I was chatting to Sister Mel the other day and we were talking about how we are teaching our children about values and our approach to life. My sister says that she looks for opportunities to teach her children about compassion, about tenacity and not giving up. She said that her motto is “if you start something, you finish it”. I told her that I tell my children that they don’t have to do anything they don’t want to do. “If it feels horrible inside, you don’t have to do it”. Which just goes to show that you can raise your children the same, but there is no telling how they might turn out.
Seriously though, I am trying to teach my children about caring and compassion towards their fellow humans and also reaching out and helping those less fortunate than ourselves. Not just in our words but in our actions as well. This morning we gave loads and loads of our toys and stuff to a safe house for abandoned children. If there is one thing my siblings and I have all learnt from my parents, it is that we have a duty to give to those less fortunate than ourselves. My parents have always had great compassion for others. Sister Mel runs her charity and my other two siblings are also always helping others.
My children are so enormously privileged, and not only because they have an incredibly good looking and extremely witty mother, but because they have so much in comparison to so many. Using the opportunity of the daily drive to and from school, I have been trying to teach them that there are people who are less fortunate than they are. I am introducing them to the concept of poor and unprivileged. They are getting it, slowly.
Me: “See, that poor man is walking in the rain, he has no car”.
Adam: “And he doesn’t even have an umbrella”
Adam: “Why doesn’t he have an umbrella?”
Me: “Because he has no money to buy an umbrella”
Adam: “Why doesn’t he have any money?”
Me: “Because he doesn’t have a job”
Adam: “Why doesn’t he have any job?”
Me: “Because of an evil system called apartheid that subjected many people to terrible conditions of forced separation and poverty, the results of which can be seen by the massive amounts of poverty and unemployment that are keeping the poor downtrodden even today”
Ok, not the last part.
But I think I’ve been trying too hard at the Life Lessons, because they are taking this poor thing a bit too far.
Adam: “Look at that poor man, he doesn’t have an umbrella”
Kate: “Yes, and some people don’t even have legs or arms”
Adam: “Or a nose”
Kate: “Or a face”
Another thing we’ve been discussing is family, and how different families are made up. Some people have a mommy, a daddy, a boy and a girl. Some people have two mommies, some have no mommies etc etc.
Now, I live in a predominantly wealthy, white area. In South Africa, those two things – white and wealthy – go together more often than not. The hangover of apartheid. There are black people who live in the predominantly white and wealthy areas, but they are wealthy. There aren’t too many wealthy black areas. It is changing, but it would be dishonest to say that it isn’t so.
We are at a coffee shop / park the other day and there were a whole lot of (>90% white) families there. Kids playing, parents drinking coffee etc and there was one black guy standing there, watching while his daughter played on the climbing frame.
Adam in his booming voice pipes up: “OH DEAR, SEE – LOOK AT THAT POOR GIRL OVER THERE”
(Now, remember the “Black Work” post from last week? Remember I told you that we are a little sensitive to the race thing?)
Well, I nearly shat in my pants. I have obviously been over-zealous in my Life’s Lessons and now he thinks all black people are poor. Instant sweaty armpits.
I laugh with false cheer and whisper “no Adam, she is not poor, she is fine” Haha, nervous laugh. Grabbing his arm and trying to steer him away from the situation
He booms back “BUT SHE HAS GOT NO BROTHER”
Gawds truth, this child is going to be the death of me. I had to explain that yes, some people have no brother, but that is ok. They don’t even mind and it doesn’t make them poor. (Some sisters would even argue they are LUCKY to have no brother to irritate them!)
Phew. This parenting thing is damn hard work. I am thinking “You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to” is a damn site easier than this other life lesson stuff.
(Now, don't get your granny knickers in a knot! I know this sounds like I am too sensitive to race issues and that blah blah I am going to teach my children to be over sensitive to race etc etc, but it just so happened that the two incidents happened a few days apart. Relax! I am actually very chilled about race issues. Some of my best friends are white.)