Reflections of a 3rd Generation Girl
Updated: Jul 23
Being third generation often allows an individual to identify with a specific family tradition. Something that allows others to see the family pattern or desire to fulfill the same goals that has been passed to them with pride and prowess. Some families are long time entrepreneurs who have a successful business, some continue the same practice or area of study, like being a doctor or college professor, teaching English. Some attend the same college/university or become a member of the same fraternity/sorority as their parents and grandparents.
But, what would you say to someone who is a 3rd generation parent to a special needs child?
It dawned on me a little over a year ago that I am in that person. While my grandmother, mother and I have all had our own unique experience, and despite much of what I think and feel, this responsibility was etched into my DNA even before I graced this earth. It's part of who I am and, if I am being honest, I admit that I struggle with my own acceptance of this overwhelming responsibility, however the examples I have from my maternal leaders which have imparted significant knowledge and wisdom to me have contributed to my ability to keep my head on straight and become the bad ass woman I am today.
Everyone knows Russell, but what most of you don't know is that I had an aunt who had cerebral palsy. I mean, hell, I barely knew much about my father's sister Diane. What I do know is Diane was the middle child of the three (3) Dabak children born to my grandmother, Faye and grandfather, Ashur. She was born in July of 1941. She was a breech baby and my grandmother told the story that Diane was a “dry birth”, meaning her water broke and she labored for many hours, which as she described, resulted in her being born with cerebral palsy.
My grandmother was very generous with details about Diane. She would describe Diane as having beautiful skin and hair. How my grandfather loved Diane and was very kind and gentle with her. How during the 1940's there was a glaring stigma that accompanied her day to day life which could often be overbearing, upsetting and unpleasant. She struggled trying to find her "normal" in a world that passed judgment without knowing the full story with a child who required 24/7 care. The stares, lack of resources and concern for her child's wellbeing plagued her constantly.
At the age of 6, my grandparents decided it would be best for Diane to be a ward of the state giving up all parental rights to the state in hopes that she would receive the care they couldn't provide. While as a child this appeared to be very simple in concept, when I reflect on my grandmother's decision to commit her child, her flesh and blood, and institutionalize her baby, I know it gutted her emotionally as a mother. Something she grappled with her entire life.
There is not a day that goes by where my grandmother doesn't and recall the talks we had over the years. Our casual conversations, typically while she read my tea leaves, shaping my approach on how to handle to everyday struggles, and the sage like wisdom she always offered freely and gently would ultimately shape my outlook and character. I often channel my inner Faye harnessing raw strength and gumption to keep going and doing so in stride. If there is one thing Faye impressed upon me, and all of her grandchildren, it's that we all have struggles and inevitably face demanding situations, however it's our perspective of these circumstances that defines our path. So while we can all feel overwhelmed, fearing the unknown and what's to come, I regularly remind myself that to whom much has been given much is required. Faye always had the perfect words and approach to reshape your thoughts to pull you out of the bowels of your own taxing thoughts.
As I reflect, as a third generation girl, my thoughts start with these seven (7) "Faye-isms" which always whip me back into shape and get my thoughts back on track as she was instrumental making me the woman I am today.
Break the rules because let's face it, rules were meant to be broken. Change will not happen otherwise,
Embrace the suck. Life may try to paralyze you, but when you embrace the suck you are accepting things that are not in your control. Continue to move forward in spite of them and things will shift in your favor,
Be progressive. My grandmother, Faye, was a firm believer that growth and change were necessary to keep up with the world,
Be gentle with yourself; don't allow toxic thoughts to take over your mind and derail your progress,
Nourish your soul; self care is mandatory, not optional,
It's okay to have boundaries and standards just don't allow them to harden your spirit,
Make every day, minute, and second count; there are no guarantees in life so live each moment fully and with vigor.
Love wins all.