My wife and I have been blessed with two sons. Kingston, 6 and Truett, 2. Two expressive, smart, funny, witty, loving and sometimes dramatic boys. We live in a society that paints young men of color as savages, thugs, and vision less.
Kingston, 6 loves to read. Always playing (and fighting) with his little brother. He's kind. Has a compassionate heart. Last year in school his teacher said he was always the kid that "wanted to make sure everyone in the classroom was ok" (I did say he's my son, right?). He loves kit-kats. Newly obsessed with Marvel's "Black Panther". Always wants the music on our car rides to be louder. Loves donuts, cheeseburgers, his blankie, Olive Garden, watching NBA/NCAA basketball playoffs with Mom, and playing outside.
Truett, 2 is our "Little Emperor". He's strong. Fearless. Plays as hard as he possibly can. Loves wearing his gold Power Ranger costume from last Halloween around the house, outside, and even in public (If I had a muscled gold body suit, I'd do the exact same thing. Go ahead, judge me). He's the free spirit in our house. Always the life of the party. Confident. So sure of himself. In love with eating-all day, all the time, anything (Grandma's cookies are his favorite). Loves being in his brother's shadow. Always the "bad guy" when they play. Obsessed with Iron Man. His paci (pacifier) is his constant companion (we've had to shut down operations on many occasions to find it just to leave the house).
Our world is working through issues of race, class, socio-economic barriers, religious freedom, gender expression, and sexual orientation understanding and acceptance. Living in the US I am also very aware of my Black identity and the fact that we live in a time in which Black lives, cultures, and communities are devalued.
But as parents, WE have the power to decide who our children are. We decide what message we give them that determines their worth. Not MTV, CNN, pop stars or civic/religious leaders. No matter what our children are told it's vital that as parents we love our kids enough to impart vision, values, and unconditional love. When our kids hear a narrative that doesn't align with their identity we teach them to reject it. And instead, accept a different message.
When Kingston and I walk to school I tell him an affirmation about himself and have him repeat it to himself aloud: I am strong. I am handsome. I am intelligent. I am caring. There is nothing I can't do.
I tell him you are not alone. You are loved forever. Your skin and hair are beautiful. You are funny. You are handsome. You will be successful. You always have people rooting for you. Your body is strong. Your legs are fast. You are creative.
Before we walk into his classroom: I can make good choices. I can do hard things. I am full of love.
I treasure the time I have walking to and from school with him and am grateful that as his father to leave the message in his heart that crafts his identity. One of my roles as a dad is actively helping him to embody the character messages that we affirm.
Parents, let's not forget our role in shaping our future. Let's leave our kids messages that speak to the deepest parts of their souls.