My childhood was simple, yet similar to most kids I suppose. No, I did not have expensive toys, the latest cell phone, or all of the new gadgets and overpriced sneakers that most kids are privileged to own. Well, maybe I stayed fresh with the latest pair of Air Jordan’s, but back in those days they were only $75 compared to $200 today. But the common thread with me and perhaps this generation is that I grew up in a single parent home. My parent was my grandmother. Let me give you the background here. My mom passed away when I was 5 years old and my sister was 8. I remember bits and pieces here and there about her, but not as vivid and detailed as my sister. My father was in and out of my life, I knew who he was and where he lived, but there was no real relationship there during my childhood, adolescent or teen years. Thanks to God, he and I had the chance to reconcile our relationship in my early twenties and today we have an amazing relationship. Our story is for another blog.
My grandmother raised eight kids of her own, with the youngest being 21 when she was thrust into parenting my sister and me. For as long as I can remember, it’s always been me and my “Grammie” as I called her. If you saw her more than likely I was glued to her hip as a kid. She was my mom, dad and grandma all in one. I will never know what price she paid to raise my sister and me. I will never know what dreams she possibly put on hold because she had to go back into the mode of raising kids. All I can say is that I never heard her complain or grumble about doing it. She was one of the wisest people I’d even known. She was strong, compassionate, stern, careful, tender yet very firm. Although my natural mother passed and my dad was in and out of my life, to this day, I still say boldly that my childhood was not fragmented or broken because of the strength and wisdom of my Grammie. I’m not saying she was perfect, but in my eyes she was in so many ways. I don’t know how He did it, but I truly believe God downloaded to her a layout of my life and how I was to be raised and she followed it to the letter because I felt complete and secure with her at all times.
I know there is an on-going debate about if “a woman can raise a boy to be a man.” Well, who better to talk about it than a boy who was raised by a woman? I’ll be the first to say that I whole heartily believe that there are SOME things that every boy needs to hear and receive from a man, one of those things being affirmation. I can recall the day my father affirmed me with his arms around me. He said, “I love you son.” The feeling that overcame me was supernatural, something that I didn’t know I needed until it I received it, but that was in my early to mid-20’s, so what did I do until that time? I walked in the way my Grammie instructed me from 5 years of age until that affirmation came. She taught me life principles, the dos and don’ts, and things with substance that to this day I still remember and practice.
She instilled in me a good work ethic. This work ethic was developed by having the weekly responsibility of mowing the grass during the spring and summer, gathering the leaves in the fall and keeping firewood on the porch for the winter months. Being lazy was not an option in our house. At an early age, I learned how to mop floors, make up my bed, clean my room, and take out the trash. One of her famous sayings was, “a lil’ hard work ain’t never hurt nobody.” Ever since I moved out on my own, I have always had a job, sometimes two at a time. I didn’t grow up with the feeling of “entitlement” because she wouldn’t allow it. I received an allowance because I did chores. I had certain privileges because I did what was asked of me. Later I found out, that some of my privileges were granted because she saw that I could be trusted based on how I handled what I was asked to do.
She instilled in me the importance of having a good name and character. When people found out that I was “Lizzie’s grandson” their reaction was always followed by, “she’s one of the sweetest ladies” or if I was doing something I had no business doing and I got caught, I would hear, “I know your grandma didn’t raise you to do stuff like that.” Not only that, but she didn’t treat people callously nor did she like to see people mistreated. I saw her help those that people would push aside and disrespect and she would say, “You don’t treat people wrong because they treated you wrong.” Ohh, and did I mention she didn’t believe in “late” or “past due” notices? I used to grab the mail every day because our house had a looooong driveway. We never received that type of mail. I never knew what a past due or late notice was until I moved out on my own! Sad to say, but true. It wasn’t that I didn’t know, it was more that during those days of being late and behind, I chose to do other things with my money, but now I live by a budget and I LOVE IT!
She taught me the importance of knowing when to talk and when to be quiet. Growing up, we could not interject our thoughts into adult conversations. This was the quickest way to catch a pop in the mouth by hand or whatever she could get her hands on at the moment. Or I remember times when my Grammie would be in a conversation that she had checked out on, she would simply just nod and slightly smile. I learned as I got older that some things require your input and there are also some things that do not, and the important lesson is to decipher which response is necessary at the moment. I have avoided many arguments and confusion just by saying nothing at all and I’m sure that has prevented me from getting into a lot of trouble.
I could go on and on about the lessons my Grammie taught me while she raising this boy turned man. It further proves my point. Developing things like character, good morals, knowing when to speak and when to listen and a good work ethic are not gender specific. It doesn’t matter if the teacher is a man or a woman, the important thing is that the lesson is taught and more importantly that we remember and put into practice what we’ve learned.