Sometimes it is difficult to fathom that I am the mother of a black man. Not a black boy, or a black child, but a fully grown black man.
The transition from parenting a child to an adult has not been easy. It began three years ago when my son left to go to university. Then on completion of his degree he left almost immediately to volunteer in Thailand teaching English to children. Each time I had to accept that I no longer had the authority to control what he did, but seek comfort and reassurance in knowing that he was capable of making his own decisions and looking after himself. But this acceptance never stopped me from worrying.
I find myself in new territory. Even the terminology I now use is unfamiliar and different. Once I would say ‘my child’ now I refer to him as ‘my son’. He is no longer my little boy, my baby.
I have learnt a lot about myself as a mother and a black woman as my relationship with my son has evolved. I have reflected on how my multiple identities, including those ascribed to me as a result of the historical socio-economic legacy of the strong black woman, have influenced how I view myself as the mother of a black man. I still grapple with the realisation that in order to really love your child, you have to be prepared to let them go.
During this transition, I have learnt how to really listen to what my son says. As well as respect and consider his perspective, even when I am tempted to give unsolicited advice and disagree with his view point. I am cognizant that I need to wait until he asks me for my opinion. And let me confess, at times this has been very difficult. But I cherish my relationship with my son. I have faith that the foundation of positive values, self respect, a hard work ethic and cultural identity has placed him in good stead. So I take solace from Ralph Waldo Emerson words:
Men are what their mothers made them.
I continue to grow as an individual while entering this new phase of motherhood, knowing my son needs a different kind of emotional support that helps boost his confidence and self-esteem, in a world that will try to emasculate him. My role is not to stifle his confidence or coping skills, but give him the space to be independent. I continue to love my son unconditionally and now accept that loving him means respecting him for who he is, a young black man. This is part of the mother-son relationship.