Terrible time to be a child


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Category: Reflections Date: 26 Jun 05


This is no time to be a child. There’s a poem that has just made the e-mail circuit of nine-year-old girls with access to computers. Called Sarah, it is written with the voice of a three-year-old. Here’s an excerpt:


“My name is Sarah I am but three, I must be stupid I must be bad what else could have made my daddy so mad? When I awake I’m all alone The house is dark My folks aren't home. Don't make a sound! I just heard a car my daddy is back from Charlie's Bar.


“I hear him curse I press myself Against the wall. He finds me weeping he shouts ugly words, he says it's my fault that he suffers at work. He slaps me and hits me and yells at me more he takes me and throws me against the hard wall.


“I fall to the floor with my bones nearly broken, and my dad’s abuse continues with more bad words spoken.. ‘I'm sorry!’, I scream but it's now much too late his face has been twisted Into unimaginable hate.


“The hurt and the pain again and again please God, have mercy! Oh please let it end! And he finally stops and heads for the door, while I lay there motionless sprawled on the floor. My name is Sarah And I am but three, tonight my daddy murdered me.”


A child of ten sent this to me. She is well adjusted, middle class, and not abused. She has access to the family computer. She has hotmail. Not unusual in our times. But she is denied a childhood, has already witnessed graphic pornographic images in her hotmail inbox.


At nine, she understands various sexual orientations —who is gay, who is lesbian, what it means. She is shuttled in a car from school to home. She is shut up in the home. She cannot play on the street. She has never walked or bicycled a few miles up or down the road to a shop on her own.


She is shoved in and out of the home and car while her parents look about fearfully. She has seen the photo of a child who had his head bashed in by a “relative.” When she forgets about the crime and runs ahead in the mall, she is shaken and reminded of the child who was kidnapped and never came home. She knows people who have been shot.


One friend of hers in school tells her that her father beats her mother. She knows about domestic violence. This is the life of a child of privilege. She understands the poem.


I met another child of nine, who has never played on a computer. Her mother works in a beauty parlour. By the time she wakes up to go to school, her mother has left for work. This nine-year-old does not fear the streets. She runs up and down the road to the shop all the time. She plays hopscotch at the side of the road with her friends. She walks to school.


She hasn’t seen pornography on the streets but she’s seen dead boys with bullet wounds. Boys like her brother who carry guns, and don’t like questions, and lime late on the block. She dresses her younger siblings for school.


In school, she hears the older girls talk about the maxi-taxi men, how they give out money, cellphones, free transport for sexual favours. At home, there is no one to tell her to study.


Schoolgirls not that older than her are pregnant. She hears the harsh voices of men who don’t like questions. She has seen her mother being kicked around by a man who disappeared after her mother got pregnant. Sex and violence surround her. She would understand the poem.


It’s a terrible time to be a child. The adult world in our time has prised their world apart, dissolving trust. We must restore to them bubbles of imagination, curiosity, possibility, the magic of breathless exuberance, an expectation of safety that is their right.


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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur