There are days when you have no words. Today seems to be like one of these days. Maybe it’s the fact that’s it’s Holy Week. Something about the week before Easter makes me want to remind you, whoever you are reading this, that you are loved. If you ever had any doubt, just look upon the cross. The greatest love ever is on full display on the cross. To die for others is to live and as we celebrate this week, I can’t help but wonder what I would willingly die or live for. My children. For sure, I would die for them. They are my reason for being. We took them out for a walk this evening and I can’t help but feel blessed. To be surrounded by their love keeps me full. That and the fact that they make life worth living. While on the work, we met one of our neighbors for the first time. Since we moved and due to the pandemic, we have been indoors so we barely know our neighbors. But we met one today, walking her dog named Grace. A golden dog, with lots of fluffy hair. It made my kids want one. I was glad to meet a neighbor, to know that she too had a daughter, the same age as ours. Such was my night. Peaceful and calm with a stroll, light and easy, and love, lots of it. I don’t have much else to say except keep keeping on with life. It can be effortless, if only we let it’s ease be ours.

When the gates of new possibilities are opened for children, they go through. My daughter is a prime example. For her, reading is life. I have watched over the years, how it continues to transform her consciousness. I see it’s power through her lens. I see it’s push to higher spaces through her commitment. What I didn’t expect was the ways it would keep her responsive and alert to her own unique possibilities. Often we don’t see this transformation. Often we truly do now know that exact moment when a child becomes an author, when a child picks up a pen and starts telling their own story, when a child awakens to their own possibilities. I am living in that moment.

I have had the privilege of being a witness to this transformation with my daughter. Writing for her started passively, something to keep her busy with during the unprecedented summer of a lifetime with the start of the pandemic. In a pre-pandemic era, we read to oblivion. She earned her way through reading. I have no problem admiting that it all started when she was 6 and I promised to give $100 dollars for reading 100 books. She did and I paid. I have tried this same tactic with her brothers to no avail. So I pressed on with her. The following summer, the same charge, 200 books for $200. She did it again. And so our summer reading behaviors solidified and I of course was happy. Until the pandemic. One way to make up for all the books we needed was to go the library. The pandemic closed her abilities to use her library card. In a rather feeble attempt to keep her busy, I casually stated, why don’t you start telling stories then. What I didn’t realize at the time was the power of the word. That parents can birth new dreams in their children with words is astounding to me. I gave her the gift of possibilities.

She went away to that special place that writers tap into for inspiration and wrote her first short piece, illustrated by her and published by me. I have written about it in an old post focused on writing like a child (here) In fact the first lengthy piece that stretched my own writing when my keeplist began was my reflection of her first storybook Kaylin and Little Foot. I was stunned that she would take my request on and work on a story she would like to read. Since then, she has been writing and journaling non stop. I have pressed on too with my writing. She reads this keeplist. She also awakened me to my own possibilities with writing. When I recently asked why she continues to write, she said is because I do the same. She has made me more responsive and alert to the power of my words and action. Often we don’t hear this direct stuff as to when writing begins in childhood so pardon my focus on it.

But my keeplist today isn’t even about my daughter’s writing from the past. Rather, I want to talk about the future and how she represents what I know would be great ahead. A little over a week ago, I gave her a little blue book to keep her busy again. Her school was beginning Spring break for the week and she wanted things to do. I said let’s read. She mentioned she has read all her books and needed new ones. While we were talking, I was busy cleaning the house. As if on cue (the universe and it weird ways), I found a little blue book full of empty pages while rifling through materials I was cleaning. I tore away the used portion and said, why don’t you go write stories again. Be open and take us on an adventure. I left her to decide how to approach this assignment. I expected it to keep her busy. Little did I know that it would awaken the possibilities in her.

