Watching my two daughters make their way confidently through life is a thrill—and a departure from how I grew up.

By Khama Ennis, M.D., M.P.H.
May 19, 2021
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An image of a group of signs for Black women rights on a background.
Credit: Getty Images (4). Art: Jillian Sellers.

My family immigrated to the United States from Jamaica when I was a toddler, leaving an island where Black people occupied all levels of society, and became minorities overnight. I can only imagine how it felt for my parents to raise two young daughters while navigating their own educations and jobs and experiencing the impact of race on both. It's not a coincidence that my sister and I were raised to be cautious, stepping carefully through the world with the knowledge that our place in it was precarious.

Decades later, in 2008, I whispered to my sleeping then husband, "It's a girl, and her name is Violet." After countless negative tests, I was finally pregnant, I had seen the magical result that would change our lives forever—and even if science didn't know it yet, I knew I was carrying a girl. I now have two daughters, and the gift of watching them grow up is priceless.

Raising Black girls is a special honor—particularly when you have daughters who don't proceed with the kind of caution I was raised with. They're only 12 and 9, but my children occupy space both humbly and unapologetically. I asked them recently why they carry themselves as they do, and their response was that they haven't been raised to be small, to fit a particular expectation of girlhood. They are self-possessed in a way that belies their ages, and in a way I don't think I could have been. And they greet difference with curiosity, with questions and insights that bring me true joy.

Some of these differences exist at home. The three of us have very different hair: Mine is black and thick with tight pencil-width curls, some of which kink; my older daughter's head overflows with voluminous walnut-colored corkscrew curls; my younger daughter's delicate curls change color with the seasons, displaying every shade of maple syrup. Their father is white, with straight hair that was blond when he was a child. My children are Black biracial girls in a world struggling to find its way toward equity. They are keenly aware of this.

But they intend to do their part to push society forward. Recently, while discussing the need for a Black female president, they strategized ways to make sure it comes to pass. In the end, they devised a brilliant solution: Run against each other.

Khama Ennis, M.D., M.P.H., is a Parents advisor and associate chief of emergency medicine and medical staff president at Cooley Dickinson Hospital, in Northampton, Massachusetts.

This article originally appeared in Parents magazine's June 2021 issue as "Black Parenting Joy." Want more from the magazine? Sign up for a monthly print subscription here

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