Please sleep little boy and my Mother in-law

My son has decided that sleep is no longer his friend. I really thought we were over this!  He is 3 years-old and has been sleeping in his room for a while now.  What has happened in my universe that this child no longer wants to sleep at night.  Doesn’t he know I’m already stressed enough?  Doesn’t he know that I need to blog about my life to stay sane?  I mean, REALLY!?! It has been 3 days now and I refuse to let him sleep in my bed.  I’m sorry, call me the mean mother if you want, but I nursed my son for 12 months and we co-slept and for that whole year, I did not have one restful night of sleep. I think I’ve paid my dues and I’m allowed to sleep in my bed alone without being kicked in the face. Unfortunately, I have resorted to sitting on the floor of his room, which seems to calm him down (I can’t stand for any of my children to cry themselves to sleep, NO JUDGEMENT THOUGH) until he goes to sleep. It takes all of 10-15 minutes, but I just don’t get what has changed for him. Hmm…maybe, it is because we have a guest here in our home right now?

My mother in-law is here.  I use to dislike this woman with a passion. I mean, I really didn’t like her. There are no words to express how much we probably didn’t like one another.  I believe the majority of our issues stemmed from a difference in culture.  My mother in-law is Jamaican (fresh from the yard).  She has not been Americanized at all.  So much so that as I type this, I am really typing it in a Jamaican accent.  I have this weird thing that I do when I get around people who have accents.  I tend to take on the accent.  It’s a bit embarrassing, but I can’t help myself.  So, we started our relationship about 8 years ago with really not liking each other.  I think that I didn’t show her the proper respect that she deserved.  I’m just being truthful about it.  I think I saw her as someone who knew my husband better than me, who could cook the food he liked better than me, and who was essentially trying to take over my house. On top of that, she is just a hard woman (you’re not going to get many smiles out of her).  I think she saw me as young, an American, and arrogant.  Being humble is very important in the Jamaican culture.  In fact, it is one of the things that my husband admired about me, but women sometimes don’t show each other that side of themselves and that is where the conflict begins.

Today, I love her with all of my heart.  It took me having my daughter child to really understand her. When she first came to the United States, I was pregnant and lost a child. She came to me and told me I would get over it. I thought that was the most evil thing a person could say to a woman who had just miscarried at 14 weeks, but looking back, I know that her intent was not to hurt me.  She was trying to console me, but at that time, we spoke different languages.  I didn’t get her and she did not get me. I have come to love her as I love my own mother and that is without conditions. When my mother couldn’t be there for my thyroid surgery, she came to my home and cared for my children so my husband could be by my side.  She has prayed for me. She has talked me through some rough times. She has been my ally on certain situations with my husband. She is someone that truly cares about my family and making sure that it stays whole. There are no words to express the gratitude I have in my heart for my husband’s mother. I am so thankful for all that she sacrificed as a single mother of 4 boys working 2 jobs just to get by. A mother will sacrifice herself to make sure her children have it and at the end of it all, the least I can do is show her the utmost respect for giving life to such an awesome father and okay husband, just kidding, he’s alright as husband.

I think she can tell how much I care because she is not that same hard woman I met 8 years ago.  We talk now and she laughs with me.  I sometimes can even get her to crack a smile.  On top of all of that, she is helping me plan a huge surprise for my husband. We (mostly her) are going to cook some of his favorites and freeze them for him, so he can enjoy his mother’s cooking when he gets home.  How awesome is that!?!  I CANNOT WAIT TO SEE HIS FACE!!!!!!

 

The absurdity of a play room

My mother is here visiting me.  She has been here for about 3 days now and I have enjoyed her company.  I always find it interesting to watch her watch me as a parent.  I can only imagine what it must feel like for her and it makes my heart smile that I often see pride in her eyes.  Of course, my children were angels for the first 2 days.  They were polite and respectful.  They were concerned about her and wanted to make sure she was included in all our family activities.  The first 2 days made me feel like moving to California was the best thing that ever happened to us because now they get to have a real relationship with my mother, their grandmother. It was all great until…today.

My children woke up in rare form this morning.  “The boy” wanted to be held all morning and “the girl” just seemed overly emotional.  I got my children to calm down and started to prepare their clothes and lunches for the day while they played in the play room.  Well, the emotional roller coaster they were on this morning started back up quite quickly when “someone” spilled milk everywhere.  I asked who did it, and first there was silence and then there was the blame game.  I don’t get mad for accidents, but I think it is important that they learn to clean up their own messes, so I gave them both rags to clean up the mess and I don’t know what I was thinking because “the boy” fell on the ground acting like he was having a seizure and “the girl” started stomping all over the floor as if there were ants on the ground to be killed.  Instead of me freaking out and yelling at these lovely gifts that I have been given, I told them to sit in “time out” until I was done cleaning up the milk mess that was slowly spreading all over everything.  I don’t know why I sent them to time out considering that time out is right across from the guest room in my home, which is where my mother sleeps.

