The Difficulties of Parenthood

Written by CocoaMamas contributor Tracy B.

The other day my oldest son asked me if it was hard being a parent. I pondered his question purposefully and I prepared a response that would hopefully help him understand how seriously his father and I take parenting and also, how carefully we chose it and consider ourselves blessed by the privilege.

I told him yes – parenting is hard, because we want to do our collective and personal best to be the best parents to him and his little brother. It is also rewarding because we get to see ourselves in their faces and actions and watch them grown and become great men.

He looked at me confused and proceeded to say that being a parent looks easy because we get to do what we want – “stay up all night and party” (his words, not mine), eat and drink whatever we want and tell him and his brother what to do – and all they can do is obey or suffer the consequences. Well, that incited a chuckle from me and again, I had to carefully choose my words.

I explained to my son that parenthood is about more than staying up late and rattling off rules because we can. And, by no means is parenthood a daily party where his father and I stay up until the wee hours watching cartoons and eating snacks as it seems he suspects jealously.

The more I tried to explain what it is we parents do and why it’s so difficult, the more I seemed to confuse my poor child and eventually myself – almost. I mean, I know what I intended to say because I know what my intentions are as his mother. I know that I wanted my son and, to a certain extent, I planned his conception. I knew his name and I felt him and his importance as he grew inside me, I prayed about his purpose and I pictured his little face. I wanted to be the best mother  I could be without knowing what exactly that meant. It is a definition I am still revising daily and something I strive and aspire to moment to moment.

As our conversation ended, he asked me, “Mommy, why does it look like you have tears in your eyes?” And I just told him that I hoped that someday he could understand everything we’ve done over the years as his parents and I hope he knows how much he is wanted and loved. I told him that when we give him and his brother rules about what to eat and when to go to bed, it’s not because we don’t want them to have fun or hang out with us – it’s because they need to behave like children and eat what’s healthy and get enough rest to play and grow. And I hugged my beautiful boy and looked him in his face and told him in terms that were probably easiest for him to understand:

“We pay the cost to be the boss … and although it may look like we’re having a lot of fun, it’s a lot of work, so you enjoy being a kid for as long as you can.”

Getting Schooled … Private versus Public

Written by CocoaMamas contributor Tracy B.

My oldest son is getting ready to go back to school. He will be starting fourth grade at a public school near our home and the anxiety and anger that I feel are difficult to articulate.

I grew up fortunate enough to be able to attend private schools up until high school, when I decided I wanted to go to public school. Where I came from, the public school system had a reputation for brokenness and in my neighborhood, especially, the public schools were frightening. Because my single mother was able to send my older brother and me to private schools, I decided that I, too, would make this a priority in raising my children. I saw the difference first-hand and I wanted to give my children the best opportunities possible.   

When my husband and I started our family, I made it clear that I wanted our children to receive a private school education. At the same time, we took up residence in suburban areas of Georgia where the public schools performed well. Since my oldest began school in pre-kindergarten, he attended a Christian school that we loved and he thrived. And while paying for it has at times been a bit of a struggle, the compliments we received about his above-average intelligence and the results we saw made the struggle worth it.

But, to be perfectly honest, it seemed that the struggle began to be mine alone and my husband no longer shared in the vision I thought we were collectively working toward. Having grown up in public schools, or maybe because he felt that the schools in our area are just as good as the school we were paying for, there was not the fervor to continue to make the sacrifices so that our son could stay in a school he’d grown in. And so, at the end of the last school year, I was faced with the task of telling my child that he would be going to a new school, would have to make new friends and things would be changing for all of us. My sensitive boy fell into tears and I held him as he told me through sobs that he did not want to go to a new school and did not want to have to try to make new friends. I reassured him the best way I could, uncertain that what I told him was right – hoping that this would be a decision that would work out for the best.

