Khaya can feel his father’s eyes boring into him like a predator eyeing its prey.
“ I am going to sign this STEM form,” his father says, “ and you are going to give it to Mr James first thing tomorrow morning. I will be fetching you from school every afternoon from now on. I will ask Mr James to provide me with the programme schedule. So, unless you are busy with the programme, I want you at the gate as soon as that last bell rings.”
Khaya finally raises his head and looks at his father. The tears he has been trying to hold in fa ll from his eyes, as he realises that there i s nothing he can do. He watches his father take the DVD and walk away into the bedroom.
“Mama?” his voice cracks .
She pulls him into her chest, rubbing her hand up and down his back, trying to soothe him.
Later that night, dinner i s served. Khaya’ s mother watches as her family si ts in complete silence. Her heart aches for her son, who si ts across from her, simply moving the food around the plate. She feels guilty that she has had a part in his pain. How could she let this get this far? Why didn’t she say anything? But she kno ws that the time for regret had passed, and she needs to speak up for him.
The next morning is even worse. Her son walks through the house with his head hung low, his eyes sullen and empty, as if his soul has been snatched in the night. She opens her mouth to speak to her husband, but a heaviness fa lls on her tongue. The right words seem to have escaped her. Tension still plagues the air. She needs to find the right moment to speak her mind.
Thus, when her husband has returned from dropping their son off, she is there, at the kitchen table, smiling at a photograph in her hands.
She waits until he comes closer before she spea ks .
“I think he was ten here,” she says , handing her husband the photograph.
“MaDlamini, say what you want to say. I can see your heart is heavy. I am listening.” Khaya ’s father says , joining her at the table.
“I didn’t like the way you handled things with Khaya yesterday.”
“The boy lied, MaDlamini.”
“Yes, he did, and I am in no way encouraging his lying. But he only did it because he knew just how you would react. He poured his heart out to you yesterday, and everything he said seemed to get past you.”
“Khaya will grow out of this phase. As soon as this showcase thing is over, he will get his senses and continue with his real passion. You must also stop babying him.”
“His passion or yours? You cannot tell me you don’t remember him running in here with the biggest smile on his face telling us about that show. No phase lasts over 10 years. Instead of supporting him, we forced him into this career that he does not want to do, but because he loves and respects us as his parents, he obliged,” Khaya’ s mother counters .
Khaya’s father stares back at the picture of his son he still holds in his hand. The words Khaya spoke last night play in his mind. He heard the cries that Khaya’s mother spoke of, but seeing Khaya achieve everything he never got to made him proud. He sees the young boy he once was who had everything ripped from his hands by the system.
Have I become the one thing I hate the most in this world? Have I become the system?
“Open your heart and speak with him,” his wife says, holding his hand. “Listen to him.”
Later that afternoon, his wife’s words still sit heavy in his belly. Yes, his son is at the gate as he was told to be. This should make him satisfied, but instead, the weight increases .
The drive home is quiet. When they arrive home, his son quickly grabs his things, reaching for the door.
Stop him. Even when she isn’t around, his wife’s words seem to penetrate his skull.
He places a hand on his son’s arm. “Khaya, just a moment, son,” he says, softly.
To his relief, his son sits back.
“I have been thinking about what you said, and the conversation I had with your mother made me realise some things. You see, I always only wanted the best for you. When you were born, I made a promise to myself to make sure that you would never struggle like I did.” He sighed and turned in his seat to face his son.
“I have told you about how I wanted to be an engineer, but that dream was taken from me. It is still a wound in my heart that will never heal. I always wonder what could have been. However, I did not realise what I was doing to you. A part of me was hoping to be fulfilled by seeing you achieve what I could not, and by doing that, I took away your own dreams, your own life. For that, I apologise, son.”
Khaya is shocked by what he is hearing. He never thought that this day would come.
“And with that,” his father smiles, “I am giving you my blessing to continue with your dancing.”
Joy fills Khaya, and he wraps his arms around his father. “Thank you so much, Dad.”
“I still have to see this dancing of yours, though I find it very hard to believe those lazy bones of yours can do anything,” Khaya’s father says, jokingly.
“Well, tomorrow happens to be audition day for the showcase, so you can come and see that I am actually quite talented,” Khaya replies with a laugh.
As they get out of the car, they find Khaya’s mother standing at the door, smiling at them.
“It’s nice to see my favourite people happy TOGETHER again,” she says, as the three of them join together in a hug.
Tell us: Why do you think it can be so hard for parents to apologise to their children? Would you apologise if you made a mistake as a parent?