November 08, 2016

Letters to my child: Why you are not American.

www.omonaikee.blospot.com

When we were deciding where to have our baby, America came up. My first priority was the best health care we could afford because in the year before and during my pregnancy, stories of people going to the hospital and not coming out became too close for comfort. Then there was the benefit of citizenship.

Part of me didn't want to become one of them- those bourgeoisie Nigerians who made giving birth abroad a statement of status. I also didn't want to trend along with the "trenders", doing what was seen to be "high class" but these were small matters compared to the tinge of guilt I struggled with that I would be using the birth of my child to gain some benefit in a sense and that I was commercializing the decision of where to deliver a baby when what should inform that choice was the life of mother and baby period.
 
So when the logistics of planning were getting too complicated and time was running out, my hesitation grew until we settled for a less stressful alternative that we were happy with health care wise.
 
So that's why Angel face is not American. But as I thought about this, it led me down the road to what her identity is and if it is one or a combination of these:
 
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To my child,

 
You are God's
 
Not just Christian as in religion but God's own as in identity.  You will know who you are in Christ and your place in him. You will know that you are called to know him, love him, understand him and be in relationship with him.

You will learn how to make a bed, greet your elders in your local dialects and all the things you will be taught in school but you will also learn how to pray, what the bible means for you and where to turn to when life happens. We did at your dedication and still do solemnly swear that you will through our example and teachings.
 
This is what you will inherit from us. Not lands or houses, silver or gold, traditions or chiefdoms, loyalties or name but the one thing that can never fail, never let you down, never forsake you- Christ.
 
You are Ebira- Yoruba
 
Having an Ebira father and Yoruba mother (your daddy married a  Yoruba wife, yay!) gives you a blended culture and we hope you embrace the good aspects of both worlds. You have names from both cultures which reflect the hopes of both sides of your family for you. They are good hopes that follow you, hopes you should carry proudly each time you tell people your names- Hello, my names are: I belong to God- I am a conveyor of good tidings - I have the God-kind of life - Jesus Loves Me- I am the mother of good tidings.
 
You will speak both Yoruba and Ebira with our blessing and collective support. Your parents marriage may be inter-tribal but our home is not divided along tribal lines. In accepting the Yoruba and Ebira in you, we accept each other and it will be to the credit of our ethnically diverse marriage, if we can expand and enrich your Nigerian identity by teaching you to be  multi-cultural and multi- lingual. Perhaps, we will add Hausa to the mix. It is what we learnt growing up in the North- the plot of our beginnings, a part of our history, a place where we came from. Perhaps, we will add Chinese. It is where the world is going to, it may give you some advantage.
 
We owe it to you to help you see each one as a part of your identity without feeling you have to choose or that in being one you are not being the other. You are both. Your identity is not one narrative, in one tongue delivered to you through one family line. It comes in many tastes and flavors, proverbs and songs, in coats of many colors and quotes of poignant sayings, bequeathed to you through your combined family tree. Your family is large, it is made up of  not one or even two but several families spanning generations that unite in you- their shared future.
 
While you are larger than the sum of us, what you are not is one half of us.
 
You are woman
 
You will learn that women are human beings not their sex and they have feelings not inbuilt codes and imprinted scripts. That tradition and religion should not be used selectively and directly to set rules for you that will conveniently change if you were born a boy. That the words "feminist" and "woman activist" exist because of the words "gender inequality" and "sexism". That when men do things that are wrong, it is not excusable because of their gender. And when women want things that they want, it is not deniable because of their gender.
 
That roles at home and jobs at work don't have to be about gender but about interest, about what you are best at and about what you can contribute to the team. That you don't have to do (or not do) anything because you are a girl but because it is what you want and what is best for you.
 
That you will not be raised in a household where your brothers can change the channel while you are watching TV because they want to watch football as if football or being boys makes that impoliteness acceptable. But one where all the individuals who use the house maintain it because they are responsible  to take care of the things they have been blessed with and domestication is not the prerogative of one gender but a useful life skill beneficial to both.
 
That you are not defined as one gender because you are dressed in pink or transgender because you play with "boy" toys or can be as rough or tough as them. That not wearing make up should you chose not to has nothing to do with "being" natural. What is unnatural is men deciding for women what beauty should be to and for them. Steal the rainbow and wear a dash of color, borrow from nature and splash on some cologne, emulate your creator and create expression through your hair or fashion pieces. Whatever your taste, express it, being you is natural.
 
That when you become a wife, it is not at the price of renouncing your identity or replacing your culture, beliefs, values, reasonings and choices with your husband's reasons why his are superior. That you do not suddenly become a child who is talked at rather than talked to, who has to take permission from "Oga", or worse be "disciplined" like a child by him and who decisions should be made for. That your input will be sought before decisions are concluded and that where it is your area, you too can be the decision maker. That it would not be your husband's house but your home together and there would not be one set of rules that apply to you in "his" house but rules and values that regulate your household.  

That when you are buying a house or negotiating with men, being married or bringing your husband or male colleagues to speak to "the men" for you will not be a requirement because they cannot deal with you- " a common woman". That your marital status would not be the measure by which you are accorded respect by the society and your maternal status or the gender of your children the measure by which you are accepted by family.
 
You are "The you are that you are"
 
You are not one yet but you have your likes and dislikes, your ways that are different from ours. We will let you be you and treat you as an individual.
 
We will be careful not to teach you that sex before marriage is bad or revealing clothes make you "Jezebel" or "a bad girl" but we will tell you why it is not the best of several options and teach you that choices have consequences. We will not ask you to listen to us because we are your parents, we will accommodate your questions and work through your doubts till you reach your own convictions and where they differ from ours within good reason, it will not be because we are not able to control you that we would withhold our blessing.
 
I have been in that place where what I want you to do and what you want to do conflict and I have questioned if what I want you to do is what is needed or what is simply convenient and pleasurable to me. I have a feeling this will have to happen more times than I will be able to count or remember. It will not be easy but I have plenty of help in your wise and objective father and we look forward to a life time of getting to know you.


                                                                                                                             Simply,
                                                                                                                             Mum.
 

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