My husband and I have been entrusted with the care and guidance of three beautiful, divine feminine souls. When our first daughter was born, we were only twenty-five and clueless about taking care of ourselves, much less a newborn. Yet, we soon found ourselves with a four-year-old with a one-and-a-half-year-old sister in tow.
While learning to be a mother, I was also getting into my career as a high school English teacher in Richland School District Two. This was in the early 2000s and the schools were filled with young men and women who belonged to or had gang affiliations.
All the gang activity and safety training happening in and around our community and schools struck a chord in my soul. I kept thinking, “Something is causing these young people to fall prey to these organizations; figure that out, and problem solved.”
That train of thought led me to fall back on my minor, African and African Americans studies, at U of SC. I spent hours reading articles, books, and watching documentaries trying to make the connection between black and brown children growing up without cultural roots, and the explosion of gang activity in those communities.
What I found in my research and through conversations with my students over a four-year period, was the lack of a real hierarchy left them feeling confused, alone, and afraid. These young people were looking for a more structured system to let them know when they were moving from one stage to the next in their maturation into adulthood.
Obviously, I’m simplifying my findings for brevity’s sake but the fact remains, American society doesn’t have a structured system of rites of passage to guide its young people fully into adulthood. Those of us belonging to BIPOC communities have an innate need to experience those rites as part of growing up. Without them, there is a profound sense of confusion, fear, and loneliness.
Armed with this knowledge, I set out to create a structured system designed to help my daughters move from one stage to the next as they grew into adulthood.
After studying various African rites of passage while considering what I hoped to accomplish, I decided the first rite would occur at the age of four. The second at the age of ten. The third at the age of fourteen. The fourth, at the age of sixteen. And the final rite of passage happens at the age of twenty-one.
So far, my husband and I have had the pleasure of taking all of our daughters through the first three rites of passage, and our two older girls have completed their fourth.
I’m going to be transparent, it has not been easy!
We are not what one could consider well-off. My husband is an Assistant Principal at a District 1 elementary school, and I’m an indie southern gothic erotic romance writer on disability. Before being diagnosed with Lupus, I taught high school English. So, we’ve never been rolling in the money, and yet we’re still are to provide these rites to our girls. It’s all about priorities.
My middle girl and I planned our trip to Las Vegas, NV for last November — Yes, in the year that shall not be named. Needless to say, we weren’t able to make the trip until last month. This was my girl’s first time on a plane! First time leaving the east coast. First time crossing time zones.
I used Groupon to find a deal on a great hotel and resort, Priceline to find deals on our flights, and all activities and meals were found on Groupon once we landed. We spent time walking the strip, eating yummy foods, interacting with other people visiting “Sin City,” and getting to know each other in this new space. That’s why this rite is my favorite one. Yes, it’s fun to go to new cities and stay in fancy hotels but it’s that I get to experience all of these new things with one of my favorite people in the world. It doesn’t matter which daughter or what city, the experience is always enchanting.
There’s something about a daughter seeing her mother outside of the usual setting that makes her realize the thing most mothers want their kids to finally understand…
“Just because I’m a mom doesn’t mean I stop being a woman. It doesn’t mean I gave up my fun and sexy card. Please see me as a whole human being because that’s how I’m seeing you.”
During our four-day/three-night stay at the Luxor hotel and resort, we spent a lot of time talking. We talked about everything and nothing, but mostly I spent that time listening. Not so much to what my daughter said, as much as to the silence between the words she spoke. The space between her frustrated inhalations and exhalations.