Parenting

book review, the school for good mothers. jessamine chan

THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD MOTHERS – BOOK REVIEW

Author : Jessamine Chan

First published : 2022

Okay, this book was difficult to read. As a mother and as a woman, I found myself gasping, cringing, feeling sad and heartbroken, feeling angry and frustrated. I experienced disbelief and a whole lot of other emotions that caught me by surprise. I’m not sure what I expected when I picked up this book but what I found was definitely not it.

This book was also on Barack Obama’s favourite book list for 2022.

Without giving too much away, I’ll provide a short summary.

Frida Liu is a young mother accused of neglecting and abandoning her young child. She is then sent to a school which is meant to retrain ‘bad mothers’ into becoming the best and most attentive mothers in human existence. (I’m being a bit sarcastic here and once you read the book, especially if you are a mother, I’m sure you will understand why.)

The training and exercises these mothers at the school go through are something else; I found myself frowning and saying “huh?” on many occasions while reading.

‘I am a bad mother but I am learning to be good’

the school for good mothers, book review
An excerpt from the book.

There is so much I can say and want to say about how this book made me feel; when I got to the last chapter, I was in tears.

In a way this book highlights the unrealistic expectations society has when it comes to mothers. Don’t get me wrong, motherhood and children are a gift for women who want it, but it’s a very difficult journey to be on.

In the book, mothers are expected to always be aware of everything around them, never turn their eyes away from their children for a second, be able to soothe their babies by using the correct language and words and physical affection, be able to effectively comfort their children and provide quick, healthy meals and stimulate their minds all the while not losing their own heads.

In a nutshell; it’s a lot.

The thing is, mothers can do all the above but unlike the children in the book, we are not robots. We need a break and we are not always emotionally available for our children or spouses or partners. We won’t always cook healthy dinners and sometimes we want to shut down and be left alone and that is perfectly normal and should be acceptable.

Our own kids are 6 and 8 years old now; they have an abundance of energy which I don’t. There is always something that needs to be done. Laundry needs to be washed and folded and packed away, school lunches need to be made, shopping needs to be done, toys have to be picked up and put away, children need to be disciplined. All the while you are trying to think of the 20 things you need to remember, you are thinking about work, you are checking the time, you are trying to engage in conversations, you are trying to be a good wife and then you need to remember to take care of yourself; have a bath, drink your coffee, fall asleep.

You will fall short somewhere.

We were never made to be perfect.

adult, mother, daughter

The guilt and pressure mothers are put under is also a prominent theme in this book; not only by society but by family and surprisingly other mothers too. The pressure can become so crippling, that it becomes life-threatening.

As a mom myself, I’ve been judged, criticized, told what I’m doing wrong, what I should be doing and how I should be doing it. I’ve also compared myself to other moms and it made me feel like the worst person in the world. I’ve been told to plan ahead, prepare dinners, clothing, activities, grocery lists, an endless number of things that I am meant to remember and take care off. Being a parent is difficult but there’s a different kind of hardship that comes with motherhood. Sometimes it’s unrealistic and you have homes where there are two parents and both contribute equally but I think as women, we tend to put ourselves under pressure and that pressure is amplified when you become a mom. Especially when you have a full-time job, a side hustle, a marriage, children. When you do catch your breath long enough to tick something off your to-do list, it feels like a miracle, that’s if you remembered to write your to-do list!

Yes, I know. It sounds like I am venting and maybe I am a little. Reading this book might unlock feelings on the inside of you, that you never even thought you had. Some of those feelings you might not be ready to face.

Something else which stands out for me in this novel is how different the ‘bad fathers’ are treated at the school, which I will call, ‘parenting rehab facility’

The differences are like night and day, which again angered me a little because moms are not always extended the grace which they deserve.

I think the overwhelming message in this book is how one small mistake can change your entire life. The book is about a mother who needs to make decisions which are painful and difficult but she makes them and she doesn’t always make the right ones.

It’s also about regret and how it can hold you back but its also about forgiveness; forgiving others but also forgiving yourself for mistakes you made when you didn’t know better.

