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 “Is uncle Maurice white?”

We exchanged looks, my husband and me, then we turned to look at our five-year-old son standing there, looking back at us.

“Come here Cody,” my husband beckoned. He sat our son on his left thigh so that he could look up at him and still have me in his sight; I was sitting at my husband’s right.

We had been surfing tv channels, gossiping about work while essentially enjoying each other’s company. My job kept me away from home a lot, so each time I was home, we spent as much time as we could together as a family unit. Cody was bathed and ready for bed, in fact, I had just come from his room where I had tucked him in and that was usually ‘goodnight’ for him. So, whatever had made him come back out must really have been bothering him a lot.

“Son,” my husband started. “Who told you your uncle is white?”

“In school yesterday, the other kids had asked me why my uncle is white. He is not white, is he? Not like paper or the bathroom walls, how can he be white dad?” His confusion was clear on his face, his innocence shining through.

My husband explained to him how ‘uncle’ Maurice wasn’t really his uncle. He and Maurice had been friends since childhood. My husband had married me, but Maurice had stayed single. He visits us often and stays over, and my boy Cody has always called him uncle. It makes it easy when I am out of town and my husband’s busy, Maurice goes to pick Cody up from school. It was on one of those occasions that his classmates had grown brain and taken it upon themselves to point out to him that his uncle is white.

My husband’s explanation seemed to satisfy him because, he crawled up onto my laps and kissed me before returning to hug his father. “Mom, please come and tuck me in again. Pleeeasee…”

On a flight going from Port Elizabeth to Johannesburg I had an unaccompanied minor on board. She was no more than six years old, pretty with kinky black hair adorned with colourful ribbons and a skin the colour of milk chocolate. She had such wide eyes and a ready smile. Her voice was tiny and melodious like wind chimes in the breeze, her laughter tinkling like tiny glass pieces rattling together. She looked so innocent and vulnerable standing there at the entrance, that when the Senior Cabin Crew handed her over to me, I wanted to gather her up in my arms and tell her she will be alright.

Throughout the flight, I kept going back to her to check up on her and chat with her. It was during one of those chats that I asked her to tell me about her self. “Tabitha,” she said in answer to my question about her name. I already knew this, but with kids I have learnt that exchanging names was the best ice-breaker.

“Pretty name,” I said. “As pretty as you, but prettier than your dress.” Her eyes grew wider and she flashed me a bright smile.

“Really? You really think so?” She asked.

“I know so.” I said solemnly. “So where is Tabitha going today?” I asked her.

“I am returning home to Johannesburg.”

“You must be really excited,” I told her. “Who were you visiting in Port Elizabeth?” I asked her.

“I was on holiday with my nuna. I enjoyed my time there, but I am happy to be going home.” She told me.

“Where are you from?” I asked her. Her spoken English was really good, and her manner and carriage were almost adult-like. “Are you Zulu? Or Xhosa? Venda? Tswana? Tsonga?”

She laughed her tinkling laughter before answering me. “I am neither of those. My mother is English and my father is Afrikaans.”

“Do you have brothers or sisters?” I asked her.

“Yes. A brother and a sister, but they are already in Johannesburg. They left yesterday.”

I played a hunch and asked her if she had ever wondered at the difference in their skin colour. Again her eyes grew wide and round like saucers.

“How did you know their skin is a different colour than mine? Do you know them? Were they on your flight yesterday?” Yho! The little girl could ask questions for all of Africa.

“No, I don’t know them.” I told her honestly.

“Well, my nuna says I am dark because I was made at night. Allan and Isabel were made by father and mother during the day so they are light.” She said this with a wistful smile which quickly disappeared and she was her perky self again.

I told her I had to return to work, but made sure to come back every chance I got. Here was an obviously adopted child being lied to by her foster parents. At the door of the aircraft in Johannesburg, she solemnly shook my hand and told me this was her best flight ever! “I wasn’t even afraid of anything.”

These were stories shared with me by two of my friends who fly for South African Airways. Any inconsistencies are purely my error. This does not however take away the nature of the human race. We try to protect those we love and care about, sometimes (most times) by lying to them. We forget though that life happens.

A friend lived with resentment for his ‘parents’ for a long time because they made him question his originality and all that he had ever known and believed.

He had been born out-of-wedlock and his mother had gone ahead and married someone else. He grew up to know the man as his father, and the children of that union as his siblings. Then they travelled home for a burial when he was thirteen years old.

At a gathering of the extended family members, food had been served for the number of children present and they had all been invited to come and take their meals – in order of seniority. When he stepped forward to take his meal, an aunt had asked him to return to his place in line, she stressed that he should go to the back of the line. He was further confused when even his siblings were allowed to take their food before him. It was in this state of confusion that he went to his parents. He said his mother wept throughout her narration of the circumstance surrounding his birth, but all he remembered was blood pounding in his ears, anguish in his heart and shame. All he really cared about was his father’s whereabouts. In that instant, a lot of comments by some of the adults in the house, and snide comments by some of the other children made a lot of sense.

