By Lasaundra Jeter-Caldwell
We’ve always felt it’s very important to spend a lot of time with our children. I was fortunate enough to stay home with them for ten years so…from the beginning (pre-k) I was helping in the school and very involved with what they were doing. I was always there. As they got older, I began to substitute teach….many times in their classroom. We spent a lot of time reading to them, taking them to the library, the museum, the zoo, swimming lessons and traveling etc. I knew all their friends very well.
We kept them busy with sports since the age of 4 and now….at ages 19 and 15 they are still very athletic and competitive and love sports. My daughter even played flag football one year and loved it.
One thing my husband always taught them is that they “have to be twice as good as everyone else academically as well as physically in order to be successful. Average is not good enough if you truly want to be successful.”
When something important needs to be done, we try to let them do it rather than doing everything for them. When they were small however, I failed in this area, but as they got older I realized I had to step back and let them learn by DOING. They do their own laundry, wash their own dishes and even speak to their own teachers and coaches if there is an issue to resolve. (Unless it’s very serious)
Watching them change and grow into happy, well-rounded little human beings, who also love God…is an awesome feeling.
The thing I love the most is when my children say: “Mom I really like talking to you.” Or “Mom you’re so fun.” It makes me feel like I’m doing something right!
Lasaundra Jeter-Caldwell lives in Atlanta with her family.
Dear Reader: This post was written by our friend who we’ll call …”The Anonymous Mama.” She’s a well-known writer but for this post she wanted to go nameless. Read on:
We were walking along the streets of Paris two years ago not too far from the Catacombs when I leaned down towards a man lying in the street and handed him a few Euros. My son, then 14, tapped me on my shoulder as we continued on our way and asked me:
“Why is that man lying on the sidewalk like that?”
“Because he’s homeless,” I said. Then I froze. “You’ve never seen a homeless person before?” He shook his head no.
Then it hit me. Right, he hadn’t. That’s because he’s grown up not far from Washington, D.C. in a suburban Virginia neighborhood populated with $300,000 homes that the mostly Asian population affectionately calls “Koreatown.” His upper-middle class playmates have mostly been the children of Tiger moms and Indians, Caucasians and just a smattering of African Americans. Some of his playdates have been in the million dollar mansions that populate our county. Sure, my son has been to DC. to the Smithsonian museums, the Zoo and the National Aquarium on field trips in the tourist areas along Constitution Avenue but those are areas where you don’t see the homeless.
On weekends and for family gatherings we’ve traveled to Philadelphia. But my parents didn’t live in an area where there were homeless people, either.
He has lived his entire life in a single 15-20 mile radius brimming with gorgeous well-manicured lawns and neatly trimmed hedges and multi-colored flower beds and cherry blossom and dogwood trees. We’ve taken him to five countries and he has studied several languages. He excels in school and hopes to study psychology. He has walked along leafy green streets filled with mostly late-model luxury cars owned by doctors, lawyers, educators, yuppies and soccer moms. Our neighbors, who are a diverse mix, all know each other and have watched him grow up. At night when we come in the house, the things I fear are not other people intending us harm, but frogs and snakes and skunks, and maybe the occasional fox.
In a world where another Black man seems to get shot by police every week and “Black Lives Matter” is either a call to unity or has undertones of racism, depending on which side of the fence you sit on, my ex-husband and I find ourselves in a unique dilemma: Have we done our sheltered child a disservice by living the American dream?
We’re raising a boy whose life doesn’t mirror the ones we see on television or in films. His is not the boy-in-the-hood childhood. But we’re sending him into a world where there are those who think because of his skin color he may have “violent tendencies.”
Crime in my neighborhood consists mostly of teenagers being caught on camera stealing change from cars. According to the crime index for my city, it’s safer than 64 percent of the cities in the U.S. And Neighborhood Scout.com states that the chance of becoming a victim of crime in my neighborhood is one in 1,739.
Yet, I worry about my child. Should I be worried about his interactions with police? I don’t know. But given today’s climate I’m erring on the side of caution. After years of telling him the police are who you turn to if there’s trouble, apparently now I have to include that caveat with “the conversation.”
When we had “the conversation” … you know “the conversation” all black parents have with their sons, including Homeland Security Chief Jeh Johnson as he said earlier this summer on Meet the Press, my son looked at me with a blank stare.
That conversation includes how to behave around the police.
“Do EXACTLY what they say. Be polite. If you’re driving, keep your hands on the steering wheel. Don’t ask them questions. Make no sudden movements because they are afraid of your skin color–not you. (Which in itself is nonsensical). And if you are arrested “ask for an attorney” immediately and don’t make any statements without one present.”
It scares me that I have to deal with this–on top of making sure he’s fed, clothed, educated and figuring out how to swing his college education.
I never thought in 2016, with a sitting African American president that we would live in a world that STILL feels like 1955 if you are black.
(Photo credit: Andrew Prise. The two men in the photograph are Yale scholars who’ve featured in The Ordinary Genius Project).