Enter, ‘The Golden Sapphire.’ How she comes up with her titles and table of contents is mesmerizing to me. How my words take her to a place where anything is possible is sterling to me. How she chooses to be open in this manner is what I intend to keep, for it is beautiful to me. I don’t know what the future holds, but the possibilities of it are there, if only she continues to do her part to see the richness of her ways. And she is stupendously rich. The unexpected dimensions of her ways keeps me alert to her future, one that personifies that word Nkiruka, what is ahead is great. I am keeping this here because I have no idea what I have done to awaken this in her. Like I said earlier I have tried and failed with her brothers, though the verdict is still out and I know they look up to her. Speaking visions of possibilities to our children is the most generous investment we can make. One that I intend to keep for myself and gift to her always.

Even as I share the images above, I am only using them here for emphasis as it’s the current story she is busy working on. Kaylin and Little Foot went on to become a chapter series, about 12 of them. Then there was The tiny, tiny team below, a short story collection illustrated by her, and a host of other collections. What I have learnt through this experience is that the ultimate gift we can offer our children is possibilities. The richness of it all is there, if only we help them discover it’s unexpected dimensions for themselves. Of course they must go through the door themselves. But the thought of bursting open, the gate of possibilities, the thought of awakening her to her potential, the thought of empowering her creativity, is a keep worth celebrating. It also a reminder to keep seeing the possibilities in children.

Perpetually mysterious, weird, and profound is motherhood to me. As a mother to four children, there are times when I feel like I know what I am doing. Times when I say stop, they actually listen and stop. Times when I try again, and it falls on deaf ears. That the role is constantly defined and undefined is part of the mystery. Nothing ever seems as it should. One minute a child might be crying for his drums or music instrument that you took away from him. The next minute he is perfectly serene playing with a party hat for example, while the drum and music instrument he just cried profusely for, sits quietly next to him. It’s this mystery that I want to keep like a third eye. Not to resolve it, but to stay vigilant to its gifts, to unravel its ways. It’s weirdness too is freedom especially when transformed to higher realities. For what is motherhood without an awakening of its many weird ways, an awakening of its wonder, even an awakening to the tyranny of descriptions that has plagued for centuries what it truly means to be good or bad. Like a third eye now, being a mother is forever mysterious, forever changing too, forever patient, forever being misunderstood, but forever full of possibilities.

This beautiful illustration by Ekene Kokelu personifies the mystery and weirdness of work and motherhood. Like a third eye, I am now awakened to all my possibilities, what lies hidden, underneath and along the margins.

Even in the middle of chaos, the patience through which we make sense of the chaos cannot be completely unraveled. What keeps this aspect of our lives interesting is that some of us, myself included, expect the chaos, as weird as it may seem. We widen out due to it, like a ripple in a river. We even learn to thrive with noise in the background. And the noise of a crying toddler can be huge. Life changing even when they attempt to cry and talk at the same time. But because life as a mother is fluid, I have no choice but to expect chaos whether from a 3 year old whose only recourse is to cry when things seem impossible or from a new baby whose happy place is to be tucked in your arms for all eternity. How then are we expected to work? Yet we do and do it to the best of our abilities. This is why the mystery of this phase continues to slowly occupy my reality. Slowly keep me vigilant to all its possibilities, it’s richness, it’s fullness, even what lies hidden, between, underneath, along the margins of life as a mother and life as an academic researcher.

I can be in the middle of a crazy crying spell that may last for one hour, trying to appease or please, or trying to be stern and unyielding. By the next hour, I am writing a near stellar specific aims page for a new grant. I maybe making plans for movie night, even spending an hour and 30 minutes watching Lorax for example with my children. The next hour, I am reviewing grants, exceptionally beautiful ones, for example, from impressive scholars focused on using geospatial science and machine learning to construct predictive models for disease outbreaks in sub-Saharan Africa. This mystery, it’s possibilities, it’s richness and hidden dimensions are profound to me.

