As an African-American mother raising children under an uncertain presidency—and an even more uncertain future—fear and doubt often overcome me. Sometimes I am indecisive on how to teach my children about the ills of the world: Do I hit them with the honest, no-holds barred truth? Or do I ease them gently into painful realities? Honestly, I believe we can move forward as parents by doing a little bit of both. We can educate our children on the multitude of issues they’ll have to face in life with patience, dedication and humor.
Black mothers are no stranger to adversity; we deal with stereotypes galore and are more than aware of the double-edged sword that exists in our communities—the stigma of being black and gay, black and male, black and female, black and mentally disabled, black and old, black and republican, black and breathing.
One afternoon my daughter came home and said she and her white friend had permanently stopped speaking. I asked why. Her response was, “Because her mother found out I was black and doesn’t like black people.” My heart sunk, but with as much grace and love as I could muster replied, “That’s a shame her mother can’t see how great you are. Some people in the world are ignorant, and we have to excuse them.” My words placed a temporary band-aid over a topic I am sure I’ll have to revisit in the future. As a Black woman, I am constantly fighting against the duality of how I perceive myself, versus how society perceives me—a battle I will have to teach my daughter to fight with all of her might.
And it certainly isn’t just our daughters; many Black mothers have lost sons to either street violence, drug addiction or police brutality. With a President who leaves much of the country divided, we are unsure of exactly how his promises to end inner-city violence will turn out. All we can do is keep hope within ourselves, and spread hope to our children—in spite of what society looks like.
Moving forward, Black mothers, and all mothers, who feel the weight of the world on their shoulders—who feel that the world is delivering just too much adversity their way—should look to support systems and remember that there is no shame in accepting help and that any news media that aims to make us feel as if our children are a lost cause is not worth our time, attention or click. Yes, there is a lot going on in the world and we wish we could shield our children from the pain—we want them to feel proud to be in their skin, and that they will be judged for who they are on the inside—and the best way we can accomplish this is by enforcing a positive belief system in them by practicing patience and delivering advice with humor.
As for me and my family, moving forward during these uncertain times means openly talking about issues that my children bring to me in this age of political-incorrectness: sex, drugs, gender equality and race, are among the ills of the world and there are many more I’ll have to explain. But with Donald Trump as President, there’s a clear divide in this country. It’s up to us as mothers, all of us mothers, to speak to our children directly and honestly. Use pictures and diagrams (as I do, trust me, it can really get the kids involved), use their favorite television shows, whatever it takes to introduce them to society’s harsh realities while reinforcing the moral compass you have given them as a way to navigate it, and hopefully someday change it.
Stay strong Moms. You are resilient. You are powerful, and you can have those difficult conversations with your children without losing yourself in the process. It’s all in the timing and your delivery, but mostly, it’s all in the level of love in your heart.