Growing up in an African African home, taboo subjects were never broached.
In later years to come, we lived and pulled through by default and discovery.
The rule of unspokenness reigned in household conversations. You learnt key family rudimentaries by observation, shouting, yelling and the occassional hiding on your butt. But never that small talk on growing up, becoming a woman and the changes that awaited you.
In other families, you suffered a traumatizing physical ambush by huge adult hands ripping and slicing off pieces of your private flesh for reasons you could not comprehend other than hate for you or your womanhood.
“You’ re now a woman”
That echo fizzled out, as nasty itchy bleeding wounds ravaged your inner cores. Horrid invasion.
And there were things that remained unspoken till you died.
Nobody prepared you for this, until the day catastrophe happened. A time you suffered the extremity of shock from soiling yourself, only to be met with daggers from your mother.
“Now you are a woman. No boys. No pregnancies in this home.”
After this first bleed, some mothers never followed up. After six months have gone by, she’ll remember to come to you and ask, expressionless. “Have they come again?”
For an ill prepared 12 year old, you cannot begin to imagine the mental agony combined with everlasting period cramps, a piece of sodden rag thrust between legs, mulling over pregnancy.
Mothers failed terribly in preparedness of their daughters’ milestone. I see some still cringe and walk out of the Tv room everytime the ‘Always’ advert comes on.
Mothers needed to find a silent twosome moment, sit down over a cup of tea and an unwrapped sanitary packet on the table, bed, floor wherever.
At this point mothers ought to go over finer details of period processes, procedures and proceeds. Period.
Talk about virginity, talk about hormones, talk about sex, talk about baby entry and outlet routes, talk about cramps, talk about hygiene, tell them blood smells awful, they must be clean, even use alittle perfume. Tell them it will last until menopause.Talk talk, talk… offer remedies and solutions to all their questions. Prepare your daughter like you prepare for a wedding.
And always end.
“It’s a good blessed sign, of womanhood.”
On the first day of her period, celebrate it with cake, like a birthday. You don’t know what a confident, with high esteem girl, you’ll have churned out.
Nothing new, nothing too difficult for her to tackle.
The lesson must of course be topped by a practical activity.
Demonstrate with coloured liquid, allow the girl/s to put on a pad the whole day and give feedback. It can be done as early as 5 or 6 years. Talk about it as normal conversation, demystify all myths around it. You’re your daughter’s first teacher. Dont hand her to ‘others.’
Never miss the opportunity to bond in your private classroom.
2. ‘Crushes’ and Heartbreak
Like all things swept under carpet. Sorry no carpets here, Mother’s never talked about feelings. How to feel.What they felt nor prepared you for incoming feelings like serious ‘Crush.’
That these feeling would come in like a crash flood and torpedo you into a world of solo bliss because your crush has no idea nor interest in you or has a crush elsewhere.
So teen girls grew up in a love grief that happens to teens as early as 11 to 19 year olds. They dwelt in feelings of rejection, hating their pimply faces, and later sucked into lifetime of bleaching creams to attract the opposite sex.
All for one missed lesson: That a crush is not sustainable love. It’s a solo period to manage intense feelings positively. And that it’s a normal phase of teen growing.You don’t need to write letters, to your crush promising marriage or suicidal notes. It remains a crash like a car crash.You can survive or be damaged from impact.
Just remind them “It will pass and you’ll find true love that recognises your worth.”
A lot of hugs are needed during this period. Insist on being her best friend. One she can pour upon all emotions she’s going through.
Buy her a diary, encourage her to write her feelings down. Talk in the third person, if you find love notes in her books. Tell her your story of first crush and finally finding a wonderful man her father.
Ignore Africa’s ways when it comes to this point.Where women don’t feel or experience sexual or romantic emotions. It’s the whole purpose of FGM, women are barred to feel, to say it, to look it or act it. It’s wrong to feel or you’ll be branded a whore.
And if you keep this up you’ll save many of our girls from teen pregnancies because they’re ignorant of ongoing changes and feelings.
In such emotional blackouts they’ve been found by older men who took advantage of the confusing stage.
3. He beats Me
Domestic Violence entrenched in culture is not subject to discussion even among the women adults. How then would a mother have such conversation with her younger daughters.
“How do I tell my children, “your father beats me?”
In most customs.Wife beating is a necessity, otherwise it’s construed you’ve no love for your wife.
If no beating has come six months into marriage, the wife is asked to act irrational and provoke her husband, to beget her entitlement. A severe beating. SMH, at the ways of our people.
Women don’t cry, they don’t ask for help, they bear the humiliating pain like dolls on a couch. They don’t talk with their daughters about it. It’d sound alarmist and a fore warning. A woman weakness.
So girls get off to marriage and encounter violence untold.
