Monday, 26 April 2010

Grief, hiding in the woodwork.

I'm normally a very calm person, I take pretty much everything in my stride, the really really good things, and the bad things. When my dad died just over six years ago, I dealt with it. He was very ill, he was in great pain, and he was completely miserable, uncomfortable, and it was his time to go. I knew all this. I still know it.

He died on Easter Saturday. On Good Friday, he was still at home, but was in pain, was vomiting, was extremely uncomfortable. Late that afternoon, my mom, Brett and I took him to the Linksfield Clinic, where we hoped that he would be able to find some relief. The staff there hooked him up to morphine and I don't know what else. By the time we left that evening, he was awake, reasonably alert, and not in so much pain.

When Brett and I found my mom there the next morning, she'd had a brief conversation with him, before he fell asleep. That was sleep that turned out to be unconsciousness, and he did not wake up again. The three of us sat with him in that room the whole day, knowing that we were watching him die. The nurses explained that his organs were shutting down, and that the cries he was making were morphine nightmares. Those stopped too.

By early evening, we were exhausted, and agreed to go home, get some clothes so that Brett and I could stay with my mom, and that we'd have some supper at home, and then go back to the hospital. As Brett and I pulled up into our driveway, my mom phoned to say that the hospital had called. My dad had died about 10 minutes after we had left. The nurse apparently said that it happens often, that terminal patients almost seem to 'wait' for their family to leave, so that death doesn't happen while they're there, so that they don't witness that flatline moment,  as happens in just about every hospital death scene produced by Hollywood.

I coped. I dealt with it. I'm still amazed that I could keep calm when the hospital called me to ask what to do with my dad's body. I didn't cry during the funeral, I just held onto my mom and Brett very very tightly. I dealt with it. And have done so for the last six years.

And then a sodding episode of Grey's Anatomy undid it all last night. We watched an episode called "Suicide doesn't hurt". I won't spoil it for those who haven't seen it, but it came crashing in (although it's been there all along, not causing any drama) that we left my dad to die alone. We didn't intend for that to happen, we had been sitting with him all day. But when it was his time to let go, time for his face to relax into the peace of being pain-free, we weren't there.

And it broke my heart, into a million tiny pieces, six years later.

I still miss him, every day. I wish that he had the opportunity to know my gorgeous boys. I know that there is no way that I would wish him back, if he had to carry on suffering the way he was. But I really wish that we had just stayed there for a little longer, to witness his freedom from pain.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

A return to the Doors

So, last night at the request of a really good friend (a REALLY good friend), I went to the Doors in Edenvale last night. It may or may not surprise you to find out that I spent every Friday night there, for about three years. We even went one Christmas night - THAT's how much we loved it there. Every Friday night, Zelda, Jamie, Gavin and Lionel and I would be at the upstairs bar, and sometimes Jamie's brother Andrew. Gavin would drink until everyone thought he would fall over, and then he'd drink some more. Jamie would find someone and play pool with them all night, and Lionel, Zelda, Gavin and I would chat at length about all sorts from the looming spectre of picket fences to the details of our romances, and everyone else's.

I even dressed the part - head to toe black, high platform boots, a long skirt with a thigh-slit slit revealing fishnet tights... I even did arty things with black eyeliner...

We'd people-watch, point and laugh (not too conspicuously) and crack ourselves up at our witticisms - and although I'm biased, we were really very witty. And then, the DJ would play Closer or Temple of Love, and we'd troop down to the dancefloor and jig around wildly for hours on end.

And then life happened. Jamie and Zelda moved to Cape Town. Lionel got involved with someone who didn't like the Doors. Andrew died in a hiking accident. Gavin met a girl, married her, divorced her and married another one. Brett and I got married, and then the boys arrived - when you're sleep deprived already, you don't want to be out jigging around in The Dark Place until the wee hours.

