Leon's Random Ramblings

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Teach Your Children

Teach Your Children

So I was chatting in the car the other day with my housekeeper of 18 years, Miriam, while driving her to the bus stop after work, something I often do just to pick up on the happenings. Miriam has seen me at my best, at my worst, and everything in between. She knows my circumstances very well.

As usual the conversation stays within the comfortable boundaries of our children and the family and whatever, eventually asking about my little one, the one I don’t see very often, the tip of my heart. Miriam has seen me cry many times when my little girl was hurting and I was relegated to being a helpless bystander. Miriam was quiet for a minute, staring out of the window. And then she turns to me and drops the bombshell. “You know Leon” she says “I am a mother, and I know that mothers teach their daughters how to behave towards men in a relationship by setting an example, not through their words”.

It made me think deep and far and wide. Going back many years to when my first wife sat me down and explained to me that our children comes first and the divorce second. Today I can see the results of that advice playing out in my (now-) adult children being in strong and stable relationships.

Miriam continues: “She must realise that if she treats the men in her relationships like s**t, she is silently teaching her daughter that that is the way men and her future husband must be treated. Her actions speak louder than her words”. And, as if on queue, on the radio a song started playing. There are several verses in the song that go “Teach your children well” and it continues “Teach your children what you believe in”. As we continued on the way to the bus stop the lyrics of this song kept repeating in my mind. We were silent for the rest of the trip.

For those who can’t remember the words of the song “Teach Your Children” by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, I will repeat some of it below. Graham Nash wrote this song. The lyrics deal with the often difficult relationship he had with his father, who spent time in prison. During a subsequent visit to an art gallery, Nash told the news website Truthdig: “… I began to realize that what I’d just written [‘Teach Your Children’] was actually true, that if we don’t start teaching our children a better way of dealing with each other we’re f–ked and humanity itself is in great danger.”

Rob Grunewald, an economist with the Federal Reserve Bank in Minneapolis, spoke many years ago about the gains young children can make in their cognitive and educational performance when they participate in quality early childhood development programs. And in my experience the parents whether single or married drives that programme, minute by minute, day by day, through the behaviour they demonstrate towards their spouses and ex’s.

If you read this I encourage you to consider your behaviour through the eyes of your most precious children, and not through the tainted lenses of your own hurt, failures and disappointments.

Teach your children well

Don't you ever ask them why, if they told you, you will cry,
So just look at them and sigh and know they love you.

Why Aren’t We Managing Our Children’s Pain

Children in Pain
Children in Pain

So this headline in the New York Times caught my eye. Normally it wouldn’t raise an eyebrow with me, and in fact, after reading her (very good) article, I realised that the writer of that article is raising some valid medical questions but they are not relevant in my current more socio-emotional context. So.

I’m going through quite a period of introspection at the moment, trying to understand how it is that some people are hurting their own children. From my perspective, they look like “normal” adults who shows compassion. Yet they are the very same people who deliberately and persistently hurt and cause permanent damage to their offspring, for whatever reason I fail to understand.

The only explanation I have is that perhaps those sad people believe rightly or wrongly that they are right. They can justify their actions to the world with their narcissistic outbursts, bullying everyone who gets in their way into submission. Even their children.

I laughed at this morning’s Dr Phil episode, where the woman he was interviewing constantly interrupted him and kept up long monologues each one starting with “He” (obviously referring to her husband who doesn’t listen to her). Yes, it sounded so familiar, I’ve heard the narcissists’ performance many times before. Anyways, to cut a long story short, at one point Dr Phil asked her if it was HIS show or HER show … I burst out laughing, because I know so well how a narcissist behaves: The world is their stage and they are always performing on stage. This woman had cheated, her children despised her for her actions, and her husband was at the point of leaving her. Yet she continued to attack Dr Phil and tell him he must fix the other people, there was nothing wrong with her. It was fun watching her trying to fight back, although she didn’t cave. That is one thing about narcissists: They never admit they are wrong.

