The boy

Oh my…it feels so good to be sitting in front of this computer and typing. I’ve been taking a little time to be alone with my thoughts, figuring out what has been going on with me. I get into these little moments when I get quiet because the things that are on my mind are jumbled, almost like being in a thick fog. I have thyroid disease, so what I’m talking about isn’t brain fog per se, but a fog where so many tabs are opened that if I sat down to write, nothing would make much sense. It’s hard enough speaking with friends and trying to stay on track, let alone writing, which leads me to what is on my heart this evening.

I have these two beautiful children. A son and a daughter who are so different. One seems quite easy. She does everything correctly. She is respectful, kind, a good student, a motivated learner, funny, just a bright light and then there is the boy. The boy. The boy. The boy could care less about grades or being liked. He speaks to those he wants and sometimes downright rude. For awhile, I thought I had done something wrong in my pregnancy or something wrong in the earlier days to make him the way he is. The first few days of Kindergarten included a few notes home that led us to take him to see a psychologist. I knew the psychologist would tell us he was autistic or maybe ADHD, but instead she told us he was gifted. I was in the room during the evaluation and I saw something in “the boy” that I didn’t want to admit, but I can’t run from any longer. This little boy who was a surprise to our family is just like me.

It’s quite sobering when you figure out that the “difficult one” is you, but not you, because you are not your parents. When I was a child, I was quirky, but those little quirks were beat out of me. I wasn’t allowed to run around in circles like my son does to quiet my mind. Social cues were quickly learned by mirroring other people because family thought I was disrespectful and rude, which called for another beating. I was never really interested in school, but good grades kept the beatings away and made people leave me alone, so I followed suit. Also, school was never a challenge, so it was easy to just get along. All I ever wanted was to be left alone. I don’t remember being very happy. I had moments of happiness, but I also remember escaping to my brain a lot and being thankful for loneliness.

Now, I am raising me.When I let go of the fear of what others thought of him being a reflection of me, I saw myself in him. I saw how his brain opens too many tabs and needs a moment. I saw the anxiety. I saw the vibe feeler. I saw his genuine spirit. I saw his generosity. I saw his kindness. I saw his strength. I saw his humor. I saw his loving heart. I really saw him and I really had a chance to see me. I always use to wonder what life would be like if I grew up in another home and looking at my little boy, I can see that I would not have been so lonely. He attaches himself to the people who live within these walls and lets us know his innermost feelings, thoughts, and dreams. He is unashamed of who he is and he knows he’s different.

I believe that we all have the chance to learn so much about ourselves through our children. I’ve come to this place by raising this unique being of accepting people exactly where they are. I’ve been able to be so much more compassionate to other kids and other parents. I’ve learned to apologize without guilt to parents who don’t quite get my little boy and not see his behavior as some sort of failure on my part. I’ve learned to accept me where I am and that my parenting is about me, not about what perfect little beings I send out into society. I am learning to love me just the way I am while still being frustrated with me just the way I am. Oh…life sends you some funny shit, but one only lives if he or she takes the shit and makes something beautiful out of it. I’m choosing grace, compassion and love for my boy and for me…that’s a beautiful thing.

Love and light y’all

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Motherhood Mondays (A conversation with Rosalind)

I asked my daughter what she thought of “single moms” and her response was, “a single mother is a very strong woman. She has to have a lot of determination because she does everything alone and she must love her children very much”. If only society viewed single mothers the way my 8 years old does… The reality is that single mothers are sometimes looked at in a negative light. People make a multitude of assumptions and even reduce them to baby mamas and not parents who actively play a part in their children’s lives without any help. Every situation is not the same, but I know a number of women who are single mothers for a number of reasons and they are my inspiration to be a better woman and mother.

Meet Rosalind, she is 49 years old. She is the mother of 6 children 4 daughters (ages 30, 27, and 14), 2 sons (ages 23, currently in college and 11). She also has one grandchild who is 7 years old. Rosalind has BA in Business and has been the owner of Lullaby 24 Hour Childcare for 18 years. She is the author of “The Things My Daycare Teacher Tells Me”. You can read her book for free here. Rosalind is also a single mother and she is doing a fantastic job. Here are her words…

What do you feel is the best part about being a mother?

The best part about being a mother is the notion that you have the most important job in the world. You are in charge of molding this human being into a loving, caring, well rounded, happy, and positive person. After it is all said and done, you then have the opportunity to sit back and watch them grow into something so big and special.

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Can you describe the feeling you felt after having your children?

At the age of 18, I had identical twins. My feeling was like, oh my goodness, what just happened! I didn’t know I was having twins until the doctor saw the feet of the second twin after the first twin came out. The main feeling after each time I have given birth was that I was so blessed and honored to be given another life long mission. I plan to not let my babies down and enjoy every moment of it.

What lessons have you taken from your own mother?

