My life was pretty fantastic. I traveled on the weekends to New York with empty suitcases only to return with clothes exclusively from New York and the east coast. I spent summers following DJs from Washington DC to Argentina. I could work anywhere there is WiFi. This was it, this would be the rest of my adult life. Travel, music, and exploring. I never wanted to have kids or a family. I never thought I was capable of loving anyone but myself, work, and the life I established.
But life has a funny way of changing plans.
In 2012, my uncle passed away and left 4 young children. My mother, newly retired, took it upon herself to bring my cousins ages 3 through 10 to the U.S. from the Philippines. She planned to raise them herself to fulfill her dying brother’s wish.
Who in their right mind would take on raising 4 young kids? Finally, it was decided that two other aunts would take the older kids, but who’s going to take the three-year-old? After much prayer and conversation with myself “Really?! You’re going to have your 60-something-year-old parents take care of a 3-year-old?!! Get it together, man!” I reluctantly decided to take on a three-year-old.
Unlike pregnancy, mothers have nine months to bond with the life growing inside. An airplane landed and I had a three-year-old staring at me. We had a little language barrier. I wasn’t sure if she didn’t understand English, or she wanted to annoy the hell out of me or she was just taking in all the change happening around her. All I knew was thank goodness she was potty trained.
A few months passed, my parents left for the Philippines to live their best-retired life and I am in charge of a young child. I was grateful to have connections with amazing people who helped me get her into Head Start. I had a child therapist see us and equip me to make sure we both succeeded with this big change. I had friends who told me I needed a child seat for a three-year-old. I thought car seats were just for babies, what the hell do I know about having kids?
The one thing nobody could teach me was how to love and bond with a child not my own. For the first few years, I struggled with letting go of the life I once imagined for myself. I had a relationship that ended because this was not part of their plan either. I went from single with a suitcase ready, to single mom status without a baby daddy to relieve me for even just a few hours. I knew I had to get over myself if I wanted to be the best for this kid. Everything from here on out was for us and was because of us. It’s not just me, it's now us.
So many mornings I drove to the gym crying because how? HOW do I do this?! I answered my question just by doing it. Just by being open. I needed to open my black heart to this little person. I needed to give her hugs and let her know I’m not going anywhere and that I am her safe place. No matter what, I am the one person who will never abandon her.
Realizing she needed me to be that person, made me that person.
She’s now 13. She taught me to love unconditionally and patience. She is my favorite person in the world. I cannot even imagine my life without her in it. I was convinced happiness is getting a new stamp on my passport. Now I find happiness in the 7th-grade gossip and dramatic reenactments I get after school.
I still cry in the car sometimes because of joy and how far we’ve come and sometimes life as a single person raising a 13yr old is hard. My advice to cousin-moms or others stepping into parental roles when the child isn’t yours, it’s not about you. Be who they need. Keep going. Everything you do matters. Most importantly show yourself grace. As cliche as it sounds, you are more than capable of anything life throws your way.