Posts Tagged ‘parenting’

23
Dec

In Too Deep

Adrion poolYesterday I visited a podiatrist to address pain that I’d been experiencing in my foot since the summer. After 5 months of pain, I’d finally decided that I needed a professional opinion to confirm what I already knew. My foot was broken.

This all happened during a summer trip to my aunt’s backyard pool. My five-year old daughter had decided to test out her newfound swimming skills by playing swim instructor, and I was volun-told that I’d be the student. Obediently I watched as she first demonstrated each skill before commanding me to follow suit, one drill after another.

Plunging below the water’s surface, she popped up sputtering, Mommy, put your face in the water!

Her arms and legs splashing furiously, she ordered, Mommy, kick your legs!

Now, cannonball!

In she went. Splash!

Dutifully I lined up, happily poised in her fast-drying footprints.

Wait…what?!…Cannonball???

I glanced at the markings along the pool’s edge – No Diving  3’8”.

My not-so-common sense was loudly whispering – You know this might not be a good idea, right? Uh…maybe not. Yet, I closed my eyes and jumped anyway.

So many times in life, we make decisions in spite of the warning signs right before our eyes. If we’re lucky, we’re able to walk away from those choices with just a few emotional bumps and bruises, but sometimes we find ourselves hobbling away – broken – having to live with the pain of our decision.

If you’re anything like me, it might take you a while to even admit that there is a problem. You’ll ignore, hide, deny, and even make excuses for the pain. You’ll convince yourself that it doesn’t hurt that bad or you can live with it, trying to ignore that constant voice whispering inside. But, there’s a lesson even in our pain.

We all have made, are making, or will make mistakes in our lives. We’ll ignore the warning signs, jump, and sometimes come up broken. But, the healing begins when we admit that no one pushed us into the deep end or, in my case, the shallow end. It is a choice. I guess the lesson I learned in all of this was that I need to heed the signs that warn of dangers ahead as it could save me from a moment or a lifetime of pain and to listen to that voice inside when it cautions me to pause…slow down…don’t jump. Well, of course, that and to be smarter than a 5-year old.

 

09
Dec

The Missing Link

parkourLike many their age, my boys are completely amazed by the parkour action videos on YouTube. As defined by Wikipedia, parkour “is a holistic training discipline” in which a person runs, jumps, swings, or catapults their body using whatever obstacle within their reach to get from point A to B.

Sounds holistic, right?

Well, all of the YouFoolers around the world have turned this holistic training into something akin to stepping off rooftops and vaulting across moving cars. As such, my teenage sons are completely enthralled with parkour and thoroughly entertained by the inevitable broken limbs, missing teeth, and crushed family jewels that seem par for the course.

So, one day as they sat captivated in front of the computer monitor clicking from one disaster to the next – oohing and aahing, gasping and laughing – they stopped to ask me, “Mom, why do they do this stuff?” Without missing a beat, I grabbed a piece of paper and drew two large Xs on it.

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I asked, “Do you know what this is?”

As only boys would, they responded, “uhm…Xs.”

As if talking to my kindergartner, I slowly nodded. (Didn’t want to risk losing them on this one.)

“These XXs represent the female chromosome.”

Next, I scribbled across one of the Xs so that now there was what appeared to be an XY.

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“Now, what do you see?”

Blank stares.

I continued, “These are the XY chromosomes, representing the male species.”

Blank stares.

I then circled the spot where I’d scribbled on the X.

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“This is where intelligence is located. The missing link. This explains why men will step in front of a speeding vehicle – on purpose – for laughs.”

Hence, the male mind. Science made simple.

Next class, please.

02
Dec

Not Always the Best Policy

belly upFrom the day we arrive on the planet

And blinking, step into the sun

There’s more to be seen than can ever be seen

More to do than can ever be done

In the circle, the circle of life

Every time I watch the scene from the animated film The Lion King when Mufasa proudly holds his young cub Simba high in the air, I well up with tears. Something about the message being shared between a father and his son, coupled with the rhythmic beating of the drums, gets me in my get up every time.

I started thinking about this yesterday when chatting with a good friend about how to break the news to her 4-year old daughter that her beloved fish had died. My friend was debating on the honest approach – tell her the truth and take her to the pet store to buy another fish. A green one.

