Recently, our community held their annual Christmas Parade, and for the first time, my oldest son participated as a member of the ROTC. As with every other activity that either of my children have been involved with, I knew I would tear up once I saw Isaiah marching with his squad. Sure enough, once the parade turned the corner to where we stood and the Color Guard came our way, I was overcome with emotion.
There was my soon-to-be-15 year old, handsome with his tan skin and hazel eyes in his camouflage uniform, carrying the Arkansas state flag and looking a bit too much like he belongs in the Army. It shocked me to realize how much he and I have both changed dramatically in our fifteen years together.
He is taller than me, his feet are double the size of mine and his voice mimics that of a grown man. He is witty and funny, smart and athletic, compassionate and hard-working. He can perfectly arch his eyebrow just like his Mama and Nanny (there was a time when he pushed it up with his finger to imitate us). He leaves me breathless at his overnight growth. When did this happen? A moment ago, he was a 6 pound 5 ounce baby who slept in a wicker basket next to my water-bed (just the mention of a water-bed should tell you how old I am now).
His first outfit was a green, footed sleeper with a dinosaur on the chest that kept him warm on his first outing from the hospital to the house. He wasn’t even in his car seat correctly, we had bundled him in too many blankets! My nurse kindly corrected the situation. She had to know this young, first time mother was clueless.
Every mother has memories like mine: first Halloween costume (another green dinosaur), first Christmas (a teddy bear that was bigger than his ten-day old self), first time the dogs wanted to eat him (poor Pooh, my mom’s beloved black Chow, thought he was a chew toy, but then became his most fierce guard dog. When he would cry, Pooh would run to find Nanny so she could make it better), first step (he was so bowlegged we just knew he would never walk straight!), first boo boo (going headfirst in the walker over the back patio — another hint of my age because who uses walkers anymore?!), first…… well, just first everything.
However, there is one first that sticks in my heart and is a constant reminder of how far our relationship has traveled. It was the first time he cried because of me; the first time I saw how much he loved me. It sounds odd to say that, but our relationship has been anything but ordinary. However, the day that I watched the tears trail down his cheeks because of my terrible choices was the moment that I realized how much more he deserved from me.
Many people say that my having gone to federal prison for seven and a half months was what turned my life around. Yes, that played a huge part, but watching Isaiah cry as I drove away to begin my sentence, well, that was the event that I can reflect on and know I was changed. My redemption belongs to him.
There is not a doubt in my mind that I am not the mother now that I was when he was born. It’s possible that every woman enters motherhood on shaky grounds, despite their best efforts to tell the world otherwise. Our society places a premium on perfection where mothers are concerned and admitting fault is never an easy thing.
There’s no need to point out my imperfections as a young single mother, but trust me, that list is long. In retrospect, I understand now that having children later in life can sometimes be a smarter choice. It took many years to get to this mature, healthy place in my life and in a sense, I feel as if Isaiah and I have grown up right alongside each other.
Every year, I write a birthday letter for Elijah, my son who passed away, to keep his memory alive. Yet, I should have been writing yearly letters for all three of my boys because as the years pass, the images in my mind lose their vibrancy. There will come a time when the costumes, the various uniforms, the parades and the tuxedos will be difficult for me to recall.
However, the terrible day when I had to leave him will perpetually serve as a reminder of the importance of my role as his mother. My life continues to grow just as Isaiah’s does; our journey will always be intertwined. In my eldest, I see my past, his present and our future; it is all bittersweet.
Margie writes, “I feel as if Isaiah and I have grown up right alongside each other.” As a mother, can you think of an experience when your child and you have grown and learned together?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Margie Bryant or Arkansas, USA. She can be found on Twitter @TheHunnyB.
Photo credit to Margie Bryant.
I LOVE it, You are an amazing writer and I am so proud that you have this forum to get that out! Looking forward to your next one!!!!
Thank you Mike, you could just be a tiny bit biased. I love you and thank you for supporting everything that I do and for loving my boys as yours.
