I've been thinking a lot about equity in education and the ways we discuss empowerment. On one end, giving space for historically ignored groups (people of color, people with disabilities, gender non-conforming people, etc.) to speak to their experience, is important. Providing disenfranchised people with skills to empower themselves, is critical. Encouraging disenfranchised people to report on inequity, systematic disenfranchisement, microaggressions, or hate-crimes, holds everyone accountable. All of these work toward creating an equitable and just future, but it's not enough. It’s not enough to “give up space”, “provide skills” or “encourage feedback” because it implies there is an owner benevolently bestowing kindness to a less fortunate other. It implies that the hard work required, is placed on the disenfranchised person or group. It implies hierarchy. It strips others of their humanity. They deserve to take up space and do not require anyone's permission to exist.
For the last three months my middle schooler has come home with wild stories about individuals at her school, mostly boys- white and NBPOCs (non black people of color), wanting to touch her hair, touching her hair without permission, or calling her names. It’s been frustrating and out of respect for my child I had refrained from writing about it. But it had finally come to a frustrating pass when she felt that self advocacy was no longer successful that I intervened.
Raising a black girl to love herself is still hard work in this early part of the 21st century. Continued messages of you are beautiful and you deserve to exist “as is” and unaltered are messages on repeat in our home. I know for a fact that though I experienced my own teasing as a child, it was my rebellious nature, my own devil could care attitude, and the understanding of the power of my blackness from a very small age, that shielded me from self esteem issues. I would say that some of the same is true for my daughter.
It’s so fitting that I’m writing this a day late for the Day of Kindness. Though I pride myself in celebrating and elevating this behavior every day possible, my timing is either laughable or maybe abstractly right on time...
My youngest and I were sitting on our sofa. She finished preparing for school and so as part of her morning routine, she was able to play Minecraft. As she waited for the game to load she turns to me and says, “Mom ‘be kind.’ Hmmm kiiind...” she let the word “kind” ruminate for a bit and then asked, “Mom shouldn’t ‘kind’ be pronounced with a short ‘i’, kind (ken-d)?”.
I thought about it for a second. “Yes. But what is Das Kind?”.
She is currently taking German on Duolingo and she responds excitedly, “The child!”.
”Exactly. Think about it. What is a child like?”
She named a variety of adjectives none of which were completely profound and so I interjected...
”A child is new to this place, so they’re always exploring. They’re open to new ideas and new experiences, unlike adults who’ve learned the things they think they like and then routinely stick to them. Children are vulnerable and often emotionally transparent. They engage in innocence and adventure and boldness. When I think of ‘be kind’ I think of being child like, not child-ish, but living in a way that is vulnerable to the possibility of learning someone or something new”.
She agreed with me. But said, “I thought kindness was being nice.”
She isn’t wrong in her assumption...
I think a lot of people believe this, that kindness is synonymous with niceness and pleasantries. But in my mind, kindness is actually vulnerability and empathy. It’s the ability, or the attempt, to connect with other living things and that feels nice. It feels nice when someone is kind to us and therefore we attach that feeling to the word kind. But kindness is an action. You must do something in order to be kind.
I challenge people to be kind every day, not just on World Kindness Day. Embody the characteristics that make others around you feel nice. Do acts that make others feel nice. Say the words that make others feel nice. This means you’re going to need to be vulnerable and empathetic. You’re going to need to tap into the boldness of your inner child.
As my daughters grow older the inevitability of their sexuality being a more dominant factor of who they are and how they’re treated in the world is looming. And though their father and I have done our best to secure them with science and elevate their humanity through open dialogue that is free of shame or ridicule, I can’t help but wonder if what we’ve built as a sword and shield is enough to offset the impact of any peer or predator that decides to attack my daughters’ thoughts, rights, and freedoms.
As a former P.E and Health teacher, I think a lot about gender and sexuality as I’m raising cis-born girls. Am I doing my best to empower them to be open to the continued learning of themselves as a physical and spiritual being? Am I doing all that I can to refuse any definition of feminism and femininity that is toxic and counterproductive? Am I open to answering every question they have as scientifically, factually, and without fairytale as much as possible? Am I giving them the space for privacy so they can learn to create boundaries for themselves?
But what about dads? What responsibility do fathers have to holding themselves to these same principles I laid out above for myself? What role does a father have in cultivating their daughter’s confidence so that she may stand confidently against archaic attacks to her sexuality?
But then what if those archaic attacks and ideas originate in your own home?
My husband and I looked on as a YouTuber live-streams a session in his home studio. The session included the YouTuber alone playing various pop culture jams with his own spin using very expensive music production equipment and software. As he played he accepted requests in real time from his fans and onlookers in the comments, many of which attempted to stump him with their request. When he was stumped he turned to Spotify for assistance.
One user chats out “Star Spangled Banner”. The YouTuber pauses for a bit. His eyes glance upward as he searches for the key and melody of the national anthem...
