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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Lessons from my Father

I needed a little break from writing. My energy has been so off lately. Not sure if it was the new moon or bad vibes, but I haven’t been in a good space.  I think I was a bit off because I’ve been doing this whole adult thing. Oh my word, no one tells you it’s going to be so hard.

Last week wasn’t a total bust though. I think it was Wednesday, but I’m not sure, I found myself calling my father. Funny how the universe works sometimes. He was happy to hear my voice and actually let me talk. I didn’t realize how much I had pushed down inside of me until I began to cry. I told my dad about the incident at the school with my daughter. I thought he would…well, I don’t know exactly what I thought he would do or say, but I didn’t expect the reaction I got. After I was done, he commented on how racism is a part of education and was a part of his education. He let me know that he intentionally sacrificed to send me to the school I went to because he didn’t want me to receive the same education. He then said something so eloquent that I think about it daily now. He said:

When I was in school, I had no images of myself. No history of myself. I was invisible, which is racist within itself. In a sense, it teaches you that you’re not a part of the story. You’re not human. You’re something else. One of my biggest regrets in life is that I hit my children. Spankings, hitting your children, is like stripping them of their humanity too. When you violate someones personal space or their person, you’re taking their humanity away. When you can look at someone as not human, then you can mistreat them. When a person believes they are not worthy of being treated like a human being, then they are lost, broken, without value. It’s quite easy to send that kid to prison or treat them sub-par because they aren’t human to you. People treat us that way and then because we’ve internalized that treatment, we turn around and treat our own children that way…then the cycle continues. The blessing is that you let Olivia know she is of value. You don’t strip her of her humanity. No matter what, she comes from a home of love. No one can break her because you all are there to build her up. Stay the course. You and your husband are doing an excellent job. She is in good hands.

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Apologies come in all shapes and sizes, but in my heart, this was an apology from my father. He admitted he was wrong for hitting me and that is worth more than I think he or anyone else will ever know. He also complimented my parenting style, which was pretty freaking awesome! We look back on our lives and wonder why certain things happen. We question why and then it all comes full circle.

So…for every person in my family who came before me, my ancestors who felt that they were less than human, those who were stripped of their humanity, beaten, bruised, and abused, it ends with me.

One of my favorite authors, Thich Nhat Hanh wrote, that just like genes carry from one generation to the next, so does hurt and spiritual pain. When one can heal from his or her past hurt they can also heal those that came before them. It made sense to me then and it makes even more sense to me now. What an awesome gift to give my children and grandchildren. I have my dad to thank for reminding me.

Love and light y’all.

 

 

Results of Heartbreak

Well…

I didn’t think I would make it through this week. I know it’s only Wednesday, but I feel like I’ve lived 7 days in three. I’ve dealt with so many varying emotions that everyday since Saturday I found myself crying. My baby girl was hurt was all that kept reoccurring in my mind. I couldn’t get over it. It made me anxious. It took my breath away and I literally wanted to pull her out of school and teach her from home. My husband and I discussed it. He pointed out that pulling her for the actions of another child would teach her that she was wrong. I pointed out that she spent more time at school than at home, so it was unfair to have her somewhere she did not feel comfortable. We agreed that teachers were not at fault. We agreed that no one knows how to handle these situations and we agreed that this was much more than bullying. We agreed on most things, but disagreed in how to resolve it as parents.

I realized something in the past few days that I learned in marriage, but not in parenting. We, my husband and I, are two completely different people with different backgrounds who view things absolutely different. I feel like tools and self-esteem needs to be established to handle such things as someone telling you they don’t like you because you’re black. I also believe these tools aren’t learned at the early age of 8. My husband feels that these things will happen in America and our daughter basically needs to learn early how to deal and react. We are not on the same page at all. I see his point of view and I believe he sees mine, but our backgrounds shape our ideas. He isn’t from this country. He is from a country where class is the major divider, not race. He is from a diverse family. He has never felt the sting of someone putting him down solely because of his race. I am an American. I was raised by a family who did not agree with integration. I cannot sugar coat that. My parents, grandparents, and anyone else I remember being around in the early years of my life believed that African Americans should love, support, and educate their own.  I was raised in a bubble, where I could not watch “Leave it to Beaver” or “In Living Color”. One show promoted the good white people too much, while the other presented negative depictions of black people, which was a no no in my household. I never felt the sting of racism as a child either, but I was taught that it would be inevitable if I chose to be around white people. So, you see, our backgrounds dictate how we feel we should deal with this situation and what I’ve come to realize is that in order for us to come out of this, we need to find balance. Marriage and parenting do not work without balance. If we can take positive from both of our experiences and formulate a plan that will benefit our daughter, then we are moving in the right direction.

