“My daughter is the greatest gift that God ever gave me. My grandchildren are a close second.”
Iyanifa Ifalade Tashia Asanti lives in Marina del Rey, California. She is an internationally celebrated spiritual teacher, master intuitive, Yemoja Priestess and intuitive healer. The founder of I-Teach Love Institute is also an award-winning author of five books and is working on her first feature film. In an interview with RBGM founder and creator, Dr. LaShawnDa Pittman, Ifalade talks about five of the loves of her life—her daughter Danielle and her four grandsons, Khalil (13), Lavelle (11), Kaelan (9), and Malcolm (6). Ifalade shares that being there for the birth of her oldest two grandchildren and caring for them while their mother was on mandatory bed rest during her third pregnancy were among the most amazing moments of her life. She recalls that it was “incredible to be present and to get to pray them into the world and lift them up before the ancestors and before God and pray for them and give thanks for them.” Infusing her grandsons’ lives with love, sharing with them the Yoruba faith and traditions, and staying connected even as they live in different cities are part of what being a grandmother means to her. This interview oozes Ifalade’s LOVE and commitment to her family and captures the incredible legacy she is leaving through them and through her other endeavors.
For more about Ifalade visit her website at:
Journey to grandmotherhood:
I was living in Colorado and I got to be a big part of the birthing of those two babies [Khalil and Lavelle]. I was actually in the room with her when she was in labor and giving birth to them, which was incredible to be present and to get to pray them into the world and lift them up before the ancestors and before God and pray for them and give thanks for them. In the tradition that I practice, Ifa, we believe that children are the ancestors returning and so we always give thanks and recognize when a child is born that another ancestor has returned.
So, I remember thinking. “Who is this one?” Or. “Who is that one?” Based on how their personalities are we kind of decide which ancestors they represent. It was really incredible. It was a very powerful time for me, a time of coming forth and coming deeper into my own spirit, recognizing my divine feminine and the power therein. I feel like they were born during that period of my life and my daughter’s life of course. That first baby is pivotal because it changes your life. But seeing my daughter now become a parent was very, very sacred and special to me and something that I will always cherish. I got to be there to witness that moment and to see the baby coming into the world. That was so wonderful and such an honor to be present.
The first one she was in a birthing center and it was just a beautiful and peaceful environment. The room was very warm, low lighting, beautiful colors. I brought in meditation music and it was just a beautiful environment. I’m so happy that she was able to give birth in such a nice space. We were laughing and telling birthing stories We still have jokes about when she thought she was going to be able to do natural childbirth, and when the first contraction hit she was like, “Oh, this is nothing ma. I don’t need any type of medication.” But by the time the real contractions hit she’s like, “Mom go get the doctor. I need pain medicine.” So, we always laugh about that.
But to be there and to get to hold her hand and just see her in her strength and her courage and that she was just such a wonderful mother even in that moment before the baby had actually gotten here. She was already to me exhibiting the strength and the courage that I knew she would need to—we didn’t know it was going to be four at that time—but to get through that birth and to get through that journey of motherhood because it is not for the faint of heart.
Being a grandmother:
With Kaelan, the third one, she got a little bit ill and I always say that he was her sit down baby because he forced her to sit down. She actually had to be in the hospital with the third one for 30 days, the final four weeks of her pregnancy. My partner and I we actually took care the first two children for that 30 days that my daughter was in the hospital. That was really, really something because we had to stop our lives and step up and be parents. Do everything from getting up at six in the morning making their breakfast to getting them to school, picking them up from school, fixing their dinner. So, it was really, really an amazing experience for those 30 days and doing everything that parents do. The father was traveling internationally. He had work that he needed to do to sustain their household. So, we just really had to step into place.
But that’s what families do when there is a situation that happens. We have to step forward and we have to step up. So, that when that time came that’s what we did. It was awesome. It was really, really, wonderful and I will never forget being able to wake up and go to sleep with my grandchildren and sit at the breakfast table with them in the morning and share many of the rituals that I shared with my mother. From the foods that she cooked to the conversations that we had, it was just so very beautiful and special. I think that’s part of why I have such a strong bond with them today.
Malcolm, when he was born that fourth one I felt like she was a pro. I think I had moved back to California by then because I was living in Colorado. I think I had moved back to California when she went into labor but she did call and she said, “Mom, I’m going into labor.” Her husband was there with her. She had that last baby by herself, with her husband. When I say by herself meaning mammy wasn’t there.
