I wish that I could declare that I’m a great mother.
I wish that I could boldly affirm that every sacrifice was unselfish, that every decision was solely in the best interest of my son, that strategic planning was always implemented, and that I took advantage of every grand opportunity. I really wish that I could. But I can’t.
To be clear, I am not a bad mother. As a matter of fact, my son and I are very close.
At fifteen, I became his mother. Even with tremendous support, my foundation for motherhood was molded by fear: fear of disappointing people who believed in me; fear of confirming stereotypes; fear of raising an African-American male in the inner city. So every “A” earned, every achieved accomplishment, and all three relocations, were steeped in dispelling any of those fears at any given time.
He’s twenty-seven now, and from birth I’ve loved him deeply and unconditionally. However, for far too long, my fear for him felt greater than my love. I still fear some, but I no longer dwell or move or plan in that space because neither his greatness nor mine can thrive in such an irrational environment. He gets that, so much so that during his roughest times – especially during his roughest times — he has vehemently refused to allow me to deflect my fears onto him.
“Come home, just to rebound,” I have pleaded in my moments of panic.
“Okay, Mom,” he’s responded .
Yet, he’s never shown up.
Maybe one day he will, maybe not. I’m learning that he’ll be fine either way. For that, I am grateful.
For over two decades, I have allowed senseless fears to deprive me from appreciating the fullness of motherhood. Yes, my pregnancy was a disappointment to those who cared about me, and yes, I increased the teenage pregnancy rate by one that year. Years later I would learn that raising an African-American male anywhere in America – that raising a child period – is challenging. But none of that truly mattered anyway. The disappointments were short lived, and my hard work from then until now has paid off greatly.
My son is building his life brick by brick. He has fumbled, even fallen, but pure grit – the same grit possessed by countless of seldom acknowledged and productive African-American men throughout many inner cities of America – has kept him from showing up on my familiar doorstep and walking through my open door. And, although so many years ago he opted for warmer climates, he proudly answers to a nickname that’s inked in his heart and represented on his arm – Philly.
There’s really nothing to fear. I get it now.
I know better, so I’m obligated to do better. And I will. Hopefully, some years from now during the rewrite, I will have earned the right to audaciously declare, “I am a great mother!”
Until then, love hard and fear less.
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