I’ve also learned another important lesson in this and it involves people either not thinking before they speak or not recognizing that they have some prejudice. I won’t list the various things I’ve heard, but I summarize it to victim blaming, dismissing, and the belief that children just say hurtful things that may seem racists, but they are really just being naughty. Let me be frank, I know racism when I see or hear it. I know it because I was the kid who heard people speaking negatively about a certain race. I know these things don’t come from the sky. I remember quite clearly the venom that I would hear and then told not to repeat in the presence of “others”. Children do not get these ideas from nowhere and the sooner people begin to accept that the better.

Another thing, cut the bullshit with the whole “I teach my kids to be colorblind” or “I’m colorblind”. When I hear those statements, it makes me think that the person does not value my culture, my race, or the struggle that may come with who I am. I am not colorblind (actually, I am, it’s quite rare for a girl). I love hearing and knowing about other peoples backgrounds, race, and culture. To deny our differences does not make racism go away. It’s the most insane statement and it makes me question the person behind it.

So, now we work towards balance. My husband wants to impress upon my daughter that she needs to find her voice along with her realizing that there are good and bad in every race. I, on the other hand, am focusing on her learning that she is of value and that the things people say about others that look like her are not accurate. It has also become increasingly important that my children are not fed this idea that they represent the black race. Black people are not cattle. We are human just like everyone else. Black Lives Matter, Ben Carson, Oprah Winfrey, Ice Cube, or Eva from 54th and Crenshaw do not speak for me or one another. If one more person tells me that black people can’t expect equal rights until the black community addresses black on black crime, I’m going to scream. My daughter, myself, and anyone else of the diaspora have different experiences and upbringings, we share skin color, not blame. In other words, it is my duty and my mission to teach my children that they are black, to be proud from which they came, but they are also human first and no one can take that away from them.

Love and light y’all

 

 

Heartbreak

My husband and I were naive. We thought we could move anywhere the Army sent us, find a home in a good school district, and go on about our business like most Americans. We thought our children would flourish regardless of race or racism. We thought that if anything, our children would not have to deal with bigotry because kids don’t think that way. It was the adults that we felt like we needed to worry about. We were so wrong.

When we first moved here there was an incident in my daughter’s Kindergarten class. She hadn’t even got settled quite yet. Her daddy was away in Afghanistan and she had just moved away from all of her friends. We told her to go into school with positive thoughts and to make friends, but someone told her she couldn’t play because she was black. Because she had an awesome teacher, the incident was handled in the best possible way. Towards the end of the school year, another incident regarding race, that I won’t even mention happened. We thought that the worst was over. Surely, this was just a fluke and as time went on and she found a good group of friends, these incidents would not happen again. Again, we were wrong.

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Yesterday, while getting ready for a day full of birthday parties, alone in our home because “the boys” were away, we discussed friendship. I told her that people have all sorts of reasons why they don’t want to be another persons friend and sometimes those reasons include things that a person can’t change. I was combing her hair in front of our bathroom mirror and I caught a glimpse of what I saw as sadness. She kind of looked into the mirror and said, “mommy, there is something I’ve been wanting to tell you”. Of course I gave her the floor and she told me of an incident that happened in the 1st grade and in the current grade of 2nd. The first incident involved a “friend” who told her, “kids did not want to play with you because you are black and there are a lot of mean black kids at the school, so they think you’re mean too”. The next incident happened this year (it’s only February) with a boy who told her, “I don’t like you because you’re black”. I asked her how that made her feel and she said, “it just makes me want to act nice and try to do my best, so people won’t think brown people are bad”. At that moment, I began to cry. I had no words of encouragement. I could not muster up the strength to be “strong”. I realized what a heavy burden she has been carrying and I was hurt because someone hurt my baby. She began to cry too and we moved out of the mirror onto the floor and cried together. I’m sorry if someone may see that as wrong, but our children need to be able to be children and human. They need to see their parents vulnerable and they need to know that when they hurt, we hurt too. I fought hard to get her here. How dare someone attempt to damage my baby?

