Conversations about Blood and Water…

Nelson-Mandela-41

The late Nelson Mandela once said, “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children”. The world watched with a mixture of shock and intrigue as the Mandela clan played out their squabbles in public months before his death. We were at a loss when the nonagenarian passed on; and witnessed through the media as the drama and tense relations between family members persisted.

Our fixation with that family grew increasingly as Tata’s last will and testament was publicly read, opening it up to scrutiny; the discourse naturally spilling into the social media sphere.

Drafting one’s last will and testament is probably the most sensible exercise any of us can undertake in our lifetime. But it remains one of those things that people neglect. It really is funny how a piece of legal documentation can be interpreted as a measure of how the deceased loved each one of those left behind as opposed to one that could be instrumental in averting possible conflict over assets.

That, of course, is an ideal situation. In reality, wills can be manipulated and contested by those with vested interest in the deceased’s estate, which can result in long drawn out legal battles. The contents may also be changed by the testator to reflect their emotional state in terms of their relationship with any of the beneficiaries. Who can forget the infamous family dispute over oil magnate J. Howard Marshall II’s $ 1.6 billion estate by his wife Anna Nicole Smith and son, E. Pierce Marshall?

Judging by the responses on social networks on half of Mandela’s estate being left to his surviving partner, his wife Graça Machel and sensationalist reporting on Winnie “getting nothing”– many weren’t happy. To exacerbate the situation, Machel’s children (and step-children) benefitted from Tata’s estate. One has to ask; what is wrong with that? Surely when they say sa gago ke sa me- Sa me  ke sa gago (What’s mine is yours) in reference to the institution of marriage, then it couldn’t have been done more pragmatically?

Writing on the Challenges of Step-families, Linda Schaefer states that, “the problems of a second [or third] marriage are more complicated, since more people, relationships, feelings, attitudes, and beliefs are involved.”

Look, let’s not sugar-coat anything- raising step-children is tricky. I recall a conversation with a good friend of mine who was raised by a single mother. He grew up having men who weren’t his father around him. One, in particular wanted to be “the man of the house” and what resulted was a tug-of-war in the home; an experience that has negatively affected how my friend relates to relationships and the prospects of raising someone else’s child.

For those presented with step-parenting, it can mean either having their attempts at affection thrown back in their faces or having to face entrenched expectations that the child will be mistreated anyway because of the absence of a biological bond. I find it rather peculiar that the same society that can decry constant threats to children’s livelihoods, including abuse of all kinds, is one that deems it okay –without reservation-for someone to exclude his spouse’s children (by default, his children) from his estate.

What does this reveal about the “soul” of our society? Sometimes, it seems we merely take three steps forward and five steps backwards. We decry all these injustices and far-reaching consequences of children not being brought up in a loving and sheltered environment. Yet it is clear that we are the very monster we detest; we are comfortable with that.

The perpetuation of the unspoken perception that step- or adopted children are second-class individuals who should be grateful that they even get an ounce of affection at all is tragic. “There are men [and women] making a valuable contribution to the lives of children in South Africa, even when they are not their biological children”, writes Izzy Rawlins.

As in his living years, one continues to draw lessons from Tata, even in mortality. Doing the juggling act of re-asserting one’s love for his biological children against assuring step-children of their place in the family can’t be an easy feat- for anyone. I reckon that a lot of us missed the lesson there-which is more of a question than a set of ready-made answers: How much of yourself are you willing to give to others without expecting anything in return?

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Lights, Camera…Drama!!!

funny

Nightmares don’t only come in the shape of old Freddy Krueger, nope. Those who have experienced the classic Baby Mama Drama (BMD) know all too well that nightmares can come along with endless strategic calls at 2 am in the morning, “to hurry up because baby’s temperature is high”. It lurks at every family gathering, skilfully surveying the grounds for the father of the children’s new squeeze; she mustn’t get too close to Mamazala (mother-in-law) now! They also know that the nightmare means business; therefore whatever is in the path is sure to experience destruction through manipulation, humiliation and bullying.

