Dear Mama(s): Random Thoughts on the Most Complex Relationship Ever

Perhaps the most fascinating phenomenon of black mothering is the ability to impart an entire system of cultural norms, cruel realities, theology, and language with minimal communication and interaction.  I learned so much from my mother by observation: what she did not say, what was not done, where she did not engage. Black mothering is a riveting example of crisp, minimal response with maximum impact. Our history required that and now it is just how we roll.  While we are expressive, sometimes loud and other times just extra, the critical shit was straight to the point. Straight no chaser. Not subject to interpretation.

Just wanted to offer a note of thanks to those that mother (by birth, by commitment, or by destiny):

Carrie Mae Weems, Kitchen Table Series, 1990.

Dear Mama(s),

I don’t care what you think you did wrong, you did right. Your life was complex and painful, and some stuff you just don’t want to discuss.  And I don’t need you to pick at your scabs to prove you love me, or explain why you are the way you are.

No one inspires fantastic fear and boundless joy like you.

No one is invited to compare your mothering to anyone else’s.

You do what you have to do when tears are stinging your eyes and you’re sick to your stomach with fear or regret.

Your body. I learned about holding power in my hips. Sometimes I was reckless with that.  You cussed me out, set me straight.  Every inch of you is texture and longing.  Thank you.

Carrie Mae Weems, Kitchen Table Series, 1990.

Let that go because you grew a life; you built a human. And that is its own special brand of Black Power.

You are never ashy or musty.  So I am never ashy or musty. You’ve mastered code switching in the workplace.  You don’t muddle your mind thinking that assholes will suddenly transform into angels.  You are the ultimate creator of Club Unbothered.

The opportunities you created for me have spoiled me in some ways.  Sometimes I forget that reasoning with my children is not only ineffective but unnecessary.  I forget I am the law and require no rationale for my requests.  You remind me that my wrath is worthy to be unleashed.  Ass whoopins, sucking teeth, or a raised right eyebrow says more than any battery of well-intended questions aimed at “healthy” parenting. Thank you.

Carrie Mae Weems, Kitchen Table Series, 1990.

Discipline is not about breaking spirits but sometimes that happened.  And when I woke up from my humiliation, my mind was right sized and the seeds of home training took root.  Thank you.

I have an internal compass, a gut truth that is unshakable. Even though I don’t always listen to it, thank you.

Forgive yourself decisions made out of desperation or fear. You had your reasons. I love you still.  Thank you.




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