Thoughts from a mom raising a baby boy in a South African township

I want my son to understand these few things in life:
I want my son to understand these few things in life:

In light of the number of incidents which we have seen covered in South African news recently, as a parent you cannot help but wonder what the future holds for the young humans we are raising in this country.

From #AmINext to #BlackLivesMatter I wonder: Who is going to be the next to be attacked or brutalised: me or my baby?

As a mother who is raising a boy in the township, I wish I could dig a hole for my child to grow up in, under and away from all the evil.

The #AmINext marches sparked conversations on the safety of women and children in our country. The #BlackLivesMatter movement has us all thinking about police brutality and #yousilenceweamplify has brought racism in South African schools into the light.

I want to protect him for all this. But the reality is that I cannot.

I am tasked with the role of taking care of this little boy, at least until he is able to look after himself, to keep him healthy and to protect him.

If you have a boy child, you will understand the hard job you are actually tasked with. You have to decide what kind of a man you want your child to be, and your parenting style can play a big role in this one.

However, some aspects of what shapes that man has to do with the environment that influences his idea of manhood. It's not until I had a child of my own that I understood the significance of raising a boy in the township.

On my first day coming back home from the hospital, my sister told me about how a boy she knows had been struck by a panga wielding gang of boys. And the reason was for "wearing good clothes and keeping himself out of trouble."

That to me was shocking enough to send my mind into thinking about my fears of having a boy child in this environment. Among my fears is the fear of the toxic masculinity that he will come into contact with. 

How do I unpack this for him, what is masculinity anyway? How do I raise a boy with good values if everything around him tells him otherwise.

I cannot possibly shield him from this.

How do I even begin to unpack the societal baggage of toxic masculinity has on boys? 

If you started reading this with the hopes that I would have a magical solution, I'm afraid I don't have the answer, but I believe the work starts in the household. 

Regardless of where we come from, we all have high aspirations for our kids. Ask anyone with a child and they will tell you that they probably want their child to be some very accomplished person in a certain field.

But I want my son to understand a few things in life...

That it doesn't matter what you become, my deepest desire for you boils down to the simple concept of happiness. 

I want you to love yourself, love God and love others. 

I hope you learn to see the good in others, even when it difficult to do so.

You will not be a Messiah to everyone's problems and I don't want you to have the pressure to be a world changer, but if you can, go for it. The world needs people with a better mindset: one of love and integrity, empathy and honesty.

Find love and give love

My wish for you is that you find love and give love, but I also hope that you don't feel the pressure to fake perfection in return for love.

I hope that you find happiness in respecting women.

I hope you understand that every decision we make for you comes from a place of love. 

I hope you get to live a life with people who accept you for who you are, not for what you have.

Question everything

My son, I cherish the day you start school because only then will you be exposed to the greatness and the awfulness of the world.

I hope you learn to understand that not everyone will have your best interests at heart but you should give people the benefit of the doubt anyway.

Before anything get yourself educated. I would break my back working for you to get a proper education, but it all depends on you.

Question everything, nothing is as simple and straight forward as ABC.

You are unique

I hope you are proud of who you are.

Luckily you are born into a diverse country. I hope you learn to accept people for who they are. Tolerate another person's difference from yours.

I hope you enjoy the life you have because there is so much to enjoy.

For you my son, more than anything, I hope you lead a healthy life that is full of opportunities that you will use.

I hope you live by these words:

"Infuse your life with action. Don't wait for it to happen. Make it happen. Make your own future. Make your own hope. Make your own love. And whatever your beliefs, honor your creator, not by passively waiting for grace to come down from upon high, but by doing what you can to make grace happen... yourself, right now, right down here on Earth." - Bradley Whitford

"If you have a dream, don’t just sit there. Gather courage to believe that you can succeed and leave no stone unturned to make it a reality.” - Dr. Roopleen

"Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one." – Marcus Aurelius

Chat back:

What are your fears and challenges with raising your children in light of the toxic masculinity in our society?

Share your thoughts with us, and we could publish your email. Do tell us if you would like to remain anonymous.

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