The “Baby Mama” is a term that loosely refers to the mother of a child or children. It speaks to me, my sister, cousins, girlfriends and many other women in the world. Thankfully, the opportunity to suffer BMD has not presented itself and with the sense that my sanity is generally intact, I think…we are OK! Fortunately, not every mother out there has drama, contrary to J.D. Slinger’s quote that “mothers are all slightly insane”-otherwise the calamity in this world would be massive.

There is no official definition for BMD except for many “working definitions” posted on the net by those whom I believe understand it, through experience. What we know for sure, though, is that some Baby Mamas (BMs) can make Freddy Krueger look like a clown because at least he is confined to Elm Street. He knows nothing about driving a wedge between two people by simply picking up the phone at ungodly hours or by dropping the child (ren) off when the pair has made plans to go out, or better still, baking a lekker tray of cookies that someone happens to like a lot. The dramatic BM is a girl on a mission.

Baby Mama Drama: “When the dumb-a** baby mama starts sh*t because she is jealous of the new woman. [The] baby mama probably got pregnant on purpose thinking she could hold onto the man-finds out ain’t nothing happening and gets mad”- Urbandictionary.com

(**PS: Matrics, please visit the Longman dictionary for any other definition if you know what’s best for you…thanksBye!)

While the focus is not on the shortfalls of black men in the parenting department, the correlation between that and BMD needs to be acknowledged. By doing so, we are not absolving some women’s irresponsible and mostly selfish attitudes when faced with a situation where they no longer form part of an intimate relationship with a man, in turn seeking to regain control by using children.

Take for example the story about the Kempton Park woman who staged a house break-in and kidnapping of a four month old baby boy who she passed off as four weeks old. It was reported that the child’s real mother reneged on their agreement for the former to pass the child as her own. Although the initial reaction was to feel sorry for the woman’s husband for being deceived like that, one also felt compelled to ask, “Where were you?”

Quite simply, that incident revealed the level of involvement or lack thereof and, therefore, begs the question as to whether BMD could be encouraged or fuelled by the fear that once the man walks out, his already fledgling involvement in the children’s lives will diminish? I reckon the bulging cases of child maintenance claims in our courts system have a story to tell.

We can make the assumption that BMD is somehow warranted, given the notoriety of African men on matters of fatherhood. However, it would be equally irresponsible to ignore the fact that BMD is seriously uncouth: It does nothing but reinforce the stereotype that black women are needy and domineering at the same time; that men are the be-all and end-all of our universe.

It has nothing to do with neither children nor their needs, but everything to do with humiliating, dividing and conquering other people (and making a fool of oneself). One thing for sure is that failure to look beyond the end of a relationship almost always creates such situations.

Nothing can justify Baby Mama Drama. Nothing. We all have a responsibility to grow up –and to take responsibility for our actions.

Single Mothers: Ghastly Lepers?

Imagine a couple of guys sitting at a bar on a boys’ night out. They are crouched around the table mulling over what seems to be a serious issue. Never mind the diski action on the screen. “You’re brave, man!” they say, “Uzoba strong” they mock pitifully. Jabu has met a woman…and she comes with “baggage”, an infant boy. His pals give him a big pat on the back while he anxiously gulps down his beer…

Nobody knows how tricky relationships can get post baby more than the single mother.  While even those in relationships where both are the parents of a child hit some sort of slump once babies come into the picture, the common bond created by the child can provide a safety net. Admittedly, I navigated the whole relationship terrain with some difficulty during my late teens and early twenties; however, it wasn’t all that bad. That age provided room for some carefree living. Well, that’s how you be ending up with babies, ain’t it?

Getting back on the dating scene came about after some serious contemplation on my part; naturally after assuming the serious role of being Supergirl’s mother, my options of a man were narrowed down to “focused, family oriented, ambitious, generous man”. That is exactly what I wanted. Self-help books (that I don’t read) advocated that one must be clear from the onset what she seeks from a relationship, you know? I obliged. It made tons of sense. Who needs endless buggers hanging around, meeting your family while they have no intention of making a “good” woman out of you!

oh mother...!

oh mother…!