I, too, have always opted for the truth with my kids – with the occasional indulgence into fantasy (Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, Santa Claus) – so, I understood exactly where she was coming from. However, I learned a long time ago that the truth may not always be the best thing with young kids. At least that’s the lesson I learned years ago when trying to explain the circle of life to my then 5-year old son when his pet fish Oscar died.

Let me take you back to that tragic day.

Returning home from school one day, my son walked past me to greet his aqua buddy – only to find an empty fishbowl. You see, earlier that morn after taking my son to school, I returned home to find his pet fish Oscar – belly up. Sleeping with the fishes. For a moment, I panicked. I didn’t know how I would break the news to my son that his fish was dead.

Did he even really understand what “dead” meant?

He was after all only 5-years old, and it wasn’t like we’d ever sat down with him to explain birth or death. To be honest, the closest we’d probably ever gotten to talking about any of this was when trying to explain why mommy always started crying when Mufasa was pushed from the cliff and died. (Seriously, doesn’t that scene make your eyeballs tingle?) Anyway, suffice it to say that I was a bit nervous about how my son would react.

Well, at some point during the day, I began to irrationally rationalize that my son probably wouldn’t even be upset because most days he barely even paid attention to the fish and if he did get upset, then I could always refer back to a movie we’d seen at least a million times – The Lion King to explain a simple truth. Life begins and ends. Simple, right?

Wrong.

The kid had a straight up meltdown!

Once he’d scanned the fishbowl from every angle and realized there was no fish, he turned to me and said, “Mommy, where’s Oscar?”

I gently replied, “Oscar died, baby. He went to see Jesus.”

Wrong answer.

The boy dropped to his knees and sobbed “Osssssssssssssscaaaaaaaaaaaaaaar!”

O-M-G!

In an effort to console him, I immediately began babbling about how all pets go to heaven (at least dogs do) and how everything lives and dies. Wrong, wrong, wrong. The more I talked, the more he cried, and somewhere along the way I started verbally moonwalking. I began rambling on about how Jesus can perform miracles and miraculously Oscar was alive and at the pet hospital (a.k.a. the pet store). We just had to go pick him up.

He stopped crying. So, off we went to the pet store to retrieve “Oscar 2.0”

The moral of this story is: honesty will only get you but so far with a 5-year old.

I can’t wait to hear how my girlfriend says it went with her daughter.

25
Nov

Parenting Black

parenting blackFrom the time that they were babies, I taught my children to be respectful of everyone, to hold their heads high, and to fear no one.

I was wrong.

Raising young black men, I haven’t had the parental luxury of painting a world that would open doors for them – if only they worked hard and treated everyone with respect. I’ve always known that I would need to prepare my boys for a world that would judge them often before even meeting them. However, I guess I always naively hoped that one day their world would be different from the one that I grew up in. I hoped that they would be judged on their merits alone, with no consideration to the color of their skin.

I was wrong.

To be honest, I’ve known that race would play a part in my parenting since before they were born. I had to reflect on race when naming them. Aware of studies reported in journals such as The American Economic Review and The Journal of Labor Economics that have shown racial disparity in hiring based on the names of candidates – not just the colleges they attended or their experience – I carefully crafted my children’s names, hoping to knock down at least one hurdle they’d have to face in life.

I taught them to be respectful of everything and everyone – parents, elders, peers, teachers, authority figures, property, animals.  Everything. When growing up in a country that places a higher value on an animal and or a piece of property over that of a child (namely one that looks like mine), we can’t afford to miss the tiny details.

I taught them to hold their heads high and to look someone in the eye when being addressed. Not just because it will show confidence, intelligence, and engagement but serves to dispel any misguided perception that they are insecure, stupid, or lazy.

I taught them to fear no-one and no-thing because God didn’t create a sense of fear in us. But, mama didn’t raise no fools. I explained that should they ever find themselves in a dangerous situation, their best bet would be to run.

I was wrong.

My children were born into a world in which a target was placed on their backs upon birth, and no matter what I teach them or how I parent, that clearly will not change. The only thing I can do is to pray for coverage over them and continue to reinforce that they should continue to…

Be respectful BUT understand that not everyone else will respect you.

Hold your head high BUT not too high should someone perceive that as being threatening.

Fear no one BUT be sure to keep your hands visible at all times.  