I had to really trust God because I’m one of those real hands on kind of mothers and grandmothers and I like to be present for all the important moments in my daughter’s life. But she did great. She was a pro by then. She had been through it three times. So, she knew what to expect.
Her mother as a grandmother:
My mother, she is just very nurturing, very maternal, matriarchal spirit and so she is always that calming force in terms of her mothering and grandmothering. She was an artist and a schoolteacher. She started one of the first arts programs in the inner-city of Los Angeles. She used to pull the easel out and put the canvas on the easel and she and my daughter would paint together. That was part of their ritual time and she loved the ministry of food. She really believed in bonding with her children and her grandchildren over food.
She would prepare the meal and part of her grandmothering ritual was to always invite the children to help prepare the meals. Even if it was something as small as peeling the orange or putting the silverware and a napkin on the table and the plate, she taught you the order the silverware was supposed to go in, that kind of thing, very much into etiquette. What was beautiful to me was she always found a way to include the children and the grandchildren and to make them feel invested in that meal preparation or whatever it was we were doing together. She would help my daughter with her homework. She would talk to her about speaking proper English, which was her big thing. You do not mess up the King’s English in my mother’s home.
She adored her granddaughter and my daughter adored her. They had just a very, very special relationship. That had a big influence on me and how I saw my relationships with my grandchildren. I always knew that I wanted to be involved and be around. Of course moving to another state made that a little bit more difficult but thankfully my daughter and I create lots of opportunities for me to spend time with them. The ones that are old enough to have cell phones I have their numbers and I text them and they text me back because we are in a texting era.
I learned something about the importance of living close to your children and your grandchildren and to make that relationship a priority in your life. It is very, very important because there are just moments that you can’t get back that happens to them and it is really important that you are there for their important moments. Or, if there is a situation where your child needs you even though your child is now an adult. But, you want to be present for them. Those are the things to me that are more important than anything, more important than any screenplay or movie or project or anything is my relationship with my daughter and my grandchildren. So, being a very ambitious and Type A personality I had to really think about that as I arranged the priorities in my life, how available I want to be for my daughter and my grandchildren. I realized I want to be very available and very accessible. So, I think that’s important.
I think I had learned some really important lessons. I think that in my mother’s generation there were certain things culturally and family wise that I believed in that I was taught in the way that we function. There was just this knowingness that I felt that when my daughter was with my mother that I didn’t have to worry about anything because I knew that she would protect her with her life. That’s a really wonderful feeling when you know that not only you are safe, but your children are that safe when they are with their grandparents.
Difference between motherhood and grandmotherhood:
My daughter’s children their dad is from Africa. He’s from the Congo, Democratic Republic Congo. They have very strong cultural practices and beliefs and some of those beliefs and practices somewhat conflicted with who I am and how I believe about life. So, I think those things also had an impact on the lessons that I learned as a grandmother. Surrendering and respecting and honoring that my daughter and her husband are the parents that my grandchildren chose from a spiritual perspective.
So, they are in line to have the experiences that are their destiny. So, even if I have my beliefs and my way of being and my way of life I also have to honor the way that they want to raise their children. Of course, I share with my daughter and I talk to her and we talk about how I feel about various ways that they live their life, but at the end of the day those are their children. So, I have to mind my business.
I have to look at the positive and at first coming of course from the background that I came from as a grandmother and a mother it was very hard because my daughter is my world. She is my queen, my princess, that’s my sweetheart. I want her to have everything. Once again we have to as mothers and as grandmothers look at and respect the choices that our children make for their lives. All we can hope for is that our grandchildren grow up in a positive environment and they definitely are in a positive environment with people that are trying to do good things in their lives.
Their father is very smart and very ambitious. My daughter is very smart, very ambitious. She is doing great things in her life. So, they are in a very positive environment. Just because they don’t embrace the spirituality that I practice I had to as a mother and grandmother say, it’s not my right to press that upon them. When I started to respect my daughter’s choices for my grandchildren we started to get along really, really well. When I started to also allow her to come to me and ask for guidance or support or assistance versus just giving her what I thought she should do it also helped our relationship a lot.
Because our natural inclination as grandmothers, because we’ve been through a lot, we’ve seen a lot, we’ve learned a lot is to try to tell our children to do this and that but that’s not our place. Our place when they become adults is to be support, to be present, and to do what we can to help them be successful. Now, if we really feel like they are about to fall in a ditch, of course, we speak up. We are the people that they selected, that our children selected to guide them in life. So, if we really feel like they are making a bad decision or a decision that will cost them later in life that would be the exception, not the rule that we give unsolicited advice.
