Advice Column, Parenting

Changing Our Minds

  • Megan Kelly Botha
  • Category Advice Column, Parenting

My husband and I recently set out for a long drive around the city, while our neighbourhood’s lights were out, when we found ourselves in an interesting conversation. I have recently seen the ugly side of generations before me, how they cannot understand when you go against the norm and follow your heart and ambitions, which lead me to realize that we’re responsible for rewiring our minds for the well-being of our children.

We both grew up in fairly traditional and religious households, though you wouldn’t say so. He’s family is Anglican and mine is Christian, his father is a warden at the church and my grandparents are missionaries, who head their own church. They were ever-so proud when they would call me in front of their friends, asking where Jesus lived and I would happily say, “In my heart!” Until my teen years, I listened to every word they preached, absorbed it, shared it and followed it. My husband was much the same – only, he was always causing a racket at church – but you could bet your bottom dollar that every Sunday, The Botha’s would be there, all 3 kids in tow.

Fast forward years later, where we said our “I-Do’s” which saw me walking down the aisle to an upbeat pop song by an underground boy band, saying vows which included zombies, helicopters and our exit strategies, in case of an apocalypse. Our wedding cake was traditional white, but topped by robots and slayed zombies with swords sticking out of them. It may sound trashy, but it was an extravagant affair and something that I hold very dear to me. To top it off, after exchanging rings, we exchanged swords too. It’s hard to picture that the little boy and girl who grew up in a very traditional family, would have anything but a white dress, suit and tie sort of wedding, isn’t it?

In my heart of hearts, I believe that having the religious background gave me the foundation to open my mind and question, probably more than my family would wish. Knowing that I always had my faith to turn to, I knew that I was able to explore and dig deep into the adventures that tradition has taught us to stay clear of.

My family’s expectations for me were clear – they wanted me to matriculate, study and become a teacher, doctor or lawyer. My dreams, which I followed, was to get married young, start a family and focus on my family life. My family couldn’t understand, when I turned down a studying opportunity which included a bursary and for weeks after I faced the disappointing eyes of my elders and felt as if I had failed them.

Last weekend, a little girl ran up to my son to play and when we left, my husband whispered to him, “that could’ve been your first girlfriend.” Something shook my insides and we both got onto the topic about how our minds have been trained by previous generations that little boys will have GIRL-friends – tradition. He agreed how wrong and limiting a simple phrase can be, considering if we continued to say things like him having girlfriends, that somewhere along the line he may discover that he isn’t interested in girls but would rather pursue a relationship with a boy. He might mistake our light-hearted joke as an expectation from us and suddenly feel pressure be uncomfortable about telling us about his newfound relationship.

Nothing breaks my heart like the thought of my son not being comfortable with his parents. I want to be those parents, where my child doesn’t feel the need to lie, because he knows that we will support him no matter what may happen – I had that sort of mom.

I cringe at my sub-conscious who for a long while, had to take a double-take when I saw a mixed-race couple. I have nothing against it and in the last year, I have gained friends and follow several families who are considered mixed-race. To be very honest, I never even considered them to be mixed-race or didn’t think that it was a point worthy of consideration. The only reason it was brought to my attention was that they were debating what to put on the school forms under “racial group.” Wait, what? We’re STILL asking that question? Do you realize that South Africa is one of the very few (if not, only) countries that allows for that sort of categorization? In most countries, they are only allowed to ask what language you speak, so that they know how to address you. As a mom, I can imagine how challenging it is to tick “coloured” when you, personally, do not identify with such a small, limiting box.

Truth is, I have seen how my son plays with children from every racial group. He sees no colour, gender or income-group. He only sees a friend. It is so beautiful to witness the innocence in children, and that’s when I realized that it’s my responsibility to cling onto that, to stop it from seizing to exist like the hope that I have for so many generations before me.

There is no need for the anger and hatred that we so desperately hold on to, we are all people and equal. We have different experiences but share the same hopes and ambitions for our children. My goal is to bring up my child(ren) not pointing out the gay couple, walking in the shopping mall – I want him to see the loving couple that stands before him, let him admire a balanced, strong relationship and one day wish for a love so real.

We are responsible for moulding our children and that means that we may have to spend time moulding ourselves, rewiring our brains into believing that in this day and age, moms can be the breadwinners while dad’s play dress-up at home, families come in all shapes and sizes and that every day things are constantly changing because of those who followed their dreams and ambitions, so follow yours! Dream bigger, live larger and see beauty in all that comes your way.

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