Prudence Maria Finds Peace in Acceptance
Waiting for the Story to Unfold
By Prudence Maria, Class 8, 2014
My name is Prudence Maria. I am a 13 year-old shy girl. I am not outspoken but I have many friends whom I like very much. I guess my friends can trust me to keep a secret. I have learnt a bitter truth about many friends, sooner or later they betray you. Perhaps this knowledge makes me not to trust people at all. I’m not alone, in fact my whole family is bedeviled with mistrust and suspicion. None other than my own father is the author of the lies and discord between his two families. He is polygamous.
I don’t know when it all began but the fact that I was born at my maternal parents’ house instead of my parent’s house meant trouble for me. My mother on the other hand already had a daughter from another relationship before she met my father. Just like her first man, he ran from her, and just like before she was left with a daughter. My mother raised me until it was time to go to school. She came to Nairobi to look for a job in order to survive. We lived in a place which had open fields and some uncultivated land. We got water from a borehole for free.
I helped my mother and my sister grow kale, tomatoes, onions and other vegetables on a small plot a few square metres. Everybody in the neighbourhood grew their own vegetables. I enjoyed playing with my friends in the free open spaces. It was like a village in the city. We roamed all over. Sometimes we collected dry pieces of wood for our mother to cook with when she ran out of charcoal. Some people including my mother kept chicken. We had three hens which laid eggs. We sold some eggs to get other necessities.
My father? I didn’t know what it meant to me but I wanted to know him. I hadn’t thought about my father, if I needed a father or if he existed.
Things seemed to be going well for an eight- year old girl when suddenly my mother came home one evening very excited. She couldn’t even talk well. She had seen my father. She had seen him entering one of the rooms in the neighbourhood. I was both confused and amazed at the same time. My father? I didn’t know what it meant to me but I wanted to know him. I hadn’t thought about my father, if I needed a father or if he existed. Nobody had ever talked about him. Mother started talking to our neighbours only to discover that he lived there with his family. We were relatively new there.
At the mention of the word “family” she broke down and cried bitterly. Since it somehow concerned me I felt guilty for the offence. Did I do anything wrong? I fell silent and didn’t feel like playing anymore. The next day I got the shock of my life. One of my friends, a much older girl was actually my step sister. A friend of mine had overheard her mother say so. Apparently after mother’s inquiries, some people had put two and two together and we were now a hot item of gossip. I was so embarrassed and confused still the more at this piece of news. The girl in question kind of blushed behind her tinted skin, I could tell.
My sister got confused too. Was she involved also or did she have to pose a question of her own father. My mother being temperamental, nobody dared touch these issues. We children just waited for the story to unfold. After much thought, tantrums, monologues, tears etc. mother was finally ready to confront my father. All this only took two days. To cut a long story short, the storm came and went with mother finding out that father had lied to her. He’d promised to marry her, made her pregnant then fled without mentioning that he was already married.
Gossip and Mistrust
Mother bled from her injuries. Shortly afterwards she lost her job. Things were taking a bad turn. We had to move and so we did.
Slowly, I don’t know how, they mended the damaged fabric of their relationship, with father behaving like a proper father towards me and my step sister, as I had found out. We tried to know our step brother and sister much better by visiting them. Alas! Our relationship was not a walk in the park and soon ran onto the rocks. The two women filled the gaps in the story and they discovered they should not like each other. Gossip said my step mother had vowed to bewitch us for stealing her husband. Following this, we were forbidden from visiting our step-family or even playing with the children. No one trusted the other.
Despite this, father visited us and paid our rent. One day the emotions ran high and his two wives had a big fight. Mother bled from her injuries. Shortly afterwards she lost her job. Things were taking a bad turn. We had to move and so we did. We came to Kangemi, [a slum in Nairobi]. For many months father didn’t bother with us but finally he came. At first I was afraid to relate with him remembering g that he didn’t belong to us; though he apologized for our trouble promising to pay our rent once more. He even lived with us partly which helped to mend our relationship with him. In the next few years my sister Sarah, then brother Ayubu were born to my mother. Father divided his time between his two families. Then all hell broke loose once more when one day more threats from my step mother arrived. Mother started trading threats with her. We became too afraid to just utter our step mother’s name. It translated into quarrels with father every time he came. He became sick of it and just disappeared for a long time.
Avoiding a “Blame Life”
That’s their life, their choices and their time. I just know that in my time I should do better.
Luckily we discovered Hamomi Children’s Centre where I joined grade 4, [in 2010]. Sarah is now in grade 5 while Ayubu, my brother, is in grade 4. Still I am not angry with my parents. That’s their life, their choices and their time. I just know that in my time I should do better. My counselling teacher says living in the past and living a blame life is the ultimate obstacle to growing up and moving forward. I don’t want to focus on the negatives while there are more positive points, for instance I have Hamomi and I am going to High school with good marks too!
I celebrate the fact that I am alive and doing great with my education. At Hamomi I am free to be myself. To exhaust my potential and exercise my gifts, though usually I am quiet and don’t talk much or as fast as my classmates. I’m good natured and always mean well.
I can handle my mother’s mood swings and her entire temperament. Sometimes she’s happy and will joke and laugh at nothing in particular. Father never visits her now (step mother won!) but comes to school to see us. He does casual work just like mother.
The happiest day of my life is when I was given some clothes and a pair of shoes at Hamomi. It doesn’t have the saddest day of my life. My most embarrassing day at school is when I tore my school uniform in a football tussle. My backside could show through the gap. Pupils laughed at me and said I’d gone crazy. At the time we had a volunteer called Katie. She had a sewing kit and electric machine. She took my uniform and mended it well then I put it back again. She mended anybody’s torn uniform happily. I can’t sew half as well as she, in fact I can’t even hold a needle.
Life is Not a Straight Line
The trick is talking to someone who can help, like Hamomi.
Although I am still very young I understand some things I would never have if I hadn’t gone through what I have. My experience has made me to grow up quickly. Constant counselling at Hamomi Children’s Centre has also helped me to understand my problems. I now know life is not a straight line and therefore I should not be angry or confused when challenges come my way.
Things don’t always go smoothly. Also life doesn’t have to be what we want it to be for us to be happy. I have learnt to make the best out of things. I should not be afraid to share whatever I go through because I’m not the only one who goes through it. Problems are not always unique to one person. Other people have seen them and may know how to get over it. I don’t know how better to put it.
Maybe when I grow I will be a doctor or something. Or maybe I will be a counselor. I don’t know for sure. All I know is I would like to talk to people and find out what they’ve got into, how they did and how to find solutions. I believe solutions exist for most of life’s problems. The trick is talking to someone who can help, like Hamomi. Thank you Hamomi for being the way to understanding myself.