Mom of Boys
I love my sons. I think they’re handsome, kind, worthy, loveable, outspoken, gracious, and, most importantly, filled with promise. Our home is filled with joy, harmony, thoughtfulness, and a mom who will protect them.
But as an adult and person who has experienced the world through mature eyes, I have internal struggles no one sees. When they leave my home, the world does not see them or care for them as I do. What do I do when the world starts to break their spirit? When a person accuses them of something just because of the way they look. When an older woman walks past them and clutches her purse. When they walk into a store and security gives them a "look" when my youngest son tells his teacher he wants to be a "paleontologist," and she tells him that may be out of reach? How do I prepare young men for a world that does not love them back and never will? How do I protect that spirit, encourage self-love, respect, and honor when they won't receive it in the world? How do I tell them to turn the other cheek, but they are tired? How do I not be angry, pissed, fed up? How can I scream when I won't be heard?
How do I prepare my black sons, for a world that does not love them? And a world that sees them as dangerous and a threat before they are even born? How do I?
Admittedly, I may be jaded. I grew up in a city with less than 20% of blacks in northwest Ohio. I went to a predominantly white Catholic high school where we went to class together but sat at different lunch tables. I recall when the OJ Simpson verdict was given, the entre lunchroom started to roar with black students rejoicing and white students very upset. I knew the world was a bit racist and unfair, but it was very covert in Ohio. Situations occurred, such as being asked if I had ADHD when I talked too much in class, my childhood best friend making jokes about my hair and my love for the Fresh Prince, because we “all” were the same. Neighbors children were circling me on their bikes, calling me names, and throwing sand in my har. I asked my mom why they did it, and she couldn't give me an answer she just washed my hair and sent me back out to play.
When I moved to Alabama, it was a bit of a culture shock. I moved from my white world to a mostly black one. Everything was different, the people you see in the streets, the number of educated blacks, blacks in leadership positions, and living in beautiful huge homes. I was in a world where I was accepted and didn't feel the harshness or worry, I once had. I didn’t think I was the angry black woman, but internally maybe I was. A woman who dealt with the harshness of the world internally building up as resentment. I worry I’ll subject my kids to my fears, hidden biases, and anguish. I feared I would diminish the light they had. My concern is though my worry, I will create these boys who are overprepared, question authority, and think every white person they encounter was the enemy. I would toggle between teaching them peace and love, to fear and anxiety. Being a parent is the biggest most important job you can do. Daily I question, am I doing it right?
After I sort through all of these emotions of worry, fear, and anguish, I find a possible solution. I prepare my sons by talking to them and asking about their day. Asking what they want to be when they get older. Did they do something nice for someone? What was the best part of their day? What was their worse? I ask them what their friends' names are? Favorite movie? And can they locate Madagascar on the map? I also ask questions such as do they know how to act when a police officer approaches them and ensure they understand all whites aren't racist. I educate them on different countries, and I scold them when they don't say yes, ma'am, or open the door for a woman. I pray with them at night and ensure I tell them I love them at the end of the day. I do all these things to try to prepare them for the world and assure them even though the world is scary, and it is nothing to fear.
Often when we are out, I watch them and how they interact with theirs, I know they are still filled with wonder and believe most people are good. I am careful not to tarnish their perception of others because the world needs people with unbiased eyes. They laugh and giggle, smile to patrons passing by, and play basketball with all kids in the YMCA pool. They talk to the boy playing by himself talking about subjects such as who's the best athlete and the best character on Fortnite. As a parent, I hover close enough to hear, but far enough to observe their behavior and the ones around them. Some people walk more intimate; I believe in ensuring my children are not a threat; others smile and ask about their dyed blond mohawks. I sit back quietly, almost like a cheetah, watching for any harm to pounce when necessary, but allowing them to navigate the world independently.
With all these thoughts running in my head, one thing stays true. I will pray for guidance. If I feel there is a problem in the world, I need to be a catalyst for change and allow my sons to BE the change. Treat people the way you want to be treated, respect others, be kind, gentle, and educate those who don’t know you. Always leave people better than you met them. Always embody integrity, help others, and love those who hate. I hope and believe if I teach these things while praying, they can be a small piece of a change that can become a butterfly ripple effect for the world.