Marriage Is Not An Achievement

If you weren’t swept by the significance of the marriage between Prince Harry and Megan Markle on Saturday, 19 May 2018, you’re a cold-hearted cynic or you’re blissfully unaware of the groundswell of public discourse on diversity and a need for greater inclusion. The fact that the mother of the bride, Doria Ragland, was resplendent in her dreadlocks and an elegant outfit, so poised and graceful; Bishop Michael Curry awakened the angels in heaven and the gospel choir brought rhythm and soul to an otherwise staid, exclusive centuries-old institution, allowed me to forget my humdrum, daily challenges and made my soul sing. That’s before we even get to the actual love-story of the two beautiful, compassionate human beings.

 

Obviously, social media was awash with commentary. Most complementary and happy, but it wouldn’t be the real world if we didn’t have the haters and detractors. One that stood out for me was a post by someone, from the masculine sex; a pic of a much younger Meghan with a friend posing outside Buckingham Palace. Sweet. But the comment just killed it; something along the lines of “a purposeful princess in waiting’. What? Meghan Markle was definitely not a woman waiting to be married, let alone a princess. With public and media interest heightened around this feisty, independent, drop-dead-gorgeous woman, we’ve come to understand that the Duchess of Sussex was nurtured decades ago, before she even entered her teens.

 

While we reminisced about the beauty of the recent nuptials later that day, Mr T and I got into the discussion of whether this was an achievement or not. A male radio talk show host summarily dismissed a male who called the morning show the day before the wedding to enthuse that the marriage was indeed an achievement. Hubby tended to agree with the talk show host; this was nothing significant. There has been no accomplishment that is usually associated with academic, career, business or even altruistic achievement. So, becoming a member of British aristocracy is really nothing to aspire to. Sure.

 

But I saw a different side of the argument. Merely being welcomed into the Windsor family is not, what I would consider, an achievement. The two most notable commoners have been the late Princess Diana and the Duchess of Cambridge, more recently. So been there, done that. This wedding signifies a major shift in our worldview and therefore is a historic achievement. Not just for Meghan Markle, but for her husband, as well. It is significant as another glass ceiling has been shattered. It’s reminiscent of Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama. I just smile thinking about it. Black, brown, people of colour, whatever you’d like to call us, are sending a clear message to the world: we are not just equal, we are more than capable of holding positions of leadership and elevation in any society.

 

On the marriage. It must never ever to be associated with achievement. For anyone. Particularly, women.  And as we take on roles of power and independence and ascend to higher echelons, those among us who may not be attached through matrimonial vows are still viewed as inferior, some are the most vulnerable in society.  Marriage, in itself, is a concept founded on the basis of human interaction. We crave companionship, love, community and so on. But it has been sanctified by religious and political order as a formal union and creates another level in the stratosphere of contemporary culture.

 

You may disagree with the institution, but what is very clear is that our patriarchal society still favours men over women in this merger. Women throughout the ages continue to believe that their place in society is as a wife. A subservient one, at that. What the Duchess of Sussex has shown is that you can create your own rules. At 36 years old, divorced, an actress and black, she has, like Winnie Madikizela Mandela, Oprah, Michelle Obama and many others before her, paved the path for all of us to dream. Not about being married, but living our true authentic selves and achieving beyond expectations.

A Mother’s Prayer

I once watched a red carpet interview (yes, I’m a voyeur of pop culture) where Kim Kardashian West was asked about her hopes for her children. She said a few things, but one stood out for me. “I want them to know that they can be anything they want to be”. What? Is this a real concern for children who are born to families with money and access beyond the realities of so many? Who, by association, have real-life mentors to give on-going live tutorials to demonstrate that they can be anything that they want to be?

 

I thought about it for a minute. Perhaps that’s the equaliser for all parents.  Then I thought about my hopes for my children. There are so many. I’ve never prayed more fervently than when I was pregnant. I’m sure mothers all over the world can relate. You’re praying for the protection, health and strength of a soul that you have not yet held in your arms. I had a niggling concern with my first born, since the pregnancy was textbook perfect; what if he can’t cry and doesn’t have a voice, it’s one of the things a doctor or midwife can’t tell. He came out screaming with strong, loud vocals. And to this day, he makes sure that he’s heard.

