Growing up, i spent a lot of time with my father than mother dear. Naturally i became a daddy's girl and i still am irretrievably one. That's when i fell in love with words, by listening to history stories and reading many history books. My relationship with mother dear only begun to blossom in my adult life, as i begun to grasp the intricacies of the relationship between a mother and a daughter. Upon delivering, i have come to fathom that some of a mother's dreams die while others are re-born. In the midst of the pain and absolute exuberance, her main role in this world of uncertainties becomes taking care of the bundle of joy. Her dreams find fresh expression. The new dreams are even more delicate when the crying new born is a baby girl!
A mother's dreams in a complex detail are intertwined to her daughter's. Her daughter's choices have a direct impact on her own dreams. And as the daughter learns to crawl, walk, talk and begin to interact with the world as a young adult she can only hope and sometimes pray that her daughter's life's choices will not thwart the dreams that she holds close.
Of all stages in life, non has a steeper gradient than the adolescent stage. When the body begins to change, hormones become super-charged and imbalanced and boys become more than 'Kalongo' playmates.
When my sister and i were adolescents, i remember mother dear insisted that we spend the holidays with her in ukambani. She kept a close eye on us and had deep conversations with us- conversations whose words were carefully designed to drive in the main message 'do not mess your life'. As far as our interaction with boys was concerned, there wasn't much debate: It was just a set of simple crisp instructions that no one dared to break- never have rendezvous with boys, stay away from boys and stay away completely! Mother dear had a good record of smelling the disobedience stench from a distance and giving a beating of a lifetime. She even had a reputation in the village, so obedience was the only plausible route to take. Furthermore, when one got a beating the whole village would know, thanks to our 'good' neighbours. Anyway we would also return the favour when they found themselves writhing in pain under their mom's disciplinary claws.
Today am not an adolescent, but nobody inquires of my life more than mother dear. From my relationships to my faith and my career. She does not send me WhatsApp messages with one word and twenty emojis? (Seriously those tiny things are taking the place of words in short message conversations). No she does not do that! She does not make an ambiguous post on Facebook to stoke a conversation with me. She calls!! Sometimes back, i used to treat her calls like one with those people who call me after ten months to find out if they are still doing better than me!
"Uendeeye ata?" (How are you doing?) she would ask.
Then hastily i would reply - "Niendeeye nesa mum" (Am doing good)
Then i noticed she would ask again,
"Naukulia uendeeye ata?" (I asked how you are doing!)
It took me sometime to understand what she meant, to thoroughly comprehend that she was not interested in the mundane reply i give to other callers. That repetition was a sharp reminder that i was talking to a woman whose dreams are intertwined with mine. A woman who will be affected and judged by society by the choices i make. And that's when i started to give a comprehensive response. When she calls in the morning i give her a detailed structure of my day and in the evening i give an account of outstanding things i have done. Mostly it's normally a breakthrough in a story i was working on, or the number of views in my story. She is a character in most stories but i never tell her that! When she calls i have all the reasons to clear my schedule, put non-life threatening issues on hold and engage her.
And last week on Sunday night as i lay on the couch, warmly wrapped in a blanket watching news someone caught my eye and heart. Someone whose story reminded me of the complex relationship between a mother and a daughter. A relationship that can sometimes be woven with secrets that even the father is not privy to.
It was a woman from Nyakach Kisumu! A woman who breathed in fear and exhaled positive expectation for her family, for her girls!
A crisply gut busting woman, whose head was covered in a 'kitambaa', and her waist was tightly gripped by a 'leso' which concealed what she wore below the waist. Her light green blouse loosely hung from her chest and disappeared in the tight leso. On her feet she doned black worn out rubber shoes, her heels were not properly tucked in the shoes and they looked terse and tired (what a sophisticated Nairobi lady would take in for pedicure). Perhaps the perfect image of a woman who has laid everything down to be light and fit enough to fight for daughters.
Daughters who she hopes will pull her from the bottomless pit of poverty.
With a cavalier attitude to how the world may interpret her action, she narrated to curious journalists on why she decided to put her daughters on contraceptives. She explained that she chose the Depo Provera injection because she was scared if her daughters did not get the timings right with the pills they may end up getting pregnant and capital mission would abort.
She also explained the hopes she had in her daughters. All the light that seemed to illuminate her bottomless pit of poverty illuminated from her daughters and she was not going to gamble with the chance of teenage pregnancy ruin that. A pregnancy would not only derail her daughters from the course of education, but also drag along with it; shame and economic strain.
This woman explained that she cautioned her daughters against engaging in sex; but in a defeatist tone, she conceded that she did not think they would listen- a recurrent outcome among adolescents! Their carefree spirit and casual approach to sex sees to it that they become partially deaf to knowledge on sex. Honestly speaking, i also think it has become harder to tame the world spirit adolescents exhibit. You may advice them on what you know is good for them, yet they go ahead and do the exact opposite. And as far as sexually transmitted diseases and infections are concerned, this mother hoped that her girls would use condoms!
The story of this woman resonates with that of many women in her village and across the country. She is the emblem of a woman full of dreams yet caught between the enigma of moral decadence in the society and her well laid delicate hopes for her daughters.
When a teenager conceives, there are two bags of shame exerted by the society: one for the mother and the other for the girl! (I have seen it happen more than once!!)
I had a neighbour who was a single mom to three sons and one daughter. In November 2014 as pupils around the country were grinding books in preparation for KCPE, her fourteen year old daughter- who was her last born was struggling to hide the tell tale signs of a pregnancy. A pregnancy is not something anyone can hide for long especially in a small village where people have a lot of time on their hands to just sit and talk about the hot news of the village. Somehow the news that she was pregnant begun to spread like wild fire. The young girl became the talk of the village, she stopped attending classes owing to the shame that came with her pregnancy. It was not long before the shame wafted to her mother and village rumour mill sucked her in.
"Mamake ndio amemfunza hivyo," they said with certainty
She became a subject of mock in social gatherings but being an iron lady she did not withdraw from her normal life. Life was tough for her facing condemnation from all fronts; the church, school and her chamas. Her parenting methods were reviewed in the local marketplace. She bore the brunt of her daughter's choices, but that did not wear her down like the stark possibility that her daughter's education might have been derailed.
Owing to low self-esteem and stigmatization, the young girl has never mustered enough courage to return to school. On account of the poverty her family faces she might soon be forced to enter into the informal labour force to scramble for an extra coin to bring to the family kitty.
Long story short: when a daughter rises according to the standards set by society she rises with her mother, when the law of gravity no longer applies she stumbles down with her mother! Am cognizant of the potential long term risks contraceptives can pose to a young girl. But....Is there a possibility that we as a society can cut a mother who chooses to put her young daughter on contraceptives some slack...?