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What Raising Kids In SoCal Really Looks Like

Shammeer Dawson

A selfie shows Shammeer Dawsome with a wide smile, hoop earings and cornrow braids worn over one shoulder.
(Shammeer Dawson for LAist)
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Shammeer Dawson

Hawthorne • Mother, social worker and blogger living with lupus

Lives with Taj (8), Shelora (6), Ronn and Rome (3-year-old twins)

Shammeer's kids eat food at a diner.
(Shammeer Dawson for LAist)
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Denny’s on Hawthorne Boulevard: “The waiters know us very well and waitresses, I should say. And they usually eat pancakes, nuggets, oatmeal, fries, burgers. It's a gamut of things. I do not order anything."

I usually eat their scraps, because I'm too busy assisting. I don’t have a comfortable meal.
— Shammeer Dawson
About Parenting, Unfiltered
  • We gave point-and-shoot film cameras to 12 Southern California parents of young children and invited them to document their lives in the Fall of 2019.

  • Join this group of families, from South Los Angeles to the San Fernando Valley and San Bernardino, as they show us what parenting really looks like, through their eyes.

Participatory Parent Photo Project: Shameer
(Shammeer Dawson for LAist)

“My husband passed away in 2018...My oldest has experienced a lot of bargaining. ‘I wish Daddy was here...I want Daddy to be with me. I wish — it's a lot of wishing with him. ‘If I had three wishes,’ he told me, ‘My first wish is to have all my wishes come true.’

“Smart kid.

‘My second wish is to have daddy back and to have superhero powers.'

“That's always his wishes if you ask him.”
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Participatory Parent Photo Project: Shameer
(Shammeer Dawson for LAist)

“My daughter has hair just like me. And we spend time together a lot. When I do her hair it takes about two hours to do her hair. It's very coarse, very curly, and it gets dry. So I like for her to have her hair moisturized… The rest of the time, combing is the most difficult time for her because she's always asking me if I'm done and that I'm hurting her.”
Participatory Parent Photo Project: Shameer
(Shammeer Dawson for LAist)

“So Rome. He loves race cars. He loves red cars. And Ronnie. He likes emergency vehicles. He likes excavators and trucks.”

In May, Minneapolis police killed George Floyd and global protests of systemic racism followed.

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“My children are aware of many issues. I keep an open dialogue about the truth and realities in life. They are aware of racism, the mistreatment, and disparities...In saying that, it is difficult to articulate to my aspiring police that the police are making sure the city is safe from rioters and people are protesting because officers killed a man.

I have to reframe my thoughts and structure a thoughtful and appropriate response to keep my children's love for law enforcement. My message is you are safe and you are beautiful.
Participatory Parent Photo Project: Shameer
(Shammeer Dawson for LAist)

“I have a chronic condition called lupus ... I'm just showing you guys that even though I'm a mom of four children, and I have to take out time for myself to make sure I am well. I've pushed back this endoscopy due to my husband's passing, due to me having twins. This was a long overdue endoscopy … And it just reminds you, when you go through something like that this reminds you how fragile life is especially after experiencing a very devastating loss and how important it is to be very vigilant about caring for yourself.”
Participatory Parent Photo Project: Shameer
(Shammeer Dawson for LAist)
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Their expressions show excitement. It shows curiosity and engagement with the rest of the world.

“We get our groceries through me going to the store, sometimes by myself or with children. I prefer by myself so I can focus and not deal with interactions of ‘I want this. I want that.’”

And since the start of the pandemic…

“The school’s giving out lunches. ... I’ve been going to the food banks at St. Margaret Center and Hope Chapel in Hermosa Beach. And I have an abundance of food, thank God. And what I feel like I really need right now is a therapist to get through the days with the stress and the overwhelming sense of just disbelief.”
Participatory Parent Photo Project: Shameer
(Shammeer Dawson for LAist)

“I know they're eating good because they've got some happy feet.”

“I've been feeling irritable, loved, impatient and compassionate. It's a whole range of feelings, both good and bad. The stress level is high and my biggest concern is that I want to be whatever I can for my kids, but I don't think I can do that...I don't think I can fit that mold. I want to be the homeschool mom. I want to be the innovative thinker, creating all types of science projects and games for them to play, when I just want to lay down and go to sleep.

“It seems like I struggle every moment of my life with trying to figure out what to do with kids or my body, or the time and just take a moment with myself in the bathroom, in my tub with hot water and ice is my favorite thing to do when I'm extremely stressed...I just wanted to show being alone is okay. But regrouping is better.”
Participatory Parent Photo Project: Shameer
(Shammeer Dawson for LAist)
Participatory Parent Photo Project: Shameer
(Shammeer Dawson for LAist)

“I have four children, two of them are in elementary [school]. The other two are preschoolers in the Early Head Start program. My two children are learning Spanish and I am a non-native speaker and I’ve been trying to implement their Spanish in everything that we do from the day we wake up. I’ll tell them what the day is in español. We’ll watch YouTube videos of sílabas y lecturas.

“It all is very peaceful and very chaotic at the same time, but as parents, we do find our peace in the chaos.”