Tag Archives: motherhood

Who’s more important?

Who’s more important? One’s sibling or a partner/spouse? A child or a spouse? A child or a sibling? One’s child or parent? This is a question so many would shrug off, but in a way, it’s a quagmire people find themselves in more often than not. No one will blatantly put someone in such a situation where they have to pick between loved ones, except in few cases where some people have the guts to go issuing such ultimatums.

Earlier today, my sisters and I were talking about the different relationships we humans are privileged to have. Filial relations between one and their parents, fraternal relations between siblings, parental relations between one and their children, romantic relations between one and their lover… of these, one can’t be asked which of those relations is most important because as it, each one is unique; different from the other.

For instance, I know the emotional satisfaction I derive from bonding with my sisters is so different from what I feel when I bond with my parents… and what I feel for a guy I’m involved with is a whole different story. So in my humble opinion, it would be inhuman to make one pick who they love most.

In a funny twist of events, mom came home in the evening and was telling us about a troubling conversation she had with a friend. As it turns out, the friend took her sister’s child in because she (the sister) got married to another guy, who said he wasn’t going to take care of another man’s child. Subsequently, the sister left her baby girl with her biological dad.

abandoned-child

Unfortunately, the girl’s dad died shortly after and life took a turn for the worst for her as she wasn’t getting proper treatment from the dad’s family. Moved by the girl’s predicament, mom’s friend (the girl’s aunt) took her in and now she is her legal guardian.

Since the girl wasn’t taken to school until recently when her aunt took custody of her, she’s around fifteen but only has the wits of a nine year old. It will be roughly five years before she joins high school; and that is, if she’s brave enough to stand disparaging remarks from her relatively younger classmates.

That story had me thinking; if I had a child with a guy, and then after breaking up with him, I got into another relationship where the guy insists that if I want to be with him I would have to abandon my child, would I submit to such a misguided ultimatum?

Not so far from home, I have a cousin who got a baby when she was only fifteen. Given that she was very young then, her parents helped her take care of her daughter. Unfortunately, a few years down the line, she met another guy, fell in love with him…

However, when they decided to move in together, she couldn’t take her child with her.  Her baby girl, who’s a teenager now, has been living with her grandparents all through. Her mom got another child with her new man… This was also the case with mom’s friend’s niece; her mom got more children with the new husband. They even relocated to another country so she has never met her siblings; worse still, there’s a very high possibility she doesn’t remember her own mother.

Such scenarios make me wonder, what does that imply for the children who are left behind by their parents as they forge new paths with other partners? My cousin’s daughter for instance; she has a sister whom she doesn’t interact much with and a mother she barely sees, all because her mom got into another relationship with a man who wasn’t her dad.

I’m cognisant of the fact that to some extent, this could be to the girl’s advantage. For instance, this might shield her from any form of abuse from the mom’s husband, who could maltreat her because she’s not his biological daughter. However, I can’t also ignore that a child who’s separated from his/her parent for such inadmissible reasons may have a very difficult life because they will always try to comprehend why their parent chose to abandon them.

The way I see it, no one should be made to choose between people they love. It’s unfair to ask a mother to ‘trade in’ her child for a new lover. This could be psychologically traumatising for both mother and child. Furthermore, I am of the opinion that anyone who claims to love someone will accept them and their children.

Personally, I wouldn’t believe a guy who said they loved me to the moon and back, but couldn’t accept my child because he/she is another man’s child. How does one reject my own flesh and blood, and still purport to love me? That doesn’t make any sense if you ask me. It’s unfair to say the least, to the innocent child.

In all fairness, where I’m at, I can’t pretend to know what parents who have encountered such mind-boggling issues go through; however, I can say with certainty, that people who give their partners such unfair ultimatums are driven by their own egoistic desires. They refuse to empathise with a blameless child, who will be unfairly separated from their family, and a mother (or father), who has to come to terms with abandoning their child.

Love presents itself in various forms, and each type is different from the other. We shouldn’t make anyone choose. It just ain’t right, in my humble opinion.

Special three!

blog anniversary 2

Today, 8th May is a special day. For three main reasons:

We celebrate the Ascension of our Lord Jesus. The church commemorates the day He went back to heaven, after which He sent us His helper- The Holy Spirit. A day (Pentecost) we’ll be celebrating next Sunday. The caring God He is, He ensured we would never be alone.

