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Big Mama Shares Lessons from Her Children
For the month of April, I will be sharing the lessons I learned from raising Kennedy Kehaulani Guess
Often, we talk about the wisdom that we pass on to our children but we rarely discuss what we learn as we raise these amazing human beings. For the next few months, I will be writing a piece for each of my four children on the month of their birthday. So, in April, I will start with the lessons I have learned from raising Kennedy Kehaulani Guess.
From day one Kennedy was a spitfire that came into this world on her own terms. My due date to have Kennedy was April 24th but she was born on April 15th a day which was not only Tax Day, it was also my father’s birthday. Throughout my life I had a contentious relationship with my father. While I was growing up, he battled with an alcohol addition that completely disrupted our lives. As a result of this addiction he would later suffer from many serious health problems. I struggled with the fact that my sister and I had the responsibility to take care of him. As I moved along in my pregnancy with Kennedy and dealing with my father’s dementia and other illnesses, he rarely had moments of smiling and happiness. When I went into early labor I angrily stated “No, she will not be born on his birthday!”
Well on April 15th, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl—on my father’s birthday. The joy that showed on his face and in his spirit when he saw his little birthday present began to melt my heart and restore the relationship with him. Kennedy being the middle child was often responsible for bringing her siblings together, but I did not anticipate was that by her simple presence on this earth she would reconcile my relationship with my father.
If you know Kennedy at age 26, you know her as a force to be reckoned with, but she had to go through hell and back to become this resilient young woman. Here is the condensed version. At age 15 she was brought to her knees battling severe depression. As she attempted many times to end her own life, she would look at me with tears streaming down her face and ask, “Why me, why would God allow this to happen to me?” This was so hard to hear from my little spitfire that was always ready to take on the world. I had to pull from my own faith to share with her that there will be purpose to her pain and that God has not forsaken her. I had to trust in Kennedy that she had what it takes to make it through this. Then I had to take time to minister to myself.
At that time, her pain was my pain, and I was losing myself trying to fight this battle. I had to take my own advice that there was purpose to the pain. Any mother understands that the best way to take her down was to mess with her child. I was scared to leave the house because I feared what might happen to Kennedy if I leave her alone in the house. What would I come home to if I left the house? I had to pick myself up and pull from my own faith lessons to carry us both until Kennedy could stand on her own. I began to pray and ask God, what is my lesson in this pain?
He gave me a song by Donald Lawrence “I am God”. As this song ministered to me, I realized that I had to deal with my own co-dependency from childhood trauma of having a parent that suffered with alcoholism. I had to come to terms that I could not fix Kennedy and I had to trust God and ultimately, I had to trust Kennedy. I started this process by leaving the house every day to take walks and pray by phone with my friends Mardell Shipp and JoAnn James. As I put one foot in front of the other, I grew physically and mentally stronger. As I grew stronger, me giving Kennedy a little independence allowed for her to grow stronger.
When I look back, with the help of God, time, therapy, and medication it is a proud moment for me to say that Kennedy has made it through this struggle. She has learned tools to manage, and my little spitfire is truly making a difference in this world. She graduated from the University of Kentucky and left a beautiful legacy there. Kennedy found the purpose to her pain. While at UK Kennedy started a program called “Still We Rise”. The program has given out around 80 scholarships in the past 4 years to college students at UK. This program helped shape mental health awareness at the University of Kentucky.
She has followed in my career footsteps and has become a speech language pathologist completing her Master’s at the University of Houston. Though I did not finish my Master’s degree, Kennedy told me she would get one for the both of us! While in Houston Kennedy was elected to be the student representative for the National Black Association for Speech-Language and Hearing. She has made it her personal mission to get more people of color into the field of Speech Pathology and Audiology.
Kennedy’s journey taught me to take my hands off, trust my child, and watch what God can do when you walk in faith. Being a mother is never easy, but the hardest part is letting go and let our children pave their own way once you have equipped them.
Proverbs 22:6: Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
Thank You Kennedy for the lessons in restoration, faith, and resiliency. Thank you for allowing me to find a lesson in the lows so that I can appreciate the highs. Thank you for being a woman that trusts God and trusts in herself. Thank you for making this Big Mama grateful and proud.
Link to support Still We Rise
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline