It Matters Who Your Kids Are Essays by Sorilbran

It Matters Who They Are While They’re Still Becoming

A Thank You with Profound Meaning

“Thank you.” Those were the words the mother of a child my daughter had protected from bullies said to me as we waited outside for the kids to get out of school. She didn’t say, “Thank Eva for me,” or “She’s a brave girl.” She simply said, “Thank you.” Let me take you back to understand why this moment was so significant.

Home Again

Months ago, I stood outside my kids’ school on a cool morning, chatting with another mom. She introduced herself since we were the new family in the school. We had relocated from Covington, Georgia, to Novi, Michigan, in November. My two girls started school three months into the school year.

I think she was trying to get a sense of who I was, asking lots of questions. Being friendly, but mostly inquisitive. Likely trying to determine if her daughter would ever be allowed to play with mine.

During our conversation, she inquired about my decision to move back to Michigan after 13 years in Georgia. She expressed how she couldn’t wait to leave Michigan once her daughter finished school.

I had several reasons for moving back: reconnecting with family, unfinished business, and a sense of legacy. Plus, there’s no place like Detroit. However, what I conveyed to her was equally critical. I explained how I felt like we “fled” Detroit back in 2010. The schools and communities were changing, and I was worried about my two daughters, who were being raised as booksmart princesses. At that time, I had a high school sophomore, Selena, and a third grader, Kira. Their dad and I wanted better for them, so we moved. All of us—me, my two daughters, my ex-husband, his new wife, and their newborn son.

The Move to Georgia

Our first year or two in Georgia was just… crazy. For the first five years, all I wanted to do was come back home. I eventually decided to stay until 2020 when Kira would graduate from high school. While dating my second husband in 2015, I’d told him I planned to move back to Detroit in five years, as soon as Kira was out of high school.

I often refer to my time in Georgia as a 13-year conga solo, though it felt more like 13 years in the Thunderdome. Life in the country turned out to be peaceful, even when hard. It’s ironic that I fled Detroit to protect my kids from danger only to find it waiting for us in the suburbs of Atlanta. While I was concerned about physical danger in Detroit, Georgia presented a constant stream of emotional dangers that tested our resilience.

Raising Resilient Daughters

This perpetual feeling of being in a fight for my life etched in my mind the programming required to shift the way I raised my next two daughters, Eva and Yadah. I praise them for being tough and resilient. I teach them that what others say about you isn’t your business. I teach them that no one controls their emotions but them. I teach them accountability—if you take an action, own it. Their feelings are valid, and their words are important.

I encourage Eva, my pre-teen, when she does cool (and dangerous) stunts. We watch Marvel movies together because we’re fascinated with superhero ethos. Kira, now a personal trainer and bodybuilder, is confident and fearless. Yadah, the baby of the family, is a natural nurturer who fiercely protects her family. Selena, my oldest, serves in the US Air Force, and I love her stories about Air Force SERE training.

A Conversation with a Fellow Mom

Back to the conversation with the mom at the school. As I explained my ideology on leaning into strength and resilience, she smiled, thinking about her own daughter. Her daughter wasn’t into self-defense classes or soccer; she just liked her devices. She wasn’t strong in the same way, the mom had said.

I’ll be honest, hearing other moms say things like that makes me wonder if I’m having some sort of trauma response to the pain I experienced in Georgia. Maybe I’m doing too much by turning my daughters into little Doras (or Agojie, whichever resonates most with you). Flipside, I come from a long line of women who were forces of nature. So, it feels like it’s my duty to continue the tradition of mental resilience and antifragility.

Eva’s Act of Bravery

When Eva came home one day to tell me about an incident at school where one of her classmates was targeted by bullies, she said she told her friend what she always says when she stands up to bullies, “I’ll handle it.” And she did. Eva is sort of bully-proof. She’s handled her fair share of bullies, and they usually end up either her frenemies or trying to work their way back into her good graces. I applauded her for being brave and thought nothing more of it.

Then the school called. She’d received an award for bravery. Cool. I called her dad in Georgia to let him know—he’d be proud.

The Gratitude of Another Mother

Later that week, the mom I’d met outside the school saw me as I picked the girls up. “Did you hear about what Eva did?” she asked. I nodded with a proud smile. “Yeah. I heard. The school called.”

She looked me squarely in the eyes. “Thank you,” she said. Her gratitude hung in the air as her eyes held mine.

“You’re welcome,” I said with conviction. It wasn’t a moment for a light-hearted response.

Her daughter, the one who didn’t like self-defense classes or soccer, had been the girl whose hands were stepped on, who was called names and threatened. Eva wasn’t there when it happened, but she confronted the bullies, told the complicit one to be braver, and then went to the school administrators to champion on behalf of her friend. Typical Eva stuff.

The Importance of Who They Are Now

The girl’s mom was thanking me for raising daughters who would stand up for those who couldn’t stand up for themselves.

I know tomorrow isn’t guaranteed to look anything like today. And that’s okay. Because as they’re on their way to becoming the next generation of heroes, moms, dancers, athletes, thought leaders, and creators, it matters how they show up in the world right now. Kids impact one another. Kids impact their environment. Kids can impact the world around them. Just wanna make sure the impact my kids have make the world better in some way.

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