The Sweet 16 Flashback, Flash Forward

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1st Birthday

When I first found out I was pregnant, I was filled with fear. I didn’t know what to do. I was not married, the daughter of a pastor, and the father of the child broke up with me to be with his long time, off and on, high school sweetheart while my heart was shattered into a thousand pieces. I was in my mid twenties, making decent money, and free to change my mind, location, and clothes at a whim. My sister was the first one to know and the first one to support whatever decision I wanted to make. You see, the shame of being a single mother in the church and in the world, AND a black woman, was and is tremendous for some of us. Also, the double standards are real today just as much as they were 16 years ago. You know, women who have children out of wedlock are heavily criticized and penalized in the church and in society. The man goes scotch free pretty much to be promoted in the church and in the world. However, I found out my dad did not share the same view of the church as he told me “That’s my grandchild and we will do whatever we can to help you and the baby.” Also, through a prophesy a woman told me “God never made a mouth that he could not feed.” I am sure she sense my worry of provision.

I didn’t know the entire time I was carrying my child if I would have a boy or a girl. The second decision I made after deciding to keep my child was to arm myself with as much knowledge about being pregnant and parenting. I wanted to know all about the stages of a developing child during and after. I ate right M-Saturday noon and I had what I wanted Saturday evening and Sunday. I remember thinking, if something is wrong with my baby when he or she is born , I can have a clear conscious it was not my fault. It’s the same way I parent. Be strict when I need to, discipline if I need to, be flexible enough to try a different method if what I am doing is not working, education first, God is a must, admit when I am wrong, have fun, protect, loosen the rope of parenthood and give her more freedom at the appropriate time, be okay with her being mad at me, not understanding why I say no sometimes, because I have to be able to know I am doing the right thing and she will not like it or me all the time, but she will still love me and thank me later. Do all of that and more, so that when she flies the nest I can say, I did the VERY BEST I could.

So here we are at 16. She’s sleeping late like any teenager during spring break. Her room is messy. She’s a smart girl with good grades, a good heart, a funny child with a uncanny sense of humor, wise at times and naive at other times, you know….just a child growing up. She’s enjoyed her first trip to Atlanta, the World of Coca Cola, the Georgia Aquarium (saw a dolphin show), and shopped until “I” dropped. I gladly forked over my money, my family made accommodations and sacrifices to make the trip possible (as I am not working due to permanent health issues). I forgo my usual birthday plans happily (we share the same birthday month and our birthdays are three days apart) for her happiness and a memory of her Sweet 16 she will never forget.

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Parenting: I Didn’t Want to Disappoint You

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It’s report card time and my daughter tells me her grades as usual. She’s in honors classes and in a special program at her school. I rarely ask to look at her report card because I trust she is telling me the truth. I have never had any reason not to trust her concerning grades. A food student. An honor student. Let me say, she’s in high school and from elementary to middle school, she has happily or hesitantly (at times) shared her grades. I’ve always looked at report cards up until her last year in middle school. So, it just got to the point where I rarely asked. Especially, since we don’t have to sign them anymore.

But, this morning when I woke up the Holy Spirit urged me to ask to see her report card. I did. I knew when it took her a while to hand it to me there was a problem. I prepared myself by telling myself to remain calm, remain silent, until you find the right words to express your emotions. She handed me the card and I could not believe what I saw. Her grades had dropped in two classes and she did not tell me. She lied.

I let my emotions run the gamut before I spoke. After expressing how I felt about the grades, the lie, and that I needed to think on the consequences, I asked her why didn’t you tell me the truth? I have trusted you to be honest about your grades as we have never had a problem with honesty in this area. She said, “I did not want to disappoint you. So I lied.” Then asked her why are you crying? I am not fussing. I am speaking calmly. She answered, “Because I am disappointed in myself. I tried. But, it seems I would do good on the lessons, but not on the tests. Now, I am worried about college.” She is in the 10th grade. I explained to my child the importance of asking for help, noticing when you need help, and communicating with her teacher and me when she needs help. My daughter is shy. She is less shy than she has been in the past only because of my extreme pushing. I know because I was extremely shy and it took me forever to be bold and to build courage. It did not come until my middle young adult years. I want her to be bold and courageous early. I spent half a year in school, in math class, unable to see the board. It was not until my teacher asked me “You seem to always ask questions after I finish board work or your board work has more errors than the lessons I give you. Can you see the board?” My answer was no. She was alarmed. “Why didn’t you tell me? Have you told your parents?” My response, “No ma’am.”  They were upset, but suspected nothing because I was an A and B  student (mostly) and always managed to be placed up front or ask a friend “What does that say on the board?” When asked why didn’t you tell us I had the perfect answer “I don’t know.” The optometrist was shocked. He showed my parents through the lenses what I had been seeing all of these years. Plus, getting your eyes checked was not something my parents thought to do. We were certainly taken to the doctor and dentist more than I cared to be!

Parenting, is not easy. Parenting is not something you get to run and hide from. It is not something you can ignore. There is no one size fit all child. However, a good parent means stepping up to the plate, uncertain, unsure, but taking a swing at it…over and over. Learning yourself, what works and what does not. Looking at your child through unfiltered lenses and knowing they may be just like you or nothing like you and dealing with them accordingly. She was trying to “handle it herself” not knowing, just like a teenager, yet trying to be adult, which is something we want them to do…grow up! Be responsible, yet not realizing asking for help or being honest is being responsible. Sigh. I am making contact with the teachers and seeing what can be done. This is responsible parenting. This was a teaching moment for the both of us and I am still debating the consequences.

~Nikki