During mass the mass the priest told us about this man who died and went to heaven. When he got there, God showed him the life he’d led when he was on earth. The man watched as his life was displayed before him. He realized that all through there were footprints left behind. There were two pairs of footprints. However, he realized that at a time in his life when he had been going through so much tribulation, there was only one pair of footprints.

Turning to Jesus he asked him, “You left me at a time when I needed you most. Why?”

“Never did I leave your side,” Jesus replied. “Those two footprints you see are mine. I carried you, when you couldn’t walk on your own.”

The man was speechless.

I bet if we had a conversation with Jesus we would ask him the same. ‘Why he left us when we needed him most’. Sometimes I feel like I’m alone. But obviously that’s never the case; because we’re never alone. God’s always there with us. We just need to believe that and push on, even when we feel like life couldn’t get worse.

Today as we celebrate the Ascension of Christ, we should remember that we are never alone. God made sure of that. If ever we get to a point where we feel alone, we should just trust that He’s right there with us and push on.

Ascension

The second reason why this is a very special day is the fact that today we’re celebrating our beloved mothers. I wish all the mothers out there the happiest of mothers’ day. Personally I celebrate my mom. She’s impacted my life so greatly. The suffering she’s gone through so my sisters and I can make it in life has taught me a lot. She sacrificed, and still continues to sacrifice her happiness so we could at least have a shot at life.

It hasn’t been easy one bit, but from her experiences I understand what motherhood is all about; or at least I think I do. One thing I know without a  shadow of a doubt is that being a mother is a full time job and given that it’s not something a woman can just delegate, it’s just about the hardest job in the world.

I remember this post I once read about a mother’s job. Can’t remember the exact details but in a nutshell, a mother’s job is like a ‘medley’ of jobs. A mother is a care-giver; she’s a teacher; she’s a doctor… a mother is many things. If God-forbid I didn’t have my mom, I couldn’t possibly start to imagine where I would be right now… she’s been there to help me through difficult times; seeming strong even when everything around me was crumbling…

Because of her, I have felt the healing touch of a mother’s love. I acknowledge that no one’s perfect and for that, even she has had her own shortcomings. Even so, I couldn’t have asked for a better mom. I love her, and I cherish her.

Happy mothers’ day to all the mothers.

happy mothers' day

The third reason why this day is special is because today I’m celebrating my blog’s third anniversary. It’s really hard to believe that this blog is now three years old, and counting… I haven’t been blogging much lately but I’m so grateful to all my readers; for your patience and understanding, especially where I go for weeks before replying to comments. It’s never intentional. There’s so much going on in my life right now…

blog anniversary

I cherish you all. Because without you, I wouldn’t have the motivation to write…much as I find it therapeutic. Thank you for your continued support, and encouragement.

So today, I celebrate the Ascension of Christ, all mothers in the world, my blog’s third anniversary and my readers. Such a special day!

 

Growing up too fast

growing up too fast

The other day when I was coming from church I saw this notice on our court’s gate; that all ladies from our court were supposed to meet later in the evening. I was tired already because of waking up early and the fact that lately I barely have enough time for anything other than school work (that’s the reason I seem so scarce on this vast blogosphere). For a few seconds I wondered why they would precisely ask for ladies to meet, given that normally all meetings are attended by both men and women.

In my rush to get home however, I forgot all about the notice.Later, at dusk, I realized I needed airtime so I grabbed a hoodie and left for the shop. The instant I stepped out I saw a group of women gathered from a far and that’s when it hit me; the meeting!

Confused, I went up the few steps and back to the house to regroup. I figured it was already too late to attend the meeting and since I needed the airtime urgently, I couldn’t just pass by them without stopping by, even if only to say hi. My big sister advised me to go find out what they were discussing, so I grabbed my phone, which I hadn’t cared to carry previously and left.

While I was going down the steps, I saw them start to walk away and immediately I knew the meeting had ended. Luckily, I bumped into mom, who had just come from the meeting. Boy was I relieved! I didn’t know she was there.

I said hi to the two women I know, and went ahead to help mom with the shopping bags. When I was going back to the house I heard the women discussing one of the issues they had discussed at the meeting and since they’re older than me, I left them to it as mom caught up with them. From what I gathered, it was about a Pastor’s daughter and from the tone of their voice, she had done something appalling.

