Parenting Off the Beaten Path

Last month a 25 year old man named Freddie Grey was arrested by Baltimore city police and later arrived to the police station with his spine severed in 3 places. He died days later in the hospital sparking outrage and protest over his blatant negligence at the hands of the police department. The city of Baltimore was pushed into turmoil as generational frustration in the African American community, over treatment by police, boiled over. People had become tired of young African American males being murdered on camera (or with other crushing comprehensive evidence) and receiving no justice because they were at the hands of law enforcement.

The narrative of angry mobs rioting and destroying the city were quieted when Toya Graham dragging her son out of that mob by force, became headline news. Dubbed a “hero mom” by social media and “Mom of the Year” by one major New York City newspaper Toya Graham was pushed to the forefront of the media coverage with interviews on Good Morning America, CNN and CBS News. Quite literally she single handedly — with a couple of open fist punches — shifted the focus of the protest, even if just for a fleeting moment, to something else. Was the image she was portraying correct in its message about disciplining our children or how black mothers interact with their sons? Did she perpetuate a systemic violence that is central in the Freddie Grey case and encourage others to look at it as an engrained aspect of the African American existence in this country? In turn pacifying it?

I don’t know.

This platform is not here to judge if she went about things in the correct or incorrect way. I have watched the conversation go back and forth between people who applaud her efforts and others who criticize it for what it created/represented in the media. For the most part many of the people condemning her actions are people – from my observations – who do not have children. And parents who think she went about things in the wrong way give their critique with a caveat of understanding; they weren’t about to judge. Honestly, to pluck one moment out of a sea of turmoil and deem it enough to construct an accurate picture of a mother’s experience is the definition of an assumption; something that can make an ass of more than the person assuming.

If we were all judged by our weak moments, many of us would be the worse brother, mother, husband, son, father, friend, daughter, employee etc alive. Luckily most of us didn’t have a highly emotional moment caught on national television for the judgement of the masses. I for one understand what was going through her mind when she realized her son was marching against an organization known for killing and mistreating people who look like him.

Like most of the crowd she was scared and angry only she was focused on one thing – her son.

She was scared because she knew what could happen to him out there, what they could do to him and what it would do to her. She was angry because her son knew better than put himself in that kind of danger. She was mad that he didn’t think about his future, his family and more importantly himself. She was mad he disregarded her when he made this decision.

Yeah…….I got all that from a few open palm slaps.

I have made mistakes as a father. Ones that I would love to do over but can’t. Being a parent isn’t just one good or bad moment it is a collective experience that happens over a span of a lifetime. Ultimately you will never be judged by CNN or Black Twitter or any number of media pundits. How well you did as a parent is decided by the person who goes out into the world and the set of values they carry with them. So Toya Graham only has one major benchmark on which to measure her effectiveness as a mother; who her son becomes.

So if getting her son to college, married and happy involves a slap upside the head? Hit it mom.

Happy Mothers Day to all the moms willing to do what they have to with what they have in front of them to accomplish raising their children. I feel you. Salute.

– A Single Dad

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