May the Freedom be with you…

freedom-day-april-27Did you have a great Freedom Day? I celebrated with an early run and an unprecedented back-to-bed at 10 in the morning! My kids also did that’s for sure. When you are 8 and 5 there is nothing that speaks of Freedom more than a day off school, and in their schools’ case an extra two free days were thrown in for ..well.. Free. So now in our house it’s been five days of Freedom already which means late bed times, even later breakfasts, beach time with dogs and boards and of course – Lego. (We own more Lego than a mid-size pre-school but that’s a story for another time.)

Do yours know where Freedom Day comes from? My kids have a vague idea.  “Everyone voted, even women. Nelson Mandela said they could.” And then with some – alot – of prompting “oh ja, before that only white people could vote” is what my ordinarily smart 8 year old eventually came out with. He’s only recently started seeing people as white and shades of caramel to brown so I guess that’s something. My 5 year old chose to throw his brother under the bus and kept to his Lego. Once I’d explained the significance of Freedom Day (surely not for the first time?) and got the standard two second head-nod acknowledgement,  I felt a bit quiet.
“Crap, how can I be raising such oblivious children” was the thought in my head. It’s not as if it has no personal meaning to me. On 27 April 1997 my parents and my 20-year old self had stood side by side in the long queue at Zonnebloem Nest School District Six, waiting to vote for the first time. We were not a politically active family, being more of the kind to just bite down hard and quietly play the hand we were dealt with. But standing in the queue, seeing the emotion in my parents, their celebration – I experienced my parents’ true feelings about living in apartheid South Africa. The anger and the sadness they had never dared to express to me, their unfamiliar experience of optimism in a future as a South African. I wondered then what they had lived through that they’d never shared with me. I’d had some of my own experiences of life in apartheid SA but for the most, they’d shielded me, as parents instinctively do I imagine. I left that queue on the 27th with a new understanding of my parents – and an overwhelming gratitude for the many South Africans who had risked and fought and struggled so that I could vote.
So when my kids scratched their heads about what Freedom Day meant I wondered if I’d failed a little. How could they not understand what it meant, and what it meant to me!  But I sat on it for a little and had another thought. What if it’s enough that they know the facts (and at their age there’s time for me to help them get that right), what if me wanting more isn’t a parental narcissism of sorts. You know:  “This is important to me so it shall be important to you.” Or the everyday one “I didn’t have the ……….. (fill in whatever!)  when I was a child, so you should really appreciate it now.”  My parents didn’t share their rage, their resentments, their political hurts with me. They let me have my own experiences and form my own opinions and maybe that (in part anyway) allowed me to love and marry someone – who in their world – would be from the “other” side. I don’t know. It made me think. What is the line between sharing my own experiences and my own values and leaving them free enough to just get on with it and have their own? Make up their own minds about the things I think are important. It’s a freedom I want for them.

Being a parent – no one told me it could be such a tricky thing! And that’s without all the damn Lego construction lying around. Let me know what you think, I’d love to hear.  But now I’ve got to ask what they think Worker’s Day means…


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