“If I ruled the world, I’d free all my sons.”
As a woman, a mother, daughter, sister, niece, grandmother (yes, I have siblings who have kids and their kids, according to cultural tradition, they call me grandma in our language) it’s amazing how life experiences change a woman’s perspective once she becomes a mother. Nothing, (and I stress) nothing is ever the same.
A woman will fight a gang of anyone to protect her children. She will also fight anyone who challenges her ability to provide for her children, often times struggling, yet all the while, never wanting her children to see her struggle. Regardless of what her struggle(s) may be, “Mama never let’sem see her sweat.” However, on occasion, a mother can and may lose her cool, moms have been known to go apeshit crazy and her kids will learn and know her fury. That, is what being a mom can entail.
Recently I revisited my childhood thinking about what a dear friend shared about mentoring and role modeling, but from a mans perspective. As a woman, I believe it’s important for a woman to mentor and role model to younger women and girls a healthy, positive, encouraging, and supportive type of relationship to influence and affect the next generation of women and girls. In the same light, it’s equally important for a man to offer a healthy, positive, encouraging, and supportive type of relationship to our younger men and boys within our Indigenous communities.
As an Indigenous woman, I am aware that being a role model and mentor is important. As a girl, I was fortunate and blessed to have been influenced by my aunties and grandmother who helped raise me. They are indeed a testament and example of how integral extended family members are to Indigenous people, we need them and it is how Indigenous knowledge is passed down from one generation to the next. It instills values such as family, culture, ancestral ways of knowing, ceremony, and most of all, kinship.
As a child, without understanding or knowing how my aunties and grandmother were integral to my upbringing, today, I know I am the woman and mother that I am because of these women. As I recall my mom explaining why she was unable to provide for me and my sisters, it took me several years of emotional development to understand her struggles. Years later, my mom explained why she had left to work in the city and could not speak for my father. I struggled with the fact that my mom endured set backs and struggles, meanwhile, my father was on his “grind” and working toward a “successful” life. At the sacrifice of two marriages and 5 kids later, my father was on a mission to become successful at any cost.
Today, after working through my resentments toward both my parents, as a mother, I can see what my parents endured and sacrifices and learned about themselves. These two young Indigenous people were on a mission to leave the Rez and to do what it takes to get to where they wanted to be. In a round about way, they journeyed to where they are and along the way, made decisions that seemed right at that time in their lives.
My mom, a proud, young, and misguided young mother took it upon herself to leave the Rez and struggled. It was a choice, and although she can’t claim she was never taught or mentored on how to be a mother, her choice in leaving the Rez came with the reality that she was not ready for the responsibility.
At the same time, my father, a prideful young man filled with entrepreneurial ideas of owning a business, down the same track, with 4 kids had no idea how to be a Dad, yet he was a father. The worlds, or Rezzes, they came from were vastly different, yet both had experienced the same racism and oppressive and impoverished conditions. As a result, they vowed to never go back if they could help it.
As I listen to them today, they have different world views and my Pops, whose become a dad, makes his home on our Rez in Lapwai, Idaho. My mom, who is preparing to retire, is concerned with how she will continue to live in the city and looks comfortably toward moving home. In talking with my parents, they both admit they had no idea how to be a parent. So they mimicked what they observed growing up. My dad had both his parents in his upbringing, but was taught and believed it was a mothers role to care for and tend to the kids while my grandpa worked and would be gone for days sometimes weeks. My mom on the other hand believed a mother was supposed to take care of her kids, yet relied on her grandmother for guidance and direction. When my mom couldn’t take full responsibility and worked in the city, she left her girls with extended family.
While listening to them today, I look around and see my nieces and nephews and I find myself wanting to help each one the best way I know how or can. Whether its spotting them a few dollars with a payback of helping with their papa or getting good grades I think about each moment I have in influencing them. If I can even get a minute with them, I pitch good grades, college, respectful attitudes, and generosity with time to help others, but also substance free lives. If there is more time, I do my best to show them and spend time and role model how I hope they will behave towards others even when they’d rather go hang with friends, watch TV, or big out, I’m THAT mom. Overbearing? Tries too hard? Nosey? Lamatic? Yes, I AM.
I believe I’ve earned my tiger stripes as the meme says which came at a price, love. With a large family, we have many teachable moments. Often times its in passing where I find those moments and with deep conviction, I believe my little ounce of effort will indeed influence them. It’s hope woven with a fierce love that only a mom can feel, dream, and work toward despite the odds. You see, becoming a mother has taught me many things and one thing remains true, no matter what the cost, a mothers work is never done, and in the same vain, it is also a fathers job to work just as hard.
As I close out today’s blog thoughts out loud, I reiterate the need and wish to see more healthy, positive, encouraging, and supportive male AND female role models and mentors. After all, we are an answer to our ancestors prayers, please, let’s live our lives accordingly.