Parents we have to be the “Adults” here
Thoughts on Toni Morrisons novel
“God Help the Child”
As parents we want our kids to see the best of us. We sacrifice desires, teach lessons from our own experiences and hold emotional weight for our children, because “Hov did that, so hopefully you won’t have to go through that. ……. We try to teach them the strategies we think will help make them successful, but we most definitely fall short. Toni Morrison’s “God Help the Child” speaks to this parental flaw. I wonder all the time, what are the things I have said and done that will stick in their memories, how will those memories affect their adult lives, and their decision making. I think Pilar and I are stand up parents, but no one knows what a child will hold onto as trauma.
“Bride” The main character is what Morrison calls blue-black , absolutely gorgeous and very dark skinned. Since birth her mother (A very light skinned woman) has scorned her beautiful hue, and was embarrassed to have birthed such a dark child. Her Father also light, denied even being the Father of such a dark baby, he left.
The emotional trauma of a parent leaving their child because of dark skin, something the child has no control over…. That’s life long pain. A Mother who was never proud and pushed the child away physically and emotionally, that lasts forever.
Bride grows up to be a successful entrepreneur, but flashbacks to earlier points in life give us insight to how childhood trauma affects her choices. The men she chooses, the friends she makes etc. Many of the other characters have similar issues with their parents, and the flashbacks to their childhoods show us the same thing. Events from our youth stick with us, and are triggered back to the front of our memories all the time, whether good or bad.
When it comes to parenting we are constantly tested. A simple directive is given and you get what my Mom would call a “Smart” answer. Now the question is, am I going to raise my voice “yell” about this? Loose my cool? Is that what I want them to do when they are upset? I have found that yelling and getting angry does nothing, except put stress on both parties. However every parent knows, sometimes they just don’t respond to “ Dear sweet child, will you please go brush your teeth” There are moments when you want to say “GET UP THERE AND BRUSH YOUR DAMN TEETH NOW! Or say something passive aggressive/sarcastic, also unhelpful.
No parent can be perfect, no child is going to make all the right decisions. What we can do is try to be better human beings every day. Think about the mistakes you made yesterday, analyze them, learn from them and try not to do that anymore. Sounds simple but we are complex beings, this takes work.
After a life of emotional rigamarole, Bride eventually becomes pregnant, her mother “Sweetness” offers this parenting anecdote. “If you think Mothering is all cooing and booties and diapers you’re in for a big shock” She is so right, I mean why does poop have to go all the way up their whole back like that, forcing you to change the whole onesie?! Ewww.
Parenting has its moments of loving bliss, but that’s not most of it, a lot of it is the day to day grind. Just like life, we have to be able to balance the monotony of the day to day, with the special times that make us melt. Doing our best to let the good times outweigh the bad. I felt this quote from Sweetness because as parents it is our duty to give our kids a great childhood and protect them from a dangerous world, especially now, when we talk about Covid, and BLM, and the History of America. It’s our duty to keep it real, while also protecting them from permanent trauma. I do want them to think the world is inherently good, even though I know it’s not. I want them to always have hope and positivity, even when the world won’t give that in return.
My goal is to do my best not to add to the current trauma. I know this time has been unbelievably challenging on all fronts. We have lost jobs, loved ones, dreams have been put on hold, relationships have been tested and injustice still runs rampant. However we are the adults, we are more emotionally equipped to handle the upheaval Covid has caused. Imagine the brain of a 6 year old trying to grasp being in school one day then not being able to go to school and see their friends for months. Why are people marching in the street? Why are people on top of Police cars? Why are the Police killing us? This is epic, global history, they are bound to react in emotional ways that test us as caregivers.
It is a dark time but we can still shine like the sun. That massive star keeps us warm from millions of miles away, and we are here on earth right next to our kids. The things we say to them and the actions we take matter, that split second of unjustified anger could affect them into adulthood. So, hugs, kisses, positive energy and fun games to keep them happy. These kids have lived in 2020, they know life isn’t all roses. Hopefully when they have their own kids we won’t have to say “God Help the Child”