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Big Mama Shares Lessons from Her Children
For the month of May, I will be sharing the lessons I learned from raising Morgan Leilani Guess.
After giving birth 2 previous times I thought I had this birthing thing down. My two previous labors came two weeks early and I expected the same thing with Morgan. Well Morgan was not so eager to leave the womb. As I went one week past my due date, my doctor decided to put me in the hospital to induce labor. After a full day of labor, the doctor had me prepped for an emergency C-section. That evening I gave birth to a beautiful 8lb, 1oz baby girl with a head full of hair.
Morgan was such an easy-going chilled baby. She practically took care of herself. She loved to sleep and rarely cried. Even when her older siblings where making a lot of noise I would not hear a peep from her.
Finally, I could relax just a little, so I thought. Well God gave me an easy-going baby because he had another assignment for me. When Morgan turned 1 year of age, my husband Andre took a job in New York City at Jazz at Lincoln Center. I had to move my easy life in Louisville, Kentucky to a fast-paced life in New York City with a 7-year-old, a 4-year-old, and a 1-year-old. What a culture shock it was. But this was a special time for me and Morgan as we settled into our life, while dad went off to work, and her two older siblings went off to school. We had a lot of one-on-one time and it was fun watching this little one soak in everything as we took daily stroller walks, read many books, and watched many children’s shows together. As she got older, she would notice every flower, butterfly or any pretty scenery as we would walk each day. Morgan taught me to slow down and appreciated the simple things in life. She would come home and draw the flowers she had seen on our daily walks with her stroller. She was a breeze to potty train and transitioned into 3-year-old preschool without incident.
As I said previously, she was slow to come out of the womb, but once here, she flourished. She began to pick up Spanish because most of the children in her Jersey City preschool were Hispanic and her babysitter was Dominican. By the time she moved to the 4-year-old program at her school PS 16 with her siblings, we realized how smart she was. She was one of the first preschoolers asked to recite the school pledge and pledge of allegiance from memory in front of the entire school.
Through all our moves to different states Morgan would adjust and rise to the top of her classes academically even though a lot of time we had to focus our attention on her older sister who was suffering with depression. Although Morgan was the youngest, she learned how to be independent through this struggle.
In 2012, we moved back to Louisville. Morgan was in 8th grade and easily adjusted to life in Louisville. Once again earning straight A’s and advancing to high school with her sister. We enrolled Morgan in Atherton because we wanted her to participate in the International Bachelorette Program (IB) where she could earn college credit while still in high school. We did not realize that Atherton would be the tale of two cities. Because of her intellect, sweetness, quick wit, and sense of humor she settled in nicely at Atherton. She had IB classes that challenged her beyond belief, and she had hang time with her peers that were bussed in from the predominately Black Smoketown area in Louisville. She learned that life was not always a bed of roses. She has lost many of her classmates to street violence in Louisville and continues to be an advocate.
Morgan was a child that let me guide her and push her and she would always rise to the expectation. While in the IB program Morgan had to conduct a service project as one of the requirements to graduate “full IB” that means she would graduate with college credit. We put or heads together and she decided to start a scholarship for young women at Atherton High School that attend The Phenomenal Woman Program headed by Mrs. Marables the Youth Service Center Coordinator. Morgan named the scholarship after one of the young women that was instrumental in starting this program that was killed right before she was able to graduate from college. Morgan named the scholarship “Have Hope” because that was a phrase that Cheryl Williamson used when starting this program while she was a student at Atherton. Mrs. Marables was very happy to honor her former student Cheryl along with providing money for her current students as they matriculated on to college. She decided to continue the scholarship even after Morgan left Atherton for college herself. She had Morgan come back for the fund raisers and speak to the current students and this fueled Morgan’s passion of being an advocate that she is today.
Watching Morgan flourish would sometime just blow my mind. She graduated as one of five full IB students at Atherton while holding down a part time job, participating in clubs, and joining the color guard in the school band. Like I said before, she moves cautiously but always rises above the expectation. She saved her money and was able to purchase her own car while still in high school.
Morgan’s service project put her on the radar of Berea College. She was able to take her IB credits and double major at Berea and earned two degrees, one in Spanish and one in African and African-American Studies. While at Berea she was the assistant to the chair of the department, worked in the writing research lab and produced a concert with world renown jazz musician Christian McBride and world-famous poet Sonya Sanchez for a celebration of the writer Toni Morrison.
When you have flaws in yourself that have held you back, you pray that your children can avoid those same short comings. I see the caution and hesitance in Morgan that I often see in myself in the attempt to overachieve, but Morgan has taught me to be bold, push through, and shine. She is currently an 8th grade writing teacher at a charter school in Houston TX while pursuing her master’s in clinical Psychology. Morgan has passion to work with young people trying to make sense in this world. I pray a hedge of protection over her as she steps out boldly in her faith.
It has been the hardest to let go of Morgan because we have spent so much one on one time together. She is the youngest and the last birdie to leave the nest and this mother hen must let go and watch this birdie soar. If the past tells me anything, it is just that I know she will continue to rise to the top. Thank you, Morgan, for forging through this world on your own terms as a force to be reckoned. You inspire me everyday to stretch myself and get the most out of what life has to offer me. You don’t have to have it all figured out and you don’t have to be perfect. You have to just be you, and that is damn sure more than enough. Thank you for allowing me to guide you and thank you for allowing me to watch you step out on faith. Also realize that I am talking to myself as much as I am talking to you.
Written With Love,
Click here if you want to donate to the Have Hope Youth Service Center Scholarship