Prince, I finished a good first year, and my mother stunned us with the announcement that the Philippi air had thrown her cycle out, and a baby was on the way.
The factory closed for the Christmas holidays, and my father made plans for a trip to the Wilderness. A few days into the arrangements I asked if I could bring Jeremy with.
``You know, Nazeem,'' he started, with that resigned thing in his voice, ``I like Jeremy, but he's come here all year now, and he's never asked you to his house.''
``Maybe he has a reason.''
My father looked at me in that strange way. “Of course he has.''
``He's not like that, Daddy, you don't know him. And we can't blame him for the government.''
``Who said anything about the government? It’s you I’m thinking about. Doesn't it bother you that he hasn't asked you once to come and meet his family?''
``It does, when I think about it. I don't know where he lives, and he knows where we keep the cheese in the fridge. I think about it, but I put it out of my mind. We're friends, that hasn’t changed, and he's going nowhere for the holidays.''
``His family's never tried to find out about us. I find that very strange also. You don't think we'd let you spend weekends at someone's house without knowing where it is or who those people are? This is two weeks in the Wilderness.''
``His mother's a sergeant, maybe she checked us out.''
My father said no more. That night at supper he brought it up with my mother.
``Bring him with,'' she said.
``I don't know why I bother to ask you. You'll bring the whole soccer team if you can. You have four children, you know, not yet five. Don't you find it strange that his mother's never called us, or tried to find out who we are?''
``I do, but if that's how they do things and Jeremy wants to come, why not?''
The day before the trip my mother and I went to pick Jeremy up. He had given me the address, and I was looking forward to see where he lived. I don't know what I expected at 63 Crosby Street, but my spirits sank when we stopped in front of a crumbly-walled cottage with an overgrown path, a rusted bicycle leaning against a wheelbarrow growing weeds under a mulberry tree with trampled berries on the hard ground. I wanted to believe that we were at the wrong house, when the front door opened and Jeremy, who must've been watching from the window, came out with his rucksack and fishing rod. He didn’t close the door behind him, and no one came out to see him off.
Jeremy got into the car, and we all sat heavy with our thoughts. When we arrived at the wrought-iron gates to Faan and the gardeners, the Dobermans jumping the car, our spirits lifted, and I was even glad to see my sisters, anxious to show off the trailer my father had rented.
Later that evening Jeremy and I packed the coolers with frozen chops and boerewors, afterwards stealing smokes from the head gardener in the backyard. One of our favourite things was sitting with Faan and Piet outside their quarters dragging on their hand-rolled cigarettes, but that night Jeremy was strangely reserved. I don't know if it was the tobacco, the upcoming trip, or picking him up at his house, but several times while chewing the fat with the boys, I caught him staring off in the dark.
At eleven my mother turned off the TV, and we went to bed. Shortly after midnight, somewhere in the dimness of sleep, I heard the gates roll open, the car drive into the garage, and heard voices. I perked my ears, and turned to Jeremy in the next bed. He wasn't there. Through the window I saw his white hair reflected in the moonlight, standing on the verandah in the dark.
``... I was waiting to talk to you, Mr Levy.''
``Is something wrong, Jeremy?''
``I just wanted to say that I appreciate it, sir, that you said I could come along with you and your family. And that I … lied to you that first night.''
``The first night?''
``When I first had supper at your house ten months ago. My father was a fighter pilot, and he did die in an air raid – that was the truth. But my mother's not who I said she was.''
``What do you mean?''
``She's a Carnegie from Simonstown. That’s what I’ve been told. She gave me up when I was born.''
``I see.''
``Elspeth is the woman who looks after me. She and my father never married, but I look at her as my mother. Elspeth's a cashier at OK Bazaars.''
``Jeremy, I -- ''
``When my father died, Elspeth moved to Woodstock, and took me with her. Her boyfriend lives with us.''
There was a long silence. ``Do you have any other relatives?''
``An auntie in Jo'burg. She sends me a card at Christmastime. I haven’t seen her since I was eight.''
I sank back into my pillow, with the same hollow feeling as the time Miss Thebus in Standard Three had told us Merle, the girl who sat next to me in class, had died of TB.
I watched them there in the moonlight, my oppositionist father and my silver-haired friend.
``Do you think, Jeremy, that these figs will be ripe by the time we get back from the trip? My wife planted this tree five years ago, and every year these small little things come out and drop rock hard to the ground.''
Of course, we never spoke about it, Jeremy and me. On the trip my heart swelled when I saw my mother drape his socks over a branch to dry, and my father include him in everything. I turned the chops on the braai, noticing my parents for the first time. Maybe one day one of them or Jeremy will tell me about it and I won't have to wade through the Carnegies in the phone book.