The lessons I have taken from my mother are to do right, do good to others, and find a reason to smile and laugh everyday. She also taught me to be a hands on parent and be totally involved with my children. From her I learned to tell my children that I love them and that I am proud of them. I have taken my mother’s lessons and flown with them.

How does a typical day look for you and your children?

I always say that we are not your typical family. The majority of my life decisions are made a certain way because of my children. I run a 24/7 childcare program from my home and also homeschool my two youngest children.

Morning:  I am working before my children get up at 9 a.m. We have breakfast together and my kids will tell anyone who listens that I make them eat porridge (oatmeal, grits, malt-o-meal). From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., I have an employee come in to work so I can homeschool. Homeschool starts with my two youngest checking their email for their class schedule and then onto math, language arts, reading, and science.

Afternoons: I continue working at my childcare business. My daughter usually gets on her kindle or tablet. My son reads on his iPad. He also could be found writing his 3rd book or working on his non-profit organization business. They both also just play around being kids, which sometimes includes video games.

Evenings: We make a point to sit down and eat dinner together. We talk and plan our weekend. We also play board games or sometimes we snuggle up in my bedroom and watch movies. My son always reads me a bedtime story. (Laughs).

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Is the father of your children an active contributor?

Unfortunately, the father of my younger children has chosen not to be an active contributor.

What challenges do you face as a single mother?

The challenges of being a single mother are nothing compared to the fact that we are totally blessed to have escaped with our lives from my past marriage. Anything else compared to the situation we were in is a very small challenge, if a challenge at all. A stable and healthy environment makes so much of a big difference in a child’s life. I bought my first home 19 years ago as a single woman and that continues to be where I raise my children and where my grown kids come home for the holidays. At times, it is challenging to find that work/life balance, but I’ve perfected the art of stepping back and asking myself, what will benefit my kids, then the so-called challenge is no more.

What do you think is the biggest misconception made about single mothers and/or your family dynamic?

The biggest misconception is that we are a dysfunctional home and family. Society refers to my type of family make up as dysfunctional. That is not the case. There is nothing dysfunctional about my family. I am a parent raising my kids and meeting their needs and a lot of their wants. We do family things together on a daily bases, including meals. I work hard and we depend on one another. My children do not miss out on anything just because we are a single parent household. Not every single parent is the same and that is because that is how they want it. You don’t just curl up in a corner and give up on yourself and your children because the other parent walked out and did not share in your vision and commitment for family and life. People and society have different views and different conceptions. There are no two people that are exactly alike, so there is no “normal”. We waste our time and life once we start focusing on what we think other people should do, should have, or should be like. I do not have any extra time to try to conform to society nor am I preoccupied with what others are doing.

How have your children adjusted to not having an active father in their lives?

Because of the way my children’s father left, without any warning, it has taken some time for them to adjust. My children, as they get older are more understanding. They realize that there is no competing with drugs, alcohol, and mental illness. I do not think people realize that when a parent abandons their child, a big part of that child dies. My son had the hardest time adjusting because he was very attached to his father. He thought the world of his dad. He just kept saying that his dad would be back or he would say, “mom don’t sleep on that side of the bed because that’s dad’s side”. I eventually had to change my furniture in the my bedroom. My daughter called her dad when she realized that he had left, she simply stated to him, “people move away all the time, but parents are not supposed to leave their kids”. My children required a few therapy sessions, but it was noted that going to therapy made them feel as if they had did something wrong or at fault. I had to become the listener throughout the next few years to help them heal. My children and I are very close. We talk about our feelings regarding that part of life that was snatched from them. We joyfully reminisce about all the good memories.

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What advice would you give to other women in your position?

Your life is what you make of it, not what society says it is or will be. You and only you have a say on what you can or cannot do. Stop and deeply realize that you have the power to be exactly what you want. What makes someone else happy may not be what will make you happy. You may hear negative opinions from society, but don’t listen to them. Find your happy place and stay there and excel from there. Single mothers, don’t forget you have your kids watching you and learning from you.

Any last words…

Take it personal! Take it very personal…your life and being a parent. Be your and your children’s biggest cheerleader. Embrace the life that God has granted you and keep building upon that. There is no such thing as a perfect parent, so don’t panic over the little things. Do what you expect of yourself, not what others or society expects of you. Labels are for things, so when people try to label your family dysfunctional…peel it off and instead wear that ‘S’ on your chest. You are a superstar and have a spectacular family.

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Motherhood Mondays (A conversation with Jameelah)

I believe the American Muslim woman is very misunderstood. Society has attempted to identify these women as oppressed, weak, fanatical, and mysterious. I know a number of Muslim women, in fact, I grew up Muslim and I think people would be surprised at how wrong their misconceptions are. Muslim women vary in a number of ways and it is only through dialogue that ones prejudice ends. 

