Caribbean Parenting Amongst the Weeds

Caribbean Parenting Amongst the Weeds

Growing up, my mom would say that we were growing “like weeds.” I never really liked the comparison. Weeds. Weeds are unwanted. Weeds show up when you are trying to do something good and make something beautiful. They show up to take up space and water and sunshine that is meant for the good plants to enjoy. They strangle the good plants and stunt their growth, sometimes killing them altogether.

Caribbean Parenting Amongst the Weeds - Girl with dandelion flower

While I didn’t like the comparison, I did, however, really like weeds. Some of them were so beautiful to me. The fact that they had the nerve to be cute, completely useless, and dangerous all at the same time was fascinating. I liked the little yellow dandelion flowers the most. You could spend hours collecting enough for a tiny bouquet, but before you could run inside, they’d be wilted and dead. They refused to be captured. If you left them alone you could enjoy them, but if you plucked them up and took them somewhere else, they would die. The introvert in me identified completely.

If I was going to be a weed, I was going to be a dandelion. Beautiful in my own right, and better when left alone.

Related: Caribbean Moms Talk Parenting Styles at Beaches Resort in Jamaica

As I got older, and learned more about dandelions, I found out that they aren’t weeds at all really. They are actually extremely useful plants. They don’t need fertilizer, attract bees because they are a source of nectar and pollen, are important food sources for birds, have been used for thousands of years in traditional medicine to treat all manner of ailments in humans, and don’t require great soil to grow in. There are dandelion farms where they are grown commercially. If you do decide to grow them as a houseplant indoors, fertilizer and good soil makes them even better.

When Jesus told the parable of the weeds , he couldn’t have been talking about dandelions.

I like to think that dandelions aren’t really weeds at all. While they can be mistaken for weeds, and labeled a nuisance to advance the “weed killer” agenda, they aren’t REALLY weeds in the true sense – not at all like the weeds Jesus would have burned up.They have weed like tendencies in that they don’t need a lot of care to grow, and a lot of times they show up uninvited.

Being a mom of Caribbean descent, I notice a lot of weeds showing up in my parenting style. The trick is deciding which ones are true weeds that come to take away from all the goodness that comes with being a parent, and which ones are dandelions. Several of the things that tie us together as products of Caribbean parents are true weeds.

The flying belts and pelted slippers, the hugs withheld and praises denied, the mocked dreams and secret shames, those – those are the true weeds. We tend to hold on to some of them because they seem uniquely Caribbean, like they are part of the culture. When you talk to people with a Caribbean background, many can relate. But is it Caribbean parenting, or is it just the weeds?

But those are the weeds that must be controlled, watched for, pulled up, poisoned, and burned.

Related: Is Your Caribbean Culture Killing You?

Sometimes, it is hard to see which ones are the true weeds and which ones are the dandelions. How can we tell? I like to think that I turned out alright. We all do. We are the beautiful plants that grew despite the weeds trying to steal our sunlight and siphon off the nutrients meant for us. Maybe all of us didn’t grow as tall as we should have, or spread out as wide as we should have, but we made it. We made it and now that we are planting and growing our own flowers and plants, it is our duty to recognize the dandelions in our parenting style.

One of my dandelions that others mistake for a weed is me telling my kids they don’t have to go to college if they don’t want to. When people ask me, “so what is so and so doing?” and I say, “working,” the confusion on their faces tell all. They think that’s a weed. My middle child is quick to tell people that he might not go to college. Some people have taken it upon themselves to try to convince him otherwise, to uproot that weed. That was one of my mom’s dandelions too – not a typical Caribbean view of education at all.

Related: How My Tobagonian Dad Influence My Decision to Go to Law School

While I did choose higher education, I knew I didn’t have to. I had to do something – of course – but it didn’t have to be college. When I listen to my kids talk about their big ideas and their plans for the future – businesses, inventions, community building – I see that taking college off the table as a requirement has opened their minds up to so many possibilities. I do require that they become licensed to do something by the time they turn 18 (my oldest is a 19 year old real estate agent), so education and skill is a requirement, but not college.

While I have managed to uproot many of the weeds that I identified over the last nineteen years as a mom, I still have some true weeds in my parenting style that are hard to get rid of. I don’t always listen as carefully as I should. I know that is a true weed. Nothing strangles a kid’s creativity like a parent that chooses a quick, “uh huh,” and a “really?” over true interest and useful feedback.

