Calling all parents . . . yeah, right! (4)
You are very proud of yourself as a parent, right? Your child has never been accused of unmannerliness, disrespect, breaking a queue, defacing property.
Never broke the school rules – you think. Never cursed – as far as you know. Never been in a ZR “rubbing up” on another child. Always did homework. (I’m stopping here; you can add in other things that you feel good about.)
Things to be proud of, yes. But . . . .
What if the child is mean-spirited or bigoted or judgemental? What if they are boastful, contemptuous of others, lacking in charity?
Or suppose, a little later, they are a malingerer, a drunkard, a clock-watcher?
What if your polite, respectful, decent-language, rules-compliant child ended up as a doctor known for his “overfriendliness” with younger female patients? Or as a lawyer who finds little or no heart for pro bono work?
Or as a spouse who beats their partner? Or as an office worker who got the kind of talk for the ladies that would have been sexual harassment if only we had the laws?
Or ends up in the House of Assembly spewing the most undignifying things in the most undignified language at opponents? Or takes the “privilege” of the House or Senate to sully the reputation of someone who has no recourse? Or . . . (now that you catch my drift, fill in the blanks).
And what about you, “good” parent?
Have you ever blown through a red traffic light? “Touched” someone else’s vehicle and not owned up? Used a parking space designated for the handicapped/disabled/differently abled? Stalled traffic while you and your friend paused your vehicles and conversed?
Have you ever had unprotected sex outside of a committed relationship? Have you ever given your child too much “help” with an assignment? Have you ever asked your child to tell a lie (white ones included)?
Have you ever done something in “secret” that if it came out would seriously damage your world? Have you ever divulged what someone told you in confidence? Have you ever been on the phone at home slugging away at somebody’s reputation just for the juiciness of the details?
Have you ever hit your spouse/partner? Have you ever so unloaded your disgust at their inefficiency, thoughtlessness or different choice that what your mouth spat could do untold damage to self-esteem, trust, nerves, mental poise? (Here, you can add in other things you don’t or shouldn’t feel so good about.)
But you are a good parent, right?
Thank God, keep your fingers crossed, knock on wood – whatever is your persuasion. But just remember that it may just have been that the extramarital affair remained hidden; the boss dropped a certain matter; there were no cameras to catch your deed; the lie met up with Lady Luck; the child/children never got to know.
What I am getting at is the widespread self-righteousness and simple-mindedness in talk about parenting.
Also the fact that the society has seemingly come up with a narrow band of public behaviour that it uses to assess parenting. And all the while less high-profile or more accepted but ultimately damaging conduct is not connected to parenting.
Parenting is broader than many think; how Kimeisha and DaShawn turn out is aided or compromised by many things – some personal, some not.
Certainly, a parent’s chances here have been increasingly compromised by Government virtually forsaking key aspects of its fundamental role of assuring social discipline as it has narrowed its focus to mainly economics, education, health, tourism and “culture”, thereby leaving parents to contend with the mounting challenges of producing “good” children in an unhelpful, undemanding milieu.
The state in this signicantly amoral, self-indulgent, less religious, less homogeneous society has no clear, enforced standards of social discipline in matters other than killing, sexual assault and some kinds of t’iefing – so anyone can easily get away with doing what seemeth right in his own eyes in other areas.
We need to recognize how difficult, without the help of accommodating factors, it is for parents to produce the kind of people we want.
We need to recognize, too, that if all were told, we would all be seen to have fallen very short, even if not as short as some others, and we should therefore drop the self-righteousness and accept that there is so much more to do.
Finally, for the purpose of running a society (as opposed to running a home), we need to realize that, in the same way that the American society could not wait on white parents to produce less racist children but, through focused practical means, especially laws and enforcement, had to inhibit racist behaviour, we cannot wait on parents to train up their children in the discipline that the society cannot do without.
• Sherwyn Walters is a writer who became a teacher, a song analyst, a broadcaster and an editor. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.