I do not know any pastor in our court (I barely know my neighbours) nor do I know his daughter, so the discussion felt somewhat ‘alien’ to me. About fifteen minutes later mom walked into the house and curiously, we told her to share with us what had been discussed at the meeting.

“It was about how young kids are behaving. Nowadays, because they can easily access the web they download very X-rated stuff and now their parents are starting to find out. Our next door neighbour’s son for instance. He has a girlfriend. The other day his dad found out and when asked about it he just told his dad they hug.”

My jaw hit the ground when I heard that. The kid is around four years old, so I wondered what he could possibly be doing with a girlfriend.

“Mom, what is sex?” The young boy had asked innocently. The woman was shocked, to say the least.

What, in my opinion, parents fail to realize is that thanks to technology, nowadays babies – the operative word being ‘babies’ – know more than we would imagine on this taboo subject. Now what I keep repeating is, we can choose to bury our heads in the sand and pretend these kids are as naïve as they come on all matters sex, or we can grab that stubborn bull by the horn and tell them the age–appropriate issues pertaining to the matter.

Failure to do that will see children gathering all the wrong information from all the wrong sources and unfortunately, as it is turning out lately, they will grow into irresponsible young adults; my neighbours, who I mentioned in a previous post, for instance. Word had it that the two siblings had been engaging in sex, with each other.

Who’s to blame for such moral decay in the society? A society, where even four year olds – babies who have barely left the cradle – are only too eager to know about sex. It’s a fact; there’s very little we could do to erase all the information found online about sex, or even barring children from getting access to it; but I believe we can determine what sticks in their mind as ‘the truth’; and this can only be achieved by parents having healthy conversations with their children from as early as possible.

The unavoidable truth is kids are growing up too fast, and evading this topic will only have them get their infantile minds corrupted by other kids/adults. I don’t know much about kids really, but I’m of the opinion parents can start off by trying to gauge how much/little their kids know about it. From there they can set the record straight, if need be…and the earlier, the better.

Too much parent involvement?

controlling parents

Every sane/loving parent out there wants the best for their kids; that of course leaves out all the perverted parents, who shamelessly molest their children and do other ungodly stuff to them. For this reason, some parents will go to the ends of the earth to ensure their children get the best in life. In the process though, some of the things this loving or controlling parents do feel a bit extreme.

Personally I feel some of the things done would be best left undone; you know, because in the end it will be in the kids’ best interests. So, I beg to ask, how much is too much?

In some previous posts I have mentioned this aunt of mine, whose mom was so protective because she didn’t want her daughter marrying into a poor family. My aunt fell in love while in college and from that love an innocent boy was born.

My aunt’s mother-my grandma-was obviously none too pleased. I’m thinking she envisaged her daughter’s bright future go up in flames, and as she couldn’t let that happen, she took the small boy in her care so my aunt could go back to school.

I wasn’t born at the time so whatever I know about the particular story, I gathered from different family members. The story, as it turns out, is an open secret, which everyone is too scared to talk about because many people stand to suffer if it was to be discussed openly, for reasons I’ll be revealing in the subsequent paragraphs.

I do not have the full details about what happened back then, but what I am sure of, is that the boy who was born thirty something years ago is now a fully grown man. Problem is, no one took the liberty to undo the mistake that was committed when he was born.

When grandma took him, his mom went back to school. So he grew up thinking our grandma was his mom. Due to our strained relationship with our grandma, my sisters and I only got to meet him when he was in his late teens. Given that he is older than us, he comfortably thinks he is dad’s youngest brother, and the woman he thinks is his sister is actually his mom.

After having his son raised by her mom, my aunt later found another guy and she gave birth to a baby girl, who is only a few months older than me. She grew up knowing she was an only child, and it’s not until a few years ago that some cousins maliciously insinuated she had a brother during a get-together.

The way I see it, my cousin now knows she has a brother, but she can’t ask anyone since no one is brave enough to tell it straight to her. Slyly, she tries to get someone to slip up and say it but when we’re around her we try to bite our tongues so we don’t get openly ostracized by the concerned parties for releasing those old skeletons from the closet.