Awesome post, Margie. It has been such a privilege for me to see your growth from “then” to “now”. You have truly turned your life around, and I am so proud to have been a small part of that.
In response to the question, I feel that me and my George grow and learn together every day as we both learn how to deal with his autism.
Ah Kirsten, you are such an amazing friend. Thank you! You inspire me everyday as your find your way through autism. What do you think your biggest growth has been in that area?
Thanks for sharing your story! I know it is tough to talk about some of your most emotional experiences, and I hope it gives you peace of mind and a good feeling about yourself as a mom through writing. Great post!
As for the question, I feel that I know more about paleontology than I ever thought I would from helping my daughter explore her love of dinosaurs. And, from more of a life standpoint, we are learning more together about the balance of how we are capable of doing more if we push ourselves a little, but we also must make time for rejuvenation.
Veronica Samuels 🙂
Thanks Veronica, it’s funny because I think I do my best writing about emotional stuff. I am just so happy to be here with such amazing writers.
Like your exploration of dinosaurs, I am learning a great deal about animals these days. Caleb, my youngest, comes home everyday with new facts about African Snails, Black Mambas and other creepy sounding species.
Thanks for sharing your story Margie. I too feel like I am growing up alongside both of my daughters. I home-school them (ages 5 and 2 years)… I joke with my husband that I feel like a cross between Miss Clavel from the Madeline series books and Rodney Dangerfield in “Back to School.” I feel smarter every day that I teach them… this year for Kindergarten I’ve learned all about spiders, apples, mushrooms… I cannot imagine what 1st grade is going to bring! ha!
I love your idea of writing a birthday letter to them. I am going to start doing that. I agree that you think you won’t forget the little things, but sadly we do. I wish I could freeze in time the way my 2-year-old daughters skin feels at this age, so tender, so warm, so soft.
I look forward to your future posts. My best to your family!
Thank you Courtney, I am just so honored to be writing alongside yall! Also, I admire your ability to homeschool. I could never have that much patience or intelligence. When the boys have brought home their elementary math homework, I have struggled!
Yes, I highly recommend birthday letters and wish I had done them earlier. I have learned many lessons as I have gotten older and nothing more so than how quickly time passes.
Welcome Margie! Incredible writing. Thank you for sharing with us. I have 6 kids, 2 older kids who live in Chicago and 4 younger boys. 3 of them are home with Dad right now, while I’ll been in the hospital with our youngest. We’ve been here for 4 months. I’m wondering if this will be our turning point experience. I do see it as an opportunity to change things when we are back home together, finally. I would be interested in hearing about your experiences in coming home after your incarceration. I’m sure there will be a re-adjustment period – it will be months yet before we are able to come home. I’m counting on the resilience of the boys to help make that transition back to a complete family a bit easier, but I’m not sure what to expect. Looking forward to more great posts! Peace & Hugs~Amy
Thank you! I have been reading your blog and am incredibly touched by your story. I was gone from my boys for seven and a half months, I was too far from home for anyone to come visit. Plus, I couldn’t bear a visit and then to have to say goodbye again. It was hard when I first came home, especially with my youngest. He was only 5 when I was in prison and he still has anxiety issues. It took him about a year to stop asking if I was going to have to go to Texas again. I called home everyday while I was gone and once he said “Can you come home this weekend to take me to a birthday party or do you have to sleep in Texas again?”. Those memories just break my heart. I literally can’t say that outloud without crying. However, I have been home for three years now and things are much, much better. Prison truly saved my life. Maybe I will make that my next blog.
This was very touching in so many ways. The pain of being away from your child and not being able to so “yes, I will be there,” must have been too much to bear at times. There are many people who would not have made the changes that you did in your life. There are many people who would have just shut down and pulled away from your son. You didn’t. You changed things in both of your lives for the better and that took a great deal of strength and courage. Everything comes with positives and negatives…focus on the positives, learn from them both, and gain compassion for others through them….this is what I try to keep in my focus during times where things don’t or didn’t work out like I had imagined or hoped they would in my life. Life’s journeys make us pretty interesting people.