The cooler weather is reminding me of this time last year when we went into lockdown and connections with others were, and still are, disrupted. To prevent each other from the spread of the Covid-19 virus and variants, we are learning to live with physical distance, less social contact, and the wearing of masks in public. For some, zoom connections and fatigue are becoming part of our daily lives.
I am wondering about what young children in our communities are learning. Masked faces and fearful eyes may be a new human variant to them. I do wish though, that people would wear their masks over their noses so that we are all spared from looking up into the dark recesses of unwanted knowledge. My question is, if it takes a village to raise a child, what is this village communicating from behind masks to young children? In this blog, I explore some thoughts about connecting with babies in this new world of masks and physical distance.
I am reminded about an interaction with Roland, a young boy at that time, who had cerebral palsy, was blind and was a wise teacher of communication. He told me one day, “Tannie (aunty), I can hear you smile”. I did not realize that anyone could hear a smile until that day. Roland, who could not see facial expressions, had learnt to listen more carefully for a smile. This phrase and insight into communication has stayed with me. Until that day, I relied on seeing a smile. Roland taught me that a smile has different ways of being expressed. This has helped me to ‘smile’ at others from behind my mask, knowing that perhaps they will also hear the smile, and see pleasure in my eyes. I am grateful to Roland for helping me to see that communication is more than what we see and hear. Perhaps Roland would say that we smile with our whole bodies.
Young babies learn to ‘read’ social cues through facial expressions, such as smiling and eye contact. They also learn how voice and body language link to what they see in a smile. From about two months of age, babies can maintain eye contact and notice facial expressions. This mutual gaze between the baby and parent, called shared pleasure, has a positive effect on parent to child interactions and is key to much of the information that an infant learns. Shared smiles help to organize social and emotional connections between parent and baby. A smiling baby in the checkout queue in a shop seems to be able to organize even the grumpiest customer into a happy observer. At home, without masks, mutual pleasure and social interaction can be explored freely with primary caregivers. In public spaces, relating to a baby with a mask, we may need to be mindful that we smile with our voices and body language. Most babies are quite sensitive to subtle social cues, so it is important to remember that the way we communicate reflects our attitudes.
As a baby grows, communication develops into more than a smile and eye gazing. Babies learn to respond to subtle social cues, with a frown for example. Babies attempt to communicate with parents through their body language, gestures, and mood and caregivers are encouraged to notice this. From four months, babies learn to laugh in response to our laughing. They are also learning about other emotions, such as sadness and fear. A baby at a nine-month milestone stage of fear towards strangers and separation anxiety may need more reassurance when showing fearful signs looking at masked faces. If we are going to support babies through this pandemic, our village may need some awareness about what we are teaching young children through our actions.
Our village needs to nurture communication skills to develop precious relationships with young children. Let us be mindful that:
Smiles can also be expressed in voices.
Eyes may reveal our hearts.
Gestures and non-verbal interactions may communicate more than words.
One of the greatest gifts we can give to one another is to see and accept the other for who they are. This is can be hard to practice as we each come with our own bias towards the other.
It is perhaps easier to see, accept and enjoy a small, vulnerable baby, which gives us a chance to learn the pleasure of seeing one another. This has even been given a name in research literature, called ‘shared pleasure’. This pleasure that is shared has been described as ’the parent and child sharing positive affect in synchrony’. The understanding of the value and benefits of shared pleasure is unfolding, such as that it fosters positive psychological development in the child and moderates health risks of a parent, for example depression.
I am left in awe that something as simple as shared pleasure can be so deeply beneficial to both parent and baby.
To provide a concrete example of shared pleasure, I have asked a ‘new granny’, Ali, to describe her experiences of holding her first granddaughter. This is Ali’s story of delight in her granddaughter.
There was a time I thought I would never have the chance to be a granny. Several bouts of cancer made me wonder. I watched as friends around me revelled in the joy of becoming grannies and I found myself longing to be one too.
