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Last New Year’s Eve, against my expressed wished, my older son took the family station

wagon for a jaunt into New York city “to see the ball drop.” He did not get there. He crashed the

car on an icy road in New Jersey, totaling it and leaving the family without a car for eight

months. Mercifully, neither he nor his friends were harmed.

Being without a car for eight months was difficult for the family. My son, however,

didn’t seem to mind. His friends chauffered him around town and back and forth to college. But

my husband had to rely on co-workers to pick him up or -if no ride was available-he had to ride

his bicycle to work through snow, wind and cold. The rest of the family also suffered. Food-

shopping became a big production: I had to call my friends for rides, or take cabs if no friend

was available, then wait in the cold for a cab to pick me up from the mall. When our youngest

son became sick in the middle of the night, we had to call friends to drive us to the hospital.

Needless to say our summer activities were severely curtailed because even trips to the town

pool required cab fare. Older son, however, was blithely unaware of the distress he had caused

the family. Even worse, he seemed to have no real sense of guilt. Watching him, I could not help

but go into Prophetic Mom mode.

Prophetic mode?

Oh you know what I mean.

“Don’t wear dirty underwear; what if you end up in a hospital?”

“Don’t make faces like that; your face will be frozen like that?”

As a Jamaican mother in the United States, I tend to take my little prophetic mom mode

to a higher -or perhaps lower-level. Like many other minority mothers, I add racial,
governmental, and social consequences. This was no mere case of wearing dirty underwear. This

was a black child wearing dirty underwear whose future -and mine-in the white man’s America

would be greatly affected by those messy boxers.

“Keep behaving like that,” I said to my son, “and keep hanging out with those no-good

friends of yours and you’re going to end up in jail. Why did you take my car? Do you realize the

way they treat people in prison?”

“You’re going to kill me with this selfishness of yours. Then when I’m dead you’ll see

how right I was. But then it’ll be too late.”

“I hope I don’t have to trust you to take care of me in my old age. I’ll be in so much

trouble if I have to depend on you.”


It is understandable that during stressing arguments, we black mothers want our children

to learn the economic facts about life. Every child should feel some moral obligations to his

family. But we black mothers not only go into negative prophetic mode when we are angry with

our children, we are also negative when we are in a good mood and are simply being

conversational. Many of us are single mothers who have to be both the disciplinarian dad and the

loving mom at the same time. We have had experiences with racism and other troublesome

factors. We have a dirty pool of memories from which we continually scoop life lessons. “Out of

the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45)

Some of the prophecies we use against our children might be:

“Son, it’s tough for black people out there. You have to work twice as hard as white

people to succeed. If you don’t study, you’ll end up with some low-level job for the rest of your

“Son, please don’t date a white girl. If you go to some racist part of this country, they’ll

kill you.”

“Daughter, please don’t go out and get pregnant. If you do, you’ll be making life very

hard for yourself. You won’t rise above the job of being some mere secretary.”

Note the racial and societal implications. We mean to educate our children in the ways of

the world, especially the world they may find in some places in the United States. But the book

of Proverbs tells us that “As a man thinketh in his heart, so his he.” (Proverbs 23:7) It also states

that “A wise woman builds her house, but a foolish one tears it down.” (Proverbs 14:1)

With our mouth we bless God and curse men. (James 3:9)

We must teach children that choices do have consequences and yet we must also learn to

teach our children about faith.

They must learn

A) to make good choices

B) That if the worst happens and they do end up in an accident in dirty underwear -that

God is able to help them and that they have resources within them to bring about restoration.

C) that something bad may not happen at all -indeed, they may not end up in an accident

while wearing dirty underwear.

How then do we teach our children this?

The first thing we should do is to change our own minds. We must look back at our own

lives and bring faith to our own hearts. We must look back at God’s care instead of looking at the

sorrows we have encountered. If faith in a loving powerful God fills our own minds, it cannot

help but fill the minds of our children. One way to do this is to create a book of remembrance in

which you write all the blessings, coincidences, guidances, and miracles you have received from
God throughout the year. In the Bible disbelief is equated with forgetting, while remembering is

equated with faith. That is the reason why God told the Israelites to remember so many events. If

you do a concordance search for the word “remember” you will be encouraged to create a book

of remembrance. Remembering fills the mind with memories of God’s goodness.

