As a parent I know how it feels when you look back and realize you did not screw your kids up and they turned out pretty good. This is an even bigger accomplishment if you do it as a single parent without much support from the father. I know firsthand how difficult single parenthood is like. I do not however know what it is like when there are not any real support systems in place.
This is the story of Ann Henry. She is a single mom of two daughters who are all grown now. If you met these girls you would know they were brought up right. They are modest women who have met life’s challenges with grace and dignity. One of the biggest challenges as a parent is having children learn to appreciate what they have and not focus on what they do not have. (I am a failure in this with my son, until recently he resented me and my life philosophy. Now that he has to support himself he understands a little better.) In Ann’s case, she did everything she could to support her children through school. Here in Jamaica school fees, bus fare, lunch money, school uniforms and school books can add up quickly, we Americans should take note of the blessing it is that these things are mostly covered by taxpayer money for our children.
To support her daughters Ann would sell oranges to send them to school. This was outside of her regular work at the plumbing supply store. She also raised and sold pigs for support. Education was very important to Ann for her daughters, she did not get much opportunity for education growing up and knew it was important. During her children’s school years she was the caretaker of her auntie’s home. Her auntie live abroad and she kept it occupied, cleaned and maintained in exchange for room and board. She always had a garden of some sort for sustenance farming and she would sell off the excess or give it to neighbors in need. No matter what her situation she always found a way to support her daughters, cleaning up along the roadside, selling produce, selling cooking gas, anything to help the family survive.
Her daughters learned to be hard workers from their mother’s example. They had different fathers, one helped purchase books but the other one did not have the ability to help support the older child. She feels that today’s youth are much too idle, there is always work to be found if you are willing to work hard and go out to find it. She is a very enterprising and hard working woman. Both her daughters went onto college, one is a Nurse’s Aid the other became a Receptionist. She supported them right through their schooling.
Growing up the girls were not much of a discipline issue and they helped out whenever it was needed. They even got jobs during breaks to help support the household. They would cook and clean and even help each other out with homework as needed. While much of the media focuses on the causes of violence and discipline on single mothers this woman graciously raised two beautiful women who gave no issues and learned how to support each other and work hard. Part of this is because to Ann raising her children always came first. She went without so they could go to school. Often she would walk to Ochi and save the taxi fare for lunch money or school fees. Her selflessness shows in her daughters. They help take care of their dads and one now has a family of her own and is a stay at home mom to raise her children, and heavily involved in the kids’ school.
The oldest daughter was shopping for groceries by the time she was 16. As they got older the oldest learned to cook and prepare for their mother’s return. Laughing, singing and dancing to pass the time and help make the house/yard work go by faster as they helped out. Ann definitely is very proud of her girls and you can see it when she talks about them.
In today’s world it is not easy to find mothers who focus on their children before themselves. Ann’s philosophy on childrearing is this: “It is our responsibility, we carry them into this world, we need to take care of them.” She believes that laziness affects childrearing. The sacrifices are real and the challenges are great and the rewards are great but often few. Finding people who are grateful for what they have is also extremely hard to find these days. (I was told I was selfish for not buying my son the newest whatever it was that week. In the end he now understands why I did the things I did and appreciates it, he even told me so recently.) Knowing that your children are not going to be fussy about what they do not have is one of the greatest accomplishments a parent can achieve.
One daughter tells her mom that the reason she is so good at saving money is her mom would give her money for weekly lunches and it had to last through the week. Knowing filling your belly each day is important she made certain her money last. Some weeks there was no money for lunch but the girls never complained. During the times of little their mom would feed them a good breakfast and then have food ready for them when they returned home from school. The girls spent most of their free time around the home. Laughing, singing, and playing games were things done to enjoy their time together.
Ann says that she never said anything bad about the girls father, but instead encouraged them to take care of them and build relationships with them. She believe that she had to put herself last and never quarrel with the fathers. Keeping peace and just focus on the outcome appears to be the best route in raising kids.