By Nichole Guillory (WellAcademic Guest Blogger) - Mothering in Color
I have a confession to make. It’s a big one. Really big. So big, in fact, I suggest you sit down….
and go to your happy place…The beach always works for me.
and do some deep breathing exercises…Inhale, hold it, exhale, and repeat.
and pour yourself a drink….The kind that adults enjoy. Take a big sip of your happy drink because you’ll need it to chase away the ugly truth I’m about to reveal. Ready?
Donald J. Trump is making me a better mother.
Yes, I said it, and no, I am not crazy, at least not this early into his presidency.
If you’ve stayed with me until now, let me explain. How I got to this point did not start on November 8, 2016, but instead with the election of President Obama on November 4, 2008. Nicholas, my only child, was about to turn one. Hope for my son’s future slipped its way back into my life with that election.
While the Obama Presidency did not yield substantive systemic changes that reduced the effects of institutionalized oppression for most people of color, especially people of color who are also economically vulnerable, the Obama years were important to our family. My son in his earliest years conceptualized what race meant in a country led by a President who looked like him; he saw a family in the White House who looked like our family. And when asked what he wanted to do when he grew up, he could literally imagine President of the United States as a real possibility.
I did not realize during the Obama years that I took a passive role mothering Nicholas. Through his questions about difference and discrimination, I relied heavily on children’s books to expose my son to major figures and events in our history. When he showed interest in a particular field, we researched people of color in that area: space, Mae Jemison; baseball, Satchel Paige; guitars, Carlos Santana, to name a few. I relied on National Public Radio—lest you judge, we spend 2-3 hours in the car every day commuting to and from school—to do most of the heavy lifting on topics like immigration, marriage equality, Stand Your Ground, and police brutality.
I realize now I took a heroes-and-holidays approach in helping Nicholas to understand questions of identity, the same approach I critique as a professor who is committed to education for social justice. Before you accuse me of mom-shaming myself, I want to be very clear the approach is not bad; developmentally, it was certainly appropriate. But it was easy. I mostly took a backseat (from the driver’s seat) answering—not asking--questions to help Nicholas make sense of his complicated, messy, and beautiful identity.
And then November 8, 2016, happened. I wasn’t surprised or shocked. I’m from Louisiana, after all, where David Duke, ex-Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, won almost 39% of votes cast (>670,000 votes) in the 1991 election for governor. This White nationalist compliments Donald Trump every chance he gets.
Many months later, I’m still walking around in my post-election feelings. I’m either angry—if it’s a good day—or sad because my son will experience (t)his country’s hostility for the next four years. How is it that Trump, this man, can be helping me become a better mother?
In my circle of moms of color, one thing is always true no matter how different we might be in our parenting styles, economic and ethnic backgrounds, career paths. When someone tries to hurt our babies, there is no one fiercer, stronger, more focused, more badass than we are.
In my assessment, Donald Trump is trying to hurt my baby. And I won’t sit for that. I choose to stand. Nicholas and I listen to the news together, and I ask him lots of questions that prompt him to uncover inconsistencies and contradictions. I’ve turned off NPR for some of our morning commutes so we can start the day in positivity. Mostly we listen to “mom’s terrible music,” and I tell him stories about the times in my life that correspond with the music.
In addition to our family movie and game nights, we also schedule weekly work out/physical activity time together as a family. Nicholas and I dress up and go on dates once a month. We alternate who picks the place, and I always choose free things to do. He calls me a cheap date. We make a “fancy” meal together once a month, and before we eat, we share what we’re most proud of or thankful for.
While you might already have done activities like these, I didn’t do them consistently. I’m still a work in progress, but family care is a regularly scheduled priority now. It has to be in this context.
How are you standing up for your children? I’d love to hear from you…
Next time, I’ll share how I’m processing Charlottesville and other big events/ideas with my son.
Nichole Guillory, PhD, is Professor of Curriculum and Instruction at Kennesaw State University. She publishes on the experiences of women of color in the academy. She is mom to Nicholas, the love of her life. We couldn't be happier that she has agreed to pen a new series for WellAcademic, Mothering in Color.