A room full of planets for the little boy who’s coming back home

We are ready, at least, to be our son’s full-time parents again.

By Poppy Louw

For the first time since giving birth to our son, almost seven years ago, we are becoming “full-time” parents.

I say “full-time” because, before this, my partner and I were unable to provide the kind of life we wanted for our six-year-old, Leano, in Johannesburg. As a result, he has been living with my family in Kimberley.

The escalating cost of living, and sometimes unstable career opportunities, made it difficult to settle into a rhythm that is suitable for a child.

We’ve moved five times since he was born, uprooting our lives repeatedly. Debt repayments took a chunk of our disposable income, and there have also been significant mental health challenges during this time.

But now we both feel we have the necessary skills to manage the unexpected, stressful situations that life throws our way.

The guilt I felt during the six years apart from Leano has reduced over the years. As he grew older, he understood that the living arrangement was only temporary.

He is able to articulate himself, so we knew where his head was at most of the time. There were tough days when we would have to convince a teary toddler that he would come home to his parents one day.

Despite the 612 km distance between us, we stay connected with him regularly, spending hours on video calls.

We have had to compensate for our missed time by prioritising our time together as a family during the school holidays.

We take an interest in the things he likes, so we find common ground to engage with him. I’ve seen him smile when we sing along to music from his favourite cartoons or when we buy him novelty items. 

Recently, he and I have been bonding over a promotion by retailer, Checkers, called Little Shop 3. He’s been collecting items from grocery shopping with my mom, while I have been collecting on my side.

We went through our collection and exchanged notes. Apparently, I have a “cool” collection. I don’t mind being considered cool by a child.

The countdown to his arrival has been filled with excitement. He will be in Grade 1 next year, so we’ve applied for space at schools using the Gauteng Department of Education school application portal.

If there is one thing, I’m nervous about, it has to be homework. Many of my friends with school-going children have complained about the amount of homework their children get.

Then again, no parents have perished from homework, so I know we will be okay. His father is a general knowledge whizz, making him the go-to person.

We have also started planning the decor for the bedroom he will share with my niece, for the times that she visits us. He loves science and engineering, particularly outer space, and space travel.

A section of his room gives way to a cool dark spot that we are converting into a portable planetarium, with glow-in-the-dark stars. We have sourced different-sized polystyrene balls for the individual planets, and arts and crafts items to decorate them accordingly.

We intend to pique his interests and stimulate his mind with tons of reading material and educational programmes.

Over the course of this year, we have been taking him around Johannesburg on fun activities, such as visiting the zoo, Sci-Bono, and Lion Park. He absorbs information and is not afraid to ask questions. I look forward to many more adventures ahead, both inside and outside our home.

We are happy with the decision we made for him to grow up with my mother and sister for his first few years. He was never without love and grew up to become grounded and confident in himself. 

I wish I knew the best way to prepare for a child. What I do know is that preparing for our child a second time around required us to work on ourselves, so that we can be the best we can be for him.

  • This article first appeared on the Change Exchange, an online platform by BrightRock, provider of the first-ever life insurance that changes as your life changes. The opinions expressed in this piece are the writer’s own and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BrightRock.

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