“My mom was a strong woman, which made me a strong woman.”
Marie Hollaway was in her early 20s when her life took a dramatic turn.
“I didn’t expect to or plan to be a single mom,” said Hollaway, now 58 years old.
Mom to two little boys — almost five years apart — Hollaway was suddenly alone back in the early 1980s. That is until her mother Shirley arrived to the row house in North Philadelphia with helping hands.
“There were times when we ate hot dogs and baked beans for a few days, because things didn’t go the way we wanted them to go,” Hollaway told Lianne Castelino during an interview for Where Parents Talk.
Video Interview with Marie Hollaway
Single Mother of two, Kyle Lowry and Lonnie Lowry Jr.
Click for video transcription
Welcome to Where Parents Talk. My name is Lianne Castelino. Our guest today is a mom of two and a grandmother of four. Marie Hollaway raised her two boys as a single mother. One of her sons is NBA all-star and Toronto Raptors point guard, Kyle Lowry. Marie Hollaway joins us from her home in Philadelphia. Marie, thank you so much for taking the time to join us today.
You’re welcome. Thanks for having me.
I wanted to go back a little bit into your history and ask you, when it was clear that you were going to become a single mother raising these two boys what would you say that your mindset shifted to at that moment?
Um, that I knew I needed to do what I had to do to make sure my kids would be okay. So I had a very strong mother who raised us pretty much by herself so I had to go role model.
In what specific ways would you say that you learned through your mother who was helping you raise your sons?
Well, my mother only had a temporary education. So I watched her raise us, buy a home, help raise some of the other grandchildren. So like I said, I had a really good role model as to how to get things done.
Can you give us a little sense into, you know, what your life was like, back then. And we’re talking, you know, a few years ago now, but you know, you were working several jobs, can you give us a glimpse into what that look like on a daily basis for you?
So I had well, when it was just me, Lonnie and my mom, I worked at Dunkin Donuts. And it was me or her. And we would — I would take Lonnie to daycare — no would I take Lonnie to daycare? We would pass off. Like, I would meet her. She worked in the morning, I worked at night. So I would either bring him with me, and we pass off or she will take him home she will watch. And you know, financially okay, you know, wasn’t too bad. And then, when I started working at the IRS, things got a little better financially. Kyle came along. Thank God for my mom, because I was working at night. Four to 1230. So no financially, things were you know, better. It was like, you know, we made it work. And then when I saw her, I’m sorry. Go ahead. Go ahead. I was gonna say then, when I started working at the post office, again, thank God for my mother, because I was working all kinds of hours, six at night to 2:30 in the morning, 8:30 at night, the five in the morning, 8:30 to seven 2:30 in the morning to a lab, like semi like I had all kinds of crazy hours, but we made it work.
When you look back on it now, what goes through your mind as to how you got through that period? Because we’re talking about the span of several years, right?
We got through it., Like my mom was, like I said. My mom was a strong woman, which made me a strong woman. No, a lot of mistakes were made in a way. I didn’t expect to or plan to be a single mom. But we did it. There were times when, you know, we had, you know we ate hot dogs and baked beans for a few days, because things didn’t go the way we want them to go. But you know, things got better in time. And it was our job to make sure the kids never knew that it was any type of struggle or anything was going on. So they had everything they needed, and most of what they wanted.
You know, I’ve read that you’ve said that you always wanted the best for your kids, despite all of the adversity that you overcame. What put that in your mind and what wanted what made you want to achieve that goal for your sons?
Well, I hope that’s what everybody wants for their kids. You know, um. I didn’t have a bad childhood at all. My dad, my mom broke up when I was seven, I think. But my dad was always in my life. And my mom had you know, I got someone that was like my stepdad he was pretty good. I just wanted you know, I just wanted better. And I was bused to school. I don’t know if you know what that means I was. So I went to school around predominantly white people, and most of them, both the parents were in the house. And, you know, you can see the neighborhood as we were riding through. And it was funny I was with, I think I was in a car and my granddaughter, and we were riding through that neighborhood. And it’s not what it was back when I went to school. And I was like, I remember thinking, Oh, I want to live up here. This is where I want to live. These houses are so nice. It’s so is green up here to have lawns and grass and stuff like that. So I knew that I wanted better for myself. So I knew I wanted better for my kids.
