The Good Old Days Part 1

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For all those cygnets struggling to become swans and Tracey Ford, rather than a cygnet’s or swan’s, your son will ever have angel wings At what age can we speak realistically or even euphemistically about the ‘good old days’? We over 30s and 40s have decades behind us that make retrospection possible. But what about a 20, 17 or 10 year-old – are such portals available to them? I don’t think so; though arguably the 20 year-old is advancing thus. They are within their moment of experiencing what should become their ‘good old days’. But so are we. We are also within their moment of experiencing. The decades behind us do not only offer retrospection but also the maturity that enables introspection. Introspection is an honest, deep ‘examination of our thoughts and feelings’ – a serious (hence ‘examination’) looking within; and not only of our ‘thoughts and feelings’ but also our actions. This looking in for most of us is the most painful and ugly thing we can do, for which reason it’s often avoided. In this Shout I want to consider the cries of disillusionment from our children– or our cygnets, as I like to call them, struggling to earn their swan wings. Why do they cry? Why do they feel, as my 20 year old niece recently told me, that ‘there’s no point’ to their life when this is their moment of experiencing their good old days? Are we hearing them? Are we even listening? Or are we, as my 17 year-old nephew told me, from a generation that can’t understand them? I’m hoping that by giving some thought to the kinds of struggles our children are facing we might realise that despite their feelings of disillusionment this can be their good old days if we’re willing to extend our ears, hearts and hands to help them master their swan wings. This is why that honest examination of our own thoughts is crucial. Avoiding introspection can leave unattended those issues that hinder spiritual maturity. And how can we help our children master their swan wings when we have not found ways to perfect our graceful gliding against the torrents of our own lives. It may not only be a ‘black problem’ but it sometimes feels like it is. Every knife or gun killing is despicable. I am certain most African people have some direct or indirect association with a child who has been the victim of a “knife crime.” “Knife crime” – a term spouted in the news so often, like that other “terrorism” (and the ‘war on it’ – in Afghanistan, in Iraq where lives are being senselessly destroyed every day) that we’ve become desensitised to the absolute and particular trauma each one holds for the families involved. When we see in real time or in a movie someone being shot or otherwise killed, this comes to us as entertainment. Deaths caused by disasters like Haiti are compellingly tragic; we’re truly moved; no longer desensitised – at least momentarily. After the opening disaster scene of Haiti – we return to our numbness, watching the news, hearing that another child has been killed, we ‘tut’ and that’s mostly all we seem able to do. But what if that child is yours or someone you know? What if the child who killed the child is yours or someone you know? Questions abound. Anger and frustration too; a part of you dies. You know that you did the best by and for your child – whether victim or perpetrator; you’ve supported them and loved them. You know too that your child was good, so why?

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Tracey Ford, founder JAGS Foundation, set up after her son, below was murdered at an ice rink in Streatham in 2007

No matter how many ways you ask yourself the questions there will never be an answer that explains to you why your child died before you. Whether you support your child, are the best parent/s you can be to them; whether they are good or not, they are living within their moment. And their moment, however much or little it’s spread in the news is one where a life seems valueless