Enter, freedom. One thing that keeps this mystery going these days is freedom, both with my imaginations and my dreams and this blog full of what to keep. I am free to go anywhere and everywhere, and keep anything from my experience because of my children. They help set in motion my time for example, its limits and abundance. For when there is silence, time is abundant and I am free to do as I please. They also help frame my destiny. All the spectrum of chaos I encounter with them, helps me set in motion what matters, including how I hope to shape the world for them. For it is always about them, whether from the beginning or in the end. They are the touchbears of my legacy. The ones to tell the stories of who I was to the next generations and beyond. The ones to sustain the stories of my silence, my survival. And for that story to thrive, for the next generation to hear of it’s beginning, it’s resolution, it’s connections, it’s essence and become defined or not defined by it, keeps me alert.

The continents inside of mothers, the possibilities that resonate, even the chaos that abound along the endless journeys we take remains a weird mystery to me. Though we may have fixed perceptions of what this experience entails, even my life story is more mysterious to me with each passing day. My goal with each keep is to widen this mystery and embrace its weirdness. Not so you understand it as it can never be fully understood like with multiplications or divisions. Though many have outlined what they know in their heart motherhood entails, and I have no doubt that many resonate to their ideas. My goal with this keeplist is to push the boundary a bit more. To redraw the outlines, to probe a bit, or create tensions, all along the spectrum of weird. For isn’t this mystery with motherhood weird afterall, especially for us working mothers. That there might be good aspects to being weird mothers who work or even negative ones along a spectrum, is compelling to me. The steps I take along this journey, with all its mysterious weird ways, is freedom to me. So keep this mysterious and weird journey of working mothers in mind.

Marsh wrens are little songbirds that build multiple nests in their territories. Often described as dummy nests, males build these nests for three reasons. First as a courting center, male wrens use dummy nests to attract, sing and display their male fitness to females. And it’s a battle for desirable sites, desirable mates. For to attract a prospective mate requires displaying nests that not only impress, but also remove other males from their territories. Second as a decoy, dummy nests are used to confuse predators, thereby reducing predation around breeding nests. So the more dummy nests around 1 active breeding nest, the greater the odds that a predator would find an empty nest and leave the area before discovering the breeding nest. Third, as a cover or site for survival, dummy nests are used to shelter new nestlings. Court, confuse, cover, these three C’s, perfectly illustrate how I have silently survived mothering and work during this pandemic of a lifetime.

A marsh wren.

As a mom to three children under the age of 8, I did my best to become friends with the complexities of homeschooling. A desirable harmony with homeschooling was the goal when school began in the Fall. The Spring version of homeschooling at the start of the pandemic was a disaster. I wanted joy in the Fall. So, we began for example with a family newsletter to chronicle our daily experiences through homeschooling. We took pictures, shared little stories, even encouraged ourselves to love school now effectively at home. It lasted for six weeks. Homeschooling was at times harsh, was at times vigorous, at times rattling and at times weary and I did my best to court it fully even with joy in mind.

One of our newsletters in the early days of the pandemic. This was issue 2.

As if that wasn’t enough, the pandemic ushered in a new age of confusion alongside the madness of reality. In fact, we’re were all mad. We learnt to smile with our eyes and laugh with our mouths all invisible due to mask wearing. We learnt to accept and cringe with school at home and home at school. Even with assignments from homeschooling that required our children to imagine animals were mask, a bee for example wearing a mask. Like, I said, madness became a new normal. That and hiding. We learnt to hide in bathrooms for work, hide in closets for sleep, hide in cars to free ourselves from the chaos of running, energetic children during the day and night, in the morning or in the evening. They were everywhere hence the age of confusion for mothers like myself. All that work life balance we said we had, with home helping to strike the balance became a lie. In fact, as a global health researcher, there was no balance not with work or with my life as a mother to three children and a new infant, born at the height of the pandemic.

My son drawing a bee wearing a mask at the beginning of the school year. Even I was confused, a bee wearing a mask!

