Let go of the old to make way for the new

2010-01-05 00:00

SOME of the ways of living from generations ago are held on to rigidly, while some are relinquished to modernity. It does not seem usefulness in current society is the criterion because there is clear discrimination. One of these is the oppression of the girl child by the family, especially when it comes to relationships with the opposite sex.

There are families that do not acknowledge the growth of girls and boys in a balanced way. You are not supposed to introduce your girlfriend or boyfriend to most families until you are about to get married, which means, you may only bring your fiancé home. I don’t know about you but I just have not been that lucky in my life to be able to meet one person and end up married to her or still be with her today. This means a lot of trial and error on your own without the advice and guidance of your parents until you finally take home “the one”. Perhaps our parents’ hearts simply cannot take having to let go every time their children’s relationships end. This is just not feasible, the kind ones say, but the conservative may say it is just against culture. The girl must be “missing” at times when she reaches that stage in her life and it is just assumed she is courting. But a relationship out in the open is a no-no. It is about respect.

Here is where the problem comes in, from what I have seen. Your little imaginary virgin falls pregnant and has to sort it out one way or another. She may or may not even come to you. If she does not come to you, she has a lot of demons she will have to deal with on her own and with her, hopefully, supportive boyfriend. If she comes to you (as in, keeps the baby), traditionally the father must now appear and make the appropriate effort to “cleanse the household of the shame”. This is usually in the form a paying a fine. However the families handle it, the point is that most families are reactive rather than a proactive.

The father of the child then has the right to visit or fetch his girlfriend and child and take them out, for example. It is agreed that they are not ready to get married and so he just supports the baby and is now welcome to the house. It is no longer a secret that she has someone in her life.

The sad fact about this scenario is that an opportunity has been lost to guide and advise them while they were a couple with no children. The opportunity to get to know the parents of the child’s significant other and at least get to know who your potential in-laws are is lost. Every­thing is a surprise. What the boy or girl does for a living, their plans for their life, their religion and culture, their work ethic and principles, and even their shortcomings are going to have to be accepted at that stage. To me, it does not sound like a healthy chance to take.

But I am a “Model C”. What do I know? I am a westernised black man who kisses his women friends on the cheek without sexual intent, who believes in planning his life and choosing a wife with a fine-tooth comb before settling down, and who is pro choice. I acknowledge that traditions and cultural practices and beliefs are there for a reason, but I also acknowledge that many of these are extinct and are no longer observed because their time has gone by. Why is this not being reviewed as well?

I believe we should review certain things and their psychological and sociological impact on our society. Why not loosen up and trust your children to make wise choices while acknowledging your own influence on their lives? They will make choices that differ from yours, inevitably, but if you have taught them to live with their choices they will also have to do that. But the collaboration is needed these days, because like I was taught “if only” is the saddest phrase in the English language.

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