"The other night when you said they boys could stay home with us forever...I took issue with it initially but the more I thought about why you were saying it, I get it. I wish there was a way we could keep them safe throughout their lives too."
I choked back a swell of tears and simply said "Yeah."
What I remember about that night and my declaration is that Austin was once again fighting sleeping in his own bed and wanted to fall asleep in Mama and Daddy's. I don't remember what my husband was saying to try and convince him to go back to his own bed that made the words lurch out of me in a protective manner, but I remember how I felt as they did: terrified. Desperate. Lost. For a quick 4-5 seconds any hope for their future and safety was obliterated and in response I blurted out " YOU CAN STAY WITH MAMA AND DADDY FOREVER. You don't ever have to leave home. You and your brothers can just stay with us. You can."
Let me explain something to you. Barring some kind of circumstance that would necessitate it, I have never envisioned myself as a parent whose children live with them past the age of 18. Hell, moving back in with my parents as a single mother at the age of 25 was difficult for all of us except my oldest who was just an infant at the time. I am not one who fancies their children living at home. But as Austin was frantically making a beeline towards me on the bed with his blanket in tow, something in me snuffed out hope as I thought of him as an adult and it triggered a declaration rooted in panic in response to my husband's insistence that he go to his own bed...that he has to learn how to be on his own.
I know he's right. I believe it myself. I'm all for my kids being able to find their own way when necessary as they grow and develop into their own person. Hell, I'm only a fan of co-sleeping during the first couple of years because sleep deprivation is a devil I try to avoid. I'm not a fan of having my boys all up under me...and yet over the last few months especially, the rising tide of race based violence in this country has me secretly scrambling to grasp ahold of a false promise that if I just keep them with me at all times, they'll stay alive...that they'll live their full, best lives unencumbered by a "social" construct that deems them unworthy of simply being able to exist.
It's irrational to think or feel that way...but yet not unwarranted given the state of policing and violence toward Black and Brown bodies in this country. This is what it's like for me, a Black woman, to be a mother of Black and Latino children in 2016, and honestly since Trayvon was murdered for looking "suspicious". Despite knowing how racism and supremacy work, that was the event that as a mother, woke me up and transported me into this gravity well where I spend my days frantically fighting to hold onto hope that we won't die as a result of either...where I see my child laughing as he runs away from his father and towards me, mischief and a desire for comfort in his eyes, and I'm randomly, suddenly seized with fear that he will not live his full life.
We have three children. Black. Latino. Boys. Wild, dynamic, hilarious, clever, wicked smart, Black and Brown boys. They are 9, 6, and 2.5. Brennan has ADHD. Alex and Austin are labeled as "high functioning" autistic with speech delays. All three have some aspect of sensory processing disorder and out of the three, Alex's is the most severe.
If you've been following me online over the last 3-4 years, or are a close friend or family member you already know this. You know that since Alex was 3, and after Bren received his diagnosis in 2nd grade, our lives have revolved around specialist visits and physical, speech, behavioral, and occupational therapy sessions. You know that we advocate fiercely for them to gain the skills and tools they need to understand and enjoy who they are as well as navigate a world that will view and judge them based on how they look initially, and then later, how they might act.
What you might not know is that the 5 of us haven't been out to eat as a family in nearly 3 years. Restaurants tend to be sensory overload for the boys, especially Alex, so we've actively avoided dining out. But this summer we've been focusing on reintroducing it, trying out our local Chic Fil A (aside from Tyson's frozen chicken fries, CFA makes the only chicken Alex can/will eat) then Panera, and now IHOP, a fave Brennan and my husband enjoy eating at together.
This might not seem like anything significant, and perhaps if the current climate around race and policing in this country were different, it wouldn't be. Yet on a morning when I've read the news about behavior therapist Charles Kinsey being shot by Miami police while helping a Latino autistic youth who was playing with a toy truck, it is-at least for me. It's significant because the fear that grips me when I read that a man with his hands up while laying on the ground was shot anyway tells me to just stay home. It triggers my anxiety and panic and attempts to sell me the lie that just staying inside the house or telling my boys they can live in our home forever, where it's safe, will keep us alive...and some days I just allow myself to believe it and exist in that delusion to safeguard my mental health until I feel bearing the weight of reality is doable again. It's a gravity well there is no climbing out of, only existing in, and being at the mercy of, while also fighting to thrive in spite of dwelling there.
Last night fear paralyzed me as I heard Kinsey describe what happened to him, and watched the video. This morning it drove me out of the house to IHOP, more for something tangible and practical I could do to continue to empower my children and help them thrive and less for internationally famous pancakes. Fear tells me it's futile and that there's nothing I can do, but it also drives me to do something, anything, everything I can to protect them in ways that enable their self-sufficiency and agency, so I try to channel it into doing that. Even as my palms sweat and my heart pounds as we exit our house and buckle ourselves into the van. Even then.
“A toy truck,” Kinsey told the officers. “I am a behavior therapist at the group home. That’s all it is.”
“I was really more worried about him [the patient] more than myself because … once I’ve got my hands up they’re not going to shoot me, this is what I’m thinking, they’re not going to shoot me,” Kinsey said. “Wow, was I wrong.” (Read about it here)
Kinsey asked the officer why he shot him. He stated the officer responded "I don't know."
I just don't know how to NOT be afraid for my sons...or my husband, or myself. I just don't anymore.