My husband feels, with the birth of our first child, a huge relief, he says, that he has fulfilled a task he was sent here to perform. The interesting thing is he didn’t feel the weight of this task pressing upon him until he had successfully ensured the continuity of the genes for another generation. I can’t say I feel quite the same. Generally, I’m thrilled with not only my son himself but the fact of his existence. That is to say I think my son is a wonderful guy yes but more, I’m thrilled I’m a mother. Its coming to me so naturally I know I was made to do this.
Yet there’s a twinge of something sometimes. Not regret no, more a mourning of doors closed than regret over the chosen path. For instance I would have liked when I finished law school to take a job in East or Southern Africa. But with a husband and a baby and another on the way…, well that isn’t exactly feasible now is it? I’d like to do a masters or PhD in a world class institution. But what happens to my little son? Does he look at some other woman and say his first mama? So sometimes I’m a little sad because I feel earth bound .
My son, he has this beautiful smile that everyone adores. He’s always the party favourite. The compliments constantly pour in. Kofi and I bask in the glow of his perfection and our chests puff out with pride and every compliment we share weaves our bonds a mite tighter and our hearts a tad fonder. And then he has this special smile that he uses only on me. Those are the moments that my heart most completely contracts.
Life is about trade-offs. You take something you give something. You take up something you give up something else. The tricky part is picking the trade-offs so you don’t get stuck with the short end of the stick. Last week I had dinner with my friend Charlene. On our way out of my house I offered her some mosquito repellent. She declined saying it smelt foul. We both wore shorts. Three hours later sitting in the night breeze, my foul repellent smell had diffused into the air and she sat on the other side, stomping her feet to be rid of blood thirsty mosquitoes. It ruined her fun and eventually, sick of the battle, she packed it in early and went home to sleep away the rest of her Friday night. Pick your trade-offs with care. For the honour of the experience of motherhood, too complex to be described with any number of adjectives, I’ve had to give up the pleasure-and note how easily one adjective captures it- of indulging in a streak of self absorption.
I think what keeps those closed doors on my mind is a curiosity to see how walking through any of them would have played out. I suspect that if I could spend an evening behind the VCR watching in an hour what I would be wearing to work in South Africa or where and with which great quirky characters I’d hang out with after class, I’d be satisfied to turn off the TV and never give it another thought. For as you may notice it is not lost growth opportunities, financial coups or career highs I feel I’ve missed out on but silliness in my youth. I’ve lived a responsible youth: honouring my parents and their desires as often as I found possible; living up to family reputations and expectations; being mindful of my society and its values inasmuch as I could without diminishing my spirit.
I’m only 26 but when I look back on my 20s I know that if I could live my last 5 years over again. I would take a hell of a lot more chances especially on people. I’d guard against heartbreak with less vigour. I’d be more sexually explorative and earlier, I would be less interested in making friends and more in talking to strangers. I would in brief be more self-absorbed.
I don’t waste much time on these thoughts though. I’m more apt to examine life on the path I’ve chosen and I like most of what I see: my beautiful children, financial self-sufficiency ahoy, professional respect (also ahoy) and one hell of a man by my side. My Kofi is a man not just a male, a man. His heart is soft; his spine is steel, his head rules all. His touch is gentle, his scorn is harsh, his outlook ever changing. There are of course the minor added attractions that he is gorgeous smart and funny. Even alone he is a pretty damn good deal. Add awe inspiring things like motherhood, life-partnership, and a family and you should understand why there is that rather smug note in my voice when I say that the road taken is making all the difference.