Growing up in a large family of 10, which included 8 children, I use to wonder what my parents were thinking about having so many children. Being the eldest of 8, I felt that I was at an unfair disadvantage having to deal with all of those bratty kids! My mom, however, seemed to have such patience with all of us bratty kids. I have no idea where she got the energy or the patience from in dealing with us. She was constantly cleaning, cooking, helping with homework, and being an overall chauffer and bottle washer. She was a stay-at-home mom until my younger sister graduated from high school and then decided it was time for her to go back to school and then work outside the home. Even then, she took the time to always prepare three meals per day. Our lunches were prepared before we went to school, we always had a nourishing breakfast, and in the evening when we all made it home, we had a hot meal on the table. I don’t know how she did it all.
Dinner was served each evening once our dad got home. It was unheard of for us to eat before he got home. He was the king of the house and our mother was the queen. There was a time when we felt abused, especially when the neighborhood kids bragged about having Kentucky fried chicken, Burger King, and McDonald’s for dinner. The only time we had those kinds of meals for dinner was when we traveled. Even then, those opportunities were limited. We longed for the ‘finer things in life’, but our mom would pack sandwiches or sometimes fried chicken and other travel-ready goodies and that is what we would eat. We had what was sort of like a picnic in the car when we stopped for gas. We could not, however, understand why we had to sit at a table when we were home, unable to watch TV, and only eat food that she made. It didn’t matter what she cooked, it didn’t matter how good it was… it was just not KFC. So mean. In fact, we couldn’t even watch TV before dinner either. After school, we had homework to do as well as chores before our dad came home, then off to bed very soon after dinner because we had school the next day. Remembering those days, we actually had a lot of fun in those days despite our ‘mean’ parents. Sometimes we had our own Motown Review or our Soul Train experience and other times we were allowed outside to play if we finished homework and chores first. We felt so deprived! At least we thought so back then.
Looking back, we now have come to really appreciate all of the times spent in the kitchen watching our mom creating delicious meals and us learning how to cook, the family dinners at the table where we got the chance to laugh and be silly if we wanted, which was often. We now appreciate the sacrifices our parents made to make our lives comfortable, even if we didn’t have the sense to appreciate it back then. Sometimes, we humans can be so ungrateful. We had no idea just how blessed we were.
One year I remember giving my parents an appreciation certificate to show them just how much I appreciated our large family, those home cooked meals around the table, the lack of fast foods and no TV at dinner. They took such good care of us and it took us into adulthood to finally learn how to appreciate them for the selfless love and care they gave us. It is so disheartening when I look back at all the years we took them for granted.
As a working mother, and later, a divorced working mother, I wished that I had been able to give my children the daily care that our mom gave us. Many times, it was late in the evening before I even had time to help them with homework. The good thing was I owned my own salon so I was able to have my children close to me while I worked. However, there were times when I had to hire a tutor or take them to the Learning center to make up for what I couldn’t give them. I made it a point to take them to a sit-down restaurant on Fridays to make up for not being able to provide a home cooked meal during the week. I love to cook but rarely found the time because I was at the salon so late. Dinner consisted most of the time of fast foods and carry-outs…the types of meals we wished for when we were kids…the finer things in life. However, as an adult, I felt that I was depriving my children of the best of me even though I worked very hard to provide for them.
Now as adults, we are blessed to finally learn to appreciate our lives with them and the time we spent with them. Our parents have both passed but we had the opportunity to show them just how grateful we were and still are. Our mother died at the young age of 59. We were blessed to have our dad until the young age of 75. We miss them so much but we have so many good memories. The eight of us siblings continue to be close and we enjoy spending time with each other whenever we can. We lost our brother a few years ago and boy do we miss him as well. Life has a way of teaching us that the things that we took for granted were truly the ‘finer things in life’ that we had all along.