Let me introduce you to an inspiring woman with a unique and empowering message! Idrissa is completing her PhD from my alma mater, Wayne State University. When we were eIntroduced (we met by email), I was impressed with her passion! I know you will feel the same way when reading her work. Enjoy!!!
– Dr. Kim
OUR FACE AS MOTHERS…AND PARENTS!
When I think of my role as a parent I am often cognizant of how my own mother chose to raise me. While I have certainly adopted some of the traditional styles of parenting that I witnessed as a child growing up in the south, I also find myself making a concerted effort to critique them. The image of black mothers here in America is reflected from one extreme to the next. Toya Graham, a single mother of six, recently received national media attention for feverishly smacking her son upside the head when she caught him throwing rocks at police officers during a rally in Baltimore, MD. While her reaction seemed normal to many of us, others thought it was particularly noteworthy. I, too, can say that I am most grateful for many similar incidents when my parents had to grab me by my shirt collar to keep me in line.
While well intended, this notion of “black parenting” is sometimes restrictive. There are studies and testimonies that would corroborate the fact that spankings can be used as an effective measure of discipline. Nonetheless, too often I hear black parents referring solely to their disciplinary roles. Trust me, my children are the best-behaved little gentlemen you’d ever meet. However, I have come to the realization that my role as a parent is more fulfilling and enjoyable because I am their educator also. I love introducing these fresh new minds to travel and culture! Also, I want to make sure that they know how to have fun. Children who have balanced lives are more likely to be balanced adults. Being centered is vital!
For Memorial Day, my husband and I took our sons to a local waterpark. As I laid back on the beach chair with my hat cocked to the side and shades perfectly perched on my nose, I thought to myself, “I’m blessed!” My family is healthy, happy, and thriving. However, for some unknown reason I started wondering about all the little black children who don’t have parents who take them out or make sure that their kids get a chance to experience activities. The children I thought about weren’t poor kids from a foreign nation or distant land. These were the children of neighbors, family members or acquaintances that I’d met throughout my life. I am referring to kids with able-bodied working parents who take great care of themselves, but not of their little ones. As I sat there, the names of these beautiful girls and boys touched my heart.
As you read this, I’m sure there are names of children like these who come to your mind. Some of them have been disregarded because they come from a previous relationship. Others find themselves in the way of parents who are simply just too busy and selfish to sacrifice their own enjoyment. I would never suggest that mistreatment happens only to black children; that statement is far from any truth. That’s simply not the point. Instead, I am trying to emphasize the fact that as a stay-at-home mother, my sons are often the only black children in attendance at many activities I frequent. Also, I know far too many people who were misplaced from house to house or foster care because they were “too bad” or “didn’t mind.” In opposition to what you might assume, they were disciplined, spanked, and often told what not to do.
In my adolescent years, my parents faced many challenges rearing me and my siblings. My father suffered from drug addiction (which impacted us all in very hurtful/negative ways). Yet and still, he provided for us and was extremely supportive in making sure that we were exposed to more than he had been exposed to in his life. My mother was also a stay-at-home mom. I know that she loved her four girls dearly. However, despite the ills we were exposed to, our parents made sure we had a good time. Perhaps they wanted to “make-up” for the fighting, dysfunction, or whatever. But, what that taught me was that creativity is needed in parenting.
My mother passed unexpectedly when she was 33 years old. I often wonder what type of grave impact her passing would have had on me if I had only experienced just disciplining, or even just the troubles we faced. Instead, just as I have memories of our struggles, I also have the fondest memories of her making and teaching me how to cook everything from collard greens to stuffed mushrooms. I can also recall taking dance, piano, flute, and cello lessons (none of which I do today). Still, my point is that these sacrifices helped to cultivate expanded interests and also provided me with creative outlets. Trust me, these activities were major sacrifices coming from a family on a stringent budget. For example, one memory that stands out most prominently is when she took me to an audition for a performing arts school. She was so excited to help me showcase my 30 pieces of art work! That school changed my life and exposed me to more possibilities.
So, my point is that while culturally, blacks (and other cultures) are typically labeled as disciplinarians, I think we should add to the image – to the face – of what it means to be parents. Yes, we stand proudly in the fact that our children don’t “cut up in public” or curse at us. But, when I think about the many conversations and encounters I have had with black mothers and fathers, while I hear the love…it saddens me that there seems to be a lack of joy in parenting due to the disciplinary responsibilities. Yes, parents should hold one another accountable for how we treat our children. But, we also need to reach out to children who have limited access when it comes to experiencing life’s pleasures. It takes a village to raise a child; but, what is to come of our children – our families – if the village remains silent on these issues. Let’s not raise a generation of children who never get to be children. Let’s change OUR face as mothers…AND parents!
Idrissa N. Snider, born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama, always had a love for the arts. Her creative passions as a painter ignited her career in broadcasting and television for nearly a decade. Snider’s proudest accomplishment is her family. She wed her childhood sweetheart in 2001 and is a proud mother of 2. Idrissa believes that her purpose in life is to inspire and educate others. She is currently pursuing a PhD at Wayne State University in Rhetorical Criticism: Media, Society, & Identity. Snider also travels the country as an author and inspirational speaker.