By Nomaliqhwa/ @nomalili
I think that I was taught to dislike my mother at a very young age and without question I accepted it. I would compete with my mother for my father and my brother’s attention, to be the ‘female voice of reason’ in the house. Because she would travel and work until late hours I felt as if I had the greatest claim to be the matriarch.
Except I did not want to be a matriarch, it was my father’s home. I wanted to support his claim of being the man in charge, the decision maker. Try and make it the truth and reality my father so desperately wanted it to be. He so badly wanted his power to be real so when he would come into the house and shout and scream at my mother, in ways I knew he did not dare to when the two of them were alone together. I would show my support by climbing into the curve of his arm and look accusingly at my mother.
I picked my side and stuck to it.
It was not until the eight day in the general psychiatric ward at an overly priced under staffed mental clinic that it hit me: my mother, this woman whom I had spent so many years hating and hoping would one day disappear into her own life away from my brother my father and I, was the most wonderful type of mother. That she was the mother that I needed her to be.
She had not been a good mother in all the traditional and superficial ways shown in all the books about children who lived lives completely different to mine. She simply would not have come close to being enough if she had been. A woman totally devoid of identity and individuality would have enforced in me, early on, that I had no fighting chance. A mother too cautious of the little things happening everyday would not allow me to carve out what I thought was right and wrong based on the simple formula of trial and error. She would have taken more away from me than the world inevitably would and I would, quite simply, have nothing.
That my mother refused to do.
It started with making the decision that, because I was restless, I needed to be with other children. Before my brother, born in relative quick succession of me, had even arrived, I had no qualms when it came to being around other children on my own. My parents, knowing this about their little two year old daughter, purposely put me in spaces where I relished in fighting for my space to be heard and seen because even then I knew what being assertive meant.
I discovered decades later that the pictures, which grace many of our family albums were taken by my mother. Pictures of an independent little girl. A child with playing with toys, in the middle of other children, a child eating, sleeping. My mother had already begun the process of allowing me to discover who I was without the feeling of suffocation that another mother would have imposed on her small girl child. And she made a point of capturing each moment.
Perhaps even that was done for me, for the moments where I felt I was losing myself. Regardless, my mother let me figure it out so that when I learned how to and did decide it would be with a surety that only few men knew of. I was so sure that I named my brother, insisting on the chosen name and I know that it is my mother who pushed for that name to stay. She did this to show me what it meant to be sure. If you are sure then few will question you, so I became assertive, sure the ground I walked would not shake. And it hardly did for many years, thanks to my mother.
But I hated her.
I did not hate my mother because she had wronged me. It was not because she did not love me. My mother loved me so much that she tolerated and befriended the hatred I had for her. She would dance with it. Scream at it. Hug it away and sometimes, if it was too much, she would shut the door on it. Many times I would burst into her bedroom in a blind rage screaming “I hate you!” over and over again. I had been doing this since I could remember and if not then I was writing it in the same diary that she had taught me to express and connect words to the feelings that not many mothers knew how to teach their children about. And I knew writing this would hurt her. I knew that the woman who cleaned and cooked for my family would find it on my bookshelf filled with books that my mother had travelled afar to get just for me and would show my mother. I knew that my mother would be filled with shame and hurt and be at a loss because she could not tell this woman that she knew and was just fine with her daughter hating her. She could not tell this woman that she knew that I was doing it to spite her. Because this woman just believed that I was a misbehaved child who needed prayer not, as my mother knew, a child learning to express her feelings through written thought.
However, my mother would not allow me to hate her without good reason and she easily make me think and realise that the reason was not sufficient enough. She would force me to rationalize the source of my hatred towards her with so much brute force that by the time I turned 17 I realised that it was because of my mother that my family had managed to hold the kind of status that it did, year after year. A richness that could not be taken away. We were learned, we were fluid, that we were a strong but loving and kind people. We were what my mother had instilled in the family year after year. It was her pulling the strings and carrying the weight. No one but her, despite how terribly her own family would treat her wants and needs.
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