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.’