Raising Anti-Racist Kids

The Look Beyoncé Gave Blue Ivy On Stage Is Every Mom Learning To Let Go

If there’s one thing we have in common with Queen Bey, it’s this.

Raising Anti-Racist Kids

In the spirit of having the summer of all summers that I’ve been striving for, my sequined pants and I took a spin on the town to a Beyonce concert last week. I could write a book about the epic fashion on and off the stage, the flawless choreography, and the mesmerizing cinematography on screens. I could talk forever about the joy that she brought to the stage, a combination of bad*ss and humility that one can only have in a stadium of tens of thousands of people there just to see you. But one moment stood out to me and moved me beyond measure. This moment made me realize that Beyoncé Knowles-Carter is a lot of things. She’s an icon, a legend, a once-in-a-lifetime talent, a megastar. But I can also tell that she’s just like so many of us in that first and foremost, she’s a proud mama who is learning to let go.

We all know Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s 11-year-old daughter, Blue Ivy, has been skipping school (who are we kidding? She probably moved the school to her tour bus!) to join her mother on the record-breaking Renaissance world tour as a hybrid backup dancer/main attraction. When Blue Ivy hit the stage this time, the crowd literally went wild. She destroyed all her moves, melding seamlessly with the other (adult, professional) dancers. At the end of her performance, she reminded us all that she’s a pre-teen by doing some epic moves that I cannot describe, let alone replicate, popped her neck, and flashed a heart sign to the crowd. Just then, the screen panned from Blue Ivy to Beyoncé for a moment that moms across the world could identify with in an instant. That’s because Beyoncé’s face was the face of every mother whose child does the cutest but most unexpected thing — and suddenly you realize “Wait. My kid is growing up right before my eyes and the only thing I can do is step back, be proud, and let them do their thing,” even when we’re holding back tears of pride.

If there’s one thing that the Queen Bey herself, the unmatched Beyoncé, has in common with moms across the world, it’s that look of pride, joy, and a tinge of wistfulness that we give our kids when it’s their turn to shine and when it’s our turn to let go.

Blue Ivy holds her own on stage in Amsterdam this June.Kevin Mazur/WireImage for Parkwood/Getty

My own two children are 8 and “almost 4,” and every day with them brings about new discoveries, new joys, new challenges, new highs, and new lows. And almost daily, my kids do some small or big thing that makes me realize that not only are they growing up, but they’re incredibly awesome at it, and there’s not much I can do about it. That moment when moms realize that our kids are far beyond our wildest dreams is humbling. It can also be scary. I imagine Beyoncé has to consider so many factors related to allowing her 11-year-old daughter to join her on tour. The rigor of tours is tough for anyone, all the more so for a child. Blue Ivy is performing with professional dancers with tons of experience. She’s up past her bedtime. (Does she even have one?) She is in the eye of hundreds of thousands of fans. No doubt, Beyoncé is learning a lesson in letting go with love, allowing her daughter to truly live out her dream.

That ongoing lesson in how to let go is a big one for us moms. From the moment our kids are born, we’re required to let go of them more and more with each passing day. It’s a necessary process because the whole point of parenting is for our babies to learn to be independent and to function in the real world. But it’s easier said than done. Whether you’re Beyoncé and learning to let go of your mega-famous daughter or you’re a mom like me who still chokes up every first day of school, it’s a hard balancing act of trust, patience, and maybe a little fear about how the world will treat our babies.

I want them to see these challenges and to rise above them with overwhelming pride, consistent joy, and a solid grounding in what it means to be Black children. And I hope that when I look at them, they see that I believe they can do just that.

When I think back to witnessing this intimate, special moment, I’m struck that the way in which we show up for our children when we let them go is crucially important. We tuck our fear and sadness inside and we slap that smile on our face so that when they look back at us — they often look back at us — they see that we’re proud of them and fully believe in their capacity to do hard things. It’s the look Beyoncé gave Blue Ivy. It’s the look I’ve seen on moms at recitals, soccer games, and more. It’s the look I give my kid when he solves my computer issues at age 8. It’s that look on my face when my daughter, who used to ask to hold my hand all the way into her class, now runs into preschool without a backward glance.

We’re scared. We’re terrified. But we’re also super proud and overwhelmingly excited for the future that is sprawling ahead of our little ones. And that joy and pride is what we let them see so that they can take some of that to feed their journey.

As a Black mother to Black multiracial children, this act of letting go takes on deeper meaning as I think about the world into which I’m releasing them. It’s a world where they can expect to be misunderstood (they already are at such young ages); where people will attempt to place them in suffocatingly small boxes according to their identity and where they will have to fight hard to take up the space they deserve. I’ll be honest. Raising them to not inherit my fear and anxiety over this is an ongoing pain point for me. But I want them to see these challenges and to rise above them with overwhelming pride, consistent joy, and a solid grounding in what it means to be Black children. And I hope that when I look at them, they see that I believe they can do just that.

Mother and daughter at the 2016 MTV Video Music awards. John Shearer/Getty Images for MTV.com/Getty
Jay-Z, Blue Ivy, and Beyoncé at the Grammys in 2018. They grown up so fast!Michele Crowe/CBS via Getty Images

Whether you’re Beyoncé watching your daughter dance in front of 40,000 people or you’re a mom letting go for the first time, I’m here to say that it’s OK to be wistful over your kid growing up. I sure am. It’s a beautiful gift to watch our kids develop into their own people. Letting go is hard and there is no blueprint. Do it as slowly and as carefully as you need. And like Blue Ivy, whose mom stood in the back to let her daughter shine, our kids will know we’re there cheering them on and staying close by to fill them up with love so that they can go a little further each time.

Raising Anti-Racist Kids is a column written by Tabitha St. Bernard-Jacobs focused on education and actionable steps for parents who are committed to raising anti-racist children and cultivating homes rooted in liberation for Black people. To reach Tabitha, email hello@romper.com or follow her on Instagram.