flying squirrels and little drummer boys: why i salute natalie hawkins

my son plays the drums. he’s 5 years old but he’s been playing a backbeat since he was 2. at 20 months he assembled a makeshift set of pots pans steel lids buckets popcorn and coffee cans together to create a set and drum to michael jackson singing ‘you can’t win’ from the wiz.

family members and fellow parishioners alike convinced me he had raw talent (not nervous energy) that needed to be nurtured…now. not wanting to seem an insensitive mother i accepted a donated drumset for his 3rd christmas. i do not believe there was a more happier little boy anywhere on planet earth the day he came home and saw that drum set by the fireplace.

1st Drum Set Ever
1st Drum Set Ever

when i listen to my son play i hear and feel something at work that is soul deep and metabolically engrained. he creates rhythms that are complex in their simplicity. he can catch the down beat on any song from lenny kravitz to sugarland to the roots to cello suite no. 1. he moves through the world in time. its amazing really to watch but no matter how fast or slow he is moving or jumping or running or skipping or hopping there is a distinct rhythm to his gyrations. a fixed pattern in the activity that quite simply is a danceable beat. the music that he makes, it is a part of him. in every fiber of him lies a beat that aligns with his heart that he drives into his day and moves him from point a to place c. as his mother its my duty to honor that…to nurture him and help him cultivate his gift.

it is for these reasons that i get where natalie hawkins is coming from and understand the sacrifices she made for her ‘flying squirrel.’ i was disappointed in the huffington post and the 1,500 people who ‘liked’ the report on her filing bankruptcy on facebook. especially when it all happened in the midst of her daughter, gabby douglas, competing for the usa in the 2012 olympics. it’s embarrassing to me that this private financial matter and its ugly sister (the hair scandal) nearly overshadowed ms. hawkins’ daughter’s history making moment. ms. hawkins has 4 children. they all have had to eat and be clothed and housed and transported from one place to another for one reason or another. gabby, her gymnastic all star, has had to be trained and outfitted and shuttled from competition to competition to competition. in the midst of these everyday things required of parents everywhere, ms. hawkins also had to guide instruct and impart morals and values to her children all while doing the best she could to listen to their hopes and dreams then help them actualize the dreams and hopes they verbalized. these things and more she has done primarily without a partner or helpmate. single parenthood is not an olympic sport. there are no gold medals for making decisions without a sounding board. swan diving into a risk for the sake of the big picture does not win over judges but will instead see you judged.

her daughter makes history. a moment that will last much longer than than the twitter posts about hair gel and deadbeat dads, but instead of being allowed this moment to marvel at her child’s accomplishments and continue to hold her up for the next step, ms. hawkins finds herself protecting gabby from slurs about her hair while fielding questions about the nature of her finances. its ridiculous. so i’m coming out and saying in this small but public forum…you, ms. natalie hawkins are amazing.

Natalie Hawkins and her daughter Gabby

i am in awe at the sheer improbability of the girl from Virginia who raised an olympian. as a single mother i can imagine the sacrifices that were made, and the prayers that were said. in my heart i can feel how deep she had to reach into her faith to send her 14 year old daughter away to live with another mother in order to realize a dream that was so big it could not be contained. i am simply in awe of natalie hawkins. she inspires me along with all the other parents who believed and sacrificed and cheered and cried and protected and defended and championed but most of all nurtured their children and the gifts inside them.

it’s amazing where our children will lead us if we are brave enough to follow.

"I've been meditating on scriptures sayin...
“I’ve been meditating on scriptures saying be confident in this. And, you know, the bible really helps me so I was very confident.” -Gabby Douglas, photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images (Photo credit: On Being)

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