I left corporate America to raise my first kid and that’s when I met the sharks. Let me tell you something, the men in suits are a far kinder bunch than a new mom in her matching jogging suit or lulu lemon ensemble.
I was accustomed to 70-hour work weeks, project plans, quarterly objectives, and constant movement. So, I took that same manic energy and threw it into motherhood. My son and I did the circuit: mommy and baby yoga, Gymboree, swimming, mommy and me music class. Honestly, I wasn’t trying to be a good mom, just trying not to be bored mom. I thought that the classes could keep me busy plus help me to meet some friends.
But meeting friends wasn’t as easy as I thought. Some stay at home moms are competitive and NOTHING is off-limits. I remember one lady with a brown bob who stared at my chest area and said, before I could even say my name, “Are you still breastfeeding? I don’t even know if I can make it through this class because I produce so much milk.” I realized that she was bragging about her cow-like abilities and scrambled for the right congratulatory words.
“Bubble song time” at Gymboree was supposed to be a pleasant time when the moms sang and the kids crawled or danced in the shower of bubbles. In theory, it was a time for jubilant, light-hearted fun. In reality though, it was the baby Olympics for the moms. All of the babies would become mesmerized by the bubbles; some would delightfully grab at the bubbles; some would wait until a bubble landed and pop it with one finger; some would crawl to the middle of the circle, open his or her arms to receive as many bubbles as possible. These babies were the gold-medalists. After all, they crawled; and they were smart enough to go the middle of the circle where the bulk of the bubbles were. My son, on the other hand, would wander away from the circle, find any stray bubbles that had landed on the furniture and toys in the room and pop them one by one. Oh, the shame….
It’s embarrassing to admit — or even think about now, but I would be sitting in that damn circle every Friday, praying, please baby just crawl to be middle of that circle. He just wasn’t that kid.
He still isn’t that kid. He still just doesn’t get in the circle.
He reminded us of this during his 8th grade year at a private school. The entire focus that year was on high school applications and the admittance process. That our son would go to a private school, although we live in an area with a strong public school system, was never a real decision. It was simply a “thingdo” – one of those things you do without even thinking about it.
As part of the process, my kid needed to continue to get good grades and do well on a standardized test. My husband and I booked him in the best class to prepare him to take the test and expected that he would study every weekend. Every weekend, however, he would be playing video games, hanging out with friends, staring at his phone until either my husband or I would say, “Ummmm, let’s start studying for the SSAT.” Every time we would get the indignant answer from him, “Ugh, I was JUST about to study. If you would just leave me alone and let me handle things, I’d be alright! Stop bugging me! I got this!”
My first reaction was to call 911 so they would be there quickly when I was done with him. Then I started to wonder if the boy had really lost his mind. I had been a “no mess, Southern, Black, momma” since his birth. Was he talking to ME like that? My husband saw the vein in my neck popping out and to save his family came up with a plan, “Don’t say anything else to him. Since he always says that he was about to study, next weekend, don’t mention to him and we’ll see what he does.”
So we did. Guess what he, our beautiful son did? He laid on the couch all weekend watching “Finding Bigfoot”, eating Doritos, and scratching his balls from what I can tell.
Yep, that’s it. For the entire weekend.
I had visions of me straddling him on the couch, grabbing his shoulders and shaking him. “What in the fuck are you doing? Don’t you know that the people who attend the school you want to go to have probably already found Bigfoot and studied him? They are probably dissecting him right now to find a cure to some little know disease, using his fur to knit blankets for the homeless, and filming the next documentary We Found BigFoot?!”
But then I realized something: this was a teaching moment for him and for me. My son was propping his ass up on my couch without a worry in the world because unconsciously he felt that his future was handled and that going to private school was a birthright (heck all of his friends were going). I had assumed that he was going to private school because that just what you did in my circle. But was that right decision and environment for my son? Was that right for a kid, who got good grades because he was smart, but I had to beg to study.
My husband and I sat him down and explained that private school is not a right, but a privilege. It is considerable piece of our income to send him to private school—we feel it! We aren’t going to invest in him anymore than he is willing to invest in himself. When he’s ready, we are ready. Until then, he’s carrying his ass to public school.
My intention is for Black people to love themselves and each other. It sounds somewhat silly, I guess; but oftentimes my people are overwhelmed with negative images, bad news, and stereotyped characters about us. I’d like to flip that script. I’d like to remind us, as often as I can, how incredible we are. Read more