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Get to Know Parenting At The Intersections

There are no lousy parents, only human ones. For many of us who parent neurodivergent children of color, this sentiment can sometimes get away from us, as we navigate the various systems in our life, under the weight of oppressive structures. Sometimes it becomes too difficult to feel into our own humanity as we ping pong from one thing to another. Of course, as parents, we want to be there for our children, especially when our children need us the most. But when we are overscheduled and overburdened, we find our patience stretched thin when our child wants yet another bedtime story. We see our immense love for our children fading behind a fog when our child screams bloody murder because a cookie breaks. Even when we recognize our depleting resources, we often cannot find the time to nourish our needs. That kind of time is often a privilege. As parents to neurodivergent children of color, the reality is that we are constantly navigating the implications of differences in a world that has little tolerance for variation.

Speaking to the unique experiences of parents at this juncture, the book Parenting at the Intersections: Raising Neurodivergent Children of Color, surfaces the experiences of close to 30 families from across the country who generously share their encounters with the education system, the medical system, the juvenile justice system, to name a few. In this part story-telling and part self-inquiry book, they welcome us into their homes and open up to us about their joys and fears of raising their children: they tell us about how their kids play and develop, how they navigate care and support for their child and themselves, how they are thinking about social media and video games and essentially, what it has meant for them to become a parent to a neurodivergent child of color.

The authors gently guide us to understand how none of us parent in a vacuum or were parented in one by situating parenting within structures of oppression like White supremacy, ableism, capitalism, adultism, and settler colonialism. They demystify and unpack these gnarly dominating structures to help parents to see the throughline between these systems and how it plays out in our parenting by providing many opportunities for readers to slow down and reflect on their parenting journeys and understand how they have internalized the messages imparted by these systems. By providing anecdotes from families on this journey, the authors illuminate the isolation and loneliness intrinsic to this experience.

For those parenting at this intersection, this book is a soft place to land, to be fully seen and celebrated. The widened lens on parenting in this way gives parents a chance to take a collective breath, and notice that to raise good humans within and against dominating systems of oppression is a relentless act of resistance that can’t and should not be done without the generosity and loving embrace of communities. It is for this reason that this book also invites extended family, doctors, teachers, neighbors, colleagues and other community members to enter this world. The stories in this book offer an opportunity to understand the struggles and joys of parenting children with these identities. It reminds us that in specificity, there is universality–that liberation for all depends on all of our collective ability to witness and to walk along with those whose lives are unlike ours.

Here is a brief snippet from the book:

“As with our own intersectional identities, we have had plenty of practice finding our way through this world that does not always celebrate our race, culture, neurodivergence, sexuality, and other lived experiences. Growing up, living in a White supremacist culture, we have had to learn that straying away from the perceived norm is costly.

Our differences are seen as foreign or as criminal. Words like dirty, lazy, geek, thug, and terrorist are routinely used to describe our various communities. Additionally, our culture of origin and our families reinforce the messages about not standing out too boldly. Our upbringing in an ableist society has taught us that people who are disabled in any way are less desired and not as worthy. All these systems of oppression provoke an intergenerational fear: differences can oust you from the group, label and place you in confining boxes, can mean an unshakeable target on your back, and can even get you killed.

Predictably, because capitalism props up White supremacy, these intergenerational fears are then hijacked and fed through a machine that churns out products and services that promise to alleviate our concerns. Capitalism leverages parental fear about belonging and safety and sells us the notion that consuming just the “right” products, experiences, and services will protect our kids from being seen as different. And parenting during a time of hyperconnectivity and social media, we are inundated with information about what good parenting looks like. So to provide the best for our children, we may surrender to the pressure to enlist our children in the right classes and buy them the most relevant products. And when our income does not allow for it, we feel bad. But ultimately, because capitalism can only commodify our worry about how our children will be treated, buying something does not relieve our anxieties either.”

Parenting at the Intersections re-frames parenting, especially parenting children with intersecting identities, as a critical site of intervention towards the larger project of liberation. The authors boldly ask “what if parenting our differently wired children of color in this world offers us an immediate and profound opportunity to disrupt our socialization and conditioning on what it means to be ‘normal.’ We invite you to view our children’s differences as the medicine the world needs, and our role as parents as the midwives of an unarticulated future.”

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