As we take time to celebrate Black History this month, honoring Black voices of the past, present, and future, I started to think about how we can honor our ancestors in our parenting. I came across this article recently in Parents magazine as it relates to gentle parenting within the Black community. The author, Gloria Alamrew, shares this beautiful quote which has stuck with me since reading it.
“For Black parents, gentle parenting is not the opposite of what our elders have done. This is how we thank previous generations for keeping us safe in a world that wouldn't.”
This gentle parenting journey has not been one that is easy for me and I will be honest in saying that there are days when I am just not sure that it is working or wonder what it is all for. This is especially true when I am met with pushback from my little one or when I don’t have the capacity to insert play into a moment of contention between me and my child. Sometimes all you can do is walk away at the moment and give yourself some space. So many conflicting thoughts come to my mind …
- Am I doing this right?
- Does this mean I am letting my kids “get away” with stuff?
- What if I mess my kids up?
- What will other people think about my kid’s behaviors?
- How do I teach my kids to be respectful while honoring their voices and needs?
- Why can’t these kids just do what I say to do when I say do it?
- What am I doing wrong?
- How am I setting my children up for future success or failure?
- Why is parenting so hard?
- Was it this hard for previous generations?
The list goes on and on. Truth be told, any way you put it, this parenting thing is hard and when you are intentional about practicing gentle parenting, it takes a lot of inner work and soul searching. For me, that work has been raw and revealed things about me I never knew until I became a parent.
I’ve discovered I am not as patient as I thought I was, although most of my friends would say I have the patience of a saint. Yeah, ask my daughter and I am sure she would beg to differ! I used to think I was just an easy-going person naturally but I have learned I can be pushed to the limit, and despite teaching social-emotional skills to kids for years, I did not have the skills to calm myself in moments when I was about to lose my ish! And then you add COVID on top of that and the additional stress of living in this world we have lived in for the past three years it’s enough to push you over the edge!
Reframing gentle parenting in a way of giving honor to our ancestors and previous generations really helped me to put things into perspective. It is not that we are doing any better or worse than previous generations, it is that we are all doing the best we can with what we have at our disposal at any given moment.
Gentle parenting is not throwing shade at our parents and previous generations, it’s throwing shine. Shining a light on the fact that many of us have the capacity and opportunity to practice gentle parenting because of what our parents and previous generations sacrificed for us and how they kept us safe in a world that wouldn't.
As Black parents, we know the reality is that we still live in a world that won’t keep us safe. Many of us have had “the talk” with our kids and parent our children in a way that helps them prepare for the harshness of that world. At the same time, we can create a safe space for them at home. Home can be a safe space to land. A space where they have a voice and their voice is honored and respected. A space where they are free to feel their feelings and free to make mistakes. A space of mutual respect. A collaborative space. A space that does not meet force with force and is free of fear-based punishment. A space of connection, fun, and playfulness. A space where safe and healthy boundaries are set. Where they can find shelter in the arms of their parents and other loved ones when the world tries to break them down. And a space that provides for ourselves as parents as much as we provide this for our children. This is a gentle parenting space!
“They tried to bury us but didn’t know we were seeds.” This quote rings true for so many of our ancestors and us as a people today. Although we may not all agree on what the perfect parenting style is and we know there is no “one size fits all” model when it comes to parenting, I think we can all agree that we want to live in a world where our ideas, thoughts, and feelings are valued and affirmed. How wonderful that we get to do this work at home with the people we love the most while also honoring those that came before us!