I’m bursting with thoughts and feelings that need to be translated into words and be put down on paper, black on white. The are festering inside me but I don’t know how to release them.
This whole parenting business is a tough one. It’s undeniably the most beautiful and fulfilling thing I’ve done in my life, but it’s also the hardest. We all know about the sleepless nights, the dealing with tantrums, the tending to sick children, the unruly behaviour which turns the little cherubs we once swaddled into little terrors. That’s the tiring part of parenting. They are mostly phases that come and go until the next challenge is thrown our way. There is, however, another aspect of raising children I hadn’t really encountered so far. Or maybe I had but I just ignored it and got on with it.
I first came across these feelings when Maia started school at the age of three. I was sending her out in the world, without me or those closest to me to pick her up if she fell and to make sure she ate her lunch and to wipe her tears if she got upset and to laugh with her if something amused her. That was her first little step away from me and my embrace. She was a little bit closer to being independent from me.
Now she is eight. She is reaching out into the world a lot more than she did five years ago. I am not next to her most of the day. I don’t know whether she is crying or laughing or feeling scared or confused. She cannot turn to me for comfort or guidance. I only get to know some of the things that she would have lived through at the end of each day. Sometimes I don’t get to know anything at all. Other times she tells me things that I never thought I would hear.
She’s having a bit of a rough time at school. There is the matter of her struggle with our national language, for which I can only blame myself and my decision to speak to her in English. Then there is the more serious matter of her social life at school. At her age, fitting in is of utmost importance and fitting in when you don’t conform to the norm is difficult. It’s not that she sticks out like a sore thumb. It’s just that she is not as confident as her friends when it comes to speaking our language (she speaks it well by now, but doubts herself so resorts to English). She prefers Charlie and Lola to the ubiquitous Hello Kitty (and Charlie and Lola are virtually unknown on these islands). She prefers to dance and choreograph while her friends like to play pretend weddings. I don’t want her to feel she has to conform to what is considered the norm. I am proud of her for sticking to her guns and preferring to stay alone rather than play a game she doesn’t like. I hope she remains confident in her choices and tastes and never feels pressured to fit in or follow the masses.
I am proud of her but it hurts. It rips my heart into a million little pieces when she tells me that some of her classmates don’t allow her to play with them. I have to hold back the tears when she tells me that some children call her names just because she uses a language more than another. I want to be there with her to protect her. I want to tell those children that they are lucky to know a girl as special as she is. I want to call them the same names they call her because, in my books, they’re the ignorant ones for looking down on someone simply because she doesn’t use their dialect as much as they do. I want to shake them and tell them to get a backbone and follow their own likes and dislikes and not follow one bossy little girl who bullies the entire class into submission. I want to be there to hold my girl’s hand and tell her how privileged I feel to know her and to be the one who brought her into this world. I want to do all that but I can’t. I have to wait for her to come home, hoping she will tell me she had a great day at school. I have to live in the hope that this world will be kinder to her as she grows older and that she realises how unique she is, precisely because she isn’t one of the many.
I don’t know if it will ever get easier. I doubt it. I just know that the things that single her out today will be the ones that will make her an outstanding adult tomorrow. Just you wait and see.