Blacks / Boys / Children / Fatherhood

Like the Feeling of a Son’s Hand Clasping a Man’s Thumb

Like that feeling of a baby's hand clasping a man's thumb, July 21, 2009, Pinelands, South Africa

Like that feeling of a baby’s hand clasping a man’s thumb, July 21, 2009, Pinelands, South Africa

It’s raining in Cape Town. It’s been raining quite a bit in the last few weeks.

Though some people love the suggestion of inviting fires and comfy covers of such days, for others rain days bring on a dark blue tone to things. Don’t forget too that when it rains, a leaky shack is not the best place to try to be cosy.

Still, it is not uncommon that when the rain is gone one can miss, and not because you depend on it for a livelihood. Same is true when the sun is gone. You can miss it very much. 

Today, though – no, all of this week, even when it rains, I have been feeling like sun. When I dropped the boy and his friend at school this morning, it was coming down hard. It didn’t bother me. It could have been December in Cape Town.

My mood has to do with a report we got about the boy a few days ago from his teachers. The principal followed it up with a call to his mother. It made us feel – how to describe this feeling?

Happy is not quite the word for it. Proud neither. On the right road doesn’t express what it felt like too. At bottom I think both his parents are agreed that it is good to know that we are not messing the kid with all of these notions that he is beautiful; that sharing is a virtue (he says that now); that fighting is a no-no; that he should greet adults with aunty and uncle, ma’am and sir; that he ought to go easy on the hip US/British/South African Model C linguistic confetti; and that he should play outside. About playing sports, it should be noted that the parents are disagreed about winning. The mother says the boy should not like winning so much. She says it is ok to lose as long as one participates and tries one’s best. The father says, yeah right. If losing is so ok, try winning he says. The boy is making up his mind. He seems inclined towards his father’s view.

The report and call came after a week in which two schools told us that they would not be taking him next year. Among the reasons for the rejection were that the schools give preference to kids whose parents are old boy/girls; having or having hard a sibling at the school. How absurd is that! I have learned that these institutionalised exclusionary practices are quite common.  Do I want my kid to go to a school that perpetuates this kind of racially incestuous rubbish? I think not. 

Then we got the report and the call. The feeling I felt was like that feeling of a baby’s hand clasping a man’s thumb. Feeling inside like sunshine on a rainy day. But even that doesn’t describe this tiny but powerful sense that comes from the dailyness of seeing to it that a child grows.

Raising a child with the hope that he will be free to be the best it can be is always hard. I know now.

Raising a securely attached boy in a place where it has become kind of acceptable that boy-children don’t need as much tenderness and attention as girl-children because of the sins of their fathers, now that’s going to be a mission. Why is this happening, my people?

But, now, raising a black boy to be confident to act upon the world, kind in his heart, strong of mind, just in his actions, and joyful to share his talents, that does take a village doesn’t it.


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