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
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.