Monday, November 24, 2008

Teach your children well

During a recent gathering, a number of 30 something Diaspora women lamented about how disciplining their children today is a more difficult job than in their parent’s day. Apparently, children then were much more ‘compliant’ and understood that whether it was the belt, slipper, switch or love-stick that punishment meted out was in their best interests and certainly not up for discussion.

Fast forward to current day and we as mothers and our offspring, have evolved to a space where we question whether our parent’s tough love approaches designed to keep the children on the straight and narrow are exactly that – too narrow? Would you call it evolution or quiet terror as the goal posts move have we lost our footing in a world where discipline is regulated by government authorities and the sharp end of child-rearing has become a much publicised human rights issue?

Disciplinary Methods
Sade, a London-based Nigerian sista believes the disciplinary methods her parents used have stood her in good stead. As far as she is concerned, their early versions of ‘time-out’ where she was told to kneel in a corner, hands on head till her arms ached while she ‘came to her senses’ worked wonders. She emphatically assured us that such methods work equally well on her children today.

Some sistas agreed, some didn’t – so, were we, as children, really more compliant? Truth is, it’s a new day! Three decades ago, both parents and children were insulated from new fangled child-rearing ideas and sometimes misappropriated rights driven by media pop culture.

Our parents and their parents shaped their cultures of discipline, child rearing and community building on long-held notions of values systems informed by history.

Jamaican Discipline
Nadia, a Jamaican 60-something mother of three shed some light on issues of discipline back in the day. She recalled how she shudders when she thinks of the ‘mistakes’ she made as she was bringing up her children in the USA during the sixties, seventies and eighties.

A gentle and sensitive soul, she had been brought up in a God-fearing, tough love regime where hard work and stern discipline were the order of the day. The oldest of nine children, she remembers her father as playful but firm and her mother as the strict no-nonsense disciplinarian.

Nadia told of how the daily trek to fetch water before school may today look like child-abuse, but how she and her siblings enjoyed the responsibilities given to them at a tender age. They may have had less idle play time than children of today but they made the most of the time they had together and made fun out of the chores.

The much feared belt reared its head often and in hindsight she agreed that the thought of the belt was probably much worse than the few occasions when she actually felt the lick of leather on her skin.

Such experiences, she says, have undoubtedly shaped her resilient yet temperate personality today. Her husband, a Trinidadian retiree, also came from a similar disciplinarian regime. So, together, they had no qualms in following similar approaches in their child-rearing years.

Nadia’s describes her ‘mistakes’ as the dilemma she and husband faced as they wavered between the zero tolerance approach they grew up with and the experimental free expression of Montessori and others.

In reflection she cautioned the mothers at the gathering of the increasing need to clearly reframe approaches to discipline which do not annihilate our sense of being, our culture; while also being courageous enough to slaughter holy cows if deemed necessary.

In distilling the task of parenting clearly, we seek to do what our parents also sought to do – to teach our children well.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Mama Africa Miriam Makeba

In Loving Service

"Some people call me 'Mama Africa'. At first I said to myself: why do they want to give me that responsibility, carrying a whole continent? Then I understood that they did so affectionately. So I accepted. I am Mama Africa", said Miriam Makeba in an interview in 2005.

When news of 'Mama Africa's' passing hit us last Monday, the world was reminded of the mantle that she humbly carried to the end. Poignantly, Mama Miriam had just finished performing at a human rights protest concert in Italy before she collapsed and later died.

Moving Tributes
On reading the numerous obituaries, and hearing moving tributes of special memories left with those who were close to her, it is clear; Mama Africa's love for humanity and dedication to her life's purpose never wavered. Hers was a gracious walk along a path which called for much personal sacrifice and for the deliberate use of her colossal singing talent, to illuminate human rights inequalities around the world and specifically to the land of her birth, South Africa.

Her generosity of spirit was legendary. While living in exile in various countries around the world, Mama Miriam provided a home of warm solace for fellow musicians and freedom fighters. An open-door policy at home meant pots were always on the boil and her kitchen fed many on not only good food, but spiritual sustenance.

Mama Miriam's love-centred approach in her relentless fight against injustice touched people's hearts at home, onstage and in political circles.
She chalked up an array of notable accolades and awards in recognition of her work. Mama Miriam's clarity in her sense of purpose had been honed from a tender age.

Her matriarchal legacy serves as an inspiring reminder for us to take a closer look at our personal commitment to service. Whether Mama Miriam was offering a plate of heart-warming food or heart-rending insights into the tribulations of apartheid, her gifts were offered to the world.

In this age of rampant consumerism, the focus on individual gratification (no matter how fleeting) is eroding our sense of community and dedication to serving our fellow brothers and sisters.

Values of respect
It's never too early to start! As mothers, biological or otherwise, we strive to nurture values of respect, compassion and love for others in our children. It would seem that in a world where 'what's in it for me' is rapidly dimming our commitment to service, the sooner we orient ourselves in 'how can I help' mode, the closer we'll come to achieving fulfilment and advancing humanity.

