Amerie's Son 'Stops For Every Flower' and So Should We

The Grammy-nominated singer says she's teaching her Black son about the realities of life. He's teaching her about empathy and being present.

A Black woman holds a microphone on stage

Paras Griffin/Getty

Empathy is the biggest lesson singer-songwriter, producer, and writer Amerie has learned from her young son, River. She’s long considered herself empathetic, but the idea of being ever-present with your surroundings is a gift from her son. Now, she’s reaffirming that gift with her new children’s book, You Will Do Great Things, illustrated by Raissa Figueroa. 

In the book, inspired by River, a boy ventures on a journey upon looking at family photos. He is present in the world the images bring him to as he tries new things and comes face-to-face with his multicultural background while learning of his legacy. 

“[River] has taught me about finding joy in just the smallest moments,” Amerie told Kindred by Parents. “Children are very present. They don't just rush through. He stops for every flower, every dandelion, like, ‘Look at that flower, look at this grass, this stick.’ And I'm like, yeah, we have to move through the world like that to appreciate it.”

The Grammy-nominated creative says that having a child helps you really see what life is all about. While regular storytimes with River helped to bring her children’s book to fruition, the known singer has always had a love for books and writing. She even has a degree in English from Georgetown University. 

“I was born a bookworm, so that's always been my favorite thing,” she says. “In third grade, they asked what's your favorite hobby, and it was always reading and writing.”

As a military brat, Amerie moved all over the world, there are things she felt were missing from children’s books during her childhood, but this new venture was more of putting in writing all of the things she wanted to tell River. 

A copy of "You Will Do Great Things" by Amerie

MacMillan Publishing Group

The text is a universal message,” she says. “Everything about life—that's going to be an amazing journey, but it will not always be easy. And sometimes he may be lost, but he can find himself. Also that it's important to be an individual, but people may not always understand where you're coming from, but that's OK because it's good to be yourself.” 

Amerie firmly believes that everyone comes equipped with the life skills they’ll need throughout their existence. 

“If children are very still and they listen to that voice, they will find their way,” she says. “Basically, everything that they have to succeed in life, to do great things, to accomplish the things that they came here to do, they have within them – they already have that. And that's a very important lesson for me to give River. And I wanted to put that in a book.” 

She says that it’s vital to prepare not only River for a world that might someday victimize him but all children who might just need an affirmation for life. 

“I believe all children should know they are precious,” the author says. “Everyone should know that because every adult walking around has things that we carry with us. They're all these chips that we have on our shoulders or things that have broken us or cracked us. They all come from childhood. I think it's so important that children know that, specifically Black and brown children, because there's just so much said against them.” 

But it’s not as easy as helping children understand they are valued. You also have to have tough conversations with them. 

“There are just certain things that the kids just know – good is good, bad is bad,” Amerie says. “And when they're just like, ‘Wait, what? People don't like people because of this, what?’ Every parent has to decide when's the right time to have certain discussions with their kids. Every parent will have to know when to have those conversations.”

Growing up around other mixed children traveling with her military family shielded Amerie from many tough scenarios, but things were quite different when she moved to the United States. She’s since gotten a strong understanding of what growing up Black in the U.S. can feel like. 

“Especially for Black children growing up in the United States, I think it's very important not just to say, ‘OK, there's all this stuff going on—let's just focus on you, and I want you to be as built up as possible.’ ‘Cause, that's really the only thing you can do as a parent. You have to let them know what's going on in the world. But sometimes, letting kids know what's going on in the world, especially if they're at a certain age, it doesn't matter that you're like, it's not your fault. Kids tend to take on everything.” 

Balancing the hard truths with affirmations feels key in her world, and it all starts with her relationship with nurturing River. 

You Will Do Great Things is now a part of River’s library. Each book the mother-son duo read together always includes reading the title and author. The author-mom gets a kick out of hearing her child read her name. 

“It’s kind of really cool to do that with [my book] and hear him say my name—I'm like, that is so weird,” she says.

While Amerie certainly encourages parents to spend that quality storytime time with their children, You Will Do Great Things is also available as a fully soundscaped audiobook that she narrates. 

It is magical,” she says. “It is an experience. You hear what's happening in the book, like little sound effects, flutter of wings, this splash of water. You hear all that. And so it elevates the experience. Even though I did the audiobook, I will say the most special thing is a parent's voice giving that message to their child.”

The multi-talented sensation is working on a whole lot to come. She’s planning to write more picture books and a novel—for grown-ups. She also intends to put out new music and go on an intimate tour for her first album, All I Have, which celebrated 20 years last July. 

“Just a lot of creative stuff,” she says.  

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