I have heard the story of a white couple who adopted a black child. They got a nanny from the child’s tribe. They said much as they loved him and wanted to give him every opportunity in life, they also wanted him well grounded in the culture of his people. They wanted him to be aware of his origins. They are still a work in progress, but they are working.

Personally, I think the best way to protect those we care about is by telling them the truth, letting them experiment and experience for themselves, and pray for them. I may be wrong, but after all is said and done, life happens to each and every one of us, and it hurts more when you find that those you love and trust had actually lied to you.

As I once heard someone say: “It is one of the sad truths of our existence, that nothing is more dangerous than true love giving way to unchecked rage”

PS: I never truly realised how many (female) lawyers read my posts, not until they decided to take it upon themselves to remind me that I stopped writing one week before the day I said I would.

All those talks of ‘strict liability’ and ‘palliative’ do not faze me. This is not an attempt by me to ‘mitigate damages’ (their words not mine), it is just something I am doing for my conscience and my peace of mind.

That is my story and I am sticking to it.



"Franque is in aviation, which by the way is not his job, just a lifestyle. If he ever kept a diary it would read like his articles will. Unfortunately he doesn't. Scratch that. He didn't.AIRtiquette is a walk in his shoes. Since regular isn't in his vocabulary, brace yourself for a bit of airwalking!" Follow @franque_521 on twitter.


  1. First?
    Telling lies 2 “spare” people pain…where do we draw the line? Personally I prefer honesty but I also think not everybody can deal with the truth so….

  2. This is a very controversial one tho… The truth is that sometimes, what one don’t know don’t hurt. The tricky part is drawing the line between being protective and just being cowardly. Nice one Franque.. Thought provoking.

  3. So is this a break from said holiday? Or are you back for good? Pls be back. Friday mornings have been boring.

  4. @ Kay: yes, 1st. We draw the line at ‘tell no lie’. That’s my candid opinion, not necessarily a rule iLive by.
    @ nena: contrversial, maybe. But while u r spared hurt for now, the truth comes out eventually. What then?
    @ MzSwitz: wish iCould answer in the affirmative, but alas! iCan’t.
    @ Mabijo: that’s what we all claim, but really r u sure u can handle ALL truths?

  5. This piece left me thinking… No matter our reasons, protection or cowardice, truth is there is almost always a boomerang effect. When you really think of it, who are you protecting? It ultimately feels like deception, but is that deception for a greater good? Who is to be the judge of that? I’ve tried to ‘protect’ peoples feelings in the past and I’ve had people do same for me. When I found out, I was hurt. I can’t imagine that the victims of my ‘protection’ would feel any different. *sigh* I guess we can add this to other topics filed under “Grey Areas”.
    Nice one Franque

  6. Fantastic way to go out coz. The part about the adopted girl pulled at my heartstrings and the boy who grew up with his step-father, don’t get me started. I think the real atrocity there was the treatment he received from people he thought were his relatives. He was a child for crying out loud, why would you do that to a child?

    Anyway, the lie thing is a fine line. The truth is always the safer bet but it is not always an easy decision.

    Wonderfully written. I don’t care if you stop writing HERE as long as you don’t stop writing completely. Pleeeeeeeeeeease!

  7. Its difficult to always say the truth to those you love. I think white lies are permissible… The problem however, is what qualifies as a white lie…

    Franque, u failed to say good bye in this post, so I believe you owe us one more post 😀

  8. Nice work as usual Mr Franque. I think that at a certain age, children are not able to handle the truth so at that point the lies can be condoned but when they finally mature it is important to tell them who they really are.

  9. The truth is, telling a child the truth may appear safer but it’s not always that easy.
    Some of us today refer to some one as “father” but like the say in Igboland,Its only a woman that can tell who impregnated her.
    Kids will remain kids and with age come a certain wisdom and understanding.
    Some women got preggers at 15,give birth and in most cases these kids grow up seeing their mothers as their sisters.
    There’s a reason they dont tell kids about the death of loved ones but instead they are told,they’ve gone to heaven to join Jesus Christ.

  10. “All those talks of ‘strict liability’ and ‘palliative’ do not faze me. This is not an attempt by me to ‘mitigate damages’ (their words not mine), it is just something I am doing for my conscience and my peace of mind. That is my story and I am sticking to it”. hmm okay o. we thank you for coming by 2day. But BTW, y is uncle Franque black? lol

  11. @ Miz_Parker: iThink u have the measure of it: how’d u feel when u found out u had been lied to for ‘your protection’? How then do we expect people we have lied to to feel differently when we r found out?
    @ M.E: You do know that (especially in our part of the world) people are either ignorant or plain malicious. People will do how people will do. Would the child not have been spared that trauma if his mother (at least) had let him know he has a father different from the man he calls “dad”? At least he probably would have been prepared…
    @ nengie: “Goodbye” sounds so final. iAm more of a “See you later” kinda guy. So no, this is not a farewell post, it’s a see y’all later post.
    @ sara_taffy: Thank you dear. As for condoning lies at a certain age, pray tell, what age should we stop at? Kids go to school from age 1 these days, n other kids (either out of malice or innocence) may just ‘blurt out’ a home truth that can scar one so young (not 1-year-olds tho) for life. Yes? No?
    @ nobs: iTotally agree, but telling a child a loved one has gone to be with Jesus is usually done because we don’t expect they understand the concept of death. Try tellin the child that loved one has gone to the stream, or to the market. And tellin a black child growin up with a white family that she’s black because she was conceived at night? #camman!
    @ alfy: That is a question iPurpose to have Mama answer. Problem is, iHav to work up the liver to ask her first, ryt?

  12. It isn’t easr at all but no lie is protecting the child. Especially the poor black child. I understand witholding some info till they are old enough to understand it well but the girl at 6 will understand the concept of adoption. My belief is sit the kid down, tell them the truth (while assuring that they don’t feel any less loved or any less like part of the family and then deal with whatever comes from it as a unit. Believe me, it is a thousand times worse when you find it out from a seening outsider!
    Yay!!! For the lawyers reading this.. Thanks very much.
    Franque! You tease you! Smh. You are lucky we love you~

  13. The lie abt the girl being black cuz she was conceived at night is so cute. By the time she’s 10, she’ll figure out the truth for herself. I do not think that lie would hurt so much. IMO, its kinda like the Santa Claus lie.
    The lie abt the step dad being his real dad, is a different story.
    I haven’t experienced stuff like that personally, but sometimes I feel like kids who act up after are just being spoilt. I mean, this is someone who has treated you as his/her child, loved you unconditionally, and just cuz one day you find out that its not their dna in you, you start acting up. I think its unfair to the parents too…

  14. @Franque, preferably when they reach puberty. It is at this point that they become aware of themselves and start taking what people have to say about them personally

  15. Food forr thought!!

    Where do we draw the line with d lies??

    I have come to realise kids actually understand a whole lot, just depends on hw well u r able to explain things to dem.

    No mattter hw much u feel u r protecting dem frm the greater evil, they shldnt be lied to. They wldnt feel prrotected when they learn d truth..

    It’s a cruel world we live in..

    Great read… These r issues that need to b discussed once in a while…

    Franque u’ll surely b missed!

  16. @ UK: iPromise u iWon’t do this again. At least everyone will now know that u r the reason iWon’t come back here until iAm done with that other project.
    @ BlackPearl: iAbsolutely totally agree with u. As for the bit about the lawyers reading this, iTotally disagree with u. And the bit about loving me, iAbsolutely am thankful for it.
    @ nengie: iStill have reservations about ur views. As a child, iDoubted Mama was my real mom (despite thein resemblance) because iThot/felt she punished me more (failin to admit iGave her more grief). Imagine findin out at 16 or 18 that she really wasn’t my mother… In my thinkin at that age, iWould feel justified actin up, no? Yes?
    @ Sara_taffy: iRemember more things about my life pre-puberty than any other tym. We were going thru old fotos recently – iWas between 3 n 10yrs in them (don’t ask, iWon’t show u), and iRemembered stuff from all those years – stuff iTook personal. Mama, Flesh n Jigga were surprised. So what was that about puberty bein the ryt tym?

  17. Almost everything has been said bt let me add my 2kobo: When we talk abt protecting others by lying, r we really protecting them or r we protecting ourselves from dealing wiv d consequences of being d harbingers of truth?! #FoodForThought

  18. @ Biggest fan: iGave myself a headache tryin to work out if we have met before, whether virtually or physically, and iHave decided that in tym iMay find out or iMay not. Ur comment shows that u have had kids live with u n maybe grow up around u. They do understand more than we give them credit for, thing is, some truths r better given in kidsized doses.
    @ nengie: do bear in mind that iAm no expert, just a fellow sharin his opinion n hopin to ginger some talk.
    @ Mateelly: If the bible says (n it does say) the truth will set u free, then what is there to fear in tellin the truth to whoever. Bear in mind tho that iBelieve that sometyms, lyin is not as a result of failin in morals, or lackin in courage, sometyms it may have been as an act of kindness #Devil’sAdvocate 😀

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