“The thing I feared the most as a teenager happened to me when I turned 30, and I survived. I am the third of seven children from a small farming community in Manchester, Jamaica, that was famous for teenage pregnancies and common-law relationships. I grew up in a household of little means. We weren’t poor; we just didn’t know at the time how to manage the resources that God gave us. Though my parents lived together for years, they did not get married until I was in college. They were committed to caring for their children and did their best to provide for our basic needs during childhood, minus aspects of the emotional component.
The beating was the main form of discipline in our home. My parents talked at us more than they talked with us. We were never allowed to express our opinions often and rarely got the chance to share in the family decisions.
I became an expert at internalizing my feelings and would struggle constantly with my internal dialogue. Books and nature became my best friends during my childhood, and when I left home for high school, I kept searching for something or someone to fill the emotional gap in my life. I turned to romance novels and would spend hours on end reading to avoid thinking about my life. During my high school tenure, I lost my divine identity somewhere between the covers of these books and developed a desire to experience the fairy tale romance shared in these novels. But then I was given a chance to gain a better experience when I was saved in the last year of high school.
I began my Christian journey with zeal and enthusiasm, but the desire for romance did not disappear immediately when I got baptized. I replaced the romance novels with Christian literature, but the damage done from the materials consumed was already evident from the thoughts that kept consuming me. And before too long, I caved to my fantasies, and there was no turning back. Though I struggled with this thorn in my flesh, I kept attending and participating in worship services. I was saved but not yet converted. It took me years to realize that sanctification is a lifetime process that requires a daily decision to follow the principles of the kingdom.
Despite my personal struggles, I followed the traditional path designed for me and completed high school and college without perpetuating the generational tendencies of having a child out of wedlock or getting stuck in a common-law relationship. However, when I reached 30, I reaped the consequences of my rebellious tendencies, which began in the latter part of my teenage years. I got involved in an illicit relationship, more like a situationship, while living and working in the Turks and Caicos Islands. Within a short time after, I found myself pregnant with no plan for a child nor a stable environment in which to train one.
I was in a foreign country serving as a business manager for a high school while doing MBA classes online when I became pregnant. I was living the life of my dreams and a child was never part of the plan at that moment. My first solution was an abortion, but the man would have none of it. This was encouraging as, usually, the males are the ones who advocate for an abortion. He promised we would be married before our child was born, and I swallowed that pill and made the decision to give it all up to raise a family. So I quit my job in the Turks and Caicos Islands and traveled to the Dominican Republic (the home country of my child’s father) to await the reunion with my prince and to begin our new life together.
A few months later, my child was born, but there was still no wedding and the man was MIA (missing in action). But I still had a desire to start a family with him so we could raise our daughter together. Eventually, the man resurfaced and decided I wasn’t the one, so we went our separate ways. He had chosen the other woman as the leading lady in his life, and there was nothing I could do to convince him otherwise. I was hurt, confused, and emotionally unstable but determined to train my child the best way I knew how. I recommitted my life to God and dedicated my child to Him in December 2011. Though my knowledge of parenting was limited to my own personal experience, I started my parenting journey with a determination to train my child according to the principles of God.
I was an emotional wreck during the early years of my parenting journey. I spent most of my pregnancy consumed with guilt and filled with remorse for my actions. Thankfully, I lived with a lovely Christian lady and her family during the last trimester of my pregnancy who embraced me as one of their own and provided emotional support before and after my daughter was born. I was blessed to have the matriarch of the family care for my daughter when I returned to work.
I was determined to become successful so initially, I was more focused on getting my career back on track instead of training my child for life. My daughter was born in Santiago, Dominican Republic (DR), in July 2010, and I went back to work in February of 2011. That decision has haunted me for years, as my original plan was to stay home and train my child for the first two years of her life. But when the economic crisis hit, I had to shelf that plan and return to the workforce. I wasn’t focused on getting a job in my field of study, I just wanted to cover our living expenses and save enough to return to Jamaica better than when I left. I eventually found employment at a call center in Santiago and worked there for approximately one year before leaving for Jamaica.