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After crying for a bit, I told her that she had learned a lesson that most brown people learn later in life. The lesson is that people will lump you into a group like cattle and judge you by the actions of people who share the same skin color as you. However, when others do bad things, they are judged as individuals. I asked her if she remembered when those bad things happened in Kindergarten and how we told her to remember that was one bad thing and not to judge everyone or think that someone else would be the same. Unfortunately, my daughter isn’t afforded that same respect in this society. My goodness, she’s only 8. Why on Earth should she feel obligated to carry the entire black race on her back in her behavior, work ethic, or personality. I’m so angry. I’m so hurt. What is wrong with people? Every year, she has had to deal with this crap and everything has become clear.

We wonder sometimes why she is so timid. We wonder why she has to have everything perfect. We wonder why she is so much more comfortable in certain settings over others and we have wondered why she leaves school sometimes so emotionally drained. She is carrying too much for her little body. I watched her at the parties yesterday and I saw her, like really saw her. What we thought was personality is uncertainty. It’s not that she’s timid or shy, she just doesn’t want to make a mistake. I saw how comfortable she was at one party over another. Listen, the parents, teachers, and children are awesome, but it is that small minority that take their insecurities out on others. I don’t mean to brag, but my daughter is awesome. She is beautiful. She is intelligent, not like just book smart, but really intelligent. She is insightful. She’s an old soul destined to make a change in this world. This, her skin color, is the last thing someone feels they have over her and dammit, that makes my blood boil. We are not a home that teaches self-pride and hate. We are a home that teaches pride in oneself and also love and acceptance of others. I have to teach my children that because if I didn’t my daughter would be worse off than she is now. She knows that her skin color isn’t a negative, but what am I to do if at every turn someone is trying to tell her different. She knows who she is because she is the one who made this eloquent statement one evening, she said, “I have the beginning of time running thru my veins”. Yes, my dear you do and don’t you EVER forget it.

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This last incident has changed my husband and I. We were naive. We thought that because we were good people and at one point in time we would have given our lives for this country, we were afforded some type of respect. We know racism exists, but for an 8 year old to deal with this for all of her school years is just wrong. My husband has made the decision that when we move, we have to consider diversity, preferably an environment where our children are not the only ones. I don’t believe everyone goes through these types of things, so please don’t take this as a slight because I know there are many of us who are living in areas where we are the minority, but when asked what would give her the strength to speak up, she said, “mommy, I just wish I wasn’t the only one. I’m all by myself”. I don’t know how that feels. I don’t know how that will affect her later in life, so whatever we can do to help her heal from these “incidents” we have to do it.

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You know, I had a talk with a friend not too long ago about a comment that was not nice made by a woman in regards to black men and how she didn’t like them. This was a black woman no less, and I told her that it was wrong and I couldn’t just be quiet because my son is black. When she talks about black men in that regard, she’s talking about my son. I was told, “but he isn’t here”. I implore upon everyone who reads this blog to stop people in their tracks when they say things that are downright wrong. Stop the uncomfortable giggles. People have been shamed for being politically correct, but what is wrong with being correct. I, myself, have been silent in the presence of black women when they make disparaging comments about white women and that isn’t right. We have to stand up for one another. We have to shame people or at least stop them in their tracks because even if it isn’t about you, it’s still offensive and wrong and maybe one day, my grandchildren won’t have to go thru these same things. We will overcome this as we have overcome so many other things. Love will win.

Love and light y’all.

 

 

New Year’s Intentions Revisited

The saying always goes, “be careful what you ask for”. I wrote down my intentions for the New Year with every intention on accomplishing those tasks, but I really wanted to spread them out over the year. I did not want to realize all of them by February. I actually haven’t realized all of them, but the biggest item on that list was reconnecting with my father. Well, I thought I could get around to doing that in July, but of course that is not what is happening.

