When does a mother’s love begin? When they find out they’re expecting? When they first lay eyes on their beautiful baby? I’m sure the answer to this is debatable and varies with the individual. In my experience, it happened repeatedly and continues to this day.
My journey as a mother began two weeks after I turned 19. I was shocked and not too thrilled about finding out the news. I was embarrassed and I felt alone. I was new to the military and my base, all my friends were my age and having fun and I walked around with this information I was too embarrassed to share. I had a boyfriend from my hometown but after he found out the news, he wasn’t thrilled and decided to break up with me. Our relationship was on and off and everything you would expect from a 19-year-old couple.
My “secret” was one that came with a clock because it wasn’t long before I found myself sharing it with each of my friends. The secret I was embarrassed about, the secret I was ashamed about was one that brought me close to so many different people and allowed me to have a “family” away from home. My friends and co-workers were extremely supportive...from throwing my baby showers, buying me snacks, helping me move, and even telling me the name they decided for MY baby.
On November 11, 2004, at 10:17am, my life was changed forever…enhanced if you will. I was blessed with a very smart, beautiful baby girl. I’m not going to sugarcoat it, single parenting with an E-3 salary over 1,000 miles from your parents is challenging to say the least. I still remember hearing “Just Gotta Make It” by Trey Songz and making that my personal theme song. I wanted to provide a life my daughter was proud of, I wanted her to see how much I loved her and never know the pain, just the joy. Looking back on my life, I now realize those broke, single mom days were some of my happiest memories. I had the best support system & each of my friends loved Jasmine as if she were their own child.
As time went on, I got married, moved to Alaska, and had another daughter. I loved my girls and imagined them growing up and being best friends. Jasmine always asked me for a sister and I secretly was OK with just one child-her. But the excitement she had when she realized she was having a sister was pure love. Jasmine was so smart, always reading above her grade level, never requiring assistance with her homework or practicing anything! Including multiplication facts! She was smart..sometimes too smart. As the years rolled by, a brother was added as well as a move to North Dakota and deployment, my life as a mother was- Love. Love can be challenging, love can be rewarding, and sometimes love can even be painful. As parents, we find ourselves waiting for the days when your small child is a little older, those fun years where you can hold deep conversations, laugh at jokes and even share a favorite television show. In 2016, we moved to Biloxi, Mississippi and I finally reached that parenting stage!
I think we can all admit those Junior High/Middle School years were pretty fun. As a parent, they’re fun as well as challenging, but if you remember that’s one of the words I used to describe love. The challenge of those years is the obvious, the coming of age, the hormones, the peer pressure. As a parent, we know all the answers and we see all the situations coming, but one thing I learned is that you can advise, you can lecture and you can even direct your child on what to do, however, it’s up to them to make the correct choice. I remember fussing with Jasmine because the teacher contacted me (AGAIN) about something silly- not listening, getting up in class, talking to her friends during class. Of course, I’m annoyed because this is a common occurrence at this point. How hard is it to sit in your seat until class is over? To make matters worse, at this time, my position in the military happens to be an instructor AKA a teacher. There I am, lecturing my child about listening and following directions and I instantly have a flashback from when I was her age, sitting in the kitchen being lectured by my father about something similar. Life can really come full circle. Of course, I still lectured her because that’s what any parent would do but I think God was showing me something and that something was myself.
Sometimes these lectures seemed to be a weekly thing, almost like I should record myself and just queue them up when needed. Occasionally I wanted to laugh because the situation I had to lecture her about was funny, but as a parent, you have to put that parent face on, then go laugh in private or on the phone with your bestie. One unique thing about becoming a parent at 19 was that everyone helps raise your child. Friends with no children, sisters, or even your parents (yes, the child’s grandparents) become pseudo mothers and fathers and assist in the parenting process. Sometimes my best friend would lecture Jasmine, with the hope she would listen to her. Sometimes this worked and sometimes it didn’t but it was still useful. They say it takes a village.
The year is now 2019, and my daughter is 14 and 2 weeks away from finishing 8th grade. I’m doing her hair before I take her to her favorite place to eat. I’ll never forget this moment, she tells me, “Mom, I’m about to make sure I do good on all my tests and see if I can turn my missing homework in because I don’t want to be like Rosa. She might not pass 8th grade and that won’t be me”. I said, “Oh really?” The backstory to this comment is, as I mentioned, Jasmine is really smart…too smart. She would pass all tests but not do her homework, so in a few classes, her grades weren’t the best. One of those infamous lectures was about how someone could get 90s and 100s on a test but never turn any assignments in…
Needless to say, Jasmine did really well on her finals and somehow convinced teachers to allow her to make up missing assignments. Her report card was all A’s and B’s. As a parent, I was so proud…and summer was about to begin! She went to Chicago to visit her paternal grandparents and her dad. As the summer progressed, I looked forward to registering her for High School on July 15th! Unfortunately, I would never get that opportunity because I received the worst call a parent could receive on July 14th. My daughter was in a house fire and the outcome was uncertain. I lost my firstborn…my love, the one who taught me what unconditional love really meant. And since then, my heart has been broken. My heart will forever be broken. They say, “grief is the unexpressed love”. I remember reading that and feeling like a code was cracked. I picture it as a 2-liter of pop that’s been shaken up and opened…that’s when I’m upset, sad, and angry. Other times, that 2-liter of pop that was shaken up just sits there with all that pressure and nowhere to go…that’s how I feel most days.
When I was pregnant, I listened to “Zion” by Lauryn Hill on repeat for 9 months straight. At one point, I wanted to name my child Zion because of the song. One part of the song goes,”And I thank you for choosing me…”. I’m thankful she chose me and brought love to my life.
I was a single mom at 19 too so I relate to your story. What a wonderful relationship you’ve built with your daughter! Happy Mother’s Day
Jasmine was a gem. She had so much personality…even as an infant. She was definitely destined for great things. I’m saddened that her star dimmed so early in life. I always had a tremendous amount of respect for how you conducted yourself against the obstacles in the way back in those more youthful days. You were more than ready and the entire village was available to help you. I certainly think your experience in motherhood — the beginnings of which I saw personally — has made you into one of the most impressive people breathing.