There are certain things that are purely gifts from God; good health, safety and protection, intellect and so on.

The point is, you pray several times a day, throughout the day. When the baby is born, a blessing beyond all else, there’s an outpouring of gratitude, relief and joy. Then your prayers change. You’re now the earthly custodian of a child of God and you start with a wish list. They’re personal and unique to each one of us, but there are many parallels. There are certain things that are purely gifts from Him; good health, safety and protection, intellect and so on. Sure, we play a role in these, but on a basic level, He is our ultimate Source. On a day-to-day parenting level, for example, one cannot just pray for a child to grow into a well-adjusted, loving adult and yet live in a dysfunctional, abusive relationship that is loveless. Children are sponges and absorb what they see more frequently than what they hear.

How do I teach them to be calm and at peace, when I’m struggling with this myself?

I’m often overcome by the enormity of parenting. Even entering this maze at an older age, when one could assume that maturity would trump youth and naivety, I am often left frazzled by my ‘two under five’. How do I teach them to be calm and at peace, when I’m struggling with this myself? That suitcase that one never fully unpacks has a strange knack of spewing its contents at inopportune moments.

 

Regardless of our personal circumstances, the obligation of parenting remains one of our highest callings. I am truly humbled that these two souls chose me as their human guardian and so I continue to pray, every day, that I will be their best mother. That, with their father, we will create an environment in which they will thrive in love and peace. That they will know true joy and be inspired by life. That they will honour each and every human being with respect and kindness. May they rise above any societal constructs aimed at limiting their potential based on race, culture, background, sexual preference or religion. And ultimately, know God and be lights to the world.

 

There are no manuals, courses, certificates or degrees in parenting; it is one lifelong lesson which continually provides opportunities for growth and development, and love and forgiveness.

 

As Mother’s Day approaches, I’m acutely aware that it is not a time of celebration for everyone. Especially for those who have lost their mothers or those who desperately want a child(ren). I’m reminded of Oprah Winfrey, who does not have any children from her womb but has nurtured and developed more souls than many in this lifetime.

 

Happy Mother’s Day! To every woman who nurtures and parents.

 

“Biology is the least of what makes someone a Mother”. Oprah

#MeToo Is More Than A Campaign

There is a growing number of reported incidents on femicide that is disturbing to the core. It’s given rise to an increase in public discourse on gender issues, which can only be good, but from the responses we see, particularly on social media, we’re so far from any solution. Women want men to take responsibility, change their behaviour and men want women to, well, take ‘their place’ and be more subservient.

And since writing is my first love, this is the platform that I will use to try to make a difference, in whatever small way.

I could have been Karabo Mokoena or Zolile Khumalo or any one of the countless women who face violence, all kinds of abuse, and sometimes death, at the hands of men who should have loved and protected them. It’s only by the grace of God that I’m able to tell my story. And since writing is my first love, this is the platform that I will use to try to make a difference, in whatever small way. Even if I help one soul, it is all worth it.

 

There are never any excuses for women and child abuse. Just reasons. I care not to get into those. That’s for menfolk to do. And there are some who are doing amazing work; Rams Mabote @RamsByTheHorns and Siyabulela Jentile @NotInMyName are just a couple and must be supported.  I am, however, deeply concerned with how we raise our girl-children. Whilst I am not a parent to a daughter, I have nieces, cousins, female relatives and friend’s children who I fear for. They are, shockingly, still being raised in a society of yesteryear.

