My Mama Told Me

Lethabo Bogatsu

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I never thought I had much in common with Forrest Gump. But after watching the movie for the maybe 9th time over the holidays with my mom, I realized that although Forrest and I are couldn’t be any more different, we have one major thing in common. We’ve both been raised by really resilient and […]

I never thought I had much in common with Forrest Gump. But after watching the movie for the maybe 9th time over the holidays with my mom, I realized that although Forrest and I are couldn’t be any more different, we have one major thing in common. We’ve both been raised by really resilient and determined single mothers who have influenced and shaped our lives. If you’ve watched the movie, you know what I’m talking about. If not, I suggest you watch it, particularly the scene between Mrs. Gump and the principal Mr. Hancock. She goes above and beyond to get her son the same opportunities as other children despite Forrest being “a bit on the slow side.”

I could easily say my mom went above and beyond to ensure that I got the best education, even when times were tough and she struggled paying my private school fees. Only once did she ask for help from my father who replied by saying that he refuses to fit the bill for the expensive lifestyle that my mom has gotten me accustomed to. Being a teacher himself, he said unapologetically “There’s nothing wrong with public school, it’s still the same education.” 11 years of private schooling later, I am still so thankful that my mom refused to compromise on my education. I guess thanks to her, I’ll never personally know the validity of my father’s words.

Erin Brockovich played by Julia Roberts, describes her work as sacrificing time away from her kids. Courtesy of IMDb.

After this and many other disappointments from my father, one could say I have every reason to be quite resentful towards him and his disregard for my education and overall upbringing. But my resentment only extends to a certain degree because it wouldn’t be far on my mom. I was never made to feel like I was lacking something because my dad wasn’t around to provide. Yeah sure, it would’ve been nicer if I had a dad to buy that unnecessarily expensive pair of Air Force 1’s or that PlayStation (my mom still refuses to buy me or my brother), but I didn’t. It was easier because I was always quite a considerate and understanding daughter, so I didn’t sulk and throw a temper tantrum when my mom couldn’t or wouldn’t buy me all the new threads the cool kids were sporting. I made due with second-hand (Yeah, I been thrifting before Macklemore & Ryan Lewis made it cool) and I was okay with waiting a little longer to get that new CD or PC game. It taught me that most of the time in life you don’t always get what you want, when you want it and when you finally do get it, value it! This lesson has served me well in dealing with the inevitable disappointment of life.

Besides dealing with disappointment and the subsequent/related daddy issues, my mother taught to make the best/most out of a bad situation. I remember there was a really bad time in our lives, when my mom was pregnant with my little brother, probably the toughest year of our lives and when I say toughest and trying times because we’ve been through quite a number. My little brother’s father had just up and left, leaving my mom pregnant at the ripe age of 42, which made it quite an uncomfortable pregnancy especially without spousal support. My mother travelled quite a bit around South Africa and she worked really long hours. We were behind with our bills, so much so that they cut off our electricity at one point in what I still remember as the coldest winter. But my mom and I made the most of it, we made a fire in our fireplace and made an indoor braai, (don’t ask how exactly we did it.) It was fun and a really great bonding session. At a time when most relationships could’ve crumbled under the pressure and unrest, ours thrived and was strengthened.

My mother and I have always had a very open and close relationship, I could say a little too close. It’s a very intense and complicated relationship because we are so close. Sometimes, it’s difficult to maintain distinctions between who’s the mother and who’s the daughter. I say it’s difficult, because a lot of the time I’m a support system for my mom. She comes to me when she needs someone to lean on, to led and ear or a give her tongue lashing if she needs (but never wants) one. As soppy as it sounds my mom and I are BFFs. We have been for the longest time ever. I was an introverted only child and she was an unconventional single mom, so we found solace and glee in each other’s company. Now that we’re both a little older, that has changed. She drives me insane and I stress her out. But I’m her daughter and she’s my mother.

And as much as I don’t care to admit it, I am my father’s daughter, regardless of whether or not he is much of a father. For a long time I felt overcoming bitterness and resentment, each time I thought of my father. Not being able to express these feelings to him, I did what many people do, I internalised the feelings- turning them into daddy issues. My mom said to me “Your DNA will never change. You may not be able to change your father.” And knowing that I was giving up on the idea of recovering a dead and dying relationship, but that the misfortune of it all still affected my mother said something I will never forget. My mama told me “Not everything that’s broken needs to be fixed. You can work around it, work over it, or simply work without it.” With that I decided to work without it, my mother had done so for 20 years (and counting). It’s really the least I can do, accepting the fact my father is absent from my life, but my mother is and always has been more than present. I’m no longer bitter about having an absent father and I hold less resentment towards him. I’m even okay with my daddy issues. Yeah, I said it.

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