Being torn between emotions is nothing new for a mother. It starts in the delivery room, when, through the most horrific pain we can bear, we offer human life--a special gift that only belongs to women. As soon as we hear that first cry from our baby, the physical pain disappears. In that miraculous moment, our hearts open, and we fall in love. A really big love comes over mothers, and we are never the same again.
It would be ridiculous to say that I've been the perfect mother. I've danced on the line of making huge mistakes with my first child. In a column I wrote years ago, I said that how I chose to raise my son was the right choice for me. I agreed to let him live with his father in Belzoni.
At the time, I believed I had no choice. I wasn't in a good place to care for him, financially or mentally. I am thankful that his father was willing. I know many mothers struggle every day without alternatives. They do the best they can. I gave in, and I was OK with
Then a commenter asked me a question that I've never really been able to answer.
"What if you didn't make the right decision for (your son)?"
My first-born will be 18 in August. This year, he's graduating from high school, and it's bittersweet for me. While I am anxious for him to step into himself and become a man, I'm not sure he's ready.
I believe that a woman can't teach a boy how to be a man, but I underestimated the necessity for a boy to be with his mother. He's missing skills that I might have taught him. He hasn't learned how to follow through, for example, and he doesn't prioritize well. When I listen to him think things through, I wonder where he came up with the process he uses to form his opinions. While it works, it's so complicated that I can't describe it. His way is more difficult than how I could have taught him.
While I am concerned about his readiness to dive into the world, that's not my biggest challenge: facing the fact that as a young mother, I gave up the everyday things--his football games and how school was going. I didn't get to explain about picking a girlfriend with character and grace. I didn't get to comfort him after his first and only fight when he came to the rescue of a bullied classmate. I wasn't there to reassure him when he didn't make the basketball team.
As a young mother, my decision to give my baby a better life may not have been the best one. I thought it was. I struggled, and I prayed about it. When my mother told me not to give him up, I thought I knew better. Today, I am not so certain.
I have always tried to live my life without regrets. As I prepare to watch my first child walk across the stage and receive his diploma, though, I think it's safe to say that if I could do it over, I would have been selfish. I would have fought with every fiber in me to make a way for him without sending him away. I would have worked harder, prayed harder, begged more. Whatever it took, I would have fought to include the influence of the woman who gave him life. I am the woman who will love him more than any other woman can. I am the woman who endured the pain of labor. I am the woman who gained 70 pounds, most of which I still carry. I am the woman who cried myself to sleep every night after he left. I am his mother. I share his heart and soul. No other person shares that bond with him.
So, in answer to the question the commenter asked, maybe I didn't made the best decision, but it was the right decision. Things happen as they should. Obviously, the universe wanted it this way, otherwise it wouldn't have occurred. That doesn't change the fact that if I could do it over, I would make a different choice.
A mother's primary obligation is to create children who will contribute positively to this world. My child is a good one. So even without me being in the house with him for many years, my presence has influenced him.
"Mama, it doesn't matter how long we go without talking or seeing each other, I know you are my mama, and I know that you love me," he told me. "Nobody can ever tell me any different. I don't care who it is. You are my mama, and I love you."
I'm not going to beat myself up too bad over the past. I've done good enough. I have many more years to make my queenly presence known in his life, and now I know to make every moment count.
Funmi "Queen" Franklin is a word lover, poet and advocate for sisterhood. She has a weakness for reality shows.