There was great excitement and joy when we were told the exciting news. From that moment I loved you. I watched you grow and felt you kick. I whispered love words as I rubbed your mum’s tummy and hoped you felt my touch.
A bubble of excitement, eager anticipation, profound wonderment filled me to the brim as the time came for you to take your first breath. I lay awake all-night waiting, checking, breathing with relief as the WhatsApps flew across the airwaves and at last at 3.25pm on 16th August 2020, the moment we had all been waiting for happened. There you were – so perfect, so small, so beautiful. I gazed upon the photo of you and your mum - longing with every fibre in my being to be there, to hold you, to smell you and to kiss you and my darling daughter.
Due to COVID-19, this was not to be. I had to learn patience. Each minute of every hour, I waited. I tried to imagine holding you. At last, when you were 3 days old, I saw you for the very first time. There was an inexpressible bubble of joy that exploded as I took you in my arms and cuddled you. It was a defining moment for me. My heart did somersaults and cartwheels as I touched your downy head, it felt like the softest petals of a delicate flower. My finger gently traced the shape of your perfect little face and lingered on your pink cheeks. And then my pinkie finger found your hand and your tiny little fingers tightly gripped my finger. We connected. Those little hands – so perfect – I couldn’t wait to go hand in hand with you on adventures.
But then … our eyes locked and we gazed at each other. Transformative love – Granny love. The connection flutters gently between us. My love pours out from my innermost soul and raindrops of joy and excitement land gently on you. Each time I see you the gaze continues. We pick up where we left off. I love to watch as you learn new things – how to bat a toy, sit up, hold your head up. As you look into my eyes, a beautiful smile from your eyes to your perfect little mouth melts my heart each time.
I cannot wait to chase butterflies in the sunshine, find fairies in the flower petals, make iced biccies with outlandish crazy animals smudged onto them and share funny stories as we spend precious moments together. I just love being your Granny!
Ali describes so well the deeper longings, pleasures, gazes and connections between her and her precious granddaughter. These are perhaps the greatest gifts she can give to her granddaughter. And they are also some of the greatest gifts and lessons to be received by the grandchild. Not all of us have the privilege of an adoring grandmother. But we all do need at least one adoring person in our lives to support us.
Let us do what we can to see and accept others for who they are.
Let us also learn to receive the love and acceptance given to us by others.
Let us value the small, shared pleasures with each other during these challenging times.
 Anusha Lachman Shared Pleasure in early mother–infant interactions: a study in a high-risk South African sample. 2019 https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/03004430.2019.1613651
Spring has sprung with bursts of new growth, colour and energy. This is a time when the sun is above us and the length of night and day is almost equal (vernal equinox). The long winter shadows of this year’s lockdown are shifting, and the sun is rising earlier. There is a slow awakening from the winter slumber.
Many of us have associated spring cleaning with this time of year. I am not usually a spring cleaner. However, during this lockdown winter, I have noticed the clutter and stuff that needs to be sorted. Spring cleaning became a tradition after winter to clear the dust from fires and oil lamps which were used for heating and lighting. Spring welcomed warmer weather so doors and windows could be opened for the removal of ash and dust. This coincided in the northern hemisphere with some religious celebrations that included Passover and Easter.
Spring cleaning is a time for getting rid of gathered clutter, dirt and mess. For me, this is a slow and tedious process, like any chore, yet I am always glad to live with some order and neatness after the effort of tidying. I have been thinking about what clutter needs sorting and moving out. My cupboard has some old, neglected and frayed clothes. I have even have a pair of old school socks! A spring-cleaned cupboard could make space for some new clothes. Yet some possessions are hard to get rid of. It is easy to get attached to favourite clothes and possessions as they remind me of places and people.
I have also been wondering about the clutter that we store up in our hearts and minds. I have some dusty memories of my military green school uniform with tie, white panama hat and school panties. I am wondering whether we all tend towards hoarding our past stories, grudges against others, hurts, joys, achievements, disappointments and failures. I am also wondering how keeping our stories and inner stuff clutters our internal home while letting go may open room for new beginnings. It seems there may be a need for a seasonal chore of letting go to make space for the new. This could be a lesson from nature waiting for us, like a patient winter.
