I was a very young mother, having my first child at the tender age of 18. Being so young and inexperienced, I made many mistakes in raising my children. However, they all waited until they were much older and wiser to marry and have children of their own. My oldest, son Craig, has brought me much joy through the years. Among his many talents is his ability to express his emotions in writing. He is a wonderful parent to his two children, Cameron and Hannah, raising Cameron alone for most of his years. Below is a moving piece Craig wrote and posted on his MySpace page when Cameron left home for college.
"I'm writing this three hours after saying goodbye to Cameron, who is just now almost halfway between Dallas and Baton Rouge -- where he's about to begin his freshman year at LSU. I am now officially an 'empty-nester'.
While I knew this day was coming, nothing prepared me for the flood of emotions that I've been experiencing this afternoon. The only comparable day I suppose was the day he came into this world. While that day was filled primarily with pride, love, awe and joy, this day has also brought about its share of sadness and, I suppose, self-pity. For not only has my son moved away, so has my best friend.
Don't get me wrong; I'm so proud of the young man my baby boy has grown to become that I could burst. He is truly one of the finest human beings I've ever known. Still, there's a hole in my heart right now; and an empty feeling in the home he and I have shared these last few years.
Indeed, a bittersweet day.
The memories have surfaced in a flood, as well:
That day in the delivery room when I first spoke his name and his eyes opened wide in recognition as he was being swaddled. You see, I had been talking (and singing) to him in the womb from the beginning. As soon as we knew his gender, we had his name. I spoke it over and over to him as we waited those months for him to arrive. When I held him for the first time and he looked up at me with those big blue eyes, there was no doubt. This was Daddy's boy. Not even his mother would ever disagree.
A coupla days later, they LET US TAKE HIM HOME! Holy s***! We didn't even hafta take a test or anything! I thought that terribly irresponsible of the hospital. They just let us take him. I remember jacking with the baby seat for over an hour. The instructions sucked as bad as those for his crib (some assembly required). When we finally had him strapped in, I drove us home; never going more than 20 mph. Seriously.
Fast forward a few years. He's perhaps 3-or 4-years old. His daycare is putting on a Thanksgiving pageant. He and the other 3-year-olds were very cute singing a song about Christopher Columbus or something. I dutifully videotaped it all. Next, the older kids came out on a stage to do their bit. Well, Cameron and his group had done their performance down on the floor. Next thing you know, Cameron makes a dash for the stage and is trying to climb up there to sing with the bigger kids. He kicked and screamed all the way back to our seats after I fetched him up. I guess that was the beginning. The stage has been his second home ever since.
Then the time he came home from another daycare, at the age of 5, to ask me 'Daddy, why did they nail the baby Jesus to the cross?' Come to find out, they've got these kids rehearsing to put on a pre-school version of 'The Passion Play.' This was a secular daycare so far as I knew.
Yanked him outta there so fast it'd make your head swim.
The next few years flew by. So many memories of me and my sidekick. Daytona, Disney World,
camping together all over the Talladega Rockies. Road
trips. Hours and hours of talking and doing my best to answer the most
inquisitive mind I've ever been around. Soccer games. Basketball games. Just
Choir. Realizing in about 5th grade that his voice was a little better than the other kids' during those goofy Christmas shows. Realizing it even more so when his middle-school choir director kept emphasizing to me that Cameron's voice was something special.
After his 8th grade year, Cameron auditioned for and was accepted into Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing Arts. This is a school that is world-renowned for its art, music, dance and theater programs. Its alumni include Norah Jones, Edie Brickell, Erykah Badu, Roy Parker and many, many others working in TV, film, recording, on Broadway, etc.
Cameron flourished at BTW. Besides his major in voice, he also was a three year performer in an ensemble group called 'The Entertainers', a group made up of kids from the music, dance and theater departments that would put on Broadway-style productions twice a year. Sometimes these kids would rehearse until 10 at night, especially the closer they came to performance dates. In fact, late rehearsals were a way of life at Booker T. There was always a performance coming up; a play, a musical, a competition. But still, the kids were expected to keep up academically.
My son, even taking AP classes, finished 43 one hundredths of a point from an A average. I probably should have leaned on him a little harder!
One of the true joys for me of his high school years was having other parents come up to me and tell me what a great kid I had raised. They were so happy to have their own kids hanging out with him and congratulated me on my parenting. Funny thing is, if you ask me for my secrets of parenting, I haven't got a clue. I've never had to ground him. I've never really had to punish him in any way for anything. I just genuinely managed to get lucky; he's a great human being.
The only two things I'll take credit for are his love of music and his political bent. The apple don't fall far.
Of course, his senior year he kicked it into high-gear. He made all-state as a vocalist. He was an outstanding soloist in his opera workshop. And, LSU offered him a full ride scholarship to study vocal performance.
And today, he left for
. Baton Rouge
I had this great speech prepared where I would tell him that, although I may not have been the best father he could have had, he was certainly the best son I could have ever hoped for. But, there was no way I could have said so much without crying like a baby. Instead, I just said, 'Make me proud.'
Like he could make me any more so."
Craig, one of my true joys when you were growing up was having parents tell me what a great kid you were. What a fine man you have grown up to be; and what a good son you have always been to me. You make me very proud.
Love and peace,