Meet Jameelah. She is freaking awesome!!!! She is a married, stay at-home mother to three wonderful children. She represents a face America typically does not see…she is Muslim, African American, and in an interracial marriage. Here are her words…

What do you feel is the best part about being a mother?

The best part about being a mother is the level of fulfillment it gives me. Nothing else I have done in my life compares to being a mother. Motherhood fills a desire in my life that I never knew I had. If I wasn’t a mother, I think I would know something in my life was forever missing.

What was your mother like?

My mom is great. Growing up, my mom worked and was a stay at-home mom for a portion of time. No matter what she was doing, she was always a mom. Now, I’m 35 years old and she still drops everything she is doing to be there for me. She doesn’t pry. She is just there whenever I need her, which is amazing considering she has nine of us. She has always been a mom. That has been the best thing about my life. If I can be half the mom she is, then I could look back and consider myself successful.

I hear you using the word “mom”. Can you define what “mom” means to you?

Well, I’m mommy in my house, but mom or mommy includes a connection of love and respect. There is a need and desire by both child and adult. The word mommy to me is like a type of completion. Being a mommy involves laughter and humility. This role breathes life into me. I am comfortable being mommy. There are days I don’t want to do anything, but when my kids call, I’m not resentful. Life simply starts when they call. I feel special that I was picked to be someone’s mom. Little ole me was picked. In all of my faults, I’m someone’s mommy. They wake up and love me. There is no judgment. I don’t have to put on heirs for them. I look at my children and think to myself, I did that; those human beings came from me. Mom or mommy involves this unique power that children have that can fill your heart and break it, all in the same moment.

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You’re Muslim, African American, and in an interracial marriage. It would appear that a lot is going on.

It is a lot going on if you think about. People look and want to ask how my husband and I happened. It’s not a lot. It is just life.

What has been one of your biggest struggles?

The biggest struggle is that I grew up in a Muslim household and my husband did not. Race is not a struggle for us. We have totally different viewpoints on things. There were conversations in the beginning that needed to be had. There was no religion in my husband’s household. They believed in God, but not in an organized religion. I grew up in a very religious household. We prayed 5 times a day, attended Muslim school, and fasted during the month of Ramadan. Our upbringings are very different. He goes off of what he knows and I go off of what I know. Simple things like when to start the kids doing Ramadan have the potential to become problems; however, when you get married you have to consider that person. It takes compromise.

What keeps you continuing to be Muslim?

There is a part of me that knows Al-Islam is my saving grace. My faith is the thing that has kept me from going too far off track. Al-Islam keeps me centered. It keeps me mindful of God. It makes me tolerant. It makes me patient. It makes me more accepting of those who are not like me. It is a part of who I am.

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What struggles do you face as a Muslim mother?

If I’m in a moms group, I have to decide if I want to participate in that Christmas or Halloween playdate. Those particular holidays are not in line with my faith. When I decide not to participate, some people continue to ask why or totally disregard the conflict. As a Muslim, I don’t feel heard. People continue to test limits that you have clearly set. There are incidents where people want to see how far they can push the Muslim thing. It is as if they want to see when you will go against your faith to be included.

What would like non-Muslim mothers to know?

I would like non-Muslim mothers to know that all I would like is to be heard. Don’t try to question my loyalty to my faith. When I decline to participate, don’t ask me why and continue to press the issue when I have already articulated my feelings. Respect my faith as I respect yours. You do not have to accommodate me, just accept my decision not to participate in things that go against what I believe.

What do you think is the biggest misconception about being a African American Muslim mom?

People think I’m militant because I’m black and I’m Muslim. They think I’m part of the Nation of Islam. Those aren’t my only options. People look at me and ask me what am I? When I tell them that I am black. I was born in the south and grew up in Compton, they say, “but you don’t hate white people”. Some people also expect this caricature of what Muslim woman are supposed to be. Either you have to be crazy hardcore or this woman who is hiding she is Muslim. They critique your actions, as you have to live up to this image in their heads that has nothing to do with your reality.

 

How do you prepare your children for the misconception people may have?

I tell my children to be good with being themselves. What others expect of you doesn’t matter. On top of being Muslim, they are biracial. Just be you, the rest of it is window dressing. It took me a while to get to a point of being comfortable with just being me. My mom promoted that growing up and I am promoting that in my children as well. I always tell them to not worry about others opinions. There is always going to be someone with a hang-up.

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What advice would you give to a mother similar to you?

Are you comfortable in your relationship? Are your happy? Don’t worry about the rest of the world. If you and your spouse are reading from the same book, don’t worry about everyone else. My family has faced some hardships because of our religion and my race. It has been both hurtful and eye opening. I always want to know how does my life affect someone else to the point of hate. Honestly, there are hateful people. You have to learn how to tune the hate out. You will go crazy listening to the worries of other people.

What would you like people to know?

