This is a story that broke at the beginning of last month, and I’m sure some of you are aware of this story already. While I would normally not post about something that happened that “long” ago–this story is too important and there are too many stories like it.

From the Cincinnati Enquirer:

The baby’s birth at University Hospital on Nov. 4 was routine.

What wasn’t routine was the fact the infant’s mother was just 10, impregnated by her mother’s boyfriend.

Now, social workers are trying to figure out how to unravel the mess involving one of the youngest children ever to give birth in Greater Cincinnati.

At the same time Wednesday, Lockland police were in Columbus talking to a convict whose DNA shows he’s the baby girl’s father…Michael Chaffer, 40, is accused of impregnating his girlfriend’s 10-year-old daughter, according to Hamilton County prosecutors. (read the article here)

The article goes on to say that Michael Chaffer was actually the boyfriend of the 10 year old girl’s mother.

Stories like these make me both sad and angry. Sad because this girl will no longer have the normal life of a tween girl. Angry because not enough was done, whether it was by the authorities or by the girls’ mother, to protect her girlhood. It was the mother’s responsibility to keep her daughter away from men who would eventually harm her and she failed at that responsibility:

Prosecutors say the girl’s mother ignored that order to keep adult men away from her child, and when a caseworker made a surprise visit to her Lockland home Jan. 4, they found Chaffer.

When this story first broke, I found myself asking, “how the hell did this happen?” It’s as if the mother has put having a man in the house over supporting and protecting her daughter.

My mother and I talked about this story soon after it broke. we both felt a lot of disappointment knowing that the mother insisted on keeping Chaffer in the house, when it was already recommended that it would not be safe for her daughter. I asked her, “Mom, why would a woman keep her little girl in harm’s way?”

She said, “Some women really feel like having a man is that important.” She went on to say that her youngest daughter’s safety and well-being is one reason why she has chosen not to start dating again at this time.

But is this true? Are some women so hung up on having a man in their lives that they’ll put their children’s own life in danger? What happened to getting to know a man before you let him around your kids? This goes beyond common sense. This is about a mother’s responsibility for protecting the girlhood of her daughters. A mother should have a commitment to making sure their girls stay girls for as long as they can while also preparing her for womanhood and teaching lessons that will play a positive role in her maturity. That’s not to say that fathers do not also have these same responsibilities, but there is something special about a relationship between a mother and her daughter.

When I was ten, my mother would always tell me, “it’s okay to be a girl…you’ll be grown soon enough. ” She wouldn’t let me wear makeup til i was 15 and I remember that she was very careful about not letting men, regardless of how well we knew them, come around me or my sister too often–particularly if my dad was not present. Even now it reminds me of my mother’s commitment to making sure her daughters didn’t grow up too fast or be put in a situation where they had to grow up more quickly than we should.

This article and others like it almost always have to do with the lack of love in the child’s home. Perhaps we need to return to the “love ethic” that bell hooks talks about in her book Salvation:Black People and Love. In the book she defines love ethic as “one that is exemplified by the combined forces of care, respect, knowledge, and responsibility.”

As we create solutions for how to heal our communities and protect our youth, it would do us well to revisit this definition.

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