5 Things You Can Give Your Kids (Besides Money) To Show You Love Them

As good parents we are constantly evaluating how our children are doing and how our parenting is helping to provide a supportive environment that lets our kids grow. It’s easy to feel inadequate. Here are 5 things I’ve learned can show my love when I feel like I am falling short.

by Rick McCray

Being a parent is hard.  One moment you think you are doing everything correctly and the next minute you feel like an unfair dictator.  As good parents we are constantly evaluating how our children are doing and how our parenting is helping to provide a supportive environment that lets our kids grow.  It’s easy to feel inadequate. Here are 5 things I’ve learned can show my love when I feel like I am falling short.

1. Wisdom

My mother has wonderful stories.  My favorite times growing up were sitting with her and my sister at the kitchen table while she told a story from her past.  I learned that she and one of her brothers would go to the woods in her hometown in North Carolina and pretend to be Tarzan by swinging on actual vines, running around, and yelling as loud as they could.  I learned that pigs actually bark similarly to dogs and female pigs are so protective of their babies that they become violent to anyone that comes near them.  I learned that my grandmother began to cook for her whole family at 4 years old and that sense of responsibility was taught to my mother and her six siblings.  Through telling stories about her life, my mother was teaching me that my young life was somehow connected to a rich history of wonderful people.

“Our lived experience can serve as a constant fountain of knowledge for our children.”

Our lived experience can serve as a constant fountain of knowledge for our children.  The trick is knowing how to share our lived experience with our children in a helpful manner that keeps them listening without feeling talked down to.  Sharing what we know allows our children another viewpoint to consider when they are called upon to make important life choices.  At some point every child must walk alone. However, during that walk we can help our children take all their experiences with them, whether lived or learned from others.

2. Honesty

My father, who passed away this year, was brutally honest.  He would give me his thoughts on any subject whether I wanted them or not.  Sometimes, I would seek out his advice because I knew he would tell me the truth as he saw it.  When I was about ten I could not shake the feeling that something was wrong with the whole Santa Claus scenario.  All the shows I watched and pictures I saw made him out to be this huge fat man who came into houses through chimneys.  It just didn’t add up that a fat guy could come down our chimney on Christmas Eve without any of us hearing him.

I decided to ask my father because I knew he would tell me the truth.  I approached him and asked, “Is Santa Claus real?”  He looked at me with a puzzled look and almost laughed, “No, your mother and I get you that stuff.”  I was so relieved that I knew the truth and could stop being paranoid about Santa sneaking into our home.

Being honest with our children about life is a gift that will continually bless them.  When a child knows that he can ask us a question and get a truthful answer, that means the level of trust we share grows immensely.  He is more likely to be honest with us if he knows that we value and practice dealing in truth.  Dishonesty is a trait we see from too many of our politicians, religious and business leaders.  A child is more likely to come to us for advice or at least a different take on a situation when he knows we won’t have a hidden agenda to bend the truth.  Honesty from a parent gives a child another source of reliable information in their life.

3. Vulnerability

When I was about eleven, my paternal grandfather passed away.  My family went to Philadelphia for his funeral.  After the funeral we were all in a hotel room together when my father started crying.  He was laying on the bed and I was beside him and he gave me a big hug and cried.  I remember laying on his chest with his arm around me and feeling safe and loved.  I knew he was going through terrible pain about the death of his dad, but as his son, I was just happy to be close to him like that – no matter the circumstance.

“When we stand on a pedestal of constant perfection, it only gives us a longer way to fall.”

Often, we want our kids to see us as superheroes.  However, the really good superhero stories involve the hero showing his humanity and vulnerability.  When our children see us show real emotion and show that we also need people, it allows them to see us as people.  No one is perfect. When we stand on a pedestal of constant perfection, it only gives us a longer way to fall.  In addition, if our children think of us as an impossible standard to live up to, that can lead to feelings of guilt and inadequacy in them. Don’t be afraid to be human.

4. Quality Time

When I was in high school, I practiced debate.  My team would travel around North Carolina competing at different high schools.  During one trip my mother agreed to be a judge for “Dramatic Interpretation,” which was a debate competition where students would act out a portion from a contemporary or older dramatic play or book.  This wasn’t a category of debate that I participated in, so I was able to sneak in when I wasn’t competing and watch my mother judge other competitors.  There were people who were sad, angry, hilarious, and intense.  Everyone brought their “A” game, and they all seemed like actual actors who could be on television or the big screen.  My mother loved it and talked about her volunteer day for years afterwards.  I loved it because I got to see my mother take a genuine interest in something I loved.

