As told to Mariam
In March, Kachi* messaged me to say she had a story for me about her relationship with her mum. We had a conversation and here’s what she told me:
The relationship I have with my mum is the kind of relationship people have with their sisters. Maybe it is because I am all she has and she is all I have. But I think even if I had siblings, we would still be close because she is not like the typical Nigerian parent. First of all, she is only 43 and has a small stature like me. When we walk together, people often assume we are siblings. There are some things she does though that may mimic the typical Nigerian parent, especially when it concerns religion. She is the kind of Christian that replies “You’re not dead in Jesus name” to jokes. She takes church seriously but has never pressured me to do the same. These days, we talk about the holes in the Bible’s plot and misogynist pastors.
Some people accuse her of indulging me too much. This makes no sense to me because I was also spanked as a child. She pays them no mind though because she prefers civil conversation. She grew up in the typical Nigerian home where there were unspoken rules you could not break and she did not want that for us. When I was about 7, she stopped trying to correct me with her hands but we still have our fair share of fights. One time, we used to fight a lot about me going out. We would argue for hours but we eventually found a way around it. She explained her concerns about my safety and how she misses me when I’m gone so I try to be home early. I also gist her about what happened where I went so she doesn’t feel left out.
In the typical arrangement in a Nigerian home, children are not allowed to talk back to their parents but my mum and I fight like agemates. We would sit down and talk deeply about our issues — who went wrong, why and how we can be better for each other. If I say something hurtful to her, she can tell me about it and vice versa. She does not believe in avoiding apologies so when she is wrong, she won’t do things like cooking my favourite food or giving me money as other parents do. She would apologize and make sure I am okay. After resolving a fight, we hug and call each other best friends.
My friends always tell me how much they like her. I understand it because when I go to their houses, their parents are always so stiff. They just greet and that’s all the interaction they have apart from scolding. In my house, they are free to talk to my mum as they like. Sometimes, when they are unable to reach me, they call her. One time, she picked up the phone pretending to be me and my friend didn’t even notice. When my friends tell me that they can’t talk about guys around their mother, I can’t relate because my male friends can even call my mum’s phone to talk to me. Sometimes, she already knows who I like before I say it. This is because of how often we gist. When I like someone, I talk about them a lot. She would pick up on that and ask me without being weird.
However, there are some things I can’t tell her. I have always known that I am queer and I prefer being with women. I am still trying to make sense of a lot of things about myself so I try not to pressure myself with labels. It’s a secret I am hyper-aware of because my mum wants me to be more womanly and act my age. She says this because I hate hair extensions and only wear T-shirts and jeans. She thinks it makes me look like a teenager. But I am not ready for the heavy conversation we will have when I tell her. She will have a lot of questions I do not have the answers to yet. I will eventually tell her but only under different financial circumstances.
She works so hard and money is getting harder to earn. I do not want to tell her something that might destabilize her even more. I am very protective of her just as she is of me. She understands my emotions and respects them. When she notices that I am sad, she gives me space and offers comfort from afar until I am ready to talk about it. She doesn’t just jump to my defence when I tell her someone offended me. She asks for explicit details and uses the information to evaluate whether I am wrong or right as a friend would. When I am wrong, she points it out and asks me to apologise or do the right thing. When I am right, she asks me what I need from her.
In the same way, I look out for her. On one occasion, she was having issues at work and because she is a soft person, she broke down mentally. I asked her what was wrong and she told me everything. I was trying to be tough for her but it hurt me to see her hurting like that. I wish I could give her all the money she needs so she won’t have to face difficult situations. It is why I work so hard to make her proud.