A day of food, fun and games at Georgia Perimeter College’s Decatur campus was punctuated with a lesson for parents to support their children’s dreams, from mothers of hip-hop entertainers Aliyah Najm (T-Pain), H. Loraine Smith (Ne-Yo), and Jacida Carter (Lil-Wayne).
Support and encouragement are what kids need, the mothers agreed.
“Your child has dreams and goals, and you just have to support them and know what they are,” said Najm at the college’s Spring Fling event on April 17. “By the time they become old enough to realize them, they may even change. My son wanted to do music since he was 7 years old. So we supported him and hoped that at some time in his life music would be a part of it.”
Ne-Yo’s mother channeled his behavior in a positive direction. “God gives us all talents,” she said. “My son was acting out when he was young, and I had to challenge that energy. I came home one day and my son was throwing knives at the screen. When I asked him why, he said because it was there. I gave him a journal and had him write in it. That started his writing career. I never doubted my son would be doing what he’s doing now. If you see potential, but your child doesn’t, constantly encourage that child and remind them about the good they have done.”
Flexibility is also important in encouraging children’s dreams. Smith continued, “You can’t inspire or motivate someone to do something they don’t want to do. Don’t be too specific. If your child seems uninterested, you may need to explore other interests.”
The panel of hip-hop mothers agreed that sacrifices may be required to support children’s dreams but are worth it.
“We lost cars and had lights turned off,” Najm recalled. “There are sacrifices you have to make. When they took my car, I had two more payments. It was a choice between car payment or musical equipment. I made the choice to sacrifice for my child. We saw the big picture. As long as you have a roof over your head and food, you can make it.”
A single parent, Smith recalled that her journey rearing two boys was not always easy. “It was hard because I divorced their father early,” she said. “Often, there were times I wasn’t able to give them material things, but they knew they were loved.”
The mothers emphasized that the realization of dreams does not exclude anyone from accountability and responsibility for their actions.
“There are a lot of pitfalls waiting for us in the world,” Smith said. “If we would think a little bit before we act and make decisions, we can avoid a lot of pain.”
“People know their responsibilities and their accountability for their actions, but because of their environment they get thrown off focus,” Najm said. “Just because you’re in a situation doesn’t mean you have to be that situation.”
Dare to dream, the hip-hop mothers emphasized to the attentive student audience.
“To go to college takes a lot of patience and endurance,” explained Najm. “After attending 12 years of school, then you have four or more years of college to go. When you get out, you can take what you’ve learned and move outside the box.”
Gone are the days when career choices were limited to doctors, lawyers, or teaching, Najm added. “Today, you can choose to be a business owner, an entrepreneur. Being in college is a big step. It’s a decision to be accountable for your future.”