Wednesday, 23 January 2013

My brother is the best mother I know

My brother is the best mother I know
23 January 2013

Single parenting sucks.  It really does.  I have the deepest empathy and bucket loads of respect to anyone out there who does it.  I know that personally I wouldn’t cope.

Most single parents, are just that due to the break-up of a relationship.  So perhaps indirectly at least, whether willingly or not, they played a part in their single status.  Relationships dissolve.  People fall out of love.  Circumstances intervene making it no longer viable and sometimes healthy to be a part of a couple.  For others the choice is taken away from them, when a partner dies.  Perhaps they’ve had advance warning in terms or an illness.  Perhaps it was sudden.  The outcome I suspect is generally the same.  The mantel of sole responsible adult for a dependent child is thrust upon you when your children are in your care.  Whether you’re the fulltime parent or the weekend and holiday parent.  When they’re with you, the buck stops with you.  I would imagine, that in the case of a break-up, whether your kids live with your permanently or not, as a parent you are continually concerned for their wellbeing too.  Physical proximity aside. 

My brother’s relationship with his children’s mom sadly didn’t work out.  Endings are never nice and heartache is always involved.  No-one escapes unscathed and unharmed.  But whereas their relationship is no more, they still have two beautiful, gorgeous little girls to show for their former love.  Such a blessing to all.

Lelanie plays the role of fulltime mom and I take my hat off to her.  It can’t be easy.  Being a mom to two small little girls can only be exhausting.  Given their age, there is no time for yourself.  At thirteen months apart, they are almost like twins.  Both at are an age where they want to start exerting their independence and want to do stuff for themselves, even though you know it takes way longer for them to do it and they probably won’t get it right.  They are needy as only little kids can be.  Bella is a beautiful, sweet and slightly bossy three and a half year old.  And Frankie is an angelic, sweet and even more bossy two and a half year old.  They are firm friends and adore each other.  I wish Lelanie lots of patience, as very soon she will find herself spending loads of time answering a seemingly endless supply of questions, all beginning with “why?”.

Over the January holiday period, my brother had his gals for a period of two weeks.  Luckily for him, he was able to take some time off his busy schedule and was able to dedicate his time solely to his kids.  And much though he rejoiced and indeed enjoyed his time, I think he took them back to Lelanie with some newfound respect.  It is bloody hard work.  Kids are needy and demanding, and obviously much though they love and adore their Pappa, for the first few days, they felt a bit unsettled and didn’t let him out of their sight.  Not even for a minute.  They slept with him at night and he permanently had Frankie attached to his hip.  Albert does not have a fulltime child minder.  He relies on no one else and flies solo with his gals.  He takes full responsibility for them and their care.  So when his kids are with him, he’s their mother too.

I find it charming to watch him with his kids.  My former wild and irresponsible brother, who was the life and soul of every party and whom I feared would never grow up, finally did.  He changed his life for them – gave up on the booze and womanizing.  In short he grew a pair.  He is frighteningly efficient.  Knowing exactly when to put them down for a nap, when the optimum bedtime moment is.  When they’re hungry or thirsty or they need the loo.  Frankie is newly potty trained, thus frequent trips to the bathroom are the order of the day.  He is strict and won’t let them get away with murder, just because he’s the “weekend” parent.  He’s not a pushover and they have a healthy respect for his authority.  He insists on good manners.  He deftly makes bottles, cleans-up after them, feeds them, plays with them and reads to them.  He is extremely hands-on and predictably, his gals just completely and utterly adore him.  My mom and brother drove up to Bloemfontein to fetch the kids and my mom says that for the rest of her life, she will never forget Frankie’s face when she saw him.  It lit up bright enough to solve all of Eskom’s power troubles.  They were just so excited to see him and head off on an adventure together.  Even though that adventure firstly entailed a ten hour car trip.

Albert sees his girls as often as he can.  As and when work and his schedule allows it.  A ten hour distance by car from his home in Tulbagh does however impede weekly visits.  His work often takes him to Joburg and then he takes the drive down to Winburg, outside Bloemfontein to see his kids.  He books in to a guest house or a B&B, goes on outings with them, they sleep over with him and they just bond.  When possible and he’s in Joburg, they visit with him at our aunt’s place and stay for a night or two.  I appreciate that it can’t be easy for Lelanie to relinquish her two small children.  Personally I would find it hard to do.  But she also deserves a break and some me-time just for herself.  A battery recharge if you like.

