Raising two boys is one of the biggest challenges I have ever faced.
Physically loving a child and feeding him is the easy part, even though it means employment is necessary to provide the required funds. However, the emotional, spiritual and social direction that comes with the responsibility of being a parent is another ballgame all together.
Giving and showing love can be an instinctual or a learned behavior that each one of us is capable of. But you can only give what you have. You can only teach what you were taught. You can only transfer the energy that you have inside you.
Raising boys into men can be a difficult task for a woman because we are forced to act out of character. We think, I am not a man, so I cannot convey my feelings to my sons in the midst of my own emotional experience. Or, I am not a man, so I cannot relate with these boys the same way when they face their challenges.
What we should say as a reminder to ourselves is, I do have a human understanding of their troubles. I try to be compassionate. I can empathize with them, hurt for them and cry for them.
I often tell my boys, "As much as I want to carry your burden and be there for you, I can never bear the burden of your own feelings."
Thus, my heart goes out to any young boy that seems lost, feels hurt or abandoned. I always notice how men behave towards the women in their family and women in society. I listen to the words they say but more importantly to the underlining message they convey through their actions because it speaks volumes.
When I see black men who are writers, performers, politicians, father and husbands, I consider them storytellers. Their lives, choice of careers and the paths they follow tells the story of their past, present and future -- without them knowing it.
I listen to these men and search for similarities in my boys. I want to get insight into their world and understand the challenges they may have in their lives. I'm not looking for an immediate solution to fall in my lap but hope to gain insight that can help me approach my boys in a better way. This way, I can answer my boys' questions with more knowledge and with the promise of a positive outcome to their challenges. I had an "ah-ha!" moment when I worked with Isaiah Washington during the difficult time he faced post Grey's Anatomy.
Spending time with Washington was rewarding for both myself and my youngest son because, at the time, my boy was coming into his own and needed guidance from someone he could relate to.
Washington's memoir, I Man From Another Land: How Finding My Roots Changed My Life, opened my eyes to certain emotions that my son was going through. So, I backed off to give him space and responded with less emotion. The results were definite.
My next "ah-ha!" moment came when I worked with actress Elise Neal. During one of our talks she made a profound statement, "I can only tell you my story, my experiences."
Hearing her say that immediately translated meaning into my experience with my son. I can't expect this young man to react to the world the way a woman would, the way I would -- this expectation is unfair, unrealistic and illogical. "Ah-ha!" moment number three was inspired by screenwriter Craig Davidson. He is a former soldier, model and it is through his storytelling that he remains a leader. His personal story is fueled by frustration, pain and even anger which have all led him down a very dismal path.
Thankfully, his upbringing and constant support of those around him have caused Davidson to shift gears. He now uses his story to change lives and influence the way society views and treats young men today. Davidson's battle was deeper than any one physical dispute one could have. He was fighting an internal, raging battle. Just like so many young men in our community who feel limited and believe they have no way out of a dead-end existence, Davidson joined the military.
Yet I wondered: How can a young man make such a serious choice while he is still maturing physically and emotionally? How can this decision be made amongst the turmoil of him sorting out his feelings? I applaud Davidson for recognizing those challenges -- nothing his weaknesses and deciding to do something about it. It takes a lot of courage and a different kind of bravery to put your thoughts on paper for others to view.
It also takes a brave woman to know when to let go of her sons and to recognize when she is no longer the main influencer in a young man's life. If we look we will find the influential and resourceful male leaders who can save the lives of potentially great men. A positive mentor can direct our sons' futures and teach them to become better people. They need to be shown how to achieve greatness and become positive contributors to society.
A mother's pride is her greatest achievement with priceless rewards. With that, I call for continued support of new creators in the entertainment industry. We can no longer allow the media and press to dictate our perception of our children. We can no longer be comfortable allowing others to tell our stories.
Hollywood can no longer be the sole author of our tales and then complain about the lack of stories that reflect us. Nor can we demand that Hollywood be forced to produce and tell our stories, as people of color, when it is not their story to tell.
Ultimately, we need to start owning the media outlets that control how people of color are portrayed and how the public views them.