Now that my daughters are teen and adult age, I’ve entered into what some view as dangerous territory. The comments I get are… interesting.
“Oh my, you have no more babies!”
“Just be glad you didn’t have sons.” – cue requisite head-shaking
“How do you deal with three daughters?”
“Does your husband have a shotgun handy?”
“It could be worse… you could have sons. Just think about how worried you’d be then.”
Did you catch the multi-layered meaning in that last one? The implication is that since I have daughters, specifically Black daughters, I don’t have to worry about them the same way that mothers of Black sons should, or do.
Of course, that’s nonsense. My girls have a Black dad. Black grandfathers. Black uncles. Black male friends. They may partner with Black men. Who knows? Black women are harassed, assaulted and killed, too. They’re not exempt, and that’s the hardest part of all of this.
Faith has always been a part of my and my girls’ very close relationship. We do church as a family. The hardest part of the last few months is that I have to come to terms with an erosion of faith. Sometimes I feel extremely encouraged, that God is with us through all of our trials and troubles. Sometimes, not so much.
Late at night, after everyone is asleep, my thoughts start racing. My feelings bubble up to the surface. I’ve sobbed, prayed, cried, meditated, listened, screamed and sobbed some more. Sometimes I wonder where EXACTLY God could be. I’ve run out of things to say to my girls that don’t sound like the same, tired phrases: God will see us through this. Let’s stop and pray right now for the victims. The families. The shooter. God is with us. When person after person dies for the world to view, and their skin looks like mine, my faith feels like it’s slipping away.
How do I parent when I feel hopeless? Where does faith fit in? How do I help my non-Black friends understand how to approach this myriad of sensitive topics?
This is where my librarian and teacher skills join my long-standing faith and help me immensely. Here’s where I am right now with my teens:
- Have fact-based discussions. When you discuss unthinkable situations, be sure to have your facts straight. Find reliable sources for your information. Check dubious facts. Do this together. Research skills are important for writing papers; they’re also great for checking facts. The beginning of an open and honest discussion about a difficult topic is unbiased accuracy. That’s not always easy to find, but it’s worth the effort.
- Talk about where God’s word fits in to the issue(s). Study the commandments, Jesus’ teachings, Psalm 119, Paul’s letters. What advice does scripture provide? Another way to approach this is to ask: What would Jesus say? What would he do? What message would he give if he were here today?
- Be honest about your feelings. Kids are extremely perceptive – teens are even more so. They will know if you’re not being honest about how you feel, or where you stand on an issue. They’re looking to you to see how to respond.
- Be honest about your emotions. This is not the time to be falsely strong. Vulnerability can be an asset. Kids and teens need to know that it’s okay to show emotion when they’re with loved ones. Tears are not a sign of weakness; they’re an expression of a wide range of states and emotions that include fatigue, illness, sadness, happiness, relief, anger and joy.
- Let your teens know that it’s okay to disagree with you. God created us with our own minds. It’s okay to see things differently, as long as the end result resembles love.
- If your teens want to act, find a way to support them. Our world needs your teens to be compassionate and caring about others so that they can be compassionate and caring adults. Teens prove every day that they can change their reality for the better. Social media allows teens to share those stories.
- Help your teen find comfort in scripture. More than ever, our world needs to hear Jesus’ message of Love. If your teens know this, they need to share that message with others. My girls and I read different versions of Psalm 1. My 13-y-o liked The Message translation best.
I look at my girls and think, we’re going to make it. Kaia’s baking bread, Jaiya’s braiding doll hair. I hold on tight to these moments. I haven’t given up on our country. I haven’t given up on God. I’m doubling down and taking my girls with me on our faith journey. Like it says in Psalm 1: God charts the road you take.
God, be with us on this road. Keep your voice in my ear and your song in my heart. Amen.
How do you parent when you feel hopeless?