All in all, it was an amazing read. I could probably write pages and pages of analysis but I want you to experience this book and make sense of it on your own.

Son, day of the girl child

TO MY SON ON THE DAY OF THE GIRL CHILD

Throughout your life you will probably hear phrases such as,

A woman brought you into this world and she can take out of it

You don’t lay your hands on a woman

Be respectful toward women

I can give you a whole list of things that you will hear but I will let you be surprised and experience it as you grow up.

All those things are correct, you never ever touch a woman in a way that makes her feel uncomfortable.

You never cross a line that has clearly been set out for you.

You do not hunger after a woman’s body as if she is something to eat.

You do not say things that will kill a woman’s confidence or shatter her character.

You never do.

Do not intentionally break hearts or lead a woman on.

There is no pride or glory in breaking a woman’s heart.

It only brings you shame.

If you do not love her, tell her.

Leave her with the truth rather than loving her with a lie.

Never assume that you are always right and never make a woman feel ashamed for what she is feeling or thinking.

Make her feel comfortable enough to express herself to you and make an effort to understand her instead of admonishing her.

You need integrity and compassion and the ability to love unconditionally and you need to have respect for everyone around you.

In order to respect anyone else, man or woman, you first need to have respect for yourself.

If you don’t have a certain standard to which you hold yourself then how you treat others will be a clear reflection of that and then that would mean that I have failed you as a mother,

And I, my dear boy, am not planning on failing.

I want you to be a man that loves woman but loves them in a pure manner.

Love how they are nurturing and caring.

Love how versatile they are.

Love and respect their intellect and be a man that provides a safe space for them to unearth their potential.

Love how they make you feel on the inside, how they make you fall in love.

Be a student of women and find out what makes them tick without ticking them off.

Pray for women and pray that you gain the knowledge and wisdom on how to treat them as a good man should.

Love your sister unconditionally and protect her with your life.
Son, sister, day of the girl child
Mason and his sister, Morgan.

Fight for the causes of women and always be available when one needs you but never let any woman take advantage of your heart or your kindness.

Your heart will most likely be broken by a few girls in your lifetime and that cannot be stopped but never use that as an excuse to hurt another woman in return.

One hurt does not fix another.

Love is all there is and love is all that matters.

A woman is not your possession, you do not own the person you love.

A woman is a free spirit that will come into your life to teach and to be taught.

She will make you fall in love with life and she will enhance your vision for your own life.

She will make you want to succeed and she will push you until you do.

You cannot be a man without having had a woman touch your life.

My son,

Please remember, women brought you up,

Me,

Your grandmothers,

Your great-grandmothers,

Your aunts,

Your school teachers,

Your sister.

You have been surrounded by beautiful women all your life and you will continue to be for the rest of it.

Be sure to treat every girl or woman you ever come across with the highest level of esteem and admiration because at the end of the day if it wasn’t for the fighting and equally loving spirit of all the women in your life, you would not be who you are today.

Be an example to the many men who will follow you throughout your life and be part of a generation of men that will never again take a woman by force, break her spirit or leave her blue-eyed and crying.

Son, father and son, day of the girl child
Mason and his dad.

I beg of you baby, be different.

Be strong.

Be secure in your faith.

Be humble.

Be dependable.

Be honest.

Be brave.

Be loving and compassionate.

But most importantly, be forgiving.

Do not let the hardships in life stop you from finding the beauty and romance that there surely is and sharing it with everyone you meet.

I hold you to these standards because I know and I believe you have it in you.

Female nurses healed you back to health when you were too weak to stand on your own two feet.

A female pastor dedicated you to the church.

Female doctors delivered you from my womb.

You are not above a woman.

She stands next to you, not under your feet.

I can only give you these guidelines but it is up to you to decide what kind of man you are going to be and maybe someday, what kind of man you are going to raise.

I know you are young now but someday you will understand this.

And if you don’t understand,

Ask a woman.

