The first time I was free to spend personal time as I pleased as an adult was when I was a student in London. I was 21 years old and my life had been managed by parents, school authorities and my first love. They decided when I could go out with my friends and when I could not, when to go for a dance, whom to go with, the time I should return. The freedom I enjoyed doing what I wanted to do rather than what others wanted me to do had to be stolen usually with dire consequences.
Christian Secondary Schools restricted us with rules based on values that were supposedly found in the Bible; managing our personal time strictly and never allowing us freedom to choose what we wanted to do, when we wanted to do it. We found ways of breaking the rules and escaping through the fenced school community to town just so that we could feel the adrenaline of taking the risk and celebrate our little adventure if we were not caught. It was on these escapades from Bweranyangi to Bushenyi town that I had met Lionel's father Charles, and fell in love. The supervised socials where teachers accompanied us to dances with boys at Ntare School and then sat there watching us like hawks to make sure the boys did not 'squeeze' us for too long, were extremely prohibitive. We sought out opportunities to socialize with the opposite sex without supervision and took enormous risks just to behave like normal teenagers.
At home the rules were not very different. Good discipline for a girl (and I grew up as the only girl with five male siblings;) meant helping out in the kitchen, attending church service, outings only under the supervision of trusted relatives and family friends during the day, in safe places like a swimming pool where everyone was easily observed. Most of my childhood memories are of games and parties with families in the neighborhood or relatives and many seemed to have the same discipline code but not necessarily as strict. I craved the teenage life that some girls spoke of at school. Going to parties and staying till late was unheard of in my home unless it was a birthday party where my parents knew the parents of the celebrant.
Without knowing it, the restrictions imposed by my parents were sowing seeds of rebellion. So when an opportunity presented itself we passed through windows and jumped gates to try and live the life we felt we were missing. I remember being caned after I went to a disco in broad daylight with Oscar Kihika; the guy next door. Now Oscar was not just the kid next door, he was like a brother to me, he was Emmanuel's best friend and we were distant relatives through marriage. We practically grew up in each other's homes in Nakasero. I played 'tip/pax,' football, hide and seek, hop-scotch and rounders; nearly every day with Oscar and his sisters Justina, Olive and Rose. He tried to teach me to play the piano but I was no good. I never needed an invitation to visit the Kihikas neither did they ever need permission to come over. So when Oscar and I went to Chez Joseph for a day time twirl in times when insecurity did not allow for night time dancing; I did not think much of it till I got home and found my Dad fuming. What my Dad failed to realize was that he made it my number one priority to get out of this strict environment. My understanding of freedom became a place or space where his rules could no longer restrict me.
So Charles who was older, had a car, which he allowed me to drive; seemed like my escape from this suffocating environment. By forbidding me to socialize even with my childhood friends after we became teenagers he drove me straight into Charles world, a result he did not intend and one am sure he regretted. I came to regret it too because by the time I got to Makerere where I would have enjoyed all the freedom that I missed in strict girl's boarding schools, I was already committed to one relationship, and soon enough, Charles stepped in right where my father left off, to restrict my newly found freedom. Fearing that I would meet someone new at Makerere, he acted quickly to get me locked-in. Next thing you knew was elopement, pregnancy and then Lionel. It was like stepping out of a frying pan into the fire. My life was over before it had begun and I started thinking of Charles as a parent because he made me feel like a child!
But am a free spirit, always have been, always will be. I broke free from Charles with the encouragement of my father who sent me to study a post graduate course in London months after I completed my first degree at Makerere. He wanted me as far away from Charles as possible and simply refused to acknowledge the existence of Lionel my baby, carrying on as though I were not a mother. I jumped at the chance of studying far away from both him and Charles, because my life as a young mother at 20 was as suffocating as that of a teenager in my parent's home. So off I went to LSE to study some more law, live on my own and interact with people my age without any restriction for the first time in my life. Party time, Nirvana!
At 50 I know that it was not easy raising me in my teenage years and I pray that the lessons from my teenage experiences will help me to guide my own kids through these very challenging years.