Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Daniel fast, Day 17: The Gift

Yippee!  My palate is happy right now!  Let's see, for breakfast, I had two snack packets of mixed nuts.  Lunch was more of a snack, but what a snack:  Cashews!  Yes, cashews!  Not roasted in cottonseed oil!  And they were so good!  I ate only a few, along with a few dried Bing cherries, which were not overly sweet and quite tasty.  Supper was a plate full of salad made of mixed greens, tomato chunks, roasted sunflower nuts, strips of green bell pepper, slices of cucumber, and a first, olives!  They were the sliced black ones, but I don't care, I love olives.  I dressed it in EVOO and red wine vinegar with salt and pepper judiciously sprinkled on.  A Red Delicious apple completed my meal.  Biting a flat surface into my apple and sopping the excess vinegar and oil on my plate with it led to a nice little taste discovery, which I mean to try at my earliest convenience.  The combination of the tart wine vinegar and the sweet apple is gustatory synergy, y'all!  The vinegar makes the sweet more intense and enhances the flavor more than if I ate the apple alone.  Simply amazing!  But I got hungry again a few hours later, so I finished up with a veritable feast:  Baby carrots with black bean, traditional, garlic, and red pepper hummus flavors; roasted almonds and cashews; and dried Bing cherries paired with large, fresh-from-the-store strawberries, every one of them sweet.  My mouth is happy :-)!

And my soul is happy, too, for the gift I was given tonight.  As part of a discussion about parenthood and parenting, the question was raised regarding the do's and don'ts of single parenting, and the topic of surrogate male figures was raised.  It was generally agreed that female-parented boys benefit greatly from regular association and interaction with older boys and men of good character, because it takes a man, it was felt, to teach a boy to be a man.  The problem, as passionately and extensively expressed by a participant, is finding men of good character, especially when one's own male relatives don't exemplify it, as was her experience.  In that case, suggested others in the group, participation in a local church, boys club, Big Brother-type organization, or other group designed to foster and nurture female-parented boys go a long way to helping Mother in her quest to raise an upstanding man of capability and good character.  

I then raised my hand.  "I was only a mother for 19 weeks and 5 days, but given what I knew about my co-progenitor, I knew from the beginning that I needed to protect my baby.  Male role models were not an issue for me; I had my father, five brothers, and a lot of good male friends, but children need protection from people passing into and out of their lives, not being there for them, and I was determined to protect my baby from this."

So I then related how it was that, when I discovered I was pregnant, I went to my baby's co-progenitor and, after informing him of my pregnancy and my fidelity as proof of his genetic contribution, I offered him the following:  "You don't have to be involved if you don't want to.  I will take this baby, and I will raise my baby to the best of my ability, and we will live and be happy.  But if you choose to be involved, it begins now, and it is total.  You will not pass in and out of my child's life when you feel like it!"  To me, then as now, paternal involvement is more than a few dollars for a box of Pampers every now and then as an afterthought, you're there when you remember it, and the rest of the time we don't see you.  The first requirement is that both parents be committed to the child.  The child deserves to know both parents and the history and heritage that make the parents who they are.  However, when the non-custodial parent consistently demonstrates an unwillingness or inability to do his/her share, the other parent is required to protect the child as much as possible from the resulting instability and emotional upset that can and does result from an uncommitted parent playing ping-pong with the child's heart.  Having my child be well-adjusted and healthy in every way was far and away more important to me than having in his life an unstable force as represented by the type of person that was the co-progenitor simply for the sake of him saying he knew his daddy.

I firmly believe and stand by my position and decision now as much as when I reached them, but, "Since I was a mother only for such a short time, I recognize that I perhaps can't speak to this like the other mothers that raised their children," I acknowledged.  But "Mothers and their children deserve to know that they have someone in their lives who is committed to them," the guest moderator confirmed.  "This is not about marriage, this is about commitment:  The child deserves to have the commitment of both parents."  On that note, we ended the discussion, and I closed the meeting in prayer, thanking God for His example to us as our Father and asking, among other things, that He empower us to walk out His example in the lives of our children, whether they be of our bodies or of our hearts.  

Then the class instructor, who flows freely in the gift of encouragement, gifted me in perhaps the most precious way anyone could have done:  "I want you to know that it doesn't matter how long you were a mother to your baby.  What's important is that you were the best mother you could be to your baby, because you saw the need to protect your child, and you set out to do it.  That's what good mothers do, and you did it."  In tears over her acknowledgement of my mother's heart toward my baby, I thanked her, telling her how I prayed every day that God would help me be the best mother to my baby that I could be.  "Well, He answered your prayer," she declared in assurance.  "And your baby is waiting in heaven to acknowledge you as his mama."

After you have done your utmost best and right in a situation wherein you've faced heartbreak and disappointment in the end, to have others acknowledge good about what you've gone through can do much to soothe pain and heal hurt that you didn't know you still carried.  The gift of such acknowledgement is extremely precious.  Allow the Lord to lead, of course, but when He presents to you the opportunity to so gift another person, be grateful for the moment, and be your utmost gracious in the giving; it is a great and rich and sweet blessing.

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