How would you go about describing your parenting style?
Oh, I’m very laid back. Very laid back. I try not to get…I’m a yeller. I’m a yeller. I rather yell than get physical. Hopefully, it works. My mother, on the other hand, was old school and she believed in you know, not to spare the rod or whatever. Maybe she never abused or anything like that. But, you know, they were, they were afraid of my mother. I don’t really know why. But she was kind of like a, like, not a big lady. But I just guess it was just the way she said things and the way she carried herself.
So the boys had a healthy fear of their grandmother.
Yes, they have healthy fear their mom too, because I think they thought my calm was scary. My mom was a little too calm. I wish she if she goes, she’s gonna snap. So but honestly, I think we’re honest. And we’re very good kids. I’m not I’m not even, like, frightened on that. They were very good children. They had good friends. They didn’t do a lot. Like they didn’t do a lot for us to really have to, you know, get physical in anything like that just boy stuff. not want to clean the rooms and things like that.
All very typical. Definitely. When you think back on it, what would you say that your mother, who, you know, while you were working with was the one helping to raise your boys? What values did she instill in them?
They love my mom. They love and I think she would bombard them with those old stories, you know about when I was a kid, and this, this and this and yada yada. She, I mean, they saw, they saw my mom, you know, she was a waitress. And they went to her job. And they saw how good she was and how people responded to her. And they knew her favorite she was an enable her how everybody loved her. And I just think them knowing her story, made them respect and love her more, because they know she only had a temporary education. And they know that she raised us working in a restaurant and know earning tips and things like that. So that carried on a watch me work, you know, two jobs and I wasn’t around as much as I would have liked to be because that crazy hours that I worked. So I believe that that is still something that no that was never lost.
We talked about how you always wanted the best for your boys. I’m wondering in terms of priorities, what were the top priorities in your mind as to what you wanted them to absolutely have?
To have that fire that y’all see Kyle has to want to go and get what they wanted. Not by any means necessary, but damn near you know. They both are great men. They both work super hard. Lonnie didn’t miss a day of school from I think his first day of middle school till he graduated. Kyle is pretty much like they work he never calls out. College the same way you guys see how hard he works, what he does, and you know that that go get it mentality is what I hope is what they took, you know most of.
Education as I understand it was also very important to you for your son’s.
Can you talk about that a little bit?
Well, I was bused to school and I think it made a huge difference in my life. They were bussed to school as well. So I feel like they had a better education. They have more of an idea of what I wanted for them and what their lives to be. And I mean, I hate to say it like, I mean, it is what it is. The neighborhoods where we predominantly grew up, the education wasn’t the same school district wasn’t the same, like it was really obvious. And I just stress to them. I never so tell them they got to bring me home all A’s and B’s, just do the best you can. That’s all I want you to do. If you if you work hard, and you just can’t get through. You just don’t have that 99 and you that’s fine. Just give it your best. That’s all I’ve ever wanted from them. I never was one to you know, get mad if they had a D on a report card, as long as it was only one. But I just wasn’t one of those all you got to bring A’s and B’s you got into this. No, I’m like you this is your life. And you have to want I can’t take the test for you. I can’t do the work for you. So if you need help, ask for help. Ask a teacher tell me you need help. We’re gonna do whatever we need to do. And both of them are as smart as whips, right. You know, they were good kids. Like I said, I mean, I got lucky. I really I was I got lucky.
I’m sure they feel the same way about you.
I hope so.
I wonder why was it important for you to introduce your boys to sports and at what age were they when you did that? And what sports were they?
