When You See Him

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Prior to having children, it did not dawn on me that I would need to parent any differently because of the color of my skin.

I grew up pretty sheltered in the suburbs of New Jersey, Key West, and South Carolina. My parents weren’t big talkers. The first person who told me I might be looked at differently was a peer. And that conversation has never left me.

I now have it in my head that I don’t know who is looking at me differently because I’m black, and for that reason, I’ve been very careful with what I say to my children. I don’t want them to have a chip on their shoulder or to view anyone as the enemy. I’ve done a beautiful job raising them to not see the world through the lens of the world is against you.

But there’s very little I can do with how the world may see them. Specifically, my little black boy.

So here is what I want you to see when you look at my son.

He’s brilliant.

Grayson has always been intelligent in a way that can’t be explained. You could have a conversation with him before he turned one. He could read and write better than many adults I know by the age of three. He’s an avid reader that you don’t ever have to tell to read. His e-reader is his best friend. He comes from a family of writers and he also loves to write. He even has a comic book series.

He can speak two languages.

He’s been speaking Mandarin since he was six years old. Although not fluent, he can walk into a room of native speakers and have a conversation, and I call that a win. 

He loves Star Wars.

My mother and brother are a tad obsessed with all things Star Wars and they passed that down to him. There is literally nothing my son can’t tell you about the movies, the characters, or anything Star Wars related. While to me watching anything Star Wars related is like watching paint dry, he loves it.

He loves his family.

My son is always the first one to ask for a family movie night. He also loves game night. Grayson used to bring his little sister to me in the morning so I could nurse her if I didn’t hear her when she woke up. He still crawls in my bed like it’s the family bed because he just wants to be around me and his dad and his sisters. I don’t think he knows it but those are some of my favorite moments.

He loves animals…but he’s scared of all bugs.

We have a bit of a zoo at our house, so Grayson has grown up with animals. I have one cat that’s older than him. He takes the dogs out every morning and then gives them breakfast right on schedule before I’m even out of the bed. He carries around our Siamese like she’s his. I call her his girlfriend (he’s going to kill me for writing that). However as much as he loves animals, all bugs are off-limits. A caterpillar? Scary-looking thing that moves. Roach? Flying monster. Don’t let a cute bumblebee or dragonfly come within a mile of him or he will scream so loud that he’ll give the scream queen, Jamie Lee Curtis, a run for her money.

He’s not a threat.

This is the biggest thing I want you to know about my son. So often black boys…black men…just being black is seen as a crime. We’re seen as a threat. One day Grayson went into the front yard with a nerf gun and my husband freaked out. All he could think about was Tamir Rice. But you see, Grayson didn’t know about Tamir Rice. He didn’t know until he read it in a book I assigned him for a homeschool lesson more than a year later. My son isn’t violent. He’s not going to hurt you.

He’s just like your son.

We recently moved into a neighborhood with far more kids for our kids to play with but very few that look like them. I mention this only to say that I would be lying if I said that it didn’t concern me how welcome our kids would be, especially our son. Would people know he belongs here? Will he be looked at any different since he’s the new black kid in the neighborhood?

I think the biggest takeaway I want you to have is that my son is just like yours.

He has hobbies (reading, sports, playing with friends). He has dreams of going to the NFL, or of being an engineer. He’s a typical teenager who makes me want to pull my hair out daily. He leaves his socks EVERYWHERE. We have to beg him to shower because he’s oblivious to the trail of stink he leaves after he’s been outside playing.

But even with all of the above in mind, what I want you to know most of all is that he is respectful, and will treat you with respect.

He is a human. He’s not the boogeyman. 

When you see him I want to see someone that will help you.

When you see him I don’t want you to see what society is afraid he is, but what he actually is.

When you see him I want you to see a good person, a human, an individual, and an equal. 

When you see him I want you to see Grayson.

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Simone Praylow is wife and bestest friend in the world to Otis (better known as Odor) and mom to football and soccer loving Grayson 12, competitive cheerleader Elind, 7 and tantrum expert Ozzy Voltaire, 2. She is a native of New Jersey but relocated to Key West and later Columbia. As an overachiever, she believes learning is the best gift she can give her children and spends much of her time teaching her children at home (Grayson attends school, but the learning doesn't end when he leaves the classroom). Simone finds motherhood and family life are most easily managed by having a system in place for homelife, kids' schedules (including learning, screen time and reading) and meal planning. She is an avid reader who finds books are one of the best ways to unwind at the end of the day. She spends a lot of time boxing and at Pure Barre getting her burn on. You'll often find her buried in a book or on Pinterest getting ideas for her next project or yummy meals for the family menu.

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