I returned to Jamaica in January of 2012, and that was when I got the full dose of single parenting. The plan was to get my career back on track by completing the MBA degree that I started online with Nova Southeastern University while working full-time. I transferred my credits to Northern Caribbean University and started face-to-face classes in January 2012 then full-time employment with them in April 2012. I had to outsource babysitting services for my daughter most days while I pursued my goals. Thankfully, I was living at the house of another Christian family who claimed us as their own and would care for my daughter in my absence. During the early years, my daughter had some of the best caregivers who helped her to transition smoothly from daycare to primary (elementary) school while I got a fairly easy ride on the parenting train. At least that was what I thought then as I would be at work from Monday to Friday, church on Saturday, and MBA classes on Sunday. I did not have a time when I was fully responsible for taking care of my child alone but that was about to change.
In 2017, our well-organized lives got disrupted when my daughter’s Dominican grandmother conveyed that she needed to return to the DR to complete some paperwork. When my daughter was born, her grandma, who lives in the US, decided to include her on the application for residency that she was processing for her father at the time. We made the trip in March 2017, so she reunited with her father for the first time since leaving the DR and we got to meet his fiancé. Once her application for residency was approved and she was set to travel to the US, I made one of the worst mistakes of my life and allowed my daughter to make the journey alone from Jamaica to the DR and subsequently the US to live with her Dominican family in July 2017.
Though she enjoyed the experience in the DR, she quickly learned that life in the US was a different kettle of fish as migrants embrace the opportunity for a better life. While I was in Jamaica focusing on keeping my job, her father was in the US living la vida loca. I was now forced to learn how to co-parent with him from a distance after years of single parenting. It was a difficult task to achieve during the one month that she spent with him in Philadelphia, and we would spend the next few years trying to get it right. Since her father refused to send her back to Jamaica, though none of his family members were available to care for her, I convinced him to send her to live with one of my friends and her family in Texas. She spent seven months with them before returning to Jamaica in March 2018. And that was when the real parenting challenges began. My daughter had now been exposed to different parenting styles, and she began resenting my authoritarian style for a more permissive style.
Fast forward to 2019, and I felt like I was losing my daughter. I didn’t have much time to correct my errors before we became total strangers. I was an emotional wreck who was still dealing with the baggage of my PAST (parenting, affections, selfishness, transgressions) while having a strong desire to train her to avoid our negative generational tendencies. Life became confusing, and I felt like I needed a big break from it all. There was so much going on, and yet none of it seemed to provide me with the abundant life that was promised in the Word. I was advancing in my career at work; I had finished MBA classes and moved up the ranks from Administrative Assistant to Director. My child was doing well in school. I had a good life pursuing the path that was charted for me. But I was lost. I felt like I was failing at parenting and I needed a power outside of myself to fix what was wrong in my life.
In June 2019, I felt convicted to take a six-month hiatus from full-time employment to get past my PAST and embrace positive parenting. I began my full-time parenting journey in high spirits but kept struggling to detox from the habits learned since my teenage years. Plus, I was still struggling to embrace the fact that I was a single parent. It was only when I fully surrendered my corrupted nature to God and allowed Him to transform my mind that I began to gain victory over my PAST. I had to learn full dependence on God so that I could train my daughter to embrace and live in her divine identity. Then came the pandemic, and I was forced to remain in the same space with my child until I learned the lessons that God wanted to teach me plus so much more.
I have discovered so many things about myself and my child since I started my parenting journey, but I’ll only share the five main lessons that I’ve learned since embracing positive parenting.
- Children need structure and consistency to grow and develop effectively. My life was often disrupted as a child. When my parents had a big disagreement, they would separate. My mother would take the girls and the baby at the time go back to her father’s house, and the boys would remain at the family home with my father. During my high school years, I changed homes almost every year as my mother thought it would be better for me to live in the city so it would be easier for me to get to and from school. The exposure to the various parenting styles, values, and environments has left some scars that took years to heal because I internalized my feelings. I started out inflicting the same wounds on my child, but instead of internalizing her feelings, she screamed loudly for help through her rebellious actions. God used the pandemic to keep us grounded so I could learn this valuable lesson.
- Children have basic needs. They are emotional beings too, and parents are responsible for satisfying all their basic needs, including the emotional ones. Most times, we think of basic needs as food, clothing, and shelter. But children also need love and attention. They need to feel valued and to be touched. It is really important to know your child intimately so you can meet their needs in a language they understand. My child’s love language is physical touch and words of affirmation. She kept telling me that I didn’t love her, and I kept insisting that I do because love is action, not just words. I used to hear her but did not take the time to listen keenly to her until her actions shouted at me and I had to pay attention and embrace positive parenting. I was loving her in my language, so I had to learn how to step out of my comfort zone and love her with my touch and words not just my actions.