Obviously, my mother woke up and she was not too happy about the whole thing.  I really didn’t want to make eye contact with her because although my mother may have spanked me once or twice in my life, I know she is not a fan of “time out”. She looked at “the boy” and “the girl” on the steps and told them that they needed to be more appreciative of all that their parents do for them.  She went on to tell them that when she was growing up, she didn’t have a play room, park, or toys to play with and that she had to make her own toys.  What I took away from her lecture were a few sentences that I had never heard her say in my life, which were:

When I was growing up, we couldn’t go to the regular park. We had to go to the Black park and it was not nice.  My mother didn’t have money for toys, so outside was our toy

The funny thing is that my mother never spoke about segregation or Jim Crow to me.  Of course, she had to have gone through it because she is from New Orleans, LA and was born in 1945.  I thought about what she must think about this whole room I have in my house that is totally dedicated to toys and the children having fun.  It must seem absurd, right?!? A whole room full of toys…

Never mind how I discipline my children because after everything was said and done, my mother told me that she was proud I didn’t just hit them because it teaches them to think.  I was kind of shocked by that, but I wanted to ask her more about what it was like for her as a little girl and if she thought that play room was absurd. I didn’t ask, but I might ask tomorrow.

 

Enough with the race stuff, back to being just a MOM

Two things that don’t mix:  Potty training the boy and My little girl being sick

I’m a bit embarrassed to write that my 3 year-old son is not quite potty trained.  I didn’t think much of it until I moved here to California.  It seems here that the children come out of the womb potty trained.  I mean, the kids are like 12 months old at the park walking to the bathroom by themselves.  They can’t even talk, but their going to the potty.  Of course when I saw this, I made a point to hide my son’s diaper whenever we would go places and then got on the ball with potty training.  His late induction into the potty training game is not totally my fault.  It is delayed for a couple of reasons.  One reason is that I tried a little before he turned 2, but was so traumatized after he picked up his boo boo from the pot and threw it across the room that I had to stop for a bit.  Another reason is because we moved here to California and my husband thought it would unwise for us to potty train him when we were going to spend such long days on the road.  Did I mention we drove from NC to CA in separate cars? It took us 6 days to get here and I think he was right in delaying the potty training. Fast forward to today and now I’ve (not us) got a kid speaking in complete sentences who can’t use the potty.

The first week was HORRIBLE!  He simply didn’t get it and honestly I don’t know what to tell him about his equipment. I’m not a boy and my husband is away.  I didn’t know if he should sit down or stand.  I didn’t know how to explain to him to just let it go.  It was a mess.  He kept peeing on the floor and I thought maybe my whole Zen vibe I was giving him was not enough for him to get the picture, so I started being more firm, like the Russian chick at the park told me.  Yes, I took advice from some random lady at the park, but her son was potty trained.  She told me to get these training pants (not underwear) from the Walmart and follow them up with the old school diaper liners, so like cloth diapers, but training pants. She also told me that when her son had an accident, she just let him sit in his stuff for a while and then he finally got the picture.  Well, the only good advice I got from the Russian lady was the cloth training pants because EVERYTHING else backfired. He didn’t care that he was sitting in his own “stuff”, he just kept right on playing.  He could have cared less about the potty, so finally I woke up one day and made up a character called Mr. Potty.  I can’t believe my life has come to this.  Mr. Potty has a distinct voice and he loves it when you give him something.  There are days I can’t believe this is my life.  Anyway, Mr. Potty was a hit and we have gone 3 whole days without an accident even when we leave the house.  Those cloth training pants were the best thing ever because now he feels when he’s had a bit of an accident and runs to see Mr. Potty.

So life is good, my son is finally going to the potty and now I can be a cool Mom on the playground. Of course, as Murphy’s Law would have it, just as we get the potty training on the road, my daughter gets sick. GREAT! Potty training and the cold just don’t mix.  My daughter is a diva and my potty voice is just another way I’m giving her brother more attention than her, so she has requested that I make her a sick voice.  I can’t with these two.  I offered to cuddle with her on the couch and even came up with the grand idea to make her chicken soup. Of course, she reminded me that her father makes chicken soup better and while at the store buying the things for the chicken soup, she informed me that she must have potatoes in her soup like her Dad makes it.  I really wanted to tell this child that her daddy wasn’t here, but I bought the potato anyway.  I was so proud of myself.  I’m even going to insert a pic.

photo 1 photo 2

So, the kids ate my soup, but they did not eat it without reminding me that their father makes soup better.  I almost want to scream sometimes, but I love that they love him and that’s the only positive thing I have to write about that.