May you rest in peace Mama Miriam and your life's work lives on as a beacon of inspiration for us all.

Friday, November 14, 2008

In search of perfection

When President Elect, Barack Obama stood victorious, delivering his acceptance speech, he thanked his entourage and the most important people in his life for their support. His face glowed as he spoke of his wife of 16 years, as his best friend and partner.

Now best friends come and go, and with statistics in South Africa revealing that one in two marriages ends in divorce, it seems marriages are becoming disposable baggage too. It begs the question, what is it that keeps the love fire burning?

Sisters around the globe complain at the seemingly impossible task of finding the perfect man! We become more bewildered as we stumble from one failed relationship to the other. Have we lost sight of what it is we’re looking for in Mr. Right? Who sold us the mirage of the perfect other? Did you buy into the dream?

We’ve seen and heard it all too many times before. The packaging looks good but before you know it, life on the inside is not feeling so sweet. From emotional ice-blocks to serial philanderers, the stories are woeful. They leave us with a gaping hole of hurt that festers if left unattended, transmuting into fibroids and other feminine dis-ease.

It would seem many have chosen to accept that there is no such thing as Mr. Right. Get real they say, man is man, they’re all the same! In allowing such possibilities to be reality we self-sabotage our own desires, opting, disillusioned for stagnant unfulfilling unions.

We’ve lost sight of what we’re looking for because we’re looking in the wrong place. Furthermore, wounded and defensive, we often place responsibility for our happiness in the hands of our unsuspecting and yes, sometimes ill-equipped mates.

So, is there hope for those who are not prepared to wallow in relationship mediocrity? Most definitely! Our creator fashioned us for a mate and so, in optimistic spirit, we relentlessly seek that perfect relationship. It is possible!

Seems to me, it’s high time we evolve our skills set, re-set our perfection perspectives and re-orient ourselves to an internal focus. It really is all about us!

We’ve spent centuries honing nurturing skills and cultivating Amazonian stamina for whatever life throws at us. The current world order calls for a similar bouquet of skills, but packaged differently.

In terms of our partners, we struggle to sift through conflicting images of who and what we are meant to be as modern women. So, when our relationships unravel, in desperation we misdirect our energy by focussing on the ‘coulda, woulda, shoulda’ drama. With emotion blurring our vision, it’s difficult to introspect but that is exactly what’s called for on a regular basis whether its sunshine or rain.

The answer to our search for perfection in others lies within us, not in our loved ones. Can you truly say you invest as much time and energy in giving to yourself as you do for others around you. Part of your evolved skills cachet includes the ability to create ‘love me’ time and space in your life without apology knowing that it is in loving you that you perfect the art of loving others.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Rising in love

Picture the scene: you and your chocolate dream meet, date and now enjoy significant other status. Then, there are children in the picture and soon, life has become a busy schedule punctuated by joy and ecstasy, heartache and pain and all the consolation bits in-between. Falling in love was fabulous and now this part?

Twelve months of happiness
Relationship psychologists report that the bliss of the honeymoon phase will last for a maximum of 12 months. So, according to them, like the addict’s first high, we spend the rest of our lives striving to recapture those times. Those days when nothing could dim the euphoric of love-rays which lifted us, soaring, to cloud 9.

Of course we experience moments where we skydance in happiness; the birth of a new born baby, the graduation, the joy of a birthday surprise, the warm fuzzy feeling of living and growing as a family.

Wouldn’t we be short-changing ourselves if we brought into the one year scenario? Surely, our creator would not limit our capacity give and receive such beautiful gifts to each other to only 12 months? That said, we don’t have to look too far to see couples weighed down with responsibilities and emotional baggage. To the extent, they hardly communicate and live as strangers who share the same bed every night. So, how do we recapture those heady days? Is it possible to experience rapture on a constant basis?

Rising in love
Blissful living is in closer reach than we may imagine. It starts with our love anchors – our love orientation. I’ve often heard my beloved matriarch say that couples should focus on rising as opposed to falling in love. She teaches that by simply replacing falling to rising in love, we zone into a rapturous paradigm of thinking, doing and being with our loved ones.

According to her diverse wisdom, we get carried away in the thrill of early romance and literally do as the blockbuster movies teach us – fall in love. While falling we lose our grip of reality and begin to make completely irrational decisions based on illusions of fiery lust driven connectivity.

Taking time to work out whether this partner is an asset that will grow your family investment portfolio is the discussion to be having. Checking whether his finely toned body will make for handsome children is, of course, also a consideration but before all of that know where your love ship is anchored.

Is your love-vision set on a path that can articulate what a true partnership looks and feels like? One that values giving and receiving as opposed to giving and taking? Are you ready to be what it is you want to see, to give and allow yourself to receive? In exploring these questions the answers will reveal joyful dreams, spread out as wings as we rise in love.