Son, mother and son, day of the girl child
Mason and I.
a person holding a book while having coffee

BUILDING KINGDOM WEALTH

WOMEN’S CONFERENCE

This past weekend, I attended a women’s conference at our church. Pastor Gugu Dlamini was the keynote speaker and delivered some great advice and in many ways opened my eyes to many things which I either forgot or were never aware off. As a child of God and in my role as a wife, mother and just a woman, I often find myself in a mental state where I feel so lost. I feel hopeless, I feel utterly exhausted and attending this conference reminded me where I should find my strength. Funny thing is, I told myself I wouldn’t be able to attend the conference because I would be working but God had other plans.

The most important or rather one of the most important take-aways for me was the fact that as a woman, married or not or whether you have kids or not you have a big responsibility in the kingdom of God. You are more valuable than you know and you have so much more power than you realise and its time that we not only tap into it but also use it to change the world.

Pastor Gugu started off by explaining how we can live a life of truth. The truth is the Word of God. She explained that the truth about you, your husband, your family and your future are all already laid out and if you want to find it, you need to spend time in the Word of God. She not only said it, but she proved it by referencing several scriptures. The thing is however, the Word of God can only be your truth, if you believe it.

She said that faith is the currency of a Christian.

PSALM 112 VS 2-3 :

Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who finds great delight in his commands. His children will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed. Wealth and riches are in his house, and his righteousness endures forever.

To be honest, I wish I had recorded her the entire time but I felt that it was important to be in the moment and take in the teaching hence I’m only sharing key points.

JOHN 10 VS 10:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

When you operate in the currency of faith, you know and trust that God will fulfill his promises to you and to you it doesn’t matter how long it will take. You know when God says He will, it is already done.

JEREMIAH 1 VS 10:

See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.

Pastor Gugu unpacked the above scripture. She said that when she reads a scripture, she not only reads it, but she reads and tries to understand every word and I’d like to share with you here what she shared with us.

UPROOT:

Uproot all that is not of God and introduce a new standard.

TEAR DOWN / PULL DOWN:

Pull down and tear down any demonic force within your family and your household.

DESTROY:

Destroy everything that is not aligned with God.

OVERTHROW:

Overthrow the enemy.

BUILD AND PLANT:

Start building towards the kingdom of God. Direct your household and stay in the gospel.

green leafy plant starting to grow on beige racks
Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com

JOSHUA 1 VS 5:

No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.

On day two of the conference, we discussed kingdom wealth and how to implement strategies to gain wealth. Pastor Gugu shared some of the following points:

  1. Being a helper is not a subordinate position – she referenced the story of Adam and Eve and asked us why did God decide to make Adam a helper.
  2. A helper can only help when there’s a vision – your husband needs to have a vision for your family so that you can help him bring that vision to life.
  3. As a woman, you get your plan from the Word of God.
  4. Read the Word of God with a strategy in mind. Don’t just read for the sake of reading, but read so that you can understand what is the plan that God has for your life and that of your family.
  5. Recognise the gifting of your children -And pray that God will help you harness those gifts.
  6. We are not led by money, we are led by the Spirit.
  7. We get blessed because we are obedient.
  8. Be a blessing everywhere you go.
  9. We operate in the Supernatural.
  10. Pray the Word of God so that the Word can go work on the things you prayed over.

IMPLEMENTING STRATEGIES

Again, Pastor Gugu highlighted that as Christians, faith is our currency. This means that it doesn’t matter what your circumstances are or what’s happening around you, that you will find rest and peace in the presence of God. That was something that I especially needed to hear.

Ecclesiastes 2 vs 26:

To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

  1. You please God by operating in faith.
  2. Wealth comes when you start believing the Word of God and start implementing what it says.
  3. Revelations 5 vs 12 confirms Ecclesiastes 2 vs 26
  4. God can’t act if you don’t exercise your faith.
close up shot of a woman praying
Photo by TEP RO on Pexels.com

REVELATIONS 5 VS 12:

 Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.

POWER: Meaning jurisdiction / rule over your circumstances.

WEALTH: Operate in three dimensions of wealth.

WISDOM: The knowledge of God.

STRENGTH: Inner strength – Spirit of God will rise in you.

HONOUR: Even if you are last, you will be first. God will qualify you as long as you apply in faith.

