I’m sorry I’m just me…

I’m sorry I’m just me…

“I’m sorry I’m not pretty
Sorry I’m not thin
Sorry that I’m not what I could’ve been.
Sorry, I’m your child. Sorry that I’m here
Sorry that I haven’t had the time to disappear
Sorry that I’m not what you wanted me to be.
I’m sorry – sorry I’m just me.”

These are the words of a 15-year-old whose father, whenever he was drunk, would degrade her and make her feel she was good for nothing! His words cut her into little pieces.
We heard many voices of teenagers about their fathers’ abuse:
“My father is a loving family man, but when he is drunk, he becomes rude and disrespectful; sometimes he beats up my mom and calls her names. What hurts me most is when he is sober, he does not remember anything and says we are exaggerating when we show him the bruises that he leaves on my mother’s body.”
“He has hands like thorns, words that pierce and eyes of fire. He is an angel by day; snake by night.”
“He was empty, so achingly empty, that he fed off the terror in my young defenseless eyes and the brokenness in my mother’s body. Then he preyed on me when I was weak and beat me down when I was strong. That was the day I started smelling like acid and my childhood closed with a sharp snap. The death of a child who was still alive.”
“He destroyed the relationship we had with our elder brother and now we lost our mother because of him. I feel depressed. Fathers, stop being abusive to your families; you might lose them.”
I feel the pain of the young ones who know abuse. The sad thing is that these youngsters don’t know any other way of parenting. Their children might say the same things about them one day. You can stop that!
Parenting is not easy. But it is never ever right to hurt a child, whether with words or with your hands. Children deserve love, positive encouragement, a safe place in their own homes. They cannot protect themselves. They need us as parents to protect them. Not to cut them into pieces with words and hands.
Alcohol is the first pain. The big destroyer. Because people find it so hard to control their drinking.
The second ache is not thinking how you say things. Shouting at your child and belittling him, blaming him for everything, threatening him, telling him he is useless, ugly, fat, thin, stupid… it leaves a mark on your child’s heart. The world doesn’t care. But we as parents should never stop caring about our children’s feelings and their future. We must build them up, let them relax and comfort them, guide them and give them a strong foundation for a meaningful life.
A young woman who experienced abuse from her father ánd her step-father as a child shared her pain with me. What helped her get through the pain? I asked. She told me she went to church where a motherly woman listened to her story and asked if her mother ever hugged her. “No.” When mothers have to deal with so much trouble, they often feel too empty to hold their children. This woman was the first to hug her. She lined up the young people at church to do so as well. That was the beginning of her healing process.
Children need our hugs, our love, our care, and protection. If you as a parent cannot give it, get help, because you are the only parent to give it.

I feel new life

I feel new life
I feel new life; it’s dead in me
It’s me alone; instead of “we”
We had much fun, but now, it’s gone
I want to talk, but there is none.

Oh, when HE heard, he walked away
The fun is gone; why should he stay?
Mom shouted out: “You’re on your own!”
It’s like they all picked up a stone!

No one talked to me before
How could I know what is in store?
Who will I ask what it’s about?
How…will they get the baby out?