A frank conversation with a male friend brought home the realisation that when it comes to single parenting, the odds are stacked against single moms. He did not mince words when he said, “men are discouraged from getting into relationships with women who have children”. The situation is completely different for men, who enjoy the unequivocal adoration of women whether they have children or not. An aunt told of her nephew who at middle age, with ten plus children (all from different women), married a young lass from neighbouring Botswana. She had no kids of her own prior to that. We love them, warts and all!

Well, my friend was right. It is not easy to love a child that is not your own and perhaps it is better not to have people who will not make that effort. So, why does the single mother evoke such anxiety from men? When my motherly instincts kicked in, the first thing that also came to mind was my desire and need for stability. As I began dating again, I soon became faced with the subtle tug of war between my role as a mom and as a woman; a lover. I guess the problem that men have is that with single moms, there is no spontaneity unless of course granny will do the sitting forever.

What kind of mother relishes in relinquishing her duty to her kids to someone else? What kind of a man expects this huge sacrifice when he knows what he has signed up for? Another thing that I struggled with was (is) the fact that men (even those who have never married, in their 30s onwards) on my dating radar still wanted to get their groove on and play the field or “have fun”…whatever that means! Of course when that happened, I would direct my energies elsewhere.

Mybrotha.com sums it nicely, “Most single mothers are not looking for a casual or open ended relationships.” It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out where the mention of commitment can drive a man to. Hence single moms are also encouraged not to become exclusive too soon.

 Single motherhood, although increasing in numbers in our era, is by no means a new thing. A lot of children have been raised by men that did not father them. There are many who can say, “I turned out well”. There are those who are permanently scarred from being raised by individuals who dished out doses of conditional love, unfortunately. “It takes a certain kind of man to mentor and care for another man’s children”-Mybrotha.com

While some of us still feel a sting of sensitivity when confronted with the reality that it is a patriarchal world we live in. Love in the time of single motherhood is not entirely elusive. A lot of my hopes were dashed because of expectations. Perhaps when these are totally removed and the focus put more on living then, then life (and love) will be more blissful.

Quarter Life Musings and All

Miss Leefolt, she’d narrow her eyes at me like I done something wrong, unhitch that crying baby off my foot. I reckon that’s the risk you run, letting somebody raise you chilluns.

Aibileen: The Help by Katherine Sockett

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Where I come from, it takes a village to raise a child. This isn’t some made up fallacy belonging in African folklore. It’s an ethos that has prevailed for centuries. One could tell just by the liberty with which grownups in our era reprimanded the young.

A childhood friend’s mother gave us both a whipping after we went trotting around her street asking for vetkoek money in her name. What little crooks we thought we were; children never realise how transparent they are. My mother never went marching to ask why we were given a hiding…and I’m glad. We thoroughly deserved it.

Of course things have changed and parenting becoming a little complex in the face of advanced technology, social media and a range of not-so-newly acquired social freedoms. Just getting your own child to sit while having supper in this day and age is one hell of a task, never mind other people’s kids!

My generation has been branded a lot of names- from Gen D, hugely punted by Dion Chang, and more recently, Gen Y. I’m not certain whether the “Y” refers to “Youth” or otherwise. Perhaps Gen “W” would have been more appropriate since they reckon we are more prone to worrying a lot; about money, personal relationships, job security, and employment. Hell, we even worry about what the neighbours are having for supper! You want something or someone to worry about, come on over here; we sure can lend a hand!

Seriously though, this is not without basis. For some reason, there is a universal conspiracy that this particular generation ought to experience the kind of challenges it faces. Perhaps it boils down to crappy and near sighted leadership, I don’t know. Where does parenting come in?