Yet through it all, the pandemic became the cover I never knew I needed for my survival. Not only did it awaken my eyes to the multiple dimensions of my life, it also helped me realize how much for example, I love to ask questions too. Questions that keep me alert to my potential. Questions that continue to awaken a desire for more. The sense of unfinished questions, unfinished goals, unfinished ideas, became a cover during the pandemic and it kept me motivated. I also taught my children the significance of their own questions, and how it can usher a confidence about yourself or what you are grateful for as with the drawings from my daughter below.

When asked what are you thankful for, my daughter drew her response.

In the past few months, I not only courted the pandemic, but I watched as it ushered an age of confusion with my role as an academic scholar and a mother. Ultimately, the pandemic became a cover or a shelter for survival and self-discovery. One that provided the time necessary to discover what I am called to do in this world. That I long to make explicit our stories, long to shed light on the unthinkable, long to disassemble every myth, and long to recognize the brilliance of Black women who mother and work moves me enormously.

The time also has come to turn light on all the unexpected corners we court in life, all the spaces that confuse, and all the things that act as covers so we soar. My world as a Black woman scholar with four your children is vastly different from how other people see me. I know this fully well. And by courting the pandemic, allowing its confusion to wet my soul, while also basking in its cover, I know my way forward. Keep marsh wrens and their 3 c’s in mind and court, confuse, cover your life story.

There were days of silence. Not because I had no words, but because they won’t do. There were days of screaming. Not because I had no control, but because my mind needed to hear myself say Ahhhhhhhhh from the depths of my soul. There were days of tears. Not because I still had no control, but because what is control anymore. So I cried. I screamed a lot. I cried some more. I broke down and when I could, I pulled myself back up. I gave myself permission to accept not being okay. On those days, I hugged myself more, laid in bed and looked at old photos and videos with my children. Something about recollecting a pre-phase, helped. Especially for days where I gave myself permission to run. 12 miles a week, my highest on record. I gave myself stillness, a silent one, to just look and stare at the clouds or trees. Trees with their mysterious ways, especially icy trees, became my friend. That and nests. I gave myself permission to learn about nests, why birds build them, how they secure them, even how they discard them when done. I learnt a lot about nests. Hummingbirds for example build their nests with silk. Imagine that. I gave myself permission to ask questions. Beautiful ones too especially with my children. I told them to do the same and they have been non stop. I gave myself permission to radiate kindness or dream big, all words across my son’s shirt. That and happiness. That there could be happiness in moments like this was an anomaly. But with my children, I gave myself the permission to choose joy.

I also gave myself permission to listen to poetry. Pinke Gordon Lane for example dedicated to a woman poet or my dear friend Ritamae Hyde’s a mother’s love. My daughter did most of the reading and I simply listened so the words could reach the depth of my soul where screaming, and tears remained. I gave myself permission to imagine. Our imagination took us to the dinosaur park, the looking up statue, and everything Forest Park had to offer. The park itself was a constant ray of hope through all the struggles. Finally, I gave myself permission to read. Also sorts of books became my friend. All Toni Morrison books and Bell Hooks, and Audre Lorde and Patricia Bell Scott. There were also all the books by Chinua Achebe, Ifi Amadiume, Chinelo Oparanta who became my friend though on social media, and Ben Okri. Toni Cade Bambara’s Black Woman made me feel seen. Also Ta-Nehisi Coates Beautiful Struggle. He helped me give myself the permission to struggle beautifully all while keeping what matters. Between the world and me was a constant reminder that I mattered.

Ultimately I gave myself the grace to accept this experience. The grace to see it like a famished road, a crawling baby, an invisible ink, even a deer, my post on the mere sighting of a deer being a favorite for me. This was a pandemic of a lifetime. We were living through unprecedented times. That word was everywhere, though it never fully meant much to many people. So I accepted that people are never going to understand. I accepted that that those who cared, well, cared. In their own ways, they reached out and saw me and touched the silence, heard the screams and the tears, and did their part to fill the gaps that remained with love. Those that did, helped on those days when the burden was unbearable. Those that demanded, well I know their place in my life. For them, I gave myself permission to be like small axes.