GLORY AND PRAISE: Arriving in in fullness – operating fully in your gifts.

FINAL NOTES

It’s obviously impossible for me to share the entirety of the wealth of knowledge that was shared during that conference but I think you get the idea of what we learned or at least, what I learned. The experience was different for every woman who attended. I hope by reading this, you also find some comfort and direction.

Here are some final points:

  1. Whatever God has called you to do, do it.
  2. God will open divine connections for y0ou once you start operating in the fullness of who He is.
  3. You need to have an unbelievable reliance on God.
  4. Understand where God is posting you.
  5. Change the conversations in your home.
  6. Always consult God.

I loved that the conference took place over two days; the last day of September and the first day of October. It sort of felt like the ending of something but also the beginning of a new season.

3d model, world, earth-2894038.jpg

HERITAGE DAY AS A COLOURED PERSON

I’ve written about this topic before on a previous blog platform under the same title but I feel like I need to revive it. In all honesty, I dislike Heritage Day. I remember when I was in school and this particular day came around, we would be told to wear our Heritage clothes and bring cultural foods and speak about our heritage. I never knew what to do. I don’t really know my heritage. All I know is my mother was born in Namibia and I think my father was born in the Eastern Cape (I’m really not sure about that )

Now I am in the position where my kids are going through the same thing. My daughter, who is now in Grade 2, celebrated Heritage Day at her school the other day and they were told to wear cultural or traditional clothing that is synonymous with her heritage. She went to school in pants and a t-shirt and a hoodie. She came home that day and told me how beautiful her friends looked in their African attire and how her friends are Zulu or Sepedi and the like. I felt defeated.

We are Coloured; we are considered a mixed race but the only problem is, I’m not sure, in fact, I have no idea which races fall into that mixed bag of culture and heritage. I know next to nothing of my father’s family or his heritage and sadly my mother is late so I can’t even ask her anything about hers.

diversity, people, group-5541062.jpg

Maybe the reason I dislike this day so much is because I personally don’t know anything about my own history. I wish I had had more conversations with my mother about my maternal side but alas, regret always comes too late.

I’ve come to the conclusion that maybe its time we as a family start building our own heritage.

My son on the other hand was also asked to bring a picture to school to discuss his heritage. We drew him the South African flag, he also drew a sun and a bowl of fruit and the earth. When he was done, I realised culture is what we observe. My son sees the sun in the sky, he sees the earth and he sees food and he knows he belongs somewhere. All the other technicalities of where we come from doesn’t really matter, at least not right now. My son then asked my husband what his heritage is and my husband replied, ‘Your heritage is South African’

That was the same response his father gave him when he was a little boy and had to dress up or participate in Heritage Day.

I don’t want my children to feel as if they don’t belong anywhere. I want them to know they can fit in everywhere if that’s what they wanted. That’s how I felt when I was in school; I felt embarrassed because while everyone else wore traditional clothing and spoke of their traditions and food and culture, I wanted the earth to swallow me whole or at least be invisible for the day.

My husband has similar stories and so do a lot of other Coloured people I’ve spoken to about this topic.

One the other hand, there is beauty in being ‘mixed race’; you are a cacophony of colours and sounds; you are a kaleidoscope of memories and history and you are a part of everyone you come across and you leave a part of yourself wherever you are.

I completely understand that its important to know who you are, to know about the people who came before us and to know where our bloodline leads. I am not dismissing that at all but maybe, if like me, you don’t know much about your ancestry, we can just start building our own cultures and create our own traditions and heritage.

I’ve made the decision to tell my children that our heritage is simply being human. If we start there, we can see that we are all actually a part of the same culture.

lighted candles on a cake

A VERY SPECIAL DAY

So, birthdays. A time to celebrate and be grateful that God has blessed us
with more time on this earth. A time to discover who we are and who we want to
be. A time to love our life and not place any unnecessary pressure on ourselves.

We all want to feel that we matter. We all want to know that our existence
matters, so we look forward to that one and only day on the calendar. The day
that reminds us that we are still alive. The day that says, you’ve made it
through another year, here take another.

