Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth.
One does not need the Bible to tell anyone who has experienced the joys of parenthood, that the birth of a child is a precious gift.
A baby entering mother earth has the right to expect a great reception from parents who will love, nurture and guide their child through the early stagesof life.
This would have been the case for Nyaya who was born to Tsietsi – who like all mothers saw many things in her son.
But as I take you through this week’s story you will sadly see how cross cultural relationships can threaten peace, ambush unsuspecting children, and cause not so easy to heal emotional wounds.
Although Tsietsi was not married to James (Nyaya’s father) they had a wonderful working relationship concerning their responsibilities towards Nyaya.
Tsietsi lived with his mother, but during the school holidays he would spend time with his dad, who was married to two other women.
It was a large family but all the children were treated well, and Nyaya was quick to learn his father’s language and felt very much part of the other household.
Later when he was doing standard 7, the young lad’scurious mind was disturbed by the fact that none of his siblings attended school – instead they were always busy making and repairing things.
Nyaya’s father frequently remarked that school was a waste of time and a source of poverty, but to a 13-year-old boy who adored his father, it didn’t matter.
Sadly the practicality of this theory resurfaced a short time later when Tsietsi tragically died in an accident.
James offered that in the absence of the child’s mother he should becomethe custodian of his son.
INSET QUOTE: “If Nyaya was to be one of them, he had to accept the terms and conditions of the association
Initially Nyaya was thrilled to go and join his father’s family, but his boyish joy was cut short when the subject of schooling arose.
James made it clear to Nyaya that he must say goodbye to school and join his siblings in their business activities.
This gave young Nyayaa problem. On the one hand he did not want to upset his dad, on the other he loved school and did not want to quit.
In an effort to bridge the gap between the horns of his dilemma, Nyaya secretly went to see his mother’s pastor who sought advice from the kgotla.
When James was called for reconciliation, he brought with him his clan whose dogmatic argument seemed to offer no room for any debate.
They simply stated that if Nyaya was to be ‘one of them,’ he must accept the terms and conditions the association warranted.
The implication was that if the boy wanted school they would wash their hands of him.
He would be treated like the prodigal son unless he ‘came to his senses.’
In an emotional response Nyayabrushed away a tear, and with a courage that should have made his dad proud of him, declared that he would choose school.
Looking James squarely in the eye he told him that no matter what, he would always be his “daddy” – until death.
Points to consider:
• The father/son bond was put to test and forced toyield to a cultural belief
• James assumption that his culture was his soul made him devalue any other idea and made him feel insecure and fearful of losing his identity, but not afraid to lose his dear son.
• Young and vulnerable Nyaya had to boldly follow his dream and be assertive enough to choose school.
• The issue was culturally loaded, making it difficult for the kgotla to advocate against James’ decision knowing that the child could only be accepted as a son if he danced to daddy’s cultural tune.
The court in the end was forced into a compromise, and with the help of the social worker Nyaya was placed under the care of an aunt and continued with his education.
The good news is that James’ divorce of his son did not follow him to the grave.
Nyaya completed his studies and became a respect businessman, and James has since rekindled the dying flames of their relationship.
A lesson that comes out of this story is that while it is healthy to hold strong cultural beliefs, there should be caution that these beliefs do not become a breeding ground for destructive control.
They should not break the bond that exists in the natural contract between father and son.
Like the arrow in the hand of the warrior, it too is a double- edged sword.