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In 15 years, nothing has changed

Tiny FingersDaddy’s Girl
I fondly remember my little one’s birth, 15 years ago, and I remember how she already held my thumb with her tiny little fingers when she was only a few hours old. My love for her hasn’t changed at all, not even during her dark teenage years. To quote from searchquotesThey say that from the instant he lays eyes on her, a father adores his daughter. Whoever she grows up to be, she is always to him that little girl in pigtails. She makes him feel like Christmas. In exchange, he makes a secret promise not to see the awkwardness of her teenage years, the mistakes she makes or the secrets she keeps.“. She is a strong girl with her Daddy’s genes and I am so proud of her that she is able to survive the storms that broke around her since the divorce and that she still has to witness every day.

Fast forward to today – 15 years later – and I was reading a news article in City Press – SA’s divorce law fails good dads this morning.

I might have written the article myself. The director of the Justice and Reconciliation Centre, a non-governmental organisation that seeks to protect children and preserve families in high conflict divorces, Errol Goetsch, coined the term “the windmill” for situations like the one I found myself facing many years ago when I was unexpectedly and out of the blue served with divorce papers on one cold winters’ morning while leaving the house to go to work.

The package the sheriff served on me was an ugly cocktail of protection orders, eviction orders and several sworn statements. I was accused of potentially violent behaviour because I might be upset by the divorce and accused of possibly sexual violence with my daughter. I was given 3 days to vacate the erstwhile marriage home and the protection order prevented me from talking to my work colleagues whom I have been working with for 26 years! Including the minister of my church!

Imagine both my hands being tied behind my back while being slapped in the face!

I am so deeply aligned with Goetsch, who wrote about the sequence of preplanned dirty tricks using violence, clever tactical accusations with no substance that was ever allowed to be tested in Court, and obstructing and frustrating access to the children for whatever gain I fail to understand as the children are ultimately suffering the most.

I particularly connected to the sentence where Goetsch says: “For girls, it’s the sexual violence windmill … allegations that this sort of abuse is being carried out by the father (and) an interim protection order is granted on the basis of only an affidavit with no further proof needed … and the father is evicted from the house and denied contact“. He continues to outline the scenario where a paid social worker prepares an obviously one-sided report which further shackles an already disabled father.


This must be the ugliest law in South Africa where a person is found guilty on the basis of hearsay and a simple statement, without the police investigating a single thread of evidence. The abuse of this law by is rife with devastating consequences to the children who sometimes suffer from life-long afflictions.

Happily, time is a great healer and as the children grow up many of them begin to see the aggressor parent for what they really are. Maybe the “violent parent” that was posited is not violent after all, or whatever the allegations were. Fifteen years later my little girl is still holding my hand albeit it with the awkwardness that come with teenagering. In any case it seems like children continues to love both parents despite the unrealistic and unbalanced view they might be gaslighted with.

In 15 years the law hasn’t changed for the better, according to Goetsch’s research, and it seems like this is the new normal. I don’t feel alone any more, thank you sir!

But somehow if you just love your children unconditionally, and you let them know every day, even though you can’t pull up the blanket over them at night, they seem resilient enough to kick back with love for both parents. And that is good enough for me.

I am moving in with … Myself

MyHeartWillGoOnMy Heart Will Go On
I am a child of the ’50s and ’60s and so as a first time parent during the ’70s there were a couple of things I feared for my children. Outwardly I felt completely confident in my ability to handle every normal growing up condition my children could present to me with with the help of the latest antibiotics and a proper smack. After all, what else could go wrong?

But regardless of how much I protected her and kept her away from harm and other boys, deep inside my heart I knew that one day my daughter will meet another man to take my place. And I also knew that he would not touch her in any indecent way or make any inappropriate suggestions and that he would honour her honour with his life, etc etc etc.

I did not bargain on the incredibly remote possibility that she might be the one that would initiate those horrible carnal activities herself. I didn’t raise her like that!

So it came as a complete surprise to me when she announced to me one day: “I am moving in with Mr X” (name witheld to protect the innocent). How could she! What happened to all those years I cared for her and protected her and taught her to be a strong and independent woman who could look after herself! Oh the pain!

Like I said, at the time I was blinded by my selfish attitude and self-inflicted pain and I didn’t see the truth of what she was saying. That in fact she was now an adult and more than capable of making her own decisions, and in particular to love the man she chose in the manner she chooses. All I know is I felt my Parenting was a total waste.

Fast forward some years to today. My son, who is as close to me as my daughter is, called me a few weeks ago to tell me that his marriage is on the rocks and he just wanted to hear his Dad say that everything is going to be ok. He told me he was devastated by the unfolding events. I could empathise with him because I had also experienced the rejection of a loved one many years ago. The strong and confident young man I loved to watch when he was growing up sat before me in a crumpled heap and cried. And again I felt my Parenting had come to naught.

We talked, we visited, we commisserated, we shared anecdotes. I knew from my own experience that time was the only thing that will bring perspective. Patiently I walked the slow road with him when he needed to talk. And slowly I could see him sorting through the bits of his life he wanted to keep, discarding the pieces that reminded him of her. I liked the fact that he was willing to take responsibility and control and that he packed his stuff and organised his life to move on. He didn’t miss a day from work. He started to look for a place to stay. It took him a while to go from “We” to “I” but he got there.

And then, one day while we were chatting about where he is going to stay now, he casually dropped the following sentence: “This weekend I’m moving in with Myself“. It struck me as a profound statement filled with so much promise of healing that I want to share it.

Clearly he is beginning to understand that he must discover himself again, that he must furnish his place with items that he enjoys, that he must surround himself with the things that he likes. If ever he wants to enter into a relationship again, he will have to find out who he is and what he is, first. I liked his statement very much and I recognised it one of the first steps he must take to a full recovery and hopefully a new love.

Maybe I didn’t do such a bad job of parenting strong and confident children after all.

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.


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


June 2018
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