In five years’ time – the last fifteen years – parents have this responsibility


I know who I was yesterday, and I know who I am today – but who am I going to be tomorrow, or in five years? I don’t need to know exactly, but I’d be happy to have an idea … or perhaps an expectation.

Who you are going to be will of course be influenced by who you were yesterday, and who you are today. But who you want to be tomorrow also influences who you are today, how you spend your time, and even how you feel about yourself.

* * *

I think back to the past fifteen years. My only major plan that ever turned into reality was to study at Stellenbosch University.

Examples: by the end of 1989 I wanted to study theology, but what worked out was a BA degree with a view to becoming a teacher; I wanted to go to Stellenbosch in 1990, but a lack of money forced me to do my first year at the University of Pretoria; in 1995 I wanted to go to Europe for at least a few months, but I was back in South Africa after five weeks; in January ’96 I thought of looking for work in Pretoria and environs, but at the end of June I was on my way to South Korea; in 1998 I wanted to go to England, but eventually I returned to South Africa; back in South Africa my original plan was to get some projects going, but instead I accepted a part-time job in Johannesburg; my big idea in 1998 was to belong and commit in South Africa, but by the middle of January 1999, I was in Taiwan.

The only big plan that ever realised was thus Stellenbosch. It is also significant that I had to remain longer in Pretoria before the train – so to speak – eventually left the station in 1991 with me and most of my earthly belongings. If I had gone to Stellenbosch directly after high school, I would probably not have been as much of a lost outsider as I was when I finally did arrive there as a second-year student.

What does that say about my 2004 plans? I don’t know, but I have to continue making plans, and I have to continue trying to make them work. I also need to have faith that “everything” will “work out” in one way or another.

* * *

Parents have the responsibility to at least try to lead the kind of life that a child can look at and say, “I also want such a life.” And the child must not only say this as a five or six-year-old but as a teenager of fifteen or sixteen, and even as a young adult.

If it is not possible for you to currently lead the quality of life that you want your child to have someday, it is your responsibility to educate your child and prepare them to strive for a better life than the one you currently call your own. One should be mindful of the consequences before telling a child, “This is just the way things work. We all have to accept it and move on.” Be realistic, but allow the child to dream.

If you as a parent do not lead the kind of life you dreamed of in your younger days, make the child aware of things that you might have done differently, and show the child possible routes that he or she may consider to not also become a “victim of circumstance”.