When I Was Younger and Now That I Am Older

Below is a list that expresses my appreciation towards my strong, intelligent, and amazing mother, LaShae S. Williams. It is also a list that showcases just how difficult it truly is living in a world that has never been safe for a woman:

1) When I was younger, my mama always used to question me before going to any of my friend’s sleepovers. At the time, it felt like an annoying interrogation, but now that I’m older; I understand her intentions clearly. “Who’s all going to be there?”, “Does she have brothers?”, and “Is her daddy going to be home?” were all her way of asking if I, and all the other little girls were going to be safe. A mother’s mind can’t rest when her daughter is somewhere, out of her sight, with possible predators hiding behind the guise that they’re not to be feared because they’re someone you already know.

2) When I was younger, my mama always used to smother me with her love. Hugs, kisses, snuggles, and swaddles, were all her way of making sure I felt her affection. Something that she didn’t grow up experiencing herself. Her affection wasn’t taught, but still somehow, she learned it and passed it down to me. Soon, I’ll teach this same lesson of affection to my own mini me.

3) When I was younger, after returning home from anywhere—school, family members house, sleepovers—my mama would often check my body for bruises. She would scan over my skin with her fingers and eyes searching for any unusual marks, scars, or injuries. Some might label it as overprotective. I look at it now as just one of the countless duties that are involved in raising a child—in raising a little girl.

4) When I was younger and my daddy had just died, my mama—having lost her own as a toddler— was fearful for my mental health. Often, she would ask me if I was okay, if I needed time, and if I wanted to talk to someone. Most Black parents barely acknowledge their children’s mental health at any age, let alone ask their ten-year-old if they want to speak with a therapist about their griefs. My mother, she’s more than one of a kind; she’s one in a million.

5) Speaking of, when I was younger—and even now—my mama always used to ask me the little questions. “How was your day today?”, “How was school?”, “What did you learn?”, “Make any new friends?”, “How was work?”, and so on; were—are her way of reminding me of how much she cared...cares. Always genuinely interested. Always wanting to know how I’m feeling or how I felt. All my life I’ve been spoiled rotten with attentiveness; I understand that now. I appreciate it more than she probably realizes.

6) Now that I am older, my mama always tells me to switch up my routine. She says that it isn’t safe for a young woman like me to walk the same paths each day or to drive home from school or work down the same streets or to do the same things every morning, afternoon, and night. She says that anybody, anywhere, could be sitting back studying my every move with the hopes of catching me slipping one day.

7) Now that I am older, my mama always tells me to park under a light whenever I am out and about alone. When it’s quiet and dark, she tells me to speed walk and to keep my eyes and ears open for any suspicious sounds. As I’m speed walking toward my car that’s parked under a light and my eyes and ears are wide open, she says I must also remember to have my keys, and pepper spray in hand. She reminds me that anyone at any moment could sneak up on me. My mama reminds me every day that being a woman in this world is the most dangerous and exhausting thing.

8) Now that I am older, my mama always tells me to never let a man convince me into doing anything that I don’t want to do. She says, “Don’t you ever let any man convince you to take drugs with him. He’ll try and guilt trip you by telling you that you would do it if you really loved him. F*ck him! Do. Not. Do. It! One hit of anything and trust me you’re going to be addicted.” She says that “No, means no!”, and that there isn’t enough “love” in the world for me to ever sit around pretending to be somebody that I am not.

9) Now that I am older, my mama always tells me to never let a man talk me into becoming a stay at home mom. She says that I should always keep an account separate from his, and to continue making my own money even after marriage and kids. This way, when the inevitable arguments about something like money ensue, he would never be able to use: “Well I make all the money!” or “I pay all the bills!” or “You just stay at home while I work hard every day!” against me. Even before the wedding bells start ringing, my mama always tells me to have my own sh*t while dating. My own apartment. My own car. My own money. She tells me to be cautious in allowing men who I’m causally dating to do a lot of stuff for me or to buy me a bunch of things. Whether those things be big or small, she always says that a man in anger will hold all the stuff he’s ever done for you over your head.

10) Lastly, now that I am older, my mama always encourages me to never listen to slow music when I’m sad because it’ll only make me sadder. She tells me to try listening to something more upbeat like her favorite rappers Tupac and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. I laugh and shake my head every time. Not because the advice is silly, but because my mama is just the best damn mama a girl like me could ever ask for.