It is not just our inner and outer storage spaces that gather up stuff. Our communities are gathering up loads of plastic that are choking the environment. Our behaviour towards our natural world is having an effect. What would it mean if we each had to do a little bit of community spring cleaning, if we each picked up a piece of rubbish or even better did not throw our litter on the streets? There are some wonderful examples not only of spring cleaning our communities but also of giving to our environment. My neighbour is a good example; with her team, she has already planted over 150 trees in one small area and has plans for more. There are already more birds and insects around the trees within the short period of time since the first planting.
Here are some tips for spring cleaning:
Let us make space for the joy of spring and new life.
Let us make space for life-giving moments.
Words trigger experiences and memories in all of us. The words we use often hold a range of meanings for others and ourselves. I am grateful to Salisha for sharing so courageously her story about a word that triggered memories from the past. This is Salisha’s story in her own words.
I am very grateful that my two children have each other and play well together, especially in this lockdown period. Their bond has been strengthened and the play dynamic between them has been highlighted. On a Thursday afternoon, my two boys were playing with LEGO, inventing new creations and comparing ideas. “That’s my block” yelled my 5 year old to his 3 year old brother, “give it back right now…you….you… you coconut”. As that word exploded out of my son’s mouth I felt a knot in my stomach. I had heard him use that word before, as well as other fruit and vegetables in the usual sibling spats. Name calling seems to be a way in which my children discharge strong feelings. Punches are substituted with words. This time it did not sit right with me. I could not simply overlook him calling his brother a coconut when that word had such a surreptitious meaning. My son was not aware in the least of the double meaning of the word coconut, but did it make it okay to use it? Why did this name calling incident touch such a sore nerve for me?
As a person of colour I have very distinct memories of being called a “coconut”. It wasn’t because I had taken my brother’s toy. It was because I became too “white”. Growing up, whiteness was the standard to shoot towards. Having fair skin, light eyes, a good English accent, eating with a knife and fork as opposed to your hands - these were things to strive for. The more you looked and sounded white, the more doors would possibly open up for you. In a very unconscious way, the longing to belong to the group that seemed to have all the power meant a compromise of my own heritage but at the time, it was a very necessary survival strategy. Apartheid ended, when I was 10 years old, and over the next few years the tide changed, tempers raged and any person of colour that looked and sounded like me was a “coconut” - a traitor, a renegade, Judas, abandoning one’s own race or culture. There was a comparison to a coconut that was brown on the outside but white on the inside. It was a time in which many people needed to discharge angry feelings, and I was on the wrong side of the fence once again, like during Apartheid, feeling excluded and shamed for being who I was.
I realised that I needed to explain to my son that he could not use the word coconut and provide a reason. Later that evening, I tried in the simplest way possible to explain to my son that for people who were brown like us, being called or calling someone a coconut is a really hurtful thing to say to them. I began the conversation explaining that in the old days, people of different skin colours were kept separate, and that in South Africa we were sort of a separate nation, and it hurt people to live apart. I went on to say that as times changed, people of all different types of skin colours were allowed to live and be together and that is why we are the Rainbow Nation. My son looked at me in astonishment, his eyes widened and he exclaimed “you’re saying I am brown?” My heart sank as I felt he completely missed the point of the conversation, but then I began to wonder what his remark about race actually meant and where it came from.
I realised I had failed my son by avoiding a conversation about race with him. I wanted my children to grow up with an awareness and appreciation of race and culture and be free of any racial biases. In that moment I realised that not creating an awareness of race was something that I intentionally did with my children. Perhaps I needed to protect them from attitudes. How do you explain to a 5 year old that people who looked like him and me were discriminated against in such unimaginable ways? Would he begin to see that the world around him is still a remnant of this? I felt that avoiding a conversation about race had inadvertently meant that so much of what I had felt and experienced growing up in Apartheid South Africa had been projected onto him. That was my experience and not his.
