Every morning, growing up, my mother or my grandmother would braid my hair. I hated it. It was a tedious process. I would sit down in front of the television with a bowl of cocoa puffs, and I would try to zone out while the constant pulling and twisting would aggravate my tender head. Every morning, I would leave for school in a polo t-shirt and plaid skirt with sleek, slicked-back braids that weren’t too tight on my scalp, and every evening I would come home with most of my hair out of place.
It must have been difficult to be my mother. I’ve always been fearless. I’ve been unapologetic for the way I view the world. How frightening that must be for a mother. The thing is, I learned my courage from her, in the way that she was always unapologetically herself, unapologetically Black and unapologetically a woman.
When my parents got divorced, my mother didn’t know it, but she taught me the importance of knowing your own self-worth. There were moments growing up when other people wanted me to feel ashamed of who I was. I was bright-eyed, bushy-tailed and optimistic about the world around me, but slowly, the world became dim. When I was teased in middle school for the braids my mother had tended to, I never thought about how much that must have hurt her as it did me. There’s nothing more delicate than my mother’s love, but there is also nothing more disheartening than my mother’s pain.
As children, we tend to think that our parents are superhuman. However, I think that as we grow older, we learn how human they really are. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just different. I’ve found myself categorizing my womanhood as a juxtaposition. Sometimes, it’s soft and precious and full of love. Other times, it’s strong, and resilient and oftentimes it’s filled with rage. Sometimes it’s a combination of the two, and that’s when it’s difficult for me. I’m told to shatter glass ceilings when everyone knows the glass is bulletproof.
It was my mother who knew I was capable of whatever I set my mind to. She’s always been eccentric, loud and proud of who she is. I’m grateful to have been raised by someone who always wanted to encourage me and support me in everything I ever wanted to do no matter what obstacles stood in the way of my success.
So, thanks Mom for going beyond what was expected of you. Maybe it’s cheesy, but I wasn’t grateful enough for your love, and how laborious you were in showing it to me constantly with trips to the library, surprising me with my favorite meal for dinner and especially the constant advice that maybe I didn’t want to hear but absolutely needed in that moment. I feel incredibly lucky and blessed to be your daughter. I feel blessed to have been raised by a woman who wanted me to come into womanhood on my own terms. I love you so much.