Any parent who has tried to pick up a toddler when they do that stiff-as-a-board thing knows they are strong as heck. And 2-year-old Kaavia James, the spirited daughter of Gabrielle Union and Dwyane Wade, has an even more impressive strength: throwing shade. And to her parents, this is far more than just a funny trait to use on her Instagram.
“Shade is her superpower, because when Kaavia gives you a look, it’s either you’re not respecting her boundaries or something is happening that she doesn’t like,” Union said in their cover story interview for People. Kaavia’s strong personality is what inspired her parents to write a children’s book about her, Shady Baby, set to be released on May 18.
“The main takeaway is that she’s free to be this amazing, dynamic, shady at times, loving at times, Black little girl when the world has not been so kind to Black girls and women,” Union continued.
“People see themselves in Kaav,” Wade added of his celeb-in-her-own-right kid, who has 1.6 million followers on her own Instagram account. “Some days you don’t feel like doing your hair. And some days you want to give people shade.”
Raising Kaavia, whom the actor and NBA All-Star welcomed via surrogate in 2018, to have a strong sense of self is important to Union.
“I was raised to assimilate,” Union said. “I was raised to conform. But we are raising our kids to know they are worthy because they exist. We don’t want them to ever shape shift for anyone else’s approval or acceptance. We want them to be free to be who they are.”
In addition to Kaavia, Union and Wade are raising Wade’s children from previous relationships — Zaire, 19, Zaya, 13, and Xavier, 7 — and Wade’s nephew, Dahveon, 19.
“We’re raising Black kids and every day in the world, they show us what we’re thought of,” says Wade. “You realize you can’t protect them from everything. The only thing you can do is make sure they go out into the world with all the tools they need.”
“My focus when it comes to any of my kids is to let them know who they are so that when other people’s opinions about them are formed, it’s not hitting them,” Wade told People. “If we allow our kids to be their true selves, we don’t have to worry about them conforming with anything or anyone. Why wouldn’t we push our kids to be their authentic selves?”
Of course, Union and Wade experience the daily, less dramatic parenting struggles like all moms and dads, too. Case in point: potty training Kaavia.
“It’s been a challenge,” said Union of trying to get Kaavia out of diapers. “She’s very strong-willed!”
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While we wait for Shady Baby’s release, read your kids these other books starring girls of color.