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Navigating 'Island' Parenting: Nelson R. Mandela - A teachable moment
Published on December 10, 2013 Email To Friend    Print Version


By Mutryce A Williams

Navigating "Island" Parenting is a submission of quotes, tips and parenting advice that I have gathered over the years as a source of inspiration and as tools to deal with the daily challenges of parenting. This week’s issue: Nelson R. Mandela-A Teachable Moment. The hope is that this submission would cause you to reflect on your parenting skills and also make the journey of parenting a bit easier or brighter.

On December 5, 2013, the world and humanity lost one of its greatest sons, Nelson R. Mandela, and as I write this submission I can still hear the song “Bring Back Nelson Mandela” sung by fellow South African Hugh Masekela ringing in my ears. Over the past days I have also found myself humming the tune to Carlene Davis’ “Welcome Home Mr Mandela, Welcome Home,” as it was a very catchy tune. I also remember the way in which the world rejoiced when he was released from prison on February 11, 1990, although I was about 11 years old at the time. As I aged I was able to learn more and more about this magnanimous man, and sad to say most of it did not come through formal education.

In the past days, images of Madiba, as he was affectionately called, have been flashed across the news and various media, with everyone memorializing him, and what dawned on me was what do I say to my sons who are only four and three about such a great man? How would I as a mother hope to encapsulate his memory so that they grow up holding fast or steeped rich in knowing that a most great man named Nelson R. Mandela once walked this earth?

I also asked, “How much does the younger generation really know about Nelson R. Mandela, and just what does his passing mean to them? Are they able to appreciate the man for who he was, what he stood for, what he endured, and how he was able to impact the world and humanity? Do they have a real grasp of this remarkable time in world history?”

As the world mourns the passing of a great man, and as we mourn in our respective ways, let’s use this as a teachable moment, and know that as parents we have a most important role to play in educating our children about Madiba. Let us sit with our children, no matter how young or old and talk about Nelson R. Mandela.

For those of us with very young children let’s go to the nearest library, bookstore, or even order a book online and read stories to them about Mandela. I can assure you that children are never too young to learn about “real legends” such as Nelson R. Mandela, whose lives bear so many lessons. One book that I recommend is the “Long Walk to Freedom: Illustrated children's edition by Nelson Mandela, Chris van Wyk and Paddy Bouma.” Whoever said that Goldilocks and Three Bears, Little Riding Hood or Jack and the Beanstalk should be your little one’s reading staples?

For those with older children, begin the conversation with them and ask just how much they know about Mandela. Ask them what they were taught at school or what discussions were had about his passing. Share your stories with them. Tell them what he meant or means to you. Tell them what he meant to the world and how he impacted humanity. Share some of his inspirational quotes with them. You can even print some of his quotes, frame them and hang them in your child’s room, or tape them on the inside of his or her notebooks, as they provide sustenance to the developing soul and mind.

Beside that picture of Justin Beiber, Beyonce or whoever the latest dancehall/reggae/soca/pop artist may be, place a framed picture of Nelson R. Mandela, and say to your child, “Use him as a source of inspiration, use him as a light and as a guide.” You can even sit at the computer with your child for a few minutes and ask him/her to google Nelson R. Mandela and tell you what his/her understanding of him is, what he/she envisions his legacy to be, and how he or she can use Mr Mandela as source of inspiration in his or her everyday life. You can also add these two books to your child’s library or reading lists, “Nelson Mandela: The Authorized Comic Book by The Nelson Mandela Foundation and Umlando Wezithombe and Nelson Mandela: The Struggle Is My Life by Nelson Mandela.”

Growing up in the nineties, I remember there being lots of discussion about Mandela, and Malcolm X as the movie had just been released. I remember that the fashionable thing at the time was to wear clothing that had the images of these two men on them. I can’t say that I see that now. I can’t say that the awareness is there now.

I also remember growing up in the nineties being exposed to songs by Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Lucky Dube, which spoke about equal rights, apartheid, oppression, peace, and injustice, and these songs were quite educational, so I know that my generation had an idea of what Nelson R. Mandela endured, and what he stood for, I can’t say for certain if these songs are permeating the airwaves at this time, so all of this does make me question if the younger generation has a formidable grasp of who or what Nelson R. Mandela is or what he stood for.

I hope that with the release of the movie “A Long Walk for Freedom” that the interest would not only ignite but blaze, and that Mandela’s legacy will live on in the hearts and minds of our youth, and generations to come.

“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” Nelson Mandela

Madiba encapsulated by actor Forest Whitatker

I think that the actor Forest Whitaker describes him best. He said, "Nelson Mandela was a man who unified the world with his convictions and grace. He cultivated human dignity while moving a nation from the shackles of apartheid to reconciliation. He defended tirelessly and with passion human rights and, through love, nurtured humanity's hopes and dreams. Madiba was an elevated being who taught us that from forgiveness can spring new life, a new country, and a new world. I walk on the strength of his ideals and I am inspired by his courage and convictions to always believe in the light that exists in all of us."

There is no passion to be found playing small - in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living. Nelson Mandela

Our Greatest Fear by Marianne Williamson
(A Poem Quoted and Embraced by Nelson R. Mandela)

It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous,
talented and fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other
people won't feel insecure around you.

We were born to make manifest the glory of
God that is within us.

It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people
permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.

Nelson R. Mandela Quotes

"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world."

“Difficulties break some men but make others.”

“Appearances matter -- and remember to smile.”

“Once a person is determined to help themselves, there is nothing that can stop them.”

“When people are determined they can overcome anything.”

"It always seems impossible until it's done."

"You will achieve more in this world through acts of mercy than you will through acts of retribution."

“A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.”

“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.”

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

“I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one's head pointed toward the sun, one's feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.”

“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling,but in rising every time we fall.”

“Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”

"I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear."

"After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb."

“Social equality is the only basis of human happiness.”

"Great anger and violence can never build a nation. We are striving to proceed in a manner and towards a result, which will ensure that all our people, both black and white, emerge as victors.”

"Man’s goodness is a flame that can be hidden but never extinguished."

“It is never my custom to use words lightly. If twenty-seven years in prison have done anything to us, it was to use the silence of solitude to make us understand how precious words are and how real speech is in its impact on the way people live and die.”

"To be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others."

"If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart."

"We must use time wisely and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right."

"Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies."

"As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn't leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I'd still be in prison."

"No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite."

"The first thing is to be honest with yourself. You can never have an impact on society if you have not changed yourself. ... Great peacemakers are all people of integrity, of honesty, but humility."

“There can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way in which it treats its children.”

Mutryce A. Williams, a native of St Kitts and Nevis is the mother of 4-year-old Daniel and 3-year-old Nicholas. She not only values the many facets of West Indian parenting but also thinks that there is vast room for improvement. A former educator and a child/youth advocate, Mutryce firmly believes that children should not only be seen but heard.. She may be contacted at
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