I've been back a few times in the last few years, and every time I go, I swear it will be the last time. Without the glow of that circle, I can see the place for the hole it really is. The cleanest nightclub I have ever been to, from the dancefloor to the toilets and everywhere between, but it's a hole. With angry music and very angry people. You must be angry at life, and your own self,  to pierce yourself all over your face, in my opinion!

Anyway... back to last night. Lionel is going through a bit of a rough time, we had babysitters anyway, so agreed to meet him there. Here are some things I learned, in my return to the Doors:

- The lady cleaning the toilet has got to have the worst job in the world, but she does it brilliantly. Her job is only slightly worse than the people picking up bottles and stompies - although I can't think how much they must hate the very very loud music.
- The Doors has changed its music style. They were playing WEDDING music last night: Life is Life, and THE YMCA - and what freaked me out the most: everyone on the stage DOING THE ACTIONS!!!
- The drinks are cheap, and they taste that way.
- Even the Doors has caught up with social media - it has a Facebook Fan Page
- In spite of the fact that the place looks like a hole, the bouncers keep it safe.
- I listened to some of the lyrics properly for the first time last night. (Yes, I know. We talked a lot, ok?). Some pretty scary stuff in there.
- It still is the only nightclub I've ever been where people really don't care about what you're wearing. They're more interested in the person you are, and they're the friendliest scary people I've ever met.
- It's also the only nightclub I've ever been to where you can dance EXACTLY as you want to, and nobody stares. Lionel 'hatches', he doesn't dance. This soothes my Standard 4 soul, which was irreparably damaged when I didn't dance the 'right' way on school tour.
- There's even a class divide at the Doors now - part of the upstairs bar is segregated, I know not what for.
- The birds are still tweeting - after all these years, they still haven't figured that there's got to be somewhere quieter to catch a few z's.
- Even though we're nearly 40 (eep), jigging around wildly to music that makes your heart thump and your soul soar is still a great way to work through a rough week.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

First steps in freelancing

Once upon a Mac keyboard, I had a moderately successful freelance writing career. I mostly wrote for PR companies (yes, selling my soul, I know), but the pieces I really enjoyed were the ones where I got to do Real Writing. 

I'm not entirely sure why, but friends keep on referring their friends who want to start freelancing to me for advice. Rather than write the same email over and over again, I've decided to turn it into a blog post - see below. 

My best advice: Deliver on-topic clean copy, on time (or even better, ahead of time). Editors will love you, and use you again and again.

Disclaimer: I certainly do not claim to know everything about freelancing. But these thoughts are based on my experiences. 

The best I can suggest, when it comes to building up your freelance portfolio, is to start by buying different magazines - everything from Women & Home to Your Family to Engineering News or whatever, getting a feel for who their reader is, and then pitching an article to the editor that you think will be interesting to their reader. 

Maybe send a sample of your work with the pitch, but they're more likely to take a story idea that talks directly to their reader, than a random article that's been written without a brief and sent to a lot of magazines in the hope that someone takes it. 

A friend of mine has had some trouble with people sitting on her ideas for months on end, meaning that she's lost out on opportunities, so it might be an idea, in your pitch, to include something along the lines that if you haven't heard back from them in one month, you reserve the right to pitch the idea/angle elsewhere. Just a thought. 

These are just suggestions - virtually none of my freelance work was for articles in magazines, it was mostly PR writing and corporate stuff - and there's no small measure of that kind of work available out there. 

As far as contacts go - I don't have many any more. 

A good place to start is also to build your own blog - not only will it keep you writing (and you can never get too much practice at that), it will be a good place to showcase your work. If you do this, make sure that it's not just a diary of what you did and where you went though - make it interesting, challenging, insightful. For eg, you could build a bit of a portfolio of travel writing examples based on your experiences abroad, or you tackle a theme that is close to your heart (my pet project is organic gardening, for example). Don't scoff at this - my husband recently employed a writer I found through her blogging. 