Okay, so I was a tomboy. So I play sports and so I play sports. I played softball, I played volleyball, basketball, football. I played it all like I loved it. And I because I was a single parents. I wanted to make sure that they had sports in their lives. We were with this boy’s family like we all right sport, so they had little basketballs and footballs more or less than like their first Christmases. They had all that stuff. So from them their birth or their birth, um, I was pregnant with Lonnie. I’m still attending my high school basketball games. And I don’t know if anybody knows who Linda Page is. But I was pregnant with Lonnie sitting in a gym on the table when she scored 100 point game. So I was like, you little did you know you were part of history.
That’s a great story.
So what did you do recall what you first introduced them to? Or was it just like, anything? You could kind of get your hands on.
Wow, um, like I said, I probably a football. Whatever, like because they were loose. There wasn’t too much stuff in your head. But I was a softball player. And they were with me. plants like at my games, I’m headlining And may I season start our season has started when my six weeks was up, I was back on the field. I don’t know, feel me in a stroller. A couple of us MCA babies within like a couple months of each other. And they grew up on a softball field. So that was probably what they were introduced to first.
You know, it’s so interesting, because I think a lot of parents whose kids play sports at a young age and you watch them go up, you know, as they get older, and how they, you know, they might pick one or two sports but you you learn a lot about your child watching them participate. I wonder, do you recall what you learned about each of your boys in the sports they played?
Well, I always tell the story about Kyle with the baseball because he started that was his first sort of organized thing. It was like a Phillies I forgot what it was called Philly rookie league and they had a pitching machine or somebody would pitch. Kyle no matter where he hit the ball never stopped at first base. The ball will be in the first baseman’s glove and Kyle just keep going running by. It was just the funniest thing ever. So I knew then that he was just gonna be like tenacious, when it came to sports. Lonnie is a little more laid back, more a student of the games, but I knew Kyle was going to be that that one, that feisty one.
So it’s interesting. You know, we talked about your and how busy you were and you know, sports, but how did the boys learn from each other?
Lonnie is almost five years old than Kyle. And so he was, you know, he was more into sports and knew more about it. So he and his friends would take Kyle with them to play. So that’s how he learned. That’s how Kyle learned a lot by hanging with Lonnie and his friends. So, um, that’s, that’s how Kyle learned, like, like, I guess just picked up being around me and this baseball. And, you know, like I said, we’re a sports family. So we will watch basketball and football and all that. So, you know, I’m a big Eagles fan. Back then I was a big Sixers fan, my brother had season tickets to the Sixers. So we, you know, he would take couldn’t take a boat cruise on your two tickets. So he would take one and take the other. So they got to experience all of that. So I gotta say, we’re a sports family so that they end, I’m guessing whatever Lonnie learned he passed down the Kyle. And then video games became popular too. So they were playing basketball and stuff.
I know that I was a huge Dr. J fan growing up. So when you say Sixers, it brings back fond memories. Definitely.
Any advice for parents who might be you know, they might have a really super skilled athlete in the family, you know how you go about managing a high performance, elite level athlete as a parent?
Again, I have to give all kudos to his brother. Lonnie, he learned a lot about the ins and outs what was going on. So he was able to kind of steer, steer us in the right direction and steer power in the right direction. But I think what’s most important for parents period, is to be honest about what your your kid’s talent level is. Because you can have a kid that’s playing like in your neighborhood or your area, whatever. And they look like the next Michael Jordan. But once you take them outside of that area around kids that are just as talented or more talented, it’s kind of like oh, wow, like, Okay, oh, he’s not that good. But then you continue to think that they’re that good. And they push these kids, and they pressure these kids, because they see them as the next, you know, like LeBron James and things like that. So your kid has to want whatever it is that’s out there. You can’t want to for them, I think that’s the biggest thing, you have to allow them to find your own way, wherever they need you. You follow. They shouldn’t have to follow you. You should follow them. Whatever they’re telling you they need to do and see when it stops being fun, it might be time to say, okay, do you still want to do this. A lot of parents do try to live through their kids. You know what they didn’t do or didn’t get done, they try to get done to the kids. And I’ve seen it because we have an AAU new program. And you know, just going through it with Kyle and watching other things, you know, it’s just it’s hard in this in this day and time, especially. Everybody’s looking for the next big thing. And they may think is the kid but in reality, it may not be.