I got a call not too long ago from a strange number. Typically, I wouldn’t answer, but something told me to see who it was. I think I knew who was on the other line because I wasn’t totally shocked to hear my father’s voice. He seemed shocked that he heard my voice. I can only assume that it must have been quite odd to hear someone pick up the line after being blocked for almost 2 years. Yes, I blocked my father’s calls. No, I don’t feel bad for it, not even a little. My father and I have the strangest relationship where I love him deeply, but neither understand nor agree with his actions in the past or present. If you go back a few blog posts, you will see an article I wrote on domestic violence. He was not the nicest of men when I was growing up and I had to make a decision of either distancing myself from him or living in the hurt. I chose distance and I am better for it. So…he was shocked to hear my voice and I was a bit amused. I don’t know why I was amused, but I was. He changed his number or rather, my little brother bought him a new phone and this was a way for him to get in contact with me at least one time before I blocked the new number. We spoke for maybe 5 minutes and it was pleasant. I don’t intend on blocking his number from this point forward, but I do intend on stopping his rants before they get out of hand.

My father raised me. I did not have an absent father. I do not remember a time when he was not involved in my life. For a period of time, he was my only parent. My mother had to leave to get better. My father tormented her and if she would have stayed, I doubt I would have had either one of them. He eventually would have been arrested and she would have eventually lost her battle with life or her sanity. It is hard to come to terms with that as a child and surprisingly as an adult. It is even harder after having children. I do not even want to argue in front of my children much less raise them in a chaotic environment. There were times I did not know what house I woke up in because of the constant back and forth. I was overjoyed when their relationship was over, a fact that still baffles the both of them. They swear it was because I wanted more gifts for my birthday, but the truth is that I was happier when they were apart. I was filled with anxiety when they were together. It made me physically ill when they hugged or kissed. Words cannot begin to describe how at war you are with yourself when you love the abused and the abuser.

It becomes worse when you realize that the abuser is someone who loves you and isn’t all monster. My mother wasn’t the only one my father hit. I had a number of step-mothers who came and went and suffered at the hands of my dad. I just became numb to it all, but when I got married, I could no longer push it down. I had to face what I had been through or I wasn’t going to make it. Up until my marriage, my father and I had a cordial relationship. My husband met me when my father was completely out of my life. Because my father did not agree with the Iraq war, he never wrote me and did not accept my calls. I was without him for 14 months. My husband says that Iraq recovered me from my Stockholm Syndrome. I think he may be right about that.

When I came home from Iraq, I no longer felt obligated to be at my father’s beck and call. Our communication became less frequent and my father became more intent on having his time uninterrupted. If I did not answer one phone call, he would continuously call. I showed my therapist my call log once and he was shocked. In a 24 hour period, my father would call maybe 30 times along with leaving 3 to 4 minute messages. It was obsessive and the more we communicated, the more my marriage suffered. I was always irritated after talking to my father. I always wanted to pick a fight. My normal was not being good or happy. I reached a point where all of it was exhausting and with the help of my therapist at the time, I made the decision to let him go.

When I made the decision to stop communicating with my father, it was never with the intent for it to be permanent. I just needed to heal and not be affected or infected by him. I had to do the work to get past my past and learn to accept who he was and not what I would like him to be. I needed to stop viewing my husband as my father. I needed to learn what love really was and what it wasn’t. I needed to breathe. I did it and I thought this would be the year. I wrote it down. I put it in my heart and then my father called. Isn’t it funny how the universe words?

It’s been about a 2 weeks and he’s only called one other time. He has left some interesting messages, but he is an interesting human being. We did have a heated conversation in which he apologized. I am thankful for that, but I know it won’t stay this way. I know he’s going to go crazy when he doesn’t get his way. He requested to see my children and I remained silent. I did not have these children alone and the one time my father was around my children, he said some horrible things about my husband. He basically called my husband a murderer for being in the Army. It took a very long time to explain what he was said to my daughter. In order for him to see my children, he will have to agree to some rules and he will have to speak to my husband. That may be too much to ask for, but it’s what I’m comfortable with.