Grant and I form part of a tag-team and I am just so grateful for it.  We complete each other as parents.  I always have a sounding board and wailing wall at times when they drive me batty.  We make joint decisions.  We live busy lives and help each other out.  Taking turns to fetch, lift and cart about.  He helps with the boy-type school projects and does rough housing with the kids.  I tap into their emotional sides and smother them with motherly love.  As littlies, he helped with bath time and nappies and burping new babies.  When utterly over exhausted after a long sleepless night, he’d let me catch some zzz’s and watch the kids instead.  He’s hands-on and involved.  He’s more of a disciplinarian than I am – bad cop to my good, yet the combo works.  We stand united and form a unified front.  Doing it on my own???  No thank you very much!  Not for me.

I would imagine that if you have two parents, parenting the same children from different homes, it would be important to keep the lines of communication open.  You have a common and vested interest after all – your precious offspring.  Having an amicable relationship is key – not only to raising well-adjusted happy kids, but in setting an example for those kids.  At the end of the day, I would think that it is of vital importance to get past the “why it didn’t work out” and on to the “let’s make this parenting thing work” phase.  And luckily Albert and Lelanie have.

I don’t think either of them could ever regret their relationship or the time they had together.  The gift of their kids is far too precious for that.

I have oodles of respect to both of them for making it work.  And hence, when I say that my brother is the best mother I know, I don’t mean it disrespectfully to Lelanie.  I mean that he is as good.  Not a vacant 1950’s father, more interested in smoking his cigar, reading his paper and putting his feet up on a stool, while the little wife raises his children. 

I would say he is every bit as good as the best mom out there.

Little Frankie Pankie Pop

Beautiful Bella Bolla

Frankie passed out in Pappa's bed - best place to sleep

Albert showing Frankie her beautiful new ballerina dress - great excitement

Frankie is just the cutest little thing ever - completely and utterly besotted with her Dad - she's like his little shadow

Cows right at the fence next to Albert's house on the farm - about 10 steps from the kitchen door

The kids were predictably delighted

Cautiously feeding the cows some long grass through the fence

The most charming and sweetest little girl, our Bella

Clearly Frankie got her sunglasses fetish and fascination from her Dad - so what if they're upside down

Sit down meal for my birthday - Frankie clearly feeling happy

A gal's tea party - Albert in the background looking on

Bella - such a happy little soul

This is Frankie's camera smile - whenever you point a camera in her general direction, she pulls this killer smile

A brief quiet moment

Our sweetest little Bella

The girls dressed up as ballerina's and princesses and played in the garden at Muisnes

Brave Pappa about to have a make-up makeover

Girls hard at work fixing their Dad's looks

Frankie is delighted with the process

You simply have to do the lips too

Just check the concentration


Albert horsing around and giving the kids rides

Very brave Pappa after yet another makeover, courtesy of Bella and Frankie - personally I think it's a huge improvement on his looks. If only he was going to a pirate party...

I'm not entirely sure that Bella and Frankie should follow cosmetics and beauty therapy as a future career path. Unless they're doing extra's on horror movies, perhaps.

Katrine and I with Lelanie - our sister from another mother

Personally I would have run for the hills at this point - Frankie was about to start with the mascara over the very sensitive eye area. Luckily she managed to only gouge out one of Albert's eyes.


Beautiful Lelanie - very busy growing Frankie in this pic

Our Mom drove with Albert to Bloemfontein when he went to fetch the kids and when he took them home to Lelanie again. She was his co-pilot, the extra driver and a huge help with the kids.....obviously.  I don't know how he would have managed without her scintillating conversation, company and assistance.....

Big apologies for the random order of the pics. Despite attempting to upload the photos a few times in the correct chronological order, my computer had strong feelings otherwise and chose this way.



  1. Lovely pictures, thanks Helene! - and yes, I'll be the first to agree that Albert is indeed a fantastic mommy x

  2. Always so very perceptive Helene. All of us are impressed with how lovely the little gals are.
    They have great mothers!!

  3. Such a precious family with the most beautiful little princesses! <3

  4. I too raised my first 2 kids from ages 6 & 9 pretty much on my own......seems Albert & me have lived a similar path......rock on bro.

  5. Helene I just love reading your posts! It is so refreshing to see the other side of your boet in this particular post. I totally take my hat off to him - life is such a juggling act and it is very difficult to get it right all of the time. Trust me, I know, having been a stay at home dad for the past 9 years whilst my wife slaved to bring home the bacon. I have huge respect for all the unsung mum's out there. Kudo's to you Albert for being a wonderfully involved dad; to Lelanie for being a single mom; and to you, Helene, for writing so eloquently and honestly about it!!