As a parent, I get terribly stressed out when I hear stories about children getting hurt and tend to adopt an 'ignorance is bliss' attitude to protect myself and my children from these horrific events. At times this shield evaporates, like when I heard about the rape of an eight year old little girl by 12 to 14 year old boys in her school. That's when everything else that is happening comes into focus. I'm also talking about the rape of a pregnant woman by 11 men (11!) and the murder of at least four women found over the past weekend.
I am aware of the great divide in our country and that the most vulnerable are those who do not have parents at their beck and call. Those who walk kilometres alone to school or to fetch water, those who are left to play in the streets until their caregivers arrive home from work. In my frustration and horror I hit out at the system, the justice system, the education system, the work ethic of teachers and child carers, whether anyone in this country cares about anything else besides themselves.
Then I realise that the real question for me is – where do kids learn these things from? What are their parents like? Are they taught to be hurtful, hateful, discriminatory people? How is it fun to watch another human being being tortured, humiliated and abused? And that's when I decided that there actually is something I can do, maybe not to change the world, but to hopefully ensure that my own children never grow up thinking or behaving that way. Ever. Because there's a chance that these abusive kids are lacking in something, lacking love and guidance, seeking affirmation of themselves in the world, trying to find someone to notice them, all be it in a negative way.
The solution then, for me personally and for my own kids, is to be more present. To listen more, to give my full attention, to be a good role model, to wake my kids up with a smile on my face, to put them to bed with a story of love, to teach them to be kind, not because we have to but because it feels so good. It's hard work being happy and patient all the time, especially with all the pressures of life.
I am privileged (and not so privileged but that's a story for another article) to live across the road from my kids' school. I've seen parents hoot all the way to the school, wait impatiently for their kids and then drive off in a huff because they had to wait a few seconds. Is that child going to feel happy to go home? Or would he rather stay out on the streets or somewhere else where he doesn't feel like he's a burden.
I've chosen to make a promise to myself that no matter what goes on in my day, that my actions and my attitude towards my kids always needs to be one of care, thoughtfulness, compassion and all things good for their little hearts. It's impossible for me not to know what goes on in the world, especially with all the cruelty and craziness of wars, famine, droughts, Donald Trump and all things negative - things that I may never understand or agree with.
Not to stress myself out, but to enable myself to teach my kids about what's not acceptable, about engaging with them to see what they think and in this way gauge whether I am in fact doing a good job being a parent. That's what it's about right, growing great leaders, pillars of their communities and well balanced, sane individuals.