I was minding my business the other day at one of my favourite fresh produce stores trying to pick out the juiciest mangoes to put into my trolley. A father and his probably three- to four-year old son moved toward the same spot where I was standing.
“Stupid lady!” The little boy shouted out of nowhere. I hadn’t even noticed them standing there, nor did I think the little one’s outburst was aimed at me. His visibly shocked father stopped and reprimanded his son, smacking his little hand and telling him to apologise. “Where did you learn that? Say sorry to the lady.”
To be honest, I wasn’t that bothered, kids will be kids and those little scoundrels are sponges that absorb everything they see and hear. But it was touching to see a father teaching his son manners and how not to treat women from such a young age. The father would not budge until the little boy apologised. After a while, the boy gave in and sheepishly said “so-wee”. So cute. I pulled faces with him to break the ice and calm his dad’s nerves.
Parents have the toughest job in the world and at that moment, the little boy’s father probably felt so embarrassed and judged by all the eyeballs shooting in his direction. Add to that the heightened sense of racial awareness in South Africa, a little white boy calling an older black lady stupid, and you have a very tense situation. All kinds of questions start to swirl in people’s heads.
Who knows where that little boy picked up that language? Maybe he observed his father being angered by another driver while he sat in the back seat. Or maybe he heard it from another child at crèche, or his neighbours or other relatives.
There is no such thing as a perfect parent. So just be a real one. — Sue Atkins
Parents do the best they can and I have so much more respect and appreciation for my own parents. They did the best they could under the circumstances. They guided us, protected us and taught us how to thrive and survive as strong black women in post apartheid South Africa. But they could never shield us from everything, try as they might.
Kids are manipulative and they learn early on how far they can push their parents. Kids are also very mischievous and learn a lot from friends, the media and society at large. You can’t shut their eyes and ears to the world around them. That’s why the father’s shock at his son language was very plausible. I commend him for taking a stand there and then so that the little boy understands that his behaviour was totally unacceptable. Calling anyone stupid, let alone someone older than you, is just wrong.
As a father, he will play a crucial role in the kind of man his little boy grows up to be. And if that day in the store was anything to go by he’s on the right track to raising a good man.
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