As a parent I believe that there is no greater task than making sure your children are successful. The obvious next question must be asked, what is your definition of success? I would define success as “knowing what you don’t know”, simply I need them to be self-aware. I have a philosophy about how to get them there. Many disagree with me, but I have my parents to thank for their great example. One of the great things my parents did was the gentle subliminal push toward and appreciation of education as the route to achievement. I remember the extra lessons in grade school, and going to the clinic with my mother. I remember helping sterilize the supplies in her delivery bag. What I don’t remember is any discussion of college or which college or even getting better grades.
My parents were very generous with opportunity. They allowed my brothers and I the freedom to decide our interests. Expectations were high but were not overtly discussed. We were required to read aloud at daily devotion. We were not allowed to work outside of the home. Our only responsibility was to complete chores and go to school. We filled our down time by dreaming of the world that could be and taking control of what was around us. We learned to cook, hand wash and iron our clothes. I learned to tailor and one brother learned upholstery. We learned to manage our money, by managing our daily school money. This collection of activities may not seem very significant, but my brothers and I have extraordinarily similar outlook on the world. We believe that our children must be allowed the chance to attain the highest pinnacle of education because they can, not because they must. We believe that our responsibility to our children is paramount and no one comes before them. We may live far apart, but would give the same general answer to 9 out of 10 questions.
We learned from out parents that living the example is more important that showing it. We saw our parents reading and watching the news. We saw their drive to continue their education. We watched them solve problems creatively. They allowed us to explore the world freely but the boundaries were clear.
My view of the world is shaped by my family. My parents and grandparents created an outlook on the world that as given us a never give in attitude. I want to give my girls that same attitude. I will never clip their wings. I will allow them to fly. I will always be there to catch them if needed. I will be supportive. I will provide the means for them to have a platform for success. I will always support my girls, because they are equal to the challenge no matter what it may be.
I thank my village for giving me the strength to allow my princesses to fly.
Having children has changed my life for the better. Having girls has allowed me to see the world through changed eyes. I often do not like what I see, but there is always hope. I am hopeful because I can see strength in my princesses and I can see the world evolving. The change is not as fast as I would like, but change is happening. My princesses have been born into a world where they have access to opportunity and much improved safety. As women of African heritage they have unique challenges and strengths, but mostly they are from a long line imbued with confidence and self-sufficiency.
I continue to be sure of their success because they have great role models. My instinct is to protect them from all that is bad in the world by building a wall around them. My struggle now is to determine the height of that wall. I want them to grow by learning from my successes and failures, but understand they will learn best from their own experiences. All parents have that nervousness, but for a father of a women of African heritage the world is a little different.
My princesses are still innocent to the crazy world and I will protect them from it for as long as possible. They are three and five years-old and their life is changing fast. My five year-old is ready. She is the love of my life and I worry, and I am excited for her. I am ready for her to discover more of what the world as to offer. The world has already expressed their low expectations of her, but like her ancestors before she will perform above and beyond because her corner expects her to be the best. High expectations lead to commensurate performances. I will continue to protect and love her, and be her shield and sword. I am a parent, I am her father and her friend for life. I will always expect more.
I think I spend most of my day considering how I can improve the life of my kids. How can I help them succeed? How can I help them overcome the low expectations that society has of them. As soon as I think I really do not have anything to worry about someone opens their mouth and I despair. Success starts with education and educational success is about expectations. Education is life long and not about getting a job, it is about being equipped to contribute to society. Expectation start at home.
Children need to see their parents making an effort. They need to understand that life is challenging and that they have to push to succeed. They need to experience failure early so they understand that life is not all strawberries and cream. Only by allowing them to fail can they truly understand the joy of success. This joy is what develops confidence. The type of confidence that laughs at a society that does not expect much from them. They need to develop that confidence early. If you are an American of African heritage that development of confidence needs to happen really early because no matter how well you perform the expectation is that you are not good enough. Confidence in spite of low expectations will allow them to take hold of the new experiences on offer at school.
The evidence is clear that good quality preschool is an important part of preparing kids for success. What is good quality preschool and does poor quality preschool damage your kids? The latter question is what concerns me the most these days. I know I am preparing my kids for success. I am confident that they are well prepared. But in spite of what I do at home the need to learn the social rules cannot be taught from a book. They need to learn to tolerate stupidity without resorting to violence. They
need to learn to work with strangers. They need to learn to identify the predators. Socialization at school is where that all starts.
The unfortunate thing is that the quality of preschool in general is low and I am concerned about the low expectations that the system has of them. Allowing low expectations of minority kids is driving the nail into the coffin of our country. The majority of the popular soon will be from those minority groups for which expectations are low. If they have not gotten a good education, who will be taking care of the country in our old age?
I am mad, not because I care about the in ability to see that my kids intellect is not defined by her skin color, but that we do not see the harm being doing to this great nation.
Our kids are bored and misbehave. They need to be challenged. It is hard work but it can be done. My experience so far does not give me any hope for improvement in the quality of education and specifically preschool. I still think we can turn it around. Expectation is success. My parents expected their kids to succeed and we did. My teachers expected us to succeed and provided us a challenging educational environment. Thanks. I will do the same for my princesses because they deserve to succeed. They will succeed because I expect it of them.
What are your expectations?