I would like people to know that I’m a person. Take time to get to know people before judging them. I’m not an angry black woman. I’m not angry at all actually. I may be black, I can’t change that, but all of what you see about black women doesn’t define of us all. We are not all the same. I am a Muslim, but I’m still just a girl who fell in love with a guy and we are raising a family.

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Motherhood Mondays (A Conversation with Bridgette)

My goal for “Motherhood Mondays” is to present different views of motherhood. The idea or concept of a “good mother” usually fits one mold and we all know that is not the case. Motherhood looks different to different women and if our voices are not heard or if we box women in to certain roles, we fail at building a community of support for one another. When reading this particular blog, I encourage you to turn off your judgement and open your heart and mind.

Religion, bias, or simple ignorance keeps people away from truly getting to know the heart and soul of those that are different from them. Today’s interview is with Bridgette. She is a writer, United States Army veteran of numerous tours, lover of the arts, committed partner, and mother. She is also a lesbian. She and her partner have a blended family of 5 very successful children. I must also point out that she is someone my husband considers a mentor. He credits her leadership with the success of his military career. Here are her words…

What is the best part about being a mother?

The best part about being a mother is the fact that you have this innocent person who has trust in you. It is unbelievable the trust that children have. People often speak about unconditional love, but I think it is the unconditional trust that is most fascinating about children. They come here and it is your job to guide them and have their best interest. They start out so innocent and it’s my job as a mother to preserve that innocence.

When I think about my own children and even the Soldiers I mentored, the best part about being a mom is seeing this person become a productive member of society. It is nice to see them become successful and live their lives in a positive way.

Can you describe the feeling that you felt after having your daughter?

When I had my daughter, I was 19 years old. I had been in the military for just two years. I was scared. There are no true handbooks for children and each child’s needs are different. I was very scared, but I was up for the challenge. I knew that it was my job to give her the best life.

I know that you are a veteran of the United States Army. How difficult was it to balance being a mother while in the military?

It was difficult to balance. My initial thought was to get out. My mom sat me down one day and told me that I needed to have a solid foundation for my daughter. She encouraged me to stay in. When my daughter was 2 months old, I was shipped out to Korea. My parents took care of her for me. It was a struggle because I missed her tremendously. I struggled with a number of conflicting feelings. I dealt with a lot of guilt during that time.

When I came back, she was 14 months old. She didn’t know me at all. It crushed me that she forgot about me. I worked to rebuild our relationship and when we reconnected we were inseparable. Even though I was back and rebuilt that relationship, I still struggled with the guilt of taking her away from my parents.

I could not have done it without the support of my family. My parents and my sister they were there for me.

What do you think is the biggest misconception about being a lesbian mother?

I think the biggest misconception is that you’re going to raise a gay child. I always made a point to be careful of what I did in front of my daughter. When she was in grade school, we sat down and talked about what gay meant. She told me that she knew what it was and did not want to be gay. It was important for me to tell her that she did not have to be like me. I told her that she needed to be herself and build her own legacy. As parents, we need to teach our children to be better than us and that involves all facets of who they are.

What struggles do you face as a mother?

Of course one of the struggles was the military, but also society’s perception of who I am. The perception of me being a tomboy lesbian. There is always that judgment that I’m trying to be a man. I’m not trying to be a man. I know and like that I am a woman. People look at me and make assumptions about me. They don’t know my story. I’m just trying to be me. I grew up with just my father and brothers until I was 13 years old. My father didn’t get married until I was 13. I grew up with boys. I wore boy clothes. That is how I feel comfortable. I’m raising young men. I am not a man, so I cannot teach them how to be men, but as a woman I can tell them what is expected from a woman.

Society as a whole thinks that same sex partnership is not good for bringing up children. People think we are going to change children. The reality is that you never look at the news or hear about our children committing crimes or being unproductive.

How do you feel about the woman that came into your life at the age of 13.

She is the mother that raised me. She loved me even though I gave her hell. She never held it against me. She loved 5 kids that were not her own. It was not easy for her. When we got punished, she always showed an immense amount of grace to us. We did not have to relive our faults over and over again. She is the greatest woman. She is such a lady. I let her know all of the time that I appreciate everything she did for me. She is a part of the reason I fell in love with the arts. I was a part of the orchestra. She taught us that there was more to the world than just being black. We were exposed to a lot of different things. Exposure, let’s you know that there is something more to the world than what you are surrounded by. I love her.

Do you model your parenting style after you mother?

Yes, I do. I also bring the military into it. I’m very strict and hands on. I’m Vice President of the PTA and my partner is the President. It’s important to me that my children are educated and doing the right things. All of our children are on the honor roll and we have one that will be graduating early. We make a point to be a team, especially since we are a blended family.

How did you meet your partner?

My best friend kept telling me to go this church and at the time I had been completely turned off by the church. I had some very bad experiences when I was struggling with my sexuality. Anyway, I went to the church and really enjoyed myself. While I was there, I saw my girlfriend. She was sitting in front of me and my friend invited her to a New Years party she was throwing that same day. She, my girlfriend agreed to come and she took my number. I’m a really shy person, so I didn’t want to call or text. When I finally decided to contact her, she was calling me. (Laughs) We began to talk and she came to the party. We’ve been together ever since.

