It’s hard for me to punish our daughter. Not because she’s a girl or any nonsense like that, but because she’s a kid. Like all kids she makes a lot of mistakes. Basically, she only gets punished for things on which we know that she knows better, and that what she’s done is wrong or something we don’t want her taking part in.
Today her class was supposed to go apple picking. Erika & I were going as chaperones (mostly because we wanted to pick some apples too!). A minute or so after we get to the school with Kyli one of the school administrators comes up to us & asks Kyli to tell us what she did on the school bus the other day. Kyli’s face immediately changes. It goes from full of joy to showing some shame. Kylie recounts her transgressions. Erika hands me the pastries for the parenting forum the school principal holds every Friday. Erika stays downstairs to speak with one of the other kids involved (Kyli’s cousin). Erika comes upstairs, and tells me the whole story. I decide that we are all not going to go on the trip. Erika goes to inform Kyli’s teachers.
Kyli is predictably very upset that she will not be going on the trip. I err on the side of being tough on Kyli while trying to always keep in mind that’s she’s only 6 years old. The other thing I always keep in mind is that I am raising a Black child in America. Some folks have no problem arresting very young Black children for a tantrum.
These are the issues that white parents don’t have to concern themselves with. We’re raising kids that the older they get the less slack they receive just because of their skin color. In some states, Black & Latino juveniles are far more likely to be tried as adults than their white counterparts charged with the same crimes. Now I’m someone who opposes trying juveniles as adults in ALL situations. The notion that we’re going to say a child was acting as an adult is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard. A child is a child is a child. Nothing can change that. The fact that we are the only country in the world that sentences juveniles to life in prison should make us all support continuing that ask why.
Maybe my biggest fear as a father is my child having to deal with our justice system, especially the NYC police. So maybe I’m a little tougher than I need to be sometimes. I’ve been dialing it back, successfully I think. This summer was tough, but Kyli’s been doing better than ever when it comes to actual school work. One thing we’ve learned is that if we’re talking, Kyli is most likely listening. Even when we think she’s not. It can be a long hard struggle to actually see the results, but they always come. But for me, possibly the toughest thing about parenting is the uncertainty. It can take a long time to know if you’re on the right path with your decisions, and as I’ve laid out above it feels like the consequences of being wrong falls harder on our children. At the same time, I’m not interested in stifling Kyli’s personality. All we do is to try, and help her grow into the best Kyli she can be. We’re not interested in raising a child who will fit perfectly into what white society thinks is the best presentation of a Black woman. As I’ve stated before I don’t want her to beholden to anyone or anything, but herself. I believe at some point kids are partially raising themselves, and parents act more as guides than anything else. The tools we give them or help them cultivate up until the point they start to take over can make all the difference. It’s scary that we don’t really know until they’re grown if we’ve given or helped them find all the tools they need. But at the end of the day I think it’s really about do they know they can trust us, and have we helped them find what they need to help themselves. Time will tell, but I feel good about us, my family and our communities.Tags: black parenting, fatherhood, fatherhood friday, parenting, police misconduct