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One Black Mom’s “Where Did I Go Wrong?” Moments

Despite every mom’s best efforts, there will inevitably be those moments where you say to yourself, umm, where did I go wrong?  You thought you were teaching a valuable lesson. But they completely missed the point. You thought your parenting was on point and you were raising well-grounded kids despite whatever "privilege" you've been blessed with. And then you realize they are completely disconnected from reality.

 Sometimes those moments are funny.

For example, recently my children engaged in this back seat of the car conversation. Now before I share the exchange, please note that for the past 18 years, I earned a great living as a business journalist, an award-wining business journalist no less,  who interviewed captains of industry as a  writer for Fortune and covered the complex financial markets as a Wall street reporter for a major NYC newspaper. With that in mind, here’s how the conversation went down:

My ten-year old girl to her 6-year old brother: Linens and Things is closed because of the economy.

My 6-year old: The economy??? Where's that??

My ten-year old: Michael!!! The economy is not a place!!!. It’s a group of people. I saw them working on their computers on CNN.

LOL! Boy oy boy did I have some explaining to do. Now,  I don't expect my kids to understand macroeconomic policy but I was hoping my 10-year old knew the economy wasn't a group of people behind computers. LOL! Well at least they pay attention to my constant CNN watching.

My girlfriend, who’s mommying style I fiercely admire, told me how her daughter, who volunteers at homeless shelters, recycles religiously, etc… had somehow befriended a  homeless person. The homeless person was apparently overweight and a great conversation ensued between my friend and her daughter about food choices, the price of processed foods versus healthy foods, etc, and why this homeless person may be overweight.  My girlfriend was feeling on top of the mommy world and utterly proud of her daughter's humanity.  That is, until her daughter said that she thought the homeless lady was overweight because she didn’t have anyone to watch her shopping cart of stuff while she went to the gym.

We still crack up over that one.

But other times, it may be less than humorous. Recently, some cable repairmen were at the house. They put the TV on a random channel as they continued their tests to find the problem. It was an infomercial about skin cream of some sort or makeup product. I didn't think anyone was paying much attention to the TV, but my son was hovering.

Anywho, somewhere about 10 mins into the infomercial, my 6-year old son blurts out, "Everything is for white people." Oh. Dear.

 Of course, the white repairmen pretended to not hear but looked at me like I was raising the next Malcolm X/ Huey P. Newton.

Now I don't apologize for having candid talks about race with my children. As a black parent I would be doing them a disservice if I didn't prepare them for the realities of life in America. And to my son’s point, there weren't any brown people at all in this skin care/makeup infomercial.

 But I certainly don't want my son to think that everything is for white people. Because if so, then by some very basic deductive reasoning, nothing is for him. And as far I'm concerned the world is his to conquer.

So I thought deeply about making sure that my preparing my brown babies for the world that awaits them also includes keeping them boundlesslly hopeful and full of possibilities for creating and achieving whatever they want in life.

And so I remember my gentle correction that day and I'm praying it will stick.

"No son,” I said. “Everything is for anyone who wants it."  

Hopefully that wrong moment turned right.


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