She sat across from her daughter, as the tears flowed, she wasn’t aware of the profound effect that the apology would have on her. she had no idea that she’d been waiting years to hear it. Now they both sat, spent from the release of it all.
See, she’d raised 3 boys (or “men” as she preferred to call them nowadays) in a world that she didn’t’ want to eat them alive. With racial profiling, drugs, peer pressure, gangs, and so many other things that could snatch them up before their 18th birthday, she was able to admit to herself that she may have done a bit more coddling than she should have, she’d done so as a single parent. But they’d all lived to see not only their 18th birthdays but were productive citizens now well into their mid and late 20’s. She hadn’t set a whole lot of expectations on them save for finish school, go to college if it’s in your plans, and promise you won’t run with the wrong crowds, and all 3 had pretty much done those things, the youngest boy even started college, still in school though he’d had a terrible illness fall on him that set him back a few years, he’s now designing computer programs, his major being “Computer Science”. She always boasted about her boys. She was raised in the projects where she’d seen plenty bloodshed in the streets and this was her biggest fear.
Her own daughter was the youngest and somewhat of a surprise as she’d given up on having a girl or any more kids at all. The day her baby girl was born was one of the greatest days she could remember. Her birth was a little dramatic. It was July 2nd and she was out shopping for the boys some 4th of July outfits (we used to do that, too funny), when her water broke in the middle of the mall. She was miles away from home where her husband was, and about 4 counties away from the hospital in which she planned to give birth, with some of her girlfriends. Her car was a stick shift, and neither of them could drive it…. This was going to be interesting. But it all worked out. When she finally made her entrance into the world, she was one of the most precious things she’d laid her eyes upon. She had the most BEAUTIFUL big brown eyes, the oldest soul, and calmest spirit of any child she’d seen up until then. She’d always sit and observe the things around her, she didn’t cry much as a baby. But she asked herself was she ready to raise a young lady when she was still a little rough around the edges? She herself was the only girl of 3 boys, 2 of which she’d pretty much raised, and so many expectations had been placed on her as a little girl. She’d been riding 2 public transportation buses to school by herself since kindergarten and was responsible for her brother only 3 years younger than her for as long as she could remember. Then when she was 14, her mother had another boy whom she ADORED and took on as her own child pretty much…. She knew how to raise boys.
The epiphany had come on a Friday night as she watched tv and there was this special where a young lady had fallen into a relationship with the wrong young man, and she was so afraid of disappointing her mother that she kept a lot of what was happening to herself. She literally sat up in the bed as she remembered that she hadn’t had a really good conversation with her own daughter in a while, she always assumed things were good because she never let on that they weren’t. But there was a moment, something hit her that maybe she hadn’t made it as easy to talk to her as she thought she did. She started to cry, she realized she had set expectations on her that she hadn’t on the boys, that while she was coddling and praising them, she was grooming her own daughter to be too independent, that things she allowed the boys to get away with, she definitely wouldn’t let her. She had set extreme expectations for her. She was harsh whenever she had a question about simple things that she assumed she should know. But why, and how had she become this mother? Why was she so hard on her? It was because of the same expectations placed on her, and in that instance the pang in her stomach was overwhelming, she literally threw up as she’d vowed to never be to her own children, what her mom had been to her.
“We teach girls to shrink themselves
To make themselves smaller
We say to girls
“You can have ambition
But not too much
You should aim to be successful
But not too successful
Otherwise you will threaten the man”
Because I am female
I am expected to aspire to marriage
I am expected to make my life choices
Always keeping in mind that
Marriage is the most important
Now marriage can be a source of
Joy and love and mutual support
But why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage
And we don’t teach boys the same?
We raise girls to each other as competitors
Not for jobs or for accomplishments
Which I think can be a good thing
But for the attention of men
We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings
In the way that boys are
Feminist: the person who believes in the social
Political, and economic equality of the sexes”
So when her daughter came over the next day, sitting there at the dining room table, during their little Saturday morning breakfast date over coffee, she apologized to her. She could tell it caught her off guard. She told her that she was sorry for not allowing her to continue to be that precious baby she’d brought home from the hospital, that she was sorry for expecting things from her at an age when she should’ve still been hugging and kissing on her, she was sorry for not understanding when she asked her simple questions, that she thought that she was doing the right thing by wanting her to be independent, by not allowing her moments of weakness, that every time she told her to “think about it” when she asked her a question, she thought she was preparing her for life as a black woman, where people rarely want to assist you with anything and if you appeared weak, this world would chew you up and spit you out and because instead of her being the oldest she was the youngest and where she lacked her brothers had her back.
Boy, how could she be THAT mother and not know it? Especially when she and her daughter were so close.
The list of expectations she had set for her compared to the boys was unbelievable: Be cute but not too cute, you don’t want to draw the wrong attention, make sure you always smell good, no one wants to be around a young lady who smelled, keep your hair up, people judge that always brush and floss, dress nice but not too revealing, think for yourself, but don’t be afraid to ask questions, don’t smile too hard at these lil boys, they’ll mistake it for something else, don’t have any kids before marriage, matter of fact don’t have sex before marriage, keep your room immaculate (I always cleaned the boy’s room for them), never ask anyone for anything, work for it yourself, cross your legs when you sit down, stand up straight, don’t hunch your shoulders….. I could go on and on. Shaking my head. She sat Forlorn across from her, and they hugged, and she could feel the weight of the world lift from her daughter’s shoulders, and at that moment, she wondered, WHY was she always so hard on her and not the boys?
Epiphany….You’ve always had to fend for yourself. You didn’t know any other way.