Since I found out ‘my uncle’ and my cousin were actually siblings, I always wonder how it will end. I’m imagining grandma wanted the best for her daughter and that’s why she took her son and raised him as her own. But was that really the best thing to do? I know there are many people out there who have done the same thing and it all turned out fine for everyone. However, I can’t say the same for my aunt.

For starters, my cousin grew up alone and I always got the impression she was very unhappy. During holidays her mom would take her to some relatives’ and as much as one would be tempted to think that was a cool thing, I would totally beg to differ. Her visits felt imposed so they were never that fun. Christmas holidays were some of the worst because essentially they are a time when family members spend together, yet on most occasions she was away from her mom.

Given that her mom was a single mother, I could only think of so many reasons why a child would feel alone and neglected. I doubt my cousin ever had fun. From my perspective, she would have been happier if she had her brother with her to keep her company.

Looking at my aunt, I wouldn’t really say her mom’s idea to keep her son worked for her. She never remarried, and from how I see her, she’s far from happy. Chances are she would have been happier if she kept her son and her baby daddy, who was poor at the time but is now rich. That’s why her mom didn’t want him for her in the first place; he was poor.

If you ask me, my grandma’s attempt to help her daughter only complicated her life. She hoped to fix her life, but instead, now she has everyone walking on egg shells because no one would want to be the one spilling those beans. My cousin had a dull childhood, with her own brother regarding her as his niece. There’s really nothing good about that.

It feels like a complex soap, where deep, dark secrets are revealed towards the end of the story. In this case I’m wondering who will be brave enough to set the record straight. Who will pull down those façades? And when they come down, who will undo the pain caused?

And… the inevitable came to pass

old and abandoned

The inevitable happened. Dad’s grandma, remember her? From my post old and neglected? She passed away last Friday. Mom called my big sister to give her the sad news, and she subsequently told us. As she talked with mom on phone, I could tell it was bad news because she reached for a seat, her legs seeming to weaken. Before she could even tell us what mom had told her I immediately guessed it had something to do with our great grams.

“What did mom say?” I asked anxiously the instant she hung up. I suppressed the words, ‘Who died?’ that were almost spilling out of my mouth.

She inhaled then replied, “Dad’s grams passed away.”

I was deeply saddened by the news, but somehow it didn’t shock me. Our great grams had been admitted in hospital a few days before then and mom had been told by her sister-in-law she wasn’t eating and had refused to take her medication. Given that she was about a century old, I knew that wasn’t good and if she didn’t start eating it wouldn’t be long before she crossed over to the other side.

I couldn’t blame her though. She had been miserable the last few years. One of her youngest sons, who had been looking after her, had only been using her as an excuse to get money from the rest of the family members, and the worst part is that he and his wife used the money to cater to their own needs instead.

They said she needed a special diet but the last time I saw her she looked so scrawny. I couldn’t comprehend where they had been taking the money people had been constantly contributing for her upkeep.

Based on the things I had heard mom saying, she wanted to die. But as much as I encourage people not to give up on life, I understood her. I imagined she felt she was a burden. Who can blame her anyway? The last time mom and dad went to see her, her son and his wife were asking mom to take pics of her that would be used on her obituary.

Our great grams was old, but she could still hear. The thought that her son said that in her presence just goes to show how little they were concerned about her well-being. They wanted her gone. I’m imagining she picked up on those vibes and therefore felt she was better off dead.
I know, chances are even if she hadn’t died she wouldn’t have lasted for long, given her age and all, but I believe if she had been well taken care of, she would have seen a few more weeks, months even.

I pity her. She gave birth to children, most of who are successful now and even had successful grandchildren; but apparently all that was useless. She died a pauper’s death. Those who should have been responsible for her neglected her, only concerned about their own needs. They forgot she spent the better part of her life fending for them. From her, four generations sprouted, but she died lonely, and abandoned. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone; not even on my worst enemy.

She’s gone now, and I only pray she’s happy wherever she is. And as it is with my weird family, her death has brought some drama of its own. Once, dad’s mom summoned all her children and she told them whoever wants to give her flowers should give her when she is still alive. When dad told us what his mom had said, I couldn’t agree more with her.

What’s the point of crying at someone’s funeral if when s/he was alive one didn’t make an effort to show them a little love/care? Well it turns out she meant it, literally, because she took her mom an artificial rose flower before she died. I couldn’t believe it. Why would she give her old mom a flower when she was more in need of food?

