“At your age, you still call your mother ‘ma’?”
I was asked the above question during a family gathering early this year, when someone heard me shouting out for my mom. I laughed it off and continued to call out to my mother.
I laughed because it wasn’t the first time I’d been asked the question. I laugh because I understand the context.
The people of my hometown address their parents by their real names or the same name everyone else calls them, even babies call their mothers with their actual names.
My mother, who got raised in a different town, one that seemed more ‘advanced’ than our hometown did not like this way of things at all. She saw it as ‘aklowa nibii‘, translating ‘village things’.
What she hated most was that while the children called their mothers by their names, they called their grandmothers, ma.
This was because grandmothers raised almost all children, whether the mother was around or not. This made babies attach to the grandmothers as their mothers, and naturally starts to refer to them as their mother. Even if a child doesn’t call the grandmother ‘ma’, they will several times refer to them as their mother.
But children grow up, and they soon understand their grandmother is not their mother. It will be dumb to continue calling them ‘ma’ then, so they drop the ma and start using the name everyone calls the grandmother. They do not start to call their mothers ‘ma’ though.
So yes you will hear lots of ‘ma’ calling in my hometown, but it will likely not be from a twenty something year old.
My mother made sure we didn’t copy this behavior she doesn’t like. Both my sister and I call my mother ‘ma’ and my father ‘da’ till date.
But when people ask me that question, it’s a rhetoric, letting me know that I was acting like a child.
I always laughed it off, but for the first time I thought more on it.
Maybe because I’d already been thinking along those lines, that I was behaving like a child.
I am 29 years old, and I worry about a lot of things in respect to my parents that I know I shouldn’t at my age.
I see lots of young travellers and vloggers online, I meet travellers here in Ghana, and they all appear to move when and to where they want. They tell their parents, if they are in touch with them. But that’s all. Tell them where you are going and update them on the adventures you are having.
When I think of possibly going somewhere, my mind goes into overdrive with worry over what explanation I am going to give to my parents. Why? What for? Who do you know there?
Like if I had a boyfriend abroad and I wanted to go be in the same place at them, I’d need to have to study there or get a job offer there, for me to have a good reason to tell my parents why I’m going to such a place.
But these travellers are westerners, there’s a huge cultural difference, so I tell myself it’s not just my parents treating me as a kid, it’s our culture. My friends worry about similar topics too.
But then at this particular family gathering, I noticed something. I noticed that lots of people way younger than myself were doing some of the things I’d like to do but worry about response from my parents, and everyone else including my parents seems to have no problem with them.
Those who seem to be extreme, is mostly seen as disrespectful but that was all. They still did whatever ‘disrespectful’ thing they liked and people still got along nice with them. Again, including my parents.
In fact, in my hometown, 29 is an old age. Children start being adults from 15years and after 18 pretty much did whatever they wanted, whether the adults approved or not.
I became aware, that my parents were not treating me like a kid, I was behaving like a kid. I was allowing myself to be treated as a child.
Adults tell those that matter about their plans.
I worry because to me, it’s asking for permission.
It’s like me saying, ” mom is it okay if I go to my friend’s house?”
Instead of telling her I’m going here and I’d be back at this point.
Recently as part of me aging, self realization has led me to decisions that my parents disapprove of.
Now they see me as a disappointing selfish child, not obeying them or caring about them.
And even though in these areas I’ve remained in my choices and hence not obeying them, they have no idea how much they influence my every major action.
Even after this realization that I need to grow up, and not wait for them to permit me to grow up, I still worry so much about how they will respond to me and my decisions.
Some weeks ago for the first time I went to my hometown for an event without spending the night or visiting my parents home…to them it may seem proof of another way of me thinking I’m all wiser now and not needing them…..but even that, I worried the entire week ahead of the event how they will react to that.
Due to my series of disappointments, I’ve been trying to avoid my parents, but whenever there’s something happening home, I go. As much as I’d rather not, I go because I think, ‘it won’t be nice if I don’t’.
I go because I don’t enjoy disappointing my parents and hope to stay in their good grades with the acts that I can still do right.
So even though I’m trying now to grow up, to permit myself to be an adult, it’s still so hard. But I will persevere.
Because I want to grow.