I first came into “contact” with sushi when I was 17 years old, I was in Matric and my well off friend Andre brought some for our history class. I honestly did not like the idea of raw fish, but he insisted and so together with a few of my classmates I had sushi for the first time – that fateful day turned out to be the last time I had sushi. I fell violently ill that evening and swore off the stuff, to this very day I cannot be convinced to even try half a bite of that stuff. Ke sharp.
Fast forward to 2018 and I am a parent to a wonderful eight year old who just so happens to LOVE sushi (and snails and prawns and mussels). Yeh bathong, we used to call this food “dilo tsa makgowa” (before we were liberated we, albeit sadly, associated nice things with white people) and now I, together with several parents out there are raising children who want to have this kind of food regularly because to them, sashimi is as normal as pap and wors. I find it incredibly hilarious, but also I have a sense of joy that one is upwardly mobile enough to indulge a child’s seemingly expensive taste.
Raising children in 2018 is such a journey, someone shared on twitter some weeks ago of a wealthy American lady who flew commercial for the first time with her daughter and upon entering the plane the child exclaimed “mom why are all these people in our plane”? Ask any parent and they can easily relay a story of such an embarrassing experience at the hands of a very innocent child. My own son has often made requests and asked questions that can only come from a life of relative privilege and access. I personally LOVE the ability to give my children access to a life different to the one I was raised in, a life filled with worldly indulgences and fine dining at a young age. I appreciate that by the time my children become adults they would have had very many worldly experiences and would not be phased by luxury – it would have been a norm.
However, there is a line right? There have to be limits to what you give children or at least how you do the giving. Whilst I’m a big fan of experiences, I am very well aware that this generation of children is incredibly materialistic and it is honestly on the back of us as parents flexing our financial ability by indulging them (there is also the overindulgence that comes with the guilt of not being able to be there because we are making the money, but we’ll leave that for later). We want the world to know just how well we are doing, we send them to the most expensive schools that are sometimes not a fit for our children, and we buy them expensive designer gear and post them on social media for the world to see just how well we as parents are doing.
Last week a mate showed me some reality internet show of sorts where teenage children are standing around and asked what they are wearing and then they “unpack” the outfit by naming the brand/designer and the approximate value of the item of clothing. Bathong! The shock of it all! I found it to be incredibly crass and quite distasteful, but reality is, that is what our children are doing. That is the behaviour we as parents are perpetuating by buying our children these obscenely expensive items of clothing which are more for show than they are for practical use, this is the behaviour we are perpetuating by indirectly allowing our children to move in certain circles only, circles formed on the basis of money networks. Don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with having a power circle – I mean bo Carol and Bassie are absolute squad goals.
Do we not have a responsibility as modern parents to instil values of respect and humility in our privileged children? We have to be absolutely real with them, to conscientize them to the fact that the way we live and the proximity to life’s luxuries is NOT the norm. We have to instil gratitude in our children so that they never ever have a sense of entitlement and also to never look down on others who do not live as “well” as they do. I genuinely see nothing wrong with giving my babies the world, but I am constantly aware to remind them that the real world does not only look like the one mommy gives them, where they are driven everywhere in German sedans and can go to the cinema and have sushi at the drop of a hat whilst wearing branded clothing. Whilst I don’t want them to live the way I grew up, I sincerely believe that in not having EVERYTHING I wanted, there was a level of wanting to achieve and live how I wanted when I eventually made it, that drove me to be a high achiever. I had something to look forward to when I grew up and I often worry that children of today will not have the same drive.
I still remind the kids of where we come from, we visit frequently ko kasi and I allow them to get dirty with the neighbourhood children in the exact way I did growing up. I insist that they remember that our helper is not a slave and is there merely to help us at home, I remind them to greet EVERYBODY, the man who mans traffic at school, the mama who cleans the toilet, the lady who serves food, in the exact way that they would greet their friend’s mom who drives a Ferrari. I have a responsibility to teach my children that respect and kindness has no LSM and should be given to all adults and peers in equal measure.
Naturally, as all parents do I suppose, I worry about the children and the world we live in; the access to information and a life I can never protect them from 100%. I can only hope that the foundational values I am setting will always be remembered. I can only encourage their love for fine dining and sushi whilst reminding them of the unequal and unfair world that we live in, where their tastes, preferences and access to nice things does not make them superior humans. I must say though, snails, sushi and mussels are things that will never go into my mouth – EVER.