I’ve been thinking about babies a lot this week. Fatherhood images are motivation.
I’ve been thinking about babies a lot this week. Fatherhood images are motivation.
Chapters. If you divided your life into chapters what would you call them? What chapter are you in now? What chapter is next?
1. Little Tica: I recall my early years in Costa Rica. Excursions with my mom (who I was instructed to address as ‘Betty‘) and way-older boyfriend to the beach house. My life was not much bigger than my mother, our house, my barrio and school.
2. New York, New York: In December of 1992, days before Christmas, Betty moves us to Queens to live with my grandmother. I enter second grade in a local public school with a bilingual setting. I excel rapidly at English, am placed in regular English-speaking class by the fourth grade. By this grade, it is also discovered that I am squinting at everything and need glasses. Enter insecurity-issues. By sixth grade, American parents have noticed that I address my mother by first name and have pressured her into forcing me to call her ‘Mom.’
3. Black Girl Lost: Through most of my school years I identified with what people had assumed I was… ‘light-skinned.’ I had no real connection to Costa Rica, having never traveled back home nor kept any tico traditions at home. All I had were the isolated memories and current events that may have been slightly addressed in grown-folks conversations. My family looked no different than any other African-American family, and I never felt any real need to make any distinctions.
4. Lonely, Only Child: I went through tough bouts of depression in my pre-teen and teenage years. Mom and I were never really close as mother-daughter, and the fact that she kept constant boyfriends in between us didn’t help. I journaled a lot, to the point that my writing would get me in trouble when it was
discovered snooped by Mom. Mom also had an overpowering fear that I would become a teenage mother, and was extremely stiffling. Eventually, since I couldn’t leave the house, I learned to use the internet as a way to recreate myself. I could become anyone I wanted to online. I chatted with older men online, being an utter attention-craver, but never went as far as meeting them.
5. College Daze: Upon HS graduation, I began to differentiate between Black people and me. The difference was 9 digits, and I didn’t have them. I wasn’t born in the United States, I was an immigrant. No immigration status translated into no hopes for college since I didn’t have the luxury of financial aide.
6. Fatherly Duties: Through the grace of God, my father (who had been estranged most of my childhood years), an American citizen, expresses wishes to file an application for me to obtain residency. It was not an easy process, but it gets done months before the deadline of my 21st birthday. I finish my Associate’s Degree on academic scholarship, and graduate with a BA degree in English in 2010. Through 4 years of my undergrad, I’m also employed full time as a legal secretary.
I guess I would call the Chapter I’m in right now, Adulthood, but that sounds so cliche. Currently, I’m a grad-school hopeful, tired of a job and looking for my career. Trying to find a place in this world where I fit. I want to work in the field that was pre-destined for me. I want to be the minority in this world who loves what they do.
The next chapter I hope will be called Commitments. As much as I try to make myself sound like this flighty, free-spirit I do long for stability. I do want to start a family, where a husband is key to the equation. I’m trying not to be cynical about marriage although it’s hard to be hopeful when all I see is ruins from couples who didn’t make it. I also long to be someone’s Mama, because bringing a life into this world is also another reason why no one can ever convince me that God does not exist. I want to be part of miracle-making, be honored with the task of a light-bearing Mama.
What chapter of life are you currently in?
Both my parents live in different states. My father lives in Boston and my mother chose the tropical hurricane-prone and humidity of the Sunshine State. I love retreating to her state when I need a quick get-away, but for her, coming to NY is usually for personal business and not so much pleasure. This time around, we decided to follow the tourist route and visit Lady Liberty, a lady I have admired on tours only from boats along the island of Manhattan but have never in 16 years of living in New York City visited the actual island where she resides.
$15 dollars later we secured our tour to Liberty Island and Ellis Island (if you want to actually enter the platform or crown of the Statue, that’s a whole ‘nother line and fee that we were too impatient for) and find our line to make our way to the ferry. An hour and a half later, we reached the security clearance which is basically like a small airport security operation sans having to remove your shoes. Finally, we were ready to board the ferry at 1:45pm.
