Black Parenting: Learning to Let Go

Photo: Ariel Skelley (Getty Images)
Photo: Ariel Skelley (Getty Images)
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As a teenager, I spent lots of time behind my bedroom door. Usually, I was serving time for missing curfew or bringing home grades that didn’t meet my parents’ expectations. But other times, I isolated myself in protest of my parents’ oppressive house rules. Back then, I had no idea why I always had to be the first to leave the party to make my ridiculously early curfew or why I had to study when everyone else was watching Rap City. All I knew was that my parents were killing any chance I had of being considered among the cool kids.

I knew better than to fix my lips to talk back or challenge their authority. But behind my bedroom door, I wasn’t just sulking and listening to Jodeci. I was plotting my escape. I’m not talking about running away with a knapsack and no destination. My plan was strategic – get a great job that would take me to New York City – a place far enough away from home to live by my own rules but close enough to come back if the whole thing fell apart.

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Don’t get me wrong, I want my children to have experiences and stories that start with “can you believe we did that?” And I know that can only happen if I cover my eyes, push them out of the nest and let them find their own way. But I’m not going to lie, I kind of like knowing that when I open their bedroom door, they’ll be there. So for now, when I send them to their room to think about violating one of my oppressive house rules, I hope they know that if their escape plan doesn’t work, they can always come back.

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