Friday, 17 September 2010

Parents & Their Failures

A few weeks ago I heard a story that I can’t seem to get out of my mind. My aunt’s neighbour’s 18 year old self-obsessed empty shell daughter, Lamees, was at home one day supposedly babysitting her 4 year old brother while their mother was out shopping. Her brother had one of his pre-school friends, a 3 and a half year old boy, over for a play-date. So they were busy playing inside her room and she left them for a few seconds to answer the telephone, and when she returned, this 3 year old kid told her that he had to go home.

Not really paying any attention, she let him leave the house by himself. About an hour later, the 3 year old kid’s grandmother arrived at the house and asked to speak to her mother who had just returned from her shopping trip. When the Grandmother was alone with her mother, she handed her R500 in cash not saying anything other than it belonged to her. The Grandmother then left, and confused, the mother asked Lamees if she had any money missing from her purse. She went to check and found that the R500 that she had in her purse was missing. In a panic, she began looking for it in her bag, thinking that she may have misplaced it when her mother handed it to her and told her what happened.

Apparently this 3 year old kid stole the money from her purse and then went straight home to give it to his Grandmother. Furious, Lamees wanted to go over there and punish him but her mother convinced her not to.

When I heard this story, I wanted to go and bitch-slap this Lamees chick until she saw stars in broad daylight. I mean, lets use our heads here… this is a 3 year old kid who lives with his Grandmother because his parents can’t take care of him. If this kid was just being naughty and wanted the money for himself, he would have went straight to the shops and splurged on chocolate, coke and chips… or at the very least, a game or two… he wouldn’t have gone straight home and given it to his Grandmother.

Now can you imagine, just imagine, what must this kid be going through if he is worried about his Grandmother and her finances… worried to such an extent that he would take someone else’s money and give it to her. He is 3 years old! What does he know?! He should be allowed to be a kid and play with reckless abandon and not be worrying endlessly about his Grandmother’s well-being. And then on top of it, this 18 year old moron wants to go and beat him up. I seriously wanted to rip off her ears and shove them where the sun don’t shine, so that she can hear me kick her ass.

My heart broke for this little boy. And I was instantly reminded of an incident a few months back when I was a substitute teacher at the Primary School in Johannesburg. On one of the days, I was supervising 41 eight year old kids that were bored and restless, so to keep them busy I asked them each to write down or draw what they’d wish for if they had 3 wishes.
A couple of hours later and I sat there, reading each child’s wishes and I was broken! I could tell, from what each child wished for, what the current circumstances in their homes were like. It was quite apparent that only a third of the class were what we’d call “well adjusted”. They usually wished for trivial things like toys.

A staggering two thirds of the class was struggling emotionally or psychologically in some or other way. Here are just a few of the wishes that were made:

“I wish my mother could get money to pay my school fees”

“I wish to taste a burger”

“I wish I could get new shoes this year for Christmas”

“I wish that my sister never died”

“I wish that my father would come back to us”

“I wish I could win the Lotto and buy my mother her own house”

“I wish for a car to take my mother to work so she doesn’t have to take the taxi at 4 o’ clock (am)”

The number of heart breaking wishes were endless. Most of the kids were carrying their parent’s burdens, worrying about and taking on responsibilities that were not theirs to take. These were 8 year old kids! They should be out playing on the field and kicking stones, not worrying about their parent’s well-being and their finances.

Y’know, I don’t have kids and I will never profess to know how difficult it is to raise them, especially since they don’t come with instruction manuals etc. But if there is one thing I do know, it’s that when you’re a parent, you and your selfish needs are pushed aside and your kid is a priority. Yes, you should still take care of yourself before you go taking care of others, but check your ego at the door.

A lot of parents see their children as an extension of themselves, rather than as individual people in their own right that have their own choices, requirements and desires.

The kid whose sister passed away was obviously still grieving because he mentioned her several times in different areas of his school work… yet it felt like no one was paying attention. Did his parents even know he felt this way? Did they even stop to think for one minute how this loss affected him, or were they too absorbed in their own pain? The sad part is that any comfort or reassurance he needs, he can only get from his parents… no teacher or substitute will do.

I’ve seen many new-age parents who only ever care about themselves… their social lives and their love lives… often neglecting their children’s emotional needs. Others only ever care about money, making the child feel like he/she is a burden to the family.

I know a woman who’s not much older than I am and she has four kids. Her youngest one was born a few months ago and is positively one of the most pleasant and beautiful babies I’ve ever seen in my life. She never cries… NEVER. She’s always smiling, calm and passive. But for some reason, her mother is just not interested. This absolutely stunning baby is like an inconvenience to her. Now I understand that with her other kids, things can become a little hectic. But this woman doesn’t even work. She has a live-in nanny that takes care of all the kids because she doesn’t want to have to deal with them. As a joke, I suggested that she give me the baby and I’ll return her when she’s 4 years old and she was seriously thinking about it (her husband would never agree but this child is too gorgeous not to try my luck). And that’s her life… it takes two hours to do her hair and make-up every morning and that is more important to her than feeding her baby.