Every year 500 000 to a million babies are born from teenagers. Mothers sigh. Nurses get angry. Teachers sneer and young fathers run away. The result? Neglected babies, school dropouts, poverty, suicide, even worse parent-teenager relationships than before. It doesn’t help, does it?
Something has to be done. Our babies suffer most!
All our sighs, anger, humiliating looks, words and judgment only make things worse. We need to ask: “What do we do now?” This is a discussion parents should have with their teenage parents-to-be.
The best thing for a teenage parent in this challenging process is the support of his/her parents. Oh yes, parents have their own pain and struggle. This we need to unload with good friends or a counsellor who can listen and guide us into the best direction for the child’s sake. When we as parents are with our teen parent-to-be, we need to talk about the pregnancy, the baby’s development and care, our teen’s feelings and plans and the importance of school. Visits to the clinic can be much more meaningful with Mom joining her pregnant teenager.
Try to understand the challenges of going to school when teachers are often not supportive, but judgmental. Teenagers often drop out of school, because it became so difficult to face their peers and teachers whom they feel team up against them. Some girls try to commit suicide, because of the hopelessness of their lonely situation. Mom’s support can make the difference.
Nurses at clinics are key people to ensure that the unborn baby gets proper nutrition as well as a mother who understand how to take care of her baby. Guide the young parent and inform her well. Allow the young father to also get the much-needed information. It will encourage him to be involved, which will benefit the baby. His involvement can make a world of difference to our future generation.
Our schools and churches need to become the supportive and guiding bodies for young parents – rather than judging them and making them feel little and useless. A young mother feeling worthless finds it very hard to raise a child with good self-confidence.
Earlier this year we presented the Rebuilding Dreams programme to 900 teenage mothers and fathers in Gauteng. Pregnancy at a young age often means broken dreams of fun and joy, a white marriage, education or a good job. Some teenagers wanted to commit suicide, other thought of abortion. Teenagers found it difficult to talk to their parents and couldn’t face going back to school. We guided them to face their broken dreams, deal with it and start new – step by step. They learnt how to be involved fathers and mothers.
Many found joy, rebuilt relationships and made new plans. They found support in each other and in their group leaders, who became their mentors. They discovered teenage pregnancy is a sad, broken dream, but not the end of their lives. With the support of the community, especially their parents, they could rebuild their dreams.
Contact Erna Rheeder at SAVF FAMNET, erheeder@savf.co.za for more about “Rebuilding Dreams.”

Ask these 5 questions in raising a good role model!

“Bring us someone famous! Someone we can follow!”

This is the cry of many young people. Adults are often frustrated when children don’t follow their instructions, but rather listen to what pop stars, famous sports heroes and actors who made it, have to say. We know how dangerous that can be. The famous are still human, make mistakes and can lead their followers into deep trouble.
I recently met with several people working to bring positive change in different communities. All of them agreed that their communities lack good role models. It made me wonder about our parenting programmes because parents are the first role models for their children. Teaching children right from wrong means training them to be good role models.
So Parents, can you answer these questions truthfully?

1. Do you teach your children right from wrong?
2. Do you practise what you preach?
3. Do you praise and encourage your children?
4. Do you talk to your children?
5. Do you show them your love by spending time with them, hugging them and looking them in the eyes?

If you answered 5 times yes and doing it consistently, your child might test what other “role models” offer, but will return to your teachings and lifestyle. If you are in doubt, you should work on becoming your child’s best role model. Make good choices, do the right thing and always strengthen your most important relationships.
The influence of a good role model is much stronger than you can imagine. Thabo was 11 years old when his parents got divorced. It troubled him and he became involved with gangsters who did one wrong thing after the other until they began stealing cars. A young car dealer, Bheki, lived in their street and often spent good times with Thabo. He was aware of the gang’s wrong doings and talked to Thabo about better choices. He warned him against stealing from his dealership. But he continued being a friend – a big brother watching over the young fatherless boy.
Bheki’s friendship and example stayed with Thabo and he decided to cut himself loose from the rest of the gang. He grew up as a responsible adult and learnt from Bheki what his father never taught him. He is now a committed parent with two children and he earns an honest salary. Above that, he became a positive role model and is part of an organisation who models and encourages involved fatherhood. Both Bheki and Thabo are the kind of role models our children and communities need. Not famous, but strong and consistent!
The thing is that our children seldom believe they can influence others positively. They rather follow the bad influence of others.
Recently I took 3 co-workers to a high school where the children were divided into 4 groups and we talked about good choices. We ended by asking them to raise their hands if they believed they could influence others – in other words, that they were role models. Only a few raised their hands.
Parents: It is in praising good behaviour that we build character and teach our children to believe that they have value and can influence others. They can do it while they are still young. Teach it to your child and in the next generation, our children will be the role models the community will want to follow! Teach your child what is right, live the example, praise good behaviour, talk to them and love them.

Enjoy good role modelling!