I guess it didn’t dawn on me that the broth from the soup would have my son on and off the potty the rest of the night.  I usually cut him off around 6 p.m. for this reason. Does anyone else have a son who literally seems to be in deep thought every time they go to use the potty? There is a whole process to him using the potty. Meanwhile, my daughter needs a cuddle and my son is yelling for Mr. Potty to come look at what he’s done.  Oh my, what a night.  I cannot wait until my husband gets home.  By the way, he called in the midst of the madness and quickly got off the phone, but he did send a text about 30 seconds later saying, “I love you!”.  He better!

Racism aside…everything is going well

The incident that happened last week at the school has made a lasting impression on my daughter and I believe my household. I don’t know why, but I just did not expect it to happen so early and not here in California.  I’m originally from California and NEVER experienced any type of colorism or racism.  I spent about 10 years in the South and I believe I had experienced prejudice, but it was kind of blatant, like people ignoring you and not acknowledging your presence. Also, I had more positive experiences with White people than I have ever had in the South, so I have been sitting here thinking about what is the issue here.

First, let me say that the school my daughter goes to handled the situation quite well.  The day after my daughter was told she couldn’t play because she was Black by another little girl on the playground, a conference was held with the little racist child’s parents, she was made to write a letter saying she was sorry, and they also made her come up to me and apologize for hurting my daughter.  I thought that it was a great way to show my daughter that the little racist child was wrong; however, I thought it was overkill.  I jokingly call this little girl, “little racist child”, but she was only doing what she has either heard or seen.  I didn’t think she should apologize to me.  I thought her coward parents should have come to me and apologized, but that won’t happen because they are coward racist parents.  The funny thing is that my daughter and her are becoming fast friends and playing together, so I guess racism aside, everything appears to be going well. Go figure.

So…what is the issue here in this little California town?  Why do I feel so uncomfortable here as opposed to where I just moved from?  I believe the answer is that although California may seem progressive, it is not as diverse as people would believe it to be.  I just moved from the South, but my neighbors were White, Black, and Jewish. They were not the type of neighbors you just wave at from time to time.  My neighbors were people I actually spoke to from time to time and genuinely cared about.  I have noticed that this city is overwhelmingly segregated.  I finally found the Black people here and they live in apartments very close to the mall.  The Hispanics live there too.  In my neighborhood, which is all single family homes, there are very few Hispanics and Blacks, a conservative amount of Asians and Indians, and overwhelmingly White (about 67%). The issues here could be more about class and less about race, but segregation could be the root to the problem.

I must point out that I didn’t grow up a fan of Martin Luther King Jr.  I was raised by a Sunni Muslim father who had just left the Nation of Islam and he kept a great deal of his “Black supremacist” ways of thinking even though he was an Orthodox Muslim.  Yes, I grew up singing songs about the White man being the devil.  I also grew up spending weekends holding a sign that read “DON’T KILL YOUR BABIES” in front of an abortion clinic. Anyway, I knew very little about Martin Luther Kings Jr. because he was not celebrated in the private school I went to and at home we focused most on “revolutionaries”.  Looking back, my childhood was quite comical.  I had a Christian mother who was quite passive, but quick to throw a jab at how lowdown some Black people could be and a father who firmly believed that the social ills that plagued Black people were the dirty work of the White man.  I was confused to say the least, but it gave me  an incredible amount of insight on race and religion.  I’m going off topic, but  what I want to point out is that I am now a fan of Martin Luther King Jr. I always saw integration as something that tore down the Black community growing up, but as an adult I can understand the logic in segregation being wrong.

Obviously, no one is outright telling people that they can’t live in one area over the next, but because everyone is sectioned off in their own parts of this city, individuals are not seeing one another as human beings. When your neighbors look just like you, thinks like you, and prays like you, anything other than what you perceive as “normal” is wrong, especially when the images coming from the television portray another race as criminal, hyper-sexual,  an unintelligent.

I’ll give a personal example, when I was deploying to go to Iraq there was a girl in our unit that I became quite close with.  She was a nice person.  I hurt my leg while I was at the mobilization site and ended up on crutches.  This girl helped me to no end. One day, we are walking to the dining facility and she says, “I have something I need to tell you because I’m tired of lying to you”. Of course, I told her that she could share anything with me because we were “battle buddies”.  Well, she tells me that she is gay.  I had never met a gay person before in my life.  At that point in my life, I was very much against homosexuality and anyone who supported it.  It was ungodly to me because that is what I was taught.  When she told me that, it took my breath away and I felt incredibly conflicted because how could I view someone as a friend that I firmly believed was going to burn in hell.  Quite quickly I had to rethink all that I had believed because now I had a face, deeds, heart and soul attached to homosexuality.  My views no longer applied to “them”.  My views now had a name and a face of someone I knew would give their life for me if it came down to it when we crossed over to Iraq.  I finally found the humanity. We are still friends to this very day.

