Social media has not been the same since Kaavia James Wade first burst onto the scene in November of 2018. From inviting us into their homes by way of their OWN special, Oprah at Home with Gabrielle Union, Dwyane Wade & Their New Baby, to granting us access to Kaav’s personal Instagram account, the Wades have not shied away from sharing Kaavia with the world. And now, Gabrielle is allowing us to share in another piece of their journey.
In her new children’s book, Welcome to the Party, Gabrielle pens a love letter of sorts to 18-month-old Kaavia while simultaneously inviting families to also celebrate and welcome their baby’s arrival to the party of life.
“When we first brought her home from the hospital, the first post announcing her to the world, at the bottom of that we just said, ‘Welcome to the party,'” Gabrielle told us.”We kind of look at our lives like a big, wild, amazing party and that she was welcome and loved and appreciated and celebrated.”
At first-glance, Welcome to the Party, reads as a sweet or bedtime story, but upon deeper analysis, parents will find a metaphorical birth story that celebrates the different paths to parenthood.
“The welcoming of a new family member and celebrating all of the routes that it can take. With children’s literature, we haven’t created enough spaces to have conversations that are necessary,” said the L.A.’s Finest actress.” Not every child’s birth story is going to match and we should be able to create resources to start conversations to talk about all of those different kinds of ways. And just reminding kids that no matter how you came into a family, you are loved and welcome and celebrated.”
Once Kaavia is old enough to understand, Union will make her aware of her unique birth story as well as of those who played an important role in her birth.
“Once she gets to an age where she can understand and have language to ask questions, yeah we’ll tell her,” Gabrielle shared. “We’ve been so transparent and open about the whole thing and she should have an understanding of how she came to our family and also, how much love and appreciation we have for our gestational carrier and how much of a part of our lives she still is.”
Speaking of what Kaavia understands, it’s mindblowing to think that she’s been here for almost two years. It feels as though it was just yesterday that her parents giddily announced her birth. Gone are the newborn days of swaddled naps and babywearing. These days, Kaavia has a mind of her own and she’s not shy about voicing her grievances. Just last week, a video depicting Kaav engaged in a full-blown tantrum that triggered toddler parents across the globe because the struggle is real and it’s one that we know all too well. As for how they’re dealing with these emotional meltdowns in the Wade household, Gab had this to say:
“We have a plan that we had to cobble together pretty quickly because it came out of nowhere. The intensity and the duration — there’s no rhyme or reason. There’s nothing you can do to prevent it or stop it. It just is what it is and she kind of holds the cards in that sense.”
When it comes to toddler tantrums, having a game plan for how you will respond to these outbursts is crucial if you don’t want to encourage such behavior, but as most of us know, those plans sometimes fly right out the window.
“We try to carry on with our lives and reinforce whatever behavior it is that we want her to do and not give her attention for the tantrum. Of course, that sounds so good but when your nerves are already shot and anxiety is already high — everyone in our household has Zoom calls or school, everyone has something — so it’s jarring and nerve-rattling,” said Union. “It’s brain-rattling. It does something to my soul and I basically do the opposite of all of those things.”
And while having a tantruming toddler on your hands can make the most confident parent feel like a failure, it’s necessary to remember that this is a healthy part of a child’s emotional development. Various techniques can help to establish boundaries as children outgrow this phase over time, but it’s something that they will all go through.
“Reporting from the front lines, whether you give them attention, turn your back, whether you ignore it, whether you cry along with them, or if you also want to throw yourself on the floor, nothing is going to change the duration or intensity,” said Gabrielle. “It’s all good until you are actually experiencing it at an inopportune time when you’re already stressed. And you know, I probably gave the side-eye to families of toddlers who were tantruming in Target. Probably, and by probably, I mean absolutely. And now it’s me and I’m like, ‘Have a little compassion.'”
It’s always exciting to connect with other Black mothers because I feel that raising Black children in America is a unique experience and there are some issues to which only other Black parents can relate. And so I asked her about striking balance between providing Kaavia with the best opportunities, educational and otherwise, that money can buy while also placing her in culturally relevant settings where she is not the only Black child.
“If I can count the number of minorities in a whole school, it’s not enough,” said Gabrielle. “When you think about educating the whole child, it’s hard to feel empowered with academia when you feel isolated and you’re the only one. I was talking to my parents about their quest for finding ‘the best’ education. Is ‘the best’ education devoid of all diversity? When your child is the chip in the cookie?”
While she admits that enrolling in predominately white schools and programs was a misstep that she and Dwyane made with their older children during their earlier schooling years, they’ve since learned to take a different path.
“She’s only a year and a half, but what we’re doing with her, is of course correcting the things we didn’t do with the older kids until the last few years. With Kaav, whether it’s a music class, whether it’s swim, whether it’s gym, whether it’s Mandarin, which she was about to start, just making sure that she’s not the only one and not one of two,” Gabrielle expressed. “There is diversity among the children, diversity among the parents, socioeconomic, religion, cultural, race. Maybe it might not be the brand spankingest, newest, hippest, whatever thing that you can read about.”
The”Being Mary Jane” actress went on to share the concept of “chasing the best” came at the expense of their older children’s self-esteem and self-worth.
“To me, we did that — and I mean, you do what you know and what our parents did for us, but there was a lot of ‘chase of the best’ at the expense of their self-esteem and their self-identity, and their sense of community and their sense of self-love. It took years of kind of unlearning.”
Like many Black families, the Wades have recognized that we must re-see and define for ourselves what is considered the best in addition to developing an understanding of what is best for our children in various regards. Thankfully, Dwyane’s stint playing for the Chicago Bulls would be a dramatic turning point for their children.
“When Dwyane was playing for the Bulls that year and they went to Mt. Carmel, it was the first school where they were a third of the population. They had never had real, true equal diversity. And it was an all-boys Catholic school, but just being around empowered educated, sports-minded — just an array of different kinds of young Black men — whether they were into anime or tech stuff, or nothing. Whatever. Just to be able to find yourself amongst yourself and also, being exposed to other communities and other ways of thinking and dealing,” she said. “So for us, was it the hardest private school to get into? The one that has all of the, whatever, the sh-t you’re supposed to cover. What we wanted most from our experience in Chicago was to give our boys community. And they became such confident and empowered, proud young Black men. I definitely do not think they would have made that transition and that evolution into self-love had it not been for a purposeful, conscious, and thoughtful decision.”
To learn more about or to order your copy of Welcome to the Party, click here.