mother/daughter relationships

Words To A Daughter

  1. If you really loved him, and he hurt you, the broken heart will be repaid. Somehow. The Universe reacts to the pain of  Black Women. Sometimes slowly, sometimes quietly, but it does.
  2. You may end up heartbroken and finding solace in temporary lovers who belong elsewhere.  You may end up like your mother and simultaneously intrigue while repelling. You may be blessed with Love.  You may have no time for it. You may fear it, and you may just shut yourself off and focus on anything and everything else. And all of this is fine if you feel so. If it feels right and necessary.
  3. Men who don’t even belong to themselves are only for temporary use.
  4. Some days you will take long showers and hot baths seeking things in the water you could not find on the Earth. Peace, understanding, silence. You will get it. Until the water turns cold or the mist begins to disrupt your breathing. Then it’ll be easier to just go back to the Earth.
  5. I hope you forgive me, I didn’t know. And I don’t know if I would have done anything different had I known. But maybe. I think I would have.
  6. I would have loved you better.
  7. You changed my Life, for the better. Thank you.
  8. The readers and the thinkers are those who get the most out of this Life. Do both passionately. For yourself.
  9. Insecurity is a disease. It’s symptoms are aggravated by society.
  10. Your skin, your features, honey, they are beautiful. It may take you years to see it. Countless books and documentaries and hours spent staring at the mirror naked, but see it. See it all, eventually.
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Mama said

  1. Never show a man you love him too much. They will see this and take advantage of it knowing you won’t leave.
  2. Never love a man too much i.e more than yourself. He can never give you more than you can give yourself for as long as you can.
  3. When you cook maize meal, add a bit of salt and oil.
  4. Your marriage won’t be worth much if your partner isn’t worth much. If you insist on settling down, let your partner build you.
  5. Take care of your body. Especially your figure and your skin. Your whole appearance as a Woman shows how you feel about yourself and has the power to give you the confidence you need.
  6. Buy attractive lingerie for yourself, not to show it off to someone else.
  7. Family is everything. Friends come and go but if you find those worth keeping, do so. 
  8. Never let another person steal your joy. 
  9. Buy pretty bedding.
  10. Sometimes you need to pray. [Or as I call it, Talk to the Air.]

 

Sound advice, she’s tried.

 

But as I found myself thinking about my future children, especially my daughters, I grew distressed trying to figure out what to teach them and how.

See, I believe my mother didn’t teach me what I feel my daughter should know. And I understand why. For her, some of the greatest lessons have come about through trial and error and being reactive to certain situations which, probably could have been avoided had one of us been proactive, but I understand because she isn’t as vocal as I am and hope to be by the time I have kids. 

She didn’t tell me that boys would lie until I’d already been lied to and led down undesirable paths in the name of Love.

She didn’t prepare me for the emotional Beast I’d become once a month when my hormones kick in.  The Education system failed me here too. Y’all just made it seem like a bit of bleeding, not cramps that feel like a kick to the vagina resulting in what looks like a Spartan battlefield on a good/bad day. The anger, emotional texts to Ex’s [although that could just be me] none of that.

She didn’t tell me that as a female, you’re a walking target. I guess I understand why. My mother doesn’t really see things the way that I do. She still victim blames, I admit, but a lot of her generation does. Also, I doubt she would have wanted me to grow up looking over my shoulder expecting to have something happen but, I feel it’s something every girl should know. Rather rob them of their childhood with honesty than have them end up in a situation far worse because they were naive.

Pregnancy scares. We don’t discuss those obviously. I doubt we ever will, but I want to with my daughter. I guess we’ll squeeze it into the Sex Talk.  One of the few times we discussed pregnancy I brought up abortion and my mother was mortified. “We don’t kill what God creates” she said. I laughed and said those are her views and we’d need to be logical and consider whether bringing a child into the world would be the best thing. She said I was speaking like the Devil, which amused me. I know though that I don’t want my daughter feeling obligated to keep a child because of emotional blackmail. I want her, should she find herself in that position, to make an informed decision.

She never told me to know when to leave a man, I found that out the hard way.  

