My boy

My “sort-of son” Impi turns 16 on Monday. I can’t believe that he’s been part of our lives for 16 years already. It seems like only a couple of years ago that I drove his mom to the hospital to give birth to him, and here he is, a great big 16 year old! His name is actually Thokazani and he is generally known as Thoka or TK, but to us he will always be Impi. When my eldest daughter, Roxy, was a toddler (there is a one year age-gap between her and Impi) she could not get her tongue around Impi’s real name, so for some unknown reason my mom suggested she call him Impi and the name has stuck.

Impi is the son of my parent’s live-in housekeeper, Eunice. Eunice is a much-loved member of our family, who has seen us through all sorts of tears, traumas, happy times and sad, in the 17 years that she has been with us. None of us could imagine life without her or Impi. Eunice has no daughters and I have no sons, so we have reached a very happy arrangement, whereby I share her son and she shares my daughters.

From the moment Imps arrived he had a special place in our family. People often ask how he came to be a “brother” to my daughters and a “son” to us…. was it planned, have we adopted him, etc etc. It’s actually quite an interesting and complex situation. We never planned for Impi to become “one of the family” and in reality he is still very much Eunice’s son (as it should be!) but over the years he has just naturally become one of us.

Before our extended family moved to the South Coast, we all lived in a small town in the midlands of KZN and at that time my parents and my family lived on one large property, with 2 separate houses on it. As the children grew up they moved freely between the two houses, Impi included. It was perfectly natural that Impi spent a lot of time playing with my two daughters and that he then came with us on the odd outing or dinner out.

Eunice occasionally spends the weekend away at her church meetings and retreats and at those times, she would leave Impi in our care. He then began to join us, every so often, if we spent a weekend away. It wasn’t long before Imps was an accepted member of our family, although it has always been a loose and unofficial arrangement.

Impi and my girls eventually ended up at the same school here on the South Coast. Their relationship has caused some serious confusion among their classmates. My younger daughter, Paula, found it particularly annoying having to explain the rather complex relationship to the kids at school, so she began telling anyone who asked that Imps was her brother. One day she was helping him carry the trophies he had won at a sports day to the car, when a little child stopped and asked her why she was carrying the trophies, she explained that they were her brother, Thoka’s trophies – the child looked confused and went and discussed the situation with another little boy. The following day the little boy came and asked Paula if Thoka was really her brother, she said that he was and the little boy declared “I knew it! You look just the same as him!” This caused much hilarity among the whole family as Impi is a black boy and Paula is a white girl.

Impi is a very talented sportsman, who achieved provincial colours for rugby, swimming and biathlon in his final year at primary school. This resulted in scholarship offers from numerous reputable boarding schools for his high school years. He is currently in Grade 10 at Glenwood High School.

Our relationship with Imps has been so rewarding for all of us. We have learnt from him, he has learnt from us. He adds something very special to our family. I think it is wonderful for my daughters to have a brother in their lives and it is just as wonderful for Imps to have sisters in his life. My Dad and my husband certainly enjoy having a boy around to discuss rugby and soccer with!

There have been negatives though. Eunice likes to go home, to the farm where she grew up, for a few weeks each year, usually over Christmas. Initially Impi was quite happy to go with her, but as the years have gone by, he prefers not to. He finds it difficult to fit in and gets bored and lonely. In recent years, he would go, but only for a week. This year his mom asked if he could stay with us when she went to the farm. We are more than happy to have him with us, but it is quite sad really, as he is losing part of his culture. I suppose it is perfectly natural and it’s happening more and more in this country, but it still makes me sad.

There have also been odd situations when Imps doesn’t quite fit in with the white kids and doesn’t entirely fit in with the black kids either – on occasion he has been called a “coconut” (brown on the outside, but white inside). He really doesn’t let incidents like this get him down though and is extremely well-adjusted. I have to confess that at the start of our relationship with him issues like this never crossed our minds.

I so look forward to seeing what the future holds for “our” boy. I think he has huge potential and he’ll definitely go far – I’m so glad he is taking us with for the ride.