I know some people won’t agree with that, but the same thing happens with race.  It is quite easy to hate what you don’t know.  It is quite easy to stereotype what you believe to be true on television. Remember, I don’t exist in real life.  My family and its dynamic are not shown on television, so what can I expect from my ignorant neighbors?  I believe this is the point where I have to (even though I don’t want to) have amazing strength and put myself out there, like my friend did, and show the humanity of me and my family.  All Black mothers are not like those women on the Real Housewives of Atlanta or Basketball Wives.

I’m having a play date tomorrow with one of the mom’s and her daughter from my daughter’s class. We will see how it goes. Hopefully, it goes well and I’ll make an acquaintance or even a friend, but at the very least I am making an effort.

First Days of School

My daughter has entered the world of Kindergarten and I am not happy about it.  I imagined that this milestone would be a welcoming break for me, but it has not turned out that way.  I just don’t understand the concept of dropping your child off with strangers. Like, I don’t drop anything that I consider valuable off with a stranger, so what’s the deal with school being that way.  I mean, why can’t I do a background, credit, or education check on these people. I totally get why a child would cry on the first day of school because I cried the whole way home after dropping my daughter off.

The first day of school was an orientation day. I learned absolutely nothing on the orientation day.  I kept looking at the door for the other little Black child to join in on the new school year.  After about 20 minutes, I realized that my daughter was the little Black child and I kind of panicked.  I don’t know why I panicked because she has ALWAYS been the only Black child (or Brown as she often reminds me), but I got this pain in my chest and had visions of grabbing her and running out of that classroom saying, “HELL NO, WE WON’T GO”.  I know, I’m being dramatic, but I have no idea what it feels like to be in her shoes and I question our (my husband and I) decision to put her through this lifestyle.  I mean, isn’t it a choice?

I should not have such tunnel vision.  The school is nice. It is a diverse school, but for some reason the diversity does not include people that look like me.  The teacher is firm and very welcoming.  She recognized that my daughter was advanced and on the 2nd day of school we spoke about strategies to help my daughter progress.  She brought up moving her to the 1st grade, something we discussed during the assessment, but I’m not going to push her ahead because I know she is ready academically, but not ready socially.  I was skipped in elementary school and it was quite easy in the classroom, but very hard on the playground and that was a private school.  I can’t even begin to imagine what it would be like at a public school.

So…my daughter has been in school for about a week now and she has not learned a thing. I have not stopped crying and lingering after the classroom door is closed.  I’m having some separation issues and I plan to be in that classroom anytime I can.  In this area, Kindergarten is only for 4 hours and I have basically looked at this school as a way for her to socialize.  We are still working at home on her phonics, reading comprehension, mathematics, science, and I’m thinking of adding some real life art. She catches on to everything quite fast.  I find it kind of fascinating, so we’ve started teaching her about the Presidents. She has already memorized the first 4 Presidents and what they are known for.  I’m proud of her and I feel better knowing that she is quite secure in her ability to do things at school.  I hope that her being secure will allow her to be confident in other areas…like being the only one that looks like her and realizing that her skin color doesn’t matter.  Thankfully, a little girl in her class was just as shy as she was and they have become fast friends.  I have a feeling I am going to be asked for a play date, let’s see how that goes.

It Happened…

It happened…

Today was an off day for me.  Have you ever just felt like something wasn’t aligning itself right?  I just could not seem to shake this uneasy feeling I had gotten up with this morning.  The uneasiness lasted until about the time I went to pick up my daughter from school and just as I was beginning to relax a bit, the teacher informed me that she would need to speak to me after she dismissed everyone.  I was a bit confused because my daughter is awesome.  I know most people say that about their children, but my daughter really is awesome.  She is a good kid.  She follows the rules.  She is smart and sweet.  She is the classic first born child, a real overachiever.  So, imagine my surprise that my well mannered child was a topic to be discussed after school with the teacher.  I guess I must have given the teacher a look because she quickly followed her announcement up with, “oh, Olivia is always a joy…this isn’t anything to do with her behavior”.  I was relieved, but at the same time I could not imagine what we needed to discuss and patiently waited until the teacher was finish dismissing her class.

I came into the classroom with my daughter, son and the teacher.  The uneasiness that I had felt earlier returned and instantly I felt a bit guarded.  The teacher looked pained in the face and I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I thought I saw sadness. Here is how the conversation went from that point on:

Teacher:  Mrs. H, I called you in here because there was an incident on the playground today with a student using a racial slur towards Olivia.

