The Predicament Of Privilege & Giving Our Kids The Lives We Never Had
It's mid-October, and I feel like I'm getting settled into my fall TV schedule. One of my new favourite shows is black-ish, starring Tracee Ellis Ross and Anthony Anderson as an upper-middle class couple (he - Andre - is an advertising exec, she - Rainbow - is a doctor) raising their children in today's "post-racial" world. In the pilot, Anderson's character gives a quick recount of how he grew from a boy in Compton to a man in the 'burbs with a successful career, accomplished wife, gorgeous home, and 4 beautiful kids. Andre and Rainbow's children exist in a place of certain privilege and at times are hilariously unaware of it, to Andre's dismay. Ultimately, the premise of the show is rooted in the fact that the trajectory of Andre's life was propelled by hard work, which now enables his children to have a totally different launching point than he had. Navigating that divide with authenticity and comedic timing is part of black-ish's magic, and a big reason why I enjoy it.
This is the goal of most, if not all parents - to provide your children with a better life than their own. Most parents want to rid their offspring's lives of many of the hardships and suffering they themselves encountered, and fill those spaces with opportunities and experiences they were unable to have. However, as covered in art with black-ish and in life with a recent conversation I had, how do we get our children to understand and respect the struggle without feeling its sting?
A couple of weeks ago, I ran into a friend who has two sons - one a few months older than Little Magician, and the other who is about 9 years old. We talked about motherhood, and she lamented that raising her eldest to understand various issues and appreciate his position in life was difficult at times. So many things differed between the generations. His experiences with and conceptualizations of race and racism. His appreciation for things like his home, clothes and video games. His understanding of his Haitian heritage and the magnitude of that history. He wasn't disrespectful - he had just come into a certain way of life and that was all he knew. Replacing his video game playing time with books on Toussaint L'Ouverture and the Haitian Revolution was part of his mom's summer game plan, but she still felt there was more that could be done.
If you're a parent who started from the bottom now you here, how do you provide better for your kids without having them take the spoils of your labour for granted? Regaling your children with "Back in MY day..." stories doesn't often elicit the reverence and appreciation we're looking for, so what does? Is it in the appropriate teaching methods of the parent, the temperament of the child, or both?
Little Magician has been born into a family base and world that affords her privileges that I didn't have. Thinking of how to balance giving her the best with ensuring she understands how she got it is constantly on my mind. I hope that she's a kind and appreciative child who sees her parents' efforts and is able to recognize how lucky she is. I hope that her father and I continue to provide her with the components of a fulfilling life, including the lessons on hard work, sacrifice, challenges, and overcoming that she will need as she grows. The impact of watching my parents who emigrated from Jamaica was powerful enough for my siblings and I to recognize our blessings, but I hope that same effect isn't diluted with my daughter.
I'm nearly 4 months into this parenting game, and I see that quiet hope and fervent effort is what much of it is made up of. My parents did their best with what they had, and all I can promise is that I'll do the same. Here's to raising our children to be in gratitude for the greatness of their lives.