What Teddy Taught Me

“To make an omelette, you have to crack a few eggs.” This is what Teddy Perkins told Darius’s character in the FX’s Atlanta. The episode was appropriately named after this peculiar, thought-provoking character. To provide some context without spoiling the details of the episode, Teddy was referring to the rigorous schedule his father enforced on him and his brother Benny to become successful musicians.  

During that scene, Teddy is showing Darius his plans for a museum celebrating the life and work of his brother Benny. Teddy mentions that he wants a portion of the museum to to be dedicated to great fathers, and then goes on to name Joe Jackson, Marvin Gay Sr., Earl Woods (Tiger Wood’s father) and Richard Williams (Venus and Serena’s father). These are fathers known for the tremendous pressure placed on their children to become exceedingly well at their craft. There are many many layers to this episode, but the main thing that resonated with me was the spotlight placed on the parent/child relationships; especially in the African American community. The old adage, you have to be twice as good to get half as much” rang loudly throughout this episode. By the end of what I like to refer to this episode as “a total mind-fuck,” I was left with an indescribable feeling that had me questioning my parental methods.

This May will mark the fifth anniversary of my husband and I being in this parenting game, and we are truly learning as we go. We were both raised by Black parents - my in-laws are still married; both of my parents are remarried. Although we grew up in different places geographically, our experiences as Black children remain the same. We were both told to only speak when spoken to, mind your manners, write thank you cards, etc. My parents even went as far as banning television on the weekdays, and we would have additional work that my parents assigned outside of our usual homework load. Remember those books on African American leaders that every Black family had? My parents made us read them, and write book reports for them to review. If our english or reading classes required us to read one chapter or passage from a book, we had to read twice as much. A’s and B’s were the only acceptable grades in our house otherwise we were headed to the (public) school down the street.

The final scene of the Teddy Perkins episode showed what happens when the pressure to be great is too much to bare. It personally stuck a cord with me, because I never want my sons to feel like they are fulfilling my dreams, or that they can’t live their own lives for fear of disappointing their parents. There are things we will absolutely instill in them as they grow into Black men in this world, but I have to stop myself from making sure they are perfect. For example, when my oldest has work that requires him to write things down, I have tendency to make him do it over and over again until his handwriting is perfect. I have to remind myself that he is only 4-years-old,  and he actually has pretty good handwriting for someone his age. He is also pretty good at basketball - he watches film on his iPad, he knows the starting lineups of the 2018 NBA All-Star game, and he’s getting pretty good at his no-look passes. Just because I see this talent at an early age (or is it just considered extreme interest and enthusiasm), does that mean I need to start studying the ways of LaVar Ball? Lord knows we would love a free ride to college, but for now I am content on letting him just enjoy the game.

The episode also helped me to be more patient with our sons, instead of forcing them to become what I envision them to be. Their personalities are completely different, and one method that works for one, doesn’t work for the other. I can’t just tell Logan to stop sitting on the arm of the couch or stand in front of the television, because he’ll do it again seven seconds later. I immediately have to tell him what the consequences of his actions can cause. If he sits on the arm of the couch, it will eventually break, and we will never have a place to sit ever again. If he stands too close to the television screen he will go blind, and this is why Daddy wears glasses. Sometimes we have to take it to the extreme to get our point across.

Side note - I have two moles on my arm that look like vampire bites. I told Logan that they are bite marks from my mother because I wasn’t following directions.  

To that point, I’m only parenting this way, because this is how I was parented. It’s going to be a hard habit to break, but I really need to just let my kids be kids. Yes you can jump in that puddle and splash in the tub, but you know good and well not to get Mommy wet.

Image Source: vulture.com