Thomas Jefferson, the Chief Author of the Declaration of Independence once said: “The happiest moments of my life were those spent within the bosom of my family.” I have to concur, even if certain events were not as anticipated or desirable.

I hail from a family of six children. We were five brothers and one sister. I ranked Number Five, which was rather low in the normal pecking order.

My father was a medical practitioner and my mother was a nurse. The family lived on a farm, where we were fortunate in owning cows, goats, and chickens. We also grew our own vegetables and fruits. So to all intents and purposes, we were self-sufficient.

Each child was assigned a specific chore and was expected to collaborate as directed. Funnily, I was deemed to be the most hard-working and dependable; and so I often found myself saddled with much more than I could normally handle.

Like all other families in the region, we had joyful celebrations on the occasions of Birthdays, Christmas and New Year. These were occasions that were celebrated with gay abandon by our immediate family and extended circle of relatives and friends. As a Swedish proverb rightly predicts, “Joys shared are joys doubled.”

Once again, like all other families in the region, our family would go on regular holidays. However, at times like these, there was need for someone to look after the farm and the livestock. And, most unfortunately, that odious task fell on me, for, as I said earlier, I was deemed to be the most industrious and reliable. Oddly this would be the standard arrangement whenever the entire family went away on a holiday. I was just 12 in age at that time, and felt the pain of the injustice so much that I would often cry myself to sleep. There was just no other alternative.

What pained me ever more were the glowing reports of my siblings – the places that they did visit, the relatives they did visit, the camaraderie that they had share our relatives and friends, and the delectable array of foods that they had enjoyed. Young as I was, I felt cheated and unjustly denied what was but a legitimate yearning in any young lad of my age.

The inner pain seemed to be accentuated by the assumption that I was being openly discriminated against by my parents. In retrospect, that wasn’t actually the fact. But nonetheless that seemed to be the logical and inevitable conclusion then. I had no alternative but to suppress my hurt and to helplessly cry myself to sleep each night.

This hurt continued unabated until I became an adult, when I was able to launch on a future of my own choosing and carve a new life and career. Of course, being hard-working and trustworthy proved to be my greatest assets. Simultaneously I was resolved to use my God-given talents as best as I possibly could with full confidence in myself and a trustful faith in God, both of which were eventually responsible for my extraordinary success in my professional career.

Providentially I have been blessed with a devoted and loving wife and three very enterprising three sons, who, with their families, are my pride and my joy.  Having been denied certain elementary needs in my earlier life, I am resolved never to let history repeat itself in the case of my own and extended family. I have seized every opportunity to be a philosopher, guide and friend to my sons all through their academic and professional lives, and now a parent-figure to my grandchildren. In a word, I have endeavored to make each and every one of them enjoy my unconditional love, support, guidance and assistance. This has ensured their personal security and their professional enterprise and success.

I must hasten to add that I have no ill-feelings against my parents. They did all they possibly could to encourage me to achieve my personal goals. However, the hurt they caused me unwittingly did stay with me for a long time, until I was able to tide over the crisis in my adult years.

This is my personal story and it has taught me one very valuable lesson: the vital importance of treating all our children fairly. Stated negatively, we must be very careful never to make fish of one and flesh of another with our children, for in their eyes, each rightly regards us as their parents, to whom they owe love, respect and obedience, and from whom they rightly expect an unconditional acceptance, support and encouragement. My Christian faith rightly teaches me that every individual has been created by God unto his own image and likeness. In other words, each and every human beings, especially our own children, share in the infinite attributes of our Creator God.

Children, it has been very rightly said, need models, not critics. And in this we, as parents, carers, and educators, have a very special duty, for children, our children especially, are a precious treasure and a sacred trust.