So, my daughter had lost something valuable to her. I couldn’t find it; I believe someone else took it. My heart was hurting because she was sad when I told her.
My black mommy instinct was to fuss, because that is what black parents do. We fuss to hide our frustration, our inability to make it better. We spend our angry impotence in “you should haves” and “I told yous.” Our children bear the weight of that disappointment and shame for the era of their lives subconsciously wondering if we were always right–if they ARE failures.
Cause that is what those words sound like.
In 2016, my PARENTING goal was to meet every child with more grace. We all make mistakes. It’s learning from them that counts.
Have I met that goal? I’d like to think that I have gotten better. That I have caught myself more often, and that I have intentionally tried softening blows rather than landing them firmly in the deep crevices of their disappointment. Loving my daughters meant loving on them, letting them grow up rather than trying to raise them all the time.
Now for some? That may seem like a weird thing to say. But many black daughters will know what I mean.
I understand that the intention is to ease the weight off of overly burdened moms trying to do the best they can; especially with single moms without participating dads, the road forward can be tough. And yet. We are guided with a strong hand toward handling things that little shoulders and minds aren’t meant to bear. From house cleaning to babysitting to cooking full meals for families we didn’t create but we’re born into to combing hair and taking care of clothes, little girls are raised to…gel? Serve? Be little women? Certainly not to play and explore and be free. We are taught to take on roles that are made for grown women folk, then admonished and outcasted for being “too grown” or “too fast” or “not staying in child’s place.” What place is that? Cuz that depends on what you’re expecting me to do in that moment, now doesn’t it?
I believe that my mom was “raised”— not that my grandma didn’t love her but because their life circumstances. My mom was raised to do certain things and be a certain way. She was the oldest daughter and shouldered lots of responsibility for other people’s behaviors and lack of “raising”, and with that: depression, anxiety, fear, and not being able to reach many of her personal goals became a real thing for her.
Now don’t get me wrong. Pretty sure my mama loves her life. She built the life she could enjoy. But it wasn’t the life she envisioned. By ANY means. Is it a consolation life? That’s a question for her to answer.
Here’s what I know. My mother did her very best to not raise me. She kind of let me be as much as possible. And no, she didn’t let me run wild and free like a wild monkey. There were rules, and my mother didn’t play bout them expectations. I’m sure, with some of the crazy decisions I’ve made, she wishes she had been more direct about certain things (sniggles a bit). But all in all, I think I’m okay. And so does she! The older she gets, the more relaxed our relationship becomes, and I truly appreciate her for all the ways she has allowed me to grow and be myself however hard the roads I chose.
I pray all the time that I am loosening the reigns even a bit more for my two girls. I pray they are able to see the light and allow their daughters to grow up even better than I have been able.