“When you teach your children, you teach your children’s children” Talmud
As a father, someone who is involved in nurturing my children on a daily basis, I have come to truly appreciate the “power of influence” I have on their upbringing. I took 5 months leave from work to take care of my daughter and I took approximately the same amount of time for my son when he was born. I am about to return to work in a couple days confident that my 1 year old daughter and 5 year old son have a deep foundation on which to grow, develop and blossom gloriously, as well as withstand and overcome any and all challenges that may come their way.
The foundation my wife and I established were built on very simple principles. First, we prepared the ground by being in a committed, married relationship… with each other! Second, we are both of African descent and Jamaican heritage, so we easily understand and relate to each other on a cultural basis, which we pass on to our children. Third, we are both professionally employed, value ambition and believe in working hard to achieve your goals. No shortcuts. No excuses. Failure is not an option.
The pillars of this foundation are 1. Love God; 2. Treat others as you wish to be treated; 3. Respect yourself; 4. Be true to your principles.
I teach my children that these pillars and foundation are starting points, not an end in itself, upon which to build their life. As they make their way through their life, they will need to add their own principles and pillars to this foundation. They will enounter many personal struggles and injustices, primarily because of the colour of their skin, but they need to be confident in this: “they are more than conquerors!” They will meet many people, regardless of colour, culture, religion, location, politics, gender, sexual orientation, etc., some who are good, some who are bad, some who are sincere, some who are manipulative, some who are smart, some who are fools, some who seem cool, some who seem awkward, etc. These various souls will come in and out of their lives for a reason, a season or a lifetime. I encourage my children to learn as much as they can from them in the time allotted, but to always stand firm on the foundation and pillars they have built and they’ll never be afraid nor have any regrets in letting these people go when the time has come.
There is a certain mythology that prevails that we in the Black/African community are forever a “broken people”… that we are collectively suffering from pathological mental disorders due to the traumas of slavery and colonialism. This doctrine preached by both White and Black pundits claim that as a people, we are therefore intrinsically “less than” in regards to what is considered “normal” or “healthy” or “civilized”. Is this the reality, the life lessons that I should indoctrinate my children with? It’s easy to understand why this appears to be an undeniable truth… to be brainwashed into believing that this is the curse, biblical or ideological… of Black/African life. Every hour of every day, you can find stories in the media from every corner of the earth, including the blogosphere and Afrosphere, highlighting all the negative, destructive, murderous, chaotic and superficial incidents, however BIG or small, in Africa or the Diaspora. It’s an undeniable fact that people of African descent historically have suffered much… and still suffer much today… worldwide. As much as these struggles and sufferings may indeed influence and mold us, however they don’t define who we really are… all that we really are… nor have they limited what we have accomplished… nor what we can and will accomplish. That is what I teach my children.
I teach my children… as I was taught… that as they evolve into the future, they are physically, culturally, spiritually and mentally strong, healthy and blessed individuals who are a part of a greater collective. I teach my children… as I was taught… that there is no shame in claiming a stake in their African heritage. There is an overwhelming abundance of positive, empowering and inspirational stories about us, not only in the past, but also in this present… and it’s their responsibility to make a contribution to this narrative in the future. I teach my children… as I was taught… that although seeking inner/personal truth or peace is important, it isn’t the noblest of endeavours. I teach my children… as I was taught… that their true worth and legacy is in what they do for others, because God has endowed them with all their knowledge, skills and abilities so that they can bless others, especially those who are less fortunate as themselves. Doing for others is the narrow path on the life long journey of inner development that will shape them into better human beings.
It’s a cosmic truth that if you have a negative mindset, you will attract and associate with those who will feed into that negativity. There is a seductive power in negativity. I teach my children… as I was taught… that misery loves company. If you have a vision based on communal empowerment and endeavour in building something on a positive foundation, you will also just as easily attract and associate with those with the same spirit. I have met so many positive and inspirational spirits, particularly through the Afrosphere, who have been a blessing on my life. I teach my children… as I was taught… that many are called, but few are chosen… so they need to choose wisely who they associate with.
When I look at my children, I am filled with hope for those of African descent… of my generation, my children’s generation and my children’s children generation. I am confident that as a people we will continue to overcome, triumph and evolve into our Afro-future.