What being a mother to a boy child has schooled me

mother and son

My greatest duty as his mother – as the leading woman in his life – is to learn how to communicate my love and care for him in a way that he, as a little man, will understand.

Photo credit: Fotosearch

Weeks ago, Njeeh – our son, he’s two – got into a little accident at home. He was with his sister, Muna, and her friends, and they were playing in the way that kids play.

While at it, the index finger of his right hand got caught in the neighbour’s door, on the side where the hinge is. How I’m told it happened is that someone was shutting the door and his finger was innocently there, the tip was shut in. (Painful, I know.)

Njeeh wailed so loud that the birds outside were startled and flew off the trees. Everyone was taken aback in a collective gasp. Panic permeated the scene.

Muna, in an attempt to rescue his imprisoned finger, yanked him hard and his finger was set free... Only that it left a kilo of bloodied flesh behind.

By the time they were leaving the neighbour’s house and coming to ours, his finger was bleeding like an open tap and there was a gaping hole right above his fingernail. It looked like the Menengai Crater! I contained the bleeding using some basic first aid then we rushed him to the emergency room of the nearest children’s hospital. He’d stopped crying.

The doctor said it was a flesh wound that hadn’t reached his bone, thank goodness. They cleaned it up and dressed it rather dramatically with gauze and bandage.

We got home an hour later. Muna and her friends welcomed him with ululations and dance, he seemed like a wounded general returning home from a war bravely fought. No sooner had we set him down than he was back outside playing as though nothing had happened.

He’s better now, thanks for asking. The nail is intact. The flesh of the crater wound grew back and sealed itself shut. The young man is now aware not to get anywhere near the hinges of a door. But that exaggerated story is not the story. This is the story.

Own people

For a long time, I’ve believed that babies are just babies: that a boy baby is the same as a girl baby. That a daughter will be raised in – more or less – the same way a son will. 

I have also been big on individuality. That children are their own people – they have their own individual personalities, preferences and perspectives. That our duty as their parents and caregivers is to guide them on that journey into themselves and empower them with the confidence to embrace their individuality no matter what.

I’m here to tell you that being the mother to a boy child has schooled me. I confess I knew nothing. My parenting views were limited. My distaste for gender stereotypes was misinformed.

Here’s what I know now: Boys are different from girls – you cannot raise your son in the same you would raise your daughter. A woman cannot raise a boy to be a man. The world out there also engages differently with femininity and masculinity.

How I handled Njeeh after that finger accident is very different from how his father handled him. In fact, if you ask GB to tell you this story, he’ll tell it in one summarised sentence, a downplayed version that shows you just how different men and women perceive situations.

Our house help, a seasoned mum of two boys, told me that yes, raising boys is far different. She said in Kiswahili, ‘Njeeh is a man.’ The profundity of that simple statement startled me.

Since then, I’ve made some fascinating observations from our son’s male gender: He likes to play with toy cars but not with dolls, teddy bears and kitchen stuff: if you spread out all the toys from the toy box, all the toys we’ve bought him and the hand-me-downs from Muna, he’ll play with his cars and Legos, he’ll even build cars out of these blocks. And make the vroom vroom peep-peep animated sounds when playing.

When we’re hosting guests in our home, he’ll go where GB and the other men are sitting. Njeeh doesn’t care much for clothes and shoes – he doesn’t have a favourite t-shirt in his favourite colour or his go-to pair of lucky pants. He’ll be content in whatever you dress him in, even if it has holes.

I know he loves me from the way he softens around me, he lets me coddle and cuddle him. My greatest duty as his mother – as the leading woman in his life – is to learn how to communicate my love and care for him in a way that he, as a little man, will understand. Question is, how?

@_craftit; [email protected]


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