It’s really dark at 5:00 a.m. I tie up my sneakers, stick my ear buds in my ears and head out anyway. I need to get to the gym, work out and get back home by 6:00 a.m. to make sure my son gets up in time for school.
I used to go to exercise after he was dropped off, but things have changed. My son sat down next to me one night last week and told me he was in over his head in his school work, uncomfortable with the kids he’d started hanging out with and feeling like he wasn’t himself. He was worried. I was worried. I guess my biggest worry is that I hadn’t realized how much he was floundering. It was so easy to accept his one word answer to almost every query — “straight.” But things aren’t straight. And Sim at almost 16, realized he wasn’t able to get it straight by himself.
I like to think I know what’s going on. But I didn’t. My daughter Sara always said I knew everything everyone was doing. It was like a had my own spy network. But when Sara and Sabrina were in High School I was working from my home office and almost always around. Lately I had so much going on with work and my extended family and my own pursuits that I wasn’t really paying attention.
But the reality is this — when some child gets in major trouble the media and community never ask, “Where was his teacher?” “Where was his principal?” “Where was his coach?” No, the question almost always is “Where was his mother? Why didn’t she know?” And, on many levels, that’s the right question. I’m not saying that everything our children do is our fault or that children make mistakes or struggle because we aren’t doing our job. That’s not true. Or even fair. But I am saying that it is my job to do everything I can to be aware. To do everything I can to help my child learn to make right choices and to learn how to accept the consequences of and turn around poor choices. It’s a parent’s job to advocate for their child.
So, I set my alarm for 4:45 a.m. ‘Cause after all, I’ve got to take care of myself if I’m going to take care of anybody else, and I get back home in time to sit and eat breakfast with my son and take him to school before going to work. My earlier hours at work mean that I get home shortly after Sim does and we go over his work together. It’s not easy. Sim resists sometimes. He’s going to be 16 in a few weeks, after all, and all this togetherness is starting to feel like a bit much. Sometimes, as I struggle to remember geometry from 1977, or take a walk in the early morning dark, it feels like a bit much for me too. But I count my blessings and I thank God that, in a moment of clarity and vulnerability, my son came to me. He’s going to be a good man. And his father and I are going to do everything we can to help him get there. After all, a mama’s gotta do what a mama’s gotta do.