“When are, you going to have kids of your own?”
It’s a question I have been asked by friends and family. To a lot of them, I am a natural: great with their kids and meant to be a parent.
“When it’s the right time, I guess,” I reply.
I get excited at the thought of being a parent. I often wonder what type of father I will be and what type of children I will raise because of it. I’m not under any delusion that parenting is easy, but I would like to believe it’s as difficult as it is gratifying.
But I also have my fears, and among those, a few that have become more prominent and made me warier due to where we are as a society today. From Trayvon Martin to Zella Ziona, we live in a world in which many are persecuted for who they are and ostracized for what they identify as. In a world so polarized when it comes to race, sexuality, and gender, three things that had never crossed my mind in my daydreams of being a parent now play a nightmarish recurring role.
The first is the obvious: my kids will be black or mixed race. That’s one thing they will always have to be mindful of in a country and world that hasn’t really figured how they feel about people of color. From the justice system to opportunities in the workplace, domestic policies to access to better education, our experiences as people of a certain complexion, at times, have been more bitter than sweet: not always bad, but far from where the rest of society thinks they are.
The second: I might be blessed with daughters. I long for one. But I also realize I will have to raise her to be mindful of the struggles women face in this world. It’s tough enough being a woman; I can only imagine how tough it is out there for a woman of color, how tough it is to navigate through a society in which your gender and your race can influence how people perceive you, treat you, and pay you.
The third: my child might be gay, lesbian, or trans- in a world that hasn’t learned how to accept and respect people for who or what they identify as. Straight or not, I want my children to embrace their sexuality and not feel as if they should hide it. However, I also understand that, for their emotional or physical safety and health, they might have to be mindful of their surroundings and company they keep.
Among the many things I look forward to as a parent, these are a few examples of what causes me angst in those moments I glance at news headlines of young men and women being discriminated against or targeted due to their race, sexuality, or gender. In those moments, I ask myself: how do you teach your children to be wary and cautious, while making sure they don’t live in constant fear? How do you make sure they still dream, without feeling as if their dreams are not obtainable? How do you make sure they never shy away from being who they are? And how do you make the world a better place for, not only your own offspring, but of other people’s as well?
Sincerely, Kwapi Vengesayi
From Kwapi Vengesayi‘s book, Men Cheat More, Women Cheat Better: Stories and Conversations About Love, Life and Everything in Between (2017) Available on Amazon