It's time for a recipe...

All of a sudden, we had 10 adults and six children coming for lunch last Saturday, and among other things I had to come up with a quick dessert. Even though I have all the recipe books that my kitchen can hold, I'm not so good at using them. However, my husband loves baked cheesecake, and ExMi's tweets about the cookies and cream cheese that she made got me thinking. So, here's my version - let me know what you think. Sorry - no photos - it was scoffed before I could dig the camera out!

One pack of Chockits, made into crumbs
Enough butter to bind them - about two tablespoons I suppose.

Mix, and then press into the base of a 20cm springform tin.

The really yummy bit:
2 tubs of smooth cream cheese
1 tub of sour cream
1/2 cup of sugar
2 eggs
3 tablespoons of selfraising flour
1 bag of Romany Cream Balls, bashed a bit but not broken.

Beat the cream cheese, sour cream and sugar together. Add the eggs, and lastly the flour.
Fold in the beaten up Romany Cream Balls.
Pour the mix into the springform tin.
Bake at 180 degrees C, probably for about 45 minutes, until it's firm in the middle.
Let it get to room temperature before serving. It's best at that temperature, although it does refrigerate well.
Eat, enjoy, and don't count the calories...

Wednesday, 14 April 2010


I've just read an article on the Mail & Guardian's website about Neil Pasricha, a Canadian who was busy watching his world fall apart around him - his marriage was disintegrating, and his friends were having a pretty rough time as well. He chose to focus on positive things though, and started a blog, , where each day, he blogs about something, well, awesome. As I write, he's only on #527, but the idea was so popular that 200 of the awesome things have just been published as a book, and he's won a Webby award or two. Out of positive things, come good news...

I'm not nearly dedicated enough to blog every day on a single theme in perpetuity, but I reckon it's a great idea to stop and smell the proverbial roses from time to time. So, here are a few things that I find totally awesome, in no particular order.

1 The smell of my boys when they're sleeping (and the sheer joy of them being awake).
2 The way my husband holds me, loves me and cherishes our life together.
3 The garden at work is inspirational - a tame jungle of indigenous plants around a heritage water feature, complete with chirping frogs and the most exquisite light peeping through the trees.
4 My mother.
5 Our crazy, confused, hectic, beautiful, interesting, challenging, amazing country. There's nowhere else quite like it.
6 The totally unexpected sense of community I feel from being on Twitter, and the lively debates that rage in 140 characters or less. And the unexpected friendships that have arisen from that.
7 The revelation that it's not actually that difficult to make bread, even without using our bread machine. And there's nothing quite like the smell and taste of freshly baked bread.
8 The understanding that sometimes, in the grand scheme of things, it's better just to back off a little.
9 My mentor, who is also one of my closest friends, who I found in an unexpected place, and who continues to inspire me. One day, if she'll let me, I'd like to write her life story. It's a humdinger, involving three of her own children, three other children, Steve Biko, and a lifetime in media.
10 The simple pleasure of driving. Traffic notwithstanding, I think those of us privileged enough to have our own vehicles forget how lucky we are to be so completely independent, that we can go wherever we want to, on a whim.

Without even aspiring to start one of those time-consuming memes, what's awesome in your world? It would be fab if you told me, but I'd be thrilled if you would just stop for a minute to ponder the things that are great in your world. I'm sure just thinking about them will make your day a better one.

Monday, 12 April 2010

About that funeral…

I understand the importance of the media in reporting what is going on in the world around us. We need to know what the likes of Malema and his ilk are up to, we need to know what is going on globally so that we can deal with it in our own world, and (I wish there was more of this) we need to hear the good news.

But I was appalled by the level of coverage given to the funeral of AWB leader Eugene Terreblanche on Friday last week. The man died a terrible death that I wouldn’t wish on anyone, not even on someone as nasty as he seems to have been (based on history and what is emerging as I write this). But he was fading away into obscurity, nobody except his mates in Ventersdorp cared about him, and his organisation was so marginalised I think everyone thought it had faded away completely.