So, we wake up in the morning and check our phones, wondering on whose mind
we were first and secretly hoping that they weren’t reminded by Facebook.

We remind people indirectly, “Do you know what day it is today?”
only to receive that unenthusiastic, “Happy Birthday”. We smile and
say thank you, feeling special even if it’s just for that one day.

We mark the day by dressing up and setting up expectations for ourselves
that no one else knows about. We expect gifts, a party maybe and get excited
because today is the day that everyone has to be kind to us. After all, it’s
our birthday. We take pictures and post it all over social media, we like,
share and retweet copycat birthday messages and smile in pride as people ask
us, “how old are you today?” knowing that not everyone makes its to
their next birthday.

This year, I turned 30-years old. I had planned to do something that I
believed would help me overcome a fear; I wanted to go on a huge rollercoaster
and scream my lungs out and feel the sensation of freedom in my gut but I
couldn’t do it. I chickened out.

The experience was meant to mark my new decade, it was meant to signify the
trajectory that my life would have taken for the next ten years; facing my
fears, doing things outside of my comfort zone, climbing new heights, literally
and figuratively but instead I stood in front of the rollercoaster and I burst
into tears. I cried because I wasn’t brave enough to do what I had set out to do
and I cried because I was still in the same place I was the day before; birthday
or no birthday. I cried because I had set such high expectations for myself and
I couldn’t go through with it. I cried because I was embarrassed. I cried because
I was starting my new decade standing in front of inanimate object, intimidated and feeling
pathetic.

I still regret not going on the rollercoaster and I’m still scared to do it
but I hope someday I will gain the courage to face at least that one fear.

If it’s your birthday today and you’re reading this, I hope you find the
courage to face even your smallest fears and I hope you relinquish all expectations
you had of yourself for this next season and simply enjoy being alive.

Happy birthday.

christmas presents
Photo by Jill Wellington on Pexels.com
man in gray shirt looking at city buildings

CORRECTION IS HUMBLING

I wasn’t ready to lose my mother when she died in 2020. I was 28 years old; still figuring things out, finding my feet, unbeknownst to her; hiding and finding comfort in her bosom. Even at the age of 28-years old, I was very much a child. Today at 30, in many respects, I still am.

God knew I was not ready to lose my mother. He knew and still knows that I needed correction, discipline, and sometimes those things only come through tragedy. God had other plans. He thrust me into this place where I find myself today, being shaped and molded and, at times, scolded by other strong women.

I’ve realised I took advantage of the role my mother had in my life. I fought her a lot; especially as I grew older. I was hardly ever willing to learn from her because as we know, young children and young adults ‘know everything’. A wall was built between us which, until the day she died, could not be penetrated. I think I will always live with that regret.

So here I am now; finding myself in a place where I am being humbled through correction. Internally and externally. It’s a convicting feeling.

It’s painful to be honest. It forces you to break out of the mould you created for yourself with all the things you thought you knew. It brings you face-to-face with yourself and that is not necessarily a comfortable experience. In fact, it can be downright excruciating and frustrating. At times you find yourself biting your lip and digging in your nails, just so that you don’t scream out in agony.

No one wants to be told when they’re doing something wrong but we don’t always see that correction, if done right, is almost always done in love.

Help and correction won’t always come freely though. The hard part comes when you have to ask for it. When you have to admit that you need help, that’s when the walls really start to come down.

I have been battling with my season of correction; it’s been extremely frustrating at times. Other days, I take it on the chin, I humble myself and say thank you, I needed that. Other days, I roll my eyes and think to myself, ‘I already knew that’

Not only have I been receiving correction from people around me, God has also been working in me and with me. Reminding me when to hold my tongue, helping me to keep a lid on my complaints, opening my eyes to see people the way He sees them, teaching me to be patient, helping me understand that my journey is not that of my husband’s or my colleagues or anyone in my inner circle.

When I think about correction or being shown the error of your ways, I think of it in terms of when you know better, you do better. You change when you are corrected, you can decide to become better or refuse the change and stay the same. Its all about your attitude when you are in the process of receiving correction; you can stand back and roll your eyes and stay in your ‘I know this already’ mindset or you can pay attention, take notes and humble yourself to those who are trying to show you a better way or different way.

WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS ABOUT CORRECTION

pink pencil on open bible page and pink
Photo by John-Mark Smith on Pexels.com

Here are a few verses from the Bible that speak on correction. There are many more but these are the ones that stood out for me.

Hebrews 12:11

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Proverbs 12: 1

Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

Proverbs 15:32

Whoever ignores instruction despises himself, but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence.

Proverbs 8:33

Hear instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it.

Hebrews 12:10-11

For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

You might not see it now but when you look back in a couple of months or years; you’ll notice that you have better habits, you do things in a different way than before. You do better because you know better. It’s hard to see the finish line when you’re still in the early stages of the race but you need to know, the finish line is there.

That’s where I find myself now in life; being corrected, almost on a daily basis and its hard but I know sooner or later I will appreciate the correction. I will appreciate the molding and shaping because it has made me a better person.

I started this post of by speaking about my mother. Reason being that I wish I had been more open to my mother’s correction. I wish I had listened to her more, asked her more questions because now I realise I need her more than I ever thought I would. Now that I’m in this place of becoming, I need my mother and I need her to reassure me or guide me when I make a decision. I need her to make me laugh when I’m feeling frustrated or show me her feisty and fierce character when I feel uncertain. I needed her then and I need her now.

WHEN YOU’RE THE ONE DOING THE CORRECTING

two people sitting on pallet on beach and talking
Photo by Anna Shevchuk on Pexels.com

Sometimes you will find yourself doing the correcting and I’d like you to think about the following when you’re in that position:

  1. Correction come with patience just as learning comes with patience.
  2. Correcting someone can’t be done with aggression. Not everyone responds well to being spoken down to; in fact I don’t think anyone does.
  3. Correction can’t be done with arrogance; you as the person trying to teach another are also still learning in the process.

back view photo of a woman in black sleeveless top carrying a toddler

MAMA, YOU MATTER.

You have such an important role as a wife and a mother.

Your ability to nurture, love, care and encourage is God-given.

The role of a husband and father is just as important but it’s often the wife and mother that is either heavily criticised. She is expected to fulfill all these other roles; friend, sister, businesswoman. As a woman, you are often expected to break ceilings and still be able to take care of yourself, look good, provide for your family, and do a multitude of other things.

It can get tiring. It can make you feel empty and sometimes it makes you feel as if you are not enough even when you are doing all these things.

You are the person your family depends on; your advice, your patience, your presence. Everything you do for those you care about, matters.

Don’t ever think it doesn’t.

I know you get tired and frustrated. I know at times you want to throw in the towel but your role as a woman, wife, and mother is so important, so needed and so wanted.

Your family functions because of you. They thrive because you create an atmosphere and a space for them to do so.

They draw power from you. You are a pillar of strength placed in your family by God and no one can fulfill that role better than you.

composing, woman, fantasy

THE STRENGTH OF A WOMAN

MEETING THE MATRIARCH

This past December, my family and I took a road trip to East London in the Eastern Cape. I met my husband’s grandmother, and now my grandmother.

In the ten days I lived in her home, I saw and experienced raw strength.

She is the matriarch and a true one at that. Mama is my husband’s 81-year-old paternal grandmother. She is also as fierce and feisty as they come. For you to understand my admiration for Mama, you need to understand a bit of her life and her history.

Mama, as she is so affectionately known, lost both her husband and only daughter of five children, who was also the youngest sibling, within the space of 6 months more than 15 years ago. She ended up having to take care of her late daughter’s son, who was two years old at the time. He is now a well raised young man.

Through conversations I had with Mama during our stay at her home in Buffalo Flats, I was in awe of how she relayed stories of when her husband, Dada, died and then how she lost her daughter only six months later. When I listened to her speak, I could hear pain, sadness, loss but also acceptance. She made me realize that acceptance like that only comes from a very deep-rooted strength.

I also realized that she didn’t have a choice but to be strong. She took on the responsibility of raising her grandson like he was her own. I cannot fathom the sheer determination and willpower it had to take for her to get out of bed every morning and be there for her grandson, the rest of her children as well as other family members.