Me: (Silence)

Teacher:  While Olivia was out on the playground, one of the little girls excluded her from a game and told her that she could not play because she was Black.

Me: (Silence)

Teacher:  One of the teacher’s heard what was going on and quickly got me. I reprimanded the child and she received a colored slip informing her parents of her behavior.  There will also be a parent conference with her father in the morning regarding this issue.  Mrs. H, in all my years here, I have never heard or witnessed something like this happen and I am truly sorry.  Olivia is such a beautiful, smart, and sweet little girl and I am so sorry.  This type of behavior is not tolerated in my classroom and I don’t think for one minute that this little girl picked it up on her own.  Language and behavior like that is taught in the home and I will inform the parents that I will not tolerate that type of behavior in my classroom.

Me:  How was Olivia? Did she cry?  Was she hurt?

Teacher: No. She did not cry.  She continued her day without missing a beat.

Me:  (I began to cry)

Teacher: Oh, Mrs. H., I’m so sorry.  I can’t imagine how you feel, but I promise you that I will handle it.  This transition has not been easy on you with your husband gone.  You know I just don’t get it either because the little girl isn’t White.  I think she’s Cuban and her father is in the Navy.  It is all so senseless. Tomorrow, after school I will let you know what happened in the conference. You know, the kids are sassier and meaner these days or at least the ones who are in the before and after school care. The children like Olivia seem to be nicer and I don’t know if that’s because you’re at home with her, but you are doing an awesome job.  I’m so sorry.

Me: Thank you for informing me. 

That was the basics of the conversation.  I was left breathless and all I really wanted to do was run off with my child and hold her real tight.  I’ve been her protector for so long and it pains me to know that this happened to her and I wasn’t there to wipe away her tears or tell her that there is nothing wrong with who she is.  Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, my daughter’s version of the story was a tad bit different.  My daughter told me that she went over to play with the other girls in her class.  The other ONLY Black girl from another Kindergarten class was there too and when they (all of the girls) were about to play, the mean racist little girl pointed at my daughter and the other Black girl and said they couldn’t play because they were Black.  My daughter said that she walked away and sat down on a bench and began to cry, but then the friend she made on the first day of school came to her and asked what was wrong.  My daughter told her what happened and that sweet girl hugged her and got up and told the first teacher she could find.  After my daughter told me what I believe really happened, I texted the mother of this sweet girl, which by chance we had just exchanged numbers the previous day and told her to tell her daughter thank you for being there for Olivia.  The mother texted me back and said her daughter told her, “someone hurt my friend and that was not right and someone needed to know”.  Isn’t that awesome?

I have no eloquent words.  I could have reacted in so many different ways, but in times like these I long to have my husband near me.  I called him while I was still in the parking lot of the school to tell him what happened and his perspective was quite different than what I expected.  My husband told me to make sure my daughter felt no shame because she did nothing wrong.  He said the other girl who was mean should be shamed and so should her parents.  He told me that we have no reason to be hurt because we are raising our daughter right and the proof is in her behavior while the other parents should be hurt that their bad parenting is on display for the whole school to see.  I love the way he thinks, but it is hard for me not to be angry or hurt.  My daughter is only 5 years old and this is only the 2nd week of Kindergarten.

Truthfully, I want to give the mother a good ole ass whooping, but that wouldn’t solve anything, except to further perpetuate a stereotype about Black woman.  I also would love to just tell them that they hurt my child, but from experience, I have learned that logic, feeling, and commonsense are typically lost on these types of people.  What I can do is teach my daughter to be proud of herself and give her an example of pride in oneself.  I am her first teacher. So, I used this as a moment to listen to my daughter and I asked her if she felt bad for being Black.  She hesitated in answering, which struck a chord with me because I know that she has internalized this event.  I then informed her that it was quite awesome to be Black and she looked at me and said, “why?”.  I told her that all of civilization, EVERYONE, originated in Africa and that she had African blood running through her veins.  I told her that her hair was pretty cool too and that it could be styled in any way from braids, curls, to even straight. I told her that she was Black because her father and I loved each other and she was a symbol of our love and because we are both Black then so was she. I couldn’t think of anything else, but I made a point in reminding her that she was my rainbow child, which always makes her smile. I named her Olivia because she brought peace to my life like an Olive tree signifies peace. I prayed long and hard for my daughter to make it here safe. I lost my first child and was told I could never have children, so Olivia is the rainbow in my life after the storm. I more than upset that someone would hurt someone so dear to me.

In the days to come, I will probably be better equipped to process what happened, but for now I am holding on to the belief that there are more good people than bad; however, good can never conquer bad if no one speaks up.  Thankfully, the shyest girl in the class spoke up for my daughter. Thank goodness for the good parents and the children with good hearts.

