Monthly Archives: April 2014
I must warn you that this piece is going to be tough for more than a few people. I thought long and hard about writing it. Put fingers to keyboard and deleted. Had many conversations in my head about how to best say this and decided there was no easy way, so here we go….buckle up for the ride…
In a recent conversation with a young adult, she blurted something that I knew had to be an emotional back breaking burden because of how it all rushed out her mouth- relief co-mingled with fear by what she was about to say;
” how do I protect myself as I make a name, and brand who I am, from my mothers criminal past? I love her but she insists on following me everywhere and making public displays of my work with pride but all it takes is one person digging beneath the surface, to see her entire past pop up. It will devastate my work, the people who depend upon me and I don’t know what to do.”
Just like that, Pandora’s box opened and every fear, every emotion, every insecurity came rushing forth like she was burdened for so long and finally found a place to let it out without being judged.
This person was further hurt and confused because her mother was gone for years in federal prison and came back home as if all was well and NEVER had a serious discussion with her children about what happened. Not a solitary word.
Her children who are grown, are constantly having conversations with each other on how to best broach the topic but every day that goes by in silence and forced normalcy, has put such strain on her children, they have begun to feel and behave differently towards her with each passing day.
Befuddlement became sadness, which turned to forced acceptance which has now begun to breed silent resentment.
To be fair to this young person, a few clarifying questions were asked, which led to my asking what would be helpful for her long term. The surprising response?
She asked that I write this piece to give some parents much needed insight on just what their children were dealing with and that silence is definitely not the answer. Far too many children and parents are dealing with this issue and the consequences are life altering without doing the work that will lead to healing.
As a result, here are some helpful hints for parents who find themselves in this predicament with their children who are old enough to understand what is happening;
1). The absolute worst thing you can do, is act ” normal” and try to pick up where you left off without a word. Start the conversation gently but your children die a tiny bit with each passing day you remain silent.
2). Tell your children you are sorry you had to leave them for years. Ask and then listen, to what they had to deal with in your absence. It is often not a pretty scenario for children who may have lost the only stability they knew. They need a safe place with you to have the conversation.
3). Understand they may be mad at what you did but will always love you. No matter what. What kills their full support, is your stubborn silence.
4). Be prepared to deal with having to hear you cannot be in the limelight of their accomplishments depending on the nature of your crime. For example- if you are a registered sex offender in the system and the core of your child’s career is working with children, that can be devastating to their progress. The hope is that you will understand the need to take a less public role in their efforts, for obvious reasons.
5). Seek professional help. Your adult children should not bear the brunt of your refusal to re-engage in life and carry the burdens silently of that which you will not deal with. Above all else, try to forgive yourself. Whether you believe it or not, the strain and stress of silence takes a toll on you emotionally and physically.
6). Allow them ( children)to share their fears; the stigma that can follow adult children after a parent has committed a serious crime can be devastating on many levels. If you feel you cannot have the conversation alone with them, get a neutral facilitator in the room to get the dialogue going. That could be a therapist, Pastor or just a good trusted family friend.
Nothing was more heartbreaking to me as a mother myself, when this adult stated she felt more removed from her mother with each passing day that she remained silent and cannot have open dialogue around every day life incidences and choices. It is painful for her to sit with mom, knowing she wants to have a much needed conversation while struggling to find the opening to get it started.
She wants to discuss all the things she missed, all the things she never knew, all the things she continues to struggle with daily but cannot move beyond a crawl because of the extra emotional and physical adult she carries around in silence on her back, every day.
To the parents who have made mistakes that led to serious punishment, let me say this to you- the best thing you can do for your children is acknowledge your mistakes, ask for forgiveness ( that you already have from them) and be willing to hear what the adverse effects have been on your children. Try to love first yourself, then your offspring to a place of healing.
Love your children enough to get out of your own way and unintentionally impede their progress with your mistakes. It is the very least you can do to minimize the pain they already carry.
I do not claim to have all the answers but hope like hell, this blog touches those it needs to reach so we can begin to repair broken families.
Let me get this out of the way before anything else- being a mother comes with no manuals and lord do we ever make mistakes as we raise the children we gave birth to or adopted. We mean well. I get it.
We don’t always do well.
