A strong mother speaks on raising a son with love and purpose
I have always had a keen interest in astronomy. How can one sit and look up, or down (depending on your perception of how you fit in the universe) and not be amazed at its immensity, beauty, and abstruseness?
To be more specific, let’s talk about one of my favorite celestial bodies, stars. Our sun, for example, is just one of billions of stars in our galaxy and happens to be our giver of life, everything from energy production for plants through photosynthesis to vitamin D production in our bodies.
To show my extreme “inner nerd”, I will borrow the words of astrophysicist Richard Brill. “A star is born when atoms of light elements are squeezed under enough pressure for their nuclei to undergo fusion. All stars are the result of a balance of forces. Once fusion has begun, they exert an outward pressure. As long as the inward force and the outward force are equal, the star remains stable.”
So, where are you going with this nerd boy? Like in the Orion nebula, where did future stars, like Chattanooga’s own TDE recording artist Isaiah Rashad, find his light? When did this future star start feeling the huge amounts of pressure, heat, and energy required to start him on his way to becoming one of the most talked about rappers out today?
Simple. The answer is the Traci Vance nebula. In a recent interview, she gave a little insight on this process and offered advice to parents with exceptional children.
The Pulse: What are your children’s names, ages, and what is your philosophy on raising three boys collectively and individually?
Traci Vance: I have three sons. Isaiah is 25, Samuel is 19, and Timothy is 17. I had one blanket idea of raising my boys in the beginning you know? But they were all different from the beginning. For example, when they were really small I always thought it would be fun to eat together and have pizza night on Friday’s. The problem is none of them eat pizza. (laughing) Each one of them has a unique quality.
TP: When did you start seeing their individual qualities that let you know something was exceptional about them?
TV: With Isaiah, he could read and comprehend very, very well. Just get it, you know? Isaiah could actually talk when he was about seven months old. He could say, “Traci, I’m hungry.” He would call me Traci because he heard everyone else call my name. I would tell him “no, say ‘mama’ or you can’t eat.” He would correct himself and then he would eat.
Sometimes I feel he would say my name just to sass me and I would turn and look at him and say “No” and he would laugh like it was a game. Isaiah kind of scared me, well they all did because they were all so smart for their age.
TP: In the Sprite video for the Obey Your Thirst hip hop campaign with Nas, Drake, Isaiah, and Vince Staples, you mentioned how you stressed the importance of learning. What was your philosophy?
TV: Like I said, he [Isaiah] would comprehend really easily. He would come home from school and I would ask about his homework and he would say that he did it all at school. I would say okay, well let me check it and it would all be right. I would say okay I need to give him something else to do.
There we no computers or smart phones then but we loved reading, so let’s just read. Or if he was on punishment he would have to write. Nobody wants to write from the dictionary, right? And I didn’t just want to discipline them with my hands but with my words. I can only spank them so much so the writing was the whipping, you know what I mean?
My boys love their mom and they really don’t want their mom upset at all. They love Papa too [her husband James] but that’s daddy love and it’s different from mama’s, you feel me? Their papa was the disciplinarian, the enforcer. He made sure that they had manners and were respectable. He would make sure that they sat at the dinner table together and eat as a family. He’d say, “Sit up straight, cut your food up.” Then I would come around with the knife and fork and he would tell me, “No, let them do it. They have to learn it by themselves.”
We just really instilled in them that sense of responsibility, sense of family, and creating that bond. I was the other side. Like I said, my boys love their mom and they really don’t want to be on my bad side. Because when mama is happy, everybody is happy. She’ll feed you good food, take you out to play and make life happy. That’s when I realized that I had the power and the responsibility to raise them to be great men.
I’m raising kings, strong black men that need to hear positive things. Things like, when they were smaller, “You sure are looking good in your school uniform” even though they didn’t want to wear them. I wanted to continually build them up because I know the world wants to tear them down. I wanted to teach them to survive, to understand what other people were talking about so they wouldn’t be taken advantage of.
Everything that they can learn, I wanted them to learn it. Learn about all subjects so that when it came time for them to do what they wanted to do, they could do it and be the best at it. I taught Isaiah that not only could you be the best but you didn’t have to be arrogant to do it. Say please and excuse me but people would know that you belonged because you are the best but you still have manners.
Nobody will give you anything. You could take your rightful place the right way, the way God wants you to have it.
TP: From pageant moms to fathers that are little league coaches, parents are always trying to see if their kid has that “it” factor. Some kids have it, most do not. What advice would you give to parents that are in that situation?
TV: Let them be who they are. I knew who Isaiah was and what he wanted to be. Let them dream and help them get there. Even if they aren’t good at it you have to support them until they realize that they either have it or not, you feel me?
Isaiah told me at a young age, “Mama I wanna be a rapper.” So I first had to see if he had “it” and he did. He really, really did. In one of his first raps he wrote, “I always feel like my mama watching me/ she gotta belt, she gotta rope, she gotta extention cord/ but I ain’t running cause I know she not gonna hit me hard.” He was only seven years old when he wrote that.
So let your child do what they are interested in. Meet them in the middle and make sure they have a backup plan as well. So if they want to dance tell them, “Okay, I’ll put you in these dance classes but your grades need to be good to keep doing it.” But don’t expect straight A’s because all children are not straight A students.
Be fair to them and let them keep going until they get really good at it or until they realize that it’s really not for them. You can’t do it for them.
Photo by Brian Holden, Instagram @brian_holden