YALE, yo!

Mari, the Girlpie you all have watched grow up from a shy, super smart, curious little girl into a confident, brilliant, beautiful young woman right here on MyBrownBaby, is headed to college, and she chose Yale as the first leg of her journey toward becoming an M.D.

I. Could. Not. Be. More. Proud. Of. My. Girlpie.

My child has done all that we’ve required of her: she’s kept her head in her books, making nothing but A’s her entire school career. She’s remained curious. She’s been discerning. She’s honored her art and love of culture and our people. She’s picked a profession she’s interested in and pursued it with vigor and passion, even as a high school student. She’s never been in trouble, ever. She’s learned to love herself exactly as she is, for her own gaze and no one else’s. I mean, save for that pesky little nasty attitude she gives her little sister and her refusal to make me peach cobbler (because she doesn’t like cooked peaches anymore and so now, apparently, nobody can have cooked peaches in a crusty crust ever again), this girl is practically perfection. 

And now, after working so hard and being accepted into four stellar schools—Spelman, Washington University, George Washington University and Yale—and after some hard deliberation about financial, cultural and educational goals and lots of prayer, she knows for sure, now, that she is going to spend the next four years exactly where she should be, at her father’s alma mater in New Haven, CT., at one of the top universities in the world. She plans to study sociology or the history of science, medicine and public health, both majors that will help her become a doctor intent on using her position to study and develop systems geared toward solving health inequities and disparities in our community.

A doctor, y’all. What more could this mother ask for?

And yet… and yet… I can’t settle myself. I mean, I’ve known this day would come: it is as certain as rain is wet, as the sun and the moon and the stars that light up the sky. Still, when your child is ready to spread her wings and fly—this human you carried in your womb, whose blood and sinew and bones and spirit have left an indelible, visceral imprint on your soul, your very being—it is a shock to the system. The heart races and aches and threatens to break into a million little pieces as the day draws near. Soon, my Mari, my firstborn child, will graduate from high school and head off to college. She will be on her way toward independence—toward adulthood. Toward a life that will forever change the dynamic of our relationship as mother, daughter.

I know that as her mother, I have worked so hard for this moment—tried so hard to instill in her all the life lessons she’ll need to carry with her into adulthood. I trust that I’ve done a good job; my baby is smart, sensible, accomplished, kind, thoughtful. A fine human being. But how do I let go of this part of my heart? How do I disconnect that lifeline that I’ve been nurturing from the womb, a connection that I’ve cultivated for 17 years, and send my child away from me and off into the world—into the unknown? What salve is there to sooth and heal the open wound that’ll be where my mama heart used to be?

I’ve been a blubbering mess of late—rendered completely incapable of containing my emotions as I consider what the next few months will bring. Just this past weekend, during a bookstore reading of my latest book, “MyBrownBaby: On the Joys and Challenges of Raising African American Children,” I burst into a stupid, uncontrollable heap of tears as I read an essay about Mari, “Raising 14-Year-Olds Ain’t For Punks” for an audience of parents holding tight to their toddlers. I chalked it up to the energy of Avid Bookstore, a beautiful shop full of life and spirit, but really, what I was feeling that day, looking at an audience full of little ones and their moms, was a profound sadness that my time as that kind of mother is gone and I will never, ever be in that position again with my Mari. And so I am in mourning for that part of my motherhood journey with my firstborn.

Of course, I am happy for my baby. This is the emotion that overrides all others. But Lord, I may be a complete mess until at least September, when Mari is settled into college life and I can actually walk past her room without breaking down into thug tears.

Y’all pray for a G.

And pray for my baby—that she soars high, flies far and uses all those beautiful powers for the greatest good.

* * *

So many of my online friends have asked how they can give a graduation gift to Mari. Thank you—each one of you—for your kindness and generosity. You can send digital gifts to paypal.me/MariChilesGraduate and physical cards and gifts to Mari Chiles, MyBrownBaby, 12472 Lake Underhill Rd., Suite 268, Orlando, FL, 32828.

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.


  1. Victoria Sanders


  2. Woooowww…when the babies grow up. This is all we work towards. We prepare them for it but when the moment comes are we ready. Congrats. This is a beautiful essay. Definitely sharing!

  3. Felacia Woods

    I have just happened on your site today through a blog I found. I have read all morning long and enough to say “Congratulations!”. Congratulations first to you, for all of your hard work and consistent co-parenting with your husband. What a beautiful young lady you both have raised and what a grand opportunity she now has because of your love and dedication. If you don’t hear it enough, hear it from me as a recent African-American SAHM of 2 teens after 18 years of a career in nursing. I am proud of her and you for being such a grand example of who we are as a people and women of color and what we are capable of. I am home now because my husband and I decided that it was feasible and that he could foot our bills and livelihood from here out. To see the impact of what money simply can’t buy is priceless. It is a true pleasure to happen on this site. I have subscribed and again, Congratulations! Couldn’t be more proud.

    Felacia Woods
    Spanish Fort, AL

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