In Afghan culture, the birth of a son is crucial because the son will take care of his parents in their old age. Khujesta Sadri finds motherhood in her new Canadian home difficult. When her brother gets engaged, she is determined that her two-month-old son will attend in perfect shoes – though he is far too young to walk. The shoes are a way for a tired mother to feel that she is giving her son the best possible start in life.
In traditional Afghan culture, the birth of a son is a proud and extremely important event. It is with a son that parents will ultimately live when they grow old. It is a son that they can count on to generate an income for their current and future needs. And it is a son who will guarantee an increase in the family’s members when he gets married. Nevertheless, in my family, men and women have equal status.
My mom always says, “Raising a child is not as easy as building a mountain.” Being a first-time mother in a different society from the one you grew up in is challenging. I had this experience at the age of 26. At first, everything seemed quite difficult, starting from the sleepless nights. It’s not fun when your alarm clock goes off every few hours for five weeks straight. When your baby needs to feed about every hour. When you have to change diapers eight times a day. When you repeatedly check to make sure that your sleeping baby is still breathing. When you are struggling to swaddle your baby correctly, or when you look at your still fat body in the mirror long after the delivery.
But what is fun is you get to outfit your baby with perfect outfits and adorable pairs of shoes for every day and all special occasions.
It was my brother’s engagement day: January 22, 2015. All the women were so happy to find a perfect dress for the day.
I was also trying to find just the right shoes for my son to wear with his perfect little suit, hat and bow tie to resemble his dad, who was always a real gentleman in my eyes. A civilized, educated, sensitive and well-mannered man in a tweed suit. Who open doors for you, is polite and listens to you, respects your thoughts and dreams.
Finding the right shoes for my newborn baby was like a guessing game. Even though he had some cute booties, my two-month-old gentleman needed a special pair of black shoes. For many days, I searched in Babies R Us and similar stores to find shoes that were attractive and very comfortable.
I couldn’t find them.
A few hours before we left home for the party, my younger sister needed to rush to the mall at the last minute. I asked her to please; please look for baby shoes as well.
Magically, my sister returned with a cute pair of Teeny Tiny Toes shoes from Payless. All man-made material, US size one, with Velcro on the top. They were a little bit big for his feet, but with socks, it was OK—skid resistant. Just in case my two months old baby starts walking. And guess what? Only 20 bucks!
Swaddling is common in Canadian and Afghan culture; the way my mom did it for her children back home was quite different from what I learned, not only about swaddling but also parenting, breastfeeding and even about the different colour of my baby’s poo from Google Search. Many things are different.
But I was so happy to see my son looking like a little gentleman. My passion to see him all dressed up was as important to me as swaddling him correctly during those first few months of being a mother.
Nothing makes you feel more vulnerable than having a child, but at the end of the day, when I look at the sweet, smiling face of my baby, I feel optimistic that I’ll raise a boy who will learn how to be a feminist.
I will always encourage him to stand on his own two feet and probably in a pair of the perfect black shoes of a gentleman.
KHUJESTA SADRI is from Afghanistan. She arrived in Canada in 2012 and completed her Political Science degree at York University. She is the mother of two handsome sons.
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