There are quite a few reasons this column will never be an advice column.
- I don’t have training in early childhood development.
- I’ve been parenting now for three years and four months.
- Humility is my general stance for walking through the world.
Another reason that I will never be an advice columnist is the main reason that I’m a target for everyone’s advice. Alas, I’m on a diet; unasked-for direction is starting to make me feel unfit.
People mean well, I’m sure. And I recognize that my student posture invites criticism, advice, direction, and a general “let me fix it for you” approach. But advice isn’t one size fits all; an elephant can ask a giraffe how to reach the leaves on the top branch, but the advice won’t be useful. By the fiftieth time the elephant settles on the food he can reach, the discovery that he has always been enough will have become cliché.
In my new satiated elephant stance, I see more of the free proficiency points that come from being a grown parent with a good heart and average life skills. For example, my daughter is amazed at the things I can do in a kitchen. After she washes her hands to help me, I point her little finger to the proper buttons on the microwave. “You hit the six! What a big girl!” Her smile glows pride and I just became a badass because I let her help me steam vegetables. That was easy.
I’m also a badass in the bathroom. We sit perched atop our adjacent potties, our elbows resting on our knees. When I’m finished and washing my hands, she’s still impressed by my streamlined flushing process. “Wow, Mommy!”
“Don’t worry,” I wink. “When you’re big like me, you’ll learn how to wipe while sitting down too.” See? There are proficiency points everywhere, like the free boosters on Candy Crush.
Tonight I got a badass booster because I expelled an invisible monster. I told it, politely but sternly, to get out of my daughter’s room because it was her bedtime and she needed her rest. And I didn’t need a website for that. It was almost 8:30, smack dab in the middle of my precious “Me time” and I knew what to do. The monster left, I kissed her cheek, and whispered “You are safe here,” before I shut the door against the cold air, leaving only a crack. I walked away channeling Little Wayne: “What’s a goon to a mommy?” Perhaps I should read more into the monster thing and ask questions about the monster’s desires so that I can figure out the forces against which my tiny one fights.
When I am my daughter’s monster, it’s usually associated with a denial of ice cream for breakfast, television before school, or the experiment of flushing my jewelry down the toilet. Any suppression of the id makes one a monster, but so does living in the id, as monstrous Black women are known to do. We fight; we curse; we yell. We embody rage and ignorance together and none of this embodiment has to do with our social conditions; it’s innate. At least that’s what the paucity of culturally relevant parenting advice would suggest.
I have learned to trust and follow my own questions. The person who types “how to be a patient parent” into a search engine is already doing her best to be a patient parent. The strategies she finds are only reminders of what she would already do in her wisest mind. Writer/activist Toni Cade Bambara’s said it best when she asked (in These Bones Are Not My Child) “What are we pretending not to know today, African people?”
Are people giving you advice you didn’t ask for? First, read this. Next, follow your questions and trust them. Finally, be a badass mama who slays the monster she has never been.
Asha French is a writer and mother living in Atlanta. Tweet her: @afrenchwriter