- Children need discipline instead of punishment. Hurt people really hurt people. Punishment is designed to cause hurt, while discipline is geared towards a change in behavior. I used to beat my daughter because that was how I was raised. I didn’t realize then that my actions were inflicting emotional damage to her when I shout at her and beat her for misbehaving. In my mind, that should help her to understand that her actions were bad. But here I was doing the same thing. I had to do a lot of introspection, praying, and research to get the message that my parenting strategy was causing more harm than good to my daughter. This came home so forcefully when she started resisting the beating and hitting back at me in an aggressive manner.
- Children should be taught values and about their self-concept at home before parents enroll them in a learning institution. While in lockdown, I had lots of time to think. It became pretty clear that I was responsible for teaching my child the values that would help her to become a fully functional adult in life. Though academics are important, it is self-knowledge and self-education that will really help our children to become the best version of themselves. Parents should teach their children about their true identity so the world doesn’t shape them into its mold. In retrospect, I believe that was somewhat lacking from my parents so I’m committed to helping my child avoid this pitfall.
- Parents should detox from their childhood trauma/generational tendencies so they don’t pass on unhealthy tendencies to their children. This was my experience. I started parenting with so much baggage, and I did not unload before my daughter was born. I struggled for years with embracing my divine identity until I read Schlyce’s book entitled The Path and completed the end-of-chapter activities. I did this simultaneously with a diet change, following the diet prescribed by God. It felt like a whole load of weight was lifted from my shoulders as God helped me to begin the process of mind transformation. It became so much easier after that to embrace positive parenting and love my child unconditionally.
Parenting is the greatest responsibility given to humans as we get to partner with God to restore His image in our children. Our greatest task is to teach them to love and obey Jesus. Our greatest tool for raising successful children is faith in God. Children are little versions of you who depend fully upon you to help them become the human beings God created them to be. Their success or failure will greatly depend on how you train them. It is your responsibility to provide the right environment in which to raise successful children. You are responsible for loving and serving them while providing for their needs so they can become fully functioning adults. But you should never try to do it without developing a firm trust in God through the instructions and promises He provides in the Bible. That was what made the biggest difference for me. After that, it becomes easier to detox from any trauma that life would have inflicted along your journey.
I have grown tremendously during the last three years. I am transitioning from being an authoritarian parent to an authoritative one. I have a better grasp of my true identity and my God-ordained purpose. As a tripartite child of God, it is my responsibility to care for my body (physical structure), spirit (breath of life), and mind (combined thoughts and emotions) and teach my child to do likewise. I had focused so much on my career growth during the early years of my life while neglecting my personal development. God taught me to switch gears when He gave me the promise in Isaiah 43:18,19 just before we returned to Jamaica in December 2019: ‘Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it?’
During my parenting journey, I asked God for patience, and He multiplied my troubles. I asked Him for self-control, and my daughter began disregarding my authority. I asked God for unconditional love towards my daughter, and he allowed her to intensify her disobedience and become a little rebel. I asked Him for wisdom, and He gave me multiple experiences, stories unending. God gave me nothing I asked for but He gave me everything that I need. I have learned the best way to detox from my PAST by exercising faith in God and His power to transform my life. I’m fully convinced now that God has given me the mission to train, mentor, and support single-parent families of African descent.
Since the pandemic, I have partnered with a few individuals and local companies to distribute food packages to approximately 30 single-parent families and the elderly living alone. Part of the profit from the Journer will help me to continue feeding single-parent families and the elderly living alone. If you want to give a donation to this initiative, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
The most important lesson that I have gleaned throughout this journey is that God will give you way more than you can ask or even imagine. But you must be prepared to submit to His authority and accept His way of doing things. I encourage you to trust God with every area of your life and He will give you victory over your weaknesses and strength to accomplish your divinely ordained purpose. And, make every effort to work harder on your personal development than you do on your job.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Louise T. Brown from Mandeville, Jamaica. You can check out her book on Amazon and follow her journey on Facebook. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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