When dad’s grandma was alive, she was denied any form of comfort by her well-to-do children. But now that she is gone, they’re dutifully giving her a ‘royal’ send-off; expensive casket and all. That just had me wondering, where was that money when she needed food? When she fell ill she was taken to some poorly equipped hospital, when they could have atleast had her treated by a professional.

One of her daughters, who is married to a politician, is the one in-charge of making the burial preparations. She has strictly set the dress code because seemingly, her politician hubby will be accompanied by some of his friends, who are also prominent politicians. The charade is sickening. They want to give people the impression dad’s grams was from a moneyed family, but when she was alive she was worse off than the average elderly woman.

I don’t want to sound judgemental, but the idea of splashing so much money around when it didn’t help her when she was alive feels like hypocrisy to me. What’s the point of burying her in an expensive casket, when many are the days she slept hungry?

Additionally, as planned, after laying her to rest, the moneyed family members will be gathering for lunch in a five star resort. I’m all for celebrating our great grams’ life- she lived for almost a century- but in this situation I’m left wondering if it’s her life people are celebrating or the thought that she is finally gone.

Incapable of love

incapable of love

In a previous post I mentioned a very disturbing thing dad did right after grams died. The other day mom expressed her concerns about dad playing some songs that were played at grams’ funeral and since dad was still there I asked her to tell him about it, so we could resolve the issue for once and for all.

He has been playing those songs frequently and somehow I had hoped he would be considerate enough to steer clear of them until she had recovered from the grief of losing her mom a few months ago.

In my opinion, what he fails to realize is that she was very close to her mom and her death affected her a lot. He lacks empathy. From what I’ve gathered, he and his mom were never really close. She was a strict disciplinarian and at some point, due to the conflict of interests he ran away from home. That said, I feel he doesn’t quite understand that special bond between a mother and child.

He never had the pleasure of calling his own mother “Mom.” She forbade her own children from calling her ‘mother’. She never really wanted to accept she was growing old and it’s like she imagined being called mom would emphasize the fact that she was losing her youth.

Making up for lost love

However, we understood that fact a long time ago, and for that we’ve always showed dad so much love, hoping it would in a way make up for his love-deprived childhood, though he hardly reciprocates. I feel he deliberately pushes us away.

Shouldn’t the thought that we try to make him feel loved help him overcome the bitterness from his childhood? I am no shrink, but I imagine my presumptions are not too inaccurate.

What ensued though, was a fight. Dad argued that there’s nothing he does that sits well with mom. “People die, you will die too. Let everyone carry their own cross,” he bit out angrily. I hadn’t seen that coming. Somehow I had imagined he would be like, “I’m sorry, I didn’t know you felt that way.”

On the contrary, he seemed totally unapologetic. “Let everyone listen to the songs they like,” he seethed.

His response shocked me. I had hoped he would atleast empathize with mom. But then, the more I think of it, the more I realize why he seems incapable of love. The one person, who was supposed to show him how to love, didn’t.

Substandard parenting

I may never have this conversation with his mother-for respect’s sake-but I feel she’s entirely to blame for her children’s misfortunes. As damaged as dad might seem, he appears to be the best of the siblings. That definitely tells a lot about her. She failed her children, now we’re left with the empty shells she raised; mean people who don’t seem to know what love is.

How do we teach dad how to love? How to be empathetic? It’s true what they say about teaching an old dog new tricks; how can we possibly fill his heart with love, when he grew up, not knowing how it feels to be loved? How can he love, if he doesn’t know what love is?

In a twisted kind of love, I talked about how he has a weird way of showing us he loves us. He tells us he loves us, but his actions tell a tale of their own. I don’t remember any single thing dad did for me that made me feel he loves me. I get the impression that every little thing he’s ever done for my sisters and me, he did out of obligation.

When I was small, I managed to overlook his shortcomings. I knew I would have wished for a better dad, but somehow I still loved him, and hoped he would love me back. Now I’m all grown up, and there’s nothing he does that even gives the illusion he is capable of love. In any case, nowadays it even feels worse because he has become an alcoholic so any free time he spends away from the office, he spends it alone, drinking; and most of the time he is plainly hostile.

Neighbours who have come to know the type of man dad is keep telling mom whenever they meet outside, “Be strong.”

