“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
Proverbs 22:6 KJV
“…Jesus and His 12 disciples made 13, a righteous number of righteous men; even Judas the betrayer came true in the end…”
Outkast, “13th Floor/Growing Old”, ATLiens, 1996
I learned about being ” different ” at an early age. From kindergarten to the fourth grade, I was the ONLY Black girl in my class and I was a top student. My Daddy wouldn’t allow anything less than an ‘A.’ He always said, “Why settle for the ‘B’, when I know you can get the ‘A’? So, I made straight ‘A’s’ until ninth grade. In the fifth grade, I started a new school and my Black classmates shunned me for “talking like a white girl.” Daddy encouraged me to pray about it, and continue to be the best I could be. That’s the kind of advice you get when you’re born a Preacher’s Kid. I really just wanted to fit in, be one of the “cool kids.” I always felt like I had to try harder once word got out who my Daddy was. People, especially kids, treat you different when you’re a PK. Grown ups expect you to be an angel, a model citizen who obeys all the rules. And kids always try to test your level of obedience to God and your parents, just to see how far you will actually go. By the time I got to high school, I was completely out of control. I could have been the poster child for defiance. I stayed on punishment all the time, but I was unbothered. My Pops would frustratingly ask me, “Shaunna, are you stupid?!?” And I could never respond.
It never occurred to me that while I was trying so hard to be like everyone else, I should have been rejoicing the blessings that made me different. My parents divorced and remarried when I was very young, so I have reaped the benefits of TWO sets of parents since my age was still in single digits. 53 percent of Black children in the U.S. come from homes run by single Black women. Two-parent households are few and far between, which sets me apart from the “norm;” furthermore, my parents own different lives set the stage for what I would become years later.
You see, what made my 17-year-old Mama different from other pregnant teen girls in her day was her 24-year-old husband, my Daddy. She also had very high standards for what she wanted out of life. Since she never knew the love of her own father, she took great pride in having found a man that she knew would love her children just as much as she, if not more. My Pops had already obtained a Bachelor and Master of Science degree, while working part time to support his wife and unborn child. Plus, he had finally accepted his calling to preach The Word of Jesus Christ. He wanted his kids to grow up in church, just like he had. They both embraced what made them unique and watched it manifest in their children.
Although the love they once had for one another is long gone, my parents’ love for my sister and me is unwavering. In spite of my countless run-ins with the law and my inability to remain financially stable, my Mom and my Dad still prevail as my biggest supporters, my very best friends, my rocks.
Yesterday I celebrated the 20th anniversary of the day I became an “adult.” (For all my mathematically challenged folk, that makes me 38 years old. ♥) And though, by the standards of society, I have been “grown” for 2 whole decades, I never felt like my maturity level matched my age until this year. Basically, I don’t feel like I’ve gotten any older since I turned 30, but I do feel like I’m a bit wiser, now. As I sat on my couch reflecting on the events of the day, I began to think about how much I have changed over the course of one year. Mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually, I am a completely different person and I am learning to be comfortable in my own skin again. As my late, great idol, Ms. Whitney Houston once sang, “…learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all.” Indeed.
Throughout the course of my Born day, I received well-wishes and pleasantries from friends and family, young and old across the nation. Honestly, I was totally overwhelmed at the number of people who took the time to acknowledge me. I know that there may be people who will read this and wonder why I would make such a big deal about a simple birthday greeting from Facebook friends who probably wouldn’t recognize you even had a birthday without the reminder in their notifications! So what, it matters to me because people do not have to be nice to you. My Pops taught me that years ago, and those words never held more meaning than they do right now. In this day and age, people have become less sympathetic, less empathetic and less compassionate for one another. I felt grateful and blessed by every FB post, text message and phone call.
I used to be very superstitious about my birthday occurring on October 13. Now, I always tell people that I no longer believe in coincidence or luck. I believe in miracles and blessings. I believe EVERYTHING happens for a reason. I can distinctly remember hearing older relatives or people in the church say, “The Lord works in mysterious ways!” And it’s the truth! I have decided to let go of regret and doubt in my life to make more room for hope and aspiration. I stand here today finally proud to be the daughter, the woman my parents dreamed I would be all those years ago. Until next time…