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.

 

 

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?

Sunday Intentions

In an effort to exercise my thoughts and writing, I have decided to put myself on a schedule with this blog.  I need to get all this stuff in my head out and that is kind of why I created this blog, so…

Here is my schedule:

Sunday – Positive Start Sundays (My intentions for the week)

Monday – Motherhood/Marriage Mondays

Tuesday – Tell It Tuesday

Wednesday – Work it Out Wednesday (my exercise routine for the week)

Thursday – Reality Recap or Theater of Ratchet Reality Shows

Friday – Freestyle Friday (Poetry)

Saturday – Science Saturday

I want to see if I can do this for 30 days.  The children are out of school.  We are not on a schedule and I have a few goals that I would like to do long term that include me exercising writing.  Wish me luck.

For my first positive start Sunday, I would like to make the intention to be more present.  I have been struggling with remaining present because it is so much more easier to check out and be halfway here than to feel any type of loneliness or even resentment for my husband being gone.  In the military, one typically shuts off certain parts of themselves in training and definitely in war.  It is an effective way to get things done, but I am not at war and neither are my children.  This week I want to play with my children and really look and listen to them.  I want to work with them on our little homeschool lessons and actually take in everything my daughter says to me.  My daughter talks all day long, but I noticed this weekend that she often feels unheard and that it greatly effects her confidence.  When she feels adults don’t value what she says, she checks out and bottles it up inside.  I want her to feel confident in her ideas and have the ability to express them wholeheartedly.

I have a problem with being all in or being present.  I went and visited my family in Los Angeles and because I was mindful of my checking out, I made a point to really live in the moment.  For the first time in almost 10 years, I felt like my family was my family.  I have felt so distant from them.  They didn’t seem real to me for a really long time and I struggled for a while to understand why, but I know that I never expected to see them again 10 years ago.  I didn’t expect to come home from Iraq and I had in some ways killed them.  When I returned home, I just couldn’t get that closeness back again.  This weekend I felt it again and it was so heartwarming.  I love them and they love me.  The whole situation made me think about how many moments in life we miss when we are not mindful of the beauty of our surroundings.  How many times do you go somewhere and take in everything around you?  How many times do you sit with your family and make note of how they smile or raise their eyebrows?  With all of the hustle and bustle of life, we forget the life we have in front of us, the people that love us, and the words that we absolutely need to validate from our children.  My intention for this week is to practice mindfulness and really be present in everything that I do.

 

Memorial Day

Tomorrow, I plan to visit my grandfather’s grave.  He fought in World War II and his remains are in a national cemetery not very far from my house.  I think of him quite often.  I miss him everyday.

I doubt I would be where I am today without my grandfather.  He was the first man to tell me I was beautiful.  Not pretty, not cute, but beautiful.  All but one of my memories of him are pleasant and even the unpleasant one makes me smile.  One afternoon I was playing in my grandparents front yard and he was sitting in his chair watching me.  My father pulled up in the driveway and my grandfather calmly told me to get inside of the house.  I did as I was told, but I could see from the front porch that my grandfather had pulled his handgun out on my father and told him to leave his property.  My father quickly got out of there and my grandfather walked inside of the house as if he did not have a gun and smiled at me.  He gave me a warm smile.  A smile that I just saw pop up in my head that has made tears fall down from my eyes.  He was the protector, the comforter, and the healer in my life.  He knew what life was like with my father and he tried his best to shield me from it all.

When I left my father’s home about 6 years after that incident, I had the opportunity to really get to know my grandfather.  He introduced me to Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, Nina Simone, and other jazz artist on vinyl.  I can remember how the record rolled around the turntable like a boat sailing on water.  He told me stories of New Orleans, what he called real donuts, and art.  He also told me about his time in the Army.

My grandfather repeatedly made a point of telling me that the Army was not a place for a Black man. (I guess I took that quite literally considering I am a Black woman and went anyway) He spoke of the discrimination and outright racism that he had endured. You could feel the anger coming from within him.  He also spoke of having to prove that he knew his job and having to take orders from someone with no intelligence.  He would show me his pictures and I remember his eyes and it was clear that something had changed within him.  I didn’t understand what war could do to a person then, but I do now.  My grandfather left the United States for war a Christian and came back an Atheist.  He told me that there could be no God after seeing what he had saw. I cannot even begin to imagine what he must have seen and went through, but I am honored to have carried on his legacy, even if he is rolling his eyes at me.

When I joined the Army, I didn’t even have my grandfather in my thoughts.  When I got to Iraq, I thought of him constantly.  I wondered what his living conditions must have been like.  Did anyone ever threaten his life? How was his training? How did he feel when he came home? I had so many questions and so much pride that he made it. He made it! Not only did he make it, but he was one awesome man. The thing is, he wasn’t my real grandfather, but you or I would have never known.  He loved and treated my mother like his own when her father never even looked her way.  He moved my grandmother from New Orleans with hardly anything and they managed to own 2 grocery stores and a home.  He was a respected man of the community.  He was the most generous, loving and caring man I had ever met.  Because of him, I believed that good men existed. It wasn’t just Dr. Huxtable on the Cosby show because I had an example right before my eyes. His heart was so genuine.  You knew when he looked at you that he loved you.

My grandfather died a year after I moved into my grandparents house.  His death was an incredible loss to me and my family. He loved us and we loved him.  I’m just so thankful for him and all that he sacrificed in his lifetime.  I carry him with me always. I will remember him tomorrow as I remember him always.

Love you forever Grandpa Batiste