About a week ago I came home from work to find-to my absolute horror- (LOL!) my daughter’s head being shaved. At boiling point, I enquired why I had not been consulted about this since I had plans for that hair. Frankly, through our common understanding the little one had really made peace with being combed. Naturally, I felt I had been stripped of my authority (over the child) and my motherhood status merely reduced to that of hapless spectator: A deaf and mute one. Before you go on and call me petty, this is just one of many power struggles.

Coincidentally, a friend of mine, who is a nurse, also expressed her frustration at having next to no say in the upbringing of her seven year old. She bemoaned the fact that she has been reduced to a sister figure, with little say. She, like me, is twenty-six years old and still living under her parents’ roof.

I reckon Aibileen from Kathryn Sockett’s book would probably say, “That’s what you be getting for living under somebody else’s roof when you be so darn old!” Well, the truth is, just because you have now become someone’s mother doesn’t mean you can mother everyone else.

The world has turned on its head, and this paradigm shift forcing the current generation to raise children in family structures that possibly belong in the sixties. President Zuma proposed a Green Paper on Families late last year, a topic that got us talking for some time before it waned. Perhaps the question ought to be, what happens beyond the systematic analysis of family structures? What then? What about the issues shaping the family structure in this age?

Gen Y has reason to worry because unemployment (or lack of stable work opportunities) has far reaching consequences. Yes, your personal relationships are affected because you are a (single) parent trying to balance your role as a child vis á vis your full-fledged adult mentality. Yes, power struggles and issues of control will come to the fore. Of course one will feel as if they are being kept in virtual captivity because job losses have forced many people to sell their houses to go and squat at their folks abodes. Talk about a quarter of a life crisis, phew!

Unfortunately I am not patenting any solutions to the dilemma for now. I am certain that my cohorts have approached the thought of having someone mothering them at this age, -and having to raise their own children- with much reluctance. Saying “no” is probably the hardest thing to do; however, it’s probably the most liberating. Perhaps we also need to be grateful that the “village” still exists to cushion the blow of the economic environment and for its love and support. So, aluta continua; tolerance and firm boundaries will have to do. After all motho o kgonwa ke sa gagwe.

Book Review

LOVE, SEX, FLEAS, GOD: Confessions Of A Stay-At-Home Dad      

Bruce Clark

Confessions of a stay-at-home dad

Bruce Clark’s book is possibly one of the funniest books I have ever read…and possibly one of the most heart-wrenching as well. It’s true, as a stay-at-home dad he covers all those aspects that brought him to where he finds himself today. He explores his relationship with his own mother and the detrimental effect brought on by her string of relationships. In one instance, he wonders why his mother got married at all.

That his childhood greatly influenced the type of father he became is very clear. I for one am glad that he is the kind of father he is. He attempts to instil the best possible foundation in his children while going through countless moments of, “Am I doing the right thing?”

I bought the book for purely selfish reasons; to see how women and men fare in the stay-at-home department. I expected greatly to find echoes of failure in Clark’s book. What I found was a reflection of myself, having gone through the motions as a stay-at-home parent.

I related every step of the reading experience except for when he spoke about Scientology. He also points out his disillusionment with the futuristic and useless practice. I like the fact that the book is so conversational and that a man who is apparently uneducated (in the formal sense, I guess) wrote such a concise and well-put confession.

Clark also touches on the Affirmative Action policies and his anger not being able to break through the mould is apparent. I had split opinions on that: On the one hand I felt Clark totally ignores the fact that more blacks than whites in this country face bleak prospects in this country. However, the desire to protect and nurture one’s family is also very real and one of the means of effective parenting emanates from being able to provide.

Clark has a cunning wit and his ability to remain devastatingly funny through tough and draining moments is astounding and makes the book such a pleasure to read. The message he drives home is that parenting is a set of processes: In the process of imparting learning, manners and values to the little ones- a parent also experiences some form of learning of their own. Therefore, there is no perfect parent out there. You don’t need to be a parent to read this one, if you have a sense of humour this one is a good read.

