The Best Reason for having Children
We are blessed as an African family to have our whole crew here in Zimbabwe. My wife and I live in Bulawayo and our two children - Gary and Sue, live in Harare. They are both married and we have five grandchildren. This is not by accident. In 1976 when I thought the wheels were coming off in Rhodesia, we contemplated leaving the country and going off to greener and more peaceful climes.
I was offered a great job in commodity trading in Europe and we went off to have a look see. We travelled through Europe and the UK and then flew home. When we got home, we sat around a table and discussed what we should do. We all felt that this was our home and that we had not felt any affinity with Europe. My wife and I prayed about the situation and asked for guidance. The answer came very swiftly; both of us felt that we had been told quite clearly to stay. In fact the guidance went beyond this and said that the very things that we feared in Africa would follow us wherever we went.
We stayed and it has been a wild ride all the way - the last four years of the war, the turbulent days of Ghukurahundi in Matabeleland, then the MDC and this was followed by 10 years of mayhem, then the GNU and now another economic crisis and the threat of instability and violence. But we can all say, without fear of contradiction that God has been with us all the way, all the time. His provision for us as a family has been amazing.
Being grandparents is a great experience and I feel very sorry for all those families who have gone off in different directions, often leaving their parents behind and living in distant lands. Skype is great, but it's no substitute for the real thing.
Our oldest grandchild is Rebekah - a lovely young woman of 16 years who is now in lower 6th. She got 8 'A's and 1 'B' at 'O' Levels and is very gifted. She will go on to University and get a first degree in mathematics and then I am sure she will either go into research or teaching, perhaps further studies and then working at University. When my son and his wife are away, Rebekah is the 'mother' of the team and is a very well rounded person and good sportsperson.
Our second grandchild is Alanna and she struggles a bit academically. But she sits quite happily in the middle of her class and is an excellent cook. She already prepares meals at home and is a keen watcher of the TV programme 'Master Chef'. If I was to back any of our grandchildren in business - it would be Alanna. When we go out to a meal, it's Alanna who checks the bill and works out what we should be paying. I have watched her handle figures - she may not be a hot number in class, but she knows numbers.
Number three, Deborah, is something else! Debs is drop dead gorgeous, clever and an excellent sports person. She is also a natural leader and was Head Girl of her school last year. She is very competitive and whatever she chooses to do, she will do well. My son will need a shotgun and a shambok for Debs as I suspect she is going to attract boys like flies to flypaper.
My son's youngest is Talitha and she is very competitive, thinks she should be running the school and is both athletic and intelligent. All the girls are pretty and Talitha is no exception. She is built like a tank and anyone taking her on must watch their steps. Her mother is Irish and if any one of our grandchildren has strong Irish genes, it's her. In fact from the time she was a baby I have said that she qualifies for full membership of the IRA.
My daughter Sue had been married for 11 years before she fell pregnant with her son Keith. When Keith was just 4 months old his father, an outstanding lawyer and sportsperson, died from a heart attack. We had just spent 10 days with them and a more besotted dad you could not have found in Harare. We rushed back to the City and a few days later I stood at the doors of the Anglican Cathedral in Harare greeting some 600 mourners with Keith asleep at my feet in a portable baby seat.
Keith is nearly 12 years old and is an intelligent boy with considerable personality and character. Last night he played the Kings praise singer in a Shona play at school and every time he came on stage the audience cheered and clapped. Keith is not competitive but is friends with everyone. Going to be a very interesting character and will do something in the arts field. Because his father died so early, I am very close to Keith and we have a very good relationship, nothing like his mother/son relationship but still special.
Family is important - many of us put business and careers before our families and this is a mistake. Girls have their first love affairs with their Dads when they enter puberty. This is a very special time for both of them as he is the only man she can experiment with in safety. For him it's a magic time as he is the subject of unrestricted and unquestioning love and affection.
It is vital for a father to be able and willing to give his girls his special attention at that stage in their lives. When they discover boy's the magic moment has gone, but will always leave a residue that will enrich and inhabit both their futures. For a mother the time comes when her daughters become friends and confidants and this is also a special time in their lives.
But for us as grandparents the grandchildren are a delight - young and energetic, fresh and free and for a while uncomplicated and caring. I have always said that the only real reason for having children is to go on to harvesting the future in the form of grandchildren. By the time they come along we are pretty much done, we are in the sunset of our lives, they in the sunrise. Each of us enrich the other and in a way no family is complete without each element being in place and available.
Grandparents provide continuity and experience and can sometimes step in to fill a gap. During the war of liberation here, two of our best friends were killed in a savage attack on a mission school. Their two surviving children - 8 and 12 years old were taken under the wings of a grandmother and her other son who gave up his job to move back to his mother to help with the sudden obligations of parenthood. That is what family is all about, one generation in the sunset of their lives, being able to help their children and their children see the sunrise. You cannot do that at a distance.
I am so proud that both our children are excellent parents who love their children unreservedly. Sound families are the only sure foundation of a stable and progressive nation and I think in a small way, we are doing our bit.
Bulawayo 14th March 2015