In this, my 6th year of motherhood, I am celebrating my power to radically design a life for my child that does not conform to anyone else’s standards or conventions. I am crafting a life that resists the call to pass on legacies of unexamined dysfunction and empty rituals embedded in played-out cultural traditions shaped and sullied by the whims of industry, technology, politics and religion. Shrugged off and unquestioned… because, well, it’s always been done that way.
Long before I imagined myself a parent, I stood in line at a roti shop on Washington Avenue in Brooklyn and chewed on the island wisdom I overheard from an elder:
Yuh doh raise chil’run. Yuh raise cattle and corn. Yuh teach chil’run an lead ’em…
I recall nothing else about that moment — what sparked his statement, who he was speaking to (if anyone at all…because in my experience with my West Indian fam, elders have no problem schoolin whomever’s in earshot), or if anyone had a response. I just know that it utterly surprised me when I would have easily expected the more archaic “spare-the-rod-spoil-the-child” mindset from a man of his generation!
He planted a beautiful seed that summer day in 2002; an heirloom aspiration that germinated for years until it sprouted and blossomed with the birth of nieces, nephews and my own son.
Honor their humanity. Give them the freedom to experience childhood in all its soft, fluffy, bright, silly, sweet and tender possibilities. Grant them vocal range — to be powerful, convicted, loud, quiet, bashful, brazen, kind, incomprehensible.
Gift them the capacity to see clearly, to call you out on your mistakes, to remind you to apologize, to offer you grace and forgiveness.
Resist the urge to fight, win, or dominate. Be stretched by the challenges they’ll throw down. Be touched by their magic to transform you. Grow up alongside them. Teach with compassion as you learn, unlearn, relearn. Learn as you teach, allowing love and respect to prevail.
That long-ago memory was conjured up by this powerful piece from Alexis Pauline Gumbs, which speaks my heart and truth:
“Mamas who unlearned domination by refusing to dominate their children.
Extended family and friends. Community care givers. Radical childcare collectives.
All of us, breaking cycles of abuse, by deciding what we want to replicate from the past, and what we urgently need to transform.
We are “M-othering”, mothering ourselves.”