Black Parents and the Communication of Love

2014-04-03 17:48

This article does not define the race group mentioned here since there was no research conducted as a means of substantiation. It is written from a personal point of view, which includes accounts from other young people to which I have pitched the concern regarding black parents’ communication of love to their children.There are phenomenal black mothers and fathers who remain present with assured-love in the everyday lives of their children. Therefore, I am only covering the scope of my continuous experiences, close observations and mutual nods gestured by those who share the same experiences.

Before continuing, I feel the need to reiterate that there are wonderful parents out there who must be celebrated.

(As I continue...)

Why is it that our (black) parents never call us to just remind us of how much they love us?

This is the question we once wrestled around with other students in our campus residence. Initially I had thought I was the only one who saw black parents in rural areas less comfortable with communicating love to their children.

Are our parents underestimating the power of a verbally communicated love?

Is this a race or culture issue?

Some days after the discussion with my residence mates I spoke to one of my mentees who told me that he feels neglected as no one at home calls him just to say, verbatim, “I Love You”. It is possible that there are many other students who share the same feeling. Our parents talk to us about many things which are almost all about parental wisdom and warnings about crises such as teenage pregnancy and drug abuse, but we rarely become emotional around one another. I remember one student even laughing mockingly at the idea of us telling our fathers that we love them. When our fathers arrive home we don’t run towards them but towards the house to check if everything is in order, lest we earn ourselves a hiding. There isn't much of a celebration but the gnashing of teeth.

Most of the communication between parents and children is filled with parents’ insecurities about what they fear we’ll become, and this type of communication is problematic in that it births a sense of fear –fear of disappointing – among children.

Of a particularly concerning nature is the role of our parents in our university studies. Socio-economic injustices may understandably prohibit them to visit our residences, check out our lecture halls and establish contact with our professors, but the emotional availability must never be compromised.

We want to know that even when the journey to graduation gets tougher, we have a solid support structure permanently erected for us. We want to receive a special phone call over which we are told that we are loved.

Just that: 'I love you, my beautiful daughter'.

In a world where love is expressed with complex nuances, intentions and falsities, it is imperative for parents to teach and accustom their daughters to messages of affection within the family unit so that they are not uncritically flattered by self-interested, sexual opportunists.

Domestically, the culture of love communication is not popular. What we have is a culture that communicates and addresses wrongdoing. We only get to know we were good kids when we have done wrong. “You were so well-behaved, I don’t know what has gotten to you,” the obviously disappointed voice will be heard, leaving the child wondering why they were not told about their good behaviour before.

My biggest fear is that if children grow up in environments that do not promote the communication of love, they will also raise their kids that way – with silenced affection. To date I have lost count of the commitments I made to tell my parents about my immeasurable love for them. Something, perhaps the climate, knits my lips inseparably together when I have to fulfil the self-promise.

But at some point, maybe as a father, I will have to confront this unknown monster that scares away all attempts to speak about my love for family.

At some point all of us who have never experienced a confessed love from our parents will have to revolt against that culture.

And our children will battle with the circumstances of life knowing that we will always love them.

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