In 1988, I was thirteen years old and I wanted to be a singer. And a dancer. And a lawyer. And a writer.
One out of four ain’t too bad, I suppose.
I also wanted to be Oprah.
Yes, as in THE Oprah Winfrey. I wanted the big, eighties, feathered hair. The Fashion Fair make-up. And the ability to ask white people provocative questions without fear of the consequences.
For a little brown girl growing up in Louisville, KY, the idea of a young black woman from the South, hosting and ultimately owning her own talk show and production company, was foreign and fascinating and worthy of my admiration.
And though I’d set Oprah in the forefront of my vision, I have to give my mother credit for never, ever, ever telling me that I couldn’t be a writing, dancing, singing, litigating talk show host. By virtue of her not discouraging my lofty ambitions, she taught me that I could be whatever I wanted. To this day, it has never occurred to me that I can’t do whatever I choose to do if I work hard and said task is the will of God for my life.
Oprah was the evidence that proved my mother’s unpremeditated validation.
But with my daughter, I want to take things a step further.
See when I was young, I actually wanted to BE Oprah in every sense. I wrongly believed that she was the standard that I needed to reach for success. But what I’ve come to learn over the years is this: Even Oprah wasn’t “Oprah” when she was 12. By learning to be—not Oprah, but 100% authentically who God has called ME to be—I set my own standard for both success and significance. Like Maya Angelou said, “pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.”
This is the gift I want to give my sweet baby girl.
She will know that her success and significance in life is solely dependent upon her own God-given capacity, not the capacities of others. She will understand that no matter how wonderful a public figure may be, her aspiring to “be” them will inevitably place limitations on what she can become because she will end up only measuring her success against theirs. Such small potatoes compared to the vast expanse of love and life and true riches that awaits her in the hands that created her.
I hope to instill this in her by allowing her to explore her gifts, talents and abilities without reservation. And here’s the hard part: I will commit to holding my tongue when her gifts may not align with what I would want for her.
*puts away brochure for that toddler writing workshop*
Even now her gifts are emerging. When I drop my daughter off at school, all of the kids in her class run over and circle her singing “MaKayla’s here, MaKayla’s here!” And it’s funny because even at two she looks at “her” people as if to say, “Yes, yes I am.” LOL!
The old school black mama in me wants to snatch her back and say, “Don’t do that, Baby. Be humble.” And sure, one of the things I’ve mentioned here before is that I want her to learn that while she is beautiful and smart and loved by God, she is no more beautiful or smart or loved by God than the next person. But at the end of the day, I have to see beyond what’s happening “now” in these morning Kayla-fests. My child is a leader. She’s assertive, inquisitive and people are drawn to her. I don’t know what that will look like ten or 20 years from now. I just know that it’s both her dad and my job to nurture and guide her personality positively until her purpose is revealed.
The bottom line? I want my girl to know early on something I didn’t figure out until long after 1988. That it’s certainly fine to admire a public figure; to study them; to learn from their achievements and mistakes. But it’s when she’s groovin’ to her own beat and walking in her own God-ordained purpose that she’s likely to be great. Even greater than—dare I say it—Oprah.
This post is the latest in Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts’ “Faith & Motherhood” series.
Photo source: BeautifulBlackBabies.Tumbler.com
Tracey Michae'l is a writer and educator based out of the Philadelphia area. She is a wife to William and a mother to a beautiful two-year old little girl. You can find her on the web at www.traceymlewis.com.
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Tracey this is awesome! I love it! This is similar to why I started my blog as well, but for myself. I notice I wanted to be me, my own role model. Sure, Oprah and Michelle Obama and a bunch of other strong, intelligent, beautiful black women are my role models. But I realized I needed to come into my own, and want to be me more than I wanted to be anyone else. You put in such a beautiful way, and I’m so happy to hear that your daughter is already a leader and will grow up with the guidance to aim high and want to be all that she was created to be. I can’t applaud you enough.
Thank you so much, Briana! I think soooo many of us come to the realization that we need to be ourselves later on in life. That’s why I now see so many fabulous women doing great things. My prayer is that I can start my child off much earlier in understanding how she should define herself. 🙂
What a wonderful post! This is exactly what I want for my own daughter. She is biracial, and I worry that there aren’t many public figures that she can rely on as role models, who look like her and share her unique background. Rather than emphasize other people who she can look up to and model her life after, I want to pay attention to her and cultivate her own unique strengths. After all, Oprah herself surely didn’t have a strong, black, female celebrity role model to look up to – she cut that path on her own, and there’s no reason why our daughters can’t do the same.
No reason at all! Thanks for your feedback, Kathleen!
I love this post. Thank you for sharing this. Want a great inspiration to your daughter.
Thank you, Melissa!
This is beautiful! Your daughter is blessed to have you for a mother. Thank you for giving us this glimpse into your world.
Aww…your words bless me. Thanks, SharisseTSmith!
Awesome article and confirmation of where I am in my thoughts about my son. Micah has autism. He’s high functioning to be sure, but still socialization and education is WORK! I know that he’s going to do amazing things in the Kingdom. I just have to raise him up and let God do what He’s going to do. So I’ve been in prayer daily about his gifts and talents. I’ve been honing in on what he does well. And more than ever I’ve asked him what he wants to be. Today, I had a parent teacher conference that went extremely well. I made sure to let his teacher know my focus is on shoring up Micah strengths and helping him do the things he does well and he enjoys, the heck with the other stuff. I mean we’ll pass math, but if reading and social studies are where it’s at for him then reading and social studies is where we’ll put 70% of our effort. All of our children should have educational plans geared toward their gifts, but with special babies you most certainly have to. Thank you for confirming what I already knew…that my angel will do great things, can do great things. All mama has to do is encourage, facilitate and get out of the way!
Thanks, Rhonda! And I think you are absolutely right to shift your emphasis and focus to the areas/subjects where your son IS gifted. I suspect you’ll find that as his confidence and skills grow in those areas, his mastery of subjects where he previously needed to improve will grow also. Keep up the good work, Mom!