Letter to My Son (1)

Son

Dear Son,

It has been such a pleasure to daily watch you grow and mature (with all the growing going on).

Today is not your birthday but I feel very pressed to pen this short note to you, hoping you would read it one day…if not today, that is.

You are my first child, a beautiful but squirmish seal on my union with your father and I remember how much I longed and prayed for your coming.

You know what?

Today, I laugh at my silly younger newly-married self some nine years ago.

Fretting and worrying with each unmissed period, just 2 months after tying the knot with your father – a wonderful being who couldn’t care less as he was in the middle of preparing for an examination and would rather put off having children for some few years.

Not me. Not then. Not now if I have to do it over again.

Well, I still don’t blame myself. Longing for you was not as much a validation of my existence as it was for the need to save myself from death. Death from boredom…and loneliness in the immediate aftermath of the wedding, with hubby devoting all to work and academics.

I didn’t see all of those coming…or maybe I deluded myself into thinking it would be a breeze.

I blame him less today, if at all. Don’t tell him now, will you?

Then, along you came, announced on a Saturday morning by those two faint pinkish lines on the beautiful Predicte strip I got from the Pharmacy just down the street. I still remember floating on air as I rushed to shake your poor father awake from a much-needed rest.

Son, whatever you do, I want you to always remember that worry never changes anything about the present and anxiety never changes anything about the future.

So cliche. I know.

But humor me now, will you?

The truth is: Que sara sara – what will be will be.

Learn to never sweat the seemingly small stuffs, things will always fall into place.

Fast forward to another Saturday, this past Saturday.

Your not-so-tiny voice brought me out of my reverie as I put the freshly gutted and cleaned Tilapia fishes in the Ziploc to be stored away in the freezer, until the chef in me awakens again in the not too distant future.

”Thank God I am not a girl”, you said.

I was not even aware you had ‘sneaked’ up behind me as you are wont to do, watching my every move.

One day, I hope we will laugh together (over a cup of tea or garri ijebu) about your love for my kitchen and your sweet impatience to start using the gas cooker to make meal for the entire family.

Ours is a conventional African home and I still marvel at how much you are taking in from me on domestic issues considering the fact you always say (to our amusement) that the only meals daddy knows how to prepare are bread and tea and eba (of course)!

”Why did you say that?”, I asked.

”Because I won’t have to be touching fishes”, you responded.

Coming from someone who wanted to get me out of the kitchen (some days ago) to rest so he could make dinner for me, I knew you just did not fully understand yet.

I am not even afraid.

That you would become some strange person who would think or believe that a woman’s place is only in the kitchen, living room or bedroom!

Not the tiniest of doubt that you would grow up into anything less than a fine young man.

But my sensors still went up all the same.

See, in Africa today, some (strange) men still see women -their wives as lesser creatures.

Fit to be seen, not heard.

At least not when Manchester United or Chelsea or any of the other clubs that contribute zilch to our standard of living are on the screen.

You know I love Arsenal even though I do not agree with Arsene Wenger’s ways. But we are not talking about football now, are we?

We are talking about the poor women who have been conscripted to nothing short of slaves by those strange men!

But you, have shown to have more substance in your tiny veins and it is with great satisfaction masked under a little smirk that I constantly watch the beautifully caring little man you are being transformed into.

Not a chance of growing up into ‘something strange’.

I see how you no longer wait for proddings or reminders before sweeping the floor whenever you messed it up.

You wash your own plates even though I cringe at the amount of soap and water wasted, each time.

And I always have to stop myself from yelling in order not to discourage you.

You always want to wash your own clothes even though the Washing machine is still functioning.

And you have found a way of conscripting your little brother into this army of domesticated little soldiers.

I am going to remember to tease you about this though I find it less amusing right now and always only just stop myself from sending you out of the kitchen and bathroom, every time.

Back to the ‘fishy’ issue at hand.

You see, touching fishes cannot be a chore for girls only.

Scratch that.

It is not the place of girls only to touch or clean fishes but for every human who likes to eat (fishes).

Boys, girls, men, women!

Same goes for every other thing in life.

Be sure to always have it at the back of your mind that no particular gender is ‘condemned’ to a life behind the cinders or washtubs.

None is superior to the other.

In marriage, the man is the head while the woman is the neck – to support him.

Going by the good book, we are all wonderfully and fearfully created in God’s image and likeness even though Eve was taken from Adam’s side.

