Monday, April 23, 2012

Raised By Mom's Village

Raised by Mom's Village

What defines a person if not his or her own upbringing? Even before we are born, the actions of our parents have an effect on us that lasts a lifetime. Those who raise us, whether they are parents, guardians or members of your extended family have an obligation to make us into the people we are today. While many are used to the simple life that 1950's television would show us that a child is raised suburbanite-style by a mother, father, spoiled by grandparents and harmlessly corrupted by uncles and brothers, the fabric of that Americana is far from the real world. Today's American kids are raised by usually one parent, most commonly a Mother. We have our rising rate of American divorces to thank for that and since its surges and slowdowns in the 1970's the average American family has changed (Are Americans still in love with marriage?, 1990).

I was raised by my Mother and Father for the first ten years of my life and for a time things were great. We had the American dream which included the house, the cars, and the family business. For many, this would be considered making it, but for my father, that wasn't enough. My family fell apart in the early nineties after my father had an affair. At my young age I wasn't aware of what was going on or that my father was cheating on my mom, I just kept thinking that dad was just going away for a little while, not forever. I would sometimes go out to visit my father on a weekend which was nice; however, he wasn't dealing with the separation very well. In retrospect, I believe that he was having a hard time with being divorced because it was his fault it happened. Visits went from every week to every two weeks, then to once a month. Child support checks came less and less as well. As a child and eventually a teen, how was this to define me?

Show your mother some love

My mother worked a lot and went to school. She had many friends that felt her pain, as they watched her struggle to raise me. In her circle of friends, many of them took it upon themselves to teach me things that young man is supposed to learn. One example was my driver’s education; a courtesy extended from one of my mom’s co-workers (though my fiance claims that mentor failed enormously). The most significant lesson learned was about the value of a hard day’s work- toiling alongside cooks at the restaurant where my mother waited tables. The most fun lessons learned was how to load and fire guns from a friend of my moms'; although this skill has yet to come in handy. My point is, having these replacement father figures was actually better for me and could also be better for other children growing up in single parent households.
As I was being raised by a village of my mother’s friends, my dad was too busy partying, getting drunk and spending time in jail for doing drugs. As my mother slaved away in supporting her son, my father was making himself a sick, twisted miscreant to society and the family. Was I supposed to take this as an example of what a man does with himself? Live like Charlie Harper of Two and a Half Men? My father never had a relationship last longer than two months and most of the time the loves of his life were either bought or borrowed. Even as a young man this never seemed right, and I knew this because my mother was so badly hurt from those actions. Fortunately, the rest of her village of friends gave me much better examples of how you treat a woman.

In those days, divorces weren't always so prevalent, so being raised by a single mom made me an outcast in my teens. All my friends used to tell me about how their paternal figures were such a hard case in discipline; but the truth is, I wanted that. I yearned to be told what to do instead of being left home alone while my mother slaved away to support me. It would have been nice to get a taste of what it was like for my father to be ‘disappointed in me’ rather than just ignoring his responsibility to his son. In my teens I had the tendency to be destructive or maybe even depressed, setting things on fire for fun or contemplating suicide due to a rough school life. Having a father to rein me in would have been more suitable than having to figure out on my own what was right and wrong.

           Another benefit in having a father: learning about the birds and bees from someone other than your mom. Those are fragile moments in a teenage boy’s life and a father makes all the difference. When it came to learning about becoming a man, my poor mom could only explain so much. I’m not going to drag any reader through the details of my working mother trying to explain to her son why suddenly girls seemed interesting, but one could make a sitcom episode of it just for laughs. Regardless, it was nice that my mother had many friends that gave me the advice that I needed so that I wouldn’t become a statistic of a shut in that wouldn’t ever talk to anyone. My father wouldn't have done very well anyways since he didn't know how to treat my Mother, let alone any other woman. A bathroom wall would be a better source of knowledge.

Through my experience I’ve learned that the famous quote based on an equally famous book, is absolutely right: “It takes a village to raise a child” (Gheaus, 2012 para. 1). Though my father bailed on me, I never felt too deprived. My father left me with one great example in life as well, see what he did with his life and do just the opposite. Don’t work in just one place all your life flipping pizza dough, never treat a woman with neglect or selfishness, and stay off the drugs (You’re a father, not Charlie Sheen). It feels pretty good to be me, a happily engaged, reasonably educated guy and not be a negative subject of a statistic in poverty. (Pickett, Kate, and Richard Wilkinson, 1996).

Are Americans still in love with marriage? (1990). Editorial research reports 1990. Washington, DC: CQ Press. Retrieved from

Gheaus, Anca. "Arguments for nonparental care for children." Social Theory and Practice 37.3 (2011): 483+. Academic OneFile. Web. 21 Feb. 2012. Retrieved from: Gale Document Number: GALE|A265194308

Pickett, Kate, and Richard Wilkinson. "Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson: poverty is the real issue here, not fathers." New Statesman [1996] 22 Aug. 2011: 24. Academic OneFile. Web. 21 Feb. 2012. Retrieved from: Gale Document Number: GALE|A266357526