The conversation with my son continues and is open ended. He doesn’t call his brother a coconut anymore, but has switched to calling him Cocomelon – a well-known YouTube channel of young children’s nursery rhymes. How do I start a conversation about general name-calling and social media?
As a parent, psychologist and person of colour I have started thinking about, searching for, and researching on ways to guide discussions of race in very young children. I have found a few helpful tips and share them here:
Our choices may reflect the world that we want our children to experience.
Tonight I am announcing lock down for our country, do you hear me, my people? These were the words that forced us to remain in our homes. No outdoor exercise, no schooling, only essential services available such as food and health care. We all grabbed what we thought we needed before the lock down day started - toilet paper, food and booze. We hid in our homes hoping for the virus to pass over like the plagues of old. It didn’t, and lock down was graded into 5 stages.
Another announcement “Lock down four”. We could exercise between 6 and 9 am. We woke up early on the first morning and rushed outdoors, so excited to be let out of our homes, like restless caged animals. There was a sigh of relief, we could breathe and see outside. Counting down, lock down three gave more freedom of work with restrictions of masks, physical distance and hand hygiene. It has felt more like being locked up than locked down, with the longings for some sort of ‘normal’ life rising up. This blog is about some of the things I have longed for during this lock down season.
Lock down has been a very serious time, and this virus, lock down and consequences thereof are no joke. I have missed the spontaneous laughter from the many interactions and relationships of my life before lock down. Fortunately I have a dear friend, who laughs from the belly at jokes that aren’t even really funny. His laugh is so infectious that everyone laughs with him and not at the silly joke. I phoned him and expressed my longing for laughter. He asked what I wanted to laugh about and there was really nothing funny, but I said I needed just to laugh. So he counted down, “Five, four three, two, one, laugh!” We laughed and laughed, laughing for the sake of laughing. Nothing was really funny except the joy of finding a friend who knows how to laugh from deep within his soul. I felt so much better after laughing. Apparently happy hormones are released when we laugh, and I am going to believe that.
I have also missed conversations and interactions with others, particularly strangers. One of my previous blogs was sparked by a spontaneous conversation with a petrol attendant called Blessing. (See https://www.thepreciousyears.co.za/blog/my-name-is-blessing.) I was excited to be let out for an outing to a hardware shop. I stood in the queue, on the line markers, mask in place, following the rules of physical distance. At the entrance to the shop, I was met by the gatekeeper security guards and was sprayed with hand sanitizer. Long ago, before lock down, security guards were looking out for criminals, now their focus is on protecting a shop from this small virus. I then had to pass to the next station, where another security guard aimed her temperature gun at my forehead while I stood motionless but feeling vulnerable and exposed to what my temperature might reveal. She told me I was okay, my temperature was 33°C. I looked at her confused as I know that I should not be alive with such a low temperature. Am I still alive, I asked her? She frowned and smiled sweetly, and continued to shoot the temperature of the man behind me, who was laughing and saying that I needed a hospital urgently. I walked down the aisle feeling more alive than ever.
There have been many longings, for a haircut, coffee chat with friends, walking in nature, shared meals, group meetings and the list goes on. There is also a deeper longing, though, that this lock down has uncovered, for a better life for all, equal access to health and education, respect for black lives, and real care for vulnerable women and children. I long for new systems that put kindness towards others as the goal rather than profit, outcomes and income. I long for a system that values care for each other rather than power hierarchies.
What would your longings be? Could our longings that we make into reality become the dreams we have for our children?
Let us find the courage to be aware of our longings.
Let us make choices that live out our deepest longings.
Let us show kindness to others as we listen to their stories.
Let us be part of making this world a better place for all.
