Choose Love Over Hate

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“Behold, children are a gift of the LORD; The fruit of the womb is a reward.”  - Psalm 127:3

 

Almost a year ago, my daughter was born.  I fell in love with her from the moment I knew she existed.  Every time I saw her on the sonogram (usually in the middle of her trying to suck on her hand or foot), feel her swift kicks to my ribs, or even just think about her – I felt as if this small family of ours was meant to be.  If you have read my story, you also know that nearly two years ago my son Prince was murdered.  Though I have lived through one of the worst tragedies I can imagine, part of honoring my son is knowing that I must also continue to choose love and happiness.  My decision to have my daughter was one of the first steps I took on my personal journey, and I couldn’t be happier with my decision.  Many reading this have also been through tragic experiences of all types – ranging from domestic violence, child abuse, and the terrors of Family Court.  Tragedy should make us stronger, but it shouldn’t define us or take away our ability to choose love despite the hate.

Sharing the news of my baby girl was a positive experience, and I have received overwhelming support from my readers.  Many readers reached out with private messages thanking me for telling my news, and wished my daughter and me the best.  One reader in particular mentioned that she, too, had thought about being a single mother by choice.  She worried, however, about the judgments she would receive from negative and bigoted people – some of who were in her own family.  Before responding to her, I thought a lot about what she said and how I felt about mine and my daughter’s own future given the society we live in.

I made the decision to have my daughter knowing that not everyone would accept our alternative family.  For me, the most important part of my decision was making sure that my daughter would come into this world with a lot of love and support.  After thinking this reality over for a significant amount of time, I realized that I had grown up the child of an “alternative” family.  My parents got married in the late 1970s.  Since my parents are not of the same race, their marriage wasn’t even legal in all 50 states.  And many times, even though it was legal didn’t mean it was socially accepted.  I distinctly remember classmates of mine who asked me why I hadn’t come out with spots since my mother was white and my father was black.

I will never forget the day when I first realized my family was different.  The girl next door and I were good friends.  We were both five years old and attended the same school.  She was having a birthday party where everyone had planned to bring their own cabbage patch doll.  We were both excited about this party and had talked about it for months.  On the day of the party, I ran out of the house with my doll and proudly marched up to her garage with the rest of the children.  As I went to walk through the door, my friend stopped me and said, “My mom said you cannot come to the party because you are black and black people steal things.  You are not allowed in my house.”  While the rest of the kids went inside, I stood on the sidewalk alone with my doll.

After that incident, I ran home and told my parents about what had happened.  “But I am brown Mommy!  My skin isn’t even black,” I explained with clear confusion.  I remember seeing the anger and pain in my parent’s eyes as they attempted to explain racism and bigotry to their innocent five -year old daughter.  I am pretty sure the reality still didn’t sink in that day; however, over the years my parents did a wonderful job explaining to me that being different wasn’t a bad thing.  I learned to embrace my unique background and the reality that I would often be forced to be an ambassador for my race and my unique experience.

My daughter was born into a family that is different, and not everyone will always accept the path that I have chosen.  She will likely encounter many bigoted people throughout her life. It is my job as her mother to teach her that her unique story is a blessing, and an opportunity to change the world for the better.   For the reader who was contemplating having another child, and for the many others who believe that an alternative family (be it two moms, two dads, one mom, one dad, etc) is the best choice for their family, my advice is as follows:

Children are a blessing.  They deserve to be showered with love from a strong community of people – regardless of gender, race, or whatever particular label you happen to be using at the moment.  Don’t ever let narrow mindedness, bigotry, or hate factor into your decision to have a child.

And for those of you who are trying to rebuild your lives after tragedy (even if you are still in the tragedy of Family Court), choose to live with happiness and don’t let this tragedy rob you or your children of your lives, happiness, and future.

 

Haters Gonna Hate

Last Friday, The Washington Post’s Jo-Ann Armao wrote an emotional and beautiful article which told the story of what happened to my son.  It also included the joys of my daughter.  To the surprise of nobody, trolls came out of the bowels of the Internet to shine their hate on a story that was meant to tell a story of tragedy and hope. Some folks think that I have asked for this attention.  Let me assure everyone that if I could change my story, and make it less like a bad lifetime movie (particularly the part about my son being murdered by his own father) – I would in a heartbeat.  Nobody wants to have something like this happen to them.  That said, I will make no apologies for my decision to use what happened to my son to try and change the system and protect other children.  I will also never make any apologies for my decision to keep living, and pursue a happy life despite the pain I have (and will continue) to endure.