I learned that one should avoid patriarchal men like the plague out in the world too. My daughter will know the same. Although I guess the “Have a partner who builds you” part covered that.

Cook because you want to, not because you have to, for someone else. I hate that. Having to interrupt your time of doing Peaceful Nothing to fix a meal for someone who’ll probably decide it’s not worth it and sleep by the time you’re done. 

I believe Sundays are peaceful. For solitude and everything else you want. Sundays are Selfish days, to be worshiped. I’ll tell my daughter. 

Mama always wanted a happy family that bonds over dinner and cooks together and laughs all the time and such. We are the exact opposite. She knows her children love her but I always tell her, personally, I don’t feel the need to always be in my family’s presence. I spend a fair amount of time alone and there isn’t anything wrong. She says it’ll lead to me being in an unhappy household, I tell her I don’t want to raise kids  who are dependent on another person for comfort, it’s simply how I am. 

I drink quite a bit. I drink when I’m sad, when I’m happy and when I’m excited. No, it isn’t as often as you may think, but beer, wine, straights, they all get a pass with me. And no I don’t get sloppy drunk unless I’m home and with close friends, and even then, I never want to because I always want to know everyone is alright. My mother drinks a few glasses of wine every two months and thinks I’m an alcoholic. Dear Future Daughter, drink if you want to, just don’t be a fuck up.

Religion. If you haven’t figured it out by now, she’s religious. Christian. I was once, and then I read too many books and thought too much to continue believing in a White man in the Sky and virgins giving birth to Saviors. I hope my daughter isn’t religious, I won’t lie. Spiritual, yes please. But that’s her choice to make. 

Sexuality. I’m guessing you can figure out mother’s views on that. Marriage, monogamy, kids, the basics. I still have to explain to her how gay people have sex sometimes when she’s drunk and curious but thank god she’s not a homophobe. I want my daughter to do with her body as she pleases, to own herself.

I will stress the importance of an education. Not just degrees, they’re nice, but to be smart and know the world, understand people, understand yourself. Nothing’s more depressing than a person with a degree and an empty head, there’re too many running around.

I want her to know she’s always stronger than she knows and sometimes, than she wants to be, and her mother was too. 

I want her to know that Love is everything. And true Love, for anything or anyone, should never leave you feeling Less Than in anyway. 

And that mistakes happen and there is no shame in Living. 

I hope I raise a little Warrior. A beauty. An Amazonian Princess honestly. A woman who could have held her own had she been born in Sparta. Someone like Cleopatra. One who walks with pride and is firm in her knowledge of Self and depends on no none, needs no one, who isn’t worth it. I hope I raise a Queen who unfortunately, will know loneliness because those of her kind will be rare in society, but I know she will seek out and find comfort in like minded people.

I know a fair amount of the lessons will come about as me being reactive too. I realize that with parenting. I appreciate what my mother has taught me and what she kept from me, she was doing the best she could and I will do the same. Maybe one day my daughter too will point out what I could’ve taught her but didn’t. And that’s alright.

The whole point of relationships is to learn. My mother has taught me and I have taught her. Lessons I hope we both spread out into the world. 

Lessons of Love. 

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Becoming your Mother

We think intelligence shields us from emotion. Then Life proves us wrong.  As one prone to depression and mood swings I can tell you that when your mind sets upon an idea, no matter how harmful it may be to you, your intellect tends to contribute to your [emotional/internal] downfall. All mantras and affirmations are thrown out the window as phrases like “You are beautiful and you should love yourself” lose precedence to the more cynical “They lied. You know better than to trust in the words of people.”

 

I’m no stranger to body image issues. We can all relate to feelings of inadequacy and most of us have had and continue to have the 2 AM “I will change my Life in the morning” moments when everything seems attainable with a little effort and possibilities seem to lie in wait, to grow under the guidance of the soon to be rising Sun.  I however, have not paid attention to these issues for years.  The logical part of me took over and I decided, if I can walk, run when I need to [my smoker’s lungs don’t allow for random running] and fit into my clothes, I’m fine. 

Until recently. 