Bullies are everywhere. Many of us have experienced their unpleasant games and tactics. Bullies are seldom invited and make their presence felt when least wanted. Bullies are astute and choose their targets carefully. They seem to know the weak spots and how to expose the raw vulnerabilities of a person or group. We find it hard to talk about bullies just in case our conversation is overheard and unnecessary consequences follow. Our own story about bullying may just be too difficult to discuss.
This novel corona virus, or SARS-Cov-2 virus, feels like a global bully in our midst. It is adaptable and has moved to live in a bat then a pangolin and now in the human body. The threat is that it will continue to adapt again and again. The virus is so small that 500 million of them can fit on a pinhead but its power does not lie in its size but rather in its ability to disturb and destroy life. The virus needs a host and can wait, even up to five days on a metal surface, until a human touch finds it. This virus can spread wildly from one person to another in order to survive and multiply further by making use of a human host and the host’s need to connect with others.
Responding to any threat or danger, such as a bully or the corona virus, is so hard. The consequences of the threat, such as the lock-down or isolation and a dreaded disease or being hurt is a real possibility and fear. There are seldom simple and clear solutions to dealing with any threat or danger. The first priority is to keep ourselves and others safe as best as we can and for each of us this may mean or require something different.
I thought it may be helpful to understand how we keep ourselves safe and protected when facing any threat or danger, for example from a bully. Our survival responses of flight, fright or fight are the most common and expected in such situations. Fighting against a bully with anger, rage and hitting back is often a first response and although the rage releases some of the stress we feel, it seldom removes the problem, and the anger and frustration may stay under the surface, erupting when it all gets too much. Flight is the need to get away from the situation by either running away, denying or ignoring the reality. This helps us to avoid the issues in the vain hope that we can escape from the dangers without having to face them. For some of us, a fright response, seems like we are frozen, stuck and unsure, and the way in which we cope. It is all too much for us and so overwhelming that we are left standing, feeling exhausted and overwhelmed yet not knowing what to do. None of these response should lead to judgement, as they are what they are, simply responses. We are all different and we each have our own experiences and stories that are behind our coping with a threat.
The uncertainty and not knowing the consequences of this pandemic may seem to be one of our greatest threats to our (perhaps false) sense of safety and security. The reality of bullies is that they adapt and change and hardly go away. They just seem to come back in another form and time. We do, however, have the freedom to choose a different response to keep ourselves and others safe. I want to share a few thoughts about surviving this corona-bully-virus by choosing a different response:
To be an advocate as a parent captures the essence of parenting for me. I am not using the word ‘advocate’ in a legal sense but rather from the original meaning of the word: to give our voice to, to add to or to call to one’s aid (advocare). Words such as supporter, protector, upholder and champion may be similar words to communicate the same message.
I have been pondering about what this actually means. I have been remembering Yvonne’s story in my book ‘The Precious Years’ (page 218). This relates to her experience with her son Berend who was born with a condition called Down syndrome. I want to share part of this story with you as it speaks so beautifully of being an advocating parent.
I have learnt to be Berend’s advocate, and to help people into acceptance. People are not bad, they are just fearful of what they do not know. Berend has taught me so many lessons in life - how to love without boundaries and preconceptions: noticing all the small things we take for granted; patience I never knew I had. These are all good things.
Yvonne speaks so beautifully of what she has learnt from her son. When we start to listen and understand our children, they begin to teach us. We can only be the voice for our children when we understand them. Yvonne is able to voice what she has experienced through living with and knowing her son, learning through Berend ‘how to love without boundaries and preconceptions’. Wow! Such pure truth from a child’s perspective to which a sensitive mother has added her voice in a powerful way. Thank you Yvonne for being an example to all of us. If you read Yvonne’s whole story you will see that finding a voice after being told about a genetic condition in one’s child has not always been easy, but
“the experience has been invaluable. I will never be the same again, just better for the many things I have learnt. Berend has helped me to look at the world differently”
At this time when we are ‘locked down’ in our homes with our children, we have some choices in the situation, regarding how we protect, support, listen to and therefore relate to our children. This lock-down could be a gift of time with our children to listen to their perspective which may just be simple truth. This lock-down could also be a time of great vulnerability for children whose parents choose not to support their needs. In this time, our actions will reveal our true nature.