His murder was brutal, and it was part of a trend of farm murders that should be shaking us to the core. Where is the media investigation, analysis and reporting on that trend? I digress...

But his funeral was an event for family, friends, and supporters, to acknowledge the passing of one of their own. It should not have been the ghoul-fest that it turned into – and those most guilty of being ghouls in my opinion were the media. @Phillipdewet tweeted at one point that there were 50 cameras pointed at his coffin, in the church. What on earth for?

This was the funeral of an obscure, horrible man. I can only think that the press flocked to Ventersdorp on a quest for something far more interesting than pictures of a coffin. They were hoping for a race war that would make good photos. Kudos to Cosatu for making sure that that didn’t happen (never thought I’d say something good about Cosatu, but anyway…).

There was even one incident that played out on Twitter, that was presented very differently on my favourite news and analysis site.  I’m not sure why a medium that size needed three reporters on site (refer to my earlier comment about ghouls), but one of its reporters (appearing for the first time on the site) felt the need to ‘retreat’ to his vehicle, don traditional clothing, and listen (loudly) to his own traditional music after a mourner stood his ground and asked the journalist to move away from the burial site. If a journalist can’t take the heat in the kitchen that he probably shouldn’t be in in the first place, what is a medium of the calibre of that online news resource doing sending him there in the first place?

I have been accused of supporting Nazis because I suggested that the mourners (one of whom was wearing a swastika) should have been respected and left to bury their dead. A funeral is not nearly as much about the dead person as it is about the living that are left behind. Vile though their philosophies are, the AWB and its supporters was doing everything that they could to keep things calm and orderly on Friday, if accounts are to be believed. It struck me forcibly that if there was any trouble on Friday, it would have been caused by irresponsible actions and reportage from the media.

And that makes me sad, and scared. I’ve said it before on this blog: with freedoms and rights come responsibilities . And I think it was irresponsible for so many members of the press to push their way into Friday’s funeral. It's yet another South African miracle that the day closed peacefully - particularly since the event really did not deserve the exposure it was given. 

Friday, 9 April 2010

Pick n Pay reviewed... a competition entry

Pick n Pay is embracing Twitter , and they asked people on the network to review the brand. I think there's a prize involved somewhere, but regardless, I thought I'd give it a bash anyway!

My experience of Pick n Pay is mostly of the stores at the Norwood Mall and at Greenstone Mall. As far as branding goes: the shops are slick, give the impression of being well organised, cohesive, you know exactly which company you're shopping with when you're instore (product lines are available in both - you could really be in any Pick n Pay anywhere), and there really is just about anything you could possibly think of, available for purchase. Their organic stuff is well branded, and often the same price or less than the chemically 'enhanced' veggies, which is a win in my books.

The Norwood shop is a vast improvement on the grubby, dingy (very big) hole that it was before the mall was renovated, and it has actually scored points with me for being half the size: it's not quite such an intimidating shop to negotiate and navigate around. The shop's big and comprehensive kosher sections are very popular with the Jewish community, who form such a big part of its customer base that the Norwood shop is probably the only quiet one in the country, on a Saturday.

The Greenstone shop has been great from the get-go.

What lets the brand down?
At Norwood, there seems to be a problem with supply chain management - basics like milk and bread are often out of stock late in the afternoon, when working moms like myself dash past to stock up during the week. While most of the staff are friendly, there are several that really seem to be doing you a favour by ringing your goods up.

My biggest complaint with Pick n Pay is the way they handle things when a price is incorrect. If the price on the shelf is less than the price that is rung up on scanning, you are entitled to a refund (and I think another one free, not sure of the details there). That can't happen at the till though - you have to pay the too-much amount, and then shlep over to customer services, explain your whole story, and have a very bored person dawdle to the shelf to get the offending tag, and then take ages to process the refund that is due. This, Pick n Pay, is your mistake. Don't make your mistake cost me my time.

