This is a picture of me and my mom on my wedding day. Beautiful, right? But don’t let those beautiful eyes and slight smile fool you. My mom is a real, live Superhero. Her weapon of choice is often a sword that she keeps sheathed between her lips. She will slice you open, stuff you with knowledge, and seal your stitches with wisdom that will carry you for a lifetime. Don’t believe me? Read on.
Grades five through ten were extremely difficult for me. I was a neurotic kid, awkwardly growing into all the hair, legs, and teeth which arrived before the strength and confidence to support them had. I was an above average student in private school, one of few people of color, and constantly challenged at home to speak up and not keep my intelligence to myself by the example set by my older sister. Plainly put, I was a tall, lanky, brown know-it-all with the beginnings of features and character that would challenge that status quo in the coming years, if I could just see it, harness it, embrace it, do it. And I was bullied for it.
One typical day of sixth grade education, hair pulling, and name calling, I again was overwhelmed by the vitriol of my taunters and the indifference of my teachers. I faked ill for what must have seemed like the hundredth time to my mother, who promptly took her lunch break to come and rescue me. This time would prove to be different. Instead of stopping at the nurse’s office to check me out, she entered the lunch room with me in tow. She demanded that I point out those who’d made me “ill” that day and she addressed them. Afterwards, she stopped at the front office, signed me out while simultaneously educating the Principal of her expectations. After all, she was paying tuition.
Then we left the school grounds and I felt awesome! My mom had just gotten all those who had mistreated me together in a few curt sentences and one of her signature looks. And as she drove down Torch Hill Rd, we came to a stop at the light on Victory Drive. This is when she turned to me and said, “You will never get married! No man wants a sickly woman using up all his insurance! Men are looking for help!”
We finished the drive to our destination in silence, which was my maternal grandmother, Ma Ed’s house. In three sentences my mom had just undone her cape, removed her mask, and unsheathed her sword on me! She had been my hero not 10 minutes before. Why was I now on the receiving end of these soul splitting stabs? I hadn’t done anything wrong, my classmates were teasing me and my teachers hadn’t protected me. “Why won’t I get married?”, I thought to myself as she released me into the loving embrace of Ma Ed. At 11 years old, this outburst by my mom seemed cruel, but the totality of the situation and her words proved to be a defining moment in my life, in our relationship, and some of the best advice I’d ever receive.
Be Your Own Hero
The moment my mom agreed to come get me for the umpteenth time she was my hero. She was going to allow me to flee an uncomfortable situation and spend the day watching soap operas while hiding in the strings of Ma Ed’s apron. She became my superhero when she told my classmates in no uncertain terms they had better knock their relentless bullying off or else. She entered the stratosphere when she told the Principal that she wasn’t paying tuition for me to get bullied and for the school to ignore it. Step it up or she’d be dealt with, along with the obviously blind teachers on her staff. She ruined it by making her three sentence declaration on my future. I could’ve achieved those same results by standing up for myself. All I had to do was open my mouth and speak on what I wanted just as she had done. My mom wanted me to learn how to be my own hero.
“You will never get married!”
Why would a mom say that to her 11 year old daughter? My mom said it to motivate me. I was already an above average student, otherwise respectful and obedient. I much preferred being in the company of my feisty and fun grandmother, her siblings and friends. I enjoyed their music and their conversation and they didn’t treat me like a child. They treated me more like their contemporary who wasn’t retired. But my mom knew I wasn’t their contemporary and I had to learn to not only exist but flourish in the company of people my own age. And if I didn’t, her words would surely come true. What young man would want a young woman who acted like a senior citizen?
“No man wants a sickly woman using up all his insurance!”
Emphasis on the word using. Mother knew no one wants to feel used for their insurance or otherwise. And at 11 years old, I was showing signs of being a user and a liar. I wasn’t sick as I had stated when I called her this time or any of the other times. I just wanted an escape route to Comfortableville at Ma Ed’s house. I knew, even then, that I had another choice as I had seen it exemplified by my sister. No one bullied her because she stood up for herself just like Mom did for me. But that wasn’t easy for me; it was easiest to call Mom and make her feel sorry for me. She’d come get me and take me to where I was most comfortable.
In all my infinite 11 year old wisdom, I hadn’t considered how my choices affected my mom or how they made her feel. Had my constant calls put my mom’s job in jeopardy in any way? Had her approach to handling it put her in jeopardy? Would some of the other kids’ parents threaten my mom for addressing their children? Or even worse, had my obvious preference for my grandmother made my mom feel used? My mom was teaching me it was okay to ask for help, but it was not okay to use people.
Men are looking for help!
Yes, they are! And wives were created for that, or so it says in Genesis 2:18 (It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him). However, I hear her voice and see the intention in her eyes every time I hit a wall in my business. Everyone looks for help when they have a problem. If you are willing to solve the problem, you will achieve success. So when I want to get back in bed and pull the covers over my head instead of making sales calls, I hear her. When I want to give an excuse rather than give my best, I see her. Men (and women) are looking for help and my business provides help!
There is a time and place for comfort.
Mom came to my rescue by verbally chopping everyone down to size, including me. (I told you she’s got a sword!) However, she still took me to my comfortable place–Ma Ed’s. We watched soap operas, ate sweet bread with ice milk, drank coffee and Coca Cola. We played tic tac toe and read the latest Jet Magazine. There was no more talk of the issues at school. No more feeling sick, especially since I wasn’t in the first place. Just me and Ma Ed–she was enjoying retirement, finding purpose in her granddaughter’s need for her, and me– enjoying a lost day in her apron strings.