Mario, Alicia, David,Joe and Vince approx 1992
In the quest of being a good mother, I prayed everyday for my kids.
I prayed for myself, and as they grew I was convinced I wasn’t praying hard enough.
In our house, we had hard and fast rules: no cable TV; no Nintendo or X-box; no guns (even toys – they were violent); stay out of the kitchen while mom is cooking; in bed before 10, every night; go to church on Sunday, but read the Bible every day.
Our kids resented these rules, and my heart broke that they lived in a world that made my parenting harder. I resented the outside influences that made my kids resent my rules. After all, I was trying to be the best mother that I possibly could be – my kids were my life.
When my first son, Vincent, was born, he saved my life.
I was on a one-way train heading for Pleasureville, fuelled by the selfish fuel of my desire - when I found out I was pregnant. I cringed. I had no job, was living off of my boyfriend, who had very illegal ways of supplementing our income, and clueless in the ways of being an adult.
I was also had a pretty hefty habit, and finding out I was expecting a baby made me scared: I had compromised the health of my baby. Being unable to calculate my due date (severe drug addicts don’t menstruate), I asked for a sonogram. It was a relatively new option, used to see the baby from inside the mother’s womb.
“My dear,” the doctor said, holding my hand. “You are a mother.”
The words shocked me. My baby wasn’t even born, and now I was a mother? I panicked inside, but then felt a strange power. I was going to have a baby.
When he was born, the pain was unbelievable and I was certain that the medical staff had made a mistake not giving me stronger drugs.
“It’s a boy!” the doctor shouted, and the nurses were excited as they watched what I couldn’t see.
“Is he healthy?” I shouted back, haunted by the possibility I could have endangered everything in his life.
“Honey, he’s beautiful!” the nurse told me, her smile obviously not understanding what I meant.
“But is he healthy?” I asked again.
Vincent was the recipient of all of my fears from the moment he was born. I was scared I had messed up my pregnancy. I was scared that I would mess up motherhood. I was scared that things were not going to work out between his father and me. And then, I saw his face.
They had washed him, wrapped him in a blanket and put a cap on him. His eyes were so blue, so clear, so focused. He looked at me as if he knew me, and I started to cry.
This is when he reached his hand out of the blanket and tried to touch my face. The nurses told me it was a reflex. I knew better. He was a miracle. I quickly left my boyfriend and my addiction, and straightened up my life.
Vince grew quickly, and it didn’t take long for me to realize he was a genius.
His brain worked faster than it should have. He had everything from pattern recognition to a long attention span at a very early age. He read very early. He seemed to recognize quality in toys early. He loved certain foods together, and asked for three courses when I asked him what he wanted for dinner, rather than just the main course.
I was certain that no one would ever (or had ever) seen such genius in a little boy.
When school started it was easy to see that he would have to be advanced a grade, and when they didn’t, I thought his teachers were nuts. From an early age, he didn’t want me fighting his battles.
“Mom,” he said to me as we were leaving school one day. “Maybe you should be nicer to Mrs. King.” Mrs. King was his very obtuse kindergarten teacher.
“Why do you say that, honey?” I asked in the “mommy voice”, the voice I used to fake happiness or cluelessness.
“When she tells you things sometimes you get ...” he searched for the right word, “impatient with her.”
“Nevermind.” He said, looking out the window.
“Okay, I’ll be nicer to her.” I relented.
He turned to me and smiled. “Thanks, mom.” He thought awhile, and then said, “You know, Mrs. King is a beautiful woman, but she is getting wrinkles. Do you think I should tell her?”
I smiled. “No, honey. Don’t ever tell a woman she’s getting wrinkles.”
We drove on. Then, I panicked.
“Am I getting wrinkles, honey?” I was the ripe old age of twenty-eight.
“No, mom. You look like God created you yesterday.”
One of his Graduation pics - he was known for his shoes...
Fast forward ten years, and my genius was in high-school, and a totally different animal. His fifteen year old hormones clashed with the rules of the house. It was a hard thing to narrow down, but I realize now that I hated not having control of his life. He talked with girls, wanted a cell phone, kept secrets from me. One day he came home and said that a girl asked him to the Homecoming Dinner. I was livid, and almost called her mother.
But, he was growing up. He seemed to be rude and mean one minute, and the next minute filled with love and tenderness. I needed a decoder ring just to be in the same room with him. I didn’t know how to have an adolescent guy in my life.
Vince graduated from high school, and attended college briefly, but ended up moving out of our house at eighteen. The story is long and painful, but I believed that I owned a big part of it. I blamed myself more than I ever blamed him.
Our relationship was strained and filled with pain. I was filled with regret for the way I brought him up. Did I mess it up completely? Many nights, I would wake up and pray heavily. Nintendo, Xbox and toy guns were the things that seemed so unimportant now. I felt like he had ripped off part of my heart and left home with it.
Would he ever forgive me for all of the things I got wrong? Would he ever be able to realize how much I love him?
Slowly but surely, we reconnected. In the midst of being worlds apart physically, we developed an emailing relationship that became a blessing.
One day, as I checked facebook, I saw my son’s political beliefs listed as “socialist”. I panicked.
“So what’s up with this socialist thing?” I asked him on the phone.
“That’s how I’ve always been, mom,” he laughed. “If you’ve paid attention.”
I felt gobsmacked, as they say here. I raised a socialist son and I never paid attention to him? This was a definite item for prayer.
I felt An answer to prayer in the strangest way: I felt God showing me how he made Vince to love justice, champion fairness and equality. He gave him a heart for the poor and He made him detest greed. This is how God made my son’s heart be defined as “Socialist”. I relaxed. If that’s what being a socialist means, then I’m cool with it.
Within five years of moving out, something amazing happened. Vince moved to Africa to stay with us for awhile. Each moment, each second he was here was a gift. I loved him completely, and saw a different side to him.
He was an amazing friend to those who got close to him. He loved guns, and restoring them. He was amazing with cars and engines. We had vacations together, heart-to-hearts and I made meat loaf and mashed potatoes. We watched South Park together and I laughed my ass off. When he left, I felt restored.
He went home, reunited with his girlfriend and got a job in the oilfields, where there is so much danger I can’t listen to what he does. He takes advantage of this, and tells me about this danger (while he laughs) any chance he can get. He reads quite a bit, but is a master at xbox kinect, something we played the last time I visited him.
While I was there, staying in his house, it occurred to me that Vince had become a lover of all of the things I forbid in our house, and it was okay. My rules that I meant to protect my children were (for the time) the best I could come up with.
What I didn’t know then was that listening to my children would be the thing that made them respect me. That laughing with them would make them love me. If I had to do it all over again, I would make damn sure that they knew they were a miracle to me...and that I loved them.
And I wouldn’t be so scared of things.
In the most recent years, I have discovered the beauty of Vincent’s words. His emails are genius. My favorite part is at the end, he signs them, “I love you, Mom and Dad.” I cry every time.
So I asked God for a son who would be gentle and polite; God gave me a warrior.
I asked God for a Christian hero, who loved God’s word; He gave me a man with His word written on his heart.
I asked God for a son who would hate guns; I was given a man who restores them into things of beauty and value.
I asked God for a Republican Christian God-fearing Political machine; I was given a Socialist Thinker who hates the Political Machine.
I asked God for a son who would love me and be dependent on my love; I was given an Independent, strong man who makes me free to love him for who he is.
I have received nothing that I asked for, but everything I hoped for, and looking at my son, I weep for the mercy that God gave me. I am overwhelmed by the love I feel for him.
My x-box playing, metal shop working, gun restoring, socialist genius.