Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Continuous Sacrifice: For the Single Mother

Original artwork (painting), by Rivaflowz. Shadow Women, 2013.
A few years ago, a friend of mine called me from the last place I’d ever expect.

“Come get me. I’m in jail and they’re about to release me.”

I jumped into my car and arrived at the police station within five minutes. She came down the steps, calm and collected, and stared into the distance as we drove. I knew instantly, when she told me where she was, who was responsible for it. She’d been in a rocky relationship with a man who’d rejected her love countless times and we were living in a state where everyone was arrested for domestic dispute, no matter who was at fault. I wanted to ask her what happened, but I waited for her to speak.

“It’s not about me anymore,” she said.

I pulled the car over, realizing that she was ready to tell me what happened. She held her stomach and repeated herself; “It’s not about me anymore.”

Before she went into the story of how she’d told him that she was pregnant, before she expressed that even knowing that he’d still cheated again, before she went on about how they’d both swung at each other, it’d hit me that she was ready to be a mother.

None of our advice, none of his countless mistakes, and none of their arguments could’ve made her leave her toxic situation. However, here she was, two months pregnant, and ready to walk away and piece her life back together.

“I’m done.”

It was the first time I believed her. She said it with a voice that had hope and finality all throughout its tone.

For some women it starts at conception. There’s a trigger that is pulled and they’re propelled into a blast of fury and grit. There’s a different motivation behind each shot: For some it’s an absent father (their own/their child’s), for others it’s an inattentive mother, for quite a few it’s a longing to be better than anyone was to them during their development, and for most it’s a natural instinct that goes into overdrive.

I admire you.

Stroller-pushing warriors, terrible-twos avengers, tantrum deflector, warm-hug giver, and tightrope walker: woman who walks a fine line while holding everything into place. I don’t have a single mother and I’m not one, I could never fully understand your struggle. However, I’m aware of the crusades my mother faced while raising me and I could not fathom her doing it alone.

It leads me to understand that you’re some sort of otherness. You are not of this world. You hail from lands where two women are pressed into one and given multiple arms and legs, because there is so much you have to hold, bear, and cover.

I have seven godchildren, most with single mothers, and the knowledge and culture that these babies have amassed in their little time on this earth astounds me. They are clearly the result of women who’ve decided that they were going to build soldiers. They’re the product of morals and values, whispered into cribs and kisses. They’re the solution to a generation that we pray will continue our transformation.

The widow’s children spout stories of how their fathers spilled love and honor everywhere. The products of anger and resentment understand that daddy isn’t here right now and might not ever be, but uncles and good friends will always be around to model for them. The co-parent’s child understands that separation doesn’t equal disparate.

Someone taught these principles. That someone is a she. She is a single mother:  someone that birthed a world, from a ten-inch fold.

& so I’m broken-hearted. When the women, that I revere, come to me and tell me that they don’t feel worthy. I’m hurt when they tell me that they fear that they’ll never find men who’ll love them and their daughters/sons. I’m disappointed and frightened when they accept men who treat them as individuals, as though their child doesn’t come with the union. I’m pissed off when they convey that they are any less than, because they come with a stronger commitment clause.

I know this would sound better, perhaps more comforting, coming from a brother. However, I’m here to tell you that I see you. I see each and every one of you and though I know the wait might be long, it’s worth it.

Your value is pinnacle. You maneuver responsibility like soccer players, reaching your ultimate goal. You swallow challenges whole and pick them from your teeth, when you’re ready to clear the burden from your table. You, perhaps, are another game level, one where the princess must save Mario and/or his child/children.

I want to tell you what you deserve and I pray you believe me. I want you to know that affirmations are real and whatever you put it into this world, will come back to you. I can’t give you an exact date or time, but know that it will boomerang into your existence if you give it the faith it needs to happen. Repeat after me:

I deserve to be loved. I deserve men/women with strong arms that’ll hold me close and lift my child(ren) at the same time. I deserve a significant other who understands that although my children’s eyes don’t resemble his own, they’re always watching. I deserve dates, for the both of us. I deserve alone time with my man, but I also deserve time to present my most valuable possession(s). I am worthy of big-hearted love, because I am not a solitary package. I come with magic. I come with the ability to lull cries and heal wounds. I come with a womb that has proven itself.  I come with bags that have been packed and unpacked, over and over again. I deserve a spouse who’ll carry them over mountains. I come with history. I come with the understanding that it repeats itself, but doesn’t have to manifest the same way. I come with a built-in multitask mechanism. I read textbooks, while burping babies, and take phone calls, while helping with homework. I am a master of cleanup time and a connoisseur of naps. I know what it’s like to walk around with my heart outside of my body, so I love harder than anyone I know.

I deserve family. I deserve to not be alone in this. I am responsible for raising kings/queens. I am a queen. I deserve thrones and rocking chairs, veiny hands clasping one another. I deserve my dreams. I am strong. I have the ability to work two jobs at all times, mother and whatever else I may choose. I deserve happiness. I am worthy of echoing the laughter that comes from the throat of my little one. I will not settle for anyone that does not make the both of us erupt in enjoyment.

I deserve everything that I hope for and all the things I haven’t thought of yet.

If there’s something, anything that’s missing here, write it down for you.

“Tell me what you deserve.”

This is what I told my home girl, when she and I went out to dinner.  Her son is three now and although she’s amazing, she’s having difficulty finding a guy that wants the entire parcel. She asked me, “What do I deserve? I messed up and had a child for a horrible guy. Why should any other guy be asked to deal with that?”

I responded, “You deserve everything you want. If the current guy isn’t with that, then he’s not for you. You deserve someone who understands that you’re phenomenal, that what you’re doing is a feat that not everyone can do.”

She sighed and stared at her reflection, in the restaurant’s window. I prayed she saw what I saw, three years ago. I saw a woman ready for war and judging by the next three years, she’d won almost every battle. In this moment, I saw a woman who’d reared a boy with a passion for all things superhero and a vernacular of a 5th grader. I saw a woman who’d sacrificed everything, even when there was nothing left to give away. I saw a woman who wore her merit badges on her skin: steak knife slices, callous hands, and tired eyes. I saw a woman who’d be swept off her feet, by someone perfect for her and her son or just by life itself. I hoped she saw, what I see, whenever I look at her.

I still do.

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