Opinion: Level-14 Craziness, Or Daughter Available, Voetstoots

October 26, 2019

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“Would you consider adopting Abby?” I messaged two friends. “We will continue to pay the cost of her tuition and will also cover her hair products.” I didn’t want to blindside anyone, especially as I know that keeping her hair in the perfect curl, sets us back monthly. It’s a line item in the family budget.

“Shouldn’t be a problem,” said the first. The second said they would be honoured. “Voetstoots!” I responded, thinking it would make them reconsider – I used to be a lawyer. Both were happy to proceed.

Then I felt bad.

Mostly, I really do adore her. She is smart, courageous and kind. It was just this weekend that, well, she wasn’t.

To be fair, at the time that I made the offer, the woman-child was sobbing uncontrollably in her room. Sobbing as though someone had died, suddenly, and for no good reason.  And why? Why was she weeping inconsolably? Because my wife had asked her to try on a new dress that she had had altered for her. And she didn’t want to. Not at that moment. The fact that she had been asked to do this for at least a week didn’t seem relevant to the woman-child. “I’ve had such a long day!” she wailed. “My brain is fried! Please! Don’t make me do this! Please!” It was hard to take this seriously.

I exchanged glances with my son of 17. He was pale and there was no doubt that he was in deep shock. He needed sugar and we would need to debrief him. I feared that if we didn’t, there would be a good chance that he would never get married.

For good order sake, I will take a minute to describe the nature of my 14-year-old daughter’s long day. She woke up at 10am after a wonderful evening out with her brother and friends the night before. She had bounded through the door giggling with joy and bursting with anecdotes and laughter, after which she had drifted off to slumber on a cloud of happiness.

When she awoke, the sun already confidently in the sky, her mom made her breakfast of fresh salmon and eggs while she chatted about the evening before. After breakfast, she left to go shower and dedicated around an hour to get ready (you already know about the hair). She then joined us out for lunch, came home and relaxed some more, before getting ready to go to a friend for a birthday tea.

She took no buses, she did no schoolwork, she didn’t take the trash out, and she didn’t work in any underground mine that is guilty of unfair labour practices. She most probably didn’t even make her own bed, she certainly didn’t wash a dish or help prepare her meal. The only thing “fried” was the schnitzel her mother made for her for supper.

“You just don’t understand me!” she wailed. “Nope”. I thought. “I most definitely don’t.”

Nor, of course, did my son. My wife alone apparently did. It’s a girl thing, she said understandingly. But then turned to Abby in a ferocious, teeth clenched tone and hissed “Try! On! That! Dress!” So convincing was her instruction that I found myself reaching for the item to try it on myself. This was not a woman to be trifled with. If that dress had to be tried on, then it needed to be tried on, and I didn’t seem to matter if it was Abby, my son or me.

Someone had to do it.

It did happen in the end. And when she finally emerged from her room in the offending item, it was plain to see how beautiful she looked. Even her swollen eyes didn’t detract from it.  She really looked wonderful.

Fortunately, no adoption papers were signed by the end of the evening and it seems as though we might rescind the offer, or at least put it on hold for the time being. She really is lovely to have around most the time.

By the time I left for the radio studio at 5am, she was already up and busy in the kitchen decorating a cake that she had baked for a friend’s birthday. As a family we might still be suffering from a touch of post-traumatic stress disorder, but she was well over it. She hummed as she worked as though the night before had never happened.

Fourteen is not an easy age. The biggest challenge for parents is that we never know if it is woman-child or child-woman who will emerge from her bedroom. With the boys, it was different. They remained boys no matter what type of body they inhabited.

But that is a subject for another day.

Howard Feldman is one of South Africa’s leading entrepreneurs. His experience is global and extensive, spanning more than 20 years of working as a business strategist, keynote speaker, published author, both locally and globally, social and political commentator, morning drive show host and philanthropist.

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