Where the wild things are, a classic children’s book by Maurice Sendak, tells the story of an angry boy, Max, who has a fight with his mother, and sails off to a metaphorical land where he confronts and triumphs over his fierce demons and all the wild things in his heart. (These wild things “roared their terrible roars and gnashed their terrible teeth and rolled their terrible eyes and showed their terrible claws”.) What’s poignant about the book is that Max was able to safely express his rage and that despite his challenging behaviour, his mother’s love was unwaivering and Max felt inherently emotionally contained by her.
Perhaps Max’s mom had a nurturing mother herself or had been given the space and opportunity to transform trauma and sadness. This would have laid the foundation for her to be a deeply caring and emotionally available caretaker. Overwhelming international and local research shows that the quality and strength of the mother/child bond has lifelong effects, touching every aspect of life: social, economic, personal and political.
Each year, Mother’s Day is quite a money spinner in South Africa: there are adverts and special offers ranging from breakfast and lunch deals, to beauty salon visits, to shopping sprees. And yet, in a country with unacceptably high violence levels and a yawning inequality gap, what mothers really need is support and resources to have a reduce stress and confront trauma to foster a deep and meaningful bond with their babies and children.
Recently, UNICEF released its global report – “Early Moments Matter for Every Child,” which fundamentally confirms Cotlands’ stance: there needs to be policies and programmes that enable parents and caregivers to provide the best start in life for their children. Because if this happens, children are often better educated, which leads to an equipped workforce, which results in sustainable societies. The UNICEF Report states: “Parents and caregivers are the single most important factor in giving children the best possible start in life. Communication for development programming and other public information initiatives can build greater understanding of the critical importance of nutrition, protection and stimulation in helping children reach their full potential. With this understanding, families can generate greater demand for high-quality early childhood development services.”
There are not enough primary intervention initiatives at the scale that’s required, but Cotlands’ various early childhood development programmes are evidence-based early response systems that are scalable across the country.
Research by South African expert Chandre Gould shows that supporting parents to have non-authoritarian, warm and consistent relationships with their children is essential to creating a stable South Africa. Therefore, as a matter of urgency, we need to focus on investing in early childhood development programmes that are evidence-based. The Heckman Equation shows that by investing in the growth, development and safety of children, the annual rate of return is much higher than any other form of social investment.
This Mothers’ Day, instead of buying into gimmicks, why not honour mothers in a way that sustains social growth and creates a better future for South Africa. In his State of the Nation address, President Cyril Ramaphosa said: “’We know however, that if we are to break the cycle of poverty, (programmes) should start in early childhood.” Donate to Cotlands today.