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A person. A photo. A story.
This week: Bettie on Momma Shoes

“Being a parent to an 18 month old, I realize that you have to stay close to home to parent your child. You can’t parent your child while you are out of the house from when it is dark in the morning until when it is dark at night. My partner and I made a sacrifice, so I work full-time while he takes care of our daughter. I realize that not everyone can do that, but when you’re never at home, kids are forced to take care of themselves and then they mature faster.

“Today, I see so many of these kids out here as mini-adults. Back when I was a kid, when the street lights came on, I had to be home. These days, kids are just starting to hang out when the lights go down. It’s sad, because these kids won’t realize that youth is supposed to be fun and innocent. They don’t know that once you grow up, that is it. Life is less about fun, and more about responsibility.

“I grew up my whole life in Penn Branch SE, and I am raising my daughter there now. When I am not working, I spend as much time with my daughter as I can. I want to show her the city that I love so much and make her feel a sense of responsibility for it. As a kid, my parents went to the civic association meetings and would man the polls during elections. That was important to them. It is important to me to contribute, and I want it to be important to my daughter. In life, you have to be aware of your surroundings and work to make change. If your school isn’t getting enough money or new things are moving into your neighborhood, do something about it. You can’t be angry about something if you didn’t do anything to change it.

“I also want her to love all of the beautiful things in this city. Look at all of the amazing museums and buildings in our backyard. Kids from cornfields all around America have bake sales to raise money and come to our city. Where else does that happen? Our kids can get on a public bus and go see it.

“When she gets older, I will tell her about how happening this city is. Now, people talk about the Real Housewives of D.C. and the Salahis to try and make people from the outside believe that D.C. is happening. Come on, if you are from D.C., you always knew that it was happening. This has always been the city of sex, drugs, and intrigue. It is the home of government, for goodness sake. Everybody from every state and their entourage is up in here. Trust me, there were Salahis long before there were the Salahis. We used to have all kinds of underground clubs and stuff. The difference was that we didn’t talk about these things. Now, I just have to laugh because they put this on TV, and everyone assumes that D.C. is only now a hip and cool place to be.

“Just as I want to teach my daughter about things, she teaches me. Parenting can be frustrating, but it teaches me to separate what I need from what I want. I always think about things in terms of food and clothes for my daughter, and can’t justify spending all of this money on myself. The thing is that I don’t really miss all of that stuff. Now, I wear Momma shoes because they are durable and I can take them to the office. No more hooker shoes. Now, I like to stay home and watch movies rather than go to some mega-theater with stadium seating. I have learned that you have to appreciate the little stuff.

“To me, all of the sacrifices are worth it. I realize that we only have a short time together in life. There are people who lose their children at birth or only keep them until 21. While she is so young, she loves me unconditionally, and I am her everything. Once she starts talking back and developing her own peer group, I will be important to her, but I will not be as important as I used to be. So, I need to make my influence as hard and as fast as I can right now. I have to. It is my job to teach my daughter right and wrong because if something ever happens and she gets in trouble, first thing that people will do is look at the parents. Nobody asks about the neighbors or the schools, they ask, ‘well, what kind of mother was she?” I can tell you that you are never going to hear someone say that about my baby.”

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“Danny Harris is a DC-based photographer and collector of stories. In September, he launched People’s District, a blog that tells a people’s history of DC by sharing the stories and images of its residents. Every day, People’s District presents a different Washingtonian sharing his or her insights on everything from Go Go music to homelessness to fashion to politics. Every Thursday he’ll share a favorite story with us”

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