Note: his side, not his toes…not his head either.

Let me tell you a little about my sweet mother, your grandma whom you are forever asking about.

She raised seven children, 3 boys and 4 girls -successfully.

By Africa’s standards, all your uncles are girls in boys’ skins.

Just because.

They all could / can get their hands dirty every time the need arises. And that is a lot more times than I can remember, I tell you.

They all cook and clean so well, even better than we girls.

Till date, I do not know how to pound yam which is the most loved meal where I come from -Ekiti.

But all the men do it so well, even now.

And they all can use the ‘olo ata’ / grinding stone very well.

Because we were all brought up to be responsible, regardless of  gender or what is underneath our underwears.

No role-separations. No supremacy where chores are concerned.

This is the only way I know how to raise children.

And that is why you could / would not stay in the living room or your room playing while I work in the kitchen.

Trust me, when your fingers are strong enough to handle fishes you will definitely handle them.

In the last couple of days, the boys versus girls argument have been coming up too frequently in the house which understandably is a spill-over from the unfinished bouts of arguments in school.

Boys versus girls.

Girls versus girls.

Girls are better.

Boys are better.

Girls are annoying.

Ballet is for girls only.

I wish we do not have to deal with this, but it is here and we have to deal with it.

It is what it is.

I understand this is a stage that comes with heightened awareness.

Girls plait their hair while boys cut theirs.

Girls have vaginas while boys have penises.

Remember the day  I took you to the salon for haircuts and D2 prompted me to barb mine.

And I did. (I must confess I had been tinkering with the idea but just needed a little push)

That did not make me less of a girl. Or less of a woman, if you wish.

My breasts and vagina did not simply disappear on account of my hair or lack of.

See, I am still me. Unique in my own annoying way, just like you.

What I look like on the outside is merely the package I come wrapped in like your last Christmas present and that does not affect the contents (on the inside of me).

I need you to always remember that we are all unique in our own quirky ways -boys and girls are (unique) individuals, first.

And to answer two of your questions again:

No, girls are not better than boys and boys are not better than girls.

No, girls do not talk too much. At least not more than boys.

To confuse you a little bit more, we all talk too much or too little.

Your ability to play chess so well is not ingrained in your gender. It is not because you are a boy but it comes from your love for chess and how much effort you are putting into it, aided by your teachers.

Likewise, our ability to talk or annoy one another is not embedded in our gender assignments.

See, I am a girl who would rather write than talk. Talking wears me out, you know.

Yet, I have (male) friends who just do not know how or when to stop talking whenever seemingly-willing audiences are within earshot.

You, as well as D2 could talk without pausing for hours non-stop even when all I want to do is to read my book or watch Tinsel in peace.

Would it then be fine to conclude that every (little) boy talks too much (more than girls)?

No.

Never run the risk of generalization on account of your experience with just one Being out of the range of a Group or Specie.

That is what Chinamanda calls the ‘single story’.

I hope you never forget these, my son.

With love from mum.

Some Chibok Girls Are Back…#BBOG

Tears of joy all the way as some Chibok girls return!

(And I am posting this late…but with all pleasure)

Chibok Girls

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Source

This has got to be the most heartwarming event to occur this year…some of the Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped more than 2 years ago are back!

Some girly giggles are going to be heard in Chibok, again.
c6 c11-768x354I cannot even begin to imagine the horrors of the past two years, the uncertainties, the fears, the hopelessness, the suffering.

The reunion, spiced with tears albeit of joy is such a pleasure to behold, even though a large percentage still remain in captivity.

I pray the remaining girls will be returned or rescued in no long period of time. It is not impossible.

Having these ones with us today is nothing short of a miracle and yes, I thirst for even more miracles.

Reassurances..how we all need them!

Reassurances

Image: Pixabay

I live in a culture where premium is placed on actions and signs rather than words. And in a funny way too.

For instance, an average Nigerian child knows very well to leave the living room even in the middle of a much-loved program whenever guests come visiting, without the parent(s) uttering a word. Just one look from the parent(s) is all it takes. Sometimes, it is a raised eyebrow slanted in the child’s direction.

Do not ask me how they do this. It’s in the DNA.

In the same vein, an average Nigerian child knows never to say yes to an extra plate of food or drink at a party even if food and drinks flow like a river, his / her tummy rumbles louder than a volcano on the verge of erupting. Not even when the host is more than gracious to force it on the child. Just one look is all it takes.

