'If you call this love - then hate me, please' - Shalom Woroma Wichendu

watch_later Wednesday, 6 March 2019

My mother had me at the age of 15. Yes! She was too young and didn't make it out of the labor ward. I went home that day in the arms of my grandmother; lovingly wrapped in swaddling clothes and with my grandfather looking straight ahead and wearing a blank expression - the usual. I was going to be raised by my mother's parents. This was what Maa'mi told me after I had blown the candles on my birthday cake two years ago.

Maa'mi still looked very young and if you weren't told, you wouldn't guess that she was my grandmother. She loved me the same way other mothers in my neighborhood loved their children, even more.
Baa'mi loved me too. At least, that was what Maa'mi told me when I lay in my room crying sometime ago after he had broken me yet again.

Since my birth, Baa'mi had never laid a finger on me when correcting me. He always resolved to verbal correction. He was bad at being emotionally expressive and so the only time I would feel loved by him was when he would call me to his room to try on a new pair of sandals for school, when he would give me extra money for snacks at school or maybe when he would press two tablets of paracetamol into my palm if I had a fever.

Maa'mi love Baa'mi. I could see it in the way her eyes lit up when he came home from work in the evenings, the way she served his meals herself and in the most exquisite manner, the way she loved to fill him in on how her day went and how Iya Tope liked to step on her toes. Each time I looked, Baa'mi always maintained the same blank expression.

I barely saw Baa'mi when he came back from work in the evenings usually because I always stayed in my room as often as I could. Maa'mi cautioned me most times, reminding of how welcoming him every evening would bring us closer. But I would rather be far away from him where my self esteem was intact.

Baa'mi scolded me for every little mistake. And the words he said each time? They tore like tiny blades - very few but cutting deeper than you can imagine. They broke me. He always magnified my mistakes but never my achievements. I would run into my room and cry each time but the words would keep echoing in my head tearing apart the little self esteem I had stitched together. How could I possibly think highly of myself when my own Grandfather always established the facts that I was 'a disgrace for a child' and 'a sad excuse for a human being'?
Yesterday, I couldn't finish dinner and he looked me in the eye and called me 'A Mistake'. Maa'mi came into my room later that night, pressed my head to her frail body and said,

'Adura my daughter, people are built differently.
‎O ni lati gbiyanju ati ki o ye baba re - You have to try and understand your father.
He loves you and wants you to be perfect. That is why he corrects you.
Adura, ‎ti o jẹ ọna rẹ ti wipe mo ni ife ti o - that is his way of saying 'I love you'
‎Never forget that.'

I nodded. I had heard these words a million times but they never made sense to me. How can emotional abuse ever equate love?
More tears escaped as Maa'mi left my room after she had tucked me in bed. Baa'mi and his incomprehensible way of expressing love. I was tired of convincing myself that I was loved and accepted by him.

'Baa'mi' I muttered in between sobs and to no one in particular.
'If you call this love - then hate me....please.'

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