BELGIUM:  Lottery

BELGIUM: Lottery

Lottery_K10KI’m going to ask you all to journey with me into an imaginary world. A parallel universe if you will. This world bears some similarity with the one of H.G Wells’ Eloi from his book The Time Machine. And possibly something from Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games as well.

It’s a nice world to live in, really. You are relatively happy there. You get to spend a great deal of time with your child and you generally feel fulfilled. There is this small matter of the alien usurpers that govern the world but in daily life, you don’t even notice them. Afterall, they did manage to rule out world hunger and poverty, so at times you are even grateful to them.

Every once in a while, however, the aliens impose their Lottery. It is a constant little threat that buzzes at a corner of your head. The Lottery picks out subjects at random, which are then summoned to the alien High Office. No one really knows what happens there but everyone agrees it’s nasty. Sometimes the subjects are adults, sometimes children. Even babies don’t escape the Lottery. But it has never happened to you or anyone you know. So, you are quite comfortable and don’t even mind following the Lottery outcomes.

Until that fatal Lottery Day. You don’t even know your child’s name is picked until you see his hypodermal chip changing colour. At first you try to deny it. It has to be a play of the light. A mistake, maybe.  But then it is on the news as well. Your son is the new subject and he hasn’t come in yet like he should have. The aliens are coming for him.

Being accustomed to human habits, they allow you to go with him, although they advise against it. Of course you go. All parents do, the aliens say. Humans never listen to reason.

In the following weeks, your child is poked around. Needles, infusions and pills. He has to swallow big magnet-like sensors and gets extra chips. Wires go in and out. He is brave and endures. You can see his anxiety, but you assure him it should be over soon. That’s what they tell you anyway.

Then the pain comes. And his screams. Oh, his screams. You kiss his forehead, telling him to hold on. The aliens don’t give in to your pleas to stop. To please stop.

The pain comes and goes. In between, he is exhausted, but brave, still. You believe he is so much braver than you are.

One day, the aliens take you aside for a little talk. They inform you your child isn’t going to be one of those subjects that gets to go home after a memory wipe. Their studies show he actually is an excellent subject for their experiments. He is quite special. He is going to stay at the High Office forever. As long as his little body can endure anyway.

It’s your time to scream now. Your legs give in. You beg them to take you instead. There must be some similarities between the both of you, you plea. Maybe you would make an even better subject. You might be able to endure longer than your precious little boy.

Of course they don’t give in. That was not how the Lottery works. It’s your child they want.

So, day in, day out, you watch your child suffer. When you can’t bear looking, you still hear him anyway.

One day, the pain is exceptionally hard to cope with. Out of breath, your child tells you again he can’t do it anymore. He doesn’t even care for going home anymore. He just wants it all to stop.

For the first time you can’t find the strength to tell him to hold on. Why would he? The door is locked and guarded. And the aliens seem more thrilled with their results every day.

They will never let him go now.

This is why in Belgium, as of February 2014, euthanasia for minors was legalized.

We don’t have aliens here (yet) but we do have children suffering from terminal illness. Children with no other perspective in life than death.

Some are born into it; others see their life changing overnight. Some are in constant, barely sedated, pain; others are sitting out their time. Some have a clear will about what they want from life; others only know the difference between comfort and discomfort. Some will want to live; others will want to die.

I don’t expect you all to fully agree with this law. I do understand there are various objections, moral and religious. I do realize there are fears of misjudgement, or even misuse.

But for me, I’m mostly relieved and confident.

Relieved these children will now be able to make the most important decision of their lives. Confident they will be able to make the right choice with the support of their parents and doctors. They have my support too. 

How about you? Would you be able to support a child or a parent on such decision? Are there laws for or against euthanasia for minors in your part of the world?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by K10K from The Penguin and The Panther.

The picture in this post is credited to the author.

K10K

If you ask her about her daytime job, K10K will tell you all about the challenge of studying microbes in extreme environments, going from the deep underground to outer space. Her most demanding and rewarding job however is raising the Penguin and the Panther, her seven and five year old little rascals. The Penguin grew in her belly, turned out very, very white and wants to become a meteorite examiner, fireman and artist. The Panther grew in her heart, had quite, quite dark skin and wants to become a teacher, mother of thirteen babies and famous musician. Together they provide most of the feed for her blog, The Penguin and The Panther, but they are also the primary cause of why she struggles to find the energy for writing anything lately...

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Belgium: Bleak Reflections

Belgium: Bleak Reflections

BleakEven before I became a mother, I had a particular wish for my future children. Looking back at several not so fond memories of my childhood, I vowed I would do everything for them to have a better one. They shouldn’t have to grow up too fast. They would not have to feel unwanted, misunderstood or worthless. I would guard their innocence and happiness like a hawk.

