{ Under The Bluegums }

A personal blog with craft tutorials, reviews of books, films, and music, parenting advice, and opinions on society and politics.

March 29, 2016

Just Read || The Unspoken Journey of Life by Lerato Nthati Dorah Tsamai

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'The Unspoken Journey of Life' is the heartbreaking autobiography of one woman's struggle with an abusive husband and an unsupportive community.

Ms Tsamai courageously documents the terrible situation she found herself in after falling in love, failing to acknowledge the signs, and remaining in a relationship fraught with danger. Her unflinching faith and trust in God is what she says aided her in her trial.

Her novel can serve as a legacy for women like herself who believe in the power of love, acceptance, and change but remain stuck on the undeserving end of abuse, unable to leave because of devotion or fear or both.

It is also a must-read for those who blame the women for staying with abusive men - Ms Tsamai uncovers her thought processes as she finds herself on conflicting ends of the scale: stay and face the torrent of abuse and believe in change or leave and face the ridicule of her family, his family, and the community.

It is also a diatribe against those who support abusive partners in relationships: her husband's family and most of her friends and community members did nothing to end her pain and showed no support for her as she struggled against the forces of abuse and love.

'The Unspoken Journey of Life' is a reminder that so many partners suffer in abusive relationships with the feeling that they have no one to turn to and the misdirected shame that comes with a failed marriage.

It is disheartening to experience Tsamai's life with her and realise that much has not changed for women in South Africa. Her story begins at around 1957 when she meets her husband - that's around 50 years ago. Domestic abuse is thought to be one of the most prolific crimes in the country. According to a Mail & Guardian article:
A study conducted by the World Health Organisation in 2013 found that 50% of the South African women surveyed reported that they had suffered emotional and verbal abuse. Fifty percent. Let that number sink in. That means one in two women suffer a form of abuse in this country – and it continues to be swept under the rug
That's a massive number of victims. The scariest is that it's unlikely that many women will report their abuse because of the stigma associated with it, as well as the fear that their harrasser will escalate the violence. GenderLinks reported:
A 2010 review conducted by Gender Links and the South African Medical Research Council (MRC) titled The War at Home provides a detailed analysis of how GBV can be measured. In this paper, GBV includes physical, sexual, psychological and economic intimate partner violence; rape and sexual assault by a partner, acquaintance or family member; and sexual harassment at school or work. The research further notes that in the period 2008-2009, 15 307 cases of domestic violence were opened in Gauteng and 12 093 cases involved a female victim. 
The same study involved a province-wide household survey. It revealed that 18.1% of women had been abused at least once in the 12 months preceding the survey, while 29% of men had abused their partner in a similar time period. This shows that routine data collected at local police station level is just the tip of the iceberg. Although 25.4% of women experienced rape at least once in their lifetime, only 3.9% had reported it to the police. Just 2.1% of women raped by an intimate partner reported the incident to police. Women that experienced sexual or physical abuse in their relationship were more likely to be diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection, test positive for HIV, suffer from depression or consider suicide.
It cannot be denied that many women and men suffer at the hands of an abuser - but why can nothing be done to stop it? Is it the unending effects of patriarchy? Is it our increasingly lonely and left alone children? Is it the culture of violence from the West? What do you think?

Further Reading:
How to Legally Protect Yourself Against Domestic Abuse
A Guide to Family Law: Domestic Violence and Abuse
South Africa's 2014/2015 Assault and Sexual Crime Statistics
Gender Violence Must be Included in Crime Stats

March 28, 2016

Just Read || The Five Love Languages of Children

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My mom lent 'The Five Love Languages of Children' to me, telling me I should give it a read as it is interesting and may help with Emma in future, considering that children so young apparently don't have a set love language. It is true that it is interesting and it has changed my manner of relating to Emma on a daily basis.

The book basically suggests that although parents truly love their children unconditionally, they may not express this correctly according to their child's primary love language. If love is not expressed in this love language, the child will not feel as though the parent loves them. Indeed, parents should be practiced in all five love languages, merely placing more focus on the primary one.

Certainly this theory has merit but it puts the child's life and future entirely in the parents' hands, even saying that empty love tanks are to blame for such issues as drug abuse, poor academic performance, and self esteem. This might be possible, but personally I believe that it only forms part of an array of causes that would result in such emotional issues. To blame the parents to me does not seem entirely fair in every case.

