I love having conversations with people who allow you to feel comfortable in your own skin. Spoke with some encouraging women today about the topic of expectations we place on our children. We openly discussed the topic of seeing our children as our “second chance”. Our chance to either correct the mistakes our parents made or correct the mistakes we made ourselves. The truth is our children have their own paths to walk that start the day they were born and not the day we messed up and decided that they would pick up where we left off and correct our wrongs. They’ll have their own set of worries, their own giants to face, their own battles to fight; placing our unnecessary expectations on them paves the way for broken relationship and creates a continued tradition of focusing on the unimportant things in life. We really are “legacy leavers” as our speaker mentioned today. As the women at my table spoke so openly and honestly about their stories and the areas where they needed to show more grace to their children I immediately became convicted. As they spoke there was one word that came to my mind; that word was APPLE.
Don’t worry I’ll answer the question you’re all asking yourselves; “what in the heck does an apple have to do with it?” Unfortunately it had a lot to do with the topic at hand. I’ve recently been working on myself in the area of organization. This included adding vocabulary lessons to my daily interaction with my son… I’ll need to take a pause here to give you a quick recap in history to catch you up on things… From the moment I was born I was faced with expectations. From the moment I was born I was expected to fail. A daughter of a (former) drug addict and a family with a poor reputation in the criminal system, I had no real expectations but to fail. Somewhere down the line I began to show promise. Intellectually and athletically I showed more in more promise. Somewhere down the line I realize that people expected things from me. In fact they expected A LOT from me. Since we are being honest I’ll share a moment in my childhood when a realized just how much my success meant to others.
In my early teens I ended up hanging out with some new friends one Saturday. Before I realized it a friend three seats away from me light up cigar with a particular drug in it and then passed it to the next person. That person handed it to the other person and I found myself wondering about my next move. When the hand next to me reached out a close friend of mine, at the time, turned it away before I even had the chance to make a choice for myself. Although it was disappointing that I let myself get in that situation I immediately became grateful for that friend. She said words that I’ll never forget. “Naw don’t give that to Vonda she’s got sports and school to worry about. She’s gonna be the one of us that makes something of herself; she doesn’t need to be doing that stuff.” I knew what she meant because we talked about it before. By us she didn’t just mean the people in that room. She meant black people as a whole. I encountered other situations like this throughout my life. Being told by a foster child at my school that I was a great example for young black girls, having a cousin tell me she’s proud of me and “at least one of US made it”, or even having people in my community commend me for overcoming adversity. These are few of over one hundred examples I could give to you. It became clear in my teen years that the success of my race and my family was my expectation.
Feeling like a quota has stressed me out in ways I could never describe. I love being able to encourage and inspire others but on the opposite end I felt that if I made a mistake it wouldn’t mean that LaVonda made a mistake it would mean “that black girl” or the “girl from THAT family” made a mistake. That’s a lot of pressure for any person and I swore I would raise my kid(s) to please God and not others…but with the beginning of that vocabulary lesson I had done just the opposite of that.
Our lesson began with A is for Apple. Since my son had said Apple the first day I knew he was more than capable of saying the word. My goal is to spend a maximum of a month on each group of 3 words; using them in sentence form and in action. I wanted to hear the word 10 times before moving to the next. My son however thought that after receiving hand claps and a congratulatory dance upon saying apple the first day he was done. Any time I said apple and gestured for him to repeat the word he would find where I place the apple in the group of other objects, pick it up, and make a funny sound instead of stating the word I’d asked for. I’m going to be honest and say I got a little annoyed. I tried to get him to take things seriously because this was about education and if he didn’t learn now and if I wasn’t persistent upon him learning early on he could become another one of the people in this family who never take education seriously and fail before the age of 16… Do you hear it now? Yup there was that dreadful expectation. Expectations really can have a generational consequence. Here I was about to hold the exact same expectation to my own child. My ONE YEAR OLD SON who just wanted to impress his mother with the new sounds he had learned. Today we are singing, tossing the apple in the air, making fart noises, monster roars, and rolling around in our living room! Because the only expectation I have for my one year old today is my be ONE… oh and give mommy lots of hugs and kisses!
I hope this post saves a child from being subjected to unfair expectations.
With Grace and Love,