It needs to be discussed.
In recent years, I have had more than my fair share of conversations with young people, who are just torn about their parents that gave up on parenting and they (children) feel they are forced to either parent their siblings and often- the parent themselves.
It is stressful to say the least and these young people second guess what they are doing and often miss opportunities, for fear of abandonment and wanting a life of their own.
Their wings are clipped with guilty tom
Said parent with things like ” I need you to survive” or ” you are the man of the house now” or even worse, ” if you leave, I will kill myself.”
Seriously. Can we talk? Some parents have mental health issues and with help, things can be bearable but there are others, who for whatever reasons, have deliberately stifled the growth of their children.
I hate to say this but that behavior is often borne from jealousy and it is just ridiculous to hold your child back because you, never took the time to get a handle on your own life.
Our children deserve better. They will make mistakes, fall down, make some bad decisions but that is all a part of life. We were given the opportunity to give birth to them and a small window to make a decent impact upon them. They are not here as our conscience, burden bearer and certainly not here to pay our way through life while we are healthy and able to do it on our own.
Messy mothering leads to burdened children. Give them a break by getting yourself together emotionally. Finding their way does not mean they no longer love you- quite the opposite. It means you have done a good job.
Allow your children to use their wings to soar because that guilt often becomes anger that is avoidable.
Every day, I am reminded by the sheer ignorance of folks disguised as enlightened writing and most days, I simply smile and keep it moving. Today, I stopped mid-sip In drinking my water and stared at a piece written by Education reporter Valerie Strauss of the washington Post who wrote about Ivy Leagues under the guise of ” we should stop treating the Ivy leagues as the holy grail of education”
A snippet of what she wrote below that earned her this open letter-
“Have you heard yet about 17-year-old Kwasi Enin of Shirley, N.Y., who applied to all of the eight schools in the Ivy League and got into every single one? If not, you are, by now, the only one.
The William Floyd High School senior told Newsday that he couldn’t believe it when, one right after the other, the Ivy League schools — Harvard University, Yale University, Princeton University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, the University of Pennsylvania and Brown University — all welcomed him into the class of 2018.
Congratulations to Kwasi Enin. Now can we stop talking about him?
We might as well also congratulate Avery Coffey, 17, a senior at D.C.’s Benjamin Banneker Academic High School, who was admitted to all five of the Ivy League schools – Harvard, Princeton, Yale, the University of Pennsylvania, and Brown — to which he applied, according to MyFoxDC.com. Well done. But that’s enough.”
Dear Ms. Strauss-
Seriously? You took what was could have been an interesting piece on the Ivy leagues to not so subtlety “slam” two boys of color, who worked their behinds off with stellar work to get into not one, but several Ivy League schools.
What exactly was your point here?
Was it necessary for you to be so “nicety” in suggesting you had heard enough already? As an education reporter, I’m sure you have covered enough news about children of color failing all over the place; where the stats are reported with no issue. You get awesome news to share of brilliance and that was all you could come up with?
Have you EVER once thought, what those young men had to go through to accomplish such a feat? And before you say ” yep, like any other smart child” let me take you “back to school.”
Believe me when I say, those young men were told time and again, challenging courses might not be for them because the work was too hard. Trust me when I say, they were probably in classes filled with people who looked nothing like them and it was a lonely place indeed between some educators discouragement and the turned up lips of their peers, who found it distasteful they had to share classes with them.
Why is that you say? Easy. It is often felt that if a child of color is smart enough to do the work, then the work must not be hard enough or they just do not belong. They had prayers, hard work, teachers who believed in them and family who pushed them to dare greatly. They did and earned these accolades.
Did it once occur to you that being kind and congratulating them properly instead of adding to the fray of naysayers, was the decent human thing to do?
Instead of accomplishing your goal, what many of us saw was your privilege, standing front and center within your writing and you let your ” slip show” . Or maybe it really wasn’t about the Ivy Leagues after all…hmmm?
Shame on you.
Whenever you are ready to write a substantive piece on children of color who excel despite the odds, please, call me. Hell, send an email. I would be happy to share nuggets as a parent with two boys living and dealing with this every day.. You won’t get an angry rant either. It will be filled with stories and data that may very well stop you from Doing what you did above ever again.