After all, you are a young Black man.

21
Nov

Carrot Parenting

carrotMost times I feel I’ve done a relatively good job parenting, but then comes those moments of self-doubt when I question where I could have gone wrong and what I could have done differently. I mean, my children are always polite, well-mannered, respectful…and if I dangle the right carrot, they can add honor roll student to their credentials. But, it’s that last point that continues to nag me. If I dangle the right carrot.

Why should I have to dangle anything to get you to strive towards excellence? What ever happened to having a little bit of self-motivation and initiative?

Listen, I get that they are children, but I don’t recall my mother having to incentivize me or my siblings to take a bath, clean our rooms, or get good grades in school. (Now, don’t get me wrong, we all understood that failing to do so could possibly result in a beat down, but that is beside the point. That’s just how it was back in the day.) There were EXPECTATIONS, and whether those expectations were communicated out-loud or burned into our psyche from our mother’s occasional glare, we understood what our role was and what we needed to do. And, there were no damn carrots!

So, why do I find myself having to dangle some sort of reward in front of my children to get them to do the most basic things for themselves?

If you shower before noon then…

If you do your homework then…

If you clean your room then…

Behind each of those pleas (because it is truly a plea for my sanity), I find myself offering either a simple attaboy or something more tangible just to get them to do. And, it is driving me insane.

I feel like I’m a broken record that can’t skip past the scratch on the CD (or the LP for you old heads), and I’m saying the same thing over, and over, and over again. And, quite frankly, I’m tired of listening to myself.

Like many parents, I find myself stuck in this groove where I can’t move forward because I think that deep down, I’m afraid that if I stop, I will discover that my children might actually be okay with body odor, dirty rooms, and average or below-average grades. However, if I’m being honest, I’ll admit that I believe that my children’s failures are a direct reflection of my parenting (with the occasional exception). So, I continue to dangle a carrot, a dollar bill, a threat of punishment, anything to get them to do whatever it is that needs to be done.

Yet for the sake of my own sanity, I feel like I need to cut the umbilical cord on this foolishness and pray that they’ll find a nugget of self-initiative to do what they need to do for themselves. But, in case that doesn’t happen, I might need to look into booking an extended stay at the local psychiatric hospital.

 

28
Oct

My Invisible Child

invisible childI’m convinced that I’ve given birth to another child who is constantly creating havoc in my house! I’ve never seen this rascal but, according to my other kids, he is clearly the one to blame for all the trouble brewing in the house.

Who made this mess?!

Notme.

Who’s making all that daggone noise?!

Notme.

Ok, which one of y’all left all the lights on downstairs?

Notme.

On one hand, I guess I should be grateful for my child Notme. He didn’t take me through a thousand hours of labor. He doesn’t always have his hand out asking for a new pair of sneakers or video game. He’s not eating me out of house and home. He’s not constantly debating with me about what his friends’ parents let them do.

Yeah, I guess I shouldn’t complain…but seriously, Notme, you need to sit down somewhere and stop tearing up my damn house!

16
Oct

Flying the Coop

Baby-Bird-Learning-to-Fly1Why is it that folks look at me cross-eyed when I say that after graduating high school, I plan to push my children out of the nest?  From the time they entered kindergarten, I’ve lectured my children about the next 16 years of education. Although I myself received my education through the College of Life, by way of the military with a brief detour through college, I’ve always dreamed that my children would make smarter choices. So, college has always been an expectation.

However, I’m a realist, so I know that there’s a chance that my kids will upset even my best laid plans. So should they choose to forego an immediate trek to college post-graduation, the only other option would be the military where he or she could learn a trade, travel the world, earn a living, and still attend college (on the government’s dime) should they later change their mind. No matter what, either of these options would come well packaged with tons of hugs, a starter care package, and a new set of luggage. This was, after all, the same parting gift that my mom gave to me upon graduation. At the time, however, I was naïve enough to believe that my mother was simply encouraging my spirit of adventure; now, I can look back and see her not so subtle hint on what my next steps should be.

At no point, however, have I ever entertained what’s behind Door No. 3 – an extended stay at home, whether it was just to “take a break from school” or work at the local McDonald’s. This is so not an option.

