As a mother, I realize I can shut the door of possibility or swing it wide open for my children.
I pray that I always do the latter.
Looking back over my childhood, I see that my parents did a good job of holding the door open for me to experience new things. I think of a neighbor who lived across the street from us. At the time, she and her husband didn't have kids, so she took me under her wing. She would frequently invite me over to make gingerbread houses, allow me to explore her backyard as she explained all the blooming flowers in her backyard to me and would set up craft stations for us. My favorite was a hand-painted handkerchief that I made for my dad one year for Father's Day. We would often trek to the library where she would let me linger and then she'd allow me check out an armful of library books on her card. It was a rich experience and one that I wouldn't have had if my parents not let me hang out with her.
When I was in 11th grade, I joined a newly-formed college prep program called The Tanner Project (now known as the Willie B. Adkins Project.) We met every Monday after school for about three hours and worked on SAT prep, had guest speakers, seminars, learned about college life, how to fill out college forms, etiquette, how to dress for success and a host of other great information.
Every Spring, the predominately African-American staff (headed by educator Willie B. Adkins) rounded up the students for a tour of historically black colleges and universities. In my two years with the program, I visited Alabama, Georgia, Maryland, Washington, D.C. with college visits to campuses like Spelman, Tuskegee, Alabama State University, Howard and Morgan State University to name a few.
The experience was invaluable to say the least. And it was all offered for free. I was already on the college track due to my own goals and lots of prodding from my parents, but this program exposed me to places I might not have considered.
The staff worked tirelessly to provide us with experiences that would make us well-rounded individuals and contributing members of society. And we still keep in touch to this day. As the first group of students to come out of the Tanner Project, we hold a special place in the staff's hearts and the feeling is mutual.
By the time, I was a senior in high school, I knew exactly what I wanted to do: major in journalism at Howard University and write for a major publication like Essence Magazine. On our college tour during the spring of my senior year, we visited schools in D.C. and Maryland. While on our tour of Howard, myself and few other of the students got to stop off at the admissions office to find out if we'd been accepted. Oh, the joy when I found out that I was. Talk about walking on cloud 9!
On the tour, we also hit most of D.C.'s historic stops: the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, the Capitol and even got to see the inner workings of the Congressional Black Caucus.
I got a front row seat to seeing that the world was a much bigger place than the small California town I lived in and I got to see that the possibilities for my future were endless. And none of this would have happened had my parents not given me wings to fly.
I pray that I do the same for my children. Yesterday on a talk show, I saw a mother talking about how she didn't want her 18-year-old daughter to go to college because she doesn't feel safe letting her go. We do our kids such a disservice when we smother them. How can they grow into world-changers if they are chained to the home front?
A few weeks ago, my six-year-old told me he wanted to visit China so he could have real Chinese food and see what it's like there. And I told him we are going to write that down on a goal sheet for him and make that happen.
Do we have the resources to go to China? No. But that doesn't mean the resources aren't out there to get him (and me!) to China.
The world and our view of our possibilities becomes much bigger when we are allowed to get out into it. May I always swing the door wide open from my home to the world for these children I'm raising.
Much thanks to Willie Adkins, his wife Maryann Adkins, Nona Cohen and Rhoda Dawson for all they poured into me and my fellow students during those years we were in the program.