This post has taken a long time for me to write because I didn't know where to begin. I have finally mustered the courage to start at the beginning. The beginning of my journey to my oldest son's graduation didnt begin with our Summer Road Trip. It began in the Spring of 1993, when I found out I was pregnant and I was only 17 years old. I was on a different kind of road trip then, I was on the road to self destruction. This road trip began at age 14 when I started cutting myself and culminated with this pregnancy. I was the poster child for teenage depression. I was a black girl, parents divorced when I was two, little contact with father, an only child, little connection with extended family, latch key kid, raised in predominantly white areas with no sense of identity, no strong religious foundation, etc, etc, etc. . . I just felt unloved, by God, my mother, father, cousins, friends, people, the world, so I did what most unloved people do, I went searching for love in all the wrong places.
I was living with my grandmother in Baltimore, MD when I found out. I was told this would ruin my life. I was too young, I didnt have the money to raise a child, the education- afterall I was Junior in Highschool. The big thing for me at the time was the Belief that LIFE is Sacred. Abortions were out of the question, I didnt want to kill what was growing inside of me. My views have changed a little now, Life is still Sacred, I just believe that all Life should have knowledge of their Creator and creators. Every child has a right to know both his mother and father and his God. This is why fornication, adultery, and sodomy is not just a grave sin against God, but to the children who have a right to know their mothers and fathers. We live in a society where not only fornication, adultery, and sodomy are prevalent, but where people plan to have children solo, or have children to give away to adoptive parents who can not have children. The psychological, emotional and physical consequences are grave. Although, I was raised without a father by the choices both my parents made. . . I was determined to try to go back to California and try to give my unborn child a relationship with his father and his family. I was unsuccessful. My mother was living in California at the time, she thought I would be better off in a group home for teenage mothers. My only crime was running away out of neglect, but I was in a group home in San Francisco with girls who were prostitutes, thieves, drug dealers and users. Girls who would have been in juvenile detention, but were placed in the group home because they had a child. My pregnancy was far from pleasant in this type of environment. I was alone, with no family in a public institution set up for teenage criminals. Everything was a fight, I had to fight to be able to graduate from highschool and to go to college, I had to fight to be able to eat breakfast some days when they were short staffed, I had to fight the people who wanted to convince me that adoption was the best solution, I had to fight with my counselors, other girls, and administrators, and I had to fight the feeling of wanting to jump out my window and ending it all. My son came into this world as a miracle, to a mother who was undeserving, not prepared, unsupported, and alone.
I managed to graduate highschool, one fight my mother assisted me with was being able to attend a regular highschool off campus. I was able to come back to my group home during my lunch hour and nurse my son, and I pumped milk during my breaks in between classes. I was a natural crunchy mother before it was even a word and I was a Senior in highschool. I had some supportive school mates that made it easier. However, in College I was alone again with my son, my mother was no longer living in California. My Senior High friends all took different paths. Not only was I alone with a child, I was alone with a child without transportation. Public transportation to college from my house was very difficult. So one of the first friends that I met, lived around the corner from me, had a car and helped me get a job in the tutoring office where he worked. Later he would get my son a spot in his mother's child care center and assist me in so many ways I can't ever thank him enough. However, the help wasn't enough and my grades started to fail. I was over my head in school and responsibility, with no one turn to, and to stubborn to face the truth. My sons beginning life was full of all the instability I detested in my childhood. I wanted desperately to break the cycles, but I knew I was repeating all the same cycles. I had to make some changes. My thoughts were that I needed to find a church that I believed in the teachings to ground my spiritual life and I needed a husband - my other half to ground my family life.
My search for churches was a California Liberal script. I went to an ultra conservative church where the women only wore dresses and they touched the ankles. I listened to the Bhagavad Gita. I attended a new age church, that was similar to the non-denominational church I grew up in: full of "omms" and mantras, and I did Hail Mary, Full of Grace using rosary beads. None of the different churches sat right with me and my search for a husband was just as difficult. I had given up on both church and husband and started to dedicate my life towards serving the underprivileged, mostly African Americans. I joined up with a group of young adults that wanted to change the conditions of their people. My son was right along with me handing out flyers at age 4 to free political prisoners. It was an exciting time being young and trying to help change people's physical conditions, but more importantly trying to uplift consciousness. This rebirth of the movements of the 60's and 70's was not without the same problems of the 60's and 70's.The movement did not have a righteous moral compass. It wasn't family centered, and most importantly is wasn't God centered. Therefore, when one of my friends from the movement became Muslim, I took my Shahadah soon afterwards. Shahadah is the 1st Pillar in Islam, the belief in the One God, and Muhammad is God's servant and messenger or La Ilaha il Allah, Muhammad wa Rasulula. Then I was married 3 months later. I would like to end it here and say we all lived happily ever after. However, life is not a fairy tale.