 

During one of my not so appealing bouts of Fuck My Life  someone said to me, “Why do you look such a mess? I mean I’d still fuck but, I don’t know you to be this way.” And as much as I laughed it off, it’s been on mind for probably over a month now.

Why? Maybe because he said it at a time when my mind was ready and willing to accept every unflattering thing one could say in order to justify it’s already despondent thoughts at the time.  Maybe because, being an emotional masochist, a part of me enjoys having something to add to the file marked “Reasons Why You Sometimes Really Ain’t Shit” in my mind. 

 

It’s a funny thing when you think about it. Really, when one’s going through a time when all they’d really like to do is die, why would they even bother with looking pretty for the outside world? I’m not worried about being hit on by you, I’m worried about how I’m going to be able to leave the house tomorrow, assuming I make it through tonight.  A “You don’t understand, things are rough” didn’t seem to quite make him understand why I was as I was and so I left it.

 

While discussing it with a certain Sir he said to me “I don’t even know why you’d pay attention to that, you’re so smart. Have you..Do you even see yourself though? Goddamn.” And he looked at me in a way I haven’t seen in a while. In awe. 

 

The whole experience made me realize, what you know doesn’t save you from making silly decisions, accepting less than you deserve and words of affirmation could be nothing more than pretty lies if you tell yourself so.

 

I know a  Lady, she’s beautiful, young, ambitious and tied down to a man who treats her like surplus meat.  Does she know she can do better? Yes.  Is she lacking options? No. So why is she staying?

 

I said yesterday that I realize we’re becoming Women. We’re growing and even though our private school education, feminism and all round privilege made us think we’d be far from the women our mothers became, at the end of the day, somehow, we end up there. 

 

We’ve grown to undermine our mothers’ experiences and really it seems, only age and our own parallel experiences will humble us. And I’m taking them as they come.  We’re taking them as they come. 

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“Only stupid women fall pregnant”

..And to think,I used to agree with this statement. I didn’t quite understand how one can have an unwanted baby in this day and age. I’m not sure if I was naive or just plain dumb. But you live and you learn. Things happen and just as everyday mistakes happen and questionable choices are made, the same occurs when it comes to sex.

I know a lot of intelligent, responsible women who’ve slipped up. Whether it was unprotected sex with a partner, drunk sex with a friend or that one time the condom broke and they ignored it. It doesn’t diminish their intelligence. Maybe they didn’t react swiftly enough. Maybe they hoped for the best. Maybe they simply ignored it. It happens. 

To be quite honest, you have no idea how easy it is to fall pregnant until you do. And when it does happen, it’s up to you to see how you’re going to go about it. Those who chose to have abortions, I respect.  It takes courage and strength to make that decision and live with it. As it does to keep the baby.

I know teenage mothers who kept their babies. Some dropped out of school to take care of their children and have become wonderful, supportive mothers. They understood the fact that once you bring a child into the world, you yourself are no longer a child. They are women in every sense of the word. Regardless of whether the father’s there or not, and most of the time he isn’t, they’ve done what they needed to do. 

Those who made the decision to get an abortion often get the question “Well how did you get pregnant if you didn’t want one?” Imagine dealing with putting your life in order and getting that question. Really. I don’t even think it’s any of our business how this happens, but we tend to forget that we don’t have a say in the next [wo]man’s life. 

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’d rather you get an abortion than bring a child into the world you don’t want/can’t handle. People like to call it murder and hide behind morality, well I think it’s wrong for you to bring a child into the world you can’t love. Nobody likes a selfish mother, but if you’re no one’s parent, by all means, be as selfish as you please.

You bring your child into the world, stay home all of one month then you’re back to drinking and partying, leaving YOUR baby to those around you, making your responsibility theirs, you won’t breastfeed because you’re more worried about the fact that apparently your breasts will sag if you do and having men find you attractive is much more appealing to you than your baby’s health..And you still have the audacity to judge those who know they aren’t ready to be mothers?

You don’t get that right. You really don’t. 

“My man comes before the children.”

I battle with the fact that there are mothers who will pick their husbands over their children. I don’t know how it works. I know wealthy, successful women who treat their children like trash and will do anything, anything for their abusive husbands.  I guess things never go well when people mistake emotional dependency for love.