Do you think it is harder being a black lesbian mother as opposed to another race?

I think it can be. We have the power to not make it so hard. It depends on how we present ourselves. I think we have the power to make things better for ourselves. We do have to prove ourselves more. We have to break the stereotypes that exist for us. We can’t be afraid to show our intelligence. Being a lesbian can create more prejudice. People make the assumption that homosexuality involves promiscuity, which is insulting. I’ve learned that you just have to have thick skin. You have to be very secure.

It is harder being black, especially when it comes to our boys. They are seen as animals and criminals. We see what they are going through, but we don’t know exactly what they feel because we are not men. I tell my sons to never give them a reason to bother you or profile you. As a black mother it is difficult to raise boys.

What advice would you give a young lesbian mother?

My advice to any mother would be to approach your children as human beings and not objects. You have to understand that your child isn’t a toy. They have emotions just like you do. Always keep their emotions in mind. You have to teach your children at a young age to communicate. Let them know that they have a voice. Let them express how they feel while setting boundaries. Children aren’t your property. When you teach a child that they aren’t an object, it gives them self worth. If you do not allow them to express their emotions, then you’re conditioning them to keep it in. They become emotionally closed off. When it comes to boys, they are taught not to cry, don’t teach them that. A real man can cry. It is okay to feel. Feeling emotions is being human. Whether man or woman, you are a human being.

As a parent, you have to be humble. You have to be able to apologize.

Bridgette and I spoke for a very long time and everything cannot be included in this post, but there is something that stood out to me. When we spoke about her journey to acceptance, she let this jewel out that I believe applies to us all. She said,

“You cannot shine if you don’t know who you are. I could not be something that I wasn’t. I decided that I was going to love me and live in my moment”

Love and light y’all.

 

 

 

Motherhood Mondays (A Conversation with Grandma)

In an effort to write more, I am going to attempt to start a series on my blog called “Motherhood Mondays”. It is my wish to have open and honest conversations with different types of mothers and write about that dialogue on this forum.

My first guest for “Motherhood Mondays” is my grandmother. My grandmother’s name is Rose. She was born in 1927 in New Orleans, LA. A number of the views that will be discussed in this blog reflect the times in which she was born and raised. If you follow this blog, then you know how dear my grandmother is to me. When I was about 13 years old, I went to go live with her. She saved me by letting me live in her home and keeping the person I was getting away from out of my life. Too many families turn a blind eye to abuse, but she did not and for that, I am a better person. I thought who better to start off this whole Motherhood Mondays with than my very own grandmother…here are her words:

What is the best part about being a mother?

The best part about being a mother is watching your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren achieve the things they want. I like to see children going to school and learning new things. I like to see them go after their goals. There has always been this strain of giftedness in our family, but we have a problem with execution. Learning has never been a problem for the majority of our family, so I get happy when I see that giftedness manifest from generation to generation.

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What was your mother like?

My mother was the kind of person who did not think anyone was bad. Because she was so nice, people took advantage of her. She was friendly. She would do anything she could for you and she was mugged numerous times because of her personality. She didn’t have a good relationship with my daddy. He was a minister and had a mean streak. I had to watch out for her. She was protective of us, so we, my sisters and I, were protective of her. She was a strong women. She beat cancer, but she was too nice.

Growing up, did you want to be like your mother?

I am my mother in my later years. I realize, now, that people are not who they think they are. I am her.

What was your proudest moment?

I dropped out of high school in the 10th grade because I was the oldest and had to work to help my family. I went to work in a cafeteria and thought that was the end of that. When your grandfather and I moved to California, we opened up the little store and then the grocery store, which should have been my proudest moment, but it wasn’t. I went back to school at 55 and finished high school and then got my degree in nursing. School was always easy. I just needed the chance to finish and I did. I also appreciate my longevity of life and that I am of sound mind and body. I’m still independent.

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Did you have to deal with racism growing up or as an adult?

Of course! (laughs) It wasn’t like the stories you hear about being attacked. I was never chased or beat up. In those times, you knew what you could do or should do and that is what you did. I use to hear my father saying, ‘yes sir’ to those men while they called him by his first name, or nothing at all, and I would be so mad that my father was like that. I didn’t realize until he was dead and gone that he was playing them while they thought he was being subservient to them. He was protecting us. He had to do that in order to work or for our family to have things.

The thing about racism in the south is that you got to know these people and you got to doing what they thought you should do. When you act that way, you leave a legacy for your children. We went thru a lot. My parents and my grandparents took a lot, but they left the perception of respect and then the white people would leave you the hell alone. In a sense racism is whatever you make it. We always had a house. Racism instilled in you the things you wanted to achieve.