Time is the one thing that we can never replenish.  Spending quality time with our children – listening to them, playing with them, and going on adventures with them by our side are some of the most fulfilling things we will do as a parents.  Think about the people you loved that you have lost in your life.  All you have left of them is your memories together.  Each day that goes by without them makes those memories sweeter and more important.  Personally, I want to spend as much time as I can with my children so when I’m gone they have a massive bank of positivity to pull from when remembering me.

5. Patience

My sons take their time when they eat.  My oldest son will eat his food, tiny bite by tiny bite, while picking at every crumb on his plate.  He will have 1/10th of a sandwich left and will nibble and nibble at it until it is finally gone.  My youngest son likes to talk and eat, so he will tell me about a story of some kid in his class, take a bite, then tell me about a cartoon he was watching.  He may even mix in a few hummed bars from a song he heard.  A breakfast that should have taken 15 minutes, ends up taking closer to 45 minutes. During morning walks to school, my oldest picks up every acorn.  My youngest has to say hello to every bug.  Cute as it is, when we are rushing, this can try every fiber of my patience.  

“We must respect our children as new soul travelers on this planet who need to take their time with everything that is exciting and new.”

Our children test our patience every day.  Yet patience is what children need almost more than anything else.  When my patience is tried, I remind myself that my children are younger than me by a multiple.  They are learning this big, new world one morsel at a time. We must respect our children as new soul travelers on this planet who need to take their time with everything that is exciting and new.  Be patient, be patient, be patient (I’m saying it to remind myself as well).  If necessary, allow yourself the extra time to accomplish errands or get to school/work.  They have all of adulthood to rush.


About The Author

Rick McCray is a maRAMrried father of three amazing sons. He is also a proud graduate of Duke University where he holds a BA in History and African/African American History, and Howard University School of Law. He is a regular commentator on the In The Black podcast.  Rick is passionate about our history and helping to educate our community concerning the great contributions of people of color to the world. You can find Rick on Twitter @RealRickMcCray.

For Dads: How to Get More Involved With Your Children

Here are a few great tips on getting more involved in your children’s lives.

by Rick McCray

As men, too often we allow the women in our lives to take care of the details of home life including almost everything that has to do with the children.  This attitude can be burdensome to your wives, and it also impedes your ability to create meaningful relationships with your children. FEAR NOT!  Here are a few great tips on getting more involved in your children’s lives.

1. Play with your children.

Personally, when I get in from work, my mind is still racing with the events of the day. I also run my own business so as soon as I walk in the door, I start planning all the things I still need to do.  It’s often challenging to slow myself down enough to engage with my children. However, as soon as I get home, they are the first to greet me and playing is the first thing they want to do.

In television mogul Shonda Rhimes‘s 2016 Ted Talk, she related a story of feeling stressed and pressed for time when one of her daughters asked her to play.  Although everything in her screamed “No,” she challenged herself to say “Yes” instead.  Albeit challenging at first, while playing with her daughter, she was surprised at how much fun she had.  She learned to relax, listen and be engaged.   She was also surprised to find how play time focused her own mind.  I find the same to be true.  Play time with my children challenges me to slow down.  It also encourages my children’s creativity and strengthens our relationship with each other.

2. Include your child in your hobbies.

I admit that I am not “Mr. Handyman.” However, I have a neighbor who I am convinced could build a car from scratch.  Every weekend, he is under the hood of a car turning a seeming hunk of junk into a functioning automobile.  He also does the most amazing thing at least once a month.  He is out there with one of his kids showing them exactly what he is doing, letting them work on a certain part of the car, and most importantly bonding with them. 

Although I am not a car guy, what I learned from him is to share my hobbies with my kids.  Your kids (especially if they are older) may not show interest in your hobby, but they will appreciate the fact that you are doing something you love with them.  Instead of secluding yourself from the family every time you want to play your music, you can let your kids listen in on your jam sessions.  If you were raised in the nineties like me, you can even show them the real running man! Even if they are laughing at you, it’s still time you will both remember.

The only caveat is to remain engaged with your child while you enjoy your hobby.  Turning on a football game and demanding quiet is not a way to really bond with your child.  Talk to your kid about the teams, the players, and the rules of the game, and listen to their thoughts.  Allow them to feel like you are enjoying them as much as your hobby.

