Before I got married I had six theories about bringing up children; now I have six children, and no theories. ~John Wilmot

I have been thinking a lot about the amazing difficulty that it is to raise children. really it seem to be getting harder and harder as the generations pass. But I think that it comes from fear, we have begun to fear everything that we do, that everything that we say will psychologically damage the children we live/work with, every single moment that we cohabit with them, like they are almost a completely different species until they hit 18. A species that is so susceptible and fragile that they will not survive a heavy word, or that they are so placid that they will not survive with soft ones either.

I spent the last weekend at a friends house in Olinda, a city north of Recife where I train capoeira. We had a workshop with a Mestre from Bahia. Waking up with the sun on Saturday, at a friends house, at some ridiculous hot but early hour of the morning I lay in bed listening to the morning noises, which are so beautiful to me here in Brazil, but this time I was not as pleased with them as I usually am. As the family next door began to wake up, I started to eavesdrop on their breakfast table conversation. I say eavesdrop, but the way that houses are designed in the poorer areas here means that the roof and the ceilings don't quite touch, and that your every word, whisper and sigh is carried to whoever might be waiting in the next house, so I say eavesdrop, but I mean that I theoretically stumbled into a situation that I had no way out of, especially in my morning lethargicness(?).

During the half an hour that I listened to their conversation , between mother and an unnumbered amount of children, I heard the mother repeatedly call her daughter (who I later learnt could not be more than 11 years old) a prostitute, a whore and other such things that I do not think need to be published here. Once she had finished completely deconstructing her young daughter before the sun had even had a chance to settle into the sky, she moved on to a younger son. I assume younger because once she started berating him, he cried quite uncontrollably and was unable to defend himself because she seemed not to be in possession of a vocabulary above that of a three year old. The child was being told that if he kept on wetting the bed he would never amount to anything (!), and that he would go without food until he learnt to stay dry an so on, incessantly until even I was reduced to tears. The mother was eventually joined by an older son who echoed the opinions of his ever articulate mother.

Eventually a little hoarse from shouting at her three children who were in the house at such an early house in the morning, she proceeded to kick them out, no shirt, no sandals, and as I unfortunately found out whilst looking out the window at the younger one relieving himself against our door, no underwear. And I watched them leave from my indignant spot at the window, the girl carrying the youngest one and the older more malicious boy hitting a dog with a stick. I was furious, and made it clear to anyone who happened to be awake in the house at that time, which was mainly the cat, and a halfasleep friend, who informed me that this lady lives with 8 of her children, with the 9th on the way...

How easy it is just to throw the blame on that poor creature that is the mother in this situation, but HOW does she know what is happening, what to do, how control her temper if no one showed her the more constructive ways to raising children, if no one taught her how to manage her finances, if not one taught her how to use contraception, if no one explained to her that having irish twins for 10 years running, doesn't fill that gap of loneliness, that it might not be as fulfilling as she thought it might be. So who is it that is actually failing these children?

The next day I actually met the mother while we were desperately trying to fill buckets with water from the water pipes in the street because the community had been without water for days, perhaps even weeks, and water doesn't actually make it all the way to the houses, rather passes through the community in pipes that the residents have dug up so that they CAN have water for their houses.
So there I was filling buckets for my friend, and I saw her (or rather he pointed her out to me, how I could have missed her though, would have been a mystery), she was doing her washing in street, alone, trying to collect enough water for her whole family. The children, running around trying to take showers in the water when no-one was filling the buckets looked happy enough, in fact, exceedingly so, were very chatty with me, and very affectionate with their mother who was chatting and laughing away with them.

Sometimes we think we know what is for the best, what is the right way, and we just don't. Not in the absolute sense of things.



  1. :) I love you Emma!

    p.s Guess who?


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