Wait, what grandma?

Yes, racism made you want to do better, at least in the south. When I moved to California, I could not believe what black people put up with compared to us in New Orleans. I grew up seeing black professionals, educators, and business owners. In the south, you knew that those people worked hard because it was twice as hard to get anything; however the black people in California had this false perception of freedom. When I would go to the hospital, all the service workers were black and the professionals were white. The neighborhoods that black people lived in were horrible. The schools were not much better either. Black people did not have to sit on the back of the bus, but they were being held back in ways that they we were not held back in the south. Racism made us work harder and look out for one another. I never much cared for going around people who did not want me around. These people fought to have everything integrated, even schools. Why would people fight for integration in schools? Our schools had teachers who cared, genuinely. Just because you send your children to school with white children does not mean their education will be better. In fact, their education may be worse because they are dealing with teachers who dislike them and want to see them fail. Back then, you knew who did not like you and now you do not have a clue.

What do you think the biggest misconception about Black women is?

The biggest misconception about Black women is that they do not take time with their children because they do not care. The truth is that they are too tired. I watched a young lady one morning on the bus stop with her child and the sun was not even up. This girl has to get up and take her children to the daycare on the bus, get back on the bus and go to work, get back on the bus to pick up her child, and then go home and do it all over again. By the time, she gets home she is too tired, worse if she is uneducated because she has been working on her feet. It’s not that they don’t care, it’s that they do not have any help. These women can only do the basic.

So, is that just a single mom issue?

Oh no…your generation is one that is starting to have active fathers, but all of the house and children duties typically fall on the women, even if she is married. I worked close to home and took less pay to make sure I could be a mother. I wanted to be there to drop off my children and pick them up. I wanted to teach them. I could not have done that if I had made different choices. Everyone cannot take less pay. I was married, but I was still tired and took on most of the responsibility when it came to the home and children. Your grandfather helped me, but most of it rested on my shoulders.

That’s the thing about dealing with black men, especially during my time. You have to deal with this black man being a man…anything untraditional to a male role, he feels slighted. Things go from one extreme to another. He gets it so hard from the outside world that you have to let him or give him the perception that he is in the lead. You have to learn how to balance. I had to learn to swallow my pain in order for him to be the man. I did not hear until 30 minutes before he took his last breath that he appreciated me. I had done everything I could for my family.

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Last question. If you could offer one piece of relationship advice, what would it be?

You have to be a team. Each person has to have a defined role. You have to be able to have a certain amount of respect for your husband as a man. You have to feel like a woman and not like a babysitter. Men need to be comfortable being the leader and know exactly what that entails for his family. Women need to let men learn and not try to take care of everything. Even when things get bad, don’t jump in and try to figure it out for the family or him. He will figure it out and be a better man for it. If men aren’t allowed to figure it out, then there will always be resentment and when that creeps in, everything goes wrong. Every family is different, so traditional roles may not work, but roles need to be defined. Everyone needs to play a part.

I always tell you that you’re blessed because you’re the first woman in our family who has had the chance to be a mother. You have been able to raise your children without outside influence. You know your children. It is a sacrifice, but your husband is better for it and so is your family. He does things your grandfather would have never done and you have to honor that.

Any last words?

My life was no bed of roses. Life is what you make it. If you don’t like the way it is going, change it.

Love and light y’all.

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Beauty of the Hood

Once a month, I take a 90 mile drive to Los Angeles to take my mother grocery shopping or to bring her food. I typically get a chance to also see my grandmother, brothers, and cousin while I’m in the city. I love going to see them, but I hate the drive, especially when I do it alone.

Yesterday, I took the drive down with my children. It has and probably always will be important to me that my children are comfortable in South Central Los Angeles. Unlike, most people who view the city of my birth as crime, poverty, and gang infested, I see beauty on every corner. That beauty sometimes includes a weed shop, the local pimp, and maybe a crack head or two, but there is still beauty there. I want them to see that beauty. I think I also want them to know how to pick out the pimp and crack head or rather be aware of street codes. I want them to have that balance.

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The funny thing about parental wants is that it does not always go the way you want. I know that my children are comfortable in my grandmother and mother’s house. I know that they are incredibly excited when I tell them we are going to Los Angeles, but realistically, they don’t get excited for the reasons I want them to. Los Angeles, to them, is a place where they can be normal. It is almost like when they get out of the car they can breathe a sigh of relief that for just a moment they can be like every other person that they see. They don’t have to be the only brown children. They don’t have to question if this person dislikes them for the color of their skin. They can just be.

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It is a hard concept as a grown-up who grew up around a community that was so overwhelmingly pro-black. I grew up in the remnants of the Nation of Islam. We were orthodox Muslims, but some of the mentality from the Nation still held on. I lived in the hood, but not of it. I knew great black families that were not on television. The local market, restaurants, and  barber shops were black owned before the 90’s riots. I never questioned my worth in regards to race or if someone would not like me. Being black or brown, as my children say, was easy. The hard part was growing up in all my awkwardness and home drama. It kind of unnerves me that the hard part for my children is growing up as the only brown children in their neighborhood and school.