Below is a quick look at the five love languages:

- Physical Touch - A parent needs to touch their children often in the form of hugs, holding hands, sitting closely together, supportive gestures such as back pattings and so forth. Interesting takeaways from this chapter include:

  • The suggestion that fathers believe touching their sons will feminise them, which will not occur if their - both the fathers and the sons, I assume - emotional tanks are full to begin with.
  • Boys go through anti-affection stages. I question this suggestion because it sort of contradicts the first point I mentioned, doesn't it?
  • Girls who lack attention from their fathers either seek it from the opposite sex in unhealthy ways, causing their peers and the boys themselves to disrespect them, or they are shy and withdrawn. Girls will have healthy self-esteem and thus healthy relations with the opposite sex if their love tanks are full from the primary male role model in their lives.
  • Children whose primary love language is physical touch should not be punished with it, as it empties the emotional tank faster.

- Words of Affirmation - This includes all positive praise, encouragement and reinforcement of emotional feelings. Interesting takeaways from this chapter include:

  • Children think we deeply believe what we say, thus we should be honest and not use words to hurt or punish our children.
  • In terms of endearments, the words 'I love you' have a deeper meaning to the child if they are said with the matching tone of voice, feature physical closeness, and show true appreciation for the child.
  • In terms of praise, appreciation for what the child does should be meaningful and given when the child knows they have done well. However, when praise is given when performance is only average, the child will come to believe the praise is insincere.
  • In terms of encouragement, parents should also feel encouraged to give their children courage. Anger is the enemy of encouragement, as it leads to anti-authority behaviour, thus parents should always be pleasant, even when angry.
  • In terms of guidance, a positive message combined with negative delivery will develop into negative results. In other words, guidance must be loving and must be done with the child in mind, not to make the parents look good, for example.

- Quality Time - This book says it wonderfully: quality time is the 'Gift of Presence'; being with your child both physically and mentally. Takeaways from this chapter include:

  • Being together means you spend time with your child, sharing your values and morals with them and indulging in positive eye contact.
  • Sharing thoughts and feelings allows parents to connect with their children on emotional levels. This will aid your child in communicating in their future relationships.
  • Use stories to help children express their emotions and discover the possible consequences of their behaviour.
  • According to the book, 
'This lack is a primary reason for drug abuse, inappropriate sexual activity, and anti-authority attitudes and behaviour' (64).

- Gifts - Gift-giving is a difficult love language, as it must apparently be done in conjunction with the others: the emotional love tank must be full in order for the gift to be appreciated. I don't know if this qualifies as a love language of its own in that case; it should rather be a supplementary love language. Takeaways from this chapter include:

  • Giving gifts as a replacement for the other love languages distorts the practice, resulting in manipulative and materialistic children.
  • Too many gifts will burden the child.
  • Choose gifts your child really wants; even better, choose them together.
  • Children whose primary love language is gifts will make a show of gifts, displaying them and regarding them as physical expressions of love.

- Acts of Service - If you didn't know it yet, parenting is all about serving your child. However, children will be self-centred if you help them too much. I love this part:

"We serve our children, but as they are ready, we teach them how to serve themselves and then others." (91)

Takeaways from this chapter include:
  • Acts of service should communicate your love to your child.
  • They should be done with the purpose of showing children to serve others and repay kindnesses done to them.
  • Parents should be role models of service.
  • Acts of service should not be offered in exchange for good behaviour or other things, as it distorts the process - they should be about loving kindness and concern.
  • Hospitality with friends and family will also show children how to have meaningful relationships.
  • Positive responses to children's requests for aid will show your love for your children.
The book goes on to talk about how to discipline your children, but is at pains to indicate that discipline will only work if your children already feel loved. We as parents have to remember that children do not have mature emotions - they are selfish by nature - and they should not feel compelled to behave well to earn love: love must be freely given. It is also important when disciplining a child to find a cause for a child's misbehaviour before jumping into a punishment otherwise punishment will not work.

Punishment ideally should result in remorse on the child's part - if it does not, the punishment has failed. Punishment should also teach children the power of apologies and forgiveness. It should also be fair.

An effective disciplinary practice begins with endless instruction on the part of parents, who remain considerate of their children's immature emotions and make pleasant requests. Commands follow the requests - without the first step, the children will come to believe their feelings and opinions are not important. If commands do not work, physically, but gently, moving your child into a position where they can fulfil the original request may work. This has been particularly effective with Emma. :)

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Overall, I feel that I have been given some insight into love and relationships through this book. I don't need to read the first book to figure out what the love languages are of the adults with whom I currently have relationships are. It certainly seems as though using the idea every day will be helpful, but only if the other part of the relationship has also read the book - all efforts will be one-sided in that case, causing the person filling the 'love tanks' of their loved ones to have an empty tank at the end of the day.

Have you read the book and found it helpful?

{Image credit: By Scott Harris - Flickr: Matthew Getting Mouth Washed Out With Soap, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15576481}