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What Happened to Big Mama?

Saturday, Oct 23rd

Last update 07:02:40 PM EST

What Happened to Big Mama?


If you haven't been living under a rock these days you've witnessed a paradigm shift in the cultural concept of what a grandparent used to be.

Culturally worldwide, grandparents, grandmothers in particular, use to fit a certain archtype: benevolent, prideful and most of all, full of advice so wise and valuable that you could trust it blindfolded. But increasingly, especially as we watch the news these days, we see a character that is alien to our familial sensibilities in every way.

Last year, a Florida grandmother was arrested after she brokered a deal to sell her grandchild for $30,000.  In December, a Miami-Dade grandmother left her two young grandchildren in a running SUV while she went into stores to shop. The woman said she was gone for 10 minutes. Witnesses said she vanished for about an hour.

Don't get me wrong, headlines have always been peppered with tales of middle-aged women – and men --- misbehaving in various degrees of debauchery. But this recent phenomena of middle-aged women rampaging through society turns on its head the heavily symbolized and cherished viewpoint of the Sweet Granny. In essence, what has happened to Big Mama?

Used to be a time when a grandmother was the matriarch of the family, the glue that held the generations together. She didn't know proper English. Didn't need it. She taught you manners, instilled pride in the house, and cooked some mean Sunday dinners. We're witnessing a metamorphosis, a new kind of grandmother today (38 years old, tattoos, all up in the club). And they are not Big Mama.

To be fair, she's not the only member of the family that has changed. A family is only as strong as its weakest link, and if today is any indication, we've got some fortifying to do across the board.  Case in point: There are countless youth who don't even know their fathers. Young men wear their pants waist-low now as if they are promoting their underwear. Young women are seen on the streets in various stages of undress. But if she were here today, Big Mama would have none of it.

Not only would your clothes be proper-fitting and modest, but every thread would be clean. Big Mama would see to it personally. She taught personal pride and family unity. We see caricatures of the Big Mama archtype today in popular culture, but not the real thing. Tyler Perry's “Madea” character closely resembles the Big Mama of yesteryear. Other movies and TV shows have touched on power that a strong grandparent used to wield.

Today it's normal to see a grandmother raising their grandkids as if they were her kids (And they are, in a way. But then again they aren't). Big Mama wouldn't raise your kids. The way she figured it, raising you was enough. There's an old saying that says you can choose your friends but not your family. But I'd like to think that being Big Mama is a choice. And we've all got to choose.

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