This is the class teacher of Form X.
Kindly come to ____________ on
27th Jan 2015 at 9:00am
the progress and performance of HRH
When I received that text, I had the fleeting thought that perhaps HRH had a just discovered that his dreams were valid and he could now make a career move as a rapper. And that I was being summoned to discuss his progress in the newly chosen career and debut performance perhaps at an upcoming Easter concert.
A fleeting thought I said. Or fantasy.
The reality, however, is that the class teacher’s summon comes against a backdrop of a chaotic end to an otherwise great Christmas holiday.
It was the time that I also woke up to perhaps the worst realization of my life; that I possibly resent the extension of my past self that my son is turning out to be. And that I, not him, am fully 100% responsible for that result. We had not been on the best terms for the last two weeks of the holiday mainly because of the undone homework. That they had holiday homework in December was an issue for me. But that is a story for another day. Anyway, he had homework of twelve subjects for which he drew up a 6 day completion plan. I trusted that this plan would be followed to the letter. And I left him to his own devices, wisdom, initiative and a working telly.
Then on school opening week, the stuff of 2014 school opening drama began. The stomach runs, irritability, rude behaviour, oversleeping.
I am told that this is a stereotypical teenage syndrome. I am struggling to believe this generalization. Not all teenagers I grew up with ended up in addiction recovery. My patience wore very very thin after doing this for now the fifth or sixth time as far as homework went. I was really now feeling justified to be called as bad parent.
My excuses of a fractured past were no longer tenable given the work I have done in therapy, in participating in loads of personal development seminars and workshops, in trudging on the journey of recovery from alcoholism, attending and facilitating parenting classes for the last five years – I am almost ashamed of this admission. And now, being saved blah blah blah does not seem to mean anything. I have all the tools for a healed fractured past. Yet, I was using the same fractured past to take my son hostage.
I blew my top on school opening week and let’s just say it got really messy. I was embarrassed. I apologized. And the only silver lining is that the teachers’ strike offered him an opportunity to finish his homework and I, an opportunity to look good.
I need to accept that my son, though having perhaps 50% of my DNA is not an extension of me and that my past is not and should not be his legacy. Why this is still a struggle for me really baffles me. I have experienced freedom in several spheres of my life except in the area of complete forgiveness of my past. This unforgiveness severely slows down, fades and compromises those same areas where freedom, power and joy are my self-expression. I now have to look for a way of resolving this conflict that has no victims or losses. Only gains for all concerned. And this may perhaps include using the very same resources that have gotten me up to here in the first place. My son’s future depends on it. His life may well depend on it.
So, what’s missing the presence of which would make a difference? What I see missing is a reality of a bonding between my son and myself. A missing reality of I accepting HRH as he is and stop taking the guilt trip that several parents notoriously take for not measuring up and not being perfect.
The first step to a new reality and indeed a new narrative in my relationship with my son was initiated at a thought-provoking lecture, ‘Frantz Fanon at 90 and his relevance in today’s world’ by a man I hadn’t heard of until a few days before the lecture; Prof Lewis Gordon. It was at the invitation of the fine African woman in my life who has also sparked an interest in literary works that I dropped when, in forming this fractured past, I had foolishly resolved that taking literature was not a masculine endeavour.
In fact, I see as I write, that I need to stop calling my past a fractured one. It is a history. It is my history. And one thing I heard over and over at the illuminating lecture by Prof. Gordon, one of the freest people I have ever met, is that history needs to be studied if humanity is to be valued and understood. In relating to my past as fractured and my son as an extension of that past, what we will end up having is a flawed relationship at best and a flawed masculinity at worst.
Though I have been resisting having a flawed and dysfunctional relationship with my son, flaw and dysfunction is all I have known. But even what’s more real than that knowledge is the relationship to flaw and dysfunction. It is a relationship I have nurtured and developed with amazing finesse and then I deny I am doing it. So, when I see it in the stuff I don’t like about my son (I am told he is human, too), I realize it is a relationship I don’t in fact like. Then I take it out on him and I feel bad. Really bad.
And in church recently, we were asked to write down whom we could groom as our successors in the various spaces we occupy. My son was not an automatic choice for my home space. I wrote his name because he was the only choice in my home space.
I choose to choose again. He is my choice not because he is the only one but because, perhaps thanks to Fanon and Prof Gordon, I choose him to in this leadership development process called parenting because he is the one chosen for me with whom to create a new history. I choose now to bequeath a legacy worth passing on and first off, this means being grateful for my history and for the old Chris. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for them. That relating to my past as history, rather than a fractured past that should be denied and erased, is a significant step toward an empowered self acceptance. An acceptance of my humanity.
Accepting my humanity will be about taking responsibility, ditching that notorious guilt trip that I am not a perfect parent and recognizing my son’s rights as a child and mine as a parent.
This would translate in a validation of my son’s humanity which I have been stupidly yet unknowingly undermining with statements such as: “I am doing this so you don’t turn out like me.” Yet the way I have been treating him is a sure-fire way of him turning out in exactly the way I have been in the past. History would thus be repeated; neither learned from nor understood.
As I take delight in a breakthrough experience I am having here, I am settling to being a good enough parent in service of peace on earth and more so a different April 2015 holiday history in the making.
In January, February and March.
The monkey on my back has gone back to the circus. The circus has left town.
Circuses can be good fun things with monkeys off our backs.