Every Wednesday I wake up and do my morning routine while listening to the ‘BadChickMisfit’ Podcast; a podcast by two St. Louis Black Women which, among many things, accesses with candor and humor the intersectionality of black women as well as current social and cultural issues.  This past week, the show delved into toxic parents, which is a topic very taboo amongst the African-American community.  Within the black community, there is an unwritten rule within black families that we don’t “air out our dirty laundry.” We have been conditioned that unit at large.  We were told that maintaining the status quo is more important than accountability, healing, and moving forward.  The podcast quoted a popular online blogger, XONecole’s recent article on toxic parents, and repeated a quote often said during their podcast shows when dissecting behavior patterns: Broken People break people. (L., 2018)  Listening to this podcast and the recent shift into openness concerning the black family experience moves to me open up about my own familial journey, past and present, and how it shapes and continues to shape me. 



I grew up with three parents, my two biological parents and a step father, and I can say that I wasn’t, for the most part, and have never felt favored by any of the three.  Now, I’ve had moments where I had “my time” with my parents, but I haven’t had any time with my parents that developed into a unique and special child-parent relationship.  Now, in hindsight, I know that it has to do with my own parents’ parents (my mom’s parents were distant, toxic and emotionless; treating my mother like she was the black sheep, and my dad’s parents were typical of older Jamaicans) but that doesn’t make it any easier.  


Growing up, my parents, my physically and mentally abusive dad and my distant mother, were too busy enthralled in their volatile and violent marriage, ugly divorce, and then themselves to truly and effectively parent.  I grew up in a household where love was not freely expressed, it was something done.  Hugs, kisses, and expressions of love were mostly absent, with the proclamations instead being what was done for us.  Love was less about affection and emotion growing up and about things and what was being done.  Albeit a short time in my youth growing up with my stepdad, I never had a close relationship with my parents.  At best, my relationship with my parents is cordial and impersonal; at worst, it’s estranged and very much strained.  Even as an adult, I don’t have a close relationship with my parents.  I haven’t spoken to my dad in years, while my relationship with my mother has more days of nonchalant distance and detachment than good days.  While I asked for fairness and to be treated like an equal member of the family, my requests often fell on deaf ears; mostly ignored and glossed over.  


As an adult, I have grown to see that I am very much a product of my upbringing and family.  One thing I have come to learn about myself (through many years and many therapists) is my emotional detachment and inability to effectively express my feelings.  I tended to be less expressive of affection, and made my declarations through actions. I felt that people closest around me would know how I feel about them based off of what I do for them.  Many of my relationships suffered as I dealt with my own detachment. Even as I grew up as the prodigal oldest child, I became an overachiever and strived for the love and affection I never felt.  I continued to seek it out from distant parents as well as other sources.   While I am a product of a familial and generational toxicity, I learned that I could turn the tide within myself and my interactions with people. 


What have I done (and continue to do) to fight it and break the cycle?  


One thing was accessing and vocalizing how I feel.  I come from a family that doesn’t foster healthy and effective communication, and so I have had to learn how to develop those skills within myself.  That meant speaking up to how I feel, as well as how others/situations/etc. make me feel.  I’ve learned that instead of suppressing my emotions and feelings and creating a whole bunch of distractions, to actually express how I feel; aloud or just to myself.  


Another lesson that continues to challenge me is my expression of love and affection.  In the past, I felt the need to do things to show affection and love, while being distant with my actual feelings.  While it is still a struggle, I have tried to be more vocal and expressive with those around me; expressing how I feel, especially in the moment.  


Growing up, there was always a lack of boundaries, accountability for unhealthy behavior, and unchecked actions.  Everything and everyone was so used to toxicity that it was shrugged off as ‘That’s just how so and so is.’  I had to learn that I didn’t need to accept anything or any relationship that was toxic and unhealthy, regardless of who they are.  That was hard; as I come from a history of making excuses, silencing oneself and accepting whatever is given to me.  I learned that I deserved love and healthy relationships and had the right to step away and walk away from any relationship that wasn’t fulfilling. This lesson is perhaps the hardest lesson, as it has left me standing alone.  


As I have worked to break those generational curses and toxic family ties that have weighed me down, I found myself giving new value and new life where there was none.  I learned to value not just myself but those relationships I hold dearest to me.  I learned that it was perfectly okay to walk away from any situation or relationship that took from me more than it gave.  I learned that when love isn’t being served by your family, sometimes you have to create your own environment of love.  


Loving myself, and allowing love, affection, and positivity in, has been the greatest lesson that I learn and relearn every day.  

Works Cited

L., P. (2018, August 09). We’ve Said A Word About Toxic Fathers, But Who’s Talking About Toxic Mothers?Retrieved from XONecole: https://www.xonecole.com/toxic-parents-toxic-mothers/