My first parenting lesson

keelan jackson

I believe my children were placed into my life to teach me lessons about myself, to unravel layers of my own insecurities and to help me overcome them.  But when my first child was placed into my life unexpectedly, at age 5, there was no “learning curve” or “growth factor”.  I was expected to know what to do every day and in every way or was looked at like I was some sort of alien invading his precious space.

Kids are smart.  They know how to work and weave and finagle their way to positive results.

“Can I have another dessert?”

“No, we better not.”

“Oooookay” (sad, droopy, pathetically sad big eyes)

My first experience as a full on “Mom” or “the lady that was supposed to know what to do with me” was about a month or so after Cedric and I had been dating.  (We fell in love fast).

He spent one weekend each month serving in the Air National Guard.  It was local but he would be gone all day during those weekends.  So for a single dad who was overly protective of his child, I felt very honored and loved that he trusted me to take care of his 5-year old son, Keelan.

To prepare for our weekend, I bought coloring books, crayons and activity books.  Because that’s what “moms” did, right?  I had NO CLUE.

We spent our first day together without a lot of chaos or discord.  Do what this kid wants.  Give him anything he wants.  Feed him cookies, give him candy, let him watch TV until he asks for more candy.  EEEEEASY!

By dinner, I was feeling like a rockstar “mom”.  I had done it.  I managed to keep him happy all day (because that’s what a “mom” does) and had dinner ready and waiting for Cedric (because that’s what a great girlfriend waiting for a proposal after one month of dating does).

We had dinner together…the three of us.  I was so happy with this amazing little family we had put together in just a month.  I didn’t need a book or nine months to develop a child.  I had this down!!

After dinner, I offered them dessert (which was always cookies, most likely store bought) and of course they both gobbled them up.  I was a chubby kid and was raised with the “you eat until you’re full” mentality, so after that first round of cookies was finished and Keelan asked for more, how could I possibly deny those BIG brown, polite eyes?

“Rhonda, can I have more?”

I willingly obliged.

I am SUCH a good mom!  Cedric might as well propose RIGHT NOW!  I’m doing such an incredible job at “mothering.

Once again he gobbled up the second round of cookies.  But this time, I felt this heaviness in the air.  The kind of dense discomfort you feel when you know something isn’t quite right.

What did I do wrong? I asked myself.  Seriously.  The key is to make the kid happy, right?  That’s what GOOD potential wives do!!  They make your kids happy.  They give them what they want!  Right?  RIGHT????

I looked at Cedric and he had this look on his face which was somewhere between a father looking at a child who has just cheated on a test and a boyfriend who was just about to tell his girlfriend she has no clue about parenting.

“What?  Why are you looking at me like that?” as Keelan happily chowed down more cookies.

“I can tell you’re not a parent”, he said calmly.

But what he really meant to say was you have so much to learn and I’m not sure you are wife / mom potential.

He may as well have cut open my heart with that cookie cutter and carved out a little piece of it because I was devastated, hurt and fighting back the flood of tears that were about to gush from my eyes.

Ah crap.  I couldn’t hold it in.  It was that type of cry that you want so desperately to fight, but the more you fight it, the harder it is.

I can tell you’re not a parent.  How those words pierced a little piece of me.

So I released it.  I stopped fighting it and realized if this man was going to marry me, he just better realize I’m a crier.  I’m a boo hoo, misty-eyed, emotional at everything crier.  He’s going to find out sooner or later so why not let him have it now.  I had nothing to lose.  The dam opened.

“Why are you crying?”

What?  Why am I crying?  You just told me you can tell I’m NOT a parent.  You crushed my spirit, you pulled out a piece of my heart, you damaged my soul.  You probably DON’T want to marry me.

“I’m fine.  Well, actually…. Waaaaah, you huuuuurrrrt me.  Waaaaah.”  (sniff sniff sniff)  “I was just trying to maaaake Keelan haaaaappy and I, I, I, I tr tr tr tried to d d dooo the riiiiight thing!”

That’s when he pulled me aside and hugged me and taught me my very first lesson about being a parent.

“You don’t give a child everything they want.  You give them everything they need.”

I passed.  (But was I still going to get a proposal?)

..Excerpt from the book, Hey Mommy by Rhonda Layton



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