I think those kind of things have really, really made a difference. We made an agreement early on to never put my grandchildren and the children in the middle of our disagreement. Because they deserve to have the freedom to bond with their grandparents without any of the stuff that we as the adults go through.
To know that my daughter and her husband are creating an environment where her children are thriving and that they feel supported and that they have two good parents that also lets me know that I did something right and my daughter’s father did something right. She is very close to her father as well and so they have their grandmother and their grandfather. The oldest one looks like just like my daughter’s father. I just feel very blessed. They are one of the best things. I always say she is the greatest gift. My daughter is the greatest gift that God ever gave me in my life. But now I have to say my grandchildren are a close second.
Being a priestess grandmother:
I think as a healer and a priestess there are elements to the relationship with my grandchildren that are very sacred because, in my tradition of Ifa, I practice one of our ancestral faiths called Ifa so there are very particular things, specific things, that we do as a priests in the Ifa tradition for our grandchildren, for our descendants. Some of that was difficult for me because there is like a reading, a divination that is cast when a baby is born on the third day that they come to the world. They go and see the chief of the village or the elder in their family and a divination is cast to see their destiny in life ad that is one of the most important things because it gives the parents the insight to know both the blessings and the struggles that this child may face as well as part of what I call a spiritual snapshot, a blueprint of what they have come to the earth to do. When we look at so many people aren’t clear on their destiny and their purpose particularly for people of African descent. Knowing our destiny is key. Knowing the challenges that we will face is key. So, that was really important to me but she did allow me, even though she identifies as a Christian, she did allow me to do those readings for all of the children.
Two of them have Yoruba names and she did get the readings for them and she also allows me to give messages to her because I’m a dreamer and so Spirit often comes to me in dreams. So, she allows me to give her those dreams and she will just say, “Okay mom.” Her Christian practice is not extreme so she does recognize the teachings of the ancestors as positive and she does recognize our African culture as something that is key in nurturing her children. I’m very, very thankful for that. We have a joke whenever she gets in some real trouble she knows how to pick up the phone and say, “Mom, can you do a reading?”
When I visit Colorado often I am doing work for my temple because I have a temple there and several other cities and so she always brings the kids to the temple, which I think is also very special to me. Because it lets me know that she honors what I practice and what our ancestors practice. The kids ask questions about what they see, “What’s that? How come there is candy in a dish over there? Who’s that?” Sometimes they eat the candy, which I don’t mind. It’s real clean, it’s real sweet, and it’s just really good. This journey is just so sacred between the grandparents and the grandchildren.
Fondest grandmother memories:
Every time I see them whenever I get off the plane or whenever I come to their home as soon as they hear my voice they all come charging at me. It’s like a race to see who can get to me first. I tell you there is nothing in this world that feeds me and means more to me than that moment, to be loved in that way and for your grandchildren to be so happy to see you. Because I see some grandmothers who their children and grandchildren aren’t happy to see them, in fact sometimes they dread to see them.
The fact that I have lived my life in a way that my grandchildren run to me and scream, “Granny,” when they see me and almost knock me down. That joy, and that wholeness, and that feeling of love and care and happiness of them and that they as children are that happy and free. That to me lets me know that all the work that I have done as an activist, as a priestess, as a healer and poet, all that work has produced four Black boys that are happy in their soul, which they are.
Other insights—what she wants for her grandchildren long after she is gone?
Definitely that they are positive, that they are protected, that they always have a connection to our ancestral legacy both on the side of my daughter and her husband. They pretty much live in the culture of the father’s practices, but I definitely would like to see them learn more about their Yoruba ancestry. Since my DNA does point to very strong lineage from the Yoruba people. So, I would like to see them really learn about the beauty and the culture and the practices of those people as well.
But also their culture as African Americans because we too have a strong and beautiful and powerful culture of music and literature and brilliance as inventors and all the things that we have done right here in America. The gospel, gospel music, our hair, our bling, our jewelry, our fashion, our language even Ebonics there is art in our Ebonics, our street language. So, I want to see them recognize the power of that legacy, of their African American ancestors and what we fought and died for and what we’ve achieved over this last 100 years. Not just during the civil rights movement, but the brilliance that is us today as African Americans. I would love to know that they embrace all of that.