However, on the whole - prices are cheaper than most other spots (except for nappies - watch out on those), and there's the advantage of literally being able to buy everything you need from one shop. Just one. Which when you're counting pennies and hoarding moments, is a winner.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

To Wii or not to Wii

To Wii or not to Wii
Our home is blessed with more technology than most, thanks to my husband’s job as publisher of a consumer magazine (, and this has opened a Pandora’s box of sorts in our home. We are probably more exposed than most to different gaming consoles (yes, we have a PS3, a Wii and an Xbox 360), not to mention more computers per capita than most multinational corporations. And we have two boys (Daniel aged 4 and a half and Matthew, 20 months) whose eyes have lit up at the sight of anything with a whirring noise and a flashing light since they were old enough to sit up and take notice.
There are many who would say that there is time enough for technology when my boys are older – but then there’s that age-old thing of little boys wanting to do what their daddies do.  Some people play sport, others read – my husband ‘does’ computers, whether that’s building them, rebuilding them, or playing various games on them.  Daniel’s playschool offers computer classes, which are mostly around co-ordination and mouse-skills, and his reports from these have always come back with a string of ‘excellents’.
So, is there a difference between learning computer skills (which we all need – were you also one of those that mocked the boys that took typing lessons in the 80s?) and playing console games, which some may see as technology baby-sitters for the lazy parent?
I would say it depends on the console and the game. Matthew is too little to play still, but watches his brother’s every move when he plays on the Wii or on his PC – and Daniel is a sensitive soul who takes everything to heart. This is why we have no ‘first-person shooter’ games, or any game that has violence of any sort in it – apart from the fencing game in Wii Sports Island.
On the Wii, Daniel plays table tennis (and wins nearly every time, using strategic placement of the ball when he ‘hits’ it), 100 pin bowling (where he lines up the ball with the pins, and scores a strike nearly every time), and archery  (which requires careful co-ordination, using both hands). He cannot read, but he can navigate his way around a set of Wii games better than I can – he has responded to its intuitiveness and has figured things out for himself.
On his PC, he plays a variety of games that teach him cognitive and recognition skills, and that throw in a bit of history and geography as well.
Yes, my child does have a lot of ‘screen’ time, but he also does (old fashioned) puzzles quickly and accurately. His hand-eye co-ordination is such that he seldom misses a ball with his cricket bat, and he has a general knowledge that is well beyond his age.
Are computers and consoles a substitute for good parenting? No, they’re definitely not. But they’re a part of our (admittedly privileged) life, and will continue to be so, more and more, as our children grow up. Making them comfortable with technology, and giving them the confidence to navigate their way around it, is equipping them with skills our parents hadn’t even thought of when we were kids.
It is about striking a balance though – Daniel can only play one session of Wii in a day, and he can only play every second day. I think we’re getting the balance right. At bed time the other night, my heart melted when I was told, “Mom, I love you more than everything. I even love you more than Wii.”

Out and about in Jozi

We chose to stay in Jozi these holidays, and it really was great – the roads and shops were quiet, the weather was mostly agreeable, and we spent some good quality time at home.

We did go out and about though, and it was great to be a tourist in our own city, so to speak. Having two small boys changes your choices of venue somewhat, and it was intriguing to see who caters for families and how.

We went to the Johannesburg Zoo for a morning, and it was great to see all the development there, and the wide variety of animals, the beautiful landscapes, and the restaurant. What wasn’t great? Seeing the golfcarts lined up for repair (apparently they’re being discontinued in the new year), and being put at number 19 on the waiting list at 10 in the morning, in spite of one of our party being heavily pregnant. We also felt that R10 per ride in the funfair was outrageous.

