I've been traveling down memory-lane this week. I remember when our son Caleb was four years old in the PK-4 class. I walked him into his classroom one morning—he was so cute with his little blue uniform on! His teacher Ms. Roach—YES, that was her name!—greeted us at the door to the classroom and said she had something to show me that Caleb did.
Caleb ran off to greet his little classmates as Ms. Roach took me to a spot on the floor in the room that had crayon marking all over it. She told me THIS masterpiece is what Caleb did the day before and he refused to clean it up! I felt my blood begin to boil as the embarrassment and anger came up all at the same time. I called Caleb over, told him what Ms. Roach just told me and asked him to clean it up. This boy said NO!...in the middle of the classroom in front of his teacher.
Ya'll…I snatched his little butt up and half-pulled and dragged him out of that class room, heading straight to our mini-van where I was going tear his butt up! (FOR THE RECORD) I am NOT nor have I ever been a POLITICALLY CORRECT PARENT! I was fuming…saying to myself, this boy is NOT going embarrass me! When I got to our car, for just a split second I heard a small voice very quietly say to my heart…you will get him to comply but you will never get his heart. It was enough to startle me…all I wanted was compliance and to not feel like I was a bad parent.
I realized in that poignant moment, I wanted him TO WANT TO DO RIGHT ON HIS OWN more than I WANTED TO FORCE HIM TO DO RIGHT.
So I took a deep breath, I calmed down, got down to his level, looked him straight in the eyes and told him that I was sad about his behavior. I told him Ms. Roach was sad and most importantly I told him, at four years-old, that God wanted more from him. His little brown eyes got wide and he looked at me and said, "I'm sorry Mommy…" and he went back in and cleaned the floor.
Early this week, my husband Tony and I had the chance to eat dinner with CALEB AND SAM, our youngest daughter. Eating together during the week is rare in my home now-a-days, everyone has jobs, activities, car keys, so when we get the chance to sit and look at one another at the dinner table it's really special.
Just so happened Caleb was the topic of conversation. I don't know how it started but we all found ourselves walking back through HIS LIFE—second grade, third grade and then the infamous FOURTH GRADE YEAR came up!
At this point in the conversation, Samantha starts laughing uncontrollably as she reminds her brother about the ONLY two things she remembered me saying over and over again during his fourth grade year. She said, "Remember how Mom said it'll be a miracle if you make it to fifth grade—and how she threatened you every day with MILITARY SCHOOL?!"
We all burst out laughing!
Now mind you in fourth grade Caleb was a straight A student—but he was a terror to me, his teacher; and that was the only year and the ONLY child that I ever had to go to the principal's office for! I never thought we'd make it through!
On Monday night, I thought to myself, look at him now. He's 17 years-old, four months away from graduating High School, senior class president, working as an intern at an investment firm; accepted by several colleges, working a job flipping pizzas, a 4.0 student—I asked my husband, how did we get here with him?
We're still trying to figure it out!
What does it take to raise successful kids? What does it take to raise successful African-American children? I want to know so I'm beginning the conversation, no experts, no authors, no psychologists, just me and you—today's parents—talking about what we're going through and what we feel it's going to take to raise successful children. Email me your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org. I want to add your thoughts and voices to "the village" in order to collectively come up with the answers! Visit my website at http://www.jenniferkeitt.com, go to the RADIO SHOW tab in order to hear personal interviews with parents just like you!
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