I Am. Raising A Young Man

This month marks eight years since I first became a mother and boy oh boy have I had the time of my life! I am brutally honest about the journey that is parenting as I believe that we have to be honest about all aspects and not only the cute smiles and Instagram worthy pictures in obscenely priced strollers. I remind myself daily that as best as I could have possibly done, I have done well, raising a child whether together, alone or with an entire village, remains no easy feat.

The majority of the journey that has been biological parenting has been done by myself, from the time I first learnt of his existence that cold July morning, it has been just the two of us, however it would be terrible of me to not acknowledge the major role that my parents, friends and family have played in raising this amazing gift of a child.

I had always thought I would have a girl child and when the Dr confirmed that it was a boy, I laughed because I could not believe it. Indeed, five months on I got to meet the boy that would grow up to be by far one of the most pleasant, well-mannered and polite children I have ever come across. Whilst I fully and firmly believe that single mothers can and have, for centuries, raised amazing young men, I am often up at night wondering if a woman can truly raise a man.

You see, I acknowledge that I am not a father and never ever will, I am not biologically that way inclined, nor do I have any of the superficial interests that stereotypically belong to men – I can’t stand football, I have NO idea what a radiator is, I can’t change plugs and I absolutely refuse to learn how to change a tyre. These skills can be taught by anyone, one could Google or check YouTube or even get a friend/neighbour or even cousin to help transfer skills and knowledge that I perceive to be “things that boys do”. Sorted right? Women can raise men, alone, easy peasy!

I am not too sure, it’s my single biggest point of parenting insecurity – although I have amazing fathers, uncles and cousins who are positive role models and have the ability to impart the knowledge and values of what being a man is, they simply do not have as significant influence on my boy child as I do. I’m overly conscious that he is an absolute softie and does not behave like other boys (not that there is anything wrong with not beating up other children as retaliation), I worry that my motherly instinct and over-protective nature could impact him negatively when it comes to matters of being a young man. I pray furiously that he never grows up to believe that it is ok to leave his future children to be raised by their mother, I know that I take the time to explain why not, but do actions not speak louder than words?

I lay awake at night, wondering how I will impart certain values and things that only other men, fathers can give to their sons. I will never ever be able to and whilst I know for sure that I give this parenting thing 200%, I often wonder if he will live up to his full potential of being a man, when during his first five years, critical in shaping the rest of his life, he never had a father to look up to, his entire view of the world is based on his mother? The question will forever haunt me, I sincerely believe that “daddy issues” are real and my concern is that, despite all our attempts to raise an excellent man, deep down inside, the void will cause him unhappiness for a lifetime.

That being said, it has been an incredible eight years being his mother. He has shaped my life and my thinking in ways I could have never imagined possible. I am grateful that I no longer walk the journey alone, although the insecurity will never go away. I will continually pray that he lives up to his full potential and at no point feel that he can never really be a man and father because in his foundational years he did not get first-hand experience of what that truly means. I also hope that he knows that if he goes on Khumbul’ekhaya or uTatakho I will disown him. Have I tried my best in raising him? Absolutely. Will I continue? Absolutely and I am eternally grateful that there is a village that supports me in every single way possible. Can a single mother raise a man? Well, so far so good…only the future knows what the future holds.

Writer: Palesa Motau            Photographer: London Scout