3. Get Involved in your child’s school.

Although I work full time outside of my home, I try to take advantage of volunteer opportunities wherever possible. Whether it be volunteering to chaperone a class trip, allowing myself the extra time to walk my children to school on a nice day, or popping by my son’s kindergarten class for lunch, I find my sons’ (and their teachers) appreciate my time at their schools.  I also coordinate the WATCH D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students) program for my sons’ elementary school.  The program, started by the National Center for Fathering, is a way for men to have an impact at their child’s school by volunteering one day out of the academic year.  These men are fathers, stepfathers, uncles and other father figures who volunteer and serve a variety of functions while at the school, including, being engaged in every aspect of your child’s academic day. I find reserving one day a year to commit to volunteering at your child’s school is rarely burdensome, even in the most demanding jobs. If you don’t have a WATCH D.O.G.S. program at your school and you are interested please contact the organization here.

4. Read with your children.

LeVar Burton, the famous actor and host of Reading Rainbow, once said that, “I think reading is part of the birthright of the human being.”  The importance of literacy and exposing children to language and the written word cannot be overstated.  By reading with your children you expose them to a world of literacy that will last for them until their last days.  When you point out context clues about the reading and get them to name the colors they see in the picture, you keep them engaged in the book as active listeners/readers.  

The more you read with your kids the more they will love to read.  Find out what your kids enjoy to read and read it with them.  If you can’t physically read with them, then agree to read the same book separately and then discuss it with them the next time you see them or talk with them.  This way you and your child can stay connected and you can know you are benefitting your child’s education.

5. Spend one on one time with your children.

I have two sons (and one on the way).  Every other Saturday, we have “man-time”(so named by my wife).  What started off as our biweekly trips to the barbershop, turned into haircuts, lunch and shooting hoops at our local Y. I have to admit, I was anxious initially. Like most children their age, my boys are insane. Often it takes both my wife and I to reign them.  However, as they have gotten older, I have found we all enjoy the time.  We eat foods my wife doesn’t like, talk about “man things”, and spend quality time that is uniquely ours.  I know I am building a foundation that will encourage a strong relationship through adulthood.

If you don’t have sons, don’t underestimate one on one time with your daughters.  Do things she enjoys and listen to her.  That time will set the foundation for how she expects a man to treat her.


About The Author

Rick McCray is a maRAMrried father of three amazing sons. He is also a proud graduate of Duke University where he holds a BA in History and African/African American History, and Howard University School of Law. He is a regular commentator on the In The Black podcast.  Rick is passionate about our history and helping to educate our community concerning the great contributions of people of color to the world. You can find Rick on Twitter @RealRickMcCray.

Confronting My Fear: Lessons from Ta-Nehisi Coates

One Mom’s thoughts on Bestselling Author Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book “Between The World and Me.”

by Faye McCray

When my first son was born, I nicknamed him pickle.  Not for any real reason.  He wasn’t green or lumpy.  In fact, he was a beautiful golden boy with a mound of dark, curly hair and the pinkest little lips.  He was the spitting image of my husband so I fell in love with him instantly and with ease.  I already trusted that smile, memorized those lips and I felt myself melt wrapped in those arms.  He was born with his eyes open.  The physical trait he most inherited from me.  Big, dark, oval eyes looking at us with razor-sharp focus, as if he was thinking, already, about who he would become and how we would fit into his life.

When my second son was born, I nicknamed him peanut.  Odd really, because he would be the only one of us to develop an allergy to them.  He was born bright red and wrinkly, screaming so loudly, his voice echoed throughout the delivery room.  Unlike his brother, his eyes were squeezed shut, we joke he wasn’t ready to be born.  My sweet, kind boy clung closely to me for his first year of life. He, who I affectionately joked would prefer I had a pouch, like a mama kangaroo.  He was perfectly content burrowed in a wrap, tight against the warmth of my body, only peeking out with a toothless smile when he saw fit.

Born three years apart, I fell hard and deeply for my guys.  Their beauty.  Their energy.  Their curiosity.  Now five and almost eight, they still squeal with glee at a chocolate chip pancake or a butterfly that lands unexpectedly on the car’s passenger side door.  I am proud I was chosen to be their mother.  Every single day.

I recently finished Ta-Nehisi Coates’s book Between The World and Me.  In it, Coates writes to his son about race, humanity and navigating this life in a black body.  When I knew the book would adopt the narrative of a father speaking to his son, I knew I had to read it.  I listened to it on audio with the spouse and then read it in print to linger a little longer in the language.