Publisher: Umuzi

192 Pages, R125

This one is dedicated to conquering the curl…

How can I begin to describe the joy and pride I felt when I finally got a chance to comb my daughter’s hair without dreading her crying and wincing? How about the feeling of finally ending the torment of constantly devising a strategy in my mind about how to pounce on her? Well…Priceless! I couldn’t be happier really, and I’ve no doubt that she would agree with me on any given day. Sure, now we fight over the comb, mhmm…yep: Now she always wants a chance to stare into the mirror and do her thang. Go on baby, mommy doesn’t mind.

Where’s this coming from? Well, a bunch of us ladies held a dialogue on Facebook a while ago; a friend from varsity who is a mother of two posed a question as to why people relax their children’s hair. No, rephrase, she asked why women are crazy enough to do such a horrid thing to their kids. So, I’m pretty certain she had a disgusted look on her face while typing away that question and perhaps punching the keypad just a tad harder for effect. I felt quite relieved that she did not pose the question to me in person because I think I would have had to run for cover. Seriously.

I knew I had put myself in the line of fire when I admitted to having relaxed my three year old’s hair at some point. In fact, I was almost branded a bad mother. My defence was that combing her hair had become a nightmare for both of us; while I tried to brainwash her into thinking the comb wasn’t actually her enemy-although it may hurt some- she would be eyeing the closest exit. I mean, go on…go on and tell that to someone who is less than a metre tall and has curly hair (read: coarse/bantu hair).

Nevertheless my defence fell on deaf ears. Frankly, I thought this woman o iketsa betere simply because she’s coloured and neither her daughters nor she have had serious hair woes. No, the closest she has come to curly is with the gerry curl. I reckon she is very fortunate but at this rate I doubt she will ever fully understand the politics of African hair. I heard a radio jock quip on his breakfast show some time ago about how beautiful Batswana women are. He further joked that however, we have the toughest hair out there. Laughs. Maybe he’s got a point?

For the mere fact that I grew up with hair that was very stubborn, I understood my daughter’s frustrations. Although I don’t remember being quite as squeamish as her and having had quite a good relationship with the comb, I still empathise with her. I don’t comb my hair anymore  since it’s in locks now. That was purely by choice (and lack thereof) because no matter how much I straightened it, I could never get my hair to look as fine as my sister’s. It completely had a mind of its own, so I gave in.

Though I had reservations, I decided to relax her hair though we would struggle with the maintenance thereafter because children aren’t adults; they don’t care much about staying clean. Play is standard. So I cut it off a few times before we finally got it right because I also wanted my girl to have colourful bows on her head and not to be constantly bald, nah. I can’t say I don’t cringe when I see a pre-scholar spotting a weave, wig or other complicated hairstyle at the mall and I concur it is very cruel and selfish for mothers to go to such extremes. I don’t think I’ve gone to the extremes by relaxing my daughter’s hair and allowing her to enjoy simple things like combing her hair. Quite simply I reckon I have emancipated her.

She still has ample time to grow and decide what she wants to do with her crowning glory, but for now I call the shots.

Celebrating Mediocrity and the Extinction of Innocence…

I have nostalgic memories of my childhood.  From my pre-school graduation ceremony as I faced my first year of school, to when I sang in front of a rainbow of faces at a hall in Lichtenburg when I was ten years old. I see the face of my father seated among the audience. I remember the lashes our teachers gave when we were out of line and the equal pat on the back when we did well. I remember a friend’s mother who whipped us for going around house to house asking for vetkoek money in her name and the embarrassment I carried home with me. I remember the immense support and mentoring I received from my middle school teachers and their sheer appreciation for excellence.

I remember my childhood; my innocence…and it was wholesome! That was MY childhood. As a mother, I’m faced with the constant worry about the current education climate and whether it will be ideal for my offspring-whether it will ever be ideal for any child. I was moulded and groomed in a public schooling system in a dusty township called Itsoseng, a system that I was (and still am) proud of having gone through.

