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Mendeecees and Judy

Source: VH1 / Viacom

Did anybody else feel really sad for Mendeecees after watching Family Reunion: Love and Hip Hop Edition last night (March 8)?

There was a moment during the episode, at a Bible study Scrappy randomly put together for the cast, where Mendeecees tried to offer a testimony of his experiences and how God brought him through. We, of course, know that Mendeecees has gone through a lot, most recently serving around five years in prison away from his wife and children for drug trafficking. But his testimony revealed just how rough and really, scary, his life had been — including his childhood. It took a lot for him to get up and share his story, admitting he felt like he didn’t fit in, but he was compelled to speak up. He noted that he’d been shot twice, stabbed 13 times and his son was targeted for kidnapping due to his involvement in drug dealing.

“I was groomed to be a drug dealer before I was taught to learn how to read and write,” he said in his confessional. “I had no father figure in my life. I had no role models. The only role models I ever had was people in the streets.”

When he went further back in his life and touched on how as a child he went hungry at times, his mother interjected with a confused tone, “Why is that?”

Mendeecees didn’t say that he lived a certain way because of his mother’s negligence, but she took it as such. Her desire for answers when he was just trying to tell his truth flipped the conversation upside down. He responded hesitantly with “You want me to say it?” and “I don’t want to say it.” But she pressed him because she felt insulted, so he was honest about her not always being there when he was growing up. She responded by getting up and standing next to him during the conversation, which definitely came off more as an intimidation tactic than support.

When he mentioned that he and his brother would be left in the house for days by themselves, she asked “Where was grandma?” but didn’t speak to where she was at. And when he said that they had to ask their neighbors for food sometimes, Judy interjected and said, “Let me take it from here,” causing the two to bicker in front of their co-stars.

“You told me to talk!” Mendeecees said, to which Judy replied, “Mendeecees, you have to know when to chill.”

In her confessional, Judy expressed her shock at Mendeecees’ revelation about going hungry as a kid, saying there was so much food in their home he could have fed other kids. “I don’t know where that came from,” she said. She was bothered that he shared his recollection of things publicly, but not privately with her. In her anger, she made the whole testimony about her.

“All I see is my son talking about my trials and tribulations,” she told the group. “I don’t have nothing to prove. What I been through? I had my time out here in the streets. My children are my inspiration to life. If it wasn’t for my children I wouldn’t be here to tell this story as he’s talking this story.”

It’s not hard to understand why Judy may have felt a bit stung by that moment. People don’t like to feel like they’re being put on blast, that they’re parenting is being questioned, and they certainly don’t like their business in the streets. But based on the fact that he never came to her before to share his feelings about his childhood as she mentioned, it’s telling of the fact that he didn’t think she would be open to supporting him in bringing it to her. Her reaction to his testimony proves that she definitely wouldn’t have been.

There are many parents out there who would like to believe that just because you’re alive and doing well for yourself, that means that despite any hiccups here and there, you had an impeccable upbringing. You had everything you needed, and that’s enough. So when you try to be honest about perhaps the sadness you felt, mental illness, loneliness and the like, they take it as a personal attack and a twisting of the truth. It’s your truth though.

Erica Dixon shared an example of that later in the episode during a conversation with Yandy Smith. Her mother was on drugs during her childhood, and that exposed her to a lot of things that impacted the way she chose to raise her own daughter Emani. Erica recounted a time when her now sober mother tried to tell her what her hardest moment was as a kid. It was understandably insulting to the reality personality.

And even in my own childhood, which involved being raised in a two-parent home with a number of siblings, there were moments that really stuck with me in a negative way. My parents would argue all of the time (they still do, but you didn’t hear that from me), which shook my sense of peace as a kid. I would literally stand in the room they were arguing in out of the hope that it would get them to stop. When they didn’t get along, they wouldn’t speak for days, weeks at times, leaving one to feel as though they were walking on eggshells. They would even come to our sporting events and sit in separate sections when they weren’t in a good place. It was not the best example of a healthy relationship.

There was a chance to speak to a counselor at my elementary school about anything you may be dealing with as a kid, and I wanted to relieve myself of the sadness over my parents’ constant fights. When I asked for permission to take part, my mother was offended.

“You need to see a counselor for what?” she asked me.

“You know…you and dad arguing…” I said, showing her the pamphlet from school.

“You think you’re the only person going through something?” she replied, going into a spiel about how everyone in the house had been through a lot. I took away from the conversation that I couldn’t speak to anyone about what I was going through — including her.

Parents, no matter how old you get, tend to have a hard time taking in what you say you experienced, assuming every negative memory is a rebuke of their parenting as a whole. That’s not the case. And that’s what Mendeecees was trying to make clear when his mother took over his testimony. The things he’d been through made him into the better person he is now. The fact that Judy was hurt by the slight mention of him and his brother going hungry occasionally left him regretful that he said anything at all, which was disappointing to hear.

“I wasn’t trying to embarrass her,” he said in his confessional, noting that he should have just stayed quiet. “I was just telling my testament of what I’ve been through.”

Mendeecees inevitably prioritized his mother’s feelings and uplifted her in front of the group, telling her that he was proud of how far she’d come from the teen mom she was.

“You’re strong. You bounced back! I’m proud of you!” he said emphatically. “That was then, now is now! So don’t be ashamed of that.”

And perhaps that’s really what that sharp response our parents have when we share a less than pleasant memory is about. It’s about the guilt. That’s why they shut down. The guilt of knowing that despite their best attempts, there were moments where, perhaps, the ball was dropped, the support wasn’t there, or feelings were hurt. And yes, those moments stuck with their children. But the truth that Judy and other mothers and fathers need to understand is that the type of parent you were or that you are overall, is not based on an oversight. And more importantly, the child, whether young or a grown man like Mendeecees, doesn’t need an apology. What they need is a simple acknowledgment — not that they were wronged by their parent, but at least, that what they felt and went through actually happened and is worth more than a knee-jerk reaction from the person in their life who means the most.

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