With truly mixed feelings, you awaited the day.
On one hand, you couldn’t wait to see your child take his first steps. It was you, after all, who helped him practice by holding his little fingers as he tippy-toed between your knees.
On the other hand, you knew that as soon as he took those first steps, nothing would be safe any more, including him. Not only could he reach for breakable things, but he could also reach for the stars.
Before your child got that far, though, you had to give him confidence that he could do it. In the new book “Walk Like You Have Somewhere to Go” by Lucille O’Neal (with Allison Samuels), Shaq’s mom tells about what it took to go “from mental welfare to mental wealth.”
When Lucille O’Neal was two years old, her parents divorced and her father fled his Georgia home with his children and parents in tow. Possibly overwhelmed, O’Neal’s father ceded custody of his children to his elders who, O’Neal says, were stoic descendants of slaves. They thought a house and clothing was love enough, and that nothing else needed to be said.
Perhaps because she heard too many negative comments and very little positive, O’Neal experienced what she calls “mental welfare,” which she describes as a total lack of self-esteem. That lack may have caused her to search for a “father figure” in the older men she dated, one of whom was the father of her firstborn son.
By the time Shaquille was born, O’Neal had re-bonded with her mother, who was absent in O’Neal’s early childhood. Later, after he became a high school, then college, then NBA star, her mother helped raise the three other children born to O’Neal and the man she married.
O’Neal says that her husband was a good man, but he sometimes surprised her with his forcefulness. His word was law in their household, and O’Neal didn’t like it. As her children grew and moved on, O’Neal had time to make sister-friends and to acquire her own voice. She found God again, and a church that supported her as a person, not as the mother of a celebrity. She discovered her own worth, filed for divorce, and now walks with her head held high. This book will make you smile, and empower you to find strength, and faith in yourself and a higher power.
If you love to watch Shaq play ball, you’ll enjoy knowing where his tenacity came from but you don’t have to be a fan to enjoy this book.
(“Walk Like You Have Somewhere to Go” by Lucille O’Neal, c.2010, Thomas Nelson, $22.99/$28.99 Canada, 256 pages.)