I am the eldest child of two parents who grew in poverty. From the moment I was born, my father had dreams for me. As a Black woman, today I can appreciate the depth of his passion because I know that so many Black children are destined for obscurity, because no one dared to dream the impossible for them. Today, I am the mother of two children. When I look into their eyes, I see the kind of possibility that lends itself to youth and adventure.
I find myself wondering — what if my boys were to stand in front of the Taj Mahal at sunset? Would they be so overwhelmed by its beauty, that they would weep salty tears of joy, in the simple pleasure of being alive? What if my boys were to steer a boat down the Nile River? Would they be overcome with a sense of human history unfolding slowly over a millennium? What if my boys were to walk across a stage and collect a PHd? Would they go on to enrich the world with their work? Would they share great revelations that would be remembered well into the centuries to come? To look at a child that you love, is to ask what if….
The problem with what if, is that the question may not pertain to the child hirself, but to long dormant yearnings within the parent that remain unfulfilled. This sepeation is extremely difficult, because parenting allows you to re-live moments of your childhood, that you have always wanted to change and or experience. The very first time that I went swimming, Destruction was one. I remember that summer day as one of the happiest days of my life. I don’t recall it in the same manner as I do other adult memories, because I experienced it as a little girl inside a woman’s body. The same can be said of our first Santa Claus Parade, and the first time we went trick or treating, because they were all actions that I longed to do as a child.
More than wanting to protect our children, we want them to live – to experience life in the most tactile fashion possible. We want them to be free of our fears; to exist in a world that for whatever reason may not have been possible for us. It is our very nearness to them that allows us to live vicariously through them and thus see the fulfillment of our long stagnant dreams. We justify this by saying, that hopes and dreams for ones child are normal. Who would ever wish anything but the best for their child; however, a parents version of best and a child’s perspective of what is best might forever be in conflict.
Even as we encourage a child to dream, use their imagination and to believe in themselves, there is always some part of us that selfishly places our hopes and aspirations upon them, as though they exist for our self fulfillment. We tell them to dream and even supply the inspiration and the tools, but whose freedom are we really plotting?
I have lead a very simple life. There are places I long to go, and wine I thirst to drink. In my very veins I carry not only my hopes and aspirations, but that of everyone that went before me and I feel this burden most heavily in the quiet times. Life would be unbearable without dreams and flights of fancy, but it is absolutely delusional to think these thoughts belong to us alone.
So, when I look at my children and wish them happiness, it is always tinged with my own desires. Who is to say what happiness is? How do we define moments of bliss? And when we say we want to make our parent proud, are we not at times fulfilling their dreams with the one and only life we have to live? How is it that the newly born come to us already laden with a burden that we expect them to sacrifice to fulfill? As a mother of Black children, it is imperative that I teach my children to dream, because the world would have them mired in misery. The trick in this is to remember that their happiness and their dreams must originate with them and not with me. To truly love from the position of a parent, is to function as a guide, with the realization that we are but a spectator; the main event is to be experienced by the child hirself.