I was checking my son’s bag during the first week of school and came across a homework assignment consisting of a circle formed around the words, “Yo Soy,” (“I am”), with connecting bubbles obviously meant for my son to describe himself.
My heart exploded as I read them.
One by one, each circle filled me with a pride at parenting that I had never before encountered. In his mind he was perfect, brilliant, restless, different, above average, independent, resourceful and obnoxious.
It was clear that my husband and I had allowed this young child the space to really learn who he was and what it was to be him.
So much honesty, so much confidence, and he really was all of these things that he used to describe himself.
I grew up in a part of town that was predominately black and poor, but my upbringing was neither. My mother was white, and while not being rich, we were definitely well-off. Where I grew up became a juxtaposition to where I went to school; I was always the outsider.
When you combine this with the fact that I was the only mixed race kid I knew until I went to high school, you can understand that I did not grow up with a lot of confidence.
My husband was raised in a suburb where for a long time his family was the only black family around. For a good portion of his life he suffered being the “black kid” on the team, at the party or even in the room. Growing up, he dealt with a mixture of covert and overt racism. This coupled with the fact that he had to strive to prove himself and be an example for his race.
It is a wonder that by the time we met in our teens we were both confident and self aware.
Both of us were raised by strong mothers who gave us the permission to develop our creative selves as well as our athletic talents. Our mothers were different, but very much alike in that they never told us that we “could not.”
This we instill in our children.
Innately, from the time of their birth, we figured that we had several choices as parents for how we were going to raise our children:
What tone would we use to speak with them, how honest were we going to be, what would be our tone of discipline and how would we let them select their own voice?
These are essential questions to answer to aid in self-esteem and self-discovery. How we handled each of these topics impacted not only our child’s trust in himself, but also the way he views himself in the mirror. (Not to mention that when he was born he came out with a certain amount of swagger. He seemed assured of his abilities, and definitely never questioned his own voice—something we fostered.)
While I was not surprised that he would complete an assignment with such self-awareness, it is still a novelty to me.
Holding that paper drove me to contemplate what it would be like if I had had that type of confidence—if we all had the words to express who we were, honestly.
The mirror holds an illusion that we often carry with us indefinitely. We tend to see ourselves in one of two fashions: who we want to be, and as others see us.
What would happen if we all saw ourselves from an early age for the person that we truly are?
I think this should be our goal as parents; the product might be well-rounded human beings, and we might just create a generation that, in knowing who they are, can hold the space to know others.
In the end it’s all a hypothesis, since he is only 10, but I’m willing to use one hand to pat him on the back and the other to pat my own.
Author: Keshia Smith
Editor: Toby Israel
Photo: Author’s Own // Felicia Rock/Flickr