My nine-year-old son is giving me dating advice


Yup, folks. It has come to this. It has come down to what would have been taboo, (punishable by banishment), in the old days. Joshua is dishing me dating advice. And I don’t mean the Biblical Joshua; but Joshua, my nine-year-old son.

Although he does not quite know the circumstances that led to our divorce, Joshua has seen a gap in our home, and he wants to fill it, but then again, knowing Joshua, he probably has already come to his own conclusions about what led to my marital status.

I’m in a bind. I can talk to my kids about HIV, however, I am yet to find the formula, courage and words to talk about my current marital status. I guess it is because I have lived with HIV for so long, it has become a part of me, besides, I have attended numerous counselling courses, and in my long years of HIV service, I have, and still, counsel families.

The rules of engagement are different when dealing with marital issues, especially one’s own. On one hand, I want to tell my kids the truth, but the flipside is that I want to protect the integrity of their father, so it does not seem like I am out to slander him or score “good parent” points. Talk about walking a tightrope, with stakes as a safety net.


I believe that children should know as much as they can possibly understand, that is why I decided to enlighten my elder son, Peter, about HIV when he was still very young. I did not want him to guess or be hurt by people’s darts. That is why unlike many other parents, I do not hide my antiretroviral drugs from my children. I understand that not all parents are this fortunate, and so they have to sneak around, lest their secret gets out of the capsule.

My children are what we call in HIV-speak “treatment buddies”. They may not exactly know why their mother takes these medicines, but they know that mama takes X number of tablets each day at the same time. And they are there with my tablets and water each time without fail. When the time is right, I will give them the whys and wherefores.

You would think that with this somewhat steel spine, I would be the first person to enlighten my children about my divorce, but this is different territory. These are matters of the heart. Heartbreak and HIV-infection are two very different ailments.

Recently, Joshua gave me a lecture that I will remember for a long time. When we finish saying our evening prayers, he calls me by his bedside and tells me he has been thinking. Knowing Joshua, when he says he has been thinking, I know I should get ready for a shocker. When it comes, I grip his bedpost for support.

“Mama, I have been thinking that you should get a good man for yourself.”

Good grief. The way he lays it down is very interesting. Not just any man, but a good one.

Joshua goes on


“Get a good man and observe him for some time. If he’s good to you, you can let him become your boyfriend, and if he takes care of you and doesn’t hate us, or if he likes us, then you can let him become your husband.”

I am speechless. He must have been observing my new clingy lover, Mr Loneliness and I spending tons of time together.

“Do people change dads?” Joshua asks.

I ask him what he means, and he explains. “If that man who will be your boyfriend now becomes your husband, does it mean he is our dad? And does it mean I will not be the man of the house?”

Joshua does not get it. I do not want to have this discussion. Not yet. I don’t want to return to that place. My hurt is still raw. Mama is still smarting.

“I’ll answer that question when the time comes,” I eventually tell him as I close his bedroom door, startled.