The first two years of Muslim life for my son was nice, he went to a good community Muslim school that I taught at, he had friends at school and had friends as neighbors. However, step or bonus child life was not the best. And the Muslim community we were in was starting to fall apart after 2 years, then I removed him from school and began homeschooling him. Again I jumped myself into something that is ideally the best decision, but without the support, the right personality, and well siblings or a great social network, it can be more damaging than public school. Homeschooling is not all about academics, it is journey you take with the little people God entrusted you with. I was homeschooling for all the Well Trained Mind ideals, but not with the most ideal desire to raise Godly children. And so I failed my son at homeschooling. Therefore, now living in Georgia, I threw him back into the Lion's Den at the most sensitive of times in a public Charter Middle School.. My Muslim life was faltering, my marriage was faltering, and my son was a product of this faltering and thereby faltering himself. I knew I needed Religious Community Life but I hadn't found it, I was searching for Masjids that weren't racist or didn't have ghetto tendencies which equated to a Masjid that didn't have Arabs or Indo Paks that treated African American Muslims as second class citizen and a Masjid that wasn't run by poor African Americans that had two wives with one or both of them on welfare. Although, Community Life is important, what I failed to realize is the relationship that I needed to improve on was my relationship with God which in turn would help my other problems. I went into everything backwards, I thought I could fix society, have and love a child, work on community problems and in turn I would get fix in the process. However, the opposite is true, healing must start from within. I needed to learn to know God, to love and fear God, to establish this knowledge of God in my home and this would directly affect community and society. I was messing up in my own life which meant I was messing up with my son and when I realized it, my efforts of trying to turn things around would be hit with an unexpected blow. I started to read to my son about God, listen to Islamic talks, encourage positive Relationships with other males who were God-conscious. We went to counseling. I prayed and cried to people I trusted. Due to the shaky relationship I had with my mother and not agreeing with the decisions she made for her life or the advice she would give me, I avoided talking to her about the problems I was having with my son. However, I started developing a closer relationship with my two grandmothers who gave some great advice.
Little did I know my mother was plotting with my son, she was going to assist him in running away, the same crime she committed me to life as a pregnant teenager in an unscrupulous group home. On Christmas Eve, we went to Chuckee Cheeses I call my mom from there to wish her a Happy Holiday. I did not notice that she was acting sort of funny on the phone and wants to speak to my son. I did sense something was up with my son at home, but I could not pinpoint what it was. Then at about 11:30pm, after feeling something was not right, I get out of my bed and find my son was missing. My mother had took a plane from Seattle to Georgia and was up the street waiting for him, she had successfully assisted him in running away because "I was too Religious and I did not let him live a normal teenage life." I am calling around frantically and then I thought to look at the Sprint records online, I couldn't believe it was my mother's number that was coming up. Ultimate betrayal, an already shaky relationship has now ended with more casualties then just me and her. My children, especially Big A was hurt almost as much as I was, she lost a brother. Although, we have forgiven, my relationship with my son has not been the best. Some days his brothers will say I don't want to go see him, why do we have to go to Seattle when he left us. The effects of divorce and family breakups becomes a cycle that tears and tears and tears at the seat of family stability, even when you are consciously trying to break the cycle within your own consciousness.
I was actually not very Religious for most of my son's childhood. I raised him in all the same ways that most children are raised, he ate alot of McDonalds and other unhealthy foods, he watched alot of TV, alot of Disney, alot of PBS (Barney), we would even go to see Harry Potter for the midnight show on the first night. He was given toys we could not afford, he was dressed in clothes we could not afford. We went into debt trying to give him the him the Modern American life in all the ways that my mother approved of and had taught me. Imam Zaid Shakir in the video below does a very good talk about this. However, when I realized the control and destruction she had on my life, I tried to stop it. I started to make changes in our lives, that excluded her, I wanted to finally become a Muslim family with Muslim values.
Of course, I feel guilty, I could of done more, I have made so many mistakes. I had strong beliefs in what is right and wrong, but I struggled to make it a reality in my home. Truth be told, I still struggle. It is a constant struggle against my nafs or lower desire. But through it all, I did grow up afterwards and become firmer in the right way of raising my other 4 Beloveds that I am entrusted with. I was no longer under my mothers control. I learned from my mistakes with my son, I understand the importance of raising children in a God centered lifestyle. I understand the pitfalls of raising a child in a Secular- consumer driven culture. We have replaced television with play, outdoor fun, and a sense of adventure. Humble Dad and I understand the importance of staying married, breaking the cycle that both of us experienced. We understand that children need both an experience and/or knowledge(in case in death) of both their biological mother and father. We have finally found a great Muslim community in Maryland and our children is benefiting greatly from it. My 4 Beloveds are also close in age and have each other, the sibling love that each one exhibits is what my oldest son did not truly experience as there was a seven year difference between him and Big A. However, age difference becomes less the older we get and if there wasn't such a harsh separation I believe Big A and my son would have had a better sibling relationship. I am grounded in what is important which definitely makes me a better homeschooler this time around . As exemplified in this blog.
My son was doing well academically before he left us and did not do as well in highschool while living with my mother, so I was concerned about him being able to graduate highschool. However he pulled it off, he graduated and I am so grateful that I was able to see this milestone in my son's life. I always wondered if I would be around to see this day. If the Roads we took would lead to this day, it was a spectacular day! God is truly Merciful, and may this Roadtrip- this Path lead in finality back towards God.
In the Name of God, the Most Gracious, Most Merciful
Praise be to God, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the World
The Most Gracious, Most Merciful
Master of the Day of Judgement
Thee Alone we Worship, Thee Alone we Ask for Help
Show us the Straight Path
The Path of those You have Bestowed Your Grace,
Not of those that Earned your Anger,
Nor of those that Went Astray.
Nor of those that Went Astray.
Read the Beginning
Summer Road Trip ~ The Road There
Read the Middle:
California ~ our Home away from Home
Read the end:
Summer Road Trip ~ The Way Back