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As I pondered this reality for a moment and tried to see how I could argue my case for moving to my husband, I really looked and listened to how my children enjoyed their surroundings. What I took for granted, they cherish. The vegan spot in Inglewood, Stuff I Eat, in all its greatness is an experience that will be held. The bookstore in Leimert Park, Eso Won, is a space that they know is just for them. The art gallery across the street from the book store with images and artists that look like them is proof of what they can be. The adults on the street that smile at them warmly and offer a “you’re so beautiful, I love your hair” or a “give me a pound little brother” give them that sense of community. This, the community of my childhood, is their safe zone.

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In life, it is all about balance. I don’t live where I grew up because my husband’s job doesn’t dictate that I can and frankly I don’t want to. In all of it’s beauty, the hood also is the first time I felt the pain of losing a friend to a drive-by, was almost jacked for my shoes coming home from school, and received limited resources in my public school education. Unlike my parents who firmly believe that inner city neighborhoods need black working class and professionals to be examples, I don’t want my children to suffer in the process. It is so selfish, but it is my truth.

I guess my lesson as it always is in parenting is to give my children balance no matter what I feel the outcome should be. While I want my children to be intelligent, kind, street smart individuals, they just want to be themselves. I would like them to be these whole human beings at 5 and 8 years old, but the reality is that this is their road and their life and my job is in exposure. I can expose them to life in the suburbs and the inner city and hopefully they can grow up to see the beauty and ills of both. I can also recognize what a gift I have in the ability to expose them to both. Balance is always key.

Love and Light y’all.

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Motherhood Mondays

Today was an awesome “mommy day”.  I am tired, but the day was great. I had the chance to play super heroes with the kids before going over to my friends house to do some crafts.  After the crafts, the children had swimming class followed by dinner, a little television and then 2 stories.  I think the children had fun and I know I did.

I’ve been trying to figure out the right words to write, but I am angry.  I know this is supposed to be some type of blog post about my experiences with motherhood, but I’m so pissed about the situation in Iraq that I can’t get my thoughts straight.  I just feel like anything I write is just so minor compared to what is happening in a country that I left a piece of me in. I worry about my husband. I don’t think I could stomach a call that he had to go to Iraq.  I don’t think I could handle that.

I’m also angry at how people see things here.  My mother called me earlier today to discuss her opinions on the President and what is happening in Iraq.  For the record, my mother campaigned really hard for President Obama, but now she can’t stand him, even more so now.  She was commenting on his abilities and “those” people over in Iraq.  The common thing I hear people say is that those people need to figure it out on their own. That may be a true statement, but history has taught us that if we don’t get involved then it is highly likely that “those” peoples problems will become our own.

I came back home from Iraq angry.  I still loved the Army, but couldn’t stand the bullcrap.  My deployment experience was hard living, but the worst part was being a sitting duck to attacks.  We had no bunkers to go inside of, but we got mortared often.  No one cared. We were there to do our jobs no matter the cost. As the years have gone by, I have kind of stopped thinking about myself and how bad it was being there and thought about those who never made it back home and those who call that place home.  When I think about the convoy into Baghdad, I remember the faces I saw and how this war has more than likely destroyed their lives.  I looked at my son today and the thought crossed my mind that a 3 year old in Baghdad when I got there would be about 14 years old now.  I thought about how that 3 year old probably ran on the side of the road smiling at the United States Army vehicles.  I thought about how seeing U.S. Soldiers must have made him feel safe and now after all these years…nothing.

I remember working for U.S. Army Recruiting Command very shortly after I got back.  A new recruiter had come into the station and he had his Combat Infantry Badge amongst other things on his uniform.  He was freshly back from Fallujah and I just knew he was upset about the war.  We began talking and it dawned on me that I had absolutely no clue about what war was.  He told me that his job wasn’t the politics, but it was to help people.  He expressed to me the first time his unit came into a town and the bad guys left (or got shot, depending how you look at it) and how the girls came outside and played.  He said that little boys could play music and women felt safe walking down the street alone.  He told me about little girls finally being able to go to school and men being so appreciative because they could practice their faith how they saw fit.  I wonder how those people in that town feel now and I wonder how that Soldier feels now.  We left them hanging and it hurts.

Why did we go there?  Why did we leave when everyone knew this would happen?  Why did Soldiers die? Why did so many Iraqis die? What was it all for? Why? Why? Why?

Motherhood Monday

Throwback lesson from my momma:  The value of teaching the children to say thank you for every damn thing.