The social politics of the park

When I was small, I looked at going to the park as an adventure.  Now that I am a mom, the park is an ideal place to let my children run free while I people watch.  My people watching is quite limited now that I have a son.  My son doesn’t seem to understand that the park is a place to play, not a place to somehow end up in the hospital. There are times that my son doesn’t want to try to jump off of everything and in those very brief moments, I take the time to observe what is going on around me.  There are about 4 types of mothers who frequent the park:

The Helicopter Mom:  this is the type of mother who hovers around their child.  This mommy is anxious about EVERYTHING and one is left to wonder why she even brings her children to the park in the first place.

The iPhone Mom:  this is the mom that is constantly talking, texting, or checking her Facebook.  This mommy never puts her phone down even when her son is screaming from the top of his lungs for her to pay attention to him jumping off of something he isn’t supposed to.

The People Watcher Mom: this is the mom who sits on the bench with one eye on her children and the other on the other moms with a smirk on her face. This mommy really and truly comes to the park to listen to conversations to either put on her blog or call her friends about when she gets in the car.

The Involved Mom: this is the mom you see on the commercials.  This mommy is fully engaged in her children.  She doesn’t hover, but she is close by and willing to play with her children at any moment.  This mommy actually came to the park to have fun.

Obviously, I am the “People Watcher Mom” or PWM and I do it shamelessly. The problem with being a PWM is that there is always someone who wants to sit next to you on your bench in the shade and strike up a good ole conversation. Today, a woman I will call Ms. Bev sat next to me while I attempted to people watch and never shut up.

Ms. Bev was a Black woman like myself.  I believe she must have been in her mid-50s and originally from Georgia. She was at the park with her two grandsons and had moved to California about 20 years ago.  I learned all about Ms. Bev’s life in about 10 minutes and it really felt good talking to her.  She reminded of that good ole southern hospitality that I have been missing down here.  Because Ms. Bev seemed so nice, I thought it would be smart to ask her about the schools, neighborhoods, and overall feel of the city.  She did not disappoint in letting me know the run down and of course, she had to let me know that there weren’t too many of “us” in these parts. The funny thing is that she turned to me and looked me in my eye and said, “you don’t want to live by Black people do you?”, umm…how does one answer this type of question? I mean, it would be nice to live by some Black people, but is it a requirement?…not really. I just kind of looked at her because that question was rhetorical, but to my surprise, she asked me again if I wanted to live by all Black people and I told her that I would like to live by all people.  Well, Ms. Bev informed me that I did not want to live by Black people and to stay as far away from them as I could.  I was a little shocked by this exchange and then asked her if there were Black neighborhoods in the city and she gave me the side-eye and told me yes, but that I don’t want to go over to those parts.

***At this point, I feel it is my responsibility to give a full disclaimer of exactly where I am from. I am originally from South Central Los Angeles. I take great offense to people saying “those parts”.  I come from “those parts”.  My grandmother still lives in “those parts” and a ton of great things come from “those parts”.  It kills me sometimes when people change their zip code and somehow think it is okay to look down on others.***

After the exchange with Ms. Bev, I got up from my seat on the bench and had my children sit down for some lunch.  There was nothing else to say to Ms. Bev and with her being my elder it was my duty to respect her age and walk away.  After lunch, the kids still wanted to play and the park seemed to come alive. My daughter found a nice little girl to play with and my son played on the playground equipment pretending to be a pirate. The mother of the little girl my daughter was playing with and I struck up a conversation and I instantly liked her.

I felt like violins were being played and rainbows were shining.  Could this lady be a new found friend? It was totally kismet.  She gave me the scoop on the schools. She told me about a ballet class I could get my daughter into. I talked to her about me being Paleo, which I was impressed that she already knew about and was following.  She even told me about her trip to Harlem. This lady from California spent a week in Harlem, NY and totally loved it.  Our daughters were playing well together. I just new this lady was going to be my very first mommy friend in California. Did I mention that she is White and never told me to stay away from Black people.  Hmm…chew on that for a second.

I wish I could write at this point that we are friends, but the truth is, I never asked her for her number and she never asked for mine. The social politics of the whole mommy friendship and park thing is something I have never really mastered.  Usually, it is always the other mom who asks me for my number and although she did linger a little with the goodbyes, I just couldn’t bring myself to ask her for her number.  The whole thing always feels like dating. I should have asked her for her number though because she was much more pleasant to me than Ms. Bev and I got the sense that she was having the same problem as me with finding real genuine people out here. Hopefully, I will see her again.  This place isn’t that big.

Do all Black stay at-home mothers feel this way?

