I don’t feel I was prepared for exactly how my children’s different personalities would affect my interactions with them, and how we would emulsify and separate in our day-to-day interactions.
My youngest daughter — the ‘baby’ — has always been the most fearless and capable little person. She seems to have grasped the rules of life in society with ease, and with far fewer bumps in the road than her sisters encountered at the same stages. Because of her resilience, she has been left mostly to her own devices. This has seemed to work — up until now. She has become increasingly frustrated and clingy lately and in hindsight I can see that my previously unsqueaky wheel is now desperately in need of grease, and of a more consistent re-greasing plan for the future. When we cope well in times of trouble, those around us congratulate our resilience. So we hold even stronger. Then when we can’t cope alone anymore; emotionally, financially, physically, we don’t communicate what we need from those around us, and we wonder why no-one is there for us in our time of need.
Asking for help — and accepting it — is a muscle that has to be exercised in order for it to work properly. As I type all this, I am sitting at my desk, smelling vaguely of veld fire, after about two hours of broken sleep. Last night, in a wind that is all too familiar to Vredehoek, a fire started on the slopes of Table Mountain. For hours, those close by sat and watched as the flames and the firemen played a dangerous game of cat and mouse. I felt so proud as our community — residents, volunteers and emergency services — worked together, communicated with people through neighbourhood watch groups, posted updates online and supported our fire fighters. The most asked question on these groups was “What do the firefighters need us to drop off for them?” By morning, not only had the immediate needs of the fire fighters been met, but resources had been collected for future emergencies too. We have to ask clearly for the support we need and paradoxically, we need to offer support to others before it is asked for. Then, on the other hand, a good coping tool for raging fires — on our mountains as well as in our hearts — is to create firebreaks; gaps in the vegetation that act to slow the combustion. I can’t be there for you if I haven’t had time to recharge myself and an exhausted, selfless martyr is of no use to anyone. So, I guess I have found my goal for 2017; I want to teach my girls that there is no heroism in quietly flailing on your own when you should have asked for help, that offering support doesn’t have to wait until times of dire need, and that there is no shame in withdrawing to look inward and rest when it feels right. Here’s to a great 2017 of knowing when to do which.