This is because the dedication of the men and women who taught this woman was second to none. I do wonder, however, whether our future generations will be able to experience innocence in its entirety. There seems to be something sinister at play, a systematic dismantling of the essence of childhood-of the things that define a child. The state, school and society (family) constitute the three most important institutions that are supposed to shape children into individuals who are socially and morally responsible.

Yet it appears, in this era, the child is constantly under threat from all three. When Jacob Zuma began his tenure as president of the country in 2008 many took pride in the fact that though he only had formal schooling up to fifth grade (or Standard three) he climbed his ladder up to the highest position in the land. Without focusing on the obvious role of the ruling party and popular support for him, it was befitting to applaud the man since sans education one would have had to have an extra ounce of resilience, courage, wit and diligence to defeat the odds.

My mother, an endearing educator, has often told of stories of her pupils who aspire to be just like the president. Their humble circumstances make them look to Zuma as a beacon of hope (most are children of miners working in platinum mines) but she often warns that education is key. What will happen if they are not lucky enough to move through the ranks of the ruling party? What will happen if they don’t have meaningful mentors in their lives?

…which way…

It has been extremely disappointing to witness the manner in which education, especially in the public sector, has been reduced to a joke. If anything, we should be weeping for our future generations. According to the 2011/2012 World Competitiveness Report* South Africa ranked at 127th in terms of its quality of primary education, 133rd for the quality of its education system, and 138th for the quality of Maths and Science education. In 2011, Basic Education minister Angie Motshekga and the class of 2010 matriculants celebrated 67.8% national pass rate** after reducing the pass percentage mark significantly. As a consequence we witnessed unusually long queues for admission snaking along corridors and gates of institutions of higher learning two years in a row.

Then there is the deepening crisis in the state of education in the Eastern Cape where the laying off of a crucial workforce of teachers and mud schools are only a tip of the iceberg. Recently the textbook saga in Limpopo took centre stage; interestingly the only individual vindicated of incompetence by the president was the minister of Basic Education. Needless to say, rights group Section 27 discovered that the department was in contravention of a court order as many more children are still without essential textbooks.

***In Northern Cape, a reported forty schools were forced shut by civilians (including parents) demanding service delivery.**** In recent months there have been proposed amendments to the Child Act (no. 38 of 2005) to allow children as young as twelve to have termination of pregnancy and access to contraception without parental consent. The amendments will apparently make provision for sexually abused children and those involved in inter-generational relationships, but nonetheless inclusive of those who aren’t.

To aggravate matters there is a push by child rights organisations and government to have spanking (read: corporal punishment) banned from homes. Campaigners supporting this bid “believe this will have major bearing on the rights of children and how they are raised.”***** Respect for education as a vital tool for the emancipation and empowerment of the majority of our people has completely waned. It has been replaced by concealed dissuasion for excellence as a standard, by denialism and indifference. Which tool can be better than education to a tween involved with a sugar daddy?

Which tool can a parent equip a child with in the face of irresponsible leadership and socio-economic challenges? We are failing our country’s children by denying them quality education in a system that is affordable and accommodating. We are failing our future generations by denying them challenges in life, by making them complacent and lazy thinkers (and by implementing fucked up policy, yes I’m angry!). We are failing children by stripping them of their moral core and innocence. Most importantly, we are failing them by not allowing them to just be… children.

 

*http://www.stanlib.com/EconomicFocus/Pages/SouthAfricaranked50thinthe20112012WorldCompetitivenessReport.aspx ** http://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/2010-matric-pass-rate-678-20110106 *** http://mg.co.za/2012-09-06-section-27-take-angie-to-court-again **** (Govender, S. “New bid to have spanking banned”, 12 Jan 2012. Times Live) ***** (Dlodlo, C. “Parents refuse to end protests”, 09 Sept 2012, City Press)

The Dynamics of Adoption in SA

When I declared on my Facebook page my wish to one day adopt a child, I did not expect the kind of responses I incited. Out of the few comments posted only one person encouraged me to go ahead and to one day fulfill this dream. My own sister seemed surprised that I should think of anything other than to ‘make’ my own. What threw me however, was when my mother quipped that, “you should make sure you can afford (to adopt)”. If it weren’t laced with cynicism I might have felt differently, but I have to admit that I took this rather personally. Of course I would have thought thoroughly about this before proceeding, of course I would ensure that I was fully capable. What I sensed were subtle hints that adopting a child from practically nowhere is not a good idea, people think you are out of your mind for wanting to adopt when you are fertile and not necessarily rich; something only for the desperate.

