My mom was a single mom from the very first day I was born. My dad was not a constant in our lives, and would drift in and out of our lives every few years. I lived with my mom and grandparents until the age of 7, when my grandfather died. After this, it was my mom, grandmother and I until I left home at 23 years old. During this time, my mother’s younger brother also stayed with us for a short period. My mom worked full time, so I spent most of my days with my grandmother. In many ways I viewed my grandmother as my mom. Many people actually thought she was my mom.
My mom was incredibly strict. If she wasn’t happy with anything I did, didn’t do or didn’t do to her liking, I would be punished. Punishment meant being beaten. Whether it was with her free hand, a trouser belt, a cane – which was blue and kept behind the bedroom door -, or my hair pulled on occasion. I did everything I could to prevent this, but I wasn’t very good at it, as it came often. I recall many times talking to myself about how I hated my life, and how I hated my mom. I don’t condone beating of children, and never will. I don’t understand how a parent could want to hurt a child that way. I feared my mom.
In terms of social life, I didn’t have one of my own until around the age of 18. Until then, I only went to family gatherings, or wherever my mom or grandmother went. This included weekly outings to do the food shop. The closest I had to friends that I was able to play outside with from time to time, was a neighbour on either side, until my final year in high school. I befriended one girl in my final year, and we remained friends for about three years after. This was the closest I came to a best friend in my late teens, early twenties.
I wasn’t exposed to too much, and only really became aware of what opportunities were out there once I started working in the real world, which was at 18 years old. I wish I knew that had I worked harder at school, I could have applied for things like bursaries or scholarships. My home was not an educational one, and a child was meant to be seen not heard, let alone have choices or opinions. Studying beyond finishing high school was not something known or done in my family. In fact, my immediate family prior to my generation didn’t even finish high school.
Once in the working world, I became very aware of possibilities. I kept it quiet but I knew with certainty, a few things I wanted for myself. I was prepared to do the type of work I didn’t want to do, until I could better my skills, paying my way to obtain those skills. I always gave the best I could in every work environment. It paid off time after time as hard work does, until I found a workplace where I felt that not only was hard work important, but that I mattered too. It changed the course of my career, and who I am today. It was not without its challenges, but I kept wanting to develop self, to feel I achieved, and that my contributions were positive not because someone told me, but because I felt that way.
What I learnt from being raised in the way I was, was that you can be different. You experience and witness behaviours that help mould you into being someone different. I always knew my future child/children would never feel the physical and emotional pain I felt because of my mother’s ways of punishing. I chose to allow my children to experience life and make sure they know that a world of opportunities is awaiting. I want them to know that they must never stop trying, never give up, work hard and do their best. That way, they can determine their life’s course earlier than I did. I learnt that educating others on possibilities, perspectives, opportunities, and their ability to develop is possible.
I think back on my childhood, and certain things are still painful. I think back on my childhood and have regrets about my own naivety. But I also think back on my childhood, and I am grateful that I was sheltered from some of the very bad things that existed in my community. I am thankful that I had no choice but to put my right foot forward all the time, or there would be consequences. I will never condone or accept the physical nature of the consequences, but it’s what I had at the time. The fear it brought somehow grounded me. I believe in my life I started flying when I was meant to.
If I had the opportunity, I would say to my mom what I feel and what I still think about her punishment. But, I would have also made sure she knew that some of the most valuable life learnings and my values, I do credit to my strict upbringing also. I wish I could have had more time with my mom. I wish that I made more of an effort to be there for her, and appreciate the life she grew into, and shared with her the beautiful differences one could have in life despite your background and circumstances. I can now appreciate how much my mom loved me. What I failed to see growing up was that I was fed, clothed, sent to school, had a warm bed to sleep in, and that she did what she knew and felt was best. I regret missing the opportunity of her witnessing who I became, and really am. I know that she would have been so proud of my successes.
Until next time…
Yours in Adapting & Being