It’s an age old parenting conundrum: how do we get our children to listen to us, know that we’ve likely been there, done that, and can tell you how it’s going to end up. Usually, it’s going to end up badly: the parent says don’t, the child says I must, the parent’s reasons for saying don’t become evident, the child learns a lesson. Sure, there are times the child learns absolutely nothing and is destined to make the same or similar mistakes repeatedly. We can’t live our children’s lives for them, but we can certainly be strong when they need us, no matter how many times they come to us having made the same idiotic choices.
Vanessa Williams’ mother, Helen Williams, never told her daughter “I told you so.” Oh, she thought things like how could you be so dumb, what were you thinking, and damn, what now. But, she didn’t say any of these things. Instead, she and Vanessa’s father, Milton, provided judgment free support. Helen wondered how Vanessa could be so stubborn, so determined to do what she wanted with such disregard for her actions’ effects. Vanessa willingly admits she has always been strong willed. Helen let Vanessa make mistakes and realize on her own that her mother’s guidance and suggestions were never meant to be fun-stifling. Helen Williams gave Vanessa a strong foundation of love, determination, and the belief that anything was attainable through hard work and belief in oneself. She realized early on that she had a headstrong daughter who would likely do plenty of boneheaded things, but she recognized it and patterned the way she parented Vanessa accordingly (she was largely different from her brother).
Vanessa Williams has become one of the most iconic black women in the world. She’s an actress, a singer, the first black Miss America. She’s modeled, done TV and film, had hit records. Vanessa did not acquire these things on her own. Her parents showed her how to obtain and cultivate success. Written together in alternating chapters by topic, Vanessa and Helen Williams tell stories (and show pictures!) of parenting and being parented. One of the most memorable lines from the book is “I had to get rid of the anger and resentment I’d bottled up against my mother just because she was being a mother.” When Vanessa becomes a mother and realizes all that Helen went through to guide her, show her, and love her even in the midst of her being, well, her, their story comes full circle and shows what a difficult, yet rewarding job motherhood can be. She is who she is: icon and doting mother because of the mother she has.
“You Have No Idea” tells the timeless tale of mothers and daughters: the push and pull, the tug of war for understanding, patience, acceptance, love, guidance. Best of all, it tells us the mother/daughter relationship can withstand anything if both parties realize neither is out to sabotage the other. When Helen successfully, even unintentionally, shows this to Vanessa, their relationship soars. Theirs is an inspirational journey that will show mothers and daughters everywhere that parenting is the most difficult job in the world, but also the most rewarding.
This is a paid review for BlogHer. The words, however are all mine (well, the words aren’t mine, I didn’t make up these words. Well, I did make up the words, but I didn’t make the words up. Glad we cleared that up).
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