The major driving force behind the different attempts of therapy I tried throughout the years, was the well-being of my (future) kids. I wouldn’t allow mistakes in motherhood.

In fact, I didn’t want them to become like me at all. Just like the mother who really tries hard not to show her child how much she is freaked out by spiders, in order not to raise a little arachnophobic like herself. My list of not-to-pass-ons was just longer: low self esteem, perfectionism, fear of failure, social clumsiness, easy overstimulation and of course CFD: ‘continuously fretting disorder’.

The first five years of motherhood, I had the impression I could accomplish all this. I actually felt like the perfect mother: patient, involved, crafty, warm. I even managed to stick to my not-to-pass-on-list.  It would cost me quite some effort, but I would not interfere when my son was building a crooked tower, so he could not catch my perfectionism. Trying not to pass on perfectionism while desperately trying to be a perfect mother.  It may sound absurd now, but back then, it totally made sense.

Three years ago, my perfect balance in motherhood shifted drastically.  When our son turned five, we couldn’t ignore anymore that he was going to develop at a speed different from his peers. At the same time, our adopted daughter arrived, aged two and a half.

They both forced me to face my demons better than any therapy has ever done throughout the years.

My son and I, we discovered developing an intelligence and sensitivity far beyond our physical age, is a struggle we share. Where his friends will watch a grazing cow on a field trip and complain about the stench, he will likely try to understand why this mammal has four stomachs, how to measure the circumference of the pasture and how long it would take for the cow to eat all that grass. And how much dung it would have produced by then, of course. His sense of humour is still a seven year old’s.

My daughter and I, we’ve been battling childhood trauma and attachment disorder together. We cried together in the shower numerous times, holding each other fiercely. The battle has been rough. It still is. Sometimes I just can’t comfort her like I should, because I need comforting myself.  But she amazes me with a resilience I just can’t manage. She might be  jumping on the trampoline and singing imaginary happy-songs, while I crash on the couch to mentally recover from holding her mourning and kicking little body for over half an hour.

It has been extremely painful to see my least fond childhood memories revive in my kids.

Comforting a son that feels like an alien, desperately trying to cover up his super powers because he just wants to blend in. Reassuring a daughter that follows me around the house like a puppy because she just can’t believe she won’t be abandoned again.

Painful. Heart wrenching. And feeding the CFD by the tons.

However,  I’m seeing now that our struggles do not necessarily have to be the same. Because, you know, they have me. Of course I can’t protect them from being hurt. No mother can do that for her children. It’s one of the curses of being  a mother.

But as it turns out, as a ‘damaged’ mother, I might be the perfect guide for my heavy-hearted children.

I’m teaching my son first handed how to make use of his extraterrestrial powers, without a need to blend in. I’m even coaching him in failing and making mistakes without believe it’s the end of the world. I surely acknowledge how important that lesson is. He’ll get it much earlier than I did.

I’m confidently ignoring outsiders’ advice on how to deal with my daughter’s anxieties, since I recognize how she feels. When she’s grieving, I guard her like an eagle that will not allow anyone to question or mock her tears of grief. I’m determined to give her what I never got. I will make her feel loved and understood. Unconditionally.

Me, I’ve only discovered how to find happiness after a painful and lonely journey.

I intend to show my children all the short cuts.

They will have a splendid childhood.

How do you see your own childhood reflected in your children? Is it mostly warm or can it be painful as well?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by K10K from The Penguin and The Panther.

The picture in this post is credited to the author.

K10K

If you ask her about her daytime job, K10K will tell you all about the challenge of studying microbes in extreme environments, going from the deep underground to outer space. Her most demanding and rewarding job however is raising the Penguin and the Panther, her seven and five year old little rascals. The Penguin grew in her belly, turned out very, very white and wants to become a meteorite examiner, fireman and artist. The Panther grew in her heart, had quite, quite dark skin and wants to become a teacher, mother of thirteen babies and famous musician. Together they provide most of the feed for her blog, The Penguin and The Panther, but they are also the primary cause of why she struggles to find the energy for writing anything lately...

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BELGIUM: Rino

BELGIUM: Rino

Rino_K10KWe have a cat. A lot of people have a cat. Ours is named Rino. As in rhinoceros, minus the “h” and the horn.

Looking back, I got him when he was still a little too small, so he definitely sees me as his cat-mom. He slept in the Big Bedroom during the first months of his life, with me stroking him upon every little yelp. When he wants to cuddle, he tucks his head in my armpit, as if he wants to get nursed. He’s the cuddliest cat I know. And the best frog catcher as well.

