Question, how intricate is parenting? Have you ever thought about it? I hadn’t until one day I was talking with a friend about parenting and I said, “It’s really not that hard. All you have to do is feed the kid and make sure they have a roof over their head”. She responded, “True, but I think you also have to be intentional about a few things.” As the days went on, I began to think more about my role as a mother. I realized I was raising two kids who would one day be adults, navigating the world and raising families, two future contributors to society. What did I want them to know about life before they left for college? What was important to me that I wasn’t teaching them? Was I doing my best in making sure they were kindergarten ready? What was I teaching them to value? What was I teaching them about themselves? What memories were they going to have? While the definition of what a “good” mother is may be subjective, I believe there are some actions we must take as we raise up the world’s future leaders. Here are 5 things we must do as mothers:
- Be Intentional and mindful.
Intention- an aim or plan. Why are you doing what you do? What kind of mother do you want to be?
Mindful- concious, aware of something. Why is it important to you to be that kind of mother?
The journey to intentionality requires mindfulness. In order to be successful at being intentional, you must reflect and be mindful as to why it’s imperative to set forth said intention. If you don’t know that drinking soda increases your risk of cardiovascular disease, you’ll never take anyone seriously when they remind you that drinking soda is bad for you. If you don’t realize that your child’s behavior worsens when they haven’t had a good night’s sleep, you’ll never take the steps to get them on a bed time routine; you’ll continue to be tired as well.
Pay attention to everything. Be mindful of how your child reacts to people, places, and situations. They may be trying to tell you something. More importantly, pay attention to how you react to your child and how they react to your reactions. Are you a trigger for your child? What are you teaching them about handling their emotions? Are they learning positive or negative mannerisms from you? Our children are a reflection of us.
- Give yourself permission to drop the ball.
Why in the world doesn’t anyone confess, “none of us know what we’re doing!” more often? There’s no manual for parenting! Let me be the first to say that motherhood has been like walking in heels for the first time with weak ankles at homecoming. I’ve almost broken my neck countless times, literally! Hot Wheels don’t pick themselves up and neither do the kids! It takes some time to learn the ropes. When you have a bad day, and there will be many, you should still pat yourself on the back for simply making it through. Tell yourself you did the best that you had the mental capacity to do. Remind yourself that tomorrow is a new day and give yourself the opportunity to try again and succeed at whatever the task may be, even if it’s just making sure you get out of the bed before your 11th alarm goes off. Adulting is hard enough as it is, then add in the pressure of raising tiny humans! Whew! I say find a style of parenting that works for you and roll with it, no matter what your mom, great aunty, or granny says.
Maya Agelou said that when you know better, you do better. However, most of the time the problem is that we don’t think about why we know what we know and if it’s still relevant to our lives. We don’t have to wait for hindsight to roll around. I challenge you all to self-reflect now (and often) on how you were raised. Reflect on what you appreciated about your parents and ask yourself what practices you’d like to keep and do away with. Maybe you want to choose a more efficient method of discipline, cook a healthier diet for your family, or do your part in making sure your children have a relationship with their father. We all have something, multiple things actually! That’s okay! Growth is the goal, not perfection.
3. Speak life into our children.
We live in a world ready to literally beat our children down for simply being brown. As mothers, we’re our babies’ first line of defense; our homes should be their safe place. We must lift our children up and remind them that they’re important, intelligent, and beautiful. It’s our duty to push them to be their best version of themselves. If we don’t encourage them to believe in themselves, who will? Who better to plant that seed than you? It’s never too early to remind them that they’re kings and queens, that they’re valued and they have a voice.
The thing about speaking life into our children, is that we must speak life into ourselves too! If you have a difficult time speaking positivity over your own life, maybe try saying affirmations together as a family. It’s a great way to show our children that they aren’t alone in the self-confidence battle in a world full of people who purchase Instagram likes. We’re all in this together and community starts at home just like everything else.
- Start educating at home.
