Our Children’s Innocence Is Stolen

Sexual assault and violence are so commonplace in South Africa that one is often grateful to be ‘spared’ from such abhorrence. Who can forget the horror of Baby Tshepang, one of the first high profile reports of child rape in 2001? Many of us could not, still cannot, fathom how a helpless baby [she was just 9 months old] is confronted with such evil intent and action. Countless heart-wrenching attacks on children and women continue daily, most recently the 6-year-old who was raped in a public toilet at a Dros restaurant, keeping this terror alive.

 

This atrocity was brought home last night by an incident with my 4-year-old. He was recently on a course of antibiotics which resulted in acute constipation.  I put my hand up as a bad mother as I had forgotten his probiotics. Nevertheless, I was trying to placate a hysterical boy who was in obvious pain; kept on sitting on the toilet with no relief. When I mentioned the use of a suppository, it escalated into absolute pandemonium.  He was crying uncontrollably, “it’s going to hurt, it’s too painful, I don’t want it!” and on he went for what felt like an hour, even though it was only a few minutes. Mothers never want to hear that agony in a child’s scream; we know the difference between the cry for attention or the one of frustration, not knowing how to express themselves.

 

My heart was in pieces. I was eventually able to convince him that the pain of the build-up was nothing compared to the small torpedo-shaped intervention and that I would be slow and gentle. Thankfully, all ended well. But throughout this episode, I could not help but think of our children who are maimed inexplicably, often by those they know. I felt that pain! If my son was in absolute panic and hysteria, over a somewhat mundane home remedy, in the safety of his bedroom with his mother around for protection, what is the nightmare that children go through when they are being viciously assaulted?  Sometimes repeatedly. God, I cannot comprehend.

 

This has troubled me for a few reasons. The one is that parenting is not only about loving, nurturing and guiding souls as they journey through life on earth. That’s the good, wholesome stuff; what we fantasize about as we’re pregnant, preparing for their entry into the world. And it’s not just about preparing them for failure, that thing that even as adults, we struggle with. Life is far more insidious than that. There are trials and deceptions that we cannot even imagine as we’re lulled into complacency by the humdrum of routine. The mother in the Dros incident had no clue, as she and her daughter readied themselves in the morning, that their lives would irrevocably change by that evening.  Tragically so.

 

I’m aware that age levels for sex education and body awareness have lowered significantly in recent years. In my day – oh, that sounds old – you were considered lucky if you were given some explanation of ‘the birds and the bees’ at the onset of menstruation. Yet, here I am, exposed and educated, but very uncomfortable with the thought of having these discussions with my boys. I know I have to, but I’m delaying the inevitable. It feels like I’m betraying their innocence. They’re not even at formal school!

 

I stopped telling the ‘mommy and daddy who met and fell in love’ story at bedtime to my then 3-year-old as I was always probed about how the ‘miracle baby found its way into mommy’s tummy’. It was not enough to say that ‘mommy and daddy loved each other’ or that ‘daddy planted a seed into mommy’s tummy’, as I was informed was supposedly appropriate for that age. He was asking the questions of a 6-year-old and I, bad mother again, was just not ready…

 

My struggle now is to start the discussions around inappropriate touching; I’ve bought a book on rights for children. We’ve started reading it, but I still cringe at the images of the little boy standing over the toilet with his penis out and the little girl who is hugged inappropriately by an older uncle, hoping I don’t get questioned. Fat chance. This is about my development as much as theirs and I have to do whatever it takes to equip our sons with everything they need to master through this minefield called life.

 

My prayer today is for our children throughout the world.

The Art Of Moving On

Every other ‘inspirational’ tweet or post on social media tells us to fight to the end, hang in there, persevere and you’ll succeed. But how do we know when to push through or give up? When do you realise that you’re hitting a brick wall or reached a dead-end? And when is it worth the fight? This is closely linked to indecision. We always have a thousand ‘what-if’ scenarios in our head, confusion reigns.

 

The past six weeks or so have been spent in a conundrum – all self-imposed – that’s had me asking why and how I found myself in a particular situation. Were there signs? Of course, there were. There are always signs.  But wait. Didn’t I spend the better part of my thirties figuring out ‘the signs’? Surely, I’d amassed sufficient karmic credits from that life module to insulate me from any further mayhem. Clearly not.

People come into our lives for a reason, a season or a lifetime.

We’ve all heard the saying: People come into our lives for a reason, a season or a lifetime. It’s usually given in the context of romantic relationships, to bring comfort to those of us who’ve gone through one too many, but I believe it’s equally relevant for any encounters and bonds we have and extends to family, friendship, professional and business.

 

What initially started out as a volunteer work relationship eventually disintegrated into a chaotic online onslaught that opened up some wounds that I believed had long healed. After sustained cyber-attack, I felt like the abused woman I had left behind. What made this instance excruciatingly more difficult was the realisation that I should have walked away much earlier. When I knew that the situation was toxic but second-guessed myself by first believing that, as I had a clear conscience and had done ‘the right thing’, that it would ‘all work out’ and then later, putting the collective ahead of my personal sanity and wellbeing.

And so, we’re never taught to mitigate and change course.

Am I the only one who feels that life is one big lesson in ‘unlearning’? It’s certainly true for me. I find myself constantly having to ‘reset’. It starts at junior school. Always do your best, never give up, push to the end, finish what you start. Then let’s not forget the societal fairytale – get a boyfriend/girlfriend, get hitched, have babies, grow old and then die. The lists go on. And so, we’re never taught to mitigate and change course. That, just because you’ve headed down a particular path, does not mean that’s where your destiny lies. That that’s just part of the journey and not the destination. That there is no destination!

 

It brings me back to my burning question. When do we push through or give up? When does it not feel like failure and is actually empowering?

 

My crazy ‘worst work experience of my life’ ended when I turned inward and realised that the pain and trauma inflicted on me, myself and I was far greater than the need to triumph. There are some souls that are born to fight to the bitter end – I question whether they ever find peace – and there are some, like myself, that crave the sanctity of balance and harmony.

So, how can one master the art of moving on?

So, how can one master the art of moving on? The short answer is by honouring your inner ‘melting point’; that place where you could either push forward and burn to a cinder or feel the heat and retreat to your place of safety. Your happy space where you can rejuvenate and change course, give your energy to something or someone else. The long answer? I guess you’re going to have to continue on your journey…