 

According to Katinka Pieterse of Abba Adoptions “cultural myths and perceptions in South Africa have led to a negative view of adoption from some sectors”. One of the fears that people have is that adopted children may, at a later stage, want to look for their natural families and in turn abandon the families that have nurtured them. Therefore, there is real fear that the emotional, physical and financial investment put into a child may ultimately be in vain…but is it really? It is estimated that 2 out of every 10 couples in South Africa need fertility treatment in order to conceive a child-Spirit of adoption. This number could well be higher considering the number of couples who live in denial. A lot of African men will not admit to being infertile nor are they very open to seeking medical advice thus women end up taking the blame for childless marriages. In a patriarchal society infertility equates to emasculation. Often than not couples desire to have their own children in order to continue the blood line. It is interesting that adoption is seldom an option many are willing to choose even when women find themselves bearing the brunt of the painful stigma of infertility.

 

It is no wonder that of the estimated 1.5 million orphaned children in our country a little over twenty thousand were adopted in 2011. Minister of the Department of Social Development, Zola Skweyiya stated that, “South Africa is facing a challenge of increasing numbers of orphaned children, abandoned babies, worrying levels of abuse, neglect and exploitation of children…” Although the government encourages adoption and the provision of loving homes, red-tape at many levels of the adoption process make it an extremely lengthy process. Perhaps this is the very reason why it remains an undesirable option to some. One woman states that she had to resort to volunteering in NGOs dealing with children awaiting adoption. According to her the government regulates that foreigners live in the country for a period of five years before they can apply for adoption- SaNGOnet. It may be another two to three years before they can finally be able to adopt the child they want. Of course government red-tape is in the best interest of the child and to ensure that they are released into capable hands. Human trafficking is a major problem in this country because of the lack of proper legislation around it. It does not make things easier that South Africa is a fluid port of entry and exit for traffickers. Yet this is the reason why so many children remain in the system for years, many without proper healthcare, nutrition and education.

 

One has to admit that it is disappointing to hear the pessimistic undertones in adoption debates; that one has to be affluent to adopt. It is surprising that we continue to bear children without really thinking about the cost and being amazed at how well we have fared as parents. The number of orphaned children is reflective of socio-economic factors of our country: A large number of these children come from disadvantaged backgrounds constituted by the majority of the populace. If we are to be realistic, the black middle class is not growing fast enough for those who are well-off to make significant changes in terms of adoption. To narrow the gap between children from poor backgrounds and those who are well off, many NGOs dealing with the developmental child continue their efforts to bring individuals and corporates on board to ‘sponsor-a-child’. It is a form of adoption but symbolic in its nature where a continued supportive relationship exists between the child and sponsor.

 

My interest in children’s rights began years ago albeit unwittingly- when a child named Palesa visited a friend’s house for the holidays. I can still remember how besotted I was with the tot that I walked across the road to my home where I took a pair of shoes to give to her. It was a pair I had worn as a child myself and didn’t even know her shoe size. It was purely by instinct and a sense of deep obligation and caring for someone I barely knew. My mother discovered my misdemeanor when my friend’s mother came by to bring the shoes back. I was six years old. A lot of children aren’t born into perfect homes, but families that are dedicated to have their needs met and how that is achieved is all relative. Adoption is much more than fertility and financial muscle. It’s about providing hope where there is none. Children are such precious creatures but we might as well wonder what kind of society we are if we find it so problematic to nurture and love without reservation.