Rino is get-out-of-jail-free card. He radiates reassurance. Peace of mind. When I’m overwhelmed by motherhood, he can convince me to allow the children to come back downstairs after their time-out. He reminds me I prefer talking above time-outs.

When the kids are finally asleep, he crashes the couch with me. There’s nothing like the sound and feel of a purring cat to take the daily stress away. Did I mention he’s fat and orange? The perfect blanket. Matches most of my cloths too.

When our son is having a bad morning, he usually refuses to put on his cloths. He goes on strike on the couch, with his head beneath the cushions. We aren’t able to get through to him nor make eye contact. His sister will try, but she always manages to make things worse. Not her fault, and she earns her credits for trying the impossible.

And then Rino comes pawing in. Takes a few bites from his food and then goes straight for his ‘big brother’. The minute I tell my son who is coming for him, we see his face again. Eleven minutes, fifty three strokes and fourteen cuddles later, he will be dressed and heading for breakfast. The same goes for homework, violin practice and heart break: Rino will drag him through.

When our adopted daughter first met Rino, she nearly jumped to the ceiling. She only knew cats as thieves that should be chased from the orphanage’s kitchen, so she hissed and motioned to get him out, hiding behind my skirts. She didn’t develop a liking for stuffed animals either, with a brother sneaking up on her with those. He didn’t particularly like his new little sister those first months and couldn’t stop scaring her away, so we ended up hiding all the stuffed tigers and cats from them both.

Two years later, their bond has grown. They do continue teasing each other. They fight like little demons over who gets to open the curtains in the morning but an hour later in school the little one will call for her brother when she’s running from kissing boys. They always end up wanting to play with the exact same box of Legos that was untouched for weeks before, but just as frequently, they will team up against me, especially when candy is at stake. I was told that is universal proof they’ve developed a sibling bond.

The same goes for Rino. Our daughter considers him part of the family now. She demands we talk about him with first ànd last name, our family name, and she doesn’t believe it’s fair he’s not allowed to go to the zoo with us. He would love the big cats, you know. I’m glad Rino is visibly terrified inside moving vehicles so in the end our daughter’s more or less convinced he wouldn’t really like joining us.

A few weeks ago, my daughter asked how Rino came to our family. Did he come willing? Or was he taken from his mommy?  After we hesitantly told her it was the latter, she immediately went to find him and whispered in his ear, “You’re just like me!” Ever since, she considers him her little brother even more.

He has become her mirror, in a way. Whenever she’s fantasizing about what she would like to tell her birth mother, he’s a major part of her story. She would like to send her birth mother pictures and drawings of Rino, but not of herself. Pictures of Rino sleeping in the bird house, of Rino coming from the woods when he hears our car approaching, of Rino sleeping with his paws in the air and head to the side, like a wrongly assembled toy.  She wants to tell her all about him.

But most of all, she wants to tell her birth mother that we are such great and loving parents.

For Rino, of course.

Do you have pets that enrich your family? Do they help your children cope with life’s sharp edges? Feel free to share about their funny and serious contributions in your daily life!

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by K10K from The Penguin and The Panther.

The picture in this post is credited to the author.

K10K

If you ask her about her daytime job, K10K will tell you all about the challenge of studying microbes in extreme environments, going from the deep underground to outer space. Her most demanding and rewarding job however is raising the Penguin and the Panther, her seven and five year old little rascals. The Penguin grew in her belly, turned out very, very white and wants to become a meteorite examiner, fireman and artist. The Panther grew in her heart, had quite, quite dark skin and wants to become a teacher, mother of thirteen babies and famous musician. Together they provide most of the feed for her blog, The Penguin and The Panther, but they are also the primary cause of why she struggles to find the energy for writing anything lately...

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BELGIUM:  Sinterklaas

BELGIUM: Sinterklaas

SinterklaasAs an adoptive mother of an Ethiopian Panther, I’ve grown an extra pair of antennas when it comes to racism.

Truly, a lot of really nice people distinguish my daughter from other children, based on her color. Even if it is meant to defend her, like calling me disgusting for letting her carry the groceries, it basically still is hidden racism. Should I tell her that people believe she shouldn’t be helping me out because it reminds them of slavery while her white brother is allowed to do the same chores? I’d rather have people call me names than let them wreck my daughter’s self esteem.

However, as I’m writing this, there is a HUGE racism debate going on in Belgium and even worse in The Netherlands, where it all started. And despite my racism antennas, I just can’t fully agree with the racism-yellers this time. Not even if they yell all the way from some United Nations office.

