Like Mother, Like Daughter

How well do you know your parents? Probably not well enough, according to Janelle Harris, who writes in Essence that more moms should share their real personalities with their children.

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Raising a child, many mothers say that they give it their all. Still, Janelle Harris writes in Essence, perhaps black women should share more, especially how they became the person they are. That way, their daughters can learn from their mothers' failures and successes to become the best they can be.

Being a mom has also made me confront -- and apologize for -- what I put my own mama through when I was 14 myself (and 15, and 16, and 21, and 25…). But if there was one thing that would've made our relationship easier, it would've been a better transfer of knowledge and wisdom. Logistically, she told me all the right things: how to clean house, how to keep myself up, how to respect my elders. But she was very secretive about who she was as a person: Why she and my father broke up, what she was afraid of (besides ticks and caterpillars), why she never became the cosmetologist she dreamed of being when she was a kid.

Sometimes we're so guarded and protective of our failures and mistakes that we don't pass the lessons we learned on to our daughters in a way they can receive them. We just hit them with the do-it-because-I-said-so routine, hoping, expecting, that they'll listen. That's a pattern I have intentionally avoided with Skylar. Nothing is off limits for her to ask me -- sometimes to my frightful chagrin -- and I answer not just as Mommy but as Janelle. Because it takes transparency to really help a daughter step fully into her personhood and avoid, or at least lessen the impact of, the foolishness we've waded through before her.

Read Janelle Harris's entire piece at Essence.

The Root aims to foster and advance conversations about issues relevant to the black Diaspora by presenting a variety of opinions from all perspectives, whether or not those opinions are shared by our editorial staff. 

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Writer and editor Janelle Harris resides in Washington, D.C., frequents Twitter and lives on Facebook.

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Sept. 19 2014 8:34 AM