You know that Caresha TikTok voiceover that goes, “My man, my man, my man,” and so on? Yeah?! Well, I hate to break it to you but that is how some (one too many) parents, particularly mothers, sound in regard to their sons. I’ve always found it to be weird, but I find it even more noticeable since becoming pregnant with a baby boy, likely because people keep projecting that bullshit onto me. Sidenote: I truly believe being pregnant has a way of bringing attention to the weird shit that people say so that you know who you don’t want around your child (at any given stage) or who not to take parenting advice from.
Anyways so many mothers have said things to me along the lines of, “You’re so lucky to be having a little boy. The love he’s going to have for you will be like no other.” And the implication in my mind is that they’re saying my son will fulfill the love I one day seek in a romantic relationship – not realizing that this is emotional incest.
Similarly, are the parents who crown their sons “man of the house” or refer to them as “my King” – my immediate thought is almost always, “What in the world is going on?" As harmless as they might intend comments like that to be, they're actually very confusing and dangerous in reference to the attachment to your children you create. In fact, I feel so… triggered by the use of these phrases that I’ve sorta come to the consensus that even terms like “little man” will be banned in my home.
This isn’t f*cking Bridgerton, and there’s nothing cute about it! And it’s not a flex nor is it “woke” to call your son your “King.”
Parents are here to love children unconditionally, but that love is not meant to be applied in the opposite way. Children aren’t required to love you through your bullshit. The emotional incest language and behavior send the message that they should otherwise be supporting and loving of you – no matter what.
Wait, let me backpedal just a bit here and explain emotional incest. Emotional incest, sometimes referred to as covert incest, is when an adult or parent leans on a child for the emotional support of an adult partner. Quick enough, right? And how many parents did you think of immediately after reading that simple definition?
It seems to be more common than we might imagine (but that’s just my opinion). Still, I want to warn parents against doing this. Use age-appropriate language to describe your children, especially Black children (who are already adultified from the age of six for girls and 10 for boys.) In fact, emotional incest and adultification go hand in hand, as adultification is the idea that children are more cognitively aware and capable than their peers based on their intersectional identities.
Though my take may seem extreme in some ways (such as refusing to bestow nicknames like “little man” upon my baby son), I, personally, never want there to be confusion about my expectations for my child. And those expectations are simply for him to be a child for as long as developmentally appropriate. Language speaks volumes.
Words are self-fulfilling prophecies, so if you talk to a child or treat them as adults long enough, they become that, and not in the healthy, developmentally appropriate way – in the traumatic and stressful way.
The beautiful thing about parenting is that it’s your personal journey, but keep in mind it is also the scary part in that you are responsible for shaping and molding a tiny life (that has the potential to be grand).
I will say, stop projecting that shit onto me and mine. Please and thank you!
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