Mama, strength, children, great-grandchildren
The first day we arrived, Mama showed her new great-grandchildren some photos.

SHAPED BY EXPERIENCE

I watched her as she sat on her red lumpy but very comfortable sofa in her home, hunched over with all the experiences from her past trying to weigh her down but she gets up every day, determined to live her life and do her daily chores.

It was at one of these moments when it hit me; she wasn’t sitting on a couch but a throne.

Mama also very much reminded me of my mother who died in 2020. Both women have seen and have been through some of the worst pain you can imagine, both refusing to be dictated to by bad and negative circumstances and both set in their daily way of life.

During the time I spent with Mama, I learned that yes, we are shaped by our experiences but we can choose how to live out those experiences. We choose how to live, we choose whether we give up or go on. We choose to forgive.

Mama, strength
Mama, my husband and out two children.

ACCEPTANCE

There was a point where Mama said to me that she didn’t know if she could ever accept or get through what had happened to her but God had gotten her through it and she did manage to accept her fate.

She could have chosen to be angry and to turn away from God, which I’m sure there were many of those moments when those bad feelings overwhelmed her. She could have chosen to become a lifeless vessel of her former self but I can assure you, that woman still has a lot of life left in her.

Her relationship with God is so secure and I truly believe that that is her source of strength. Every morning she wakes up and reads devotionals and her Bible. I’ve decided to put that in practice as well.

LIVING WITH INTENTION

Every time Mama would tell a story and explain the difficult parts, she would say, “but it doesn’t really matter

For me, that didn’t mean she gave up or lost hope or didn’t accept things. For me it meant that in the bigger picture, the grand plan of God for her life, her focusing on the past was not the point. It was what she got out of all her pain and loss. The wisdom and understanding that her loss and pain was not for nothing. The way in which she imparted her wisdom and what she learned, to others around her. It was peace beyond all human understanding. It was knowing that love is sacrifice and that understanding comes from compassion.

Mama showed me that life demands of you to be intentional; intentional about your actions, your energy, your focus, your thoughts and emotions.

I learned patience and I saw accepting the things one cannot change, in action.

I loved sitting in her company, I loved watching the movie of her life play out as she told me stories and showed me old polaroid photographs.

In ten days, I lived a life of 40+ years through the eyes of a woman who lost everything, was forced down on her knees and found herself in the perfect position to pray for the strength and will to live to tell the tale.

pray, church, kneeling

TO LOSE A CHILD

Today a mother buried a child.
Sitting in the rows behind her
In the church,
I watch her;
Straight back.
Head covered.
Blank face.
Dignified sadness that she carries.

As person after person
Speak words of comfort,
I wonder if it reaches her
Or
If the umbrella of grief is so
Overwhelmingly broad,
That nothing can penetrate it.

Today a mother said goodbye
To her child;
An unnatural and unreal occurrence.
The small precious box on display
Holding everything that she holds dear.
And as I sit behind her,
Head bowed,
Hair undone
And tear-stained face
I cry the tears that this mother
No longer can.

Candice Mama

FORGIVING MY FATHER’S KILLER

TRUTH UNCOVERED

When I was nine months old my father was brutally murdered by an Apartheid assassin by the name of Eugene De Kock, by the time I was nine, a book had been published titled Into the Heart of Darkness by Jacques Pauw. Every time a we would have guests my mom would ask me to go get this book.


I knew two things about this book; one was that the man who killed my father was on the cover and the other was that a picture of my dad was in the book. Out of pure curiosity on yet another day my mom had sent me to get a copy of the book and rushing me out of the room, I decided to eavesdrop on what page she told our guests to turn to. I quickly ran to scribble it down and awaited my opportunity to be home alone so I could take a look.

The cover of the book

My opportunity came a lot faster than I anticipated. As my mom reversed out of the yard, I quickly ran to the closet where the book stayed, grabbed it and sat at the edge of my mom’s bed, my feet dangling off the edge. Excitedly I turned to the page number and what I saw sent shivers down my spine and brought fearful tears to my eyes. On that dreadful page my young eyes were met with a picture of my dad’s charred body clutching a steering wheel with his eyes protruding.


I quickly shut the book, threw it at the back of the cupboard and ran to my bedroom to silently sob, knowing I would never be able to tell my mother what I had saw. In the years that followed with that image etched in my mind, I became increasingly serious and depressed. By the time I was sixteen, I had been admitted to hospital and the doctor said that my body was killing me and if I didn’t change what I was doing, I was going to die.


That moment was the first time I painfully came to learn that our emotions impact our physiology and whoever or whatever controls your emotions, controls your life. As I slowly undertook the healing journey and fighting back to reclaim my life, I encountered versions of myself that had long been hidden by my trauma.


By the time I was twenty-four, I felt content and as though I had outlived my diagnoses and therefore in the front seat of my life. Until I arrived home one day and my mom said she had received a call from the National Prosecuting Authorities about whether we would like to see Eugene.


My heart sank as the pictures I had gathered over the years flooded back, yet I immediately said yes. knowing that if I didn’t I would regret it for the rest of my life. As the days passed and the rest of my family went back and forth about who would come along with me, I reflected on how many years of my life I had given away to Eugene and he had no idea I even existed and how often we tend to do that. Thinking that the anger we carry inflicts harm on another when in reality, resentment corrodes the vessel that carries it.

Candice Mama, forgiveness

CONFRONTING MY PAIN


The day arrived and we headed to Kgosi Mampura Prison where Eugene had been imprisoned. After a short briefing and everyone being situated, Eugene joined us and by some design, I happened to be seated the closest to him, separated only by the priest who was to lead the dialogue. After we were individually introduced, my mom took the lead and asked “Eugene, I want to know what happened to my husband”


Surprisingly forthcoming, he told us in great detail that my father had been identified as a potential troublemaker and radical who was incredibly skilled and brave, along with three other gentleman. Eugene’s team set in an informant into my dad’s camp to create a “false mission” which was simple, since my dad was the most skilled driver, he would transport three men into Nelspruit and go back home.
However, as my dad approached the Nelspruit bridge, Eugene and his team started firing at the vehicle.

When Eugene realised from his watch post at the top of the bridge that the car wasn’t stopping, he ran down the bridge and emptied out his magazine cartridge on my dad. When he still saw signs of life, he doused them in fuel and set them alight. As the conversation continued with more questions being asked and answered by Eugene, we got to final remarks.


My family individually stated their forgiveness, until it got to me and I said “Eugene, I want to say I forgive you but before I do, I need to know one thing” He looked at me and said “Anything, what’s that?”
I said “Do you forgive yourself?” For the first time during our encounter, he became uneasy and looked around the room, avoiding eye
contact with me. When he looked back, he wiped the side of his eye and said “anytime a family walks in here that’s one thing I hope they never ask. When you have done the things I have done, how do you forgive yourself? ”

Top 10 Forgiveness Quotes - BrainyQuote


In that moment I broke down and started sobbing, what surprised me is I wasn’t crying for myself but rather for this human being sitting across from me. When the meeting was dismissed I got up first and walked to Eugene and asked “would you mind if I gave you a hug?”, he looked at me slightly confused, stood up and embraced me and said “I am so sorry for what I have done and your father would have been so proud of the woman you have become”


We went our separate ways and he later received parole.

LESSONS LEARNED

The lessons I learnt from my encounter was forgiveness does not condone or allow one to forget, it simply removes the emotional
attachment we hold towards and incident person or thing.
When we refuse to forgive, we go into a cycle of re-traumatisation, whereby the initial incident occurred however every time we relive it in our minds, it happens again and again and again, giving it power over our lives. However, when we forgive we allow ourselves to claim back our stories.

We can say this thing happened to me but it is not who I am. Each and everyone of us deserve to be
in control of our narrative, if you are still standing and breathing, it simply means that incident that
was supposed to break you only served to build you and you have the power to move on with
more strength than you had before.
Healing may not be easy but trust me when I say it is so worth it

ABOUT CANDICE

Candice Mama is the author of Forgiveness Redefined

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