Advice My Parents Gave

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.”

The Pitter-Patter of Little Feet

aafeet.jpgIt was a sad occasion as I lugged my suitcase behind me into the bustling airport. Sad not only because I was leaving my sister, just sprung from the hospital after emergency surgery, but I was also giving up the one person who had wormed his way further into my heart.

My two-year-old nephew.

There he was, sitting in the backseat of the minivan, bawling his eyes out. He’s crying because he sees his auntie disappearing through the revolving doors of the airport. And I can’t help but be moved by his sign of devotion.

When I made the decision to come see my sister, I never figured that my nephew would even recognize me. With 1000 miles separating us, it’s hard to keep track of a face you only see twice a year. Indeed, when I came to pick him up from day care the first day there, he mean-mugged me, giving me this look like, “And you would be who?”

By day two, my nephew was holding his little hand in mine.

It warmed my heart. 

Don’t get me wrong. The little tyke, with all his rambunctious and precocious nature, lived up to what they called the terrible twos. If he wasn’t running down the hall wild-legged, he was pulling every item in the house out for inspection–including my BlackBerry and pink IPod. He managed to fall on his head at least once, and put himself in time-out twice after being too hardheaded.

But I fell in love anyway.

It made me think about my own path to motherhood. At first, it was something I wasn’t sure I wanted to do. I was still in my 20s, my selfish stage, and felt like there were things I wanted to accomplish first. Then, when I began to think about how hard it is to raise a child in this world, I just couldn’t do it. Times are so different now, even from when I was a child, which was not so long ago. I remember when playing until the streetlights came on was a requirement. Now it’s too dangerous to send your child outside and the Internet is a child’s playground–and neither one you can trust with your offspring.

But the more I look forward to having a future with LeBron, the more I can see my life being filled with the pitter-patter of little feet. It’s better to have a child with someone who truly wants to have one, and not just because the condom broke.