All of this has led me to evaluate some things. First, even with all the bad that happened, it warmed my heart to hear my father’s voice. I know that he loved me the only way he knew how. I know he could have left and been absent and I am grateful that he tried his best. Next, relationships are what you make them. A relationship can be toxic if you let it be. If it is toxic, let it go, even if it is a parent. Toxic relationships will only screw up other relationships. You, me, he or she don’t owe anyone our happiness. Lastly, my parenting has nothing to do with the outcome of my children. That’s weird, right? I know others feel different, but reevaluating the relationship I have with my parents made me see something that I think I did not see before. Who they were as parents has everything to do with them, not me. Yes, their actions affected me greatly, but their mistakes affect them even more. The way I parent is my choice. It is what I want out of it, not what I expect to raise out it. When it is all said and done, will I feel good about how I treated them, loved them, listened to them, or nurtured them? I make those choices as I make all of the other choices in my life.

I am very curious to see how this all turns out between my father and I. Hopefully, things will go well.

Love and light y’all.

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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Reflecting…

Earlier this week, I posted a conversation between me and my grandmother. I have revisited her words in my mind over and over again. I believe we stayed on the phone well into the next day. What always stands out to me in our talks are her opinions on men. The title or the right to be called a “man” by her was saved for very few individuals in my life. The respect that she encourages me to have for my husband comes with the knowledge of who he is. Needless to say, she has never believed that every male should be afforded the same respect one gives a man.

I started to think about how many times that lesson is lost by women. I remember I was dating a guy once who was a chest beating, self proclaimed “man”. He made a point to let me know that he was the leader and he deserved respect. These exclamations came when he was acting in a way that was unbecoming of what I had learned a man to be. That relationship didn’t last very long, but I would be lying if I didn’t write that his chest beating was the reason. I thought his words were correct. At one time, I believed his gender alone garnered my respect on all manners, even though he was a faulty individual.

I believe women are taught quite early that their position is less than a man. Some of us are taught that men are natural leaders, providers, and protectors. (A few weeks in a co-ed military bootcamp will show you that all men aren’t able to lead) We are taught this sometimes without a concrete example of what a “man” looks like. We are sold this idea to be martyrs for our relationships and our children, without realizing that that behavior will continue the cycle of accepting less than what one is worth.

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I remember when I first moved in with my husband. I had this perception that I needed to cook for him, do his laundry, and figure out any and everything that made him happy. After about two weeks of that, my husband told me that he was a grown ass man and to relax. He didn’t want a maid. He wanted a partner. Unfortunately, the concept of not being everything this man needed left me lost for a bit. I had this thought that if I didn’t do everything he needed, then what was I there for. The reality was that I had met someone who did not need to beat their chest or put me in a place that was lesser than him to believe or feel like a man. I have yet to hear him say that he is the leader of our household, but he very much is. He leads not in words, but in his actions.

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Some of the best leaders I have met in the military and in the public sector were individuals who didn’t need to remind you that they were above you. Likewise, the worst leaders were the ones who constantly had to prove that they were in charge. I believe we need to start teaching our daughters to throw away these archaic ideas about men. We need to teach our daughters to be mindful of a persons actions and how they make them feel. We need to teach them that every man does not deserve your honor, respect, and unconditional love. We need to teach both our daughters and sons to be their own leaders and when looking for love, they should choose a partner, not someone to follow or lead.

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This week, I chose to concentrate on being thankful for all things in my life. As I’ve gone throughout this week, I have made a point to take a moment to acknowledge all that I have and the people around me. It dawned on me today that I have yet to be thankful for myself. I have come a long way, physically and mentally. I should always be thankful for myself. When I wasn’t thankful for myself, I allowed people to mistreat me, like in the case of the “chest beating man”. The moment I stopped to concentrate on my inner healing, I found a man who wanted me to love myself more than he loved me. Let’s teach our children to always appreciate themselves first.

So…I honor you. All you men who go throughout your days tirelessly putting your family’s wants and needs before your own. The men who consider their spouses/partners as equals. The men who let their egos go for the happiness and cohesiveness of their family’s. The men who had no examples, but are breaking the cycles of abuse and fatherless homes. The men who’s children run to the door to greet him. The men who play barbies or sit in school parking lots to help with homework. The men who never have to say how much of  a “man” they are because they left their insecurities at the door. I honor you. I thank you.

Love and light y’all.

 

Cultural Insensitivity?