 

See the thing is, I think women by now should know that romantic relationships can end. How many people have you dated that you thought would be The Last?  How many friends have you had that you lost over nonsense? Now, when it comes to family, especially extended family members but this counts for nuclear family members too..I think we love each other because we should. We don’t have a choice. We’re confined together and happen to be related so we feel the need to get along, and due to the fact that we interact so often, we grow to like each other, then love I guess. Sometimes.

But that’s with people who didn’t come out of you. People you didn’t nurse. Didn’t carry. Only have a somewhat superficial relationship with. When a woman clings to her man more than her children..I’m both saddened and disgusted.  

 

I had this friend who was born to her mother out of wedlock before her mother met and married another man. The two succeeded in their respective career paths and are now quite wealthy, with two children who came after her first daughter.  From the outside honestly things look lovely and I personally wouldn’t believe some of the things that went on in that household had I not seen some of it. 

This young Lady’s mother would pounce on her at any given time and choke her daughter. She was convinced she was trying to “take her man” and would constantly tell her daughter “If anything ever happened I’m choosing my husband and children over you.”  Now this girl was beautiful, intelligent too and yet she never got the opportunity to shine because whenever she did anything good, her mother would take the opportunity to strike her down, either verbally of physically.  She was constantly told she wasn’t worth anything and would constantly break down at school. Frankly some of us were convinced she was a tad bit crazy but looking back now, what seemed surreal back then is probably a common occurrence.

Noticing her mother’s obvious distaste for her child her step father took to molesting her and would constantly remind her that if she told, her mother would never believe her. And the painful thing is, we all knew it to be true.

It’s very hard to extract yourself from painful situations when you live in that environment. Nobody is raised to believe a family is meant to be anything but Happy, but experience teaches you otherwise. I’m not sure if it’s easier to accept these things when you’re younger or older but..It is what it is.

Maybe I don’t understand. I am not a mother. Maybe there are circumstances I can’t relate to and I’m being a judgmental being. But this is my opinion. This is how I feel.

My father and I don’t have much of a relationship. Despite the fact that we live together, we haven’t said anything more than “Dumelang” to each other since before Christmas. I’m not about to tell you why, it’s not relevant, but I will tell you what I learned about “Love”,marriage and respect from one experience.

 

When I was in High School I came home tipsy one evening. It wasn’t that late, but it was later than usual.  I was probably 15 and according to my parents I had already started a downward spiral into whatever Hell they thought a little Black girl could end up in.  

My father called me into their room and my mother was there. He proceeded to tell me why he didn’t like my behaviour and everything was fine, I understood where he was coming from, til he got mad. At some point during his tirade he said to me “You’re never going to be anything. I can tell. You’re going to grow up to be a prostitute selling your body for alcohol and I’m ashamed I even have to share my name with you. I should’ve let you die when I had the opportunity to tell the doctors to.” [I was a breech baby.  And my mother had a particularly hard time during my birth. At some point the doctors believed neither of us would survive] Anyway,at this point I begin to cry, bawl really. I wasn’t ready for that. Not in the least. A teenager had come home slightly tipsy to that. But at that point what really ripped me apart was the fact that my mother never once defended me or told him he was out of order. I was young, I did not have a voice then and could do nothing but cry. She, was closer to his equal than I was. Instead she turned away and waited for him to finish. I sat there well after he was done, waiting..and she still said nothing. I walked to my room with the realization that I was not the one. In the end, my tears had done nothing and she had let him say what he did. I was second to a man she didn’t even need in her Life.  And I’m not sure how I feel about that to this day.

I spoke to her about it much later and she said she “couldn’t” say anything because he had to discipline me and it was not her place to go against anything he said. That time, that moment there, was probably when I started giving a fuck less about marriage and obedience.

I don’t think obedience is an excuse. I don’t think one can hide behind “respect”.  I think it’s pathetic and sad. And no good can come from mistaking emotional dependency for Love. None. 

I also wonder if it’s ever worth it.. Because in the end you know you’re merely grovelling for affection from someone who has no time for you,and you’re turning away from what really HAS a connection to you, to beg. I don’t know if it could ever be easy, nor if it’s ever necessary. I think not. 

