"Yes!" I shout with conviction when Joost says: "They approached me to work in South Africa."
We give each other a surprised look. I'm not the quickest decision maker ever. So apparently we both expected hellfire and brimstone or a tantrum at the very least:
Me: "Yeah, haha, what do you think? South Africa, I'd rather just die."
J: "Yes. No. Maybe not even consider it."
My hormones luxuriate. We have just survived three weeks after giving birth to my third. It is the period that confirms my knowledge that I could never swap a job, but would rather spend the rest of my life close to my child. No more work for me thank you. Well, only from a very idyllic point of view. For on my pink cloud of motherhood I never see myself actually in action with play-doh, fingerpaint and papier-mâché.
Still under influence of this euphoric hormonal cocktail, we spend the evening surfing the web. We are of course experienced Southern Spain backpackers (with a rented car) and we also went to the Southern Netherlands (living in a 6-person bungalow). Well now our new destination was to be South Africa.
After researching things like climate (whoop!) and housing (goodness!), we google "South Africa and safety.” Well.
Our excitement dies like the foam head of a beer in a plastic cup.
I can’t clear my mind of images of armed men who spend all day running around gated complexes in order to rob everyone and everything (with the distinct intention to murder them afterwards).
Pretty soon we start asking each other difficult questions. The key issue being: ‘Can you give your children the feeling that they are secure when you don’t feel that way yourself?’
It doesn’t make any sense, judging a country that we had never even visited and a feeling that we may never even experience. But our great quest for clarity and security when it comes to the safety of our children has assumed immense proportions. Not all that strange, when you take into account that after giving birth, you suddenly have that bundle of humanity in your arms that is drawing on strong emotions. All of a sudden you're stuck with: Feelings of Responsibility, of Guilt and Primal Emotions. You tend to protect that mini human being as if you were a lioness. At first you keep it out of the clutches of the well-meaning “experts” and as you realise your pink cloud is dissipating, you need to keep your baby out of the clutches of the rest of the evil outside world.
Well. At some point, we cut our apron strings, moved and live here in South Africa for nearly a year now.
And where at first I only visited secure malls, talking to Joost in whispered tones and keeping my money in my sock: "You have to come and fetch me, because I have to cross the road, and I am not sure if I can do it securely.” I do now venture around the whole country.
But still from safe haven to safe haven. Obviously, it’s not always secure. Often motivated by poverty, I have nothing to eat and you have this car / bag / house. And so people are robbed, cars hijacked and houses expertly and completely cleaned out. Even the furniture to dish cloths and meat out of the freezer.
The perennial question is: How do you protect your children?
Maybe it is like this.
The big ‘letting go’ already starts with giving birth. And you'd better accept it. If there's one thing you can’t do, it's to protect your children from all evil.