The debate is all about the ancestor of Santa Claus: Sinterklaas. You can read here about how Santa Claus evolved from our Sinterklaas, or Saint Nicholas, who is actually believed to be Turkish, who resides in Spain, has a white horse called Bad-Wheater-Today (Belgium) or Amerigo (The Netherlands), and celebrates his December birthday by coming over to our countries and surprising children with presents.

In the Netherlands he comes over on the evening of December 5th. Later that night, he comes to Belgium and delivers toys and sweets to be found in the children’s shoes on the morning of the 6th. It’s really a children’s celebration, full of magic and anticipation. You will bump into him just about everywhere during November.

Now, because Sinterklaas is getting old and forgetful, and has a lot of work to do within 24 hours, he has helpers. These helpers are all black, and hence all called ‘Black Peter’ (Zwarte Piet).

And that’s where all the accusative fingers point.

Indeed, this tradition can be seen as offensive. I, for a fact, believe it is partly based on a slavery and stereotype-loaded past, and a lot of people agree with me. Black Peter has long been depicted as a bit slow, barbaric (kidnapping and hitting the naughty children), dressed in clownish clothes, with stout lips and being submissive to his white boss.

Of course I agree this is an awful, insulting picture to brainwash our children with during the big Sinterklaas-Awaiting-Month-of -November. I also agree an outsider would be shocked, when he meets Sinterklaas and his Black Peters for the first time, especially if oblivious to the folklore. And I honestly understand and feel the offense people take.

For me personally, Sinterklaas has me cringing with bittersweetness ever since I found out about his racist taint. I’m not even particularly fond of the Sinterklaas tradition anymore.

However, I also don’t agree that we are teaching our children racism, nor paying ode to slavery by honoring this tradition every year. Not any more, that is.

Since the 1990’s, we have a children’s holiday special on TV portraying the real story. Children are elegantly taught Black Peter is black – and not brown/colored/african – because he came down the chimney. No more, no less. Nobody really tries to explain why his clothes didn’t get black during his journey down the chimney.

It is just part of the mystery, just like Bad-Wheater-Today walking on rooftops or Sinterklaas having this enormous book in which the good and bad behavior of every single child is listed. It doesn’t make sense, but children buy it anyway.

In this TV-special, Sinterklaas is depicted as a bit senile. In fact his Black Peters are now the smart ones, all with different names according to their function or character. A bit like the Smurfs, and everyone likes the Smurfs, right?

For the past 20+ years, this  special comes on every November. Along the way, children started to grow more afraid of this very strict and grumpy old man than of his joyous, candy throwing helpers. The Black Peters became the true friends of our children. And every Belgian child you ask about Black Peter’s color now, will patiently tell you the chimney-story.

To me, this shows our tradition is evolving from, I admit, a racist past, towards a new story. Just like it evolved into Santa Claus overseas—who, by the way, appears to imprison a whole lot of innocent, little people in a Siberia-like, harsh environment without paying them for their round-the-clock labor.

Therefore, I trust society may even evolve towards a tradition of White Peters in a few more years or decades. After all, with more and more houses being built without huge chimneys, we will sooner or later find out that Peter’s color is fading, won’t we?

I’m hoping that by the time this post runs, all the petitions –pro and con–the social media frenzy, any UN investigations and any public manifestations, will be over and done with. I truly hope no-one got hurt along the way, and that both camps have reached a certain level of understanding towards each other by the time Saint Nicholas wants to celebrate his birthday.

Because, you know, my children are already expecting Sinterklaas to send one of his Peters down our chimney on the 6th of December. Especially my very dark daughter is impatiently awaiting. I’d hate to disappoint her if he decided not to come this year, because he’s afraid to be called a racist. She would definitely not understand, mainly because she doesn’t see any resemblance between Black Peter and herself.

I’m confident Sinterklaas will make it, though. We are both alike, Sinterklaas and me. We’re already used to people calling us racist slave handlers. And we both know better than that.

Did you know about Santa Claus’s European past? How would you feel if he had black helpers instead of elves? 

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by K10K from The Penguin and The Panther.

The picture in this post is credited to Sinterklaas Himself, who published it on Wikipedia, while undercover as Gaby Kooiman, under GNU Free Documentation License.

K10K

If you ask her about her daytime job, K10K will tell you all about the challenge of studying microbes in extreme environments, going from the deep underground to outer space. Her most demanding and rewarding job however is raising the Penguin and the Panther, her seven and five year old little rascals. The Penguin grew in her belly, turned out very, very white and wants to become a meteorite examiner, fireman and artist. The Panther grew in her heart, had quite, quite dark skin and wants to become a teacher, mother of thirteen babies and famous musician. Together they provide most of the feed for her blog, The Penguin and The Panther, but they are also the primary cause of why she struggles to find the energy for writing anything lately...

