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Diaspora diary: Parenting: Figuring it all out

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I have had so many struggles in my life; struggles with my identity as a woman, with my blackness in a foreign country, struggles with defining my own beauty, all very important struggles, but none of which have felt as permanent, as exhausting, and as important as the struggles of parenting.

BY Rumbie Munochiveyi

I want to be a good mother. I want to raise a certain kind of children. I want to be a successful parent.

When I was in high school, I threw the javelin. Each person got three attempts and your best throw was considered for competition. So each time I threw, I aimed to throw farther, to improve my distance. I thought that was fair. Now came this family thing, this parenting thing, and there were no several attempts, just one shot.

On the day my first son was born, I remember him being laid on my chest after a Caesarian section. I marvelled at his beauty and as I lay there staring at him with joy, I promised I’d be the best mother ever. It would be simple, I thought.

I would just do everything right and he would turn out as perfect as I had imagined. It wasn’t even before the first year was over that I realised things were not going to be as smooth as I had imagined. But even that first year could not prepare me for what would come.

It seems as though it all happened in a whirlwind’s motion, in a dizzy moment of swirling and stirring around. It feels like I just woke up one day and it wasn’t just one, I was now a mother of four, asking myself a million questions that had never crossed my mind before. I was learning everything on the job, borrowing from the experiences of my mothers and aunts. But I’d soon realise it didn’t work that way.

I began asking myself questions, to which my life, and the way I lived, would be the answers. First and foremost I asked myself; what do we want from our children? What are our expectations of them, for them? And of course I found the answer in looking around my world, from what I’d observed in other human beings throughout my life.

I knew I wanted to raise children that others could bear to live with, children who would be able to work with other people in my absence, and be respectful, and compassionate to other people. I also wanted them to be confident and brave enough to face the challenges of the world without Mum and Dad’s hands holding them and pushing them.

That was my challenge. I wanted to raise independent, decent human beings.

And of course then came the question, what is good parenting? There were a few things that seemed obvious to me. Good parenting started with me being a certain kind of person. The same would be expected of their father. We had to be exemplary parents especially as we had noticed our little ones were little sponges and took in anything and everything we did, and imitated without a thought to it.

I also learned along the way that to be successful as a parent, one had to invest time in their children, quality time spent being involved in the things they did in their little lives, and being very observant, keeping a keen eye on changes and anything that needed attention right away. And we were supposed to set limits and strict boundaries, set routines and organise their little lives.

On pen and paper, we had it all figured out. We knew what we wanted and we read books and listened to shows that suggested this and that for parenting. But when we tried to implement these simple things, we struggled. I remember one day, my well-trained three-year-old acting up in a store.

I told him to stop running around or else . . . And he turned to me and asked, “Or else what Mum? Or else what?” He did it in the most defiant and embarrassing manner, so loud and clear for all to hear and judge my parenting skills. He had never done it before and so I did not know how to handle it right there. In the parenting manual that I never got, maybe there is a page that deals with surprises of this kind. I was stunned, to say the least.

After we left the store we dealt with it as diligently as we could. But this was just the beginning of little surprises. Soon I discovered the whole journey is littered with so many surprises, and what I’ve mastered is the art of turning these little crazy moments into laughable, frozen moments that just make up a part of our journey, our family history. And now I seek to share with the world, all the funny and painful moments that are helping make this family what it is.

I will never find all the answers to our parenting woes, but the least I can do is to share my experiences with the world, hoping that someone can learn a thing or two from my experiences, or if not, just laugh at the craziness that is my life.

l I am a mother of three very energetic boys and a little girl who is stepping into all her brothers’ footsteps more accurately than I ever imagined possible. I will share my world and my experiences here, laughing at that which can be laughed at, while hoping to also start important debates about family life. After all, ideas are what change the world, one inch at a time.

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