A Son to Calm My Nerves
By Amandla Karungi
I stood in the kitchen, preparing supper, stirring something on the cooker, a dropped spoon in the sink and back to the cooker and as my mind came back to the same thought over and over again, I said to myself,
“When you give birth to a son, you give birth for the world and when you give birth to a daughter, you give birth for yourself.”
She would be my best friend… It was a girl. How else would I feel connected to her already?
At 20 weeks, I found out it was a boy. Three months after I gave birth, a distant relative met me at the mall and asked me what the sex of my baby was. I told her it was a boy. “Oh my God! she exclaimed with relief. Then she touched my hand and with a knowing look, said “We thank God!” What would she have said had it been a girl. Perhaps, it would have been a “Sorry” or some encouraging words, “Next time, Next time.”
My older sister calls my other sister, ‘The Boy of The Family’. To her, being strong minded, work oriented and independent makes her a boy. The long awaited boy who never came. The consolation prize. I wonder if in our individual ways, we had tried to compensate, to inaudibly ask for forgiveness for having been born “not enough”. Or maybe some had resigned to their fate, having been unable to achieve boyhood, remained premature adults focused on the smaller or ‘unimportant’ things. Boys keep the lineage going. Where are we on the family tree? We don’t exist. The line ended before us. Boys keep their father’s legacy. What is our role? Boys are the Lion. Girls are…
He said it wouldn’t have mattered whether we were having a boy or a girl. Maybe by some reasonable chance it did not, maybe society and tradition had somehow imprinted it in every mind but his. Contrary to what I had imagined, my son was my own. A little human being forthcoming with hugs and smiles and happiness. Where was his little iron throne that was made for those born to rule? A colleague asked me the same question when my baby was about seven months. He asked me if I was married, if I had a child, and promptly continued to ask about the sex of the baby. Ahaaaa, he replied, Now you have established yourself in the home.
What about our mothers? Had a marriage band and 30 years not been enough to “establish” them in the home. They, who had spent years wringing their insides over something which was, if not biologically influenced, at least God planned. The curse. The curse. Their enemies had bewitched them. If only they had birthed one son. Some women have had one girl after another, after another until they could produce no more. Some, have an age difference of more than 12 years between their ‘not enough’ and the ‘last try’ to get a King. What has this son done for his parents? What has this one achieved? I am better than my brothers. Am I not the one who has taken care of them in their old age? She says to console herself. She who was given a name that means All Are Children, a name given to the girl that comes after (one too) many girls. And her brother, the ordained, who came after her was named, I Shall Be Counted Among Other Men.
She went to school by chance. Taking girls to school was a waste of time, after all they would be married off to build some other man’s family. We are called necks, not heads. We are assistants, not the main. We are the supporting character in someone else’s story. They call us helpers not go-getters.
So how could we ever possibly be enough?
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