Do You Trust Me To Raise Our Children?

A little while back I was sent a video by a stranger on social media. When I opened the video I began to watch many black people, men, and women talking about how hard it was being raised by a white mother. Talking about how difficult it was growing up in America with a mother who didn’t understand the black experience. I watched the video in horror because I had already known but hoped it wasn’t as true as it felt sometimes. I closed the video and sobbed in my bathroom as I wondered how I was fit to be their mother.

Unfortunately, this is a common occurrence, people expressing their fears or opinions that I’m not qualified to raise my own children or keep them safe from what they will inevitably experience. I spent years bottling up this fear that my children would grow to feel like those on the video I was sent until one day through tears I asked my husband…. ”Do you trust me to raise our children?” His response? Of course I do. I married you, together we can do this. Then everything changed.

There is a community out there, white counterparts of mixed marriages and relationships with mixed children, adoptive parents, and more who are struggling through all of this to align themselves the best that they can with those that they love. I’ve asked myself the same question so many times over the years, “is love enough?” Is it enough that I love them more than life? Does that make me an ally? My heart aligns with them so is that enough? I’ve so badly wanted the answer to be yes, that the deep love that I had for them was enough but the truth is that it’s not. Simply loving them isn’t enough, it takes so much more.

Our family is a little bit unique in the sense that we are blended and mixed. I met my husband after my divorce and my son was 2 years old when we got married. That being said, our oldest is white and our 3 children together are mixed. Our children are 9, 5, 3, and 1 but their young age doesn’t stop us from having conversations about race in our home. We read books with black protagonists, books about black people who fought for equality and changed the world. I find myself wrapped up in conversations often with my 9-year-old son about our privilege in life and how we shouldn’t feel guilty for that privilege but how we can use it to fight against racism.

When I got divorced, after my ex-husband’s affair, I needed the support and love of everyone around me. I needed people to tell me that it was going to be okay and that they were sorry.However, there wasn’t anything that helped as much as the voice of someone who had been there…someone who didn’t just feel sorry but felt it in their bones. I have fully excepted that there are going to be experiences in the lives of my 3 younger children where I’m going to have to defer them to their dad. As much as I can tell them that I am sorry and that it’s going to be okay, it’s not the same as their dad looking them in the eyes and telling him that he understands, they’re going to need that.

It’s always been hard for me to know that I wouldn’t be able to offer my children the support that they needed but then I heard George Floyd call for his mother and I shattered. I saw my space in all of this as their mother, their white mother. Every child needs the comfort that only their mother can offer, even if I don’t fully understand.

So, if love isn’t enough then what is? I read a quote the other day that said, “You will continue to mess up on racism. So continue to be teachable, open to correction from people of color, and vigilantly monitor yourself for defensiveness and white fragility. You never “arrive” as an ally, you must continually “practice” allyship.” (by @ijessewilliams) How can you practice allyship? It starts within the walls of our own homes, so what can we be doing there and teaching our children so that they too can be part of the solution?

So, if love isn’t enough then what is? I read a quote the other day that said, “You will continue to mess up on racism. So continue to be teachable, open to correction from people of color, and vigilantly monitor yourself for defensiveness and white fragility. You never “arrive” as an ally, you must continually “practice” allyship.” (by @ijessewilliams) How can you practice allyship? It starts within the walls of our own homes, so what can we be doing there and teaching our children so that they too can be part of the solution?

Have age-appropriate conversations in your household about race and racism. Have conversations about being loving and inclusive. There is no one way to talk about race. Understand that what you say will not always please everyone. Educate yourself, consult with your spouse or significant other and then teach from there. Trying to take in and implement the opinions of everyone around you will only make it more complicated. Don’t teach color blindness but rather the beauty in differences. Understand what information your children are capable of taking in and appropriately processing. Sometimes the weight of everything is a lot, allow them to process the information as they are ready to understand it. Buy books, watch movies and do more, with people of all different colors and backgrounds. I’ve always said that it’s important for your children to see themselves in the stories they read and the things that they watch. If that is true, and children relate better to characters who look like them, then, couldn’t it be equally as true that they may be able to better relate to friends, neighbors, and classmates of a different color if they see them represented in the information they take in? Teach your children that love isn’t reserved for someone who meets a certain mold but instead of everyone, as all are deserving of love.

I think about that video often but it doesn’t have the hold on me that it used to. I see myself in them. Their right side nose wrinkles, their love for the water, chocolate snacks, and their eyes are just like mine. I want to raise strong men and powerful women. I want to raise children who walk into the world and are unapologetically themselves. I want them to be bold and stand out. I never want my fears for them to take away their independence. I want to find the balance between educating them about what they will experience in this life and yet help them find joy in every day. I want them to be proud of their heritage and background on both sides. I want to be their biggest fan and their greatest support system.

So while it simply isn’t enough to just love your black friends, your black co-workers, your black neighbors, or even your black family members, that love will drive you to take steps towards practicing allyship and that continued effort coupled with your love is enough. I don’t know what it’s like to raise powerful black kids in America but what I do know is that I love them more than life, I’m trying my very best to continue to learn how I can support them and we’re going into this together.

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