Gabrielle Union has always had people minding her baby business. Whether it was questions about whether she was going to have a child one day, speculation that she was pregnant while undergoing IVF treatment, or sharing in the joy of her and Dwyane Wade’s surrogacy journey when the couple welcomed daughter Kaavia James in 2018, the actress has almost had no choice but to parent publicly. And now that she is, she and Wade have been an open book when it comes to their family structure and raising what they call “free Black children” in every since of the phrase.
As part of that journey, today the couple is releasing their first children’s book, Shady Baby, based off of the nickname of their toddler who, from the outset, never had issues setting boundaries with people. In the book, “shade” is the superpower of the main character, sending an important message to kids that it’s okay to reject behavior from others that you’re not okay with.
“We’re labeled as angry Black girls and women. We’re too sassy or we’ve got attitude or we’re difficult, but not enough is focused on the original offense,” Union tells ESSENCE. “Shade, the reaction, that’s just a reaction to poor behavior.”
While the book is fun and lighthearted, it does teach a serious lesson around boundaries, Union adds. “We thought, we can make shade the superpower and the foundation of the book and then, in turn, make accountability and being corrected something to be celebrated. Taking Ls is something to be celebrated. It doesn’t have to be some dramatic thing that you buck back against.”
That philosophy alone is evidence of the progressive nature of the Wades’ parenting style which Union’s former basketball pro husband shares is intentional. “Whether its Kaav and the way she came in the world to show everybody there’s not just one way. Whether it’s Zaya as well, showing the world there’s not just one way to be, for us, as parents, all we’re doing is sitting back for the first time,” Wade tells us. “We’re looking at our kids, we’re listening to our kids, we’re watching who they want to be and who they become and then we come in and do our parenting thing around that.”
The couple has brought along fans and followers for that journey, which is somewhat of an occupational hazard of being in the public eye. But now that they have an audience, the pair isn’t looking to tell other parents to follow their lead, they’re simply showing them there’s another way.
“We’re all just in there together feeling like we’re on an island by ourselves and we’re just drowning and no one is saving us or even acknowledging that we’re going under,” Union says reflecting on her fertility journey and the impetus for sharing her motherhood experience with the world. “By the time we started the surrogacy journey, I wanted to show people, A, I was really proud of our baby, but also there’s another way. All the ways that I had rejected during this fertility journey, I accepted one and this is the outcome and this is what’s working for our family.”
Check out our full interview with the Wades in the video above.