By Miriam Genao
As parents, all we want is the best for our children. We want them to excel in any and everything they do. It’s my job as their mother to make sure that happens. I envision certain things for them based on their personalities, athleticism, and talents.
My oldest child is José. He’s 15 years old and has the personality a mother can only dream of. José is mature enough to have made his own plan for himself. Luckily, that coincides with what I envision for him. He plans on wrestling all throughout high school. He’s really good at it. Even though he’s going on his 2nd year, José has far exceeded our expectations. Hopefully his talent and drive will get him a scholarship to Ohio or Penn State, which are the schools of his choice. His plan is to get his degree in engineering. According to him, José wants to make it on the United States Olympic wrestling team and bring home the gold medal. I love the fact that his backup plan is engineering because wrestling is not something you can really make a lifelong career out of. It has to end some day and he needs to have a backup plan.
A few months ago, I asked him why he wanted to go to the Olympics so bad. He said, “Mom, I’m black and Puerto Rican. Society already has me pinned as a failure just by being a minority. I want to prove to the world that not all minorities will be failures. I’m going to make so many people proud of me.” He ended his answer with a huge smile on his face. His answer blew me away. I was on the verge of tears.
I had no idea that he even worried about his mixed race being a possible “hindrance” for his future. You see, the thing is that I never thought I had to talk to my son about race and the issues going on today. Unbeknownst to me, he already knew everything the media was broadcasting; the black lives matter protests, the violence, and the killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile at the hands of police officers. Now that he’s older and is going to wrestling practice on his own, I felt like I had to have “The Talk” with him. No, I’m not talking about the birds and the bees (We’ve already had that discussion, by the way). The talk I’m referring to is what he needs to do if he’s ever stopped by a police officer.
Normally, when I attempt to have a serious talk with Jose, he will try to make a joke of it. I think it’s his way of cutting the tension of the conversation. This time, it was different. He hung to my every word like his life depended on it. The problem is that his life does depend on the things I had to say to him.
Once I was done giving him the instructions that might quite possibly save him, he asked me if I was telling this to him because he’s half black. I told him, “No, it’s because you’re human and you deserve a full chance at life like any other man. There are police who are treating people like animals instead of people with rights. Just do as I say so you can come home to me.”
Talking to my son about his safety calmed me down a bit but I still have that nagging fear in the back of my mind that he may actually have to use the advice I gave him some day.
That whole conversation made me realize how mature my son really is. As all mothers do, I saw him as my little baby and I worry how he’ll ever make it in such a violent world. After having such a grown up discussion with him, I now see him as a young man who will go very far in this world despite what society has in store for him. Our world still has a lot of changing to do and I’m so very proud that José has prepared himself to take it on head first. Is the world ready for Jose?
Miriam Genao is a mother of 3 beautiful children and a blogger on Miriam Knows….