I have always been ambitious in life, filled with hopes, dreams, goals, and desires. However, I have also always been indecisive about how I was going to manifest that ambition. I have gone from wanting to be a pediatrician, to a lawyer, to an actuary, to a psychiatrist, to a psychologist, to now working in Human Resources and am still trying to figure out and focus in on my purpose in life. Although most things in my life seemed uncertain and ambiguous, the one thing I knew for sure that I wanted to be was a MOM. I loved caring for children since I was young. When I was little I used to help my mom at her daycare, help look after my younger God brothers and sisters, help care for my God children, and so forth. Most people would be happy to give a child back to their parents after a long, playful, energetic weekend. But returning the children always broke my heart and I could not wait to have a child of my own that I did not have to return. I have always admired the bond between a parent and a child, for to me it is the ultimate, purest, and most fulfilling experience that someone could be blessed with. Therefore, being a Parent was the most important job that I could have.
I feel like most would agree that being a parent is about providing financially for your children, making sure they are healthy, well feed, clean, and have all their basic needs. However, for me being a parent goes beyond that. I break parenting down in 5 categories which are basic needs, protection, preparation, love, and leading. Basic needs has to do with the task already mention, such as making sure that your child has food, clothing, shelter, healthcare, and etc. This is where most parents focus their time, and some parents feel as though as long as they are supplying the basic needs that they are doing their job as parents. For me, this is just the minimum requirements of parenting, the foundation to the reset of the house that needs to be built. Next would be protecting your child, and this is the metal and wood framing of the house in which if you broken the whole house comes tumbling down. Childhood is the most vulnerable state in the life cycle because not only are most children defenseless against dangerous people, environments, or experiences, but they usually cannot recognize danger. Therefore, it is a parent’s job to identify, avoid, and stand up for their child when it comes to harmful situations. This is especially important with bullying and suicide on the rise amongst children.
The third aspect of parenting is the preparing position in which you prepare your child to go out and maneuver through the world on their own. You prepare them by providing them with analytical skills and the education needed to critically think about life and make smart decisions that will allow them to prosper rather than perish. Most of the time preparing and protecting can combat each other because you cannot prepare your child from what you are trying to protect them from. They also conflict because when you are preparing your child most times it involves allowing them to start doing things either on their own or with supervision. For example, when is the right time to protect your child from strangers and preparing your child by allowing them to walk to stores themselves? When is the right time to protect your child’s innocence and hide sex and when is the right time to prepare them by educating them on the topic to avoid them learning about it through unhealthy, misguided sources, or without you even knowing that they have learned about it. As parents we will always struggle on when is it time to start letting go, stop protecting, and start preparing a child.
The last two aspects are my favorite and to me the most important. It is a parent’s job to love their child. I believe that the love that a child receives from their parents is a huge determinant in how they seek and express love in their friendships, life/intimate partners, and other relationships. It can also influence how a child learns to love themselves. My child is a part of me, my creation, flesh of my flesh, for me not to love her is me not loving myself and I cannot love myself without loving her. Therefore, I will always love her and she will always love me, and in me loving her unconditionally I hope I show her how to love herself unconditionally. If you do not love your child, and your child does not love themselves, they may be more susceptible to or even perpetuate false love and mistreatment. I think that most people hurt others and cannot sustain relationships because they were never taught how to love, did not receive love, and thus, do not know how to react to nor give love. Love is important as “Faith goes up the stairs that love has built and looks out the windows which hope has opened”. Therefore, if I want my child to be a part of the solution to healing the madness and hatred in their world, I have to do my part as her parent and love her.
Lastly, you should be a leader and an example to your child. You child or children will hear what you say and see what you do and we as parents cannot choice what the child will follow. Thus, it is important that your actions are aligned with your words. I feel like this is the aspect of parenting that many parents forget or think can be override. Children are sponges and even when we think they are not watching, learning, observing, and absorbing, they actually are. Children are a reflection of you and you cannot create change by changing the reflection but rather by changing what is being reflected….you. This was important for me to write because I cannot measure, monitor, analyze, or promote what I cannot define. Thus, I wanted to outline what it means to me to be a parent to make sure that I am always checking to see if my actions are aligned with my beliefs. And by expressing my beliefs they can be challenged, expanded, reinforced, or even changed. Therefore, I challenge those that read this to use my definition or create your own definition of what it means to be a parent and ask your three question: Am I living up to this definition, how am I doing to live up to this definition, what can I do to better fit this definition. Stay woke, stay blessed.
*Daquana Geneva Harper is one of our 2017-2018 Young Parent Ambassadors. To learn more about Daquan, check out her bio on our young parent ambassador page!