There are so many things that come along with being the only black stay at-home mother in the suburbs. One has to deal with the occasional Trump bumper sticker sighting, the comments about your daughters “crazy”hair, or the weird looks you may get when people see your family actually has a father attached to it. I’m joking…kind of, but there are little things that happen and sometimes you have to make the decision to either react or be quiet. Fortunately, I have a few friends that are in the same boat as me and we bounce things off of each other to see if we should react or just let it go. Most of the time, we just need a sounding board or a place where we can be comfortable to ask the hard questions that deal with race.

Insert my good friend who lives in a very small town in Massachusetts. I’m living in urban luxury compared to her. While my little city is about 4% Black, her city is 1 percent Black. Basically, she is the Black population. For the most part, she has been able to maneuver quite well. The town is friendly. She is involved in the PTO, local church, and community. She has made friends and race had not been an issue until a few days ago. Her daughter was assigned a heritage project for school and was instructed to pick a country of origin to research. I should point out that my good friend is married to a very nice White man and decided that this would be a great assignment to highlight both parts of her daughter’s background. Here comes the problem.

My friend’s family, like mine, is from New Orleans, LA. Everyone knows that New Orleans and the whole damn state of Louisiana is bursting at the seams with culture. When my friend pointed out that they would be doing their assignment on France (her husband’s family) and Louisiana Creoles (her family), the teacher suggested that they only do her husband’s side of the family since there was an actual foreign country to pick. The teacher then proceeded to tell her that “Louisiana Creole” was not a particular heritage, but instead a language or dialect.

First, let me point out how insensitive it is to discount what one may think is their heritage. Next, African Americans (Black people) typically don’t have a country of origin. Africa is a very large continent and we cannot pick one particular country because we do not know where our families were stolen from. What we do know, is that we come from very strong blood lines because we are still here and that alone is something to be proud of.  For one second, imagine all that those Africans who first came here went thru, then those who survived slavery, then those who survived the Civil War and Reconstruction, then those who survived Jim Crow or the Great Migration, then the Civil Rights Movement and up until now. There is so much to be proud of. We also know that we had a hand in building this country, so we have a right to use this country as our origin and whatever subculture our ancestors may be a part of. It is incredibly insensitive to demand that one pick a foreign country, when there is no country to pick.

While listening to my very good friend tell me this story, I heard the hurt in her voice. She was less angry about the whole country insistence and more angry about her children having to choose between their two backgrounds. Because I am not in an interracial marriage, she pointed out a few things that I didn’t realize. I did not realize how often people try to put her and her family in a box according to their comfort. I also did not realize how people often lessen her value in their marriage. She is perceived as this poor black women without culture who lucked up and found this white man. Perception dictates that she has somehow been saved from the depths of the ghetto and she should welcome leaving that all behind. I almost questioned the validity of that last statement until she pointed out to me that my family would not have been asked to simply leave out one members background. I firmly believe the teacher would have handled a family like mine much differently and that makes me sad and more aware.

After letting her vent, I took the time to be a friend and tell her that in this country people simply don’t know. Ignorance is one of the many cancers of society and instead of getting angry, she should educate the teacher about her background. I doubt a number of people outside of Louisiana know about Louisiana Creoles. There are so many good lessons to be learned from this situation. The assignment teaches her daughter about her culture as it relates to her father and mother. The children and teacher  will learn about something that is never taught in textbooks. The whole situation teaches my friend to always stand up for what she believes in and that is the most important lesson for her and her children.

Overall, the lesson is to be open. People are going to be ignorant. Most of the time it isn’t because they are mean, it is simply because they don’t know. When we close ourselves off from people because they don’t understand us, there will be no progress. Likewise, when we are insensitive, dismissive, or unwilling to learn about our differences, there will be no progress. As a people and simply as human beings we should always strive to move forward.

Be open to dialogue. Don’t shy away from conversations about race. Be kind.

Love and light y’all.

 

 

 

 

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?

My reality

I initially wanted to use Thursday’s to blog about the terrible reality shows I watch, but I’m not.  I may do it in the future, but today I want to write about my reality.

