I went to get my hair cut the other day, and took June in with me to meet the best hair dresser of all time, and mommy-to-be, Erin. “Doesn’t being a mom just make you feel so amazing?” the owner of the salon said with her shoulders were back exuding this glowing confidence. “It just makes me feel like a real woman.” I responded, without even thinking “I know, I just feel so empowered. Like, I made that little thing, I can do anything.”
When I got home, I sat down to finish Thirty Million Words, and Suskind wraps up her book by telling a couple feel-good, success stories of parents from low socioeconomic status (SES) households who, after long days of working several jobs, participated in her study because they wanted to give their children the best start to life they could. She tells a story of a father named James in his early twenties that has a high school diploma, and is a stocker at Wal-mart. James admitted he wasn’t ready to be a dad, but as soon as his son came he immediately grew up, and did everything he could to make his son better than what he was as a child. Suskind writes that, at the beginning of the study, she used to look at the babies’ heads and imagine the rapid firing of developing neurons. But, now she looks at the adults who care for them and thinks, “You are more powerful than you ever imagined and I hope you know it.” (Suskind, p. 239).
And, I got to thinking, I have so many mom friends that turned into empowered bad-asses with these 'can't nobody hold me down P-diddy type' attitudes when they had their babies. Like, Alyson who, packed up everything she had, moved across the country, and completely started over to give her one-year-old son Gatsby the best life she could. Or, Karlie whose Jersey fierceness comes out when her husband Dom has to leave periodically to fulfill military obligations, and she is raising two kids alone with family far away. Or my childhood friend Allie whose daughter was born with Mucopolysaccharidosis I (MPS I), and she not only did everything in her power to fight for her daughter’s life (including living in a hospital for months), but raised awareness of this terrible disorder for other parents fighting for their children’s lives. Or, my friends Jenny and Jess who went back to seminary school after having kids because their work was just getting started. Or, all the moms I met at prenatal classes who endured the pain of natural child birth because (in our opinion) it was the most healthy start they could give their babies at life. Or, my friend Brandi who I met at a homeless shelter here in San Antonio that I have heard so many men say they can’t survive at because there are too many rules, and they are treated unfairly. But, not that mom of five, she looked at that place as a blessing out of homelessness, and she eased through the program with a balance of toughness, gratitude and humility. Being a parent evokes this innate self-sacrificing goodness that is so beautiful.
Suskind was so impressed with James because he told everyone he knew about the "power of parent talk", and the TMW Initiative, his son’s daycare teachers, friends, his siblings, church members because “I want their kids to have the same advantage that my kid has. I wouldn’t want my son to the the only kid that knows these things, or has the upper advantage.” James didn’t want his son to be better than the rest, or smarter than his low SES peers; he wanted everyone’s children to rise up so that, as he puts it, “soon we’ll have a world full of smart babies running around” (Suskind, p. 145). To me, what James did shows true empowerment, not keeping this knowledge to himself so that people would be impressed by his son, or him as a father, but he brought everyone around him up, too.
Feeling inspired by these mommas I am lucky enough to call friends, and by James's story, I want to empower any parent I can with the "power of parent talk" by encouraging you to buy the book Thirty Million Words so that you can grow your child's brain, and provide him or her the best start to life you can.