She’s Human, Let’s Just Roll With That

I’m a working mom. That means I juggle a lot, but I still pick up our babies each day after school, help with homework, talk about their friends, set up playdates etc.. Now don’t get me wrong, my husband is one of a kind and he’s very involved. However, last week I spent three nights away working and don’t tell them, but I missed my children. Yeah I know the same babies that I’ve prayed would give me a minute to myself. It’s funny how that works.

So while away, I found a play that I was sure they’d enjoy and I’d get to spend some much needed quality time. Grace for President was playing in Raleigh and although about an hour drive, we were up for it and they’d read the book so it was a perfect way to spend a Sunday evening. In the play, Grace Campbell realizes we haven’t had a female president. The lack of females in the White House, sparks her idea for a school election.

After a great performance we headed to the lobby for cast autographs and I ran into one of my work colleagues that lives in that area. She was there with her transgender daughter. Her daughter, which outwardly appeared male, identified as female. So she introduced her maybe 9-year old as her daughter Leah. I quickly shook Leah’s hand and told her I was happy to meet her. But then came time to introduce Leah to my two children.

Let me preface this by saying, we’ve never had this talk. We’ve never really had a reason to, plus my children are 8 and 6 and I really thought I had more time. This was my first experience meeting a transgender elementary age person and while I faced this new adventure intrepidly, I was nervous as hell to think what my children may say or how they may react. But I also thought it as a wonderful learning opportunity. So I introduced my daughter who’s 8 and wise beyond her years first. “Morgan, this is Leah.” Without hesitation or making a funny facial expression she reached for Leah’s hand and said “nice to meet you” with a warm smile. Next up was my 6-year-old son who missed his sister’s introduction because he was getting his last cast autograph. “Garrett, meet Leah,” I said. He drops his head and says “hi.” I asked if he could shake Leah’s hand, but it really wasn’t a question and he knew that. He slowly raises his right hand to meet Leah’s right hand.

I stand and make pleasantries for a few minutes about dinner plans, profession updates etc.. and I slip up once and refer to Leah as he but immediately catch myself and self correct and her mom is gracious enough to remind me gently “she.” We leave with parting hugs and go our separate ways.

When we’re beyond earshot I ask my children if we need to discuss meeting Leah and how they felt. My daughter says “well, to tell you the truth, I was a little confused. I mean she looked like a boy but she’s a girl. She’s a girl right?” “Yes she was born a boy but identifies as a girl,” I said.

“Well, does she have a penis or a vagina?” She asked. “I certainly wouldn’t know that,” I said “but I think the important thing is that we respect her wishes and refer to her as her girl.”

Insert uncomfortable pregnant pause.

“I figure it’s really none of my business,” Morgan said and to tell the truth the only thing we know for certain is that she’s human. So let’s just roll with that.”

I pat her on the back and say good that’s how I was hoping you’d look at it. I then turn to my son who’s two years younger and intensely listening. I asked him how he felt meeting someone like Leah and he said “I don’t know, I was really confused.”

“Well there’s no need to be confused,” I said. “She was introduced by her mom as a girl and so that’s what she is.” “I know that mom,” he said. “But …my eyes said she’s a boy.”

“I’m sure son, but remember that our brains tell our eyes what they see. So, like Morgan said, she’s human.” “Yup, the only thing I know for sure is she’s a person,” he said. “So let’s just roll with that.

These are not conversations my mom had to have with me, it was a different time. But there a few fundamentals I picked up as a kid that I was happy to pass on.

1) God makes each of us uniquely in His image.

2) Treat people like you want to be treated.

3) Love thy neighbors as ourselves.

I sincerely wish my colleague and her daughter the absolute best as I know first hand this world can be cruel. But I also know there’s a lot of love in it and those with it are responsible for teaching it to our children.

 

 

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No Longer a Tumbleweed

My husband often uses the analogy of tumbleweeds to describe the importance of history. Tumbleweeds dry out and detach from their roots and stems. They just blow in the wind. It’s hard to find your purpose and more importantly ride out a storm without having roots. In fact, there’s a Malay Proverb that says “A tree with strong roots laughs at storms.”

