I was born and taught to be a servant. The unfortunate thing about it is that I did not come into the realization of this until I was in my 30’s. As an African American male we are taught our history starting with slavery. Anything historical prior to that has to be found out through a little bit more research. Most African Americans don’t have the money to take off from work for the next six months and track their ancestry back to Africa or the money and time to do an extensive DNA background check. The ones who do know their roots have parents who did not accept what they were told. We do know this, we are from Africa. So! Our history is said to start from slavery (in the US). After that we were taught we were freed then fought for civil rights. It’s not until recent history that we starting to feel confident about our skin, culture, and our past. We are now represented in entertainment, sports, and all forms of media. We constantly change the landscapes of the mediums we get into. We now influence other cultures instead of being slaves to them. 

BUT! 

On a more everyday level we were taught a system we have yet to work out of our family lifestyles (well mine at least). My ancestors were slaves, my great grands were farmers, my grands worked regular jobs and my parents worked regular jobs. Generations of workers a smidge above the poverty line every generation. My grands were born to be workers. An unfortunate side effect of “Black” families was that the kids were seen more as a tool than a blessing. See in slavery times the plantation owners did not mind if you had kids. That meant another body on the plantation that worked. My great grandparents were raised on a farm a generation apart from slavery. Kids are essential to the cycle of producing more workers. They are another pair of hands to help out on the farm. This idea was carried with families when they moved to the north where farming was not a main source of income or life. Being raised in a modern setting you have to adapt differently. Many families moved north but did not adapt. They took the same mentality with them that kids are another work tool. 

Raising a servant

I recall the days when I was a kid. My dad would come home and hand me his shirt to take up to his room. A room he was going to anyway. After that I was on call to put his plate in the sink after dinner and get random things around the house for him. I was also sent to the corner store to buy him whatever he wanted at the time. For payment I was able to buy what I wanted too. But I couldn’t go crazy cause he wanted the majority of his change back. 

As I got older I was taught how to clean gutters, help fix things on a car, lawn care, how to wash clothes, baby sit, and other house maintenance. My life consisted of school, babysitting, chores and time to myself. As I got older it was school work and chores. Yes I was able to have fun but I am also the oldest so I am the “responsible one”. 

I remember, every year before a holiday we would clean up the whole house, including the basement. One year I made it a point to clean it all up before the holiday and my dad still found things for us to work on. Hear me clearly, I do not blame my dad for any of my shortcomings. He only did what he knew.

When he was growing up his mom did the same thing. She would make them (my dad and his siblings) clean every Saturday. Every Sunday they were in church, all day. Monday through Friday they went to school. As they got older they would clean up and disappear on weekends and his mom would tear apart a room just so she could put it back together again (I have witnessed her do this). He would tell me stories of how they could not go in the kitchen at certain times and were bared from eating. Or how the bathrooms would smell like bleach all weekend.    

When I got married I worked, cooked, cleaned, baby sat (my son), and I thought I was doing everything I was supposed to do. I had no desire to travel or hang out. The normal desires of any young man in his 20’s and early 30’s did not exist in me. Then I was told something that didn’t make sense to me at the time. I was told, “You were taught how to be a good son, not a husband”. For years I never understood that phrase. I never got it because I was doing what I was taught. 

For years I was groomed to be a servant. Not a son, not a husband, not a legacy. I was agreeable, quiet, worked hard, did not complain, followed orders (very well), and didn’t fight back. The perfect sheep. I recently had a conversation with my brother (10 years younger). He and his wife needed some help. Of course I helped them. He thanked me and I applauded him. I said how I wish I was more vocal like he is. In spite of whatever he was going through, he holds his head high and leads his family. In that conversation I was able to put a finger on what made me feel so inadequate. That conversation made me look at myself and I did not like what I saw.  I saw myself as less, for years, because that’s how a servant sees themselves, less than their master. If I was like my “master” then I can’t be a servant. I further realized I was comfortable in that position and it bothered me to the point where I didn’t want to be around people in fear of feeling like I’m less than most people and I never wanted to be treated like or feel like that again.   

