Different Does Not Mean Better

Posted: September 16, 2013 in Life Lessons
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As a parent you want what’s best for your family. I have heard people criticize others for moving out of “the hood” to the suburbs. I have even been accused of thinking that ” I am better” than other family members. Just because I want something “different” for my family, it does not mean that I think I am better.

The reality is, until you are exposed to different things, you may not realize and appreciate all that life has to offer. The quality of life that I am experiencing now, I believe, is a gift from God. I appreciate the fact that I am able to give my family access to different resources that I did not even know existed when I was growing up.

Again I say…Different. Different does not mean better. Although I feel safe when I walk around my neighborhood at night, that does not mean that my family is not in danger. Although my son is being educated in one of the best school systems in the country, does not mean that he will be “successful”. Just because we live in a community that has manicured lawns and picket fences, 2.5 kids and a dog, does not mean that every house is a great home.

The reality is we are in unfamiliar territory. My son has and will encounter “different” experiences that will impact him in a way that I have no way of knowing at this time. I have to discern and learn at warp speed to help my family adapt to the new environment that we live.

The other day my son realized, “Dad, I am the only Black person in my class.” At this point, my response was simply, “Son, you are very observant?” However, I take a mental note to start to talk about his race / identity more. I want him to be secure in who he is. I have personally experienced people and situations where people did not like me for who I am and it is hurtful. I want him to be confident in who he is and never feel that he has to minimize or apologize for it.

There is a little girl that seemed to really like my son since last year. To the point that she even left a note in his backpack that included her address and phone number. Shocked, we simply returned the note to the teacher. Well, the other day we were walking to school and we saw her. My son spoke to her multiple times. She would not speak back to him. Eventually, she turned her back and waited until we walked away before she turned around. My son said, “See daddy, she does that all the time now. I guess she is embarrassed when I am around.” But I saw and felt something different. I never said anything to my son, but that was not an innocent little girl bashfully avoiding a school age crush. After I dropped my son off, I started to walk back and as I approached her, she did the same thing…she dropped her head and turned away until I passed, then she continued to walk. WOW! Really? What is she being taught?

My mind went back to the interaction that I had with her dad several months ago. I introduced myself, “Nice to meet you, I hear your daughters name all the time.” I told him whose dad I was and he replied, “Oh…I hear your kids name too.” When he looked down and saw my son, his demeanor shifted and facial expression went grime. I remember thinking, “What was that?” He simply walked away. I filed it away, not sure how to feel, but it all came roaring back with this encounter with his daughter.

As we walk him to school every morning, we often speak to the parents that we pass. “Good Morning!” No response, even when making eye contact. Really? It has been over a month and I continue to speak anyhow. Some speak, others look away or down, I think, hoping I will get the message. 🙂 Nope!! I am required to love you! LOL!

I say all of this to say, we desire “the community” that we grew up in, but that community was made up of people who had so many things in common. Now that the “different” person wants something “different”, it will take some time for this community to accept that without prejudice. There are so many stereotypes that cause people to question who we are and if we can be trusted. Then, in light of the hateful response to the new Miss America, it reminds me that as a country, we still have so far to go (not saying I did not realize that before now).

Although I feel that my son is safe and he is being educated in a great school system, as a parent, I still have to understand the different things that he is being exposed to and help him cope and grow.

Parenting is not easy. I thank God for the exposure that I have had, which has prepared and equipped me to better deal with all that comes with wanting different. I am sure that this will not be the last of it, but I pray that God will allow us to be a beacon of light in dark places.

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