Thursday, May 28, 2015

Baby Mama

'Mommy are you going to have another baby?' Hannah-Banana who is 15 loves being the baby among her siblings whom she frequently reminds were born in the 20th Century and are therefore ancient. Her obsession with being baby of the family perhaps blinds her to the fact that her mother is approaching 50 and chances of conceiving a child at my age are close to zero.

Yet that is not what fascinates me about Hannah's question. The more curious aspects for me are the implied, unspoken thoughts that go through the mind in order to frame this question. Hannah has been taught in class (and certainly at home;) about how babies are made. Yet even though I have taught them about the bees and the birds; am still surprised at my girls' open mindedness in the midst of my conservative African family and culture. The girls have grown up globally and had a chance to experience both conservative and liberal cultures and this has probably shaped their mindset

When I was growing up it was unheard of for a child to ask their mother a question that somehow implied that she was engaging in sexual activity. Even when both parents repaired nightly to a double bed in their master bedroom, we simply did not allow our minds to stray there. Older kids who witnessed their young mother's pregnancies, at times battled conflicting feelings. The biology class explained how conception occurred; but many kids preferred to carry on believing that their mother was a virgin.

If a woman was widowed early in life society expected her to continue grieving her spouse and to remain celibate until she died unless she remarried someone approved by the entire clan and the Church. So most widows were sentenced to a chaste life with perhaps some secret rendezvous that were never to be heard of.

Moreover, we were raised to know that the right path to child bearing was clearly marked with sign posts: studies first, then courtship, followed by marriage, pregnancy all leading to the final destination of childbirth. These steps were sacrosanct and rebellious girls who did not observe them would end up burning in the hottest corners of hell for disrupting the sequence.

So what makes me smile is that Hannah is not asking me 'Mommy are you going to get married again?' It pleases me to no end that she understands that having children and getting married are not correlated or sequential in a way that requires the latter to precede the former.
It brings me joy that she understands that my dating life was not buried with her father. Her innocent question implies that she accepts that am free not only to date again, but to engage in activity that might lead to someone usurping her coveted position of baby of the family.

When Hannah looks at me she does not see an over-the-hill, out of shape, retired rebel; she sees a woman who could still have a relationship that might bring home a baby to challenge her claim for my attention.

At 50 I know that some traditions can be dehumanizing and oppressive to women unless they are confronted, challenged and changed. So Hannah does not realize it but she has unknowingly planted an idea in this old rebellious mind!

feeling inspired

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