PW of the old would have scoffed. Ha! You don’t have to teach kids how to be blerrie good husbands and mothers and parents, when the time comes, they just do it, rite? It’s the most natural thing in the world!
And therein lays the sobering thought: he grew up in cold, harsh Die Uitkyk where there was not much kindness around. Success was measured terms of harvest and health, and in level of obedience to God. Thus, his father was always too busy with the farm whilst his mother was too weak and ill to get out of her sickbed to teach her sons and daughters some very important lessons in life. Like how to be good husbands, wives and parents. Like kindness.
“Your Ma’s probably right.”
They walked on. PW wrestled with the deep, disquieting thoughts that had been plaguing him for years. He decided to plough ahead and ask his son, for if a man cannot talk to his son, who can he talk to? “Do you think I am a good husband to your mother, Hennie, and a good father to you and your brothers?”
“Yes, Pa,” came the dutiful reply.
“Come on, Boy, speak the truth!”
“No. I won’t speak the truth.”
PW stopped walking and turned to face his son. “Remember the conversation we had about being brave like a lion? Think of yourself as one, and roar out your answer. Never be afraid to speak the truth, Hennie.”
“I am not afraid of you, Pa. I am not telling you the truth because Ma said truth is not worth it if it brings pain to someone. That’s the big lesson we had to learn, when to speak and when not to speak at all.”
“I am a scientist, I need to know the truth. That’s always the case with me, Hennie, I always want to find out answers, whatever they may be. The not knowing torments me.”
“In that case, Pa, you have not been good for us.” It hurt the boy to say it, but there, it was out there now. He asked for it.
My God, truth hurts. And to be told that one is not a good parent hurts more than anything.
Stung by his son’s answer, PW recoiled. “Thank you, Hennie,” he said simply, with genuine gratitude.
They walked on in silence for a bit, then Hennie spoke. “Ma said not to be angry at you, because it is not your fault. Your parents did not teach you kindness. They had tried to make you tough.”
“Yes, my parents did that. I was never good enough. There was a lot of unkindness in my childhood. But maybe that’s the Boer way, we have to grow tough children for the tough life out here.”
“Ma said it’s more important to teach children how to be kind. Because with kindness, you get better results.”
What was it that Karin said? Love is the most efficient law.
“Sometimes, people hurt you because they are hurting inside. Even if they are kind, they forget about their kindness when their own hurt is bad. Are you hurting inside, Pa? Is that why you made Ma cry?”
Excerpt from Chapter 15: Natural Laws