I made that mistake once in my growing-up lifetime at a birthday party on a Sunday noon, I enjoyed every spoonful of the yummy extra plate of jollof rice but let’s just say my ears still smart, my knees still hurt.

Because…how could you go out there and behave like you’ve never seen / eaten rice before in your house and you started acting like elebiomoojuorolari?

(For my non-Nigerian readers: omoojuorolari literaly means a child who has never seen wealth before!)

Don’t laugh.

An average Nigerian child in years gone by would never hear the word ‘I love you’ from his / her parents in their lifetime but would instead receive gifts / choice stuffs on birthdays, that is if s/he is lucky to be in an environment where money is not a worry.

We are currently succeeding in changing the unwritten rules and rewriting the code thereby putting a gradual end to the culture of ’emotional’ silence, hence the emphasis on ‘in years gone by’.

This morning, we were descending the stairs when my 5-going-on-6yr old little man stopped me in my tracks with a simple enough question:

Him: Mummy, am I still your baby?

Me: Yes, you are..you will always be my baby, sweetheart.

And I love you too.

Him: And also ‘Dapo?

Me: Yes, of course. Both of you will always be my babies.

Him: Have you forgiven me?

Me: For messing up my shoes? (A nod from him)..Yes I have. You said sorry and I accepted, it’s okay dear.

And then I hugged him tightly. Briefly, savoring our 2secs intimate moment in that quiet stairway.

Much earlier in the morning around 6am-ish…

I had these once-upon-a-beautiful polka dot wedge that I had not stepped into in 3+ years and I refused to throw them out.

Now, I had only worn these pair twice since I got them and those two times, they kept slipping off my feet as much as I tried to keep them on gracefully. I would end up limiting the steps I take around the workplace those two ocassions just to prevent any form of embarrassment.

They were my size, still are but they just wouldn’t stay on. Yet, I refused to throw them out or give them away.

Just because…I hope to still rock them gracefully someday…and okay, I hoard.

So this morning just like I’d done a couple of times in the past, I brought them out to see if they would still fit. Dusted them and then…horror of the horrors..a gaping opening on each!

Whenever I see any defect anywhere, my handy-manny mummy bears her fangs tools! This was not an exception so, naturally I fixed and cleaned them, rested them gingerly by the wall to dry and cool off, and out comes my little sleepy-head to knock them off and slightly..just slightly mess things up on his way to wee.

So, you see why he had to ask for forgiveness. He said sorry immediately and I okayed it while bustling to make up for the time wasted taken to fix the shoes.

But I digress.

More often than not, children who grow in a very (emotionally) ‘non-assuring’, ‘non-vocal’ environment become equally (emotionally) ‘non-assuring’ and ‘non-vocal’ adults.

Apples rarely fall far from the tree.

In a way, we are all products of the environment we grow up in. Our environment shapen and sharpen us into the adults we are becoming.

A typical Nigerian man that finds it difficult to say ‘I love you’ might just be overly influenced by the world he grew up in. I am in danger of running foul of generalization here but the truth is Parents on this side of the globe rarely vocalize their love for their off-springs. Till date, I had never heard my father say those 3 words to me or any of the other children in all of my 36 years on earth.

Now, that does not imply that he did/does not love his children but the words are simply alien to voice out and he’d rather we experience his love in other ways. Maybe by discharging his obligations…which are just that – obligations.

However, I am a firm believer in the fact that we cannot choose our environments, neither can we influence where we are planted or what we receive as a matter of that planting BUT we can well choose our responses to every situation -good or unsavory.

That is why I would always end every note to my mom with ‘I love you’. I am sad I did not awaken sooner but I really am glad I made her last few years on earth count in that regard.

Breaking the culture of silence regarding emotions is highly imperative if one of our goals is to raise happy and emotionally stable little individuals.

And that is why I cannot afford not to show my children love – in words and deeds.

I choose to say ‘I love you’ to those little men every day even in the midst of the ever constant maddening rush which characterizes our daily lives.

And I choose to hug them ever so tightly every opportunity I get just to reassure them that mama still got them in her hold / heart.

And that is partly why I still prompt my husband every opportunity to shed those skins of cultural silence even as I ask…do you still love me?
Just like my baby asks..am I still your baby?

We all can do with some beautiful reassurances every now and then, they really do make the sun shine brighter.