I thought that Heaven’s Gate in Boksburg, looked like a great spot for a visit, but was disappointed to see that it very definitely is by appointment only – it’s not just schools that need to make appointments, as I understood from the website. But it’s got a great selection of birds, and plenty of spots for picnics, so we’ll definitely go there again, with an appointment.

The Secret Garden at Norscot Manor was nice for the little people, although a little more shade in their playground would not go amiss. It’s a really pretty venue, and looks like it would be great for moms’ teaparties, while the littlies keep themselves amused.

Twigs at the Garden Shop (cnr Jan Smuts Avenue and Bolton Avenue in Rosebank) has a great enclosed playground for children and their food is good, but that’s about where the ‘great’ stops. Service is appalling, and there is nowhere to change nappies – it’s either the boot of your car (my choice), or on the concrete floor in the less-than-elegant outbuilding toilets.

The hit of our holiday? The Adventure Golf park at Stoneridge Mall, just behind Greenstone Mall. A great vibe, three fun courses, and a friendly and well stocked refreshment stand … and they didn’t charge us for the littlest Haggard (aged 21 months), who clutched his ball and golfclub (aka ‘bat’) as if his life depended on it for most of our time there

What was your favourite holiday outing in Jozi these holidays? 

Would you share your job?

A friend and I were chatting recently, about the tough choices (or lack thereof) that moms are given. To put your children through decent education, you most often need to be a double-income family – but what are the implications of not being at home for the crucial formative years in your child’s life? “What about job-sharing?” she asked.

I turned to my bff (the web) for research, and learned that in the US and Australia in particular, job sharing is common. Two people with similar skills share a full time job – and the salary that goes with it – so that they can still work at a level for which their skills are suited, adding valuable experience to their CV, and earning a decent income, while being available to invest important time in their children.

The sharing is done in a number of ways – either one works mornings and the other afternoons, or they take all the tasks for the position and split them, so that everyone else knows who is responsible for what. Another common way of working it is for each of the parties to work three days a week, so that there is one day where they are both around, to make continuity easy for everyone else that they are working with.

It seems though, that most of these situations arise where women working together create the job-share, once they have the buy-in of their existing employer – it’s not the kind of vacancy you would see advertised.

I would so be keen for this kind of progressive thinking in the South African workplace – but the question is: are any South African companies up for it? Are they willing to adapt the rules to keep and nurture their best employees – those who have another full time job as mom and homemaker? 

Originally posted on JoziKids 

Random thoughts and catching up

I've not been the most consistent blogger in the history of ever, but at the urging of ExMi, I'm going to give it another bash. 

What's happened in my life since the last time I posted (before today's flurry)? 

A lot, but not a lot. 

My two boys, Daniel and Matthew, are the most amazing, incredible human beings that ever there were. Apart, of course from my husband. I may be biased in all of this, but there you go, I'm allowed to be. 

My extended household now consists of Thandi Ndhlovu, my very own domestic goddess, my father-in-law, and his 11-year-old son. It's complicated. Sometimes more so than it really should be. But that's a session for another couch, another day. 

We've done and survived a fair amount of renovation to our home, although a house is an ONGOING process, oh my word, it never stops. 

There are days when I love the Daschund, and there are days when I would give him to the first taker. However, I love the Rottweiler every day, all day. Except when she thinks she's a cow, and eats my grass. 

My vegetable garden is growing like a veritable jungle. I hope that it delivers on all that it's promising, otherwise I'll have to start calling it the ANC. 

I'm changing jobs at the end of this month. Working at Words'worth has been a true privilege, but I need more money, more interaction with people, and less of a glass ceiling. I'm moving to Saint-Gobain Construction Products, a client of mine for several years, and I'm going to be taking on the challenge of their internal and external communications. 

I have learned that beautiful office surroundings may well appear idyllic, but there is such a thing as being TOO quiet. And dogs that are TOO noisy. And colleagues that are TOO to-themselves. Nowhere's perfect. I have been happy here, but I will be happy in my next position too. 