I remember all the times when my mom was actively listening to my ideas, and it felt like my words became more colorful and my ideas even better each time she asked a question that was truly in reaction to something I shared with her. I also remember all the times that I had to compete with the television when I had a great idea that I wanted to share. I knew that I had to get it all out before Mystery! came on on PBS. That theme song still haunts me.

For my kids, it is Facebook. They get most of their ideas and thoughts out while I’m driving and they know I’m not able to be on Facebook. I realize now that I got most of my ideas out on long drives with my mom too.

Now that I am nineteen years into parenting, I am constantly tending the weeds, and trying, despite the aforementioned “weed killer agenda,” to keep my dandelions and kill just the true weeds.

When I look at the lifecycle of the dandelion, everything is so clear. You see the leaves first, then the dandelion flower. It attracts the bees, the birds, and the people seeking its healing powers. It provides for a time, then the bloom closes. When it reopens, it is a seed head. You know what the seed head is, right? It is that adorable fluffy white ball on the stalk that instagrammers can’t wait to capture their kids blowing. The seed head. All the greatness that was in that dandelion takes to the skies on the wind, hitches a ride on our pants as we walk by them, grabs on to the fur of animals, and finally settles on a place to grow. It might not be the most fertile ground with the most nutrients, but it makes it.

That’s another thing that makes the dandelion easy to mistake for a weed – how it spreads. I hope that the dandelions in my parenting style spread to my kids, grandkids, and my community with weed like efficiency, but with dandelion efficacy. And the weeds? I pray they are pulled up by the root. Killed. That they end with me. And if I have to leave them to grow alongside my dandelions and purposeful plants like in the parable of the weeds, so be it. As long as they get burned up in the harvest… that’ll work too.

What are some of your weeds? Your dandelions? Let’s chat about them in the comments.

12 thoughts on “Caribbean Parenting Amongst the Weeds”

  1. Weeds huh. Well. Giving them more time. It hasn’t diminished now that they are older. They still need that one on one and I sometimes find it difficult to shut down where ever my attention is at to give them that time. But I need to be present even when we are in the same room.

    1. It is so hard to be present sometimes. I just need a minute to not have to listen. I know it sounds selfish, but that’s why bedtime is so important to me. I have to tell them that my time is up – momming is done. At some point I should be able to zone out. I figure I need to tell them exactly when and where I am available for them to dump their brains out, but it seems like when I have time, they have zero to say!

  2. I’m totally in agreement with college being an option not a requirement. I tried college straight out of high school and I didn’t like it at all. Fortunately my parents were supportive and I even had a cousin who is a professor who supported the non college route. Once I had my child I decided to get my associates in order to have something to help me out in obtaining a job in corporate America but if I could go back I would have went to beauty school right out of high school and pursued that dream. I want my children to pursue their dreams not just do what everyone else thinks is the right way.

  3. This is so wonderful. Life is not one size fits all and I love your approach with the kids. Far too many kids are forced into college who have no interest in it and could be doing something else to start different types of careers.

  4. I love the dandelion story, I am no Caribbean but my mom had a lot of traits I see. I try hard to do the things I wished my Mom did. I talk to them, I want to know what is going on and how they feel. I want to be open and honest with them. My mom didn’t force us to go to College, yet I wish I had the College experience. I want my kids to be productive members of society, while I want them to have the college experience I don’t want to force them if that is not what they want.

  5. This is a great metaphor. I don’t have any children right now, but I’m thinking about my future marriages and children, I am learning which weeds to cut. It’s so important to GROW and learn.

  6. Very interesting post! I work in Higher Education, so I am a huge fan of it…however, I would never force it on my children. I would like them to go in the direction that interests them because I have seen so many cases of being forced and it never turns out well.

  7. There is so much to unpack in this post about the weeds. The Youtube Videos and the knowledge in this post are on point. I also enjoyed listening to the Caribbean moms share their thoughts on pop culture. They made me laugh especially when you were talking about that blue pill.

  8. Ahhhhhh. I can relate to constantly tending the weeds preserving my dandelions. Love this analogy.

  9. I love the metaphors that you used. Now that I am a mom I try to be more open in terms of communication and not a DICTATOR. While I do set the rules I don’t make it a negative experience (unless necessary).

  10. Wow this was pretty deep. I think parenting shouldnt be a cycle because of a culture but what is best for you as a parent and what is right and wrong.

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