Wonderful son of mine, I am going to let you in on a little secret.
Your mother is a liar.
I know that I have fed you the line that you should always tell the truth, but that statement isn’t even true! In fact, people lie all of the time. I have lied for little reasons. For example, up until you were about two years old, I used you as an excuse every time I was late, even though it was more likely that I woke up late or that I didn’t want to go.
I have also lied for more significant reasons. Sometimes my lies have hurt others, and sometimes they have hurt myself. Mostly I’ve lied not to hurt other people’s feelings (yes grandma, I love the cake that you made) or because I didn’t trust someone with the truth.
I have even lied to you. I have never done it to hurt you or keep important information from you intentionally, but I have done it. I realize that you are starting to understand that not everything that comes out of my mouth is the truth. Like the time I told you that I could change the traffic lights by blinking. You told me that that wasn't true and you were right. The lies have extended beyond that though, so I wanted to come clean on some of them.
1. You can do anything you put your mind to.
This is the number one lie that all parents tell their children. We look into your innocent faces and tell you that you can do anything that you put your mind to.
My experience playing the trumpet when I was younger is a prime example of this not being true. I played the trumpet for five years when I was a teenager. I practiced without your grandmother making me, I attended weekly lessons, and I performed in the school band. I wanted to grow up and play in the symphony. I wanted to be a female Louis Armstrong! That trumpet and I were one — that is until I realized that with all of that hard work, I still didn’t sound good. I loved to play, but I was not good at playing.
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You can put your mind your mind into something, and it might not work out. You are going to fail a lot in life at things that you put your mind to. You are going to realize that you aren’t as good at things that you love. You could even be amazing at something and still not be given an opportunity to reach the level of success that you want.
I don’t say this to be harsh or to crush your dreams. I say this so that when a setback comes, you get right back up because you know that it will take a little bit more than wishful thinking to obtain your goals. I tell you this so that you can focus. There are only so many hours in a day and so many years in life and most things that are great take time. Putting your mind to something is helpful, but you are also going to need lots of hard work and a little luck as well.
2. I know what I am doing.
Son, I know that you see me or hear me making decisions all of the time. Whether it is about your school or activities, whether you listen to me on a conference call making decisions about work, or you and I are making plans for the summer. To you, it may seem like your mother is in control of her life and that she always makes confident decisions. I told you that it was because I am a mommy and mommies know everything.
Honestly, baby, I don't really know what I’m doing. There is no rule book for life, and there is definitely no rule book for being a parent. I have to parent you knowing that I won’t know how good of a job I’ve done until you are about 50, and by then it will be too late to do anything differently.
Every day, I wake up and try to make decisions that I feel are the best for you and myself. Somedays, I am on top of it all — I feed you the healthiest breakfast, we go over your homework, I take you to a museum and explain what little I know about physics, I feed you a nutritious dinner, read you a story, and send you off to dreamland. Then there are the times I let you eat popcorn for breakfast (because corn is a vegetable, right?), allow you to play video games all day, and I hide from you in the bathroom so that I can check Instagram.
There have been times when I cried myself to sleep because I just felt like I was messing everything up. I felt like I was taking this perfect innocent human and ruining him with my imperfect self. There have been several times when I asked the universe whose bright idea it was to give me the responsibility of caring for another human. I have no idea what I'm doing. I am just trying my best as I go and doing the best that I can. I pray that is enough.
3. It will be okay.
The truth is that I don’t know if it will be okay and that freaks me out, especially when it comes to you. I don’t know if your school can keep you safe. I don’t know if you can trust your teachers to treat you the same as your classmates. I don’t know if you will be safe walking home when you are older because you are a black boy in a world that fears you, can hurt you, and can get away with it. What I do know is that, okay or not, I will be here for you and fight for you no matter what.
It feels good now that I have that off of my chest. I hope that this dose of honesty helps you to realize that yes, I am your mother, but I am also a person too. I make mistakes, and I don’t always know what I’m doing. What I do know is that I am proud of you and I love you.
Now, eat your dinner because broccoli makes you kick better at soccer. Of course, that is true!