 

There’s no silver bullet answer, unfortunately. However, we cannot be surprised by the men who respond with retorts that women must ‘dress appropriately’, ‘behave like women’, ‘not look for material things’ and so on. These are the same men who are abusing us. It’s easy for one to get overwhelmed by issues that one may feel are ‘beyond me’. Or perhaps we don’t think that we can make a difference. Our power is our ability to make a choice. If you didn’t get it, let me repeat. You get to make the choice. This is available to each and every soul on a human journey. We can start with the little things. Knowing your worth. If you make the choice to consider yourself worthy, this will start to realign your destiny almost instantaneously.

 

A girl who understands her worth, from a young age, will see the wolf before it comes close. She will never tolerate verbal abuse, which is often more damaging than the physical scars, and usually manifests physically at some point. She will know that she has no reliance on any other, for anything. Be it her emotional or financial comfort. I understand that this, alone, will not spare women from harm, but it’s the right start.

When my 4-year-old refuses the pink cup because ‘it’s for girls’, I can’t just hand him the blue one.

Then there are the other daily habits that can infiltrate our consciousness and those around us. As a mother of young boys, I have a huge responsibility to ensure that they become men who respect and value themselves first, and then all human beings. When my 4-year-old refuses the pink cup because ‘it’s for girls’, I can’t just hand him the blue one. I have to challenge the prescribed notions that are ingrained on a seemingly innocuous level, that pink is just a colour and that anyone can choose whatever colour they like. When that’s still met with resistance, I have to go further, your Daddy wears pink shirts. I see his eyes register some acknowledgement, but he insists on the blue cup anyway. It’s ok. I lose the battle, but not the war.

 

#MeToo is more than a campaign, it must be a way of life.

 

The Waiting Game… Part One

We’ve all stood in front of the microwave waiting for the one minute to end. Seems like forever. My four-year-old can barely stand it. After 5 seconds, “It’s ready, Mom!”. Try let it go for the full minute and I have him screaming, pulling up a chair, reaching for the pause button as he’s tortured beyond restraint.

 

I don’t like waiting either. Perhaps, Master T inherited that from me?  If the meeting is scheduled for 10:00, it’s 10:00. 10:10 is late. 10:30 is just out of order. Is there such a thing as good waiting and bad waiting? And how do we know when it’s good and to just let it go? I’m the girl whose day is managed by the clock. Even when there’s ‘nothing’ to do. Meditation any time after 06:30 is just counter-productive since either your kids are up banging on the bedroom door or singing ‘Barney’ over the baby monitor or the neighbour’s kids or dogs are up and about. It’s no longer still. And one’s calm and peace vanishes like a thief in the night.  The struggle is real.

 

As a singleton, my beloved friend, Sandy, with dependants, would jokingly tell me to “get a cat or a dog or something” since I was habitually the first to be ready or arrive at any social engagement, impatiently tapping my fingers, calling, texting, “where are you guys?”. In other words, I needed some distraction to make me as late as others, so that we could all be on time together. Even then, I was blissfully unaware that my affinity for time was an indication of a deeper underlying issue. My need to control.

 

That’s at the heart of being impatient, not waiting, a need to control everything which is ultimately impossible. I was failing dismally, in all areas of my life.  The more I tried to control, the more I lost it, the more anxious I became. The biological clock is real and mine was banging like a drum with no rhythm. The waiting for a husband, for a child, the things that everyone around me seemed to have, made me feel insignificant, inadequate and above all, lonely. I even started to believe that I had been ‘bewitched’. It had to be something ‘other’, surely, it couldn’t be me? Why had God abandoned me, in such a cruel way?

 

Looking back, that is so melodramatic. Again, perhaps Master T inherited that from me? When God was trying to whisper, to coax me to listen to Him, my shrieking hormones, coupled with my past hurts and unresolved losses, drowned out any stillness that I so desperately needed. It was a period in my life when I had some of my scariest, most disturbing dreams. I call them my ‘snake dreams’ since that was a common theme in my reality and sub-conscious. This is how He tried to turn up the volume, but I was still distracted. I can’t recall a particular event or moment that got me to my point of no return. Rather, it was sheer emotional and physical exhaustion. I eventually got so tired of all the drama, most self-created and indulged, that my body physically and mentally opted out.

 

To be continued…