To be honest, I am quite unsettled by a national lock-down, not only in South Africa but in many other countries. Routines will need to change and this is unsettling. I am not even sure how to process this all as it feels way too big. But I do know that it is by listening to ourselves and our children that we begin to hear. We can only add our voices to the experiences of children when we have truly heard them.
Let us listen and be kind to our own needs as parents
Let us listen to and try to understand our children
Let us see the world through the experiences of our children
Let us make an extra effort to hear the voices of children who are most vulnerable
Let us find the courage to be quiet and listen to our children
Let us find and add our voices to all our precious children
Our children need a better world than the present one, a world that is respected and loved; in return the world can heal from climate change and misuse of resources. Together we can create a world that teaches everyone ‘how to love without boundaries and preconceptions.’
I love rest and holidays; it is a time of less pressure and more sleeping, eating, chatting, laughing, playing and just enjoying oneself and life. I am tempted to stay longer in holiday mode. But the lure of work is that it also gives one a sense of purpose. The reality is that we need both rest and work. As we start this year, I thought to write about greeting and welcoming all into 2020.
Greet and welcome known stories of 2019 and unfolding ones of 2020
Greet and welcome achievements and disappointments
Greet and welcome abilities and struggles
Greet and welcome losses and gains
Greet and welcome who we are and yet to be
For new beginnings are in all things
2020 is a new year and, although I don’t fully understand the gift of new beginnings, it is a new season for starting again and having another chance. After a rest it is much easier to start again with renewed energy. This is perhaps why little children need so much sleep during the day, a little recharge before starting again to play and learn. I wonder if there is a link between when the day sleeps are dropped and general exhaustion and irritability becomes more common. Is there enough evidence to justify a short daily nap time for all of us, especially parents and carers of young children? You have guessed, I am looking for reasons for more rest, but I do know that rest and meaningful activities are both important for well-being.
I love the energy of little children who want to play and practice new skills over and over until they become better at it. It is not surprising that first words include ‘more’ and ‘again’. I am not too surprised that this energy fades as expectations for ‘doing it right’ are placed on our children.
As we go forward in 2020, let us have the courage to greet and welcome all of life’s experiences. This is a time of remembering that it’s okay and actually even good to start something new or do it over again. I wonder whether, in starting again, or doing something again, we can learn that good can come out of ‘bad’ and that joy and difficulties are not so clearly separated. But most of all I hope that for each one of us, we can learn that new beginnings are not just at this time of year but can be anytime.
For new beginnings can be in all things and anytime.
Children who feel safe are able to learn and develop more freely. We know this from research studies and also from our own experiences and observations. We are able to learn better when we feel safe. Yet, many children in our communities do not feel safe. Some adults, especially womxn, have expressed their daily experience of not feeling safe. I have struggled to write this blog after hearing so many stories of people, including children, who do not feel safe. My idealized images of ‘safety’ have been shattered by reality.
Let us re look at our homes as this should ideally be a safe place. A home may have different places for different purposes. Let’s have a look with ‘new eyes’ at each place and how they are used for nourishment, cleaning, rest, fun and learning.
The kitchen is our central space and perhaps the most commonly used meeting place for our family. We all need the kitchen place to be refueled with water for thirst, food for hunger and company for sense of belonging to others. It is also a place where much work is needed to make this happen – providing fuel, preparing food, and washing up afterwards.
We also have a place for rest and sleep. Rest and relaxation is an important part of our well-being. A safe home is a place for rest and regaining energy for life. I have been reminded over the past while that most of us do not get enough sleep, which may have an impact on our well-being and even memory functions.
