During my pregnancy, I felt overjoyed over the miracle growing inside of me, a gift I thought I’d never have. I intuitively knew I was having a son and would laugh over how I said for years I wanted a mischievous little boy. I also had moments where I’d hold my belly and cry, knowing I was bringing a Black male child into this world.
I would often listen to Regina Belle’s “If I Could.” With tears flowing I’d sing along, “If I could I would try to shield your innocence from time, but the part of life I gave you isn’t mine. I’ll watch you grow so I can let you go…”
I knew how I wanted to parent my child before pregnancy. I knew I would breastfeed, raise him gently with love, but with firm boundaries so he would know the difference between right and wrong. I had certain values around parenthood that came from somewhere within. I knew I’d do differently than how I was raised as a child.
After he came through me I held to those values. For me there really was a guidebook on how to raise my child, it was intuitive parenting. I watched him, I listened, I followed his cues and I responded. I knew I wanted him to be independent, decisive and how to listen to his inner guidance. Despite all the push back and the overwhelming obstacles I faced almost daily, I knew this was right for my child. A few months after he turned one, I received validation from a powerful person.
As I drove us on one of our many adventures , I played Maya Angelou’s newest audio book “Letter to My Daughter.” I listened intently, inhaling her every word. The moment Dr. Angelou said, “I learned to love my son without wanting to possess him and I learned to teach him how to teach himself.” I shouted “YES!” and rewound a few seconds just to hear those words that echoed my philosophy around mothering my son. This is how I planned to parent him before he was even a “Twinkle in God’s eye” as my elders would say.
I allowed him to explore his interests, while teaching him additional life skills. I cannot say that “raising” my son is what I have done. I nourished him as an infant. I watched him as a toddler, observed his likes and dislikes, read to him, hugged him, loved him, and redirected him from “danger.”
As he grew I taught him how to cook. Even as a toddler by my side he stood eagerly on a chair waiting to shake the cinnamon into the pancake batter. Around nine, meatloaf became his specialty. To this day he loves to make meatloaf and insists his is the best.
My son washes the dishes, does his own laundry and mops the floor on house cleaning day. Trash is his required chore, I despise taking out the trash. Soon I’ll designate cleaning the toilet.
With each stage I have witnessed his growth and in this phase from boy to man, the challenges we’ve both faced.
I taught my son to question authority, thinking I would be a trusted ally, and not someone whose authority he would question. From 13 to 14 I found “This isn’t a debate” and “Because I said so,” became almost daily mantras as we navigated shelter-in-place.
Now that he’s in his first week of high school, I’ve seen a quantum leap in who he is in this particular phase. Each day I pull back, with “I love you” as a guide. I watch him continue to become who he is at his core, while still demonstrating my own values of discipline, kindness, perseverance, vulnerability and more. Though I’ve explained it’s okay to ask for help, his independence continues to grow. We negotiate and work together. It’s not always “perfect,” but it works.
My son is not the only person growing. With each phase I’ve grown as a mother, adjusted according to his development. I internally cheer on his independence, telling him how proud I am.
Every day I wake up, I let go just a little more. I pray, parent with firmness and watch with a smile as he walks down the block headed on the path he is forging. I see him return more grown than when he left.
I truly did learn to love my son unconditionally without possessing him. I have taught him to teach himself. I continue to watch, guide and let go with pure love knowing that he’s growing to be an amazing person. Thank you Dr. Maya Angelou.