By Kingsley Charles
I’ve slunk into your cubbyhole this midnight hour to whisper this confession to your ears while you lie asleep, snoring softly. Where I lay on my bed, I could scarce sleep, for my heart was laden with grief. The evil that has become my habit haunted me.
Son, as I lay on bed hours before trying to summon sleep, a Niagara of memories came flooding, memories that seared deep into my heart. I haven’t been a good mother, Son. I haven’t. I found fault in all of your actions.
I took you to task for spilling the tea on your shirt. I scolded you at table for munching noisily. In the kitchen too, I found fault. You didn’t wash the pots well. The cups smelt strongly of detergent. The floor of the kitchen was untidy and messy. And when you broke the a complete set of plates during washing, I cussed under my breadth.
Do you remember, Son, after the close of school, when the sun was high in the sky, how I smacked your face for eating in the road, in the presence of your friends? How I tugged at your ears for staring at the fist fight between two men while we walked—do you remember that? Or how I barred you from going to play with other children? I threatened to break your head if you ever went out of the house; and when you did, I thrashed you severely.
Even though I advanced in age, I didn’t advance in wisdom. I couldn’t stop to lord over you like a god. I decided your hair style (Stone cold). Where you disobeyed my instructions by having your hair cut low and shaped—as is common among teenagers—I sent you back to the barber’s shop, shoving you ahead of me, under the full glare of the public.
I groomed you for the Sciences so that you would be a medical doctor. When you broached the subject of changing from the sciences to the arts, I raved like a maddened beast. You’ll never change department, I declared. Those who were in the sciences did not have two heads. Yet when you came home with your result card at the end of the term, I castigated you. You were such a dunce, I insulted. Was this all I had been spending all my money on—for D and E grades? I wished I had a son like Seyi, the handsome lad who clinched all the prizes on the prize-giving day.
I nagged. I rebuked. I cursed. I took perverse delight in hauling you over the coals for your misdemeanours. You shuffled your feet when you walked. You were not a smart kid. You were so clumsy. I scoffed even at your bodily imperfections: your ears were too small. Your legs were like mosquitoes, and your lips were too big. They were as big as the mouth of a bucket, I sneered.
I was the ruthless mother. Selfish and egocentric. I cared nothing about your feelings; I paid no heed to your interests. I was only bent on having my say.
Two nights before, I saw you crounching in the doorway, your face broken into penitence.
‘What is it?’ I snapped at you. You kept mute for you dreaded what form of punishment I’d mete out on you if I discovered you’d spilled the pot of soup. You couldn’t but cry.
It was not that I loathed you. Or I didn’t love you. It was that I expected too much of you. I measured you by the yardstick of my own generation. I tried to alter your personality, to cramp your style. I demanded too much.
In spite of these all, you bore all of the criticisms gallantly. Never talking back at me. Because in you is a strong heart which even the severest rebuke cannot cannot rip apart. There was something beautiful in your character which glowed like the yellow sun over our rooftops.
Like a sinner making atonement for their sins, I have found my way into your room tonight, kneeling by your bedside, heart-smitten. But tomorrow I shall laugh when you laugh. Tomorrow I will embrace you in my arms and kiss you on the forehead before you go to bed. Tomorrow I will be the daddy you’ve never had. Tomorrow I will swallow the impatient words whenever I’m impelled to rebuke. For only yesterday you were the infant that clung to my back.
Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija
Kingsley Charles wrote from the University of Calabar.