Giving Her a Chance to Grow Up

People often say that we “raise our daughters, and love our sons,” — meaning that we heap responsibility on the shoulders of our daughters at an early age so that they will “learn”….. and we allow our sons to escape the same.

How’s that working for us?

I know that sometimes, Black women do this because we want our daughters to be independent.” Well, what do we want for our sons?

I remember hearing an older, professional woman say with pride, “I raised my daughter not to depend on a man.” What a tragedy! We should raise our children “toward” something, not “against” something. Raise our daughters toward pursuing their passions, their interests, their abilities to make a difference in the world. Raise them to understand that they are “whole” people, don’t just raise them to be wary of men.

Well, that’s not really what I wanted to write about. I do believe that parents spend far too little time really understanding how children develop. Parenting is not instinctual. Some of it, to be sure, is. But how is it that if you buy a puppy, you will go out and purchase a book detailing what that breed needs but you won’t even take the time to learn the simple things, like — the signs that indicate a child is ready for potty training; or why teenagers experience incredible mood swings? How is it that we will spend time learning how to drive a car…even spend time in a “defensive driving” course — but we will not sign up to learn more about how our own children develop and what they need from us as parents to grow into healthy adults?

All children — regardless of their family of origin, their economic background, etc. — deserve a chance to grow up in their own time. They deserve a chance to be children, to create real childhood memories…to be too young for some responsibilities and frustrated as “all get out” that they are too old for some pleasures. They should spend some time being bored. We must provide them with boundaries and discipline — but also permission to be young and silly and foolish and moody, often annoying and all of that stuff that is just so “inconvenient” for us adults to deal with!

When we rush them through the normal stages of development, what we end up with are people who have reached adulthood who are not prepared to be adults. We are rushing our children to grow up because we just don’t know any better — and because we have gotten ourselves into situations, the burdens of which are so heavy, that our children will never get a chance to just be children. They are too busy worrying about the family bills, the argument with the landlord, keeping younger siblings quiet so that Daddy can sleep, being Mommy’s assistant…..and on and on.

Many parents are struggling to raise their children alone — and those of us who love children can be of most help to these parents if we just support them as parents. I remember when I was growing up, I loved to spend weekends with my Aunt Henrietta because when I was with her, I was not expected to be anything except 11 years old. I washed dishes and did chores, for sure. But I was excused from the room when “adult talk” was going on. I was encouraged to play, to be silly and when I was moody, I got a hug or better yet, Aunt Henrietta would just diffuse my drama with a funny face. I was never made to feel as if my “mood” was the deal breaker for her happiness.

Understandably, she only had me a few weekends a year!

If you want to know more about Black girls in New York City, and to get some perspective on how you can be of help to the girls in your circle of influence, I encourage you to visit the website — Black Women for Black Girls and download the wonderful report entitled “Black Girls In New York City: Untold Strength and Resilience.” Commissioned by the Black Women for Black Girls Giving Circle, it was researched and written by Dr. Avis A. Jones-DeWeever of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

It offers some helpful insight for those who want to know more about girls, who want to make a difference — who believe children deserve a chance to grow up in their own time. I hope that describes you.

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About avoiceinramah

Following The Way. Wife, Mom, Pastor, RevSisterGirlfriend, Advocate. Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman. I believe another world is possible.