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City of Banjul
Friday, April 19, 2024

A letter to my daughters

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With Rohey Samba

Dear Jewo and Bobo,
I have waited long and hard to write to you my girls. It is not a prevarication of parental norms but predicated on basic respect. You are my reflections, my eternal companions, my very own daughters.
I was elated to find at 20 weeks of pregnancy that I was going to have girls. I spent a lot of time thinking about you before you were born and after I gave birth to you. I did not care about how you were going to be named; I left that commitment to your dad. I knew you would be all I wanted and more.

I am thirty-five years old as I write to you – an adult female who has expanded her girth of life’s experiences as a black African and a woman, but one who has not been unduly affected or vindictive towards the vagaries of life. I have lived a bit. I have grown some more. And I am at a station where the train of life wants to reconnect me with the present.

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Yesterday, I read in the news about how Ivanka Trump influenced her dad, the current president of USA, Donald Trump, to launch Syria air strikes in response to her heartbroken reaction to the gas attack that left many dead in Syria, especially children. I smiled at the news in recollection of a similar bond in my own household. Bobo, you have got your dad wrapped around your little fingers at the age of three. As two peas in the same pod, I could see you evoking a similar reaction from your own dad if he were president.

My exact replica, Aja. We are also two peas in the same pod or should I employ the Wolof saying, the two parts of a colanut. Yet our physical resemblance is where it ends, my left-handed polyglot. Your temperament is composed and your deportment, unhurried. At six years of age, you teach me to be calm. Yet, you are no one’s punching bag. Even though I do not interfere much in your sibling rivalry with your elder brother, I am assured by your stance on matters of your own wellbeing that you can take on any bully without much of a fuss. At six years of age, I see the burning hunger for excellence in your regard and innate kindness in your bearing. Primarily due to these reasons, I see a lot of my mother in you, even in your lighter skin tone.

In life, you came so fast, I had to ask the attendant midwife whether it was really you. As she raised you up and took you to the bathing place, you held unto her arm with such zest, she laughed about it with the joke, ‘You are not falling down, baby girl. I won’t let you fall down.’ You stuck to your zest for life even when I had to leave you at two months of age to further my education for two years. On the day I returned home, you ran up to me and never left my side. When my mom teared up and begged me to leave you with her for one more night, you refused to comply with her request and followed me home that very night.

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Bobo. You are sparkling with enthusiasm and bubbling with life. You are skilled in PR at the age of three and a great performer in your own right. The world is your stage, and you made a grand entrance into it, holding up your own body with your own little hands. Your ‘don’t mess with me’ attitude, reminds me a lot about myself as does your hunger for creativity and your persistence. Your cheery disinterest in anyone but your dad amazes me. Yet your cheerfulness eggs me on.

Your dad, out of Wolof tradition, gave me the honour of naming you for you are my third child. I named you after my own mother, without a slice of hesitation. Who else to name my own daughter? However, you exploit the Achilles’ heel well. Around me and my siblings, you defend your quirks with the gag that you are our ‘mother.’ At this moment in time, you are learning Fula, so that you can ‘mother’ us more.
You are both absolutely incapable of seeing me sad, my girls. And it is absolutely impossible to deter you from making my life wonderful, the sole topic of conversation in your limited vocabulary a vibrant sonata that fills the background of my life with kisses, love and laughter. You do not invite me to question my worth or belittle my motherhood. You help me to lay my focus on a healthy, happy life.

Five years ago, I said I was going places at 35. It was a pensive conundrum that kept humming in my mind. I had gone places by 35, my daughters. I have passed through a number of red flags and now I am at a major impasse. I would not recount to you the details of my expeditions but I would paraphrase to whatever extent I am able in the hope that one day, when you are both adults, you would be able to decipher the relevant stuff from the banalities. Meanwhile, I question the foundation of my relationships. Whatever the outcome, I owe my family a relationship in the eyes of God, and none else.

I have not developed PowerPoints for the unpleasant incidents I have collected, granted that is a lousy variation of the standards I have tried to develop in you. The past is only relevant if it adds to our inventory of knowledge and scale up our experiences. And I will spare you the highly subjective annotations I am wont to make in the matters for which I disagree. I will justify however, the ideals for which I stand, in the matters of life and the living, in the hope that you will understand me one day, even if you do not agree with me in totality.
The takeaway for me has not been the delusion that my journey of life has been objectively good or bad. I seek not to fight against destiny, but I grapple with the fact that I am my own destiny. That destiny happened because I am master and it is servant. I was born to give you life. And I commit myself to being your mother and your elder brother’s. Yet I am me. I was not born to be someone else’s property to be leased, to be let or sublet. I was born as someone’s daughter to give birth to my own.

I fear for you as well as any mother. I know not where the vagaries of life will take you in the future. That you are of me, is a delusion I can’t muster, neither in my open-mindedness about life nor in any generosity of spirit. That you are from me and we are all from the Maker, the Giver of life and the Taker of souls is the only reality there is and I am strong for the strength I receive from Him.

I guarantee you that there is always someone out there who wishes for your failure and unhappiness. Be consoled by the verses of the Qur’an that, ‘If Allah afflicts you with a calamity, none can remove it but He. If He intends to bestow a favour, none can withhold His Bounty. He bestows it on whomever of His servants He pleases. He is the Forgiving, The Merciful.’ (Surat Yunus, 10:107)
I decided to write to you when I am not yet too old nor too young to cast any aspersions about my imminent mortality. I am in a pink of health and in sound mind mash’Allah. Yet I don’t own my life as much as I owe you the truth.

I fear for you the vices I see happen to girls that make them to lose their potential and fall off the ‘barn wagon’ before they are able to reach their prime. I fear that life may treat you unkindly because you are girls; that you may fall pregnant to an inadequate boy or that you may marry to a worthless man. I have so much great ambition for you two. All my decisions that I will make are to afford you a peaceful, respectful environment that yields benefits to you. But ultimately, your life is in your own hands. Whatever you make of it, I will be in it every step of the way, till my time runs out…
For I remain, Your Mother…

Excepts from the book, 35 by Rohey Samba.

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