 

Sources:

 

 

 

(Wo)man In The Making…

To start off, let’s give a round of applause to all good dads out there. Your children are most fortunate to have you as doting-and firm- fathers. In 2011, The Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) released a report on the impact of absent fathers and the rise of the single-parent headed household. It is reported that the dynamics of the South African family are changing as we witness increasing numbers of child headed households due to the scourge of the HI virus.

For similar reasons, more and more households are headed by grandparents. The report revealed that there is a correlation between acts of crime and absent fathers; In fact a significant number of young men attributed their deviant behaviour which includes the abuse of alcohol and drugs to the absence of fathers in their upbringing. The lack of meaningful father figures like step-fathers, uncles, etc. was also cited.

Though I did not grow up with a romanticized view of marriage, I did not envision single-parenthood either. I knew I wanted children- that much I knew, with a vague picture of my co-parent. I did not envision a vat-en-sit either. Perhaps then it is clear that my view on relationships was skewed somewhat. Then again, how could one think about such at a young age?

During this period one can barely think past the new guy you just met at the club. I do reckon that at some point I wanted to get married (this keep changing, depending on the time of day), if only for a sense of belonging and to get validation. Isn’t marriage a sign that somebody thinks you are worthy after all? Seeking validation is the biggest quest for children with either absent fathers or those whose fathers are present but grossly neglect to have a positive impact on their children’s lives. When confronted with reality, affected individuals often lack the emotional intelligence to sift through people who can easily give validation for various reasons.

Women and/or girls with so-called daddy issues have a low sense of worth and will quickly accept any form of validation. Older men are often than not more than willing to provide such and there is no question how equally damaging these kinds of relationships are- how they perpetuate the cycle. The KwaZulu- Natal department of Health recently began a campaign against generational and transactional sex which is believed to be the root of increasing HIV infections among girls in the 11-19 year old range.

The phenomenon of absent fathers is not necessarily new: Men went to work in the mines or other while women singlehandedly tended to the household and raised children. As much as the role of a mother is important so is the active role of a father in the upbringing of children which is grossly under-estimated (so-called no-good fathers are almost the norm) especially as their influence shapes children’s inter-personal relationships. However there is a growing trend of men who are absconding from fatherhood, whether this is for the perceived good of the child or for their detriment, I call these faceless fathers.

This does not serve to vindicate women who take part in extra-marital affairs, in casual sexual relationships and so forth. It simply means that it takes two to tango. It appears far easier for men to neglect their responsibility towards their off-spring than it is for women. It is nevertheless a frightening trend that is rooted in instant gratification and lack of foresight. It is dangerously creating a generation of misplaced and emotionally needy individuals.

 I did not plan to be a single parent. I could say it ‘just’ happened, but it did not. It took a lot of years of misguided relationships to get to this point. The first of which was my folks’ marriage and the dynamics of my own relationship with my father-which is nonexistent. We can debate on the nature-nurture aspect, I think neither is separate from the other- but it will take us the entire day. For a long time I made decisions that did not make much sense and was sadly in the guise that I actually knew what I was doing, which couldn’t have been farther from the truth. With hindsight, I was volatile.

Yet it was extremely sobering to be facing the mammoth task of raising a child by myself. I reckon I have done the whole motherhood thing justice so far, but if I said I have filled the father aspect of parenting I would be delusional. However, as the HSRC report stated- where the biological father is absent, father figures can also play a significant role in a child’s upbringing.

In an equally volatile society, it is important to continually support and groom children so they can realize their full potential. This is not the responsibility of the nuclear family alone but of society in general. Though I support the Take A Girl Child To Work initiative, I’m also delighted that the Man In The Making concept is in full swing, “to correct the distortion that it’s cool to do crime and be defiant…”-Koos Radebe, Director: CSI & Communications: Tracker Network. It is my wish that in future  the initiative will spread into the NGO sector via organizations that can teach young boys how liberating it is to take responsibility for one’s actio