Well,what did she do to get herself into such a situation?

So what happened was, I was 11 and in the living room watching a movie. It was late. I was with my cousin. He was 14/15 at the time. He was like a brother to me. We shared eggs at breakfast,he’d eat my maize meal when I didn’t want it and he taught me how to climb trees.

There was Trust,there was Peace, there was Comfort. And because these three things existed,I didn’t notice when he started looking at me differently. I didn’t notice the new interest he’d taken in whether I had a boyfriend or not. Or his particular insistence that I wear my grey shorts cos it was hot. The thought of any kind of attraction never crossed my mind because only dirty men saw their female relatives that way and I was not related to any.

As I watch the movie I notice he keeps on staring at me. I ask why and he says Nah,he’s just thinking about something. I ignore it and sink down into the chair. I’m  home,fuck it. He comes to sit next to me.

Now, this, this is when it all clicks. I panic internally. I want to cry. I hope I’m wrong. I lay perfectly still and feel my whole body tense up. As he begins to speak I jump up, “The movie’s boring” and with that,I fuck off to my room as fast as possible.

I can’t sleep. I cry. Because for the first time, I’m uncomfortable in my own home because of someone I was naive enough to trust. I’m in shock. I think maybe I overreacted. But maybe I didn’t. I doze off and wake up to him attempting to shut my bedroom door as quietly as possible. “Fuck,I’m fucked” I think. My mother. Her room is directly across from mine. I hate her then,a little,for not giving me my bedroom key.

He sits on my bed. Says he wants to talk. It’s 3AM. I tell him I’m asleep,he says it’s fine. He can talk til I sleep..and do I sleep naked? I’m unable to react. I don’t know what to do. As I begin to accept the fact that maybe,just maybe,I’m about to get raped with my mother in the next room,a door opens. My mother opens my bedroom door,looks at me,terrified,looks at him,looking guilty,and simply asks him to leave my room. He does. She looks at me. Stares. Then goes to her room,comes back and gives me my room key. No words are exchanged.

I wake up and wish I didn’t have to face anyone. The sun makes the night’s evils that much more sinister,shameful,and true. We continue as if nothing happens. The day passes by flawlessly and I think, I’m such an idiot for even entertaining such thoughts. I’m silly.

The sun goes down,and yet again,it’s movie time. He sits away from me this time. During a break I go to the toilet,come back and he’s sitting in my spot, I protest, he says “What’s the issue?Sit on my lap if you like the seat so much” and I freeze. Fuck. Again? I move away and he gets up,towers above me,pushes me down,thrusts his hand into my top,squeezes my breast and forces his finger into me. I push him away and tell him should he ever touch me again,I will kill him. I don’t know if I mean it. I’m 11. But I’m all kinds of fucked up and..I just might.

He leaves the next day. Doesn’t visit for 2 years. I don’t need to see him. I forget.

A friend tells me her step dad tried to rape her. As she speaks,I get flash backs. I break down. We cry,in school,on a bench, unashamed. I make a promise to tell my mother that night. The ride home is Hell.

I am not ready,but I must. I walk into her room,sit,look away,try not to cry and ask “What would you say if I told you I’ve been molested.” The look on her face…she shatters. “Heeeh?” I repeat what I asked, begin to cry and tell her.. Then her face goes blank. “Well,wena what did you do?I told you about those shorts.” “But I was at home…” “But you were around men,didn’t you know?” I leave.My mother and I don’t speak for months but it’s evident that it’s something I shouldn’t discuss. It would shame the family.

I text my other cousin on one of the mornings when I’m high on pain killers and can’t go to school..He tells my other cousin,who calls and asks about it. Things get messy. They know now,so I deny it. I can’t deal with having to explain.

By now,anyone can tell. I was walking through a mall with a male friend and ran into him. We exchange greetings and I leave. As much as he’s someone I’ve loathed at some point,I am civil when I see him. As we walk away my friend asks “Who is that guy bruh?He was looking at you like he’s BEEN wanting to fuck. It was creepy.” My response? “That’s my cousin,and I know.”

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