In praise of my mother’s strictness

I grew up in a matriarchal home. My father was quiet and unassuming while my mother terrorised us every waking minute. She woke us up at dawn when sleep was just getting sweet.

She wouldn’t let us visit and sleep over at relatives’ home unless she was there to supervise. She punished us for eating at neighbours’ homes. She wouldn’t let us accept gifts from random people.

She specially focused a lot of energy on me because the boys were a lot like our father and I went around wrecking havoc. Even with the risk of being punished, I still found a way to nearly slice my forefinger with a broken bottle, nearly drown, nearly fall in a pit.

So when I turned twelve and adolescence came calling, the woman tightened her reins and she just wouldn’t let me prosper. She watched me like a hawk. FBI had nothing on her.

If I went somewhere by the time I got home, she’d know where I passed, who I greeted, and the exact moment at which I yawned.

She pried, dogged me, embarrassed me, rummaged through my things and then threatened to jail the then ‘love of my life’ who had written me a love letter and sent me a plastic flower sprayed with deodorant.

One time, when I said I was going to visit a friend, she followed me there to make sure I wasn’t going to visit a boy instead.

And I was furious. I hated the way her friends kept tabs on me and made phone calls any time they saw me breathing near a boy.

But recently I started reading stories of relatives, close family friends, and religious leaders molesting children.

And then I read about the Nigerian pastor who is currently in court under allegations of trafficking and sexually exploiting more than 30 girls and women. I also watched the “Surviving R Kelly” docuseries and I am confident of this; that even in the same place and time, I would not have been one of those girls.

I know for sure that she wouldn’t have let me anywhere near an adult man without supervision. She would have burnt his house or the hotel down before letting me move there.

She didn’t revere religious leaders or anyone for that matter enough to give them the benefit of the doubt. And as long as I was still a child unable to make sound decisions, she was in complete control over who was allowed in my personal space.

She, without meaning to, taught me to question, to probe, to think, to avoid the bandwagon effect. I remember asking her one time; “Why won’t you let me go to the church camp? Other children are going.” And her response: “they are not my children.”

And I am eternally grateful for that. I am grateful that when I pushed, she pushed back harder and established herself as the mother and I as a child whose brain was not developed well enough to weigh the consequences of my actions or workout the undertones of people .

If weren’t for her, I would have probably become another teenage pregnancy statistic or another defilement statistic, or I would have died.




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