Raising a Scholar through Exposure
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When Sesame was still in the womb, he went to my last class for PhD coursework with me. He wiggled around as I introduced my students to concepts about privilege, gender norms, and institutional racism. He kicked gently as I sat through teaching seminars in the hopes of building my skills. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was already gearing up to raise a scholar and exposing him to words I didn’t even know existed until I was close to 20.
Once he was born, he nursed and slept in his stroller when I attended an end of the year meeting. Six months later, he tagged along through an all day seminar where he nursed, slept, and puked when the boredom became too much for him. For the first year of his life, he cuddled and nursed as I studied for exams. It’s no wonder that before he could even walk, I caught him trying to flip through bell hooks Feminism is for Everybody.
Shortly after his first birthday, he watched as I took a week long comprehensive exam that resulted in 62 pages and 15,000 words. I remember bouncing him around as I talked out my ideas on Black feminist pedagogy. Sometimes he just stared at me intently and other times he babbled back like he totally got what I was trying to say. Oh and of course there were many meltdowns when he simply wanted me to close my laptop and play with him.
In his short four years on this planet, Sesame has attended workshops, annual review meetings, and even helped me teach class one evening. He’s listened to me drone on and on about feminism, Black feminism, feminist rhetoric, pedagogy, hush harbor rhetoric, activism, and the list goes on and on. He’s been there when I’ve had epiphanies about parenting with feminist ideals and watched as I squealed during a segment of Melissa Harris-Perry that helped me with a section of my dissertation proposal. He’s gone on trips to the library to help me pick up more books for my literature review.
So, why the trip down memory lane? Because today I caught him flipping through a new book I’m reading called African Americans Doing Feminism. I watched him flipping the pages and then I asked him what he was doing. His response “trying to read this book.” After I told him there were no pictures in it, I jokingly asked him if he wanted me to read it to him. He said “yes,” and then I looked through the table of contents and asked if we should read about mommies or daddies. His response, “daddies.” He flipped around on the couch as I read through the first two pages of Mark Anthony Neal’s essay “Bringing Up Daddy: A Black Feminist Fatherhood.” When I stopped because I didn’t think he was listening, he took it from me and tried to explain that sometimes you can just skip things when it’s too long. He started looking for the pictures that I told him weren’t there and then finally gave me the book back.
I snapped these pictures as he looked through the book, so that I can remember this moment when I’m questioning whether or not I’m raising him well. To remind myself that even before he could read, I was preparing the foundation for him. He’s a scholar in training and I’m one of his teachers.
P.S. You can now purchase kid’s shirts including the above Scholar-in-Training shirt in the Mamademics Shop.