Until last year, I unquestioningly wanted to be a mother. I haven’t abandoned the idea- I just treat it with a lot more gravity than I was taught to. I once wanted children because people marry and have babies- that’s what people do. It’s a script young girls are taught to internalize and young boys are taught to go along with.
It’s taken my own increasingly watchful relationship with my parents to reconsider. Or recalibrate, if you will.
Getting a little older is seeing things a little more clearly- it is detangling reality from the stories I spin of myself- of ourselves. It is in seeing that the world is a heavy place in which to live. That it leaves none of us- not even the healthiest among us- unscathed. It is in seeing the little girl in my mother- watching her draw boundaries around my body because she couldn’t protect her own. It is seeing the straight-backed pastor’s son in my father- soft as he is- told from an early age to war against his own tenderness. It is in seeing their trauma raising me. In their childhoods, set against the backdrop of newly birthed nation-states, riddled with silence and rage and complex betrayals, broken apart and pieced together to build my own.
(I have learned that some lies are necessary. There is a question my father always asks if I call him on a Sunday. My answer is always yes and that answer has, for the past 3 years, been a lie. A comforting, necessary lie that keeps my soft father from coming undone. )
I think often of having a child, and that child becoming everything I’m afraid of. I think of holding a being inside myself for nine months. I think of reading prayers and praying poetry over them. I think readying- myself, my tiny corner of the world, of putting away the hard and jagged things that might cut or bruise them to try and make their arrival soft and painless. I think of stretching my belly and swelling my heart and willing only good and goodness for and from this child.
And then I think of myself- of the fact that of all the prayers Ma prayed, and all the goodness Ma wished, somehow all the things she dreads live inside my bones. I’m not sure I can live with that sort of agony. I’m not sure she can. So I lie to her. On Sundays and most days.
One thing reassures me. I am everything my mother was afraid of because her fear was in vain- directed towards just, redemptive things. Ma was afraid of freedom- of loving with abandon. Of my coming into my body and loving with and through it on my own terms.
I have to trust that my fears are healthier. I do not fear that any child I have will love whomever they want to, or choose how to show up in and with their body. I do not fear what they will wear. I do not fear what they will speak, as long as it is spoken with bravery and kindness. I do not fear that they will smoke or drink or sit with their legs open.
I fear that they will find unhealthy ways to ease their pain when they feel it (and they will feel it).
I fear that they will not know how to be loved. That they will work to earn love.
I fear that they will not listen, but only hear the things that bring them comfort.
I fear that they will shirk at the sight of difference.
I fear that they will choose to be polite when they must utter prophetic profanity.
I fear that they will wear long skirts because they are ashamed.
I fear that they will bring damage to themselves, to those around them, to this terrible, terrible world.
I fear, like Ms Roy cautioned, that they will respect power instead of strength.
I fear that they will catch caution from the wind and spend their lives shrinking.
I fear that they will be unkind. To others. To themselves.
Ma gave me so much that she often didn’t give to herself. Ma spent my whole life waiting her turn. Ma thought of me first before she thought of herself. Ma sturdied me, showered me with excess affection because she knew that I’ve always needed a bit more tenderness than most. Ma gave, and gave, and gave.
And still, the fire of her love could not melt me and mould me into what she wanted. That’s frightening.