We also need a place for becoming clean. Getting dirty is expected in any day of work and play. We get messy interacting with others as well. Hurtful words can dirty our thoughts, and the process of cleaning or letting go of the dirt helps us to be refreshed. Becoming dirty and washing is a daily process both in body and in mind.
Some of us may have a place for learning new information and to gain understanding. We can also learn through fun and playing games. A lounge or TV area could be a place for family games and chatting etc. Games often connects family members together, except if there is a bad loser.
If we see our communities as a big home, there are different places for different purposes. We need safe places to buy food and eat to renew our energies. We needs safe places to rest and relax, such as the beaches and parks. We need safe places for recreation and having fun, such as sports fields and cinemas. We need safe places for nourishment and eating, such as restaurants and taverns. We need safe places to become clean, such as dams and religious places that symbolise cleansing and healing. We need safe places to learn new information, such as schools and libraries.
Let us each create safety for us to become our best self
Let us each create safe places in our homes for our children to learn and grow
Let us each create safe places in our communities for all children to become their best self.
Let us remember that all our children are precious and deserve to feel safe in their homes and communities.
Supporting children keeps them rooted, healthy and developing to their best potential. Giving enough support to the whole child and not just the selected favourite parts could be a way to gaining a fruitful and productive life.
Nature shows us that different support is needed at different times for different plants. Support needs change with different seasons and growth patterns. Each child needs different support at different times. All children however, need support to grow into their best. Every seed planted has a potential for growth and produce with different support at different times.
Some plants need complete support to grow and produce fruit, such as grapes, granadillas, and beans. The grape vine has a fragile skeleton on its own and relies on support from a trellis. Grapevines fascinate me because at this winter time of the year, they look barren and yet are pruned. The trellis gives support through the different growing, rest and pruning seasons. Many children go through very difficult experiences, poor health, neglect and abuse, disabling conditions, mistakes and tough home circumstances. Each of these may be just another season for a child, but they need to lean on someone during that period. Let us be brave to give enough support to all our precious children through all the seasons of their lives, the autumn shedding, the winter pruning, the spring flowering and the summer fruiting.
Tomatoes, eggplant and pepper plants need to be staked for upright growth and to hold the ripened fruit. Gardeners need to watch out for hungry caterpillars and snails who also enjoy the plants and may affect them negatively. Observing and listening to our children’s stories and thoughts is deeply supportive. I always feel so much better when someone has really heard my story. There does not need to be encouraging words but even a quiet and understanding nod may say enough. Let us see our children for their endeavours to grow and learn. Let us really listen to our children’s stories without judgement but holding their growth of ideas and experiences.
Trees take many years to grow into maturity and planting a tree can be a long term investment for the next generation Trees need stakes that are changed with their growth patterns through the years. A stake tied too tight and left too long can grow into the stem of the tree and throttle growth later on. Too much support can stifle growth and the strength of the tree stem which if unsupported could break with the first gust of wind. Our children are a huge investment for our future generations. Let us give children the support they need, just enough to grow stable and withstand winds of influence but not too much to stifle their growth.
Some shrubs don’t need a stake for support and are happy to grow and flower while also being blown by the wind, warmed by the sun and showered with the rain that is available. These plants don’t seem to carry heavy fruit, nor flowers but can just be their carefree selves in the wind. There are a number of resilient plants that have survived the drought in Cape Town. Some children are able to survive the toughest circumstances and experiences, which we could call being resilient. However, I can’t help wondering about these robust children whose potential is lost in the drought of kindness and compassion. How could these resilient children thrive and not just survive with the support of others? Would better support lessen the need for belonging to gangs and criminal groups? Let us give the support that each child needs and want more for our children so that they do not merely survive but thrive.
We all need enough support. It is not about the best support, which may be too much or too little, but rather just enough support to thrive. Enough support may differ according to the character and interests of the child. Enough support may differ in quantity; some children need more support and others less. We all need enough support to produce the fruit of our best endeavours. Let us give enough support to our children for their best growth and development. Let us notice how support helps us to grow through all the seasonal cycles of life.