It’s taken me some time to write these words.
To process them not only in my mind, but in my heart.
My teenage son recently asked what for most would seem like an innocent, normal question.
“Momma, can I walk with my friends to the next neighborhood over?”
Already knowing I would hesitate and most likely respond with a “Not today”, our next door neighbor jumped in with “Mrs. G, you know I got him. We’ll only be gone for a little bit. We both will have our cell phones and will come right back if you call us.”
As much as I wanted to say no, a conversation with a fellow mom of a teenage son ran through my mind on having to let go came to mind and I said “Ok. One hour. Be back here in exactly one hour.”
My response was met with a chorus of “Really?” “YES!” “Thanks, Mom!” (notice I’m Mom and not Momma now, right?)
As he walking out the door, I quickly glanced up and my heart stopped.
I can already see the “Here we go” look come across his face.
“Do you have to wear that? And where is your cell phone?”
He reaches into the front pocket of his hoodie and pulls it out.
In that moment I had to confront my fears head on. I had to admit to myself the true reason why “Not today” had become my standard response in an attempt to shelter and protect my child.
Being an African-American G.R.I.T.S. – Girl Raised In The South – I have seen and experienced some of the worst of the Southern culture. From being told to know my place; referred to as “girl” while out with my children; refusal of services; and even a young child calling me the n-word in the most innocent, child-like way that I knew to them it seemed normal and appropriate.
Raising African-American young men in today’s society … it’s scary, for lack of a better word. And I was hit head on with those fears as I saw my son in his hoodie. I imagined countless scenarios of what could happen as a group of hyper, fun-having black and brown boys walked in a group down the streets of our neighborhoods.
In that moment I had to make a decision. I had to decide not to live in fear or pass that fear on to my children. I, also, had to decide to educate and not sugarcoat the truth behind those fears.
I allowed him to enjoy that time with his friends but asked him to change his hoodie. Was it the right decision? Maybe. Maybe not. It was the decision that eased my fears and allowed me to send my son out my home while alleviating some of the fears I held.
The thing is I can’t protect him from it all. That angers me in so many ways. As his mom, that’s my job, but the society we live in has pre-judged and pre-labeled him and there’s nothing I can do to change their minds. However, I can raise my sons to walk in their purpose; to know their history so they can know the greatness of those who have forged the way; and to continue to carry on their legacy by being the best they are called to be in all areas of their lives. I’m learning the art of letting go while still holding on to the innocence of their youth and childhood.