This a repost from one of my favourite blogs: Life’s Little Interruptions. Val writes so honestly and openly about the things going on in her life and mind that it’s impossible for me not to love her writing. On her blog you will find her stories about her love life, her self discovery and parenting. This post in particular is about that awkward moment when a 5 year old asks you a question you simply have no answer for. When parenting gets hard, just remember that out there, someone has 5 year old quadruplets.
Of late, my other-wise bouncy, self-assured and sensible son has been obsessing, even verbally lamenting over the colour of his skin. He queried the other day, rather desolately, why I am white and he is brown. And because I have never prepared myself thoroughly for the onslaught of the five-year-old-question-time, I hastily mumbled through an answer. He would not resign. “But why can’t I be white like you. I want to be white like you, mom”. He was relentless. “Why is my father brown like me and my step-mother is white”? Now typically, I will very quickly think of a sensible and age-appropriate come-back. But some days, some questions with their weight just throws me under the bus.
If this topic of brown and white has not made me any wiser, it has at the very least afforded me the opportunity to reflect a bit on how I am doing in the parenting department with specific reference to the whole single mother business. To tell you the truth, I am generally not hung up with the fact that I am single mom. Where I come from, single-parenting has been the status quo. My mother. She was the one who single-handedly put a roof over our heads, put meals on the table, paid the bills, negotiated with the school finance department for late school fees payments. She was the one who bandaged my bruised knee with a kiss.
And that’s what I have doing. Diligently fuelling that cycle. I pay the bills. I tank up. I prepare meals. I do the school runs. I attend teacher-parent meetings. I do the cleaning. I am the one bombarded with the most awkward questions at the most inopportune times. I play karate with him. I am forced to watch re-runs of The Smurfs and Escape from Planet Earth with him. As if that isn’t enough, I am the one subjected to what my son finds to be uproariously funny sounds – his farts. I have to do all of that. Alone. And through all this, I am expected to maintain my sanity. If I had not known better, I would have made single mommy-hood my crowning glory. I would comfortably nestle myself in the normalcy of it and work mighty hard to one day be crowned the World Greatest Single Mom. But that is not what I want. Not that I imply that co-parenting comes (guaranteed) with all the bells and whistles with which it is sold.
But there must be something sweetly comforting in sharing the joys, responsibilities, the agonies and triumphs of raising a little human person with someone other than yourself.
Ironically, if I hark back to the latter years of my adolescence, there was one prayer so fervent God just could not miss it. I prayed that I have my first child at the age twenty seven. Marriage or even the prospects of it was not a pre-requisite. I wanted that child. And so the Universe conspired. I popped out my little brown bundle, enveloped in yellowish cheese-like slimy stuff – at age twenty seven. So here I sit with it. It is five years old. It has a mind of its own. Skin pigmentation is his single biggest concern at the moment. I have to raise it. I have to ensure that I do everything humanly possible, that this child that I raise will be comfortable in his own skin.
After all, he will be living inside that brown skin for a very long time.