After that brief argument, he said goodnight and flounced out of the room. Clearly, it hadn’t gone the way I had expected it to. I know mom has her own shortcomings and all, but that’s not the response I had hoped for. She had approached him meekly, in a conciliatory tone; one that didn’t brook argument, yet he reacted like mom had thrown hot coal at him, throwing hands up in the air and all.

I know dad had a difficult childhood and that’s why he has turned out into the hostile man he is today. However, I believe even though we might not have the power to change the lives we led as kids, life gives us numerous opportunities to forge out our own paths.

It’s not easy trying to ditch one’s past, that much I know; but at the same time I believe that with a little determination one can make so much progress.

 

Children; who will protect them?

sexually abused

The things people are doing nowadays, just to get laid? People have clearly lost their minds. On the news, there was this story about a man who has been defiling his daughter, for months. When arraigned in court, he said he had heard his daughter was sleeping around and wanted to prove she was still a virgin; how? By having sex with her.

I was about to start laughing at such absurdity, when I figured people have actually lost all their morals. Anything goes. What made the story even worse is that the said daughter got pregnant and her mother, afraid that society would judge her husband took the girl to have an abortion, so there wouldn’t proof of his perversion.

When I hear of such stories, I just feel parents are letting their children down. Parents are failing their own children, the same ones they are supposed to protect. That leaves me wondering, if parents are preying on their own flesh and blood, dirtying them in the most repulsive of ways, how then will strangers treat the same children with love?

I don’t know if it’s the in-thing, but there seems to be so many sexual assault cases, with parents as the main culprits. Like this other story I heard last week; a man had been arraigned in court for defiling his son for years. When questioned, he said the devil led him to do it. They do repugnant things, then give the most preposterous answers. Then again, how does anyone come up with a credible answer to such heinousness? There’s none!

How does one get such a precious gift, a child, then vitiate it in such a manner? I’ve mentioned my own mom in numerous posts, and as I’ve said before, she is not a perfect human being; nonetheless, she has done the best she can to ensure my sisters and I turned out right. She has taught us what it means to make sacrifices for loved ones.

With her marriage for instance; she hasn’t stayed with dad because she wanted to, but simply because she didn’t want us to grow in a broken home. Has she made choices I felt were wrong? Severally. Still, she never forgets how to be a mother. She may not be the strongest person I know, physically speaking, but if she were to take on someone bigger than her, just for my sisters and me, she definitely would. She could stand having someone treat her wrongly, but if it’s us on the receiving end, she opposes it with all her might.

Seeing the things mom has gone through to defend us from harmful situations, leaves me wondering why some parents cause their own children harm when they should be their protectors. How can a father rape the same child he sired, or a woman, the child she birthed? How does a parent kill their own child, just because they feel they can’t provide for them anymore?

Other men, on the other hand, defile their children because their wives denied them their conjugal rights. Seriously? I don’t know what kind of a mother I’ll be, but right now I feel that is wrong. There is no excuse in the world that could make any of the debaucheries sound right.

A father is not supposed to be involved in any sexual relationship with his children, whether it’s consensual or forced. It’s wrong. And neither is a mother. It’s just wrong. It doesn’t matter if one was sexually starved, going through a very painful breakup or did it under the influence; it’s wrong.

Sometimes women are aware of their children’s predicament (being molested by their own fathers) but because they feel they could be worsening the situation if they reported the crime, they become accomplices. It’s not easy revealing such sordid acts to people who might possibly judge, but before one becomes an accessory to their partner’s crimes, they should consider the defenceless victims; the children. Who will defend them?

sexually abused 2

When I look at small children I get the impression they feel their parents are superwomen/men. They feel their parents can protect them from any type of danger, big/small. So what happens when the same ‘supermen’ attack them and the ‘superwomen’ don’t do anything to stop the pain? The children are left scarred for life, unable to trust anyone.

If one can’t stop it, they should consult a friend, or a neighbour, church minister/priest…anyone who can help. It’s better to fail knowing you tried than to look back and realize you didn’t lift a finger.

The woman who had her daughter have an abortion had me wondering, how different is she from the husband, who defiled his own daughter? Their neighbours are the ones who called the authorities after the teenage daughter talked to one of them, when she freaked out on realizing she was pregnant.

In my opinion, it’s a parent’s duty to protect their children; to keep them from harm.