I never set out to be a stay at-home mother.  I had many assumptions as to what my marriage, career, and mothering would be like.  I assumed that I would be married, but in time the love would fade and we would fall into a rut. I also assumed that I would stay in the military until I retired and care for my children like my mother cared for me.  All of my assumptions were wrong.  Fortunately, I married a man that I love deeply and doubt that a rut would ever last for very long.  I’ll write about this man later, but the love and friendship that I have built with my husband has surpassed any dream I ever had for myself. Obviously, I am no longer in the military because I’m a stay at-home mother and I definitely don’t parent the way my mother did because…I’m a stay at-home mother.  This lifestyle chose me and there are times I struggle with this choice.

My struggle doesn’t involve money, although it would be nice to have more of it. I have an internal struggle of not feeling as if I am doing or accomplishing anything in my life by being a stay at-home mother.  I have a friend, let’s call her “Brooke”, who I share these deep internal struggles with and I found that she and I feel about the same.  We both struggle with the idea or fact that being a mother is enough.  Now, let me give you some background on my friend “Brooke”.  She is also a Black stay at-home mother.  She has a loving husband and 3 children.  She, like myself, lives in a predominately White neighborhood and has adventures of her own out in the suburbs of the South.  We talk quite often (everyday) and we cheer each other on, laugh, cry, and get angry together.  I cling to our friendship because this life that I lead is foreign to me and every woman in my family, so I cannot talk to my mother about certain struggles that I have because no matter what I say, my mother feels that my life is perfect and I have nothing to complain about.

The truth is, I don’t have much to complain about, but I do feel inadequate at times. “Brooke” and I share these feelings and it led me to wonder if this is the plight of Black stay at-home mothers. Of course, “mommy wars” are not exclusive to Black mothers, but the idea that being a mother is not enough may be something that is exclusive to women like myself.

Truthfully, I chose to stay at-home with my daughter because I lost a child a year before she was born and somewhere in the mix of all the feelings of loss and gratitude, I couldn’t bear sending her to daycare and missing a moment of her life. Her life was just that precious to me that I didn’t want to miss one day or one milestone. I felt and still feel like she is a gift that I should treasure for as long as I can. I desperately wanted to be her first teacher, but when I accepted the role, I had a very hard time enjoying it.

I constantly thought that I had let my family down.  I thought that I was squandering all that had been put into me.  I would say to myself sometimes, “why on Earth did your parents send you to private schools if you were just going to be a housewife?” or “your husband’s military career is taking off and now you’ll never be able to catch up”. Somewhere inside of me, I thought that my job as being a mom was not important.  I also struggled with my husband being the only person bringing in an income. I almost felt like I was taking advantage of him and I had been raised and outright told that a woman must have her own money because one never knew when a man would leave.  The lessons of these strong women that had come before me were ingrained into me and I had and sometimes still do have an internal struggle of telling myself that being a mother is the most important job in the world. You see, when your mother catches 3 buses to make sure you get to your private school on time, then catches 2 to make it to her job on time and doesn’t make it home until 11 p.m. just to do it all over again, you grow up thinking that the overall responsibility of wearing many hats is something that you are required to do and anything else is just being lazy.

So…what is a Black stay at-home mom to do? I’ve been at home with my children for almost 6 years now and in that time, I have never completely given my children my undivided attention.  I have always had “something” to do.  In the beginning, when it was just my daughter and I while my husband was deployed, I finished my degree.  Next, I became the running and workout queen. Now, it’s I want to get another degree and become a therapist.  It’s always…something.  I wonder when am I going to just sit down at night and embrace that this is my dream come true and this life and where I am right now is enough.

 

You can’t be the princess because you have black hair

So…yeah. There are times that I don’t particularly like living out here.  I mean, I enjoy my home.  I really like the schools. I thoroughly enjoy how quickly I can get to the beach, but there are times that I REALLY don’t like living here.  There is an immense lack of diversity, well that is not completely true.  There is a ton of diversity, but it does not include Black people.  I typically brush off the fact that I am the only one, but I often worry about my children.  I grew up in a predominately Black neighborhood and I don’t know how it feels to be the ONLY Black child. I imagine that it can be a bit different and my imagination was confirmed on a trip to the park.

