“You know I only say it cause I’m truly genuine
Don’t be a hard rock when you really are a gem
Baby girl, respect is just a minimum…”
– Lauryn Hill, “Doo Wop (That Thing)
“…It reminds me that children are not extensions of the parent…I am not raising you to be my creation but to be yourself.” – Imani Perry, Breathe: A Letter to My Sons
Happy Fall! Here’s to cute sweaters, pumpkin spice and everything nice. In honor of National Daughter’s Day, on this week’s podcast episode, I sit down with two of my ladies from the Black Excellence crew to discuss the joys, pains and errthang in between when it comes to parenting adult women. We are all mothers of daughters who are newly grown.
With “grown” numbers, come grown experiences, grown issues and grown attitudes. At some point, we have all found ourselves saying, “I looked at my receipt and nowhere does it say that I ordered a disrespectful child who don’t pay rent.” While this phase, just like any other, can be tough, it is definitely rewarding. We love our forever babies no matter how old and aggravating they get.
Below is an edited version of our discussion. Please leave a comment if the spirit moves you and follow Black Women Be Knowing on IG and on Twitter at BWBK_.
Make sure to listen to the entire conversation above.
BWBK: I’m here with two of the women from my Black Excellence crew. I’m here with my baby Ann: Hi Ann and my baby, Felicia: Hi Felicia. And we are talking today about what it means as Black women to be raising adult Black women who grown but ain’t grown grown.
First question that I always ask is describe yourself in five words and I’m starting with Ann cause Ann be taking copious notes.
AN: That was one of the hardest questions I ever had to answer. I put joyful, optimistic, selfless, reflective and observant.
FA: I’m under pressure…Five words that describe me are motivated, committed, truthful, analytical and compassionate.
BWBK: So when you describe yourself as a mother, do you feel like those words overlap [with the words you just mentioned]? Do you feel there are words missing or words that need to be changed/adjusted?
AN: The optimistic part becomes hover mom. I’m super-overprotective and I’m also quite a realist and a dreamer. I’m one of those people who say, “Don’t say what your kid won’t do,” because they will make a fool out of you. But our kids are also amazing dreamers.
FA: The three words that I used to describe myself as a mother are wholesome, dedicated and loving. High expectations is what continues to push me to mother my children.
BWBK: I always think, ‘what would Kaori say about me as a mom?” I would definitely say that I’m motivated, funny, intelligent, an aspiring video vixen and to a certain extent, a perfectionist- which sometimes gets in the way of my mothering because you feel if you don’t do things the right way, whatever that means, that somehow you failed them. I think she would say I’m funny as well. I take things that are serious and make them lighthearted at times…
Moving on to how you were mothered. There are so many books about mothering right now. You saw on IG and FB, I posted Imani Perry’s new book, Breathe and I just finished talking to you both about What My Mother and I Don’t Talk About by Michele Filgate. We put a lot of emphasis in society on mothers.
So how were you mothered and how does that influence the way you mother?
FA: What I remember growing up is a level of independence that my mom had instilled in me. [She was like]I need you to get up, get yourself to school, do these chores, make your own snack. I don’t remember the words ‘I love you’ being spoken frequently. So I just felt over time, because I grew up so quickly, because my mom was a single parent, because she couldn’t depend on anyone else, we didn’t really have that bonding time. For the most part, she had to hustle. I just remember thinking, ‘That’s a lesson you have to instill in your kids moving forward.’
AN: I’m not sure if it’s the time that we were raised. I was raised through religion. My mother was a Jehovah’s Witness; she converted. And we were like the Huxtables of the Hood. We had the mom and the dad and they played their roles… But we also lived by the idea that what happens here, stays here. Keep your mouth shut. Not that we were trying to portray anything special however there were certain things that couldn’t be leaked.
My mom is gentle- a strong giant. She raised us with the fear of God, fear of parents and accountability. I lost the religion and my daughter didn’t get much of that either…Trauma also plays a big part in helicopter parenting. Personally, in the 80s, jumping over crack vials; sometimes the kids don’t see that; they’re not always street smart. Also, I have had relatives who have gone through things that [my daughter] hasn’t seen.
BWBK: Similarly, I came from a two-parent household as well. My mom and dad were also traditional. My mom is very passive. She would do these weird things where she would indirectly ask people (me and my siblings) to do shit. She would say, “Who wants to go to the store?” NOBODY. Nobody wants to go to the store. We’re watching cartoons and I don’t want to get milk or a pack of cigarettes for Daddy.
That’s a stark contrast between the way my mother and I mother our children. I’m not negotiating with you about what you wanna do while you’re literally eating all my shit… There was a strength in my mother that I don’t think she realized. I was very task-oriented and I’m like that with my kids.
So what’s the age you realized raising a daughter was gonna ruin your edges?
For example, when Kaori was seven years old, she tried to flip over a coffee table because she got very upset. Our life was a little bit unstable. Her father just came out of jail; she had just met him; she moved away from my mom’s house and my siblings and had to get used to this new [family] structure. Something happened and she got mad and tried to flip my coffee table over which was crazy cause I thought I was gonna go to jail.
So, when was the first time that happened for you and what does that look like for them as adults? Because my daughter’s 19 and Ann your daughter is 19 and Felicia, your daughter is 20.
So what does that mean for us?
FA: I remember having that experience when she was literally born. My child has been a feisty one from day one. She was like, I’m not gonna sleep, I’m not gonna do this or do that. I was trying to raise a kid and raise myself. I clearly remember when she was like 2 years old. She would just not stay out of my mother’s refrigerator and would look at my mother like “Hey Grandma.” And I just remember her getting behind whoopings then. She was experiencing the terrible two’s and it carried on to the terrible 20’s. The struggle is real.
AN: I think my daughter gave me subtle hints. I remember she was in 4th grade. She had copied the periodic table into her notebook. But then she started looking into mood disorders and depression. I was like, ‘Are you okay?’ She had a spirit that was very inquiry-based.
Her activism is something I had to grapple with as well but she was very slow and subtle about showing me who she was… In her late teens, she took this trip and she went away and the next thing I know she’s on the other side of NY state. Her friend thought she came home and she was in Rochester NY.
The edges were like AHHHH!
BWBK: You started talking about this Felicia; the commonality between us in not only that our children are adults but we all had our children very young. Felicia you had your daughter at 19, Ann, 20 and I had Kaori at 15. How have you evolved and continue to evolve given the fact that [you] were so young when [you] had your child?
AN: The first thing I wanna talk about is the stigma that is associated with having children young. I am so happy and fortunate that I had my baby. It was a choice. It was the best decision I ever made. People think your life is over [especially if] you haven’t finished school. I had a supportive family and [I had my baby] in the right place at the right time with the right person.
FA: I had tons of energy- juggling two jobs, her father was absent; [I was] taking college classes as well. Trying to make sure she was in a safe environment while I’m going to school. Now, my energy has plummeted. But now that she’s approaching 21, I’m conserving my energy and trying to do me now. I tried to make sure she had all the things that I was lacking in my life and that took a lot of time and commitment. Now I’m realizing that I planted the foundation and it’s time for Felicia to get her groove back.
AN: Similar to you, there was no stopping. We grew up together and I’m learning that she is an individual and I cannot control everything she does. My evolution is faith. I thought I had faith being raised religiously but I realized I was lacking it a lot.
BWBK: I agree with a lot of what you’re saying around laying foundations and instilling what you can. I know as a 15 year old, I was garbage. I knew I was a garbage ass mom. At 15 years old, you can’t be a [great mom]. I was literally going to high school- I had her towards the end of my sophomore year -and I was going back and forth to Rikers Island to see her father; going to doctor’s visits by myself and getting homework done and bottles made. I still wanted to go outside and hang out. I used to leave Kaori with my parents to go to the store and wouldn’t come back for 3-4 hours.
I went from that level of detachment to people calling her my Siamese twin. I took her to high school with me because they had a daycare and since then you didn’t see one without the other. My evolution is going from detached in a careless way to being together all the time for the next 15 years then detached in a more intentional way. It was definitely a cycle for me.
What do you want to tell your daughters that you haven’t told them before or you haven’t told them enough?
FA: I know I certainly repeated that cycle of not saying I love you more often. I want my children to know through the actions I do. If you want to go to this private school, I’ll make sure you go there even if it’s the last dollar in my bank account. If you want to get this article of clothing, I’m making sure you’re getting that article of clothing. So what I want to tell my children, especially my daughter is that I love her and I need to put that in practice more often.
AN: I would say to my baby that I believe in you. I may constantly question you [but] just to hear your rationale and your thought process. You know where you’re going in life and know that Mommy has your back. [I trust] the decisions that you’re making and I understand your plan. So I believe in you.
BWBK: I think with Kaori, I do trust her. I trust her to live her life. I don’t want her to live the life that I want her to live. She has said things in the past like “Are you mad about me not getting an A?” or “Are you mad that I’m not dating my ex-boyfriend anymore?” I’m like, my parents allowed me to live my life and you need to live yours. So, Kaori I trust you and I think you’re dope as fuck which is something I’ve said to you more recently than I’ve said in the past…
So one of the questions that Cynthia (episode 1 and 3) and I came up with, was around this idea of our Sister Circle. In the Black Excellence crew, we are colleagues but we are also friends and we cultivate our sister circle. One thing we noticed was that our daughters don’t have these circles.
Why do you think they haven’t been able to create them and maintain those connections?
AN: Social media… I’m trying to figure it out myself. But folks are not sitting down and talking to each other anymore. And I don’t wanna just blame technology or social media. I’m not sure if we (as parents) are possibly creating that environment. I don’t know if I socialized Jada that way. I think about the way we are taking them straight home and sending them to schools that aren’t in their communities. So I’m wondering if the kids in my neighborhood [who went to school together] have a different experience.
I don’t know why that sister circle isn’t happening but I hope it happens in the future.
FA: For Aleysha, there is a young lady who’s her close friend. Their birthdays are two days apart and they’ve been able to cultivate their friendship since grade school. But that’s not a circle- it’s more like a line. My child is a social butterfly however, she doesn’t build those relationships. And she has a strong personality (either my way or no way.) Being in a sorority, still hasn’t allowed her to build those relationships.
BWBK: I think about what we’ve been taught growing up about having girlfriends. It’s always something negative. ‘Girls are drama. They’re catty. She might fuck your man.” And that’s just not helpful. Kaori has always had girlfriends but for the time and space that they were in. Kaori and I have moved three times in her life so she had friends in each phase of her schooling. But I remember when she was in high school and she would hang out with her then-boyfriend’s friends and I spoke to her about that. I told her not to forget her girlfriends and to remember that those are HIS friends. And even in college, I had to talk to her about all of her male friends.
Now she’s dropping names of girls on campus that she hangs out with who seem to be positive but it’s interesting that it needed to be brought to her attention.
Finally, in the spirit of the name of the platform, what makes your daughter a Black woman who be knowing? Let’s end there.
AN: Jada is determined, defiant, visionary, smart as hell, intuitive and kind.
FA: Aleysha is focused, committed, determined, fierce, woke, compassionate.
BWBK: Kaori is definitely driven, intelligent, beautiful inside and out, she got a little cakey, and I think that she’s reflective as well as accountable.
I think we have done our kids justice. We have loved on them, understanding that we are human beings and we are still growing. But it is different from our previous generation. Not better or worse but different. We are trying to heal some generational curses but we’re also taking some things from our previous generation and moving it forward.
I think our daughters would agree that we’re 1,000% in their corners.
Thank you ladies.
(All of us shouting) We love you babies and we love each other.
Black women be nurturing the next generation of Black women.
Black women be growing alongside the next generation of Black women.
Black women be loving on the next generation of Black women.
And if you don’t know, now you be knowing.