BNtheMix.com/ Sillethoughts – February 7, 2018 – As a member of Generation X, there are a few things which are germane to our upbringing. One of those things is having parents who practiced what I call extreme parenting. An extreme parent is someone who has the comfort to allow their children to leave home in the morning, be gone all day, and expect them to return safely before the street lights came on. Without a cell phone. We were just gone and left to our own devices. Extreme parenting also included corporal punishment. (For the sake of my mother’s reputation, that’s all I have to say about that, LOL!) There are more examples of extreme parenting, like being left for hours in a hot car with my sister and cousins while my mom an aunt shopped. Or, being twenty children deep in a bedroom while they threw house parties. Yes, if you’re a child of the 70s and 80s, you are probably nodding in agreement with one or more of the extreme parenting examples listed above.
Extreme parenting is the recognition that reason and judgement are secondary tools employed when raising children. Order, peace, and quiet are the first.
As an African American child in the second-generation post integration, also part of the extreme parenting experience was a recognition there were certain activities we had to do ourselves. You see, my parents grew up during segregation. They were well accustomed to being denied access to the “American Dream”. In fact, they had developed an healthy cynicism regarding America. I can’t say that I blame them. And yet, despite it all, they had hope.
Their hope created the most resilient spirit. Their hope saw the most civil right advances of any generation – before and after. And their hope led to extreme parenting. Below are just a few of the things my generation learned from our extreme parents:
1. Self-sufficiency – I can’t recall how many times I was told, “No one is going to do it for you.” I hated hearing this said over and over. Now, it is a personal motivation for me to get things done.
2. Ethnic Pride – The true history of African Americans wasn’t written in books or taught in schools. Instead, they told us stories of friends and relatives and “home boys” that succeeded despite the odds. They used these stories to remind us how far we have come and of our spirit to continue to press on.
3. Economic Awareness – When they were growing up, our parents didn’t have the same retail, restaurant, and entertainment options available to them that we did. They had to look for and patronize Black establishments. This practice continued even when they could eat at the same lunch counter, and they passed this “Buy Black” mission on to us.
4. Self-awareness – Even in our suburb-ic and fully integrated neighborhood, my parents always reminded me that I was Black, and what that meant with regards to my behavior and how I was perceived. This awareness kept me disciplined and safe. (Relatively. I took some chances as a kid, LOL!)
5. Imagination and Creativity – When you don’t have a lot of resources (aka, money) you find ways to entertain yourself without being aided by television or devices. As a result, we used our imagination and creativity. Those exercises are still paying dividends today.
My sisters and cousins joke all the time about how our parents would’ve probably been on the news going to jail for their extreme parenting methods. They were young, inexperienced, and trying to navigate a rapidly changing America. Raising a child is difficult enough by itself. Being Black and poor made it virtually impossible. But, isn’t that the theme of Black America? We overcome the impossible and make a miracle. On my mother’s side, there were nine of us. All have completed college. Half have Masters degrees. There are two PhDs, one MD, and one DDS. Sometimes I sit in amazement at the accomplishments of my sisters and cousins. Then again, isn’t that the point? The word extreme has been defined as “of a character or kind farthest removed from the ordinary or average.” In other words, if you want extraordinary children, you’re going to need some extreme parenting.
“Peep my ver-na-cular cuz I don’t know how to act…”