I decided to take my children to the park Monday.  It was a beautiful day (most days are) and we took a stroll around the lake watching the geese and ducks.  I planned to let my children play at the park and have a short picnic by the water.  Everything was going great and my daughter even made a “friend”.  I was so ecstatic to finally be sitting down on a bench enjoying the day, until…my daughter looked my way with a very confused look on her face.  I quickly got up to see what was wrong with her and noticed her bring her hands to her hair.  When I got to her, I asked what happened and she said (pointing to the little girl she was playing with), “she said I have to be the boy because my hair is black”.  I kind of stepped back for a quick moment because the first thing I wanted to say was, “look you little snot, she can be the princess”, but I didn’t do that.  I looked at the little girl, who for the record had no mother watching her that I could see and she simply said to me that  she could be Rapunzel because she was blonde and my daughter could be the boy from the movie because she had black hair. Hmm, so in that split second I realized that the little girl was sweet, ill cared for, but sweet and she actually meant color of hair and not texture or the fact that my daughter was Black.  I told the blonde child that princesses can in fact have black hair and that they could choose another game of princess like, my daughter being Princess Tiana and the other girl being Charlotte from the “Princess and the Frog”.  They seemed fine with that and went off playing, but I was disturbed a bit because I wondered about the times I won’t be there to help my daughter.  I mean, some of this has to be internalized in a way and I wonder what would I have said had Disney never made a movie about a Black princess.

I was so ready to go after the incident that I gave my children the 10 minute warning and proceeded to have our picnic.  I kind of looked at my daughter and my heart ached a little bit and then I saw a Black guy walking behind her in his black ball cap with his doo rag underneath along with his black shorts that were sagging for everyone to see his underwear and I shuddered. 

I constantly feel like there is a battle.  Thank the heavens that my children have an example of me and their father, so hopefully no outside influence will greatly affect who they think they are or what they should be.

When the mother sitting next to you mentions her babysitter is Black…

This really happened…

My family and I just moved from the South to sunny California.  It has been an adjustment to say the least.  The people here are nice, but not friendly…or at least not in the neighborhood we live in.  When we moved into the neighborhood, we noticed a few strange things.  First, my husband caught the neighbor across the street looking over his fence when the moving truck arrived with our things.  Next, I met a lady at the park around the corner from our house, who quickly gave me the run down on the gang situation in the next city over…it wouldn’t be weird to be informed by your neighbor of local crime, but she made a point of telling me that it was a “Mexican” problem (umm racist much).  If you haven’t already guessed it, we are the only Black family on our block and probably the third Black family in the neighborhood.

We specifically moved to this area for the school district and it seemed family orientated.  I assumed I would find a stay at-home mom’s group and make friends easily; however this has not been the case. In the South, I had friends of every race and we often broke bread with one another, like ate off of each others plates.  I don’t see that happening here and my feelings have kind of been confirmed by my recent interaction with another mother at a recent play date.

I actually planned this play date at a local park and I expected a great turn out, but only one mother signed up for it.  I didn’t think anything of it.  I assumed that the other mothers already had plans or simply didn’t want to do it…no biggie.  Well, I was kind of excited to finally meet a new mom and for my kids to play with someone besides myself.  After about 20 minutes, a mom showed up and said hello.  I wasn’t sure if it was her or not because I’m new here, but after another 10 minutes she asked if I was the one who planned the play date and I said yes.  She seemed nice enough and we got to talking.  I told her (jokingly) that people usually don’t have a hard time finding me because I’m typically the only Black woman.  She laughed and told me, “oh that’s not true, I have a nanny and she’s Black”.

So, what does one say to that and why did she think that was okay? I guess, I could have said, “really, why don’t you set up a play date for me when she’s working for you head mistress” or maybe “how the hell can you afford a nanny, let alone a Black one, when you’re missing your front tooth”. (For the record, she really was missing a front tooth).  I could have handled that conversation in a number of ways, but I chose to concentrate on my children and leave her toothless behind on the bench.

This isn’t the first time someone has said something crazy.  I was once in Puerto Rico giving a speech and my coordinator told me that I was a benefit to my race because I was educated, married, and had children. When I looked at him as if to question his words, he simply said, “well there aren’t many two parent homes in the African American community”. WOW!  I politely told him that I came from a two parent home and the majority of my friends that I grew up with did too.

I honestly can’t blame the toothless mom for her lack of tact.  It would have been better for her to say nothing or to simply call her nanny a friend rather than make a point of saying that she was an employee.  It would have also been better of my colleague in Puerto Rico to simply say that I have a beautiful family, but when people are constantly given images of you as being less than, then tact goes out of the window.

Someone asked me once, “how does it feel to always be the only Black person” and I want to say that it is hard.  I can represent myself just fine.  I carry those who have come before me with me wherever I go.  I feel like I have responsibility to them and all that they went through for me to live in this neighborhood and to send my children to these schools; however, it is hard.  It is hard because I am either one of 2 things in today’s society and that is an angry, strong black woman or an angry freeloading black woman.  I have to make a point to be pleasant and articulate and just when I think that I have proven that women like me exist, my fellow black mother is outside of the library calling me a bougie black bitch.

True story…