When you become a parent, everyone else becomes a critic.
When my first son came into the world, like every other newborn, he underwent a series of newborn screening tests. These tests look for genetic or developmental disorders that aren’t noticeable at birth. In the state of New York, infants are screened for 49 disorders. Soon after his arrival, I was notified by doctors that my son had hypothyroidism and I would have to put him on medication.
Looking at the results, things didn’t seem right, so my partner and I looked into a second opinion. My mother, however, strongly believed that I shouldn’t wait and aggressively suggested I put my son, only a few days old, on the medication. Her demanding attitude overwhelmed me, and although I know all she wanted was for him to be okay, she didn’t allow me to make my own decisions as his mother. Subconsciously, I felt like she didn’t believe in me and I resented her for that.
So, I stopped talking to her for a while. I needed to learn how to be a mother on my own and without her opinions. (My son is now almost seven and healthy!)
While I strongly believe it takes a village to raise a child, I believe society could be more respectful towards how it speaks about how people choose to parent. I see it all the time in Twitter debates. It’s either parents shaming other parents, or those who have never experienced parenthood ridiculing those who have children. Outside of having to establish your own ground rules when raising a child, society gives you a heap of guidelines and do’s and don'ts to follow, especially if you have a daughter.
Don’t let her wear a two-piece bathing suit.
No heels until high school.
Do not put makeup on your daughter–nail polish included.
Don’t put color in your child’s hair–even if it’s temporary.
Don’t put extensions in her hair.
If she’s rocking natural hair, make sure it’s neat–similar to that of North West and not so much Blue Ivy Carter.
I’ve seen it all.
With social media trolls at an all time high,celebrities experience it on another level. Amber Rose is the latest to be criticised after posting a video of her and Wiz Khalifa's son Sebastian getting his nails done in a nail salon.
[Tweet ""F--- society standards and gender roles! Let your children be great. - @DaRealAmberRose”"]
Last year, NFL dad, Devon Still posted the first picture of his daughter, Leah, after the announcement that she is finally cancer-free! Go, Little Leah! The five-year-old is growing her hair back and slaying the hair game with fingerwaves, but many may have missed the memo that she was diagnosed with neuroblastoma back in 2014 and lost all her hair due to chemotherapy.
Comment sections were cluttered with mentions that Leah’s hairstyle was “inappropriate” and “too grown” for a child instead of celebrating the fact that this baby-voiced tot just kicked cancer’s ass. We make judgements about children that aren’t ours based off of ideologies imparted to and instilled within us. Sometimes, we know the story. Often times, thanks to social media, we just react.
Recently, Aliya S. King published a piece on The Root called “People Say My Daughter Is ‘Too Grown.’ I Think That Idea Is Detrimental to Black Girls—and Boys.” I loved every bit of it as she introduces the story of her eight-year-old daughter, Emmy, who wears medium-sized hooped earrings, delving into her child’s self-expression, the limitations she imposes as a mother, and the acceptance that comes with some of her child’s choices. I, too, vowed to let my children express themselves as they see fit due to my own restrictions on clothing and hair growing up. Sometimes, I make decisions for my children that everyone isn’t comfortable with, but people need to stop condemning parents for doing something with or to their child that they wouldn’t with their own.
It happened again this week when Christina Milian uploaded a photo of her daughter Violet along with teen beauty, Zendaya. In a photo of the trio, Christina originally captioned:
It’s official. I’m a #1 Mom in my daughters eyes! Last night I was fortunate enough to bring my baby girl @VioletMadison to meet Zendaya at the #InauguralWorldAIDSDaysBenefit. You can’t imagine how much it made her day. Plus she got to see how her selflessness, positive attitude and hard work can help inspire and heal the world. Kudos to you #Zendaya & Your sweet parents. You are a great young lady and I’m happy my daughter has someone to look up to like yourself. Thank you. (And she loved V’s hair)
But as the comments poured in, Christina faced the same crossfire of comments as that of Leah Still’s pic–her child’s hair was too much for someone so young. Extending her initial thoughts, the singer added:
For those of you more concerned with Violet’s hair (understandably cause you just don’t know) her hair isn’t in the twists, it’s another method used where they are tied into her corn rows. The hair isn’t heavy. If you’ve ever grabbed a bag of afri braiding hair you know they are very light weight. But just trying new things. Violet likes it and it’s not damaging. Xo
While many celebs feel the need to openly explain their actions on public platforms that change how we view the world and communicate daily, it’s unfortunate people thought it best to question her parenting and her feeling the need to defend her choices. The same choices she has to make and live with behind closed doors is now the topic of conversation amongst mothers and childless women alike who believe Christina is damaging her child’s hair. Does the hair look heavy? Sure. But should people refrain from sharing their opinions about a child that actually likes how she looks (which is a journey in itself for young Black girls) and on a mother that is introducing the process of decision making early on? Absolutely. For Violet to be around one of the most influential Black teens of 2015–the same woman that has spoken up and showed out when it came to diversifying hair this year–it’s a step towards growing up outside of the constraints placed on us.
To raise your son or daughter in opposition of others’ opinions is to foster a sense of liberation in that child, and Christina and Violet, Aliya and Emmy, and Devon and Leah all represent that freedom. Whether you think what they’re doing with their children is too much because they’re too young and it’s too grown, understand we’re confined to enough boxes.
Stop parent shaming and start minding your business.