But through it all, I fully know why my keep list matters. It has been like a space for therapy through this pandemic. A space for self-discovery. Like an eagle flying in the sky, it has become as space where I soar on my own unique terms. Like a root buried deep in the soil, it has become a space where I unearth the hidden, invisible parts of my life as a mother, including telling the stories of my children, one on spectrum that I never ever intended to tell. That I have been dealing with his beautiful struggles the past 6 years was supposed to be for me and my family. But the pandemic made me uncover it so others may understand why some mothers are screaming. I screamed too. I also cried. I was silent. And I survived. And such is the ramifications of the COVID19 pandemic one year later. To which I say keep all mothers and all caregivers in mind.

He cannot find his tape. We awakened to tears. He wants to fix something. A book in pieces, he says, between tears. But he cannot find his tape. So he cries. He starts his morning some days like this, crying. Today it’s for a tape. Other days a piece of crayon or a book, even a favorite toy. Little obsessions like this can lead to a day full of meltdowns. All his mind knows is that something is missing. Like a train out of its tracks. Everything stops. No amount of comforting even pleading can reset his mind back to its track until that thing is found. We begin today with a tape. It’s only 6am. But such is the life of a kid on the spectrum.

That we have been helping him get by, past the tapes, past the obsessions, past his tears, past his inability to stop them, is no small task too. We acknowledge. He cries. We give hugs to quiet the noise, he cries some more. We are stern, unyielding. Still he cries. His brain and mind is in control. So we look for the thing preoccupying his mind. He cries further. The tears are strong, unmanageable at times. Some may see cries for attention. Three people are looking for the tape. He knows we care. He sees it in our eyes. He mutters in between the tears, with his hands on his head, a desire to stop the tears, to quiet the inner noise, his brain seems to relish. To know him, his frustrations, his obsessions, his tears, even his inability to stop them, is to know love..

Ritamae Hyde, a Belizean poet wrote a poem about a Mother’s love. In it she shared how a mother’s love cannot be confined to beautiful words or abstract expressions. But her love is and remains one of the purest form of human expressions to be felt on this earth. This love she writes about so eloquently portrays what lies silent, under, between, hidden, beneath, and invisible for mothers, and other mothers who mother a child on the spectrum. With torn and crying hearts, we look for tapes. Amidst a desire to quell his inner noise, our insecurities, we turn the room upside down. We hold, we hug, we plead, we pray, still the brain wins. We hide our tears, our crying hearts wishes to spill. Only thing left then, since we have been here before, in times of labor, in time of unbearable pain, is the purest form of expression, one we felt in the beginning, one we still feel even in this moment, is love.

A mother’s love by Ritamae Hyde.

Through the tears, we love. Through the missing tapes or crayons or books, we love. Through the inability to stop, we love. That is the purest form of expression Ritamae writes about, one we want to share that all children on the spectrum need. Whether in the beginning or the end of a meltdown, for a missing tape or anything else, give love as only you can. Keep this mother’s love for children on the spectrum.

From her book of poetry ‘Mahogany Whispers.’

Defining art from a child’s lens can be a mystery. Sometimes good art may seem bad and bad art, seem good. I realize from learning from my children that it all depends on how the art moves you. Take for instance 2 depiction of birds my children shared with me this week. One is a typical bird, in typical form my little boy was proud he colored. The other was a Thunderbird, in a motif of colors from red, the color of fire used for it’s head to blue, the color for protection used around it’s shoulder, it’s arm and it’s tail. Both depiction of birds from my children’s lens are as useful as they are good.

My son’s simple bird!
My daughter’s Thunderbird!

Naturally, I was drawn a bit more to the Thunderbird. I listened as my daughter explain about its power. I also did a bit of digging myself and found that one of the powerful images of Native American art is a Thunderbird. Powerful and sacred and in the likeness of a giant eagle, Thunderbirds not only shoot lightning with a flash of their eyes, but can also cause thunder with a beat of its wings, and blow wind with a rapid flight across the skies. All that in a bird. I was amazed.

