At the time, I was eighteen years old, and my hair was emerald green. I had just moved back from Ft. Lauderdale where I attended art school for photography, and I was living in a rural community in Alabama, walking into Wal-Mart, eight months pregnant. People noticed me. They noticed my hair first, and then my round belly.
Then they scowled. Or frowned. Or quietly whispered. Or waved a hand gesture in disapproval.
It was never very difficult for me to be a mom. It still isn’t difficult. My job was easy. Still is. I’m not saying there haven’t been challenges, but I was lucky to be able to stay at home and take care of my daughter the first three years of her life. Due to that and a number of other factors, I have been blessed with a child who simply does what she needs to do and has no alarming trouble in any areas of her life. She excels in a variety of things that interest her and her talents and abilities never cease to amaze me. I could not be a prouder mom, and that is something I have always felt.
Being motherly comes very naturally to me, and I have always enjoyed playing the mom role to children. I love nurturing them and getting on their level to identify with them and help them to find their unique space where they’re comfortable and free to express themselves and do what they love to do and have fun. This has always been a part of my personality, and it comes so naturally that often while I’m in public, if I see a child, they see me, too. And they smile. And I melt…
What has always been difficult, however, are the perceptions that people on the outside feel compelled to share with me, whether I like it or not. I realize that the statistics are overwhelmingly stacked against me, but I take great pride in being a young mother. I have wisdom beyond my years, and have always trusted my instincts and heart. No, not every situation goes in my favor, but my daughter and I have an unbreakable bond and it’s honest and loving and there is nothing that stands in the way of that. An open line of communication is important, and that takes trust. And we trust each other with everything we are. Bravery is also important, because again, while the odds aren’t stacked in my favor, my strength, wisdom, and brave spirit keep us safe and happy because we are always making the best of whatever situation is thrown our way.
We rely on each other often, but she knows I’m still mom.
But enough validation, I digress from the point. The point is, none of this is truly any of your business. I only share these things to hopefully bring awareness to the obvious and utter disgust that society holds in regards to young parenthood.
So with that, here are some honest questions for the college graduated, respectable career, one marriage on the books parents:
Do you enjoy people openly judging you for your level of income or your position in our society?
Do you notice others cutting their eyes at your children because they turn their noses up at kids who appear to be less fortunate?
Do you appreciate when some stranger smirks when your child rolls his or her eyes at you because you have zero authority over them?
Do you become uncomfortable when your child openly expresses his or herself in some way that you and/or society would deem inappropriate or unusual?
Do you feel warm and fuzzy inside when someone else connects to your child with ease while you have difficulty doing so?
Do you enjoy other people who could not possibly relate to you constantly giving you advice that you know would not work for your particular situation?
Things to think about next time you judge a hard working single parent who has been dealing with countless obstacles since her teenage years. And here are some pieces of advice I would like to share with those who might be able to relate (or not):
If you do what is right and treat others with dignity and respect, your child will notice.
If you take good care of yourself, your home, and other things around you, your child will notice.
If you express yourself freely without fear of judgement, and stay true to your morals, your child will notice.
If you take care of your responsibilities, but still make time for fun and activities that engage the participants and help strengthen bonds, your child will notice.
If you maintain a positive attitude through troubling, challenging, or difficult times, your child will notice.
If you make an effort to reach out to those in need even when you yourself are in need, your child will notice.
If you smile at strangers, go out of your way to pick up a piece of trash, or stop what you’re doing to actively listen, your child will notice.
If you create art, laugh loud, skateboard, write poetry, and continue learning even as an adult, your child will notice.
I could go on… but I’m leaving this here with you now:
Being a parent is always a learning experience. It doesn’t matter how much money you’ve made, how many degrees you’ve earned, or how many years you’ve lived on this earth. What matters is where your heart resides. How much effort, time, care and dedication are you putting into your parental duties? Are you willing to admit to your mistakes and learn from them? Are you being a good example by the choices you make and the way you treat yourself and others? Are you a patient and kind teacher? Are you capable of connecting and communicating effectively with your child? Are you able to stick to your guns and enforce your rules fairly? Are you giving as much respect as what you demand? Are you able to have fun while maintaining a secure environment?
When people meet my daughter, or see her accomplishments, they are amazed, almost to the point of disbelief. I used to question my abilities as a parent because I sometimes felt self-conscious about being so young, “uneducated” and poor while raising a daughter on my own. Now, I get it. But I also get that despite these higher standards of self accomplishment prior to bringing another human into the world, I am a proud mom to a daughter who is also proud to have me as her mother. I couldn’t have asked for a greater accomplishment personally, and our society couldn’t have expected a greater contribution from me. So, in short, you’re welcome.
First remove the beam out of your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother’s eye. Matthew 7:5