Last week I started a discussion on the reasons people have children, as I believe it factors a great deal in how we raise and care for children, directly or indirectly. Please read the post if you missed it:
A comment made was that there might not be one single good reason for people to have children, as long as one is prepared for them financially and can provide a stable environment for their upbringing. On so many levels that’s true; I however believe that our understanding of the purpose children serve in our lives is as important because it determines what we consider a suitable or healthy environment for children and make us think twice before having them. Different people, races, cultures, social classes and religion(s) all have differences in ideology and some governments try to weigh in with varying degrees of success depending on what the society that government functions in, is collectively willing to accept or reject. Most say, “what does it matter as long as the children are fed, clothed and have a roof over their heads?” Well let’s see:
1. What about a nation that has lawmakers accepting child abuse as the norm and saying they can’t do more to protect the children but rush to enact laws prohibiting gay relations of any kind. That society says it’s fine to molest children as long as it’s heterosexual and it’s okay to get a 13 year old pregnant as long as you’re married to her.
2. Some nations ‘marry’ off their daughters at 9 years of age to get enough money to feed for a week or month, then continue procreating so the next time there’s a famine they have more children to “marry’ off and tide over.
3. Where a man is practically ostracised for not having biological children that he’ll do anything to get them include kidnapping or asking other men to impregnate his wife for him. Anything than have to adopt or admit he’s impotent. Yeah! In some societies, adopted children are not considered as important as having your own and sometimes not even treated the same.
4. Where women are given basic resources – food, clothing and some pocket money – in return for living in a baby factory where they are routinely impregnated and their babies sold to the highest bidder; the cycle continuing till they get too tired, bored or die.
These seem far fetched you say? Sad, but not what happens very often? Okay, let’s look at what does happen every day:
a. 5 children die every day as a result of child abuse.
b. 1 out of 3 girls (66.6%) and 1 out of 5 boys (20%) will be abused before they turn 18 (Your sons are not exempt from abuse in all forms. It also means that the next time you and 4 of your friends get together for brunch, 2 of you have children who are probably, currently being abused or have people in your lives who are setting things in motion to foster abuse).
c. 90% of child sex abuse victims know the perpetrator in some way; 68% are abused by a family member. (uncle, aunty, cousin, brother, sister, father, mother, cousin, grandparents, nanny, maid, cook, driver, security guard, guest staying over for a few days, swim coach, extra lessons teacher,…..).
d. Most children become victims of abuse and neglect at 18 months or younger (who cares for your infant the most, especially if you work and what access do outsiders have to your child in that setting?).
e. In 2010, 1,537 children died of abuse or neglect. 79.4% were under the age of 4 and 47.7% were under the age of 1 (the age range where they can’t properly communicate to you what’s going on in their lives and what the people you trust with their care are doing to or around them).
Now I hear some people saying “Wow! These statistics must be exaggerated” or “Well that’s mostly in the US or abroad” or “Thank God those statistics don’t include my kids”. My question to you is: Are you sure?
I once had a chat with my daughter’s Paediatrician (in Lagos, Nigeria) who told me of 4 cases that were brought to her attention or she was involved in within a short period of time:
1. A 13-month old whose hymen had been torn by her female nanny. I won’t go into details but the nanny had been trying to soothe the baby.
2. An 8-month old who was being fed faeces by the nanny because she had been instructed to do so by her native doctor to get rich.
3. A driver who would molest his boss’s daughter on the drive to her Elementary school while she sat in front (you would get your nanny to accompany them I hear you say, but is your nanny that reliable and not likely to collude with your driver at some point especially if she gets angry with you?)
4. A father who, quite innocently, locked his son in the car with the windows wound up (for his protection) while he was viewing the progress made at a construction site he was managing; he felt like a great dad, taking his son to work with him during summer vacation. The heat had made the boy sweat profusely and he was banging the door and window to get out but the workmen near the car assumed he was throwing a tantrum rather than running out of oxygen…..and as you know, the more agitated he got, the faster he ran out of oxygen. By the time she had gotten his attention, his son had fainted and would have been dead had more time passed.
I could recount numerous more stories from friends when I was a child, parents at my children’s school, cases I’ve been unfortunate to be witness to………horrifying stuff. But what it has solidified in my mind is the fact that the statistics highlighted earlier are not unique to the US or UK: less developed countries are actually worse but we simply don’t have the statistics. We are brought up not to speak of such things, to cover up such atrocities or accept it as stuff that happened and we should just ‘chin up’ and move on.
What’s the link between this and my thoughts on why we have children? Because I think realising that we are custodians of precious beings for a purpose beyond our full understanding and that we will be called upon to give an account of how seriously we took our jobs, might help us not take them and their care for granted any more. That instead we’ll find ourselves constantly reviewing the choices we make for ourselves and for them. That as you come to the end of this post you won’t be disheartened by the seemingly impossible odds, throw up your hands and say “Sigh! I’ve done the best I can and I leave the rest to God”, or think there’s nothing more you could possibly do that hasn’t been done already.
You learn everyday, or at least that’s the hope for every human being. Put that learning to use: improve your life and the lives of children.