I’m yelling this one super loud for all the people everywhere. Our children’s education is important! It’s been fought and paid for by our ancestors; people who lost their lives because they learned to read and write. They lost their lives to give us this opportunity, this stepping stone. We CANNOT take that for granted. My poor kids. I’m already giving Malik the “in my house, you WILL get an education” speech. Don’t mind me, I’m just a black mama. But no for real, no one can EVER take away your knowledge. It’s also important that we remember we’re raising the black doctors, business owners, politicians, mental health professionals, tech gurus, etc. that we desire to see in our communities.
Many of us know teachers personally, but it shouldn’t take a relationship with one to know that they’re dawg tired. Honestly, our children are with their teachers for a larger portion of the day than they’re with their family. Let’s be real, most of us are annoyed with our beautiful blessings before 8:13 AM when Saturday rolls around. Why should we expect a school teacher, many of whom have a classroom of at least 20, to be any less frustrated? Sure, she gets paid, but not nearly enough. Empathy, people! And at this point, I think we’ve all had a taste of what it’s like to be a teacher after adjusting to our dear friend COVID, so we should be able to sympathize as well! The pressure of making sure our children are educated should not rest on the shoulders of an overwhelmed teacher who has to manage the learning styles of 20 different children.
What should you teach your child, and how, you ask? Everything and in any way that is of interest to them! Talk to your baby when they babble to you (language development). Get some chalk and draw shapes outside or on construction paper in different colors (language development, shapes, colors, art). Go to the library with your elementary school child and pick out books on a subject they’re curious about (reading, exploratory learning, using community resources, borrowing and returning). Google free camps for middle school children, encourage your high schooler to shadow someone in your community who works in a field they’re interested in (using community resources, making new friends, building relationships, taking initiative, career exploration). There are also many free apps geared towards fun learning for children. In today’s world, YouTube will teach you everything you need to know. In our home, we’ve begun replacing one episode of Big City Greens with a sight words video while we get ready for school in the mornings. Get childish for a bit, get down on your child’s level and have fun learning. Ten to 15 minutes of learning —kids have short attention spans— quickly turns into bonding and priceless memories.
- Be present with our children.
We’re around our children often, but how often are we present with them? It makes me cringe when I hear my six year old ask me to put my phone down. Being present with your child and simply being in their presence is the difference in reading a book versus listening to an audiobook. It’s the same material, but you get to see the comas, semicolons, italicized words, etc. I don’t know about you, but I have so many thoughts running through my brain that I easily tune out when I’m listening to something. Before I know it, I’ve missed a whole section of the story and I’m confused. Catch my drift? When you’re present with your children you see them in their fullness. When I turned off the television and actually paid attention to my son, I realized he could write his name without tracing it. I realized my daughter was a girly girl; turns out she loves to perform! We’re raising our children in a different time. Everyone is wrapped up in technology, few are making eye contact. I don’t trust it. Let’s slow it down from time to time. Our children need to feel our presence and our love, we need to feel their vibe. We need to teach them how to pay attention to a vibe! A huge aspect of a healthy relationship is presence.
Did you think it would be this hard when you answered the call to motherhood? Did you think it would require so much time and thought? Did you think choosing between quality time with your children and washing the dishes would be such a hard decision? I know I didn’t, so I know you’re tired. It’s important for you to realize that you don’t have to be perfect. It’s important for you to remember that no one gets this 100 percent correct. None of these things have to be done at once every single day, but I do think it’s important to incorporate them into your family’s life, especially while children are young. We’ll always be tired because as mothers, we make the world go round. Know that at any given time, you can take a moment to re-evaluate what and how you’re doing and begin again if need be. That’s the beauty of it all.
Let’s be tired knowing we gave our all in planting the seeds of wholeness in our children. Here’s to breaking cycles and building stronger families! Because ya know what? The medical definition of “intention” is “the healing process of a wound”, and we’re all about healing generational curses these days. So, pull out a notebook and get to writing about the things you want for your family. I’ll always reference Erykah, “write it down on real paper, with a real pencil. And watch sh*t get real.” I’m excited for you to go back and read over what you wrote so you can see how much your family has grown. Let me know how it goes!
Peace and blessings, yall!