There are so many themes in the book that stopped me.  Halted me really.  Left me sitting in my chair short of breath.  He ran a highlighter along things I had been reluctant to see.  The most profound of which was Coates hard-hitting words on fear.  Fear growing up amidst the sickness of the inner city and the fear he felt from the adults around him who loved him so hard, it hurt, and most significantly to me, his fear as a father of a black son.

I identified with the fear.  From growing up as a black girl in New York City, to loving my beautiful black sons. Reading his words forced me to confront how deeply I feel afraid.  In some ways, I think it was the universe’s way of toughening me up to give me two black boys to love.  To make me a heterosexual female who fell in love with a black man.  I am sensitive.  My mother crowned me with that label as a child. Emotional wounds have always felt deeper for me and the pain felt by people I love always struck me as deeply as my own. The people I love the most walk this life in black bodies. A fact that, as of late, has been nothing sort of torturous to my sensitive soul.

In his book, Coates speaks of an experience taking his son on a visit to a preschool with his wife. His son jumped right in with the other children.  His first instinct, was to grab his arm, pull him back and say, “We don’t know these folks! Be cool!” He didn’t.  “I was growing,” he wrote.  “…and if I could not name my anguish precisely I still knew there was nothing noble in it.  But now I understand the gravity of what I was proposing – that a four-year-old child be watchful, prudent, and shrewd, that I curtail your happiness, that you submit to a loss of time.  And now when I measure this fear against the boldness that the masters of the galaxy imparted to their own children, I am ashamed.”

I read this and cried.  I saw myself in this passage.  Governing my own children’s moves and reactions.  Curtailing their happiness in favor of my wariness.   “Don’t get too close to that child.” “Don’t be the loudest at the party.” “Don’t touch another child’s toys at the playground.” “Don’t dance to wildly at the school picnic.” I am so very afraid and reading his words, I felt so very ashamed.

Truth is, I am afraid for my beautiful boys.  I am afraid of the looks my taller than average eight-year old gets when he moves with too much eagerness in public.  The excitement that bubbles in him animating every long limb he is not quite accustomed to navigating. I am afraid of his sensitivity.  The tears he cries when his feeling are hurt.  The frustration he releases when he doesn’t feel heard.  I am afraid for his fearless intelligence.  His insistence on questioning everything.  His cleverness and keen ear, picking apart questions so well, adults forget the answers.  I am afraid of the grown-up teeth squeezing their way into my five-year old’s mouth.  The changing contours of his baby face.  His burgeoning athletic frame, broad like my husband.  I am afraid for his charm.  His beautiful smile.  His ease with and adoration of little girls.  I am afraid for my boys.  Their huge spirits moving in black bodies with little knowledge of the hurt that awaits them.  The limits people will place on them.  And the ill-will strangers will project on them.  Or the dangers that arise in policing them.

Reading Coates’s words, I felt damaged by my own wounds. I was only ten when a person with white skin first made me feel inferior because of my black skin.  She called me “black” on a school bus.  Hissed it.  Because I took a seat she thought rightfully belonged to her.  I still remember her icy eyes, staring at me in hate, as if any triumph I could ever feel would always be marred by the body I was in.  I knew what it felt like to be judged before I said a word.  To be presumed guilty and have to prove my innocence.  To be presumed ignorant and have to prove my intelligence.  I am hard on my boys because I want to protect them but the reality is my protection can be suffocating. I am chipping away at their beautiful spirits.  The parts of their humanity that introduced themselves even as infants, as their skin first parted the air in this new world.  I’ve become so consumed with how this world will react to them, I almost forgot to nurture and respect how they will react to the world. How they might even change it.

I want my children to be free. In order to do that, I may have to be one of the ones to step out of their way.

Thank you for your words, Mr. Coates.

This post has also appeared on FayeMcCray.com and MyBrownBaby.


About The Author

Faye McCray is anMcCray_AuthorPhoto (1) attorney by day and writer all the time. Her work has been featured on My Brown Baby, AfroPunk, AfroNews, For HarrietMadame NoireBlack Girl NerdsBlack and Married with Kids, and other popular publications.  Faye also has a number of short stories and a full length novel available for purchase on Amazon.  Most importantly, Faye is a proud wife and mother to three beautiful and talented young boys who she is fiercely passionate about raising. You can find Faye on Twitter @fayewrites and on the web at fayemccray.com.