Rhonda Ross-Kendrick is one woman who takes pride in everything she does. From portraying notable characters on Another World and The Temptations, to running her own real estate company with husband Ross Kendrick, Rhonda doesn’t settle for less than excellence. In her efforts to be efficient, Ross-Kendrick pushes her son, Raif, to be the best that he can be. At just 3-years-old, the tot already knows how to speak four languages, and may be working on a fifth. Rhonda Ross-Kendrick recently sat down with Mater Mea to talk about her genius in the making and life as a mom who strives for perfection. Check out what the celeb had to say!
On the joys of motherhood and how parenting has changed her life.
“I enjoy watching Raif grow and learn. We threw a lot at him as a newborn, and it’s been so exciting. [Motherhood] didn’t necessarily change how I see the world, but it deepened me and where I am and where I see myself in the world. What I mean by that is my spiritual beliefs have had to become practical. If I believe in ‘do unto others,’ for example, I have to figure out how that looks in practice. How do I teach that practically, how do I exemplify it practically to this child that is copying everything I do and learning way more from what I do than what I say?
The other part that’s changed [is that] the minute I got pregnant with Raif and then had a newborn in my life, I realized how hard this job is. I always wanted to be a parent, I love children, so I was very critical about how people did it. I was judgmental. And literally the minute this kid came into my life, I said, ‘This thing is too hard. I’m doing the best I can, I’m going to assume you’re doing the best you can too.’ My judgments went out the window. That doesn’t mean I agree with everything, because I clearly don’t, but boy do I get we’re all out here trying to figure this thing out.”
Raif and his ability to speak four languages.
“I have so many reasons that we’re doing this, but one of them is that I want him to be able to walk the world and be comfortable wherever he is [and] be comfortable in his skin. I want him to be able to communicate with people without demanding that they come to him, like so many Americans do…I know I want to raise a child who follows his own compass; I know I want that, and yet I want him to understand how the world works at the same time. What I want to steer clear of are some of the self-imposed limitations to that. ‘Oh, well you’re black so you can’t do that.’
I really believe there’s a new generation of kids that get the concept of perspective. They get that I can call this “water,” and you can call it “agua,” and someone else can call it “l’eau,” and It’s still water: We don’t have to go to war about it. [Along those same lines], your perception of and relationship to God can be yours and mine can be mine… and we don’t have to go to war about it! There’s an understanding of “perspective” that happens when you speak more than one language where you can understand that.”
The road to teaching Raif French, Mandarin, Spanish and, of course, English.
“I speak French; I learned it as a teenager. It’s been a blessing in my life and I thought [that] I’d like to give that to my child someday. [When Raif was] around 5 months old, after giving him baby sign language, we started to give him French. Then I hired a part-time French-speaking babysitter. He was clearly starting to understand the French, and then we’d started early reading with him. He was really young — like before he could crawl at 7 months, he was seeing the word ‘clap’ and clapping. He was recognizing the word ‘head’ and touch his head.”
Keeping a balance between Raif’s ethnicity and acquired language skills.
“[My husband and I] think about this all the time. I’m figuring the balance day by day because I also want him to fit in in the middle of Harlem. I know [black Americans] of all people have the ability to code switch; we know how to do this here and do that there. Then the question is, you do that, but [then who is your true self]? I love the idea of [Raif] walking the world — Beijing, Paris, Madrid — and he doesn’t need a translator, he can walk that soil. But he can also walk Harlem and 125th Street and know how to speak that language [through] his body language, his everything else. That’s my husband’s job (laughs).”
How Rhonda spends “Mommy and Me” time.
“We’re big music people so he’s becoming a big singer. We sing together, we love to do that. We read together. We like to play in the park. This summer, we did a lot of swimming, that was really fun for us. We do what’s very typical mom and kid stuff, but we just do it in different languages!”
Raif is Rhonda and husband Rodney Kendrick’s only child together. The couple wed over 15 years ago.
Photos: J. Quazi King for Mater Mea