Written by Precious
“Yes, I frequently talk to my mother about my relationships and my sex life.” I declared to the bewilderment of my friends with which I was in discussion.
The petite lady amongst us asked incredulously “Are you serious?”, with utter shock written all over her face.
“Yes, I’m telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth,” I said, trying to imitate a witness or accused in a courtroom to ease the tension.
“Because at the end of the day, she wants the absolute best for me so her guidance won’t steer me in the wrong route” I reasoned.
“Don’t you feel ashamed?”
“No, I speak to her as I would a friend.”
Despite having distinct personalities, the majority of African parents seem to have a mental guidebook ingrained in their brains for raising children. And the modifications, if there are any, are only slight. Given their similar parenting style, one would assume that they all attended a particular Child-training Institute. And I am aware of this thanks to conversations with friends about how things are done in their homes, relatable skits on social media that mimic their African parents, books by or about people of African descent, films, etc. Perhaps, one might just conclude, referring to it as African Cultural Traits among the elders.
And this training includes assigning gender roles such as kitchen and house cleaning for women and girls, while farm work, car washing (for those opportune to have), and technical activities (like the changing of bulbs) for the men and boys; instructing we take nothing from strangers; understanding their eye languages and facial expression on whether to eat from a relative’s house or not; sharing food to neighbors during festive seasons; letting the older sibling take the biggest meat; and also expecting the child to adhere strictly to the laid down rules by the parents with little or no questions asked. And of course, everything comes out of a place of love.
Sex education within the homes also seems to be analogous as well. A study by Chimaraoke Izugbara shows that the majority of men delegate this responsibility to their wives. The “education” typically focuses on girls as the girls are the ones likely to become pregnant and bring “shame” onto the family, while totally disregarding the boys. These mothers do not adequately teach their kids about sex. They may give their pubescent daughters menstrual pads and a firm warning, “If you allow a guy to touch or see your nakedness, you will get pregnant and if you do, you will be thrown out.” They say this in hope that their child will steer clear of having sex until marriage.
Other mothers however, would prefer to say nothing and simply just occasionally insert “Please, just be careful” in their greetings to their children. I believe this was the exact route their mothers took with them.
In my mother’s words, “I knew nothing about sex and the opposite sex until later in life through friends and experience. My mother was all about her business, and while she cared about me, she had little or no time for that aspect of my life. My elder sisters were also secretive and so they kept their mouths shut about sex and boys. I wished she would have taught me more in that area, I would have made better choices.”
Notwithstanding, few parents still take time to properly educate their children on sex. My mother is a practical example. Perhaps, it’s her experience with her mother, or her decision to be better in that aspect, that made her roll her mat, pick up her jotting books and depart from the Children-training Academy when it came to the sex-education conditioning part. And that, I’m grateful for.
The closeness between my mother and I wasn’t always like that though. We would quarrel, argue, and fight over a variety of topics. We still disagree, but this time, to understand each other better.
I began menstruating during the school break, a few months before my 12th birthday, and going to the final class of Junior Secondary. Even though I already knew about menstruation from lessons in home economics class and from my schoolmates, I still panicked and went to my mother. She was overjoyed and gave me her congratulations on becoming a full woman. She purchased packs of menstrual pads for me at the nearby store and showed me how to use them. Whilst doing this, she talked about how no one taught her this growing up, and that she constantly got stained in school for lack of padding herself and would use her uniform to try and hide the stains.
A few days later, she summoned me to her room and asked if there was a guy that I liked in school. This was all so new to me; discussing boys with my mom! I had seen the disapproval on her face once when she walked up on me watching a heterosexual couple kissing on TV. So, I kept quiet, scared that she would get angry. She asked again, this time putting her hands around me. Perhaps it was her gentle touch, or the fact that I felt telling her was harmless, but whatever it was, I saw myself telling her everything about my tall albino crush.
She went on to tell me how it was perfectly normal to be attracted to the opposite sex and how I would soon start maturing in my body. However, she told me how sex (after explaining it as best as she could) and relationships weren’t a priority at my age and that the time would come when I would have it and get tired of it.
“Are you ready to mother a child now?”
“When you want to have sex, you must be ready for the responsibilities that come with it. So, you must either be married (i.e being a virgin till wedding night) or be old enough to know how to protect yourself.”
That conversation allowed her access to my personal life. Also, in consecutive years, even though I drowned myself in cheap paperback Harlequin novels with detailed descriptions of people having sex which always piqued my curiosity, I disciplined myself on what and what not to do. When I grew older and was already in a higher institution, she would from time to time tell me stories about her relationships with men before my dad. She would tell me the age she was when she first dated, her first love, and so on. I knew all these were done to earn my trust and fortunately for both of us, it did. Now, she knows enough about my love life, down to the men I’m involved with.
Her guidance has helped and continues to assist me to navigate the dating world. When I was in an awkward situation regarding sex with my ex, I confided in her. She taught me the importance of both physical and emotional attraction in choosing a companion—and that they go hand in hand, like bread and butter. She also taught me the importance of being financially stable before considering marriage.
Does she go overboard sometimes? Sure. After all is said and done, she is a mother. Nevertheless, I’m grateful for having her in my corner.