I read many different genres, and I am reading this book by Dr Tanya Robinson, The Symbol Of No Escape, a forensic thriller, about a depraved serial child killer, Dann Carmen and protagonist Dr Claire who was trying to build the profile of the killer.

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It’s a harrowing read, You can read a long excerpt here.

As I was sitting in the sunshine in my parents’ backyard, turning the page, I had a message coming in from my good friend in Malaysia, Linda. In a blink of an eye, I moved from being engrossed in the psyche of a South African killer to our suburban lives as wives/partners and mothers in an imperfect world.

But it is not as different as you might assume in the first instance, for damage occurs at all levels.  In the book, Dann Carmen was damaged by his brutal childhood, how his violent years slowly built a future killer layer by layer, year by year.  This was an extreme case of course, but damage on a paler scale happens day in day out, in ‘respectable’ houses all over the world. For abuse does not only have to be physical and sexual; emotional and mental abuse wreaks as much damage to lives. Seemingly normal and outwardly successful people have been shown to be  ruthless emotional killers and brutal mental rapists behind their smart clothes and sophisticated veneer.

Yes, we have to be aware and conscious when it comes to raising children, more than you would ever imagine, because the simple things such as how we speak to children and how we speak to our partners become our children’s inner voice in adulthood.

I have heard the voices of mothers in their sons many times. In my children’s father, I hear my late mother-in-law’s impatience in the face of frivolity, her sense of fun and most of all, her big love. In my brother’s solicitous tone when speaking to me, I hear my mother’s loving voice. In other cases, in other men, I have heard cruelty and harshness that did not come from the speakers themselves, but from their painful pasts.

My dear friend Linda and I spoke about how grandchildren today are walking around with the legacies of their grandparents very alive in them. It is quite amazing, yet intuitive, how this legacy works, namely by direct transmission through us, the parents. Cruel or kind, it is alive and is either damaging lives or healing wounds. My Swedish psychologist friend, who practices family constellation (a very effective therapy, in my opinion) tells me that there is an invisible energy net that binds the generations together – we can be affected by the untimely death of an unrelated aunt whom we have never met or an ancestor who had been a murderer in the past. They key to a ‘released’ life is to be able to accept, honour and make peace with all the players that are in our lives today, even if they are only present energetically, and this process involves loving, heart-centred dialogues within the family constellation set-up.

My children’s father and I have not achieved much in our lives apart from raising our large brood (this had been our main occupation), and I think we did quite well because we were blessed with our mothers’ kind voices. We were ever so young when we became unwitting parents, we had to change the course of our lives dramatically (he was planning on going to Paris to live and work, and I was planning on going to university and traveling the world) but when our first son arrived, he was worth whatever it was we had to give up. We made mistakes, of course, especially in our first years when we were still youngsters ourselves, but throughout, we spoke to our tiny children with our mothers’ voices. He had read to them every night, in his slow unhurried and joyful way, and I often hear their laughters pealing when they should’ve been asleep, but I never minded. There was much happiness in our imperfect house and rough-and-tumble lives where Sunday dinners were occasionally eaten at 1am on Monday mornings (forgot to put the oven on). Our house was never that clean.  30 years on, it becomes apparently clear that these imperfections and mistakes didn’t really matter, because there was much love, joy and kindness, which were all we had to give our children back in those days.

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This afternoon, when my brother walked through the door, I asked him unthinkingly, “Have you eaten yet?”

He put his arms around me and smiled indulgently, “Yes, mum,” for this was what my mum had said to us each time we came home from school in our teenage years.