Although rooted in academic research (Johnson Dias has a doctorate in sociology), the book is clear and realistic. I keep a copy of the book by my bedside for reference and to remind myself that I strive to build a two-way relationship with my own daughter and make sure that she goes out into the world as a confident and aware woman.
Here are four of my main takeaways from our lively and varied conversation.
Mom you can find 10 minutes.
While the book is aimed at caregivers in general, there are a few gems that speak directly to women. Johnson Dias advises caregivers to take care of themselves and find joy from within, to mold and spread joy in the home. “I have never heard a man on planet Earth say, ‘I can’t find 10 minutes for myself,’” she said. “This is the most insane phrase!” Johnson Dias suggests that female caregivers renounce being martyrs. “I don’t find martyrdom interesting. They [martyrs] are dead. We don’t have to take that approach and we never want to say to ourselves, “I just don’t want her to be like me”. “
Instead, Johnson Dias urges women to actively find 10 minutes to do something on their own on a daily basis. Build the habit, then build at this habit. Surround yourself with other women who take this approach and share this energy with the other caregivers around you. As Johnson Dias noted, parenting can be exhausting work, especially when you are also waging a war against inequity. Feed your own soul to better feed your daughter and those of the people around her.
Handling can be a good thing.
Years ago my mother arranged to meet a girl in my sixth grade class. I didn’t know her well, but my mom volunteered in our class and loved her, so she invited her over. This girl is now my sister-friend Katie, a cornerstone of my life.
Johnson Dias would give my mom some props for this move. “I am not silent on friends, even those she [Marley] really love it, ”says Johnson Dias. “I don’t always know which rubric she uses for the selection of friendships.”
Johnson Dias cultivates a relationship in which his daughter can openly deal with her thoughts on friends and other personal matters. This foundation makes it easier for them to talk about the loss of certain friendships, especially when certain relationships have broken down in the face of the country’s recent racial calculation.
At the same time, Johnson Dias says, “A lot of what happens in terms of values happens without articulation. I want us to be as articulate and self-explanatory as possible, but there are certain areas that you need to create the space around and you need to model. To do this, Johnson Dias surrounds himself with cheerful and generous women from various backgrounds. She is the model of healthy female friendships for her daughter, which can be more impactful when seen rather than spoken.
Stop telling black kids they have to be “twice as good.”
Johnson Dias recognizes that parents of black children, and especially black girls, feel a variety of external pressures that give rise to concern. “The way we put it is, ‘You’re going to have to work harder, be twice as good. Be serious, ”she said. We are guilty of doing this in our own home.
Johnson Dias wisely notes that yes our children can be under external pressure, but parents should not be part of that pressure. She said it was akin to the reasoning that “society is going to reduce your humanity, so let me start doing this for you now.” If you’re comfortable with it now, you’ll be protected when the company really gets you dirty.
Johnson Dias instead offers this approach, rooted in joy and hope: While his daughter should be twice as good to the world, her own home is a safe space. “Knowing that society will treat you this way, treat your daughter with every bit of grace and beauty now,” she says. “This way she will have this buffer later. When the world uglily meets your daughter, she will have a repository of positive memories and grace from home.
Help girls identify the external structural conditions (inequalities) in which they operate.
“So much of having an intersectional identity is trying to manipulate yourself in a way that manages your structure,” she says. We often unwittingly tell ourselves and our daughters that contortions are necessary to make our way through the world.
Instead, give your daughter the insight, language, and framework to recognize structural inequalities. If we just protect our children from the tough discussions of inequality, they will make their own assumptions. As Johnson Dias says, they can assume that “something is wrong with my eyebrows, my butt, my eyelashes. If we don’t give meaning and context to inequalities, children will come back to what they can most control: themselves.
Johnson Dias advises us to recognize and deal with the external structural conditions so that our daughters internalize that they are not at fault and that they do not have to change to adapt to an imperfect society.
From that perspective, says Johnson Dias, we make sure our daughters have the tongue to name what they see. Identify injustice. This is where the next pivotal moment lies, where we can ask our daughters what they are wish they saw it instead. Help them imagine what they want to see, then work on finding meaningful ways to create the change they envision. “Help them imagine something different,” says Johnson Dias.