“Parents Are People, Too!”
Guest Writer: LaToya Hankins
Greetings, Hot Tea and Ice Sippers! I send a virtual shower of confetti and a round of kudos for the college graduates and their family members partaking of this month’s literary offering. Regardless how long the journey took, you made it to the end and you should be celebrated.
Along with college graduations, May meant Mother’s Day. Based on the cascade of profile pictures which blanketed social media, a lot of you have pretty fly mothers who know how to accessorize and strut. I also realize that for every picture of Momma and Mini-Me, there are those whose posts about that second Sunday reflected mothers who didn’t have the time, inclination or ability to be there for their offspring. Many people are estranged from their mothers due to old hurts, and the fresh pain of rejection.
For many of us, that distance is necessary for our mental–and sometimes physical–safety. But for others, it’s because they are clinching too tightly to things that happened in childhood.
For many years, I was in the latter category. But this spring day, my advice to you is that sometimes, we have to let some of that stuff go. If possible, we need to see our parents as persons now that we are adults–and stop seeing them with the eyes of a child.
This is not to diminish the hurt, or disregard the damage done. But in order to heal, we have to really see and then try to understand the choices our parents have made. Being adults ourselves, you know that adults make mistakes all the time; and if possible, we need to extend understanding and grace to our parents so that we can move beyond the past.
When I was six months old, my mother and I parted ways. She sent me to my grandmother and great-grandmother to be raised in my hometown while she worked and attended school in the District of Columbia. My mom wasn’t there when I lost my first tooth–or second or third, for that matter. She didn’t teach me how to ride a bike. Nor did she stand by my side when I got my first library card.
She was there when I had major surgery when I was five–but only for a brief period before she headed back to D.C. We didn’t reconnect until I was eight. That was when my grandmother died and she came back home to live with my great-grandmother and me.
My mom and I didn’t live together on our own until I was eleven. Unfortunately, her reaction to something that occurred just added to my feeling of disconnection from her. It was an incident with a neighborhood boy who simply didn’t understand that “no meant no.”
You see, I loved my mom; however, I just didn’t like her that much. After all, you really can’t like someone whom you don’t know.
So many times, we have trouble understanding the motivation behind our parents’ actions because we can’t see them as people. We give more credit to people who cross our paths than to the woman who gave us life. Depending on the circumstances, I would like to suggest they deserve better.
Getting to know the woman she was before she became your mother sometimes helps clear up misunderstandings, and helps form a bridge that will allow you to move closer together.
Because so much of my early years was not spent with my mother, I never fully appreciated her and the sacrifices she made until I was well into my adult years. My mother–like so many others–sacrificed her time, talent and treasures in order to make a better place in the world for herself and myself.
So last year, we began talking about who she was before, during, and after I made my appearance into the world. We addressed misgivings and hurt feelings and began building a stronger relationship.
It is not going to be an easy fix, but I feel it’s worth the effort to start understanding the woman that is my mother. I encourage others who are ready to entertain the thought to reach out.
Until next time, Adios, au revoir, and I “holler!”
LaToya Hankins is the author of SBF Seeking, and K-Rho: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood. Currently, LaToya is an employee of the State of North Carolina’s Health and Human Services department. Prior to that, she worked for nearly a decade in the field of journalism. An East Carolina University graduate, LaToya earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism, with a minor in political science.
During her college career, LaToya became a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., and currently is the president of the Chapel Hill, N.C. graduate chapter. As well, she is a co-founder and currently serves as the chair of Shades of Pride (SOP), a LGBTQ organization that hosts a yearly event in the Triangle area. SOP’s mission is to create opportunities to acknowledge and celebrate the diversity of North Carolina’s LGBTQ communities.