2017 is closing. It has been a very mixed bag for me. I feel contented that I did the most with most opportunities presented. I do not live my life with regret, but if I have done something for which I am remorseful I find the gumption and resolve to apologize. In cases where I cannot apologize for my actions, I strive do my best not to repeat the behaviour.
One such lesson came for me over the weekend. I had an experience with my near 16-year-old son which caused me to engage in deep reflection.
Allow me to issue a few disclaimer notes before I share the incident:
Contrary to popular belief the National Organization of Women and other groups formed by women to support the work in the womanist agenda are not just spaces for man hating. Also, while some of the major proponents of feminist and womanist epistemologies have been lesbian, every woman who is feminist or womanist certainly is not gay. But even before we get to that point though, it must also be stated that being lesbian is a sexual orientation, it is not a badge for man hating.
Whether a womanist is heterosexual or lesbian, there are relationships that women have with males beyond sexual relationships. Women are the sisters, mothers, aunts and cousins of boys and men. However, one of the dynamics that has caught my attention over time is that between what we call ‘the strong black woman’ and her male child.
I think that there are some mothers who do not allow their male children enough space to develop the characteristics of well-adjusted men. It is the tangible fallout from the old adage that states that ‘two man rats cannot live in the same hole’ and it is worse when one of those man rats is a woman!
With a mother who is sole breadwinner, the defender of the house and generally lives without the care and attention of a male partner, there is an easy tendency to cross certain subtle lines in the raising of a male child.
A few days ago I tried to do what I thought was defending my son’s honour and protecting him in a circumstance, but he got very upset with me and I could not understand what I had done to earn his ire. I discussed the incident with a man close to my heart and whose advice and guidance I value. He explained to me that every boy wants to feel as though he is his mother’s protector; he wants to be the one to go to bat for her and not to have her in that role for him.
His explanation was reasonable and sensible enough. So 2018 will find me balancing my strength and independence more with my care for my son and my desire to mould him into a confident and functional man. I am not glibly saying that because it will not always be an obvious and easy thing to do, but I recognize it as a necessary thing to be done.
Advocacy makes you a poster child for the principles extolled. A life of advocacy is not one of pontification. It is a life lived by example and doing the things that are hardest. Even as I strive for this level of balance, my son will also have to do some learning. The one thing that our gendered realities take away from us is a fluid understanding of the concepts of ‘man’ and ‘woman’ and the roles and attributes ascribed to them. I do not believe in carte blanche removal of all that is sensible and reasonable but yet I long for the space to both want to have my door pulled and to be able to defend my son and not have to defer to his father just because I am seen as an out of place woman.
Therefore, a pretty steep learning curve has already been set for my 2018. Even as I learn my place with my son, I will continue to occupy other places which are not seen as mine. I am by no means growing old and cold.
I am looking forward to the upcoming election campaign. I am looking forward to the newness and hope it potentially offers. Another thing I have continued to learn at the personal level is to allow myself the right and space to be who I am. From as young as I can remember, and as most of my schoolmates can attest to this, I have loved words and debating. I have always had a cause and so politics and political involvement come very naturally to me. My children tolerate my involvement but they are not the most excited by it. Parenting is a balance. It is the perennial question about how much of me can I forfeit and how much will I retain because it leads to my personal happiness.
There are no apologies to make there. I hope that the women of Barbados, who outnumber the male vote at least two to one, take their own participation in this election as seriously. It must be our election to truly manifest a direction for ourselves and our children, based on demanding political interest in our issues and struggles. All of the challenges our country has faced affect women more exponentially as the heads of households and as the ones still fighting for equal opportunities and ungendered parameters.
And so I leave you with best wishes for 2018. I hope that whatever you’ve struggled with this year becomes much more resolved if not completely addressed. I wish us all more grace, patience and happiness and the strength, first to recognize our challenges, and then to face them head on.