That's it for this time... let's see if I can keep this up! 

Seeing red, and how to deal with it.

This morning was an early one – up at 5h00, with both boys wanting different things, from Easter eggs to Cbeebies. I’m comfortable with the TV as my (very happy) helper at that time of the morning, and with boys settled in front of Mr Maker, I snuck off to check mail on my computer in the next room.

And that’s where things started going pear-shaped. Both boys came through, both wanting to sit on the one spare seat, and then Daniel (the older one) wanted to watch YouTube (which he can surf by himself), a Thomas the Tank Engine video, and then he asked for his own computer games (which are not set up at the moment) – all in the space of about 30 seconds. He responded to my ‘no, not now’ answers to all of those by stomping his feet, shouting at me and throwing a basketful of Lego in all directions. Not a normal reaction for this mostly peaceful boy – but a reaction that made me see red, and lose the 5h30 plot a little.

I smacked his pyjama’d bottom, told him that he is not allowed to throw things at me, and told him to go to his room. When he sat there apologising in tears, I thought of all those experts that tell us to be consistent and mean what we say, and I insisted that he go to his room, eventually resorting to carrying him there to prove my point.

And then I stopped and thought about it (which I probably should have done before the part where I saw red). This whole scene started because both my little boys wanted to be with me, and Daniel particularly wanted my attention. When he didn’t get it in the way that he was hoping for, he got frustrated, and angry. Which made me angry. But why am I allowed to get angry, and he is not? If he is allowed to get angry (which I believe he is), just how do I teach him how to express that anger? And how do I control my own emotions when I am frustrated (at being up at the crack of dawn) myself, and just want a little bit of space?

I know I am the adult in this, and I know it is my job to teach him how to deal with his feelings in a constructive way.

But I don’t think I did a very good job of teaching him, or setting a good example, this morning. How do other parents deal with their little ones’ frustration. 

*A note: This is only the third time in his nearly five years that I have smacked Daniel on his bottom. I believe that there is a time and a place for a smack on the bottom, but never with anything other than my hand, and more for effect than injury. I don’t think that his actions this morning deserved my response, which is why I’m disturbed by it, and would love to how other parents deal with this type of situation. 

Originally submitted to JoziKids

Rights and responsibilities – an unbreakable union.

As South Africans, we are quick to brag about our Bill of Rights – one of the most comprehensive in the world. The rights of everyone from prisoners to old people are protected – the rights of children too.

What I struggle with, often, is that so many of us neglect to notice that rights come with responsibilities.

Yes, we have the right to free speech. We also have the responsibility to moderate our words to be constructive and honest.

We have the right to equal protection before the law. We have the responsibility to follow that law, respecting our fellow citizens while doing so.

We have the right to practise our religion of choice. We have the responsibility to tolerate the religion of others, and to understand what we have in common with them. You’d be surprised at how much that is…

We have the right to assemble to demonstrate our dissatisfaction with something. We have the responsibility to respect the property on which we choose to exercise this right. 

We have the right to fair labour practices. We have the responsibility to work hard, be honest, and earn the money that we are paid.

We have the right to an environment that is not harmful to our wellbeing. We have the responsibility to look after it ourselves, whether it is recycling or spending our money with ecologically responsible suppliers.

We have the right to property. We have the responsibility to purchase it honestly, and to look after it. It is after all, part of our environment. 

We have the right to health care. We have the responsibility to make wise decisions about our own health and wellbeing, whether that is by choosing healthy food, or monogamy.

We have a right to education. We have the responsibility to appreciate the value of this, to go to school or university, and to use our knowledge to improve South Africa. 

We are blessed to have these rights, among many others. Our biggest responsibility is to teach these rights to our children – and to teach them that these rights come in tandem with responsibilities. Teaching them that someone else is always to blame for what is wrong in their lives, that someone else must always fix the damage, is simply irresponsible. 

Originally posted on