It’s time to dismiss the ‘lack’ mindset and encourage our Black children to appreciate abundance as their birthright says new Melan contributor Marianne Miles.
When you become pregnant at 19, few celebrate the impending birth of a child; people generally tend to mourn the loss of innocence and the presumed poverty they will grow up with; financial, educational, moral, or all of the above, because kids raising kids is apparently the scourge of society the world over, but especially within the Black community. I was determined that the looks of disgust I received as a pregnant teenager would not follow my son throughout his life.
My pregnancy was treacherous, I was still attending college classes and worked in the evenings. I was not a single parent then but still knew he would depend on us both. Whatever his father could provide I would be able to match. I worked hard; and the stress caused me to be hospitalised twice. After numerous warnings I went into early labour at 24 weeks, it was a close call, my amniotic sac was protruding out of my uterus, I had to have an operation to put it back in place without it rupturing. I spent three weeks in hospital and was given a uterine stitch for both of our safety. I used that as a crutch in the summer after college ended, I got two jobs.
Navigating motherhood was much easier because my family are ‘the village’ and I was able to continue my studies and get a part time job knowing he was protected. Leading up to his first birthday I was euphoric, knowing that I almost lost him because of my intense desire to provide.
“I planned a huge party, 100 adults and kids, bouncy castle, expensive pass the parcel gifts, customised balloons and banners, tons of food and alcohol. I hired a venue. I even got his outfit custom made.”
A single mother at 20, I understood the implications and assumptions our lives presented and wanted to show that we were thriving. I went into abundance mode. I planned a huge party, 100 adults and kids, bouncy castle, expensive pass the parcel gifts, customised balloons and banners, tons of food and alcohol. I hired a venue. I even got his outfit custom made! When it all came together it was a huge relief, I was so proud of myself. During the party, half of my family who attended were disgusted at the size and money spent for a one year old considering I only had a part time job. They chastised me because he was never going to remember it all. I was angry that they saw my beautiful attempt at celebrating his life as something negative and unforgettable and I let some of them know how I felt. It was a narrative I heard from people throughout his childhood whenever I spent ‘too much’ money on clothes or toys or holidays. I was wasting my money, spoiling him and, this line which was repeated too many times; ‘what’s he going to do when you can’t give him all this when he’s older, probably go out and steal?’
That is what I now know as a ‘lack’ mindset, whilst my mind was set firmly on abundance. There was nothing I couldn’t give my boys and I taught them that nothing was beyond their reach despite what society decided. Growing up in Hackney, London, surrounded by crime, travelling along ‘murder mile’ to visit their Nan every week, you can become a product of your environment very easily if everything is negative. Some of us were raised in working class struggle but taught not to wallow in it.
“There was nothing I couldn’t give my boys and I taught them that nothing was beyond their reach despite what society decided.”
I’m proud I ignored that criticism and continued on with my plan to show my boys that although we were economically poor, we could be imaginative and use what we had to create golden moments. Now they are adults, it is heartwarming to hear them recount their childhood fondly. Our many trips and adventures which cost so much are priceless now. One Christmas, a year after being made redundant and not working at all, I managed to get an Xbox from a catalogue and bought them a few other small gifts. They went to sleep on Christmas Eve with no presents under the tree when in previous years they received everything they asked for. They woke up to a treasure hunt, I made trails around the house with sweets which led them to their presents, it took them two hours to find everything. It was the cheapest Christmas we ever had and the one they remember the most. It would’ve been easy to be despondent that year, instead I made lemonade and we all enjoyed as usual.
You should see their faces now when they look at the pictures. This approach to motherhood has taught them that abundance is not a dirty word, it is a standard life requirement. They always aim high now, they never settle for less and they will do the same for their children. I will never understand punishing your own kids for a poor upbringing or ensuring they experience struggle to build character because it helps no one. It doesn’t make them all stronger or make them work harder. In fact, knowing the great things in life are not out of their reach makes them grow up with less weight on their shoulders, as Black men they already have enough.
“I was always taught that the next generation should do better, my children should achieve more than me if I pass on the right knowledge and guidance.”
I was always thought that the next generation should do better, my children should achieve more than me if I pass on the right knowledge, abundance attitude and guidance and, I think, showing them that all things are possible as a normal way of life has produced great dividends.
Today I have two young men who are ambitious, successful and a lot more financially responsible than I ever was. My grandchildren too will be taught to appreciate abundance and are going to live very happy lives.
My oldest son, born in Hackney in the 90s the son of teenage parents, was awarded a master’s degree in law this year. With graduation canceled, I wanted to throw him a small outdoor social distancing party to mimic his first birthday with a bouncy castle and customised accessories and t-shirts. Instead he wants me to pay his rent for the month. I think that is what we call a mission accomplished.