Like most teenagers, I didn’t think the advice my parents gave would be my life lessons as I grew older.
My parents, the almost 40-years-married couple who’ve seen each other through some rough times, dispensed some wisdom that was looked at sideways at first.
Mom: “Be careful what you do. You never know who’s watching you.” Paranoia at the time it seemed, but it turned out to be true. Whether on the job or in the streets, I learned to keep my business to myself.
Dad: “See, you don’t have any real friends. In your life, you can count the number of real friends you have on one hand.” Harsh it seemed at a point when all you want to feel is accepted, but that turned out to be true, as well. Especially as I saw the people who I thought were real leave my life and I was left with no answers. The friends I rely on now I can say will be there for me.
Mom: “Always get the person’s name who you talk to.” Unexplainable at the time, my mother was a stickler for writing down the names of telephone representatives, bank associates, etc. Cause she said if there was ever a time when it came down to who said what, you wouldn’t have a name to back it up. Comes in handy when trying to figure out your Sprint phone bill, cause them jokers will lie about anything. (I also get an employee number, too, if necessary.)
Dad: “See y’all think times have changed. Times ain’t changed. One day you gon’ recognize that. These white folks ain’t your friend and ain’t gon’ give you a damn thing.” Growing up on an all-white block, the choices were limited to who I could play with. Yet, I just knew I could count on Shelly and Angie, my two Caucasian sidekicks. That was until I discovered they were having secret slumber parties–that I wasn’t invited to.
Mom: “If don’t tell you nothing else, you better pray. And know the Lord.” At 16 I was just waiting for the chance to be released from going to church on command. And at that age I hadn’t been through anything that tested my faith. Now I recognize that, as hard as it is, you should worry about nothing and pray about everything.
Dad: “Be proud of who you are.” This was spoken on so many subjects and on so many levels. Being Black, being smart, being their daughter, being yourself. It’s a daily struggle, but one I think gets easier.
I do look up to them. They’ve been the best parents a person can have. Just looking at the news today, not every child can say that. They’ve helped shaped me into who I am, and for that, I’m grateful.
Back then I would tell my mother, like all children when believing they’re being mistreated, “When I become a mom, I’m never gonna treat my children the way you do me.”
I’ll never forget my mother’s words when she said with a straight face, “Yeah. I said the same thing to her, too.”