As a loving parent, I want to shield my boys from everything in the world that may cause them even an inkling of discomfort. If it were up to me, I’d home-school them and supervise every minute of their life for the promise that they’d just live long enough to become men. But that’s unrealistic. And yes, I do know how valuable it is for children to be exposed to different experiences and environments.

Living in suburban (or closer to rural) Georgia and entrusting someone to teach my children without inserting their racial bias or other ideas into the lesson plan is a definite concern. Only time will tell what the transition will mean, but I am hoping I will be pleasantly surprised. I hope my son attends school close to home and is relieved when he finally makes friends that live close to our home that he can play with. I hope that his advanced abilities will translate well and be nurtured so that he continues to thrive academically at his new school. I hope. I pray. I worry.

At the end of the day, I’ll put it in God’s hands and trust that it is all as it should be. Deep down I know he’ll be fine. We’ll be fine. After all, I know that I won’t accept anything less.

Vacation. Staycation. Make it Happen.

Written by CocoaMamas contributor, Tracy M. Bostic

I believe strongly in taking vacations. Maybe it’s because I can count on one finger the vacation I remember taking with my family when I was a child. I can’t recall how old I was – maybe 8 or 9 – but my mother took my older brother and me to Disneyworld in Florida with some close family friends.

That was the first time I’d ever flown on a plane and for a million more reasons, it was a very memorable trip. I wish we had gone on more vacations, but I am grateful that my mother was able to take us on that trip because it planted a seed that grew as I did.

My love for travel is inexplicable. I would truly spend all of my days travelling the world, exploring every corner of this diverse and wondrous globe, if I had my way. And maybe someday I will be blessed enough to do just that. Until then, I travel as often as possible and I take my children along because I want them to see the world and gain exposure to new places and cultures that will shape their view of the world.

At ages 9 and 3, my two boys are pretty well travelled. My oldest has seen the sun set in Jamaica, swam with dolphins at Atlantis in the Bahamas, and fed the iguanas in Puerto Rico, to name a few of his adventures. The youngest had his passport before his second birthday and is becoming quite the beach bum like his brother and his mom.

I love the look of wonder in my boys’ eyes when they travel to a new place and see something they’ve never seen. It gives me an unmatched sense of pride to enable my oldest boy to practice the Spanish he’s been learning in school in conversations with passersby he meets while touring the rainforest. And we’ve visited Disneyworld in Florida and Disneyland in California so often that my boys seem to believe they have a special connection with Mickey and his pals.

My husband and I aren’t tremendously wealthy. I’m not writing this to brag about my exploits as a world traveler. I simply wish to convey the importance of exposing all children – but especially young Black children to places and experiences that are outside of what may be considered their comfort zone. I know for a fact that as people it is difficult to believe what we have never seen. As the saying goes, ‘if we believe it, we can achieve it.’ Well, I believe that if children are exposed to different cultures, including varying lifestyles and experiences, it will awaken in them a curiosity and understanding that is essential to achieving success.

If I want my children to grow up believing that there is nothing outside of their grasp, I have to do my part as their parent to show them the world and encourage them to live without limits and boundaries. And, even when time or financial constraints keep us from booking those international excursions, I make sure that our ‘staycations’ are as memorable as time spent travelling abroad.

My philosophy is to never make excuses about travel – meaning, my family will travel, no matter what. It is important because we bond in amazing ways when we’re having fun as a family. We enjoy new experiences together and learn valuable lessons while sampling new foods and exploring exotic locales. I know my boys enjoy and appreciate it because they yearn to get away and see something new – when they see a commercial advertising an amazing place, they don’t say “I wish we could go there,” they say “I’ve been there!” or “can we go there next?” It’s a great feeling; I encourage everyone to see for yourselves.

Whether your dream is to trek across Africa on safari, be blissful on the beach in Bali or savor the flavors, sights and sounds on the Las Vegas strip, I say make it happen. The bills will be there when you get back, the job, obligations and school will be, too. And you and your family will be more relaxed, refreshed and renewed in the sharing of a wonderful experience together. Happy travels!