Posts Tagged ‘fatherless children’

25
Nov

Parenting Black

parenting blackFrom the time that they were babies, I taught my children to be respectful of everyone, to hold their heads high, and to fear no one.

I was wrong.

Raising young black men, I haven’t had the parental luxury of painting a world that would open doors for them – if only they worked hard and treated everyone with respect. I’ve always known that I would need to prepare my boys for a world that would judge them often before even meeting them. However, I guess I always naively hoped that one day their world would be different from the one that I grew up in. I hoped that they would be judged on their merits alone, with no consideration to the color of their skin.

I was wrong.

To be honest, I’ve known that race would play a part in my parenting since before they were born. I had to reflect on race when naming them. Aware of studies reported in journals such as The American Economic Review and The Journal of Labor Economics that have shown racial disparity in hiring based on the names of candidates – not just the colleges they attended or their experience – I carefully crafted my children’s names, hoping to knock down at least one hurdle they’d have to face in life.

I taught them to be respectful of everything and everyone – parents, elders, peers, teachers, authority figures, property, animals.  Everything. When growing up in a country that places a higher value on an animal and or a piece of property over that of a child (namely one that looks like mine), we can’t afford to miss the tiny details.

I taught them to hold their heads high and to look someone in the eye when being addressed. Not just because it will show confidence, intelligence, and engagement but serves to dispel any misguided perception that they are insecure, stupid, or lazy.

I taught them to fear no-one and no-thing because God didn’t create a sense of fear in us. But, mama didn’t raise no fools. I explained that should they ever find themselves in a dangerous situation, their best bet would be to run.

I was wrong.

My children were born into a world in which a target was placed on their backs upon birth, and no matter what I teach them or how I parent, that clearly will not change. The only thing I can do is to pray for coverage over them and continue to reinforce that they should continue to…

Be respectful BUT understand that not everyone else will respect you.

Hold your head high BUT not too high should someone perceive that as being threatening.

Fear no one BUT be sure to keep your hands visible at all times.  

After all, you are a young Black man.

21
Nov

Carrot Parenting

carrotMost times I feel I’ve done a relatively good job parenting, but then comes those moments of self-doubt when I question where I could have gone wrong and what I could have done differently. I mean, my children are always polite, well-mannered, respectful…and if I dangle the right carrot, they can add honor roll student to their credentials. But, it’s that last point that continues to nag me. If I dangle the right carrot.

Why should I have to dangle anything to get you to strive towards excellence? What ever happened to having a little bit of self-motivation and initiative?

Listen, I get that they are children, but I don’t recall my mother having to incentivize me or my siblings to take a bath, clean our rooms, or get good grades in school. (Now, don’t get me wrong, we all understood that failing to do so could possibly result in a beat down, but that is beside the point. That’s just how it was back in the day.) There were EXPECTATIONS, and whether those expectations were communicated out-loud or burned into our psyche from our mother’s occasional glare, we understood what our role was and what we needed to do. And, there were no damn carrots!

So, why do I find myself having to dangle some sort of reward in front of my children to get them to do the most basic things for themselves?

If you shower before noon then…

If you do your homework then…

If you clean your room then…

Behind each of those pleas (because it is truly a plea for my sanity), I find myself offering either a simple attaboy or something more tangible just to get them to do. And, it is driving me insane.

I feel like I’m a broken record that can’t skip past the scratch on the CD (or the LP for you old heads), and I’m saying the same thing over, and over, and over again. And, quite frankly, I’m tired of listening to myself.

Like many parents, I find myself stuck in this groove where I can’t move forward because I think that deep down, I’m afraid that if I stop, I will discover that my children might actually be okay with body odor, dirty rooms, and average or below-average grades. However, if I’m being honest, I’ll admit that I believe that my children’s failures are a direct reflection of my parenting (with the occasional exception). So, I continue to dangle a carrot, a dollar bill, a threat of punishment, anything to get them to do whatever it is that needs to be done.

Yet for the sake of my own sanity, I feel like I need to cut the umbilical cord on this foolishness and pray that they’ll find a nugget of self-initiative to do what they need to do for themselves. But, in case that doesn’t happen, I might need to look into booking an extended stay at the local psychiatric hospital.

 

22
Aug

Daddy’s girl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I wish my father could just let go and forgive himself. I see him still trying to make up for time lost that can never be regained. If only he could see that I love him for who he is today and that I forgive him for the mistakes he made years ago. I’m way past crying over bumps and bruises never kissed or special days that he missed. I love him for the father he is today. No matter what story the past holds, I love my father and will always be my daddy’s girl.

10
Jun

Mothers are not Fathers

I recall periods of my childhood when I would call out for my father only to hear my cries echo back unanswered from my bedroom walls. My parents divorced when I was very young, and my father went on to live his life far away from the young, needy arms that reached for him. I would cry and often ask my mother where he was and why he didn’t love me enough to call or come see me. My mother would just console me, assure me with her love, and tell me that everything would be alright.

My father’s absence in my young life could have left deep emotional wounds within me, but I was fortunate to have the love of a strong mother who instilled in me a deep sense of self-worth that kept me from seeking love in the wrong places. My mother did what countless women day after day do for their children when the fathers have gone missing in action. She mothered and fathered me through childhood.

But, this role was never one that should have been played by one person. No mother should ever have to play the father stunt-double. We simply are not genetically wired to be fathers.

As a mother of two boys (from my first marriage), I find that more often than not I have to wear the mommy & daddy trousers as well. I have to love, nurture, and care for my boys while instilling in them a sense of manhood – as best as I can define it. And, to be honest, this scares and angers me all at once. I am afraid that I will likely miss teaching them some key element that they’ll need to become responsible young men one day; while on the flipside, I am angry that I should even have to worry about this. So, every day I pray that I get it right and rely heavily on my husband (their stepdad) to do what I am merely not equipped to do.

Fortunately for me, I was able to establish a loving relationship with my father at age 19, but sometimes I can’t help but wonder how many speed bumps in life could have been avoided if he would have been around earlier to guide my steps…and how much of that I would be able to pass on to my children now.