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BELGIUM:  Interview with K10K of The Penguin & The Panther

BELGIUM: Interview with K10K of The Penguin & The Panther

K10KWhere in the world do you live? And, are you from there?

I was born, raised and proudly remain stuck in the Belgian mud. I would sometimes dream about moving abroad, but it turns out I’m quite happy staying right here. I do like to travel several times a year, mostly for work.

 

What language(s) do you speak?

My mother tongue is Flemish (which is basically the same as Dutch), but with Belgium being a trilingual country, I also speak French and I can understand German. Obviously, I also speak – and write – English. About ten years ago I also decided to learn Indonesian, but all I remember of it now are the words kamar kecil, which means I can actually ask where the bathroom is if I would  make it to Indonesia one day.

In addition, I would love to learn how to read and write music, and to understand Amharic, the first language of our daughter.

 

When did you first become a mother?

This is a tricky one, because in my experience, I can call on two firsts.  Two totally different ways of expecting a child, of becoming a mother, both wonderful and intense. In 2006, I first became a mother when our son was born,  the one I love to call our cuddly Penguin. Five years later, in 2011, I first became an adoptive mother when we brought our two-year-old daughter home, our darling Panther.

 

Is your work, stay-at-home mom, other work at home or do you work outside the home?

Apart from being a full time mom, full time housekeeper and full time wannabe writer, I also have a full time job outside my home. Some might even say I’m building an exciting career as a geomicrobiologist, enabling me to go on missions abroad and to research amazing subjects, but they should  know that my favorite moments are without doubt coming home, be it after a working day or a business trip.

 

Why do you blog/write?

I started blogging (in Flemish) during our adoption procedure, merely as a way to keep friends and relatives posted on any news we would get in those long years. Along the way, blogging became a kind of therapy, enabling me to vent frustrations and personal struggles,  or to focus on optimism and fun facts. I also learned just how much I loved to write.

I kept on blogging until our daughter was home for two years. I recently decided to stop, mostly for the privacy of my children and because I felt like I was getting ‘addicted’ to blogging. It was a hard decision, disappointing to quite some readers who liked the plain honesty in my writing. But, as a go-between, I decided to start a low frequency, anonymous, English blog about life with my Penguin and Panther, and to contribute to WMB every once in a while. And in the extra spare time I have now, my newest endeavor is to write children’s books, which has long been a dream of mine.

 

How would you say that you are different from other mothers?

As a typically modest Belgian, I truly find it awkward to differentiate myself that way. I don’t believe I have something special about me as a mother, or a person for one. But since I have to, well, I guess I would be different from other mothers because my kids come in two opposite colors and with some extra needs. Our blond haired Penguin is an overly sensitive philosopher who understands more than is good for him, while our curly Ethiopian Panther deals with attachment, anxiety and health issues. They leave me both exhausted and enriched every single evening, but I guess that’s no difference to other mothers…

 

What do you view as the challenges of raising a child in today’s world?

I don’t even know where to begin!  Every day is a challenge, when raising children, isn’t it? One of my major concerns though, is to let our children remain children as long as possible. I strive to keep a delicate balance between guarding my children innocence and purity, and still teaching them about the need for respect and care for the less fortunate or for our struggling environment. With today’s society going so fast, having everything within reach, leaving nothing to the imagination,  I try to create an island of simplicity and ‘slowness’ for our children (and ourselves!)  at home, where they can develop at their own pace. But when time comes, I still want them to be able to catch one of society’s speed boats that are racing by our island…

 

How did you find World Moms Blog?

I just bumped upon WMB through a cartoon someone shared. I think. My kids often beat me at ‘Memory’, so I can’t be sure about it. But I do remember I started reading and reading and couldn’t stop for another hour.

 

This is an original interview of our new writer in Belgium, K10K – pronounce it as Ka-ten-ka and you will come quite close to her real name – from The Penguin and The Panther

The image used in this post is credited to the author.

K10K

If you ask her about her daytime job, K10K will tell you all about the challenge of studying microbes in extreme environments, going from the deep underground to outer space. Her most demanding and rewarding job however is raising the Penguin and the Panther, her seven and five year old little rascals. The Penguin grew in her belly, turned out very, very white and wants to become a meteorite examiner, fireman and artist. The Panther grew in her heart, had quite, quite dark skin and wants to become a teacher, mother of thirteen babies and famous musician. Together they provide most of the feed for her blog, The Penguin and The Panther, but they are also the primary cause of why she struggles to find the energy for writing anything lately...

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