A lot of people wonder why the kids of today act like young adults, too big for their boots, aged beyond their years. It’s no wonder that they’re all little adults, because they’re all sitting with adult problems. Your problems should never be your kids’ problems. If you’re on a tight budget, then let them know there’ll be no luxuries for a while instead of burdening them with financial issues. Your finances is your problem… it’s your job as an adult to see to it, and has nothing to do with them. And similarly, your love life is not for you to share. It harms and scars them almost irreversibly.

I know another woman who got married young and divorced a decade later. She lives quite isolated, away from her family and she doesn’t have many reliable friends, so her support network isn’t as strong as it should be. The result is that she thinks it’s appropriate to share details of her love life with her 15 year old daughter and every time she fights with her new boyfriend, she goes to her daughter seeking comfort and emotional support. So now, her daughter sees her as more of a friend than a mother, has lost respect for her mother’s authority and thinks its ok to challenge or question her mother when she tries to push her boundaries. In her mind, they’re equals.

A long time ago, when I was around 12 or 13, I can remember someone telling me that my Mother should be my friend. I asked her what she meant by that. She said that my Mother should be someone I can talk to about anything. So I told her then, as my Mother has told me many times over the years, that she will NEVER be my friend even though I can and do tell her everything that’s going on in my life. Even today, my Mother flat out refuses to be my friend on Facebook. That is a line she will never cross because we are not equals and as my Mother there are certain boundaries of her authority that I have to respect. If she makes a rule that I don’t like, I should still adhere to it and not get angry because I feel betrayed by my “friend”.

I’m always talking about moderation here and it applies to parenting too. A staggering amount of people spoil their kids rotten and the result is that two decades later, the rest of the world has to sit with an asshole. My Grandfather always said that you don’t bring your kids up for yourself, you bring them up for the world. Children need and WANT to be disciplined (read disciplined NOT abused). They need boundaries because it’s what makes them feel safe. I know a man who’s too afraid that his kids won’t like him so he forces his wife to do all the chastising and punishing, so that he can look like a hero. What a spineless bastard. Newsflash: your kids are not going to like you all the time… it’s the law of nature. And they don’t have to like you, but they have to respect you.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have those that should have never spawned in the first place. There are so many people out there dying to have kids… dying to have what so many people take for granted and still those that were blessed do not see their blessings.

In one of the First Grade classes I taught in, there is a 6 year old boy named Kagiso. And ever since the school year began, Kagiso has been raising hell, driving his teacher and all the other teachers as well as the principal up the wall. They’ve taken him to specialists to establish whether or not he has ADHD or some other psychological problem, but he tested negative. He’s a bright kid, but rebellious to the core. And nothing fazes him… no shouting, no punishment, no kind of admonishment gets to him. He’s disruptive and destructive and often beats up his fellow class mates and steals their stationary, and he’ll destroy public property, or steal or break something belonging to one of the teachers etc. He loves being hated you know why? Because that’s the only time he feels loved. When he misbehaves and all the attention is on him, it’s the only time he feels like he matters because when he’s at home, nobody even acknowledges his existence. His parents are too caught up in their own lives and his siblings are much older than he is, so they don’t have time for him. He’s a chronic attention seeker… a trait that could be detrimental to him as he grows up.

It’s normal for kids to be naughty… naughty is normal. But children are not born rude and arrogant and entitled… those are traits that they are taught, traits that they cultivate.

And if there’s one thing I despise and do not tolerate, it’s a rude kid. It’s a direct reflection of the blatant parental failure in that kids life. I’ve said it before, I’m a disciplinarian by nature... ask Kagiso why he’ll NEVER misbehave in my presence again. So here’s a stern warning to all the parents and soon-to-be parents and future parents out there… if you can’t do your job as a parent and teach your children the right way because you're too obsessed with your own selfish needs, don’t mind if I do. And I will beat the manners into every rude little shit that comes my way. And if you have a problem with that, I will beat all those short-comings and parental failures out of you too.


  1. You rock. You really do.

    I've often thought (and seriously) mind you, that there should be some sort of parenting test, which would then allow you to have kids. You need a licence for driving, why not a licence for possibly the most important job you can do?

  2. Sham - Aw thanks girla... I couldn't rock without you ;) And yeah, I agree... some people need licenses to have kids *sigh*

  3. i agree with you wholeheartedly on this!
    it's sad that so many children have learnt adult mannerisms and language years before they need it. stolen childhoods, that's what it is.
    not to mention an awareness that really is unable to support itself when so young.


    should be's don't equal to are's. i guess, we each have to make our own way, but in doing so, also ease the way for those around us, if possible.
    social consciousness, i guess.
    because you never know when you will create that defining memory of self in a child.

  4. Pserean - Very true. Stolen childhoods mean adolescent middle-agers wanting to "re-live" their youth. And what I don't understand is that it's a cycle that's perpetuated, a cycle we have to break. And its not like we don't know the issues... but it's like everyone has suddenly become very selfish. Villages don't raise children anymore... children unfortunately are left to raise themselves.

  5. I remember reading that a good mother is a right due on every child by his father (in Islam). And I also read somewhere that the Prophet asked us to avoid poverty (and pray it doesn't fall on us) because it's too great a test that many of us cannot pass and lose our faith and morals. Your post combines the two very well in a touching fashion.

  6. mezba - It's true...unfortunately we live in a society where people have forgotten (or choose not to remember) what is important. Everyone only seems to want to be "in it" for the good times. No one wants to do the work. *sigh*