I had an interesting discussion in my brain today about this thing called motherhood.  I was pondering on what is this season in my life is all about.  I never envisioned that I would be a stay at-home mother and the thought came to me that this has got to be the most thankless job I have ever had.  Please allow me a moment to keep it real.  When I wake up in the morning, I am allowed exactly an hour (no matter how early I rise) to myself.  First, my son wakes up and demands at least 5 full minutes of cuddle time.  The cuddle time is quickly followed by his declaration of hunger and my need to get him something to drink.  In the midst of my son’s demands, my daughter wakes up in a funk (she is not a morning person) needing her cuddle time and to do her obligatory shoving of her brother.  A fight typically breaks out while I remove myself to brush my teeth, fill my water bottle and take my thyroid medication. That is how my day starts probably 5 days out of the week.  I cook breakfast.  I clean up.  I entertain. I find cool science projects.  I teach manners and the value of not eating boogers.  I do it all and I never once hear a damn thank you!  I was thinking about this as I took my quiet moment in my toilet room this afternoon and it dawned on me after I saw fingers under the door, that these children don’t appreciate me.

As quickly as those thoughts came to my brain a question came to the forefront of my thoughts…Did you become a mother to be thanked?  I did not become a mother to be thanked. I did not become a mother to be told that I do an amazing job.  I, unlike a lot of mothers I meet, became a mother because I love my husband.  I did not have an idea of some sort of parenting technique I wanted to use to shape perfect adults.  I was in a romantic haze and the standout reason that I wanted to have children was to see what our (my husband and I) love could create.  I know that’s totally sappy and probably irresponsible, but it is my truth.  I also kind of wanted to have  a child because doctors told me I couldn’t. I absolutely know what I did not want when I had children and that was to feel like they were work.  Right now, they are starting to feel like work and I know it is partly because my husband is gone, but it is also because I am not taking the time to really enjoy them.  I am focusing on my lack of personal space and time, not realizing that I have really good children who didn’t asked to be here. I will not be able to get these years back, so why not laugh at the fingers under the door in the bathroom or enjoy the cuddle time in the morning.  Very soon, my children will no longer want to cuddle with me and it would really suck if all I could remember is my frustration and not my appreciation for their presence.

Current lesson:  The value of appreciating my children being here and teaching them thankfulness by example. 

 

 

The Mall

I don’t go to the mall.  I don’t enjoy the mall.  It just seems like a place where bad things can happen.  I guess that could be my PTSD talking (I did mention I went to war, right?) or the fact that the mall is just an uncomfortable place for me.  When my husband was home, he would take the kids to the mall and buy their clothes.  I usually stayed at home or went along for the ride, but never to just walk the mall or even hang around.  It’s not my thing.

Imagine the anxiety I felt when I came to the conclusion that my daughter absolutely needed a new bathing suit.  I’m sure girls her age have plenty bathing suits, but we just moved from North Carolina.  In Charlotte, NC,  you only wear a bathing suit in the summer for a week to go to the pool.  You only wear that bathing suit for a week because the rest of the summer is too hot to swim.  Anyway, I had to venture into the mall with my very active 3 year-old and my fashionista 6 year-old.  I was not very happy about it, but decided to act very happy because happiness, after all, is a choice.

The trip went well.  I even relaxed enough to go look at clothes for myself.  Not only did I look at clothes for myself, but I went into another store and bought a few dresses for my daughter, a few t-shirts for my son along with the bathing suit I initially went to the mall for.  I was quite impressed with myself.  The day was turning out awesome…until we got back into the car to leave.  All of sudden, my son became this maniac.  He demanded quite loudly that he wanted to put his new shirt on “NOW!” and when I told him no, he began kicking and screaming. I would have gotten really angry at this scene if it wasn’t so funny.  Yes, I laughed a little to myself because who does that over a shirt.

Honestly, I saw it coming before we go into the car.  A clear sign that something was wrong was when he was making snow angels on the floor of H&M while looking at himself in the security camera, but I just wrote that off to him being tired.  I was wrong.  He wasn’t tired.  He was frustrated, angry and sad – his words.  I’m glad that I asked him what was wrong because my initial reaction was to yell and slam the door in his face, but his response and my daughter following it up with, “I’m sad too mommy” made me really take in what was happening.  They missed their father.  This was a daddy activity and this made him being gone very real. I could not help but cry.  I told my son, right there in the parking lot with a lady looking at me sideways for my parking space, to scream.  I told him to scream if he felt angry and frustrated.  I told him to cry and let it all out.  I looked at my daughter and told her to cry if she wanted to cry, so we all cried together.  My son and daughter screamed that they were really, really mad and I just stood there allowing them their time to be mad, frustrated and sad.

It didn’t last long. The annoyed woman got her parking space and I did the only appropriate thing one can do in these types of situations.  I gave my children a hug and  then I took them to the bakery for pastries, so we could sit and talk.  My daughter talked and my son ate and I learned something about myself.  I learned that I am pretty freaking awesome and my kids are too.