Erna Rheeder
Responsible parentingwww.savf.co.za

Parenting Programme – Dare with Dads

The Ubaba Unathi Training uncovers many emotions. I am amazed at how well people cope when you hear their stories and see their tears when confronted with fatherlessness.
Pat told us about his frustration with his father with whom he shares a house. They eat together and say good night. Apart from that nothing happens in their relationship. His father spent time in social clubs and with his friends. But not with him. We advised him to talk to his father about it. What he did was beautiful.
At first he gave him the Ubaba Unathi manual to read. His father would make some comments. As time went by, his father would go to the social club and then, instead of staying out with friends, he would come home and read the Ubaba Unathi and Botswadi books with his son – the group leader. He made comments such as: “Is this what a parent should do? We never did this with you? Did you miss it?”
Wise Pat would take the manual every now and then to his dad, asking him to explain something he did not understand. That way his father had to focus reading passages which Pat wanted him to know. And they could talk about it.
One day his father told his friends that he will be bringing another friend to their get-together. “Who?” they wanted to know. “My son!” he said with pride. “Your SON?” And so Pat’s father promoted his son into a position which Pat craved for. In the end all his father’s friends brought along their adult children for a good get together!
With knowledge, love grows. With love joy overflows!
Famnet_logo

Parenting Programmes: Beauty where nothing grows

Early in August we had our Ubaba Unathi training in Diepsloot. Only half of the group leaders turned up and it was decided to find a new date.
So we took the road to Brown’s house with a boot full of donations for the Green Door Safe Place for abused women and children. It’s going real slow.
First we encounter taxi after taxi. The road is busy and restless. We turn into a road going downhill. Still busy, but this time with street vendors and people seeking each other’s company. Muddy water run down the road and in some spots potholes became dongas. Houses, some made of brick, others of wood or corrugated iron, line the road. Laundry on the lines add colour. Rubbish are strewn like hundreds and thousands on a kid’s birthday cake…as many but definitely not as beautiful.
We turn into a quieter street, although still full of rubbish and muddy water. Stones scratch against the floor of the car when we park. We have to watch carefully where we put down our feet. I look up when I reach the gate of the Green Door. Two wendy homes and a small brick house fit into a neat row. Next to it is a 3-4 metre wide walking area – not one piece of rubbish to see. Brown unlocks the one wendy where we put down all the bags. A bed and a few pieces of other furniture fill the room – ready to receive and protect someone in danger. Humble, but beautiful.
I am humbled by this man who did not find excuses for what he doesn’t have or cannot do. He used what he had, where he was and created beauty and safety where nothing grows. He gave expression to God’s promise to exchange a crown of beauty for ashes.
Erna

Parenting programmes: Mentor? Learner?

Since the beginning of our involvement in Soshanguve and Diepsloot Patrick and Caroline WhatsApped me with questions and challenging situations of group members. I answered and gave advice, but in some situations we felt I needed to go with them to help address the challenges.
“At the same time I could really mentor them in practise!” was my thinking.
We visited 4 families:
• A man with disabilities who years to do something about the situation of other disabled people;
• A woman who is in a marriage which she described as being on an island with nowhere to go;
• A three generational family living together with little income and pots of friction;
• A 35 year old woman who doesn’t know who her father is and her mother refuses to tell her.
I listened and gave some advice or suggested resources with which I had contact. But at one point I just fell silent. I saw two ordinary people focussing with great concern on the stories which unfolded in front of us. I heard them giving sound advice. I felt the care and empathy they expressed in dealing with these people. They acknowledged the need to be listened to. And I…I was the learner.
I learnt that everyone has an important story, worth listening to.
I learnt that I might have the knowledge, but insight comes with living with those in need.
I learnt that teachability brings growth – as I saw in these two group leaders.
I learnt that a little bit of interest and effort is a huge encouragement…as if it loosens energy to bring about change.
Plus, plus, plus!
The outcome of the 4 visits:
• A radio talk, clothes and the attention of the local counsellor to help with the plight of the disabled. There is still much to be done;
• Patrick talked 10 minutes to the husband of the woman “on an island.” He became positively involved in his marriage;
• A mediator has been contacted to help solving the friction;
• The 35 year old woman wrote a letter to her mother and gave it to her in person. She requested to know who her father is. Her mother wrote a letter in which she revealed that she was raped. She named the man who was known to the woman. They cried together – acknowledging the sadness of the situation, but the relief to have this huge secret out of the way was incredible.
Being a mentor is a humbling learnership.
Erna

