When I found out I was pregnant with my first child, I had no clue of what kind of a parent I wanted to be. I just knew that I was bringing a child into the world and I would be responsible for their life. Since I had been in foster care and then ultimately adopted, I experienced various versions of what parenting looked like. In my opinion, none of them were great, but there was definitely something that could be seen as nuggets to take from them.
When my son was born I did what I felt was the best I could do. He was well taken care of and most of the time, if he wasn’t with his godfather, he was with me. Now this is where I have to accept my own truth. He was with me. Wherever I went, whatever I did he was there. Thankfully I was never a drinker or a smoker of any kind, but if I argues with his father, he was there. If I busted the windows out of his father’s car, or slashed his tires, he was there. When I almost murdered his father, he was there. I was so busy trying to get his father to love me and spend time with us, oops, I mean spend time with me, because let’s just be honest, we, yup I said we, you and I, have both at some point used our child as bait to see their father when we THOUGHT, we had found true love and was scared to lose it. I was so busy chasing him that I didn’t take the time to make quality memories with my son. I didn’t read to him before he went to bed, or pray over him before he went to daycare. We didn’t go to the park, or enjoy activities that would stretch his imagination.
I did although, make sure I put the fear of God in him. He knew that I wasn’t to be played with and that he better behave at all times. I taught him how NOT to treat a women, by allowing him to see me cry after his father and I got into a physical altercation, and he was the one that wiped my tears.
When I had my daughter, life was so different. I was married and what most would consider more stable. Due to medical issues that faced, my daughter stayed home with me until she was able to attend preschool. During that time she was my shadow. Up under me from morning until night. She saw me clean the house, do laundry, pay bills, grocery shop, etc. We read books together, I taught her how to count, say her alphabet, spell and write her name and a plethora of other things.
When she went to preschool, I went back to work for the first time in 3 1/2 years. In my mind, I had a lot of time to make up for. We started the camp at the church and I also started my first job in property management. I wasn’t getting paid much and realized quickly that if I wanted to make more money, I was going to have to work my way up the corporate ladder, which meant longer hours away from home, and then bringing work home on most nights. I worked these long hours for seven years. During that time I can’t begin to tell you how many moments I missed with my babies. Sure, Josh was there and he filled in for both of us, but those are moments I should have been there for.
In Jamir’s final semester of Freshman year, everything came to a head. He was literally failing every class. I knew that he was struggling and had been emailing and meeting with his counselor and teachers all year to get a plan in place to help him, but the school gave me the runaround almost the entire year. They wanted to try different strategies before scheduling testing for a any learning disabilities. In the midst of that I noticed a change in him. He was sleeping all the time, staying in his room, dropped off the football team, his attitude was terrible. I didn’t make it any better. Instead of taking the time to not just listen to him but HEAR him, I was yelling at him and telling him how disappointed and stressed out I was due to his lack of interest in his future. He just completely shut down.
I would lock myself in the bathroom and just cry, I felt like I had failed him as a mom. One day during my prayer time God said to me, “You are going to have to accept accountability of your own actions. It’s time to make some changes, what are you going to do?”. I knew then that I had to completely change my parenting mindset. Although I couldn’t make up for the past, I could definitely reshape the future.
So I resigned from my job at the end of 2016. I demanded the support my son needed in school to be put in place and put a dream team of support in place for him over the summer, starting with myself. I changed the way I spoke to my kids. Even when they needed to clean their rooms, I used a different approach. I didn’t yell or demand they do it. I asked and then thanked them for completing it. It may sound crazy to you but it’s made a world of difference in our home. Josh and I have taken time to sit down, and just get to know our kids. We ask them questions about our parenting skills that force them to be honest with themselves even when it hurts us. We give them space to just be themselves. Be who God created them to be, not who we imagined they would turn out to be. It’s not always easy. Sometimes I have to catch myself before I fly off the handle, I have a long way to go, but I know I’ve come a long way.
The two most important lessons I’ve learned this year as I have made the decision to intentionally parent is this; be transparent. Let your kids know that you have made mistakes, your not perfect, and the second is, although I am the same parent, I have to parent them differently. They are very different and have different needs from me as a mom. Janai is a little bit more independent while Jamir requires a little more hand holding, and that’s okay. I can be to each of them whatever they need me to be.
This week, as I prepare for school to begin, I plan to do a few things to make this year run smoother and for us to connect deeper as a family. I’ve implemented family devotionals, Affirmation boards throughout the house, I’ll be putting prayer clothes throughout my home and in my children’s book bags, we will be praying more frequently together, but most of all, I just plan on being a present, parent.