Late at night, when it is hours passed the time I have told myself I am going to bed, I read memes and blogs, inspirational quotes or just stare off on to the page and think about how much longer I can stay up and still take a shower in the morning, then I decide to not wash my hair. Maybe it will be a hat day, you get the point.
That’s when I read a quote that sent me down the path of this article. “There ain’t no hood like motherhood.” Ain’t that the truth? I found what I didn’t know I was looking for! I was a gangsta mom repping the suburbs of San Diego. My tattoos were fading and my jeans were tight due to the bulging muffin top, but it clicked. Our children bring out the hood in us, the sideways glares and the whispered, “take another fruit snack from the pantry and I’ll cut ya.”
So I have been on the “inside” for almost 20 years. I’m the leader of a small four person gang: my husband (my OG roll dawg), and my two teenage daughters. On most days we get by with minimal arguments, but somedays when we are in the trenches, I can’t help but think WWACD? What would Al Capone Do? How do you lead a group of people? How do you make them love you and respect you, but also fear you just enough to not jump you? (Scratch head…) Ok, not really.
In the beginning I thought it was all about being the enforcer. “You will do what I say!” I thought I had to control every aspect of my family’s life in order to succeed. The Halloween costumes were handmade, the Christmas gifts were memorable and thoughtful, the homemade soccer banners friggin’ rocked. I made dinner every night!
It was years of this, my roll dawg adapted, the girls complied… but I fell apart. Their gang leader was ready to get locked up! The teen years began and the girls rebelled. A good gang leader makes you feel wanted and needed in the group. I was failing miserably. This motherhood gangsta needed to change.
It started with therapy. I cried and prayed for my children to change, for my roll dawg to know what I needed. I tried distractions and busied myself with writing a novel. None of it worked. No one was changing. Do you see where this insanity is going? It all came down to an argument. Ugly screaming through the house, hurtful words and it ended with my daughter packing her bags and leaving. I had done a drive by with my anger and there was a casualty. I was alone and finally (light bulb) I realized the problem was me! I know if you are reading this you guessed that by now.
I apologized. A real apology, the kind that doesn’t ask anything of anyone. An apology that starts with me and ends with me. But the trust had taken a hit. How was my daughter ever going to believe my apology? I started out small. I made her bed one morning, then I sent her a text to tell her I loved her more than carne asada fries (if you know me, you know that’s a lot). As the days went on I promised myself that I wasn’t going to yell anymore. Not that I couldn’t be angry anymore, but I wasn’t going to allow myself to express anger in a hurtful way.
My daughter moved back in a week later. It was baby steps each day. Months passed and she graduated high school. She was going to college 10 hours away. Someone told me once that birds &%$@ in the nest right before they fly away. We both &%$@ in the nest that year and now as our phone calls total minutes in the midst of busy weeks, the texts with I love you more than term papers continue. I am happy to say I’m a retired gangsta and an amateur mother in the suburb hood, but there is peace as I rebuild my nest.
Stephanie Manderville is a San Diego native and mother of two teenage girls, one in high school and one in college. She is also a wife and has been married for 17 years. Everyday life includes being a preschool teacher and writer. Most days you will find her drinking way too much coffee. She is an amateur at everything, except procrastination, which she find is an art form.