I was 20 years old the first time my mum was forced to confront my sexuality. I met my then boyfriend when I was 14 and we began dating when I was 19. On that particular day, my mum came to the flat I shared with 2 other friends. She came -as she often did- to visit and bring me some home-cooked meal. I was in my 4th year of medical school and she would often come at about 6 a.m before I had to get ready for classes.
On this particular visit, my boyfriend had visited and spent the night at my place. I wasn’t expecting her and we were both shocked when she knocked on my window (she often did that to avoid waking up my flat mates). Now my mum raised us military style as kids but mellowed considerably as we grew older. Despite that fact, sex was not something we discussed. She knew my boyfriend but each time i mentioned visiting him, she would ask that i invite him over instead. So he visited our family home a lot. I knew why mum didn’t want me visiting him. She didn’t put it in words but i understood. However, we had found a way around her supervision.
I contemplated hiding him but we had clothes strewn all over the floor. So with my heart in my mouth, I opened the door for her. She was shocked to see him. I watched her face as comprehension descended upon her. I would have bet anything she would raise hell. Anyone who knows my mum would have bet she would. She did not. She stared at us both, dropped my food and left. I instantly called my younger brother. I have always tried to be the perfect child. I was the good child. He never bothered. He made regular dates with trouble and didn’t bother to hide it. He told me when next i went home to act guiltless. He said I shouldn’t cower and just try to act normal.
Anyway, that marked the beginning of a new era with my mum. The fact that she didn’t make a scene or disgrace me came as a huge surprise and i can say that has played a big role in strengthening the trust I have for her. We never discussed it but she looked at me differently afterwards. I ended up marrying that gorgeous boyfriend who i was so besotted with (still am) and I guess she forgave me for not being as ‘perfect’ as she thought. She has a relationship with my husband that even I envy.
I think most Nigerian parents are escapists. They know but act like they don’t. I don’t have any friends whose parents had the ‘talk’ with. I think this is something that needs to change. I hope to instill strong principles in my daughter like my mum did. I will teach her to respect her body and demand that it be respected. I however hope to be realistic when the time comes. If she is dating, I will accept the possibility of her being sexually active. I will be realistic in my expectations and hope to empower her too. What a world of difference it would make if young girls knew as much about contraception and STIs as they should.
So if you have a teenager or young adult, make friends with them. Let them be comfortable enough to discuss their relationships with you. Teach them. Empower them to make safe decisions. Let them know what their options are and guide them to make the best decisions for their lives. After all, from experience, i know once that ‘boat’ has sailed, there is no going back.