While we were waiting on line, 2 Brazilian men behind us proceeded to make small talk. One of them asked the age-old conundrum of why I was just visiting Lady Liberty having lived in New York City for so many years. My answer… when you live in a city for so long, you tend to subconsciously take landmarks and places for granted thinking they are always going to be there. So for me, there was never really a rush. Also, unlike other states there really is no ‘NY resident’ discount for tickets to attractions like the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building and the countless of other tourist attractions. Money makes all the difference.
Spending time with my mother is always a trip. Simply put, my mom is an animated character. She’s known to laugh with her whole body, use English expressions the wrong way (think Modern Family’s Sofia Vergara minus the annoying accent), and want to make friends WHEREVER she goes. Some of her habits irk me easily at this point, even though they shouldn’t because I already know those are just her unique ways. So instead of sit here and list of the things that annoy me about mommy dearest, I’m going to list the top 4 things that make my mom better than the average mom.
“Of all the rocks upon which we build our lives, we are reminded today that family is the most important.” -President Barack Obama
Father’s Day was a day that usually went unnoticed in my house, as did in many households where a woman was commander-in-chief. Tomorrow, it might not be surprising that among expected trending words like #daddy, #father, and #dad, we might see #mom rise up in numbers as some self-proclaimed Super Moms get praise from their children or give themselves credit for raising their children all alone. Don’t you just love reading those? I want to wish myself a Happy Father’s Day ’cause I make miracles every Thanksgiving!
I think my mom did a damn good job raising me but I never felt the need to thank her for being mom and dad or acknowledge her on Father’s Day, because quite frankly, only a man can be a father. That’s not to come at same-sex households, but I always wondered how a woman can raise a boy to be something she’s never been herself?
But I’m getting off topic here. I don’t want to focus on absentee fathers, same-sex parenting, or single motherhood; I just want to tell you my story.
For a long time, I felt that whenever the time came for me to get married, I wouldn’t ask my father to walk me down the aisle. That would be my way of hurting him, embarrasing him for not being there for me as a child. I battled long and hard trying to convince myself that he didn’t deserve that honor. That it would hurt my mother to see him beaming down the aisle, ‘giving’ me away when really he shouldn’t be given any credit for raising me. Anger and resentment had accumulated for the years that he so easily let pass. For example, my teenage years, when I wore low cut shirts and was starved for a man to tell me ‘I love you’ and not expect anything in return. Or when I felt my mother was being unreasonably strict or paranoid by not allowing me to go to dances or the prom; I longed for someone to balance her character out. There are countless examples of when I distinctly remember thinking it would have been nice to have a father around. But I can’t dwell on the past anymore.
At this age, I have to say that although my father hasn’t been there for most of my childhood, he’s shown up in 2 instances in my life that were vital. No, that won’t replace the emotional absence, the lack of genuine connection, the many milestones that have come and go, but it still shows that he’s put some effort forth. And I accept that. I don’t want to go through life mourning a father figure who’s not dead. I’m not making excuses for him, but the fact is he’s just not the type of father I expected him to be. And maybe he never will be.
I’ve always hidden behind the excuse that he’s the father and I’m the child, he should make more effort. That doesn’t hold up so much now that I’m an adult as well. I believe one way to measure maturity is the big F word: Forgiveness. It doesn’t mean I still don’t think about the kind of woman I would’ve been being raised with 2 parents, and it doesn’t mean I don’t worry about my kids having a relationship with abuelito (grandpa). What it does mean is that I don’t try to retaliate in a way that will only beget more hurt. Keeping my father out of my wedding will ultimately hurt me more than anyone else. I’ve resolved instead to change my perspective. To react in a way that may not make sense to most people; I’m going to accept my father for who he is presently, and stop judging him for who he hasn’t been. I believe that’s what God requires of all of us at some point in life.
So there you have it folks, my open letter on Father’s Day.
What perspective-changing lesson have you learned from your father (absent or present)?