THIS I BELIEVE:
Even the Worst Parent Can Teach Her Children Unconditional Love
My parenting skills sucked for many years.
There was the time I had separated from my first husband. I moved our two children- a 12 mo. old and 4 yr. old -from Va. To Az. After arriving in Az., I fed, Austin, my 12 mo. old son black-eyed peas. He loved black-eyed peas in Va. The convenience and novelty of Az. black-eyed peas in a can was too much for this single mother to pass up. Austin hated Az. black-eyed peas. He cried. I persisted. He fought. So maybe it was the ingredient “ja’ la-pee-nose” listed on the can. Having never heard of this additive, I asked a native. “It’s ‘ha-lapen’ yos’ and they’re hot”. Stupidity is a hallmark sign of a bad parent.
I came to Az. as a result of having joined the Air Force. I wanted unlimited sick time, paid housing and exotic vacations. I got unlimited call time, no steady shift, closely monitored sick time and no energy to vacation anywhere. It was not uncommon to rouse the children in the middle of the night to pack them off to one of the seven babysitters. No one person was willing to watch them any day of the week and any hour of the day or night just because my job demanded my presence. On one of these nightmarish nocturnal summons to duty, my bleary-eyed children held tears in check. Nikki, my daughter, asked, “where are we going this time Mommie?” Another sign of a bad parent. Taking your children to whomever will watch them whenever you can.
I was a failure-but one thing I did right. I taught my children that all people were equal in God’s eyes. It didn’t matter what culture, color or disability. God loved us all and so should we.
Austin was born with Down Syndrome. He was treated like the other two (by this time I had given birth to another child- a third sign of a bad parent- lack of self-control). Least I forget- I was reminded often “if we have to eat our vegetables, Austin should have to, too”.
I took the children to see the movie MASK in 1985. The children by then ranged in ages 4 to 6 years. I was anxious to see the reaction of my little troop to this moving story starring Eric Stoltz as a young man severely disfigured with elephantitis ( another sign of a bad parent is she doesn’t keep up with the latest terminology for medical conditions). Cher portrayed his drug addicted mother. In preparing the kids for the movie, I told them the movie was about a young man with a handicap. On leaving the theatre, my youngest, Courtney, asked , “Mama, who had the handicap?” He was clueless.
A bad parent takes her children to a movie that is far beyond their level of comprehension. However, she was able to convey to her children that looks do not a handicap make. My 4- yr. old got the point. God sees beauty in us all. He loves us all.
My three children are grown now. Austin and I Iive together in amiable peace. The siblings have gone out into the world as reasonably responsible adults. Courtney and Nikki have chosen mates from outside their hereditary culture. Prejudice was something I neither learned nor taught. Courtney is a father, himself, and is teaching his children acceptance of all mankind as their extended family. As a mother I got better than I gave. Bad parents , too, can teach their children some pretty great qualities, like unconditional love.
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