Keep Nkolika or recalling with mothering!

Have you ever thought of stories you would want to read? Stories often not captured in mainstream writing. I suppose they say that’s what writers in most cases seek to do. To put in words, language they would have preferred that they read first. In the absence of such language, they picked up their pen or laptop. That a child’s first love is their mother, are some of the stories I would love to read. Not necessarily as fiction too, but real world lived experiences of the powerful bond between mother and child. By the age of 7 months, my third son is already so eager to speak. Something I know I should be happy for, but yet I am quite nervous and even apprehensive. I have been here before. The memories with my first son’s experience are forever etched in my heart. That we had no language in the first years, not months, is a memory that is so hard to let go or even celebrate in a new child at this moment. Of course it’s still to early to tell, but he can repeat words if you keep saying them. He understands ‘bye-bye’, something that make me look at him alert but still nervous and he smiles, a big grin that easily melts my heart. How women traverse the stages of mothering is of interest to me lately.

The space occupied by mothers like myself, all our hopes and all our impediments have not been adequately explored in contemporary nonfiction literature to date. That I did my part to help my first son speak is nothing short of a miracle and the gift of research that I inherited from my grad school. Will my first son have a stellar future? What does the future hold for my third son? Only time will tell? But even as we await the future, I can’t help but wonder how it continues to haunt my present day, my initial experiences of mothering him. Our story is one reason I picked up my pen. To recall every experience is both joyful and painful.

I recall the joy I experienced when he started walking. He was 8 months old at the time. Wearing a blue outfit with the words ‘captain adorable’ etched in his chest, my son took some steps forward, fell down, got up, and kept meandering forward with a big grin on his face. I used his falling down and getting up as a reminder to myself to persevere , something I wrote on my Instagram account. In fact I stated ‘if at first you don’t succeed, get up and try again.’ Little did I know that the video of my son walking was a foreshadowing of the challenges ahead with him. That we have experienced so many falls along the way is an understatement.

My first son, the moment he started to walk!

I recall the pain. We were kicked out of his first school after only attending for two days. I recall the moment they called me to pick him up vividly. I didn’t know it was to kick us out. I went to the daycare because they called and upon my arrival the proprietress basically stated that they could not provide day care services for my son. I still remember the pain I felt in my heart that moment, almost like what Toni Morrison describes as ‘rememory.’ I picked my crying son up and all our materials and went to our car where I cried and cried and cried. So we have fallen down, powerfully deep falls, that are gut wrenching and still make me cry whenever I recall these experiences. And we have gotten up. We rise. In fact that same day, after crying, I saw another daycare close by. I wiped my eyes, went in with my son to inquiry about availability. They gave me a form to fill and within almost a week and a half, we found a new home. The second daycare gave me hope. For two months my son cried every time I dropped him off, but the women, almost all of them black and Hispanic, kept him. He would scream and shout and try to pry his hands away from them, still they kept him until he got used to the place, two months later. Through their acts of kindness, with helping my son, I became hopeful and determined to make him succeed in life. Every single fall I experienced with my son, as devastating as they were, continues to lead to an immaculate spectacular rise, day by day.

Now, one of my favorite things about him is his memory. Here is a boy that barely spoke any words and once words choose to materialize in his brain, they came out in full sentences, full memorized books too, word for word. In fact we went from a non-verbal boy, who spent the first year’s of his life pointing at things and really not having words to describe what he wanted, to a boy eager to memorize his favorite books like ‘The Water Melon Seed’ or ‘Don’t Let the Pigeon, Drive the Bus.’ Something about the expressions I made while reading the book, especially the word ‘gulp’ in the watermelon book or ‘let me drive the bus’ in the pigeon book helped my son memorize the words to the book so that he can use those expressions for himself.

Recalling our stories is powerful to me. The need to recall every bit of our experience had never been stronger than under the pandemic that still shows no sign of abating. That we had to not only homeschool all three children, but one with special needs, was like chewing stick. News about the plight of mothers during the pandemic should not inspire pity or even rage, but empathy for the sheer enormity of tasks. That we still lack understanding of how mothers experience mothering is a core reason why Nkolika or recalling is the greatest to me. Keep Nkolika, as you give voice to your stories.

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