Secondly, we must ask God to set a watch before our lips. This is a difficult thing to do

because some of us are very undisciplined. Whatever comes to our mind, ends up coming

through our mouths. We whine to friends too often and complain as if God has forsaken us. We

forget how to praise God for His goodness to us. Either we are saying what God has said about

our lives or we are lying. Or making God a liar. Is God your shepherd or not? Is Jesus the Truth

or not?

Thirdly, we must “be careful how we hear.” (Luke 8:18) The carnal human nature will

listen to the media’s idea of proper behavior. It will tell us what humans are supposed to think

about certain situations. But worldly thoughts created by the media, or by imperfect humans,

must be rooted out and we and our children must learn to see life the way God sees it. Our

children, like ourselves, are taught by the world what to “naturally” do under certain situations.

But Christians are not supposed to live a natural worldly life. We are supposed to live a

supernatural, victorious life. When we speak to children, we must teach them that God has set

before everyone life and death. ( Joshua 24:15, Is 7:15) We can choose life or death, blessings or

curses, prosperity or poverty. But life, curses, and poverty are not in the hands of the

government, fate, or racist individuals. No matter what our race or financial situation, we are

given the power by God to make our lives better or worse. How do we do this?

The book of Proverbs is a good starting place. In this collection of proverbs, a father

teaches his son about things that may come unnaturally to the human mind. This profound
inspirational Old Testament book absolutely majors in truth and consequences...with faith.

Verses such as “the soul of the sluggard desires and has nothing.” (Proverbs 13:4) Or,

“He who is slothful in his work is a brother to him that is a waster” (Proverbs 18:9) speak of

finances. But other verses counsel readers us on emotional and spiritual matters. We live in a

culture where anger and having a “beef” with another person is considered not only normal but

somehow the “thing to do.” The Proverbs, however, warns against being quick to anger

(Proverbs 15:1). They speak about sexual relations, friendships and, true spirituality. But they

also speak of God’s blessings. The book of Proverbs contains thirty-one chapters. Most months

have thirty-one days. A mother who teaches her son to read a chapter a day for the rest of his life

would be a wise master-builder of her house.

It might be difficult for some of us to move from negative prophetic mode to being

women who teach their children rightly. Some of us may not even want to. We have been taught

to “speak our minds.” But let’s face it: negative prophecies rarely make our children behave

better. At best, they plant negative seeds within our children which bring about low self-esteem

and self-fulfilling negative prophecies.

It has been said that “insanity” is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting

different results.” I challenge you -as I challenge myself-to do things God’s way: refrain from

negative prophecies and trust in the powerful, alive and active word of God. Our kids may cringe

at our guidance, nevertheless they respect insights which have a ring of truth. And the book of

Proverbs has that ring of truth.

Our children will change. The transformation may take a while, or it may happen

overnight. In the meantime, we must trust that word of God has taken root -before we see that

blade of grass and the full fruit-and look forward with hope to the perfect children we have
always wanted.

Carole McDonnell’s fiction, devotionals, poetry and essays have appeared in many publishing
venues, in print and online. She lives with her husband, their two sons in upstate New York

Her reviews appear online at many sites including,,, and Her works appear in various

anthologies including “So Long Been Dreaming: Post-colonialism in science fiction,” edited by

Nalo Hopkinson and published by Arsenal Pulp Press; “Fantastic Visions III,” published by

Fantasist Enterprises; “Then an angel came along,” edited by Julie Bonn Heath and published by

WinePress Publishing, “Jigsaw Nation” published by Wildside Press and “Seasoned Sistahs:

writings by mature women of color.” She is the author of the novel "The Windfollower.” She

lives in upstate New York with her husband, their two sons, three cats and one dog.