20 November 2013

THE CONVERSATION (For Universal Children's Day)

Guest Writer: Olisakwe Ukamaka Evelyn
(Image Credit:5forum.biz)
Chidinma sat before me, eyes fixed on mine, brows creased in expectation, waiting for when I would begin The Conversation. It is important, this conversation, because:
She is growing faster than I can breathe.
I never had this conversation with my own mother. It would have been easier if I had it with my mother. There are many ways she could get taught wrongly, if I avoid this conversation. She really wants us to talk about this.

I am 31 and she is 11. I wondered where time went; wasn’t it just yesterday that I nursed her, that I watched her suckle? Was it not yesterday that she clung to me each time a visitor stretched out their hands to take her? Was it not yesterday that she joined pre-nursery school and surprised me by following her new teacher without even throwing a glance at me?

Now, here she was, all grown up, towering at 5ft3, wide-eyed like I used to be, inquisitive than I ever was, seeking answers to every question. She wants us to talk, because I said we were going to talk about growing up and the things surrounding it. She wants to know why she has to use a deodorant; why she must never walk around naked; why I warned her about boys. But I was fidgeting.

How do you begin to discuss sex education with your daughter?

I had begun this in series, nothing serious, just a little chat about her breasts which had begun to sprout. No, scratch that. Not sprout.

Sprout was what I endured at 14, when my mates where already sporting bouncy breasts and mine were tiny things that weren’t even the size of the smallest udala. My classmates would unbutton their shirts, reveal those lingerie which told obvious, annoying, stories of the mounds beneath – these important things that were intent on eluding me. Their taunting actually began when I was 12 and still having infantile inverted nipples. They talked about bras and pimples, and they snickered and jeered each time they caught me listening. I prayed for a sign that I was also normal, but God was busy with other things. I never wore tight dresses, for fear that my nipples would be crushed further. I let the rain beat my chest, and hoped that my nipples would suck in heavenly waters and begin to expand. At 13, I crushed tiny beetles on them, as folktales told, but nothing happened. Until I was almost fourteen.

So, sprout wasn’t what happened to my daughter. Womanhood swooped on her and stole her innocence. I want to take her to the moon where she would be safe, away from wretched vultures hovering around in sagging trousers and fake smiles. It can be disastrous if I avoided this conversation. This is the age of smart phones and cheap access to internet and information my daughter can dabble into without my knowing. I want to do the telling and explain the responsibilities that come with engaging in sex – the risks, diseases, possible death, VVF and especially, the possible truncation of her life goals. I wanted to say these important things, but my mouth would not move in speech.

‘Mummy, you are just staring at me,’ she said.

I sat straighter and swallowed. ‘Nne, do boys talk funny to you?’

She didn’t blink. ‘Yes, Mummy. That Emeka in my class says he likes me. I told him I will report him to our teacher if he says that again.’

Dear Lord. I thought I was going to just faint, not because of the boy’s possibly innocent declaration, but because at 15, my first daring attempt at having a casual boyfriend was with a boy called Emeka.

How do you begin to tell her about sex? Won’t it trigger some sort of interest in her and make her want to try? I thought about Bible teachings, just as our Brother Chukwudi of Sunday school rammed into us the fear of God and of hell, if we ever got desecrated. Most of us were properly scared, but some of the girls whispered about altar calls and God forgiving any sin. Each Friday, during the EFAC fellowships, I wondered if they had had sex, these girls, because they came out for altars calls to receive “Jesus Christ as our Lord and personal savior” every Friday. Then, a year later, Brother Chukwudi got kicked out of our church for getting a girl pregnant. 
(Image Credit: blackandmarriedwithkids)
 Now, Chidinma was sitting before me, waiting. I held her hands and told her she was becoming a big girl. She smiled and said she was becoming like me. I showed her the diagram of a man and a woman’s reproductive system, a picture that was more of biology than pornography. I explained the differences between them and what happens when the two meet. And then the consequences that follow, especially for a girl like her. She was properly scared by the consequences. But I urged her to tell me anything, everything, no matter how silly. And baby, you know mummy loves you very very much? You know that right?
Yes, she does, and she loves mummy more than anything.

Our discussion ended, and I felt lighter, but I know it would easier the next time.

That night, she climbed into my bed, woke me up and said, “Mummy, there is something I want you to do for me.”

Sleep disappeared. My heart thudded in my chest. I prepared myself for her words as she stared at me with the eyes of the baby I had known all her life:

“I want you to warn that uncle in the next compound. He always calls me ‘my wife’ and I don’t like the way he looks at me.”

I hugged her and tried to breathe. She held me tighter too, assured that I would warn the uncle.

Then I couldn’t wait for morning to come.
Olisakwe Ukamaka is a  dreamer, thinker, writer and mother. Connect with her @OlisakweUkamaka

1 comment:

  1. I'm sure these things creep up on everyone unawares, as they come face to face with a teen offspring in their adolescence. The tragedy is that in most cases the fear of god is put into the children, instead of the simple truth, and its very serious consequences. However, as this story relates, even the pious are prone to temptation and corruption. The mother in the narrative chooses to be honest and keep open a line of communication, which extends from heart-to-heart. There’s a lesson here for all parents.