Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Things Black Parents Say

Recently, I began learning to navigate the brave new world that is Twitter.

Twitter is interesting. As songwriter Novel tweeted “Twitter is basically like talking to yourself with an audience,” and the whole (albeit false) sense of “Hey, I’m hobnobbing with famous folks!” doesn’t hurt either.

But my favorite part of Twitter is the daily trending statements (or “hashtags”). Someone starts the hashtag, and then others jump in. For example, yesterday I tweeted in response to “#GotAThingFor” hashtag, adding “Haagen Dazs coffee ice cream, antique jewelry, and kissing all over my 8-yr-old’s face.” Others tweeted about what they've “got a thing for,” and it’s just funny to read all the comments.

One of today’s hashtags was “ThingsBlackParentsSay,” and while I knew this had the potential to go horribly wrong (such as when a white guy tweeted something about spitting watermelon seeds on the floor), I could not resist checking it out. I’ve been a parent since forever, and things parents say sounded like a cool topic to me. (If you’ve reached the stage in life when you’ve begun sounding like your own parents, you know what I mean.)

And … lots of these were pretty hilarious. Black parents clearly have a lot to say about their children knowing song lyrics better than their homework, leaving the door open and letting out all the heat, having big eyes at the store (“When we get in there, don’t look at nothing, don’t touch nothing, and don’t ask me about nothing!”), and getting mouthy. Also, it is clear that many black parents have no problem reminding their children who pays the bills and is otherwise in charge.

Yes, one could say these statements perpetuate a stereotype, but if you have a black parent or are a black parent, you can probably relate.

True story. All my boys had just come back from visiting Ed’s family in the Poconos. Ed and I had stayed home. Thomas, then about five, was looking a little scruffy. Me, suspicious mom, said “Thomas did you take a shower at all while at your grandparents?” Thomas was going through a phase of complaining every morning about having to shower. Seemingly unconcerned, Thomas shrugged and said “No.”

I said, “Wait a minute. Are you telling me you haven’t showered in three days?” Then I said, looking at Christian and Adam, “Neither of you made this boy take a shower for three days?!” Both looked at me blankly. “He said he didn’t feel like it,” Adam said, calmly. I paused. “What did Babci say?” But apparently, Babci had had nothing to say, so then I went a little crazy and said something about how maybe Thomas wouldn’t be able to visit anymore if no one would make sure that he adhered to basic hygiene standards, and I was criticized for overreacting and being too controlling, blah, blah, blah. But here’s the really relevant part. Later that week, I told this story to my girlfriends, and one of them said, unprovoked, “Girl, now you know if that had been Thomas’ Black grandmother, she would have said ‘Boy, I don’t care what you want! Get yo a-- in this tub!’” I laughed and started to protest and she said, “You know I’m telling the truth—that’s why you’re laughing!”

It’s a running joke in the black community that black parents are stricter and won’t “take no stuff” from their kids, while white parents are more collaborative and lenient. Again, I know it’s a stereotype, but darn it, it’s funny!

So what did I tweet? Follow me on Twitter at @crystalmusings and find out!

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