Preparing my children for what's out there

Hudson brings his experience of being a black man to parenting his three children.

Being a father is something I’m particularly passionate about and I take time out to go on courses specifically for dads. I feel that the chances are I’ll go there and learn something that will make me a better father.

Adoption has been a very powerful experience for my family and myself, and we gained a deeper understanding of ourselves. One of the issues that came up for me and my wife, Sally [who is white], was child-rearing styles. I was raised in an African-Caribbean and African-American household where, if your parents said ‘duck’, you just ducked, but that was because we once lived in a place where they had civil war!

From that point of view, our approaches to child rearing were very different. What we had to do with our birth son Rheis before we adopted Jasmine and Leo was born, was to find some common ground. I’ve seen Rheis benefit hugely from that common ground.

I would hear him debating and discussing with his mother why he had to do something and I’d say: “Son, your mum’s asked you to do that, so just do it.” Sally’s attitude would be: “No, he has an opinion, let’s hear his opinion.”

That was a bit of a culture change, because for me this was wet, liberal, wishy-washy stuff. My children need structure. These are mixed-race, black working-class children growing up in an inner city neighbourhood. They need to know where the boundaries are.

We had discussions about where our different parenting styles came from, and the combination of styles works really well. Maybe in some communities you can afford to be a little bit wishy-washy. My perception as a black man, having experienced racism and having been rousted by the police on numerous occasions, is that my children need to have integrity and a strong sense of self.

That isn’t about having racist bigots controlling my family; it’s about preparing my children for what’s out there, keeping a clean slate and being proud of who you are. It has a knock-on effect. Our parenting style is based on encouraging our children to know who they are, take strength from it, take strength from us and go out there and do what they have to do.

Based on Hudson’s contribution to Looking after our own: Stories of Black and Asian Adopters, edited by Hope Massiah. BAAF 2005. £9.95 (£2.50 p&p). Available in June 2005 from bookshops and BAAF Publications on 020 7593 2072. Hudson has previously kindly contributed to Be My Parent: 'Getting the priorities right' in May 2002 Be My Parent, and 'Finding the missing piece' (with his wife Sally) in the August 2000 issue.

Originally published in the Be My Parent newspaper in May 2005.

This article is published with the kind permission of the people involved. You may download it for your own reference but if you wish to use it for any other purpose, please contact Be My Parent for authorisation: Be My Parent, BAAF, Saffron House, 6-10 Kirby Street, London EC1N 8TS. Telephone: 020 7421 2666/5/4.

Last updated: 10 September 07

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