Parenting Programmes: Still in Soshanguve

21 July.
Today we had our second training session. Ubaba Unathi – Daddy with us – is about Father Involvement.
Without words I heard their plea: “Where are you Daddy? Please be with us…! Before we turned the first page, stories came tumbling out. D knew his father all along, but didn’t know he was his father, until he was 35 years old. A month later he died.
When F was 2 her father died and no memories were kept alive. “Women are stubborn.” Men don’t lead.” Men are sick.” Women are medicine.” Men are dogs.” Women keep fathers away from their children.” “Men need to pay damage after making a girl pregnant, otherwise – no contact.”
“No!” it cries in me. “No!” I see tears. Downcast eyes. Brokenness. The atmosphere is thick. “We have to do things different – start anew. We can’t change what happened to us, but we have to help each other and our group members to be different, involved fathers and supportive mothers to our children.”
The last task was to write down one or two positive things they experienced in relationship with their fathers. They sat quietly for a moment and then dropped the pretense: “Nothing. I know nothing about him.” “I never knew him.” “He taught me to drive, but further – nothing.” Only then I asked directly who had a positive relationship with their fathers.
One hand went up!
I have to remind myself that trees will grow out of these ashes…!
Erna

Parenting Programmes: The Depth of Diepsloot

11th May took us to Diepsloot. 22 community members would be trained as Botswadi group leaders.

A small group of men and a single lady waited patiently outside the church. Kevin met them while I tried to come to terms with the tangible poverty. “Are these our people?” I wanted to know. “Certainly,” said Kevin.

Diepsloot is part of Johannesburg, but at the same time carries the feeling of being deep in Africa. Time, for one, is not an issue. The office lady was not there yet and no one knew where we should meet. We went to Diepsloot Mall to sort out refreshments and when we came back 45 minutes later, the crowd was bigger and the office open. At last we could sweep the floors of the meeting place, carry around tables and chairs, find some cups and get the coffee going.

Poverty sits deeper than clothing. Housing, language learning, possibility of skills development and exposure to role models of good family values and practises, are all affected by poverty. Poverty often excludes…! The upside of it all is a hunger for and appreciation of basic information and acceptance of themselves as they are. It also takes care of a few surprises!

One trainee has his own catering business and gets quickly the job to take care of refreshments for the group leaders’ meetings. Another one is a real activist and addresses almost every social injustice in Diepsloot! Yet another one was subsidised to start a “Green Door” safe place for abused women and children. Unfortunately he was left to his own devices to maintain the home financially. Funding is urgently needed. What is often seen as a place of violence and poverty, also seems to be a place where gems can be found and potential can be discovered and built upon.

Kevin Rutter, founder of Fathers in Africa and co-founder and co-leader of the Front Page Father Media Campaign, is the trainer in Diepsloot. He also trains the one group in Soshanguve.

I am Erna Rheeder, SAVF FAMNET coordinator as well as co-founder and co-leader of the Front Page Father Media Campaign. I train the other group in Soshanguve and I am mainly responsible for the administration of this exciting, worthy and hopeful project.

SAVF Parenting programmes – Hugs and Heights

Famnet_logoI think we totally fell in love with our Sohanguve/Eersterus group leaders! Every meeting is a celebration with hugs and laughs!
To add to that we started our second mentorship session with a practical demonstration of aggression management with newspapers. A lot of newspaper boxing, shredding and throwing around took place. We even heard newspaper fights in Kevin’s group! The beauty of it is that all felt better and no one was hurt! A perfectly acceptable way of getting rid of bad feelings.
In the end we made a ball of newspapers and the one with the ball had to share his group’s story before throwing the ball to the next one to share. That’s when we encountered the heights…as in high mountains of challenges! Parents share their pain of daily abuse for which group leaders seek advice. Some groups have only illiterate parents with a deep desire to be able to read. Our link with Project Literacy came in handy in that case.
With much talk on rights of children, parents and grannies are scared to take control of their parenting role…which is why we are here – to empower these parents with information and guidance. One of the huge complexities is sex education in situations where Mom and Dad are not together, other parties are involved and a family of up to 10 people live in a one-roomed house. Is it still a wonder that 25% of the parents represented in my group are teenagers? The “how?” and “what next?” get stuck in my mind…
The bright spots were there as well. Group members asked their leaders why the Botswadi programme is not presented at schools as well. “Yes! Yes! Yes!” said my heart! In another group the parents were concerned for the safety of their children after school. Ubuntu was at work! Before the end of their session they had a granny who would take care of the children. They also went to the crèche to discuss the possibility of after care facilities. That’s exciting!

Erna