But getting back on track, my houseworker Miriam told me the other day that these people must be careful of their actions because their daughters will follow the bad example set by their mothers and also humiliate and degrade their husbands. It is a scary thought.

So, back to the subject: How come we are willing to pump hundreds of dollars’ of medicine into our most precious (and the most vulnerable) members of our society, but we are not doing anything to help them ease the emotional pain of being emotionally abused. We just let these mothers (and sometimes fathers too) carry on with their injurous behaviour. Sad, really.

Throwback Wednesday

Throwback WednesdayThrowback Wednesday, or Retro Wednesday
For many, many years every single Wednesday I would travel to wherever my children were and take them out for a few minutes to chat and listen to what’s happening in their lives. Divorce is disruptive of your time and when you are busy with work and making a living it is sometimes very hard to stick to the routine. But in a way I felt it was important to my children to have the routine and I kept on making the effort, sometimes driving long distances or flying back at random hours from remote places. Now that they are older and married, I don’t see the bigger ones so much any longer, but I keep up the routine with Tiffiny the laatlammetjie.

But last night was special. It came together so unexpectedly. Somewhere during the morning I realised that I would be in Centurion that evening and that I would have to feed the little one, and then I realised that it is close to my other children, and suddenly I realised that we could/should invite everybody for dinner at a nearby restaurant.

And that, as the saying goes, was that. Just like in the old days we all got together and enjoyed a meal together with laughter and joyful abandon and lots of noise. What was inspiring was watching the little one talking to her sister, whom she seems to share a special sister-bond with. There is definitely some magic left in life.

In the photo is the happy daddy flanked by the people who makes it all worth while.

Becoming a Househusband

My 12-year old daughter had me completely surprised a few days ago. I took her for a swimming evaluation in the gym, and for a few minutes, while she was busy swimming, I was privileged to look at her unfocussed, and see her for what she has become. How she is a big girl now, with her own preferences, her own mind, her own style. How she interacts with other people on her own, how she copes without me, yet she wants me nearby because she constantly looks over her shoulder to make eye contact with me.

And I shuddered involuntarily.

I can remember it as clearly as if she was born yesterday. I was the first to hold her, the first to love her. To bath her and wrap her and hold her for a few minutes. She even tried to grasp my finger but her tiny little fingers couldn’t go around all the way. Yes it was yesterday! How quickly did she grow into this young person!

So much has happened since yesterday. I started to think about whether it was worth it? I mean, the investment into my child. Here I am, on a Monday afternoon, sitting on a bench in a gym, and not earning money for the two or three hours. Taking time off from work. Being a taxi-daddy or whatever you call it.

And so my thoughts drifted to the sacrifices I was forced to make along the way. It was a conscious decision back in 2002 to move away from my corporate job and the lovely executive pay, and the commitment it took (time, nerves, absence) to spend more time with her. My wife at that time was a bit younger and she was still climbing the corporate ladder, so this was an ideal time for a role reversal with me slowing down to allow her more freedom to pursue her ideals.

At that time the divorce was not yet on the cards. With Tiffiny’s birth the dynamics in the house changed somewhat and soon afterwards my Ex initiated divorce proceedings, forcing me to make certain times available to fetch my daughter, play with her, or take her to sport. Maybe I made too much time available, almost becoming TOO involved, but it also gave me the opportunity to get very close to my daughter.

Do I have any regrets? No. Did I suffer financially? Yes. Did I enjoy the closeness? Yes. Will I do it again? Yes. The life of a Househusband is not easy but the rewards are intense. This post was in part inspired by Ryan Park in his post talking about being a Stay-At-Home-Dad, and I agree with him on so many levels.

I still believe that the gender inequality, by me becoming the grey and uninteresting nothingness instead of the strong executive, might have been a trigger in the divorce, but that is unimportant. I have gained so much in the process that I will do it again.

Now if only I can stop my little girl from growing up so fast …


Hello! Welcome to Leon's world of pain and laughter, a tear and a smile. Please feel free to share your own by commenting. See you back soon! Or chat to me on the airwaves, my callsign is ZR6LU Instagram


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