Raising a legacy

When you become a parent you really have to take a self assessment of yourself. I mean you can do that anytime in your life. BUT! As a parent you better really be honest and know you are not perfect and will need help and should want to be a better person. I want nothing but the best for my son. I also know I don’t have all the answers. When showing him lessons, I started small with him. Like, as a kid I carried the bags at the store even if my dad was with us. My son only carries his bag. He doesn’t carry my items because he’s my son, not a pack mule. I would also carry his mom’s bag and will hand him some of her bags too. He should be responsible for his items not mine. He should also help the women in his life. I know it may not seem like a big thing but it all starts with the small tasks.      

Throughout history rulers knew they had to raise an heir. Royalty does not work in a convenient store because it does not teach them how to run a country. We also don’t expect MMA fighters to work at day cares. Just like we don’t expect a retail worker to do emergency open heart surgery today. BUT! With the proper training any person can learn something new. 

The ugly truth about raising a child is that you are always on a razor’s edge of messing up. I mentioned earlier how I was taught lawn care and house maintenance. Let’s say I do the same with my son. Now, I could do the same thing and have him just like me. OR! I could show him the lessons, work with him and ask him to take up the responsibility of doing the task, supervision free. He also has the choice to not do anything I taught him at all. Which should not be a problem because as his father I should know his strengths and weaknesses. What I am currently teaching him may be a weakness, but house maintenance, specifically the electrical system, may be more in his natural wheelhouse. I should recognize these things and cultivate them. I should do the same for his gifts.  

What does raising an Heir look like?

Sadly it is tough for me to answer this question. But I’ll try my best with my limited knowledge. Every person has a talent. My son is a runner, he likes building, he loves scenery, outdoors, church, music, karate, his own space, laughing, video games, and more. With this small amount of data I know he will probably play a sport where he runs. He may get involved in the arts. I definitely know he will know how to play video games, an instrument, and love church. 

I say all that to say I have to help him explore what he loves and give him the tools to expand on his passions. I also have to teach him his history. A history that is older than me and he has to chart his own future. His past will not start during slavery but in Africa during a time when they had empires, kingdoms, culture, art and war. I have to show him the unwritten laws of being a gentleman and a man. Like when someone speaks to you, you look them in the eye. Hold the door for the next person. If you’re on a sidewalk, you walk on the street side unless you’re walking with me.            

When he’s older I should find a way to give him the tools to pursue his passions or at least help steer him in the right direction. Even if I do not understand what he is trying to do, I still need to support him and sit back and let him learn, while being mindful to make sure he does not harm his progress.  

Success?

The hard pill to swallow is that everything I just said could amount to nothing. As a parent and a person, we make mistakes. You can’t gauge success on how much a person has. Just because a person is wealthy does not mean they are not a slave to something. We have seen throughout history that kings, heads of states, artists and celebrities lost status or their lives due to being slaves to their vices. They chose to serve their issue instead of what helps themselves and others.  

The only way to know how to succeed is to not be afraid to think freely. We can’t be scared to fail and you have to be OK with just being you. Success can come tomorrow, a week or years from now, and that’s OK. Success is not what most people think it is. In terms of all that I have said previously, success looks like a person who can hold their head high, state their name and be proud of who they are and what they are doing. Whether you serve or not, you are never beneath anyone if you choose to do what you are doing and you do that thing with strength and pride. 

All and all I think my dad and mom did an OK job with me. They raised me in a time of uncertainty and cultural transition. I was raised during the time of the LA riots, The Fall of the Berlin Wall, The Gulf War, The East and West coast rap war, Hurricane Andrew, and some local level unrest. They sacrificed a lot and went through some hard times to give me and my brothers a stable home. I Applaud them. I don’t blame them for my servant-like behavior, I blame myself. 

At any time I could have been, different. My brothers refuse to do what they are told. But I did without hesitation. Today I am trying to be the master of myself. So! I am learning how to step into my role of just being me. I serve God and I do that proudly. I help my family and friends and I do that proudly. I just pray I’m raising my son to be an heir and not a servant to me. 

Published by Jamar Reed

I'm just a Father who likes to write. Hopefully my words will mean something in a sea of countless others.

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