Several of the trolls stayed along the lines of all too typical victim blame, noting that because I wanted to settle down and have a family (and chose to try online dating) I somehow deserved to run into a serial killing psychopath.  The other trolls chose to preach their troubling agendas with all too familiar attacks on single motherhood.  These nasty, judgmental, and flat out ignorant comments serve as a sad reminder that many Americans are still stuck in the dark ages where alternative families are shunned, and women are pressured into living through abuse for fear of becoming a pariah in society.  To demonstrate what I am talking about, I thought I would highlight some of the most ignorant comments.  This is not to give a platform to the ignorance, but show why there is a need for more successful single parents to speak out and call bull shit on some of this trash.

Things Folks Actually Said: ( I couldn’t have made up better examples of hate/ignorance/buffoonery if I tried)

1.  “You made a terrible choice in your partner, now you want to fill your inner void with another child? I don’t get the psychology here at all. As someone said earlier, yet another public tab we have to pay for.  Maybe we need to offer child parenting classes in high school, along with the academics.”

(Note:  This “genius” assumes that every single parent is on welfare and will eventually force the public to pay for their child.  I would like to note that I am an example of someone who has a very good job, and can afford my child all by myself.  Thanks for the offer to help pay for my kid though.  This person also assumes that single parents are not educated and that we need parenting classes in high school.  I have a Master’s Degree in Education.  I think I will pass on your offer for parenting classes as well.)

2.  “Single, out of wedlock parents don’t do well historically, and for her to do this to make herself feel better, is sad. She will likely place too many expectations on this child, almost a switch in roles, from her as mother to her as child who needs to be cared for. It is of concern that this type of story with the clear message of support of out of wedlock parenting is on the front page of this newspaper.”

(Note:  This person believes that all children born to single parents (or those born out of wedlock) don’t do well.  He even tries to make it appear as though there is some sort of historical evidence to this claim.  I guess this person didn’t get the memo that our current President was raised by a single mother.  This person also must be psychic because without even knowing me, he/she seems to think it’s possible to predict my future merely based on the fact that I had another child after the loss of my son.  This person seems to suggest that every parent who loses a child should never have another child for fear that this child will somehow need to take care of their grieving parent.  I think there are millions of people who would disagree on this one.)

3.  “Why didn’t she adopt? There are many children in desperate need of homes, particularly bi-racial children for whom this family would have been a good match. Though that child would not have had 2 parents, with McLeod’s extended family he or she could have had a real chance at a normal home life. THAT would have honored Prince.”

(Note:  I agree that there are many children who are in need of being adopted.  If we all listen to this person’s theory, however, we would all agree to stop having children until all of the children in the world who need homes are adopted.  This person believes that if you are bi-racial like me you should always choose adoption first because there are many bi-racial children for whom your bi-racial family would be a good match.  I don’t think I need to go into how racist this comment is.  I have many friends who have adopted children outside of their race, and their children were perfect matches for their family regardless of ethnicity.)

4. “… its terrible to purposely bring a child into a single family home.  Not wanting to come off as judgemental, but it is fact that it is more difficult to raise a child by one’s self. Have many single mom friends, and not one of them did it intentionally, and all of them, to varying degrees, have issues with the lack of support, whether its presence, money, support, or all three… Not sure why someone of sound mind and clear thought would purposely do this.”

(Note:  Mr “not wanting to come off as judgmental” is coming across as just that – judgmental.  This is the type of person who thinks he knows what it is like to be a single parent because he has “single mom friends.”  He also seems to think that all single parents are in need of financial support, and none of us have family support around to help out.  Since Mr. “not wanting to come off as judgmental” can’t seem to understand what it is like to be financially independent and have a strong family support system as a single mother, I would suggest that HE (or she) never try it.)

My Conclusions:

I don’t expect everyone to follow in my footsteps, and I don’t claim to have lived a life without mistakes.  That said, my daughter isn’t one of them.  I often hear people argue that there are all these “statistics” of how poorly children do in single parent homes.  Those who make this argument, however, feel perfectly comfortable painting all single parents with the same brush.  There are also ugly statistics showing that prisons are made up of a disproportional amount of black men.  Does this mean that we should all assume that every black male will become a criminal?

Choosing single parenthood is becoming something that many women choose to do.  There will always be people for whom this decision is intimidating.  Single parenthood isn’t easy, but neither is co-parenting.  Parenting is challenging.  Every child, regardless of their family dynamic, will have to face challenges in life.  If you ignore that reality just because you happen to have two parents living under the same roof with your children, your child might soon become one of those ugly statistics that you rely upon when launching your judgements against single parents.

And to all my fellow single parents, whether by circumstance or by choice, don’t listen to the trolls of our society.  There are just as many successful people in the world who were raised by single parents as those who had two parents.  Children need a loving and safe environment.  They need to know they are special, and they need to be allowed to grow into healthy individuals.  Just because you are a single parent, doesn’t mean you cannot create a healthy environment for your child.  Just because you have a spouse, doesn’t not mean you have automatically created a healthy environment for your child.

If you don’t have haters, it means you aren’t being loud enough about what you believe in.