A startled young bride wakes up next to bloodshot smouldering eyes in the place of one time lovey dovey doey eyes begging for love. Her fate sealed in a threat and violence filled home and she has no escape. She can only whisper
“Indeed he’s changed.”
Shamed to talk about it to friends or alarm their mothers, they don’t tell. Not knowing she’s been there.
Find Help. Call HAK toll free number 1195.
4. Sex and HIV
For most African African mothers sex is strictly for procreation. No hanky penny business or fun games.
That makes sex a ‘no go to’ topic when talking with daughters. Lest one be accused of “ruining” her own children before time. This attitude effectively deals all topics around sex and it’s sisters HIV and AIDS. Close and Shut case.
Sex and “I love you” are the same.
Sex and marriage are the same.
Sex and a woman are the same.
Sex and a man are the same.
So no one talks about Sex and HIV and AIDS. It’s a reserve for ‘others’ but not your own.
And the privacy of sex and silence of HIV has decimated millions of young girls and families.Talk about it. Make an informed choice. Don’t be bullied into marriage with an infected partner unless it’s your choice.
Make HIV Testing paramount to save lives.
Good mothers don’t mention contraceptives to their daughters. That’s wanton.
“You cannot kill your children before you have them.”
“You may never have kids.”
“Have all your children when you are married, as many as the womb and God will let you.”
A mother wouldn’t seek to be accused of killing her unborn grandchildren before they come to pass and so this topic stops dead in her house. It’s left to you to figure out how you navigate that dilemma. You are alone!
Choices have consequences. Make the wisest each time.
Nothing like dating exists in the vocabulary of an African African mother. It’s a misdemeanour in her household. It shouldn’t be there. It shouldn’t happen.You don’t date. It’s not a serious word for serious people. It’s a word by jokers to have sex with you, to waste your youthful beauty.
To be damaged goods. Goods once sold. To be an expiry date. Spilt Milk.
Don’t accept it, because she won’t.
You’ll tell her you’re dating the day you bring along a serious man for a fiance to negotiate dowry or marriage. Period.
Mother’s won’t tell you how to best use your money.They are not sure you’ll have and keep it for yourself.
She won’t tell you, father asks, takes and borrows her money without returning it, so that when it happens to you, you won’t say “No.”
She’ll most likely respond in the following fashion.
“I dont have money even when she earns.”
Even when she earns, she can’t take her children out, nor her friends. It’s papa’s forte to have a good time in life. She doesn’t want to spoil you with the unspeakable. So she won’t discuss things outlandish and unfamiliar in her world.
“It’s the cause of our family woes.”
Chart your own course when you get there.
You deserve a little happiness and pampering before you expire.
8. You are not Priority
It’s assumed and expected, the woman knows her place.You’ll learn from your mother, the family pace and place for you.
You’ll toil and fend for your family like a single mother yet you are married.
You’ll be lucky if you land in a good home, with well mannered relatives and plenty of food. Even then you rank fourth after your husband, children and relatives.
You’ll serve them first to their fill and nourishment or face taunting for being a poorly mother.
And still eat the leftover crumbs.
Most of your meals will compose of baby slurp. Licking clean baby’s bowls and sucking on left over bones. And be content to protect your own like mother hen.
So treat yourself well at all times.
The most waited time in a new bride’s home. But what mother never said is that, it might turn out your worst nightmare.
With moodiness ranking high, overnight, your husband looks like an Orang Utang and you don’t want to share the bed you received as a prize to keep your matrimonial bed burning with love.
You smell everything from his bad breath to the help’s new lotion.It all stinks.
You crave beer in the middle of the night yet married to a pastor and it’s Sunday.
You throw up your favorite omelet spiced in tomato and onions.
You feel so sick, you’ll die any minute.
Haggard and thinned. You hate your day and body, refusing to eat. No joyous moments. No one prepared you. Mother knew, it’s your anointed and allocated encounter with life. Don’t blame her she got through, so will you.
She never told you desire for sex will dimish or triple. And after birth completely lose interest in sex.
Just before you push, you’ll make bizarre demands. Demanding he rubs your back or stays away for good. You’ll ask for diesel soaked cloth to sniff on the whole night, or a ripe coconut when you live on the mainland.
It’s an all picky season.We get angry irritable or laugh at a fly perched on his nose.
Take it easy.
This one is the least of never mentioned subjects. You’ll tackle it in the end even though you know nothing of it.
You’ll bleed like a cow in a slaughter house.You’ll use linen rags cotton wool and pads will be playthings.They can’t soak up all that blood.
You’ll have headaches and bloated belly even if you are fasting.
Invest in plenty of exercise and quiet moments because you’ll be so irritable no one can stand you.
Kudos to our Mothers.They survived why not you. But your daughter’s will have it easy.