The most important life lesson we often never learn is how to manage our emotions when disappointment comes....
My children pack their lunches in the morning. I see this as a great exercise in personal accountability and general “learning how to care for yourself”. Plus, being able to feed yourself is a skill. This morning my daughter proceeded to pack her lunch but hit a snare when she learned that there was no peanut butter...
I’m writing this free hand... not going to write this in Google Docs and let auto correct help me and then copy-paste into the site. I’m writing this thing, as is.
I’m not sure who else feels like this right now but I’ve been running myself ragged since I started this blog. I mean being a superhero and a magical multitasking queen while balancing the challenges of black motherhood and geez motherhood in general, I’m tired. But I’m not defeated. My cape has hella holes. But it still flows. It still flies. It’s raggedy and torn and worn from all of the fighting evil and combatting the winds of change and traversing the forests of tribulation... but it still flows. It still flies.
I must say that I’m impressed that we’ve made it to middle school and we are nearing the end of the elementary years for the others. The mothering challenges have evolved. Not easier. Not more difficult... just evolved. And the evolution of my motherhood has not come without hiccups. I’ve had my share of embarrassing moments. I’ve had many, many fails and yet I still feel like I’m winning. I still can see the horizon and I can still enjoy each and every very stressful day with my family.
My cape has hella holes. But she still flows. She still flies.
To all the moms out there who are exhausted by their morning routine but then need to head to work... to all the moms stuck in the insane ferries wheel of carpools and after school chauffeur duties... to all the moms traveling for work and returning to guilt... to all the moms waiting for their partner to get the hint that hey the workload split isn’t quite even and how are you not tuned into that... to all the moms wondering how this political climate is impacting their kids’ future... to all the moms with holes in their capes, I see you out here next to me guzzling coffee at Back to School Nights and on the sidelines of games, at the dance studio, at tutoring, at the light in your minivan or SUV zoned out and waiting for relief... I see you. I see you.
Sometimes the world can be so heavy but we got this. Our capes still fly.
I want to share one more bright spot. My kids see me struggling and appreciate all the work. The other day this note was on my desk....
Yes, there’s cussing in this note, but my child totally captured every thing that was that week and I appreciate it... I appreciate that she saw me for what I was and what I was trying to do for her and her siblings.
Our blog is now 6 years old (I can’t believe it)... I’ll be taking this next 12 months to look at how motherhood evolves. If your mothering has evolved, I invite you to share with me. I’m mostly on Twitter these days because long form social media and blogging has been a challenge. Hit me with a DM or tag me and let’s talk. None of us superheroes with holes in their capes should ever feel alone...
Anyway, hang in there... we got this.
The internet has become as essential to our lives as water and air. In less than a lifetime, we’ve learned to connect with people across the globe almost instantaneously through laptops, video games, phones, and many other devices that did not exist five or ten years ago. But with great power, comes great responsibility. Fake news and deep fakes spread across the internet can influence the opinions and actions of millions. And seemingly innocent videos targeted at kids makes you wonder what’s wrong with people.
In our home, technology is treated as a powerful tool, a privilege, and a huge responsibility. We’ve set up a few rules about internet and device usage but we allow our kids the space to build, play, explore, fail, and try again… I keep asking myself, “Is the internet safe?”.
When we search the internet, we are often in a physical setting that allows us to lower our guard and lower our defenses. We are deceived that the internet is safe because while we browse, we are in our home, in the car, or surrounded by people we trust (who are also often on their devices). In fact, searching the internet can be far more dangerous than we suspect because unlike a social setting where individuals are physically present and can read body language, voice inflection, and facial expressions, the anonymity of the internet creates a barrier that prevents us from picking up on social cues essential to successful human communication.
Recently my kids searched and read false information on the internet that they took as truth. They know that if they have a question about something unfamiliar, they should ask their parents first, but this time they didn’t, and though it wasn’t disastrous or critically harmful, the next time it could be. So we talked about it.
This is what I said about searching the internet alone...
One of my children did something and did not tell me about it for several months. They’d held their deed and the pain surrounding it so tightly that at one point they were physically ill. My goal was to get them to free themselves rather than “come clean” or “tell the truth”. How could I build trust with my child while also obtaining the full story of what happened?
In elementary school I was called Bucky Beaver and Captain Bucky O’Hare... it was because I have two really amazing front teeth that were unnaturally large for my face at the time. Without braces, my face eventually grew around those teeth helping complete the warm smile I’m know for today. So naturally when I had kids I looked for my signature buck teeth in their ultrasounds and as their baby and permanent teeth came in. Without fail, my strong genetics prevailed and combined with their father’s toothy grin to form what I call “an investment smile”... big teeth that will look amazing later with care.
I'm a former teacher and former college athlete, currently working in edtech. My mission is to get parents to partner with their child's teacher.