In previous posts, I have discussed my relationship with my father.  A quick recap is that he was a very active in my life, but he was also abusive to me and my mother.  I left his house the day after my junior high school graduation because he threatened to beat me with the buckle of his belt because I refused to wear a hijab (Muslim head covering). After I left, the relationship was strained, but we still communicated and saw each other quite often.  I kind of compare myself to someone with Stockholm syndrome in that I never realized how bad it was until I ended up in Iraq.  I recognized as a child how bad he was to my mother, but I always thought what he did to me was something I deserved.  I knew my mother didn’t deserve to have a bloody nose or mouth and surely I didn’t deserve to live in a house where I had to fall asleep to her cries, but at that point in my life it was all that I knew.

When I moved to Florida to be with my husband, he mentioned to me that he thought the relationship with my father was unhealthy.  I agreed, but had been raised that it was a sin to cut off ties with family.  One year, my father came to visit our family.  My husband didn’t want it to happen, but we both agreed that he was family and it would be nice for my daughter to meet him.  The visit was not the best and after leaving our home, he told people that we were struggling.  We were rationing water and air.  He told people that I wouldn’t be married long because I didn’t cook and that it was obvious that our home had no love.  It hurt to hear those things, especially since it wasn’t true, but I was not surprised.  The last straw for my husband came when he gave my cousin my husband’s personal information in which she used as a personal reference in a criminal case.  As I have stated before, my husband is in the military and we live off of his income alone, so to threaten his character or even his security clearance angered the both of us to the point of no return.

I continued to talk to my father, although it was more like listening.  I didn’t stop talking to him until I went to see a therapist and showed him my call log along with some of the messages that my father left me and he made a very strong suggestion that I no longer speak to my father.  The most amazing thing that happened when I took that route was that I felt really happy.  I felt like a weight had been lifted.  I was no longer irritated and in the long run, my communication and perception of my husband changed.  I often used my father as a point of reference in my marriage when my husband had never shown any sign of being like my father.  It’s amazing what can happen when you get rid of toxic people in your life.  Unfortunately, the toxicity came from a man that played a part in me being here.

So…why am I typing all of this tonight.  Well, I blocked my father off of my cell phone, but I can still listen to the voicemail messages that he leaves.  I decided to just delete them without listening, but tonight I listened to them and it confirmed to me that what I am doing is right.  There were about 10 message in a 6 day period.  One in particular stood out to me. He left a message saying that he saw me in traffic and that I seemed to look bigger.  The was the first lie because the last time he saw me I was about 40 pounds heavier and I live 90 miles away from.  It gets better.  Not only did he see me in traffic, but he also saw me in a car with another man and my children were not in the car.  He then proceeded to say that it was obvious that I was in a loveless marriage and I was cheating on my husband.  Wow!  Now, I’m a cheater and I’m in a loveless marriage.  He left a message right after that one saying that he understood why I cheated because I couldn’t be with a weak person and my husband was weak.  The last message was him saying that he thru up blood and needed help getting to the hospital.

It’s funny, because sometimes I feel guilty for not speaking to him.  It is unnatural to no longer have contact with a living parent.  During my last therapy session, I told the therapist that I felt cheated.  I had an awesome relationship with my grandfather and my children will never have that.  I use to romanticize the very small normal moments I had with my father.  I wanted a daddy daughter relationship and I still have this hope that he will change, but I kind of know he won’t.

It sucks.  It really sucks, but the moral of the story is to let the negativity go, even if it is a parent.  I think that toxic relationships need to be destroyed especially if it is a parent because the hurt is so much more deep. I can’t help loving him because he is my father, but his presence only destroys my spirit. Loving him from a distance is the only way that I don’t allow him to control my life and how I act or react to things.  I had a habit of relaying my past to present situations and making decisions based on my past.  Leaving my father alone has allowed me to live in the present. Because my father is such a negative fixture of my past and has not changed, speaking to him and having a relationship with him kept me living in the past. I know that he will now go to family members and members of his community and tell them that I am now cheating on my husband.  I don’t doubt it.  I know that if I continued a relationship with him my health, my sanity, and my marriage would suffer.  I also know that I need to change my number.  That is my reality. I have learned through all of this that I have control to create a positive life and positive surroundings. Unfortunately, a life without the drama does not include my father, but I owe it to myself and my children to live the best life ever.  I also owe it to this man who loved me through it all.

Good night, Love and Light