But my son’s story of his bird, how it can spread it’s wings and fly up to the sky was just as moving as the Thunderbird. Both birds are useful. But it’s the feeling of accomplishment, feelings of pride in making their depiction of a bird that made smile. What I want to always do for my children is get them to this position where they will always do their best work, whether in the form or a simple typical bird or in the power of a Thunderbird. Part of the beauty is seeing art from children’s lens is this sense of joy, sense of pleasure in something they worked hard to put together. It’s from this point of view that I say, keep children’s art in mind whether as simple as a bird or as sacred and powerful as a Thunderbird.

Imagine the wind, crying, with a wise owl staring maybe at a gentle deer or a tough gorilla. A running fawn, playing next to a fluttering butterfly with a silly frog, acting well, silly. Imagine all of this combined together as a story. How our brain combines elements, whether a crying wind full of wise owls, to form a creative activity, is called imagination. My 8 year old daughter is full of it. In a recent assignment for school, she was asked to imagine Native American names for her family member. Every name she gave, brought her love and understanding of Native American culture to the forefront. It’s almost like she understood for example, why mom would be described a gentle deer, or grandmama, a wise old owl. Imagining these names in words and art form, became a meaningful and necessary task for her, one that I intend to help her keep. Imagination, even with something as simple as thinking about names that vividly represent her family members, combines more skills than other task. It is through her imagination, that her creative self is brought closer to life.

Imagination helps my daughter understand why a person can be gentle or wise or even tough. Imagination helps her draw and at the same time talk about her drawing. Imagination helps her make something that looks like reality. To the extent that I want to ensure she has the right skills necessary for a great future, imagination will always be one of the main forces through which she will attain this goal. My daughters fierce imagination, is what I choose to keep today. She is literally on fire, the way she combines elements in her head to tell stories. A natural storyteller, it’s almost as if stories have always been with her, always buzzing in her head, waiting for the right moment, the right prompt to liberate her brain.

Of course I see myself in her. They way she weaves together words with images, gives a sense of connectedness, that is quite striking for her age. It’s like she is part of an imagination club, our club, where words are given permission to thrive. And they do. Her imagination is stunning. Her gift of combining different concepts and ideas to form one unified whole makes me smile. So I say to you, keep a child’s imagination, especially if they are as gentle as a deer or wise like an owl.

Have you ever thought of stories you would want to read? Stories often not captured in mainstream writing. I suppose they say that’s what writers in most cases seek to do. To put in words, language they would have preferred that they read first. In the absence of such language, they picked up their pen or laptop. That a child’s first love is their mother, are some of the stories I would love to read. Not necessarily as fiction too, but real world lived experiences of the powerful bond between mother and child. By the age of 7 months, my third son is already so eager to speak. Something I know I should be happy for, but yet I am quite nervous and even apprehensive. I have been here before. The memories with my first son’s experience are forever etched in my heart. That we had no language in the first years, not months, is a memory that is so hard to let go or even celebrate in a new child at this moment. Of course it’s still to early to tell, but he can repeat words if you keep saying them. He understands ‘bye-bye’, something that make me look at him alert but still nervous and he smiles, a big grin that easily melts my heart. How women traverse the stages of mothering is of interest to me lately.

The space occupied by mothers like myself, all our hopes and all our impediments have not been adequately explored in contemporary nonfiction literature to date. That I did my part to help my first son speak is nothing short of a miracle and the gift of research that I inherited from my grad school. Will my first son have a stellar future? What does the future hold for my third son? Only time will tell? But even as we await the future, I can’t help but wonder how it continues to haunt my present day, my initial experiences of mothering him. Our story is one reason I picked up my pen. To recall every experience is both joyful and painful.

