I write this with 100% support of my twenty-one year old son who was born out of wedlock. Our relationship as mother and son has developed into one of transparency and honesty; even if it may strike an exposed nerve. My son, Gregory, who is the product of an interracial relationship, totally embraces his entire ethnic heritage. Gregâ€™s father and I never married and cohabitation absolutely was not an option for me. Despite conflicts in our rocky relationship, his father was consistently present and involved in Gregâ€™s life.
Greg is now a senior at a private college. He has had access to excellent educational opportunities and was involved in numerous extracurricular activities. His first international trip was at the age of seven and he has had numerous travel experiences together with his father and I and separately following the end of our eight year relationship. â€œIt takes a villageâ€¦â€ Gregâ€™s village is huge, consisting of paternal and maternal family ties, friends and church members.
This returns me to the NWNW campaign addressing the 73% out of wedlock birth rate for African Americans. Since becoming a certified grief recovery specialist I seize every teachable moment to educate my son about grief and how it can negatively impact an individualâ€™s life. â€œGrief is the normal and natural reaction to loss of any kind. Grief is the conflicting feelings caused by the end of or change in a familiar pattern of behaviorâ€ (James and Friedman 1998). My son experienced two different households from birth. When I shared with him my plan to write for the NWNW blog-a-thon he was more than willing to have his perspective shared. He admits never lacking in material things, love, support and cultural experiences. However, here it comes, the exposed nerveâ€¦. the changing between homes was difficult, despite a consistent schedule. Greg shared feelings about, â€œNever being sure where my things are locatedâ€, â€œconcerned that Iâ€™m always forgetting something important for schoolâ€, and â€œnot feeling settledâ€. We had this frank discussion a few weeks before his return to campus. My son statedâ€ Right now, most of my clothes are at Dadâ€™s and Iâ€™m trying to figure out how to get everything together before I leave.â€
Even now, my sonâ€™s grief from an out of wedlock birth resonates loudly after his return to campus. This is the second year heâ€™s taken the initiative to move himself back to campus with some follow up on my part. The Sunday following hurricane Irene, I received a telephone call from Greg regarding my planned campus visit on Monday to take him shopping for miscellaneous items;
â€œMom, Can you bring my Econ books please? They are located in the cart in the basementâ€
I respond, â€œNo problem, I love youâ€
â€œLove you tooâ€
Mind you, I searched on the cart and throughout the basement. I checked the garage and his bedroom, no Economics books. Iâ€™m groaning in my head because this is not the first time this situation has occurred. Let the texting begin.
â€œI found â€˜Connected, 24hours in the global economyâ€™, â€˜Statistics for business and economicsâ€™ and â€˜Marketingâ€™.â€
Gregâ€˜s responding text message, â€œNot itâ€
â€œThatâ€™s whatâ€™s there. Do have the names. Check your Dadâ€™sâ€
Greg answers, â€œK. it might be there then. Take the expressway the bridge was flooded.â€
We are quick to assign grief to the demise of a loved one. Letâ€™s recognize the death of the family unit and it the impact it has upon our children. The presence of involved fatherâ€™s is non-negotiable. Children do deserve the benefit of a healthy two-parent household. Oh yes, cohabitation is not marriage. Letâ€™s educate, empower and reverse the trend.
Marilyn Pendelton is founder and owner of â€œYour Voice Heardâ€ a grief recovery outreach program. She is a certified school nurse in the Philadelphia School District and presented â€œGrief, the Quiet Enemy of Health and Educationâ€ at the 2010 National Association of School Nurses National Conference.