That’s excellent advice. And it’s interesting, especially because of social media, the world we live in today where it seems like everybody’s just constantly competing with everybody else and using you know, social channels. And to do part of that. But when you when you look back on it now, in your own example with both your sons, when did you like how did you manage that? Or did you just think, you know what, they’re talented, He’s talented, you know, we’ll just roll with it and then at what point you’re like, wow, this is this is serious.
Um, I didn’t like. People had been saying it to me like saying different things. I’ve been hearing it that was never that was never what I was in it for. I was in it for get just get your college paid for. That’s what I wanted, get your college paid for. And then once things started blowing up for him. It still was never Okay, well he’s a pro like it was never really that to me until I had the scout tell me when he was on to second year at Nova — like you know, you know your son is a pro and I was like really? Like it was never that for me. Am I thankful to the Lord above, yes indeed, where it was about the education for me, and that’s what I were hoping would be about. For everybody, like get your education paid for, if you can, that’s probably one of the best things you can give your parents, one of the best Thank you, you can give your parents whether it is athletically or academically, you know, I will prefer academically, honestly. But he was talented. And you know what I mean? It was just, you know, it was a blessing. He’s a blessing.
I’m wondering, what would you say to single mothers and single fathers out there who may really see themselves in some of what you’ve just described in your own story, in terms of giving them hope, and I know, especially during this pandemic, there are a lot of people really, really struggling, you know, if they’re by themselves, in particular, trying to raise their children. What could you say to them, that, you know, maybe helped you or even now looking back on it, that, you know, was really something important to you?
I don’t know. Because I mean, why everybody’s story is different. Everybody’s situation is different. So I can’t necessarily say, Well, this is what I did. And this is what you should do. You have to follow your heart, your mind. Sometimes your heart says one thing, but your brain tells you something else. But again, I really think you have to take your clues from your children. If you see that they love something, and want to pursue it, try to help them pursue it but let them lead you. Instead of you leading them. You shouldn’t have to go you know, we got to go to practice. You know, come on, we got to go to fight like they should be waiting. They should be waiting for you, at the door. Mom, it’s time to go. I think that’s probably the best advice. I think.
Finally, what would you say that you are most proud of with each of your sons?
Oh my god. It may sound corny, but it’s like everything. Like everything, I think them as fathers is probably what I’m most proud of, because they didn’t have anybody to show them how to be a father and they are amazing bags. When I say they’re amazing dads. They are. They are.
Marie Hollaway, thank you so much for sharing your time with us today.
Oh, you’re welcome. Thanks for having me again
“It was our job to make sure the kids never knew that it was any type of struggle or anything was going on,” referring to her sons Lonnie Jr. and Kyle.
With her own mother’s support, Hollaway remained laser-focused and determined. She kept setting goals, continued to aspire, strived while staring down adversity and worked to make it happen. For her, it was much more than about just surviving.”I knew that I wanted better for myself,” she says. “So I knew I wanted better for my kids.”
For Hollaway, that meant doing whatever was necessary. “When it was just me, Lonnie and my mom, I worked at Dunkin Donuts,” she says. So did Hollaway’s mother. “She worked in the morning, I worked at night. So I would either bring him with me, and we would pass off or she would take him home. And you know, financially it was okay. It wasn’t too bad. And then, when I started working at the I.R.S, things got a little better financially. They had everything they needed, and most of what they wanted,” she says.
“When Kyle came along, thank God for my mom, because I was working at night. Four to 12:30.”
