By Helena Rodriguez: PNT Columnist
Thanksgiving isn’t over until you’ve made the green chile turkey enchiladas with the leftovers the day after. We haven’t eaten the last of Dad’s delicious pumpkin pie either, so technically it’s still Thanksgiving.
My friend, Bernard Polaco, says every day is Thanksgiving, so I can, in fact, write this column of thanks any time of the year. However, this particular time of year does have special meaning to me and always gives me extra reason to give thanks.
It was during Thanksgiving of 2002 that I moved my daughter, Laura, back to Portales from Abilene, Texas. I quit my newspaper job in December of that year and returned, too, without a job or savings, but with faith in God that it was the right choice. We’ve been back in Portales four years now.
I was an arts and entertainment reporter and columnist in Abilene. Professionally, it was the most rewarding job I’ve had. Abilene was filled with avid newspaper readers who would stop me at the mall. My columns were also being promoted during the local KTXS TV newscast. I also had friends and a great church home. But Laura needed me.
She was in middle school and started getting into trouble and flunking classes. I was spending more time at work; she was spending more time with the wrong kids. I decided it was time to come home and work on the master’s degree I always wanted.
Four Thanksgivings later, as I look back, I know it was the right choice. Laura is growing into a responsible young lady. She’s making good grades, has strong morals and plans to go to college, perhaps even pharmacy school. As for me, I graduate with my master’s degree in December. I hope to eventually earn a doctoral degree. Although I have taken out a lot of school loans, I shudder to think of the bigger price I would have paid had I not come back at the right time.
I wasn’t thankful at the time, but with patience, and by trying to put God first and then my child, thankfulness came later. As my friend Yolanda told me, no one ever says with regret, “I shouldn’t have spent so much time with my children” or “I should not have quit my job because of my kids.” But how many times do we hear parents regretfully state, “I should have spent more time with my children” or “I should have seen this coming, but I was so caught up in my own problems at work?”
Parenting is about sacrifice. Even now, as I graduate from Eastern New Mexico University in a few weeks, I am itching all over to leave the shore again (or should I say sand dunes), in search of the perfect job. But a voice inside is telling me to stay here at least one more year, until Laura graduates from high school. It would be wrong to move her again. I’ve already moved her twice before and she is doing good and has a part-time job.
There will be time later to do what I want. Just one more year, I keep telling myself. I also have writing projects on hold until Laura flies from the nest. In the meantime, I’m going to take English classes in the spring and apply to nearby Ph.D. programs, one of which is online, the other close enough to commute.
In wishing you happy holidays — the Thanksgiving turkey’s almost gone now, so I guess it’s Christmas — be thankful for wherever you are in life. You may not have the best job or best pay, but if your children are spiritually healthy and happy, then you’re where God wants you. If your children are not spiritually fit, do whatever it takes … even if it means making drastic changes and facing an uncertain economic future. Your children are your future. We get second chances at many things in life, but not when it comes to raising our kids.
Helena Rodriguez is a columnist for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. She can be reached at: