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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 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.
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.
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.
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)?
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 Chimamanda calls the ‘single story’.
I hope you never forget these, my son.
With love from mum.
(Written by Olaleye Abiola)