I was nineteen when my daughter, Amber, was born. She had instantly became a part of my soul, as any mother could attest. I remember sitting in a rocking chair and singing lullabies to her. As I sang, I reflected on my life, my situation, my own future, and what I could offer her as a mother.
I had a terrible childhood with terrible role models. My father and his wife were both drug users and alcoholics ever since I could remember. It was family knowledge that my dad, Amber’s grandfather, had Mafia connections and was a lifelong biker. As a result of their poor life decisions, I had an unpleasant home-life filled with unpleasant memories, including, but not limited to, my two parental units forcing me to drop out of high school. Needless to say, I wanted more for Amber.
As it were, I had no future and in such, neither did she. That’s sad to say, but it’s the truth. I remind her of that every chance I get too. I say to her, “You just remember, if it were not for my crappy childhood, you’d have a poor childhood, too. I should be thanked for working so hard to be a good mom!”
(Well, you know I have to work the guilt angle in there somehow)
The same day the realization hit me that through me, my daughter was doomed to fail in life, too, I made some life altering decisions. My father was very abusive. He had once told me I would not go to college and if I did, he’d beat me up for it. He didn’t want me to make him look like a fool by advancing in school further than he had, hence the ridiculous threat. I reminded him he did a fine job on his own by making himself look like a fool without my assistance (just before I picked myself up off the ground from where he knocked me to).
Even though I had been married for over a year at the time, I was still too terrified to tell my father and his wife about my decisions. I secretly went to night school and studied for my GED. While doing that, I enrolled into college for the nursing program. I did all of this behind my parent’s back. My husband (and friend who went with me) were the only two that knew what I was up to.
The day my GED came in the mail, my dad had stopped in for a visit. He was always quick to tell me what I needed to do in my home, with my child, in my marriage. I would pacify him and say, “Okay, Dad, I’m on it.” Of course, I ignored him after he left.
We had walked to the mailbox together to check the mail. I knew when I opened the box and saw the brown manila envelope what it was. I was so nervous when I reached in to take it. Whether I passed or failed would determine my future college education.
My father snatched it out of my hands and demanded, “What is this?” I tried to take it back but he pushed me aside and opened it. He was completely surprised. “You took your GED?”
“Yes, I did! Now give it to me,” I snapped at him. I was so livid.
“I have to think on this for a while,” he said as he left me at the mailboxes.
Very much against my father’s wishes, his wife also returned to college. He tried to stop her but could only do so much especially when her parents intervened. She found out, through her friends at the school, I had enrolled into the nursing program pending my GED. Imagine my father’s surprise when he went home and was informed by his wife what I had been doing behind their back. All of this on top of knowing I had just received my high school equivalency diploma in the mail.
My husband thought I would end my rebellion there but he did not know my motivation, Amber. I would have walked through fire on hot coals, barefooted, and doused in gasoline, before I was going to back down from my decisions. I knew they had a direct effect on my daughter. My father did not scare me. My daughter growing up without any chance for a better life than I had scared me.
I wasn’t trying to improve my financial status. I was trying to improve my odds, thus, improving her odds. I wanted to show my daughter by example that you get ahead in life by hard work and effort. Not by thievery and illegal activity. I was bound and determined to succeed, or by death, and only death, should I fail - I would accept nothing less.
My husband supported my decision to return to school. He was my backbone, my rock. He let me fight my demons, imagined and real. My husband recognized I was a fighter and understood I had to fight my own battles in order to become emotionally stronger. And I did in a matter of a day.
When my father returned the next day to interrogate me, I put him in his place. I let him know, in no uncertain terms, this was my decision and if he didn’t like it, he was free to stay out of our lives; mine and his granddaughter‘s. As for me, I was willing to accept those terms if he was; the choice was his.
“Oh, I think it’s great you are going to college,” he exclaimed. I think he quickly realized my level of determination; therefore he was lying about his true feelings. “It just goes to show what a great job I did raising you. Your mother would be so proud of us!”
“Yeah, Dad. It was all you,” I said as I rolled my eyes at him.
I did go on to finish school, too. No matter what personal failures I feel I have had in my life and over which I beat myself up, as a parent, I’ve succeeded. To me, my life is a success story because my children are a success, both of them. To think, it all started with a mother’s love for her first child and I call her Angel Baby.