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Eyes On The Prize
By Cree Buffalo, UTTC Early Childhood Education Student
29 January 2009

When you are in doubt, be still and wait; when doubt no longer exists for you, then go forward
with courage. Ponca Chief White Eagle

      I was forced to grow up fast. I had to care for myself because my mother was a single parent working two jobs for us to survive reservation life. The Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota, with a poverty rate of over 82%, is among the poorest counties in the U.S. With my mom at work most of the time, I had the advantage of breaking the rules and getting into mischief—I was pregnant with my son Nayln by the time I was 17. I was terrified and mad at myself. I did not tell my mother I was pregnant until I was five-and-a-half months along. I thought to myself, and was frequently reminded by her, that I had ruined my life. Neither of us knew what to do and for awhile we could only see two heartbreaking solutions: adoption or abortion. I had always planned to better myself by moving off the reservation and going to college and playing basketball and opening up my own business. Then the dreams were gone when I discovered I was pregnant with my baby boy. My mother and I never thought I’d end up pregnant as a high school student.


Cree Buffalo and her son Nayln at United Tribes Technical College

      I never wanted to be labeled as a “young, single, mother who didn’t graduate high school,” --or as some elders on Cheyenne River put it, “Kids having Kids.” There are a lot of teenaged moms there, as young as 14 years old. These girls drop out and do nothing because there isn’t enough employment. They live with their parents and struggle to support their own child. Many take up lives as if they don’t have kids; they don’t own up to the responsibility of tending to their own child.

      Pregnancy is supposed to be a joyous stage in a woman’s life, but I felt degraded and stupid. I knew I was unprepared for taking care of someone, let alone a new-born baby boy. I knew so little of what to expect and what to provide. I had very little knowledge to pass on to this precious child.

      On December 28, 2006 at eight-thirty-five p.m., I gave birth to my handsome, precious baby boy Nayln Daeyson Quade Joaquin. I immediately realized he was the light of my life. I regretted my earlier ruthless thoughts. Holding this precious, yet helpless, human being in my arms took my breath away. As I looked into those big round eyes, I knew he was sent from above to guide me in the right direction. My mom instantly had a change of heart about this innocent child as well. She realized he was an angel sent from Heaven.

      Throughout my pregnancy, my baby’s father was not around—not even at the birth. He met Nayln two weeks later. Being a father did not change his ways; he was immature and went about his life as if he had no child. For the first four months of my son’s life, his father was not around even though we lived together. My friend Brittany helped me more than Nayln’s father! Susie, Nayln’s paternal grandmother tried to make him start acting like a father, but I already knew how life was going to be based on those first four months. We were going to be alone. When the father wanted to be there, I let him because I had grown up without a dad, and it bothered me. I occasionally resented my mother for leaving my father. I guess I didn’t want my son to feel the same way toward me for not giving his father a chance. After I did give my all, and so many chances, I realized that I was being something I wasn’t, and I was disgusted with myself because I wasn’t happy. I was living in a mirage.

      I noticed my mom’s bonding moments with my son. I realized how she had the means to give him everything. It made me think, “I want to be able to give my son things as well.” So I decided to go to college. With the support of my loving mother, I decided to come here—United Tribes Technical College—to start a real and successful life for me and my child. Having Nayln here at college motivates me to be the best student and parent. I wanted to learn all I could about raising my son, so I took up Early Childhood Education. Now I can learn as he grows. My baby’s father helped me my first year of college and then, in January 2008, his mother passed away from cancer. He inherited a lot of money and decided he did not need Nayln or me in his life. When school resumed in August 2008, I returned as a single parent and full-time student. Both Nayln and I have had to struggle to get used to the many challenges we have encountered since coming back to campus. But I try to use the situation between my baby’s daddy and me as motivation to finish what I started.

      As I write this, there are two weeks remaining in the fall semester. My previous 4.0 is now a 3.8, but I’m not giving up. Even though the semester was a challenge because of my personal life, I am not willing to let it destroy my educational and life goals. My mission is not to wallow in my own pity, but to do everything in my power to succeed in building a foundation for my son and to be a role model for him. I want to give him everything! I know how it feels to want and I will do my very best to meet his needs. I want my son to realize that nothing in life is impossible if you keep your eyes on the prize. When I feel like quitting, I look at my prize—Nayln—and I know for certain that I will accomplish my dream.

Cree Buffalo’s essay has been selected to be published in Women’s Perspectives- ABE Student Writing Journal, Issue 4, 2009; WE LEARN Network, www.litwomen.org.

 

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