I’ve just had the most amazing conversation with my girls. There has been a lot of information overload over the last few days about abuse and gender based violence and, and, and, and…… Our car rides around to our various activities and appointments have been riddled with questions and points of view that we have been chatting about.
Yes, I totally agree that the world that we are raising our children in (and living in) is messed up, broken and filled with evil. And yet, after the few days that have passed – with all of the “scary” news and what this world is capable of – I find myself rising up on the inside, filled with a passion to further empower my girls.
I will not cower and hide away in fear. That’s not who I am and that’s not who I want my girls to be.
The other overwhelming feeling that I have seen many chew over, is “what can we do? How can we make a difference?” I must admit that that feeling has come up in me a few times over the years because it’s natural. But in a world where information is at our fingertips – we feel we need to impact the world in the same way. Like an atomic bomb that hits and make a biggest impact through online connections.
I have a problem with this – because it immediately brings you to a place of feeling powerless and defeated because in all honesty – we all can’t. Where as it shouldn’t feel this way. Frankly, and bluntly – there is nothing huge we can do. We are human beings. We can only make an impact over the sphere that we have true influence over. Some may have influence over millions – presidents, celebrities, billionaires etc and that’s great, where as most of us have influence in our little villages.
When I settled in my heart, that this is where I can set off my little atomic bomb – then I’m going to do just that – with everything within me, whenever I can.
My immediate sphere of influence right now is with the three little people I am raising in this sick world. Instead of teaching them to fear the world and everything bad in it – I am making them aware of the bad and the possibilities that may come our way without instilling fear. I am teaching them to be courageous and strong – to stand up for what they believe is right and for themselves.
I have always been a believer in equipping my children with tools that they can use to not only protect themselves with, but also to love on and to teach others.
We were chatting about the fact that nothing is new under the sun. Gender based violence and abuse has been on this planet for generations. We are just a lot more “well informed” now because of the power of media and it is what we do with that information that is important.
My one daughter wanted to know why the media has to be so graphic with their explanations of what has been happening – and I explained to her that its their job to communicate accurate information and it’s up to us to decide what we do with that information.
I asked her, “do we hear it and then lock our doors and hide away in fear? Or do we take the information and empower ourselves to learn new techniques and become more aware?”
She liked the idea of being empowered – and so that’s what we continued to talk about. Before I shared ideas with them – I gave them an example of what this conversation was meant to be. I said this:
When I learned to drive at the tender age of 15 (I’m from Zim, getting my license at 16 was allowed and the “teenage goal” back them) my father taught me all the necessary things that I needed to know in order to drive. Those who have learned to drive know that feeling of getting behind the wheel of a huge chunk of metal is quite daunting at first. But the more you get to know it and understand it and gain control – you actually enjoy the learning experience and the fear that was once there, eventually fades.
Then I started driving the car on the big road (which is a scary place and filled with wreckless drivers) and enjoying the power of controlling a huge vehicle and the independence that came with it. Once I had the basics and was driving well – my father then took me through some very valuable tips that would save my life should any of these incidents arise. He got me to drive on a major road that ran between two cities and when he did he told me this – when you are going as fast as 120 or as slow as 60, you need to be aware of your surroundings. Should the following happen, you need to always be aware of how you would find an exit route.
If a car suddenly came into your lane in front of you and there would be a potential head on collision – is there enough space on the side of the road for you to exit into?
If the car in front of you were to suddenly brake, do you have enough time to react and go around them?
If an animal ran into the road, have you calculated whether is would be best to just hit the animal or avoid it – which would save your life and those in the vehicle?
If your tyre was to blow, do you know what to do?
I constantly have this list in my head – he then proceeded to explain what I can do in each incident.
Now, as a 16 year old, hearing this list I could have had 1 of 2 reactions – “wow dad, the road is scary place I don’t think I should drive anymore” or “Ok Dad, I don’t know if I’m going to practice these, but I know how to respond should any of them happen”
Now, obviously with each scenario – there is no guarantee that I would get it right but I have the tools.
As a way of further driving my point home – I had a car accident 10 years ago where I was driving on the N1, at 120 and when a car swerved into my lane I reacted and swerved to avoid them – in doing so – my car touched the gravel on the side of the road and my car immediately started to spin INTO highway traffic…… It was in this moment that I heard my fathers voice – When your car starts to spin, put your clutch in, keep your steering wheel firmly straight and foot off the brake and off the accelerator. These three simple instructions, saved me from flipping my car and potentially dying.
My car spun 3 times, hit another car and landed up on the embankment of the highway. I was unscathed. Car was wrecked, and there was damage to be paid for – but I am alive.
Ok, so with this story in your minds – I said to my girls – I am going to remind you of things that I have already taught you (which I have) When we go into a public space, if someone tries to grab you, what do you do? MY second daughter immediately answers, “scream, bite, head butt, kick and elbow!” I then ask, “and if that fails?” She then says (without skipping a beat) “Play dead”
I ask her, “why?” – She says, “because dead weight is hard to carry around” (inside, I am cheering – because they have that tool set in their protective tool kit) I then ask them, “ok – you’ve gone to the bathroom in a public space – you are walking up to the area and you suddenly feel uneasy about something or someone – what do you do?” (I laughed because my oldest immediately said, “I don’t go to the toilet alone – you told us that” – I had to say, “ok, when you’re older and you’re happen to go alone?) I also then reiterate that bad people are not always men – they can be women too.
The one daughter said she would run into the loo and lock herself in. The other said she would wee quickly and then get back.
I then asked them what was the problem with their reactions?
They were confused. I then explained to them that in both reactions – the person they felt uneasy about would then be able to lock them in the cubicle and that would be that. (I did explain that I had to think like a bad person to help them think)
I went on to explain that they needed to trust that feeling. That sense of “something isn’t right”. That feeling is there for a reason and they need to trust it and immediately return to safety in whatever situation they are in.
I’m going to stop right here and not go into any more of the details of our conversation. What I can say is that my girls left our conversation not being fear filled – but empowered. They know that the world has bad people in it – it’s what we equip ourselves with that determines how we live in it.
Yes, we love on the people around us unashamedly. Yes, we acknowledge the broken and the hurt around us. Yes, we also think of and pray for the bad guys that they would stop what they are doing. But all in all – we don’t fear.
Fear cripples. Fear robs us of unity. Fear blinds us to bringing hope. Fear births dangerous reactions.
Whereas to be empowered – to love – to protect – that is what we can do. We can live well if we further replicate ourselves and bring hope. We can teach our boys to be honourable, strong and protective of not only the women in their lives but of each other. We teach our girls that they are strong, empowered and worthy of honour and nothing less.
Man or Women – Boy or Girl – we have the power to change those around us in our spheres of influence. That’s what we can do – that’s how we bring change. So let’s do it, shall we?