Day 2: Moms
“I will extend peace to her like a river, and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream; you will nurse and be carried on her arm and dandled on her knees. As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you”
Psalms 27:10 When my father and mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up
Song: Joy in the Morning by Tauren Wells https://youtu.be/uysGt7JVw9U?si=LQaoMMuRXhT7P4kx
(This song came out days before my mom passed and gave me so much comfort as we prepared for her homegoing.)
Happy Second Day of Thanks Everyone!
Today, I give thanks for moms. Just recently, my daughter turned twenty-one years old and I was so overwhelmed with emotions at her arriving to this emancipation year of her life. In the moment, I didn’t really have an explanation for why I was so overwhelmed and why I couldn’t stop crying after the clock struck midnight. However, about thirty minutes later, I had a moment. I remembered my mom and all the moments she continuously felt guilty and repeatedly apologized for the mistakes she made while raising me and my siblings. I started to cry even more. I missed my mom, who passed away earlier in this year, and was now truly an orphan, who would be embraced and taken up by my Heavenly father.
As an adult, I would always be so annoyed at how riddled with guilt my mom was about all the “mistakes” she made in raising us because I didn’t blame her for those mistakes any more. I had forgiven her for all the shortcomings, especially now knowing what it was like to be a single mom of a special needs child. I wanted my mom to just be happy in knowing that she managed to raise decent children, despite and in spite of all her circumstances. I have never met a mom (in her right mind) that didn’t love her children and wouldn’t sacrifice everything for them. I have not known a moment where I haven’t stressed out about what was the best thing to do for Lilah. I had no rule book, except the Holy Spirit, to guide me on the best course of action as her mom. I didn’t have support from her father or other family members. It was just me. And in the last twenty-one years of Lilah’s life, I have done what I thought was best with the tools I had. (And dare anybody to judge my skills as a mother and readily welcome them to feel my wrath if they even attempt it!)
My mother was a single parent of three who struggled with chronic depression and undiagnosed bipolar disorder that was exacerbated by surgically induced hypothyroidism for many years. She did not have any financial or emotional support from our fathers or from her family. She strove to ensure we had the basic necessities-- shelter, food, clothes, education-- and to keep us from being taken away from her or placed in the foster care system, which she experienced as a child. (Fortunately, my mother had a wonderful foster care experience with very loving parents who loved and nurtured her until the day they died, even after she was returned to my biological grandmother. However, her siblings and an entire host of her nieces and nephews did not have the same wonderful experience with foster care. Their experiences were full of neglect, maltreatment, verbal, physical and sexual abuse.) While I don’t excuse the verbal, emotional and psychological abuse that my siblings and I experienced under my mother’s parenting, I can’t imagine having to raise three children alone, dealing with mental health challenges, and fighting every day to give her children an even better life experience, while fighting for her own sanity and peace of mind.
She did it, though. She tried her best, just like every other mom, without prior knowledge or experience of how. My mother sacrificed everything she had and wanted to ensure that we had. She introduced us to a strong belief in God. She took care of us, round-the-clock, when we were sick. She was the master of poor man’s meals and would make a gourmet, healthy balanced meal with the little food stamps she had. She was that mom who showed up, even if she was a million minutes late into the program. She made sure that we were always well groomed; every one to two week our hair was washed and freshly braided. Our clothes were always well pressed and coordinated. She ensured we lived in the library and read lots of books, had the best educational and academic experiences, and were kept from the perils of the South Bronx streets. She was even that mom who taught us to fight and stand up for ourselves and would not tolerate us backing down from a bully. When neighborhood kid wanted to jump my sister, she brought my sister and I downstairs and told the bullies that she would watch us, her children, fight each of them fairly, one by one and had no doubt who would win. The neighborhood children were pretty surprised that everyday churchgoing kids could actually fight and defend themselves they way we did. My mom was that person who would curse me out in the morning and later that evening would bring presents to leave in front of my door or with my neighbor to give to me because she wasn’t ready to adhere to the healthy boundary rules I had set up for our relationship but wanted to apologize. (In my adult life, to ensure my well-being, I set healthy boundaries in my relationship with my mom, which had to be maintained at all times. When my mom broke those boundaries, we stopped communication. I would give her space and let her know that when she was ready to abide by the boundaries again, we could resume relationship.) My mom was an imperfect person who loved us the way she knew how and taught us morals, values and to be law-abiding citizens.
I chose to see and examine her example. I used the healthy examples and modeled them as I became a parent. For the non healthy examples, I carved my own path and aimed to do better than what I was shown.
At 12:01 am on November 17, 2023, I was remembering my mom and all the guilt she felt for all the things she had not gotten right. And I too, was having a similar experience. I was remembering how much I loved my daughter and sacrificed everything for her to have the best life and opportunities, health, and provision. You name it. I did the best I could and gave my all to raising Lilah. Yet, still, my best missed the mark on so many occasions. My love and my best couldn’t stop here from experiencing suffering and hardships. My love and my best couldn’t shield her from the cruelties of the world—labels, abuse, isolation, rejection, sickness. My love and my best couldn’t even convince her father to want and love her, no matter how much I tried. It was a sobering moment. No matter how immense and intense my love was for Lilah, “life was still what it was and what it was going to be.” I had to find a way to be okay with my love being enough, in spite of all its shortcomings.