I recall the joy I experienced when he started walking. He was 8 months old at the time. Wearing a blue outfit with the words ‘captain adorable’ etched in his chest, my son took some steps forward, fell down, got up, and kept meandering forward with a big grin on his face. I used his falling down and getting up as a reminder to myself to persevere , something I wrote on my Instagram account. In fact I stated ‘if at first you don’t succeed, get up and try again.’ Little did I know that the video of my son walking was a foreshadowing of the challenges ahead with him. That we have experienced so many falls along the way is an understatement.

My first son, the moment he started to walk!

I recall the pain. We were kicked out of his first school after only attending for two days. I recall the moment they called me to pick him up vividly. I didn’t know it was to kick us out. I went to the daycare because they called and upon my arrival the proprietress basically stated that they could not provide day care services for my son. I still remember the pain I felt in my heart that moment, almost like what Toni Morrison describes as ‘rememory.’ I picked my crying son up and all our materials and went to our car where I cried and cried and cried. So we have fallen down, powerfully deep falls, that are gut wrenching and still make me cry whenever I recall these experiences. And we have gotten up. We rise. In fact that same day, after crying, I saw another daycare close by. I wiped my eyes, went in with my son to inquiry about availability. They gave me a form to fill and within almost a week and a half, we found a new home. The second daycare gave me hope. For two months my son cried every time I dropped him off, but the women, almost all of them black and Hispanic, kept him. He would scream and shout and try to pry his hands away from them, still they kept him until he got used to the place, two months later. Through their acts of kindness, with helping my son, I became hopeful and determined to make him succeed in life. Every single fall I experienced with my son, as devastating as they were, continues to lead to an immaculate spectacular rise, day by day.

Now, one of my favorite things about him is his memory. Here is a boy that barely spoke any words and once words choose to materialize in his brain, they came out in full sentences, full memorized books too, word for word. In fact we went from a non-verbal boy, who spent the first year’s of his life pointing at things and really not having words to describe what he wanted, to a boy eager to memorize his favorite books like ‘The Water Melon Seed’ or ‘Don’t Let the Pigeon, Drive the Bus.’ Something about the expressions I made while reading the book, especially the word ‘gulp’ in the watermelon book or ‘let me drive the bus’ in the pigeon book helped my son memorize the words to the book so that he can use those expressions for himself.

Recalling our stories is powerful to me. The need to recall every bit of our experience had never been stronger than under the pandemic that still shows no sign of abating. That we had to not only homeschool all three children, but one with special needs, was like chewing stick. News about the plight of mothers during the pandemic should not inspire pity or even rage, but empathy for the sheer enormity of tasks. That we still lack understanding of how mothers experience mothering is a core reason why Nkolika or recalling is the greatest to me. Keep Nkolika, as you give voice to your stories.

Representation as with stories for black children, have been controlled by others for far too long. For our children to thrive, we really must write about ourselves in other to reclaim our stories, our way of life. As long as others direct attention and conversations surrounding the experiences of all children, as long as their rules and style dominate wiring for children, then the lived experiences of our black children will not be represented in society. It’s up to us, the adults in their lives and/or our children to represent ourselves and take back our stories. Enter ‘I am enough’ by Grace Byers.

As a parent, reminding my children that they are enough is a daily mantra. The world may want to say what it feels like saying, but you my child, with all your dimples and beautiful nappy hair are enough. The world may want to question why you are so active, or even restless, say to them that like rain, you are here to pour and drip and fall until you are full. The world may question your intelligence, ostracize you even in school because of it, with some choosing not to even be your friend. Relax my dear and smile and know that their is privilege with learning and you have been blest with it’s finest ingredients. Your knowledge. So learn, keep it, everytime you are in school and beyond. Grace Byers book opens up spaces for parents like myself to talk to my children about why they are enough. She also helps make it easy for us to start conversations on ways they too can tell their own stories of being enough. She also gives voice back to our children’s experiences, something often absent in mainstream writing for children of color. I am enough is a great book for all children, and black children in particular. It helps the rootedness of who they are so that they never forget that they are enough. As we begin to wrap up black history month, and to keep it alive all year, keep reminding our children that they are enough.