It did not get easier in her next job at the post office. Hollaway became even more grateful for her mom’s presence to help raise two young boys.
“I had all kinds of crazy hours, but we made it work.”
POWER OF SPORT
A self-described “tomboy,” sport was always part of Marie Hollaway’s world. “I played volleyball, basketball, football. I played it all,” she says.
Exposing her young sons to sports was just natural. They attended her softball games early on. She fondly remembers her younger son’s strategy on the diamond.
“Kyle, no matter where he hit the ball, never stopped at first base,” Hollaway recalls with a laugh. “The ball would be in the first baseman’s glove and Kyle just keep going, running by. It was just the funniest thing ever! I knew then that he was just gonna be tenacious when it came to sports. Lonnie is a little more laid back, more a student of the games. But I knew Kyle was going to be that one, that feisty one,” she says.
Little did Hollaway know the early persistence and dogged determination on full display on that diamond would become hallmarks of her younger son’s future career.
She also didn’t fully understand the early and consistent influence her older son Lonnie had on his little brother Kyle — almost five years younger.
“He [Lonnie] and his friends would take Kyle with them to play,” continues Hollaway from her home in north Philadelphia. “So that’s how he learned. That’s how Kyle learned a lot by hanging with Lonnie and his friends.”
One of Hollaway’s key priorities as a parent from the start, was the education of her children. That goal never wavered.
“I was bused to school and I think it made a huge difference in my life,” she says. “They were bused to school as well. So I feel like they had a better education. They had more of an idea of what I wanted for them and their lives to be. And I mean, I hate to say it. It is what it is. The neighbourhoods where we predominantly grew up, the education wasn’t the same, the school district wasn’t the same. It was really obvious.”
In tandem with a focus on education, Hollaway’s love of sport continued to grow in each of her boys.
As they began playing organized sports, she continued to persevere through multiple jobs, long hours and fatigue — but rarely missed their games. Despite Kyle’s talent at basketball — in Hollaway’s mind — sports still only represented an important vehicle. “I was in it for them to get college paid for. That’s what I wanted, get your college paid for,” she says.
Everything changed she says during Kyle’s second year at Villanova University. “Things started blowing up for him,” she says. Scouts told her that her son had what it took to become a professional basketball player.
Kyle Lowry was drafted in the first round of the 2006 NBA draft, taken 24th overall by the Memphis Grizzlies. He was 20 years old.
In 2012, he changed teams, moved countries and suited up as the point guard of the Toronto Raptors.
Tenacity, work ethic, grit and heart — trademarks of Lowry’s every presence on the court — have produced six all-star appearances and one NBA Championship.
They are also values actively instilled by at least two generations of Hollaway women.
Shirley Hollaway passed away just days after the Raptors world title run in June of 2019. She was 82 years old.
MODELS AND MENTORS
“They saw my mom,” Hollaway reflects. “She was a waitress. And they went to her job. And they saw how good she was and how people responded to her. And I just think them knowing her story made them respect and love her more, because they knew she only had a temporary education. And they knew that she raised us working in a restaurant and earning tips and things like that. So that carried on.”
Marie Hollaway could not be more proud of where her family came from and how they got to where they are.
Some of her pride, joy and passion comes through when she live tweets during Raptors games via @blessedmom07!
“To have that fire that you all see Kyle has — to want to go and get what they wanted — not by any means necessary, but damn near,” she says. “They both are great men. They both work super hard.”
History happily repeats itself.
During her interview with Where Parents Talk, Marie Hollaway also discusses:
- Her parenting style
- Tips for managing children who play sports
- Strategies to navigate the journey of an elite level athlete
- The perils for parents who live through their children
- Her most proud achievement as a parent
Looking for other parenting resources? For parents always on the go, our parenting podcasts are the perfect solution. Listen to it in the car, at the soccer game, whenever you have time. If you have a little more time on your hands (lucky you!), you’ll also find some great parenting articles in our Perspectives section.