I wrote this Love Letter to Delilah Christina Barber on her 21st Birthday as I had my moment.
“The clock has already struck midnight. My mind is racing through the past week, yesterday, and yester years and the overwhelming emotions in my heart brings me to tears. "I love you" and remember every moment of your existence.
I think of all the ways in which the "huge" love I have for you was never enough but also just enough.
My love was never enough to shield you from the cold world and its many rejections, isolations, labels, and limited mindsets. But, it was enough to encourage you to surpass the limitations of what everyone expected, what everyone said would be possible, and convince you to be, boldly and fiercely, who you are.
My love was never enough to protect you from abuses and traumatic experiences. But, it was big enough to hold your hand and gently walk you into the safety of my and God's arms and guarantee you that we'd always be here. That we were always a warm, welcoming, hiding place that has enough shelter and shade to protect you from the elements that would want to harm you.
My love wasn't enough to convince you to fluidly speak and release your voice into the earth at a sooner time. But, my love was just enough to play limited piano scales for years that got you from aphasia to sounds and vocalizations to Happy Birthday with Dora the Explorer.
My love wasn't enough to stop the premature death threats lurking in the nights and mid-morning to take you from me. But, my love was just enough to fight for your health and every single breath you take, ensuring you came back to me during each of those seizures.
My love wasn't enough to convince your dad, for these twenty one years, that you, as his mini-me, are worthy of his love, affection and attention. But, my love was just enough, to have the perfect father figures and male mentors who would pour into your life and celebrate your goodness every step of the way. They give you the next best thing.
My love wasn't enough to pay for or bring you to the art classes that would have greatly exceled your natural, raw talents. But, it was just enough to make our home the arts and crafts station it is and pique your interest for every medium of crafting there may be known to man and prepare you for your "Pretty Ugly Christmas Sweaters," your Christmas Coquito and Sorrel Jars and that future side hustle or entrepreneurial endeavor.
My love wasn't enough to give you all the time that you needed, as a single mom. But, it was just enough to show up for every school play, every piano recitals, learn and teach gymnastics routines, take you to swimming, get you down run ways with your one-of-a-kind couture line, and be present at every major milestone moment, even if just for a few minutes or long enough for you to see me and make my presence known.
My love hasn't been enough to give you the laps of luxury, take you around the world, or deck you in diamonds or pearls. But, it's been enough to give you warm baths, body rubs, foot massages, homemade manis and pedis to minimize sensory overload and make you feel like a million bucks.
My love hasn't been enough to stop the crisis moments and meltdowns. But, it's been enough to take every hit and bruise and pray you back to sanity each time. (Thank you for showing me and teaching me that love prays differently.)
My love wasn't enough to stop the grief and mourning of losing your grandma this past year. But it has been just enough, to patiently get you through the separation anxiety, the mental and emotional anguish, triggers and relapses and let your mind rest until we can find specialized therapy for minimally verbal autistic persons. (Until then, you got me!)
In these twenty one years, I've made so many mistakes, blunders and missteps. I have some regrets and wish that I had some do-overs. For all of those moments (and I'm sure we'll have more), I deeply apologize and ask for your forgiveness.
I remember the day, I finally got to meet you in person and committed to give you the best of who I am and what I have. From the bottom of my heart, I've always kept that promise and will continue to do so for the rest of my life (or at least try).
As you enter into this emancipation year, I pray that it is just that for you--Emancipation from every limitation and boundary that God has not given you. You've earned your post--a gatekeeper, doorkeeper, and ministrel in the Levitical priesthood. Your hands have been trained well for war and your fingers for battle. You have been given your mandate, "You are a covenant for the people, to restore the land and to reassign its desolate inheritances, to say to the captives, ‘Come out,’ and to those in darkness, ‘Be free!’"
Go, babygirl! Be great and do what you have been purposed to do. (And Remember that mommy's love will always be just enough.)
I love you and am so proud of who you are becoming!
I give thanks for moms because, no matter what, they stay and are expected to stay when everyone else walks away. They fight for us no matter what we do or have done. They sacrifice their lives, time, sleep, and money to care for us. Moms show up when no one else does. When they are gone, they leave incredible voids. Losing my mom this year, made me painfully aware that I will have very few people on this earth that will genuinely love me (even if it’s a little dysfunctional), pray for me and with whom I can share my heart.
Today as we give thanks for moms, please consider donating (https://www.paypal.com/donate?hosted_button_id=A8W5LW6DK6V7A) to one of my favorite organizations, the Birthing Project USA, the Underground Railroad for Life, https://www.birthingprojectusa.org/ where we support mothers throughout their pregnancy until one year after the birth of their children.
Have A Great Day of Thanks!