Let me say that I really do love my children. However, for the past 17 years I have lovingly sacrificed my body, my energy, and at times my sanity to raise my children. Is it wrong of me to view graduation as the finish line at the end of a double marathon; the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow; the light at the end of the tunnel?

Graduation is not just for the child. It is an acknowledgment that parents have successfully paid their dues and can finally reap what they’ve sown. So, pardon me if I choose to push my little birdies out the nest should they not feel compelled to fly the coop on their own. Fly, baby, fly!

04
Dec

Dear Santa:

mailbox

Dear Santa,

It’s been a long time since I wrote you a letter, but if you really exist I could use your help. I know you specialize in toys, so what I’m going to ask you for may really sound strange. It’s just that I’m a little desperate right now, so I thought it wouldn’t hurt to ask. However, before I tell you what I want under my Christmas tree, let me give you a little background so you’ll understand my request.

First, let me share that this is my favorite time of the year! I love all of the hustle and bustle, the good eats, and the time spent with family and friends. I just love it! The fun really starts at Thanksgiving but truly kicks into high gear the day after. No, not because of Black Friday sales….it has much more to do with the sounds of Christmas.

It’s the magic of Boys to Men harmonizing Let it Snow; little Michael, Jermaine, Tito and them sweetly singing Give Love on Christmas Day; and the soothing baritone of “Merry Christmas, from The Temptations” that officially sets it off for me.

Of course, we have to toss in the traditional Christmas songs and movies like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Even though I’ve watched these movies hundreds of times, they never get old and I never get tired of singing along with Frosty or the “misfit toys.” Seems like this time of year puts everyone in a good mood. Heck, even my husband is feeling the holiday cheer. Earlier today, I couldn’t hep but smile when I heard him humming the tune to The 12 Days of Christmas. I was singing and swaying along to his tune until I heard an unfamiliar – and unusually long – note that caused me to pause. It went a little something like this:

On the 12th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, heeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaad.

On the 11th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, heeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaad.

On the 10th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, heeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaad.

[This went on painfully for “7 days,” until he got to the 5th day of Christmas and sang out…]

On the 5th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, heeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaad, and licking of the baaaaaaaaaaalls.

I’m at a complete loss for words. My husband is a bonafide nutcase.

So, Santa, please, please, please… bring me a XL straight-jacket and a wooden club for Christmas. My husband needs a good dose of get right.

Thanking you in advance,

Valerie

01
Dec

Wrong Turn Down Memory Lane

wrong wayRecently I found myself strolling down memory lane with rose-colored lenses on. I was thinking back on the choices and decisions I’d made in the past and wondering what my life would have been like had I made different choices. It was in this mental space that I recreated what I thought my life would look like and began kicking myself over how young and stupid I was way back then. However, the funny thing about these strolls is that sooner or later you hit a pothole that slams you back into reality and brings clarity to why you got off of this ill-fated lane in the first place.

Our yesterdays make us who we are today. Every mistake, every hurt, every failure, and every success are threaded into the very fabric of our person. It’s okay to reflect back on these experiences – heck, do like I do – laugh about it or cry it out. Just don’t fool yourself into believing that the scenery along memory lane was other than what you remember; instead, promise yourself that these strolls are simply brief detours that don’t distract you from the road ahead…and keep it moving.

18
Jun

School Daze

school busRemember back in the day when the last day of school felt like a national holiday? As children, we couldn’t wait to walk through the school doors to laugh with our friends about all of the things we would (or wished we could) do over the summer.

Lazy mornings

Summer camp

Cannonballs into the local pool

Scratching out chalk outlines of hopscotch squares and baseball diamonds on the streets and sidewalks

Climbing trees

Catching lightning bugs in clear, glass jars

Hide and seek

Tag!…You’re it!

Simon says…

No bedtime curfew

Late night tv

Forbidden peeks at The Benny Hill Show

Dozing off as the national anthem played

Soothed by the static white noise as the broadcast went off

Those really were the good ol’ days.

This morning, as my 12-year old son headed out the door for his last day of school, he casually commented that he couldn’t take his backpack because the students had been told that they would be “patted down” if they bought in any kind of bag on the last day.

Something is so wrong with this. It’s such a shame that the innocence of our children’s childhood will be marred by thoughts of gun violence in schools. Just makes you wonder what they will remember years from now about their own last days.