Mom and tween daughter by day, study buddies by night

The two sit side by side doing very different homework assignments. One might lose focus for a second and think about tomorrow’s work, paying bills, and dinner. The other might space out and daydream about Justin Bieber, Instagram posts, or how awesome the next Hunger Games movie will be. When my mom, who is in her mid 40’s but looks like she’s in her late 20’s (I got you covered, mom), puts her head down and closes her eyes, my 12-year old sister – who is by far one of the smartest and most mature young women I know – perks up, pokes our mom in the side, and says “No, mom, you can’t go to sleep yet. You still have homework to do.”

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After years of working in special education, social work, retail, and child care, my mom is going back to school and my little sister has a front row seat for our mom’s roller coaster adventure back into the classroom. Maria, my mom, is going through the legal assistance certification program at Florida Atlantic University. She has homework every night and class on Saturdays. My sister, Manuela, is excelling as a middle school student and young woman. 

So, why share this with you? Well, the dynamic that happens in their two-bedroom apartment is amazing, and my mom deserves to be celebrated. 

Maria has been a single-mom for most of her motherhood years. Manuela, my sister, is coming into an age where, in my opinion and for whatever it counts, it’s vital for her to have a strong, intelligent woman guiding her and showing her how to be proactive about her education, career, and personal growth. 

Also, I think it benefits children of any age to see their parents kick ass and overcome challenges.

On the flip side, my sister has the motivation to stay amazing. She will struggle to come up with a good enough reason to not do homework or to perform poorly on a test when our own mother is putting in hours of homework while balancing a full-time job, motherhood, being the sole provider in the household, and, you know, living.

As a son, it’s been great for me. If I call my mom after 6 PM on any given day she will likely answer “doing homework” when I ask “what’s up mom? what are you doin’?”. Every time she says “doing homework” or “going to class” I fill with pride and I’m impressed by her grit. Her goal is to help the immigrant population navigate the backwards and confusing waters of visas, citizenship applications, work permits, social security numbers, and everything in between. 

You should know that my mom dropped out of college when she got pregnant, and also that she left Colombia to join me here in the States close to 11 years ago. 

Like thousands of immigrant families, we’ve had to figure out how to become and stay legal citizens. I tell you from experience, the process sucks. It’s cold, daunting, scary, lacks humanity, and comes with a lot of room for mistake. Going from one status to the next is usually difficult and costly. It’s sad to think about the number of families that have been separated or are in limbo because the immigration process is much like fitting a square in a round hole. 

So when my mom told me about her plan to go back to school for a certification to compliment her 10+ years of work in relevant fields, I had nothing to say except “Con toda, ma, dale con today.” “With everything, mom, give it everything you have.” 

This is one of many stories about a single parent, in this case a mother, kicking ass for a better future for herself and children. Next time you see an individual that is doing the same, give them a high-five.

Post originally appeared in The Good Men Project - A Young Man Celebrates His Mother, Who Teaches by Example

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