Years ago I had a unique opportunity to visit east India. While there on a Rotarian sponsored trip I stayed with different families. The first family I stayed with was that of a prominent businessman and his wife who was a teacher. When the driver opened the door, the very first face I saw was a young girl about 10 or 11 with a cocoa complexion. Her smile was warm. Her eyes glowed and she immediately shook my hand. My host introduced her as Rocky, a farm girl they had adopted and brought to live with them to provide her with an education and give her a better life.

Rocky only spoke Hindi and I only speak English. Our communication barrier was no secret, but in a world where complexions matter it was obvious that Rocky was thrilled to see and touch mine. Every time she spoke to me, I smiled and told her how sorry I was that I only speak English. After a few minutes, Rocky’s eyes filled with tears. She hung her head low and walked away silently. My host was kind enough to translate as I am sure I had a look of confusion.

“Rocky was asking you to teach her your secret language,” he said. “What secret language?” I replied. “The language of people that look like you and her in your country. She was hurt because she promised not to tell anyone, but she feels as though you don’t trust her.”

If only Rocky knew that many of my people, people of African descent are like tumbleweeds. We don’t have a secret language. It’s a consolation prize from years of bondage during slavery. We don’t know the language of our ancestors because we don’t know where we are from. It’s a tough conversation and difficult for most people outside of our unique circumstance to understand.

I grew up in small city in upstate New York with one of the largest refugee centers in the nation. I had the privilege of learning about so many different cultures. I had Italian friends whose grandmother’s only spoke Italian and had secret family cannoli recipes. I had Laotian friends whose grandparents only spoke Laotian and had home made temples to worship in their homes. When children grow up around children from different places they learn their geography, their religion and cultural differences. However, most Black families were one generation removed from migrant farming. So when you ask us about our roots, the answer is usually a southern state. That’s it. That’s about the extent of where we can say we are from. We don’t have a language all our own and we don’t have recipes from before our involuntary voyage.

A few months ago my husband bought me an Ancestry DNA test. No, I didn’t run to take it. In fact, it sat on the table for about two weeks. I was curious, but I’d seen several friends do it and come back with a gazillion different ethnic regions and still walk away feeling incomplete. Plus, it requires fasting before you take it and well, I like to graze. I can’t remember when I did it, but I certainly remember the day I got my results; Wednesday October 4, 2017.

I wasn’t sure I’d feel different knowing more about my ancestry. But there’s an unexplainable sense of peace in feeling connected to a people and a land. Even if you don’t know anything about it. My results came back over 30% from Togo, which is a pretty high. So, this is the beginning of a discovery phase for me to learn as much as I can about its’ history, culture and people.

I wish I could find Rocky and tell her that my secret language is more than likely Ewe’ but French will do. I wish I could tell her that my region is much like hers, filled with farmers and huts, but has over 30 miles of coastline on the Gulf of Guinea. I wish I could explain to her that at 42 years old I am just now beginning to take root.

Togo

Longest 11 Minutes of my Life

It was a lazy Sunday. All of us were tired. No one rushed to do anything. My husband made oatmeal for breakfast. My son walked around in his favorite Spiderman costume all day. My daughter was comfortable in her leggings and favorite t-shirt. The babies watched two movies, I watched a Little League World Series game and my husband tinkered away on a ‘Do It Yourself’ project. I mustered up the energy to start dinner; baked barbecue chicken, mashed sweet potatoes and some veggies. The only problem was I was missing one ingredient. Don’t you hate that? I mean, you’ve prepped the kitchen and the meal. You’ve pre-heated the oven and can now taste this meal only to figure out you’re missing an ingredient. In my case it was evaporated milk for the mashed sweet potatoes.

One of the best things about where we live is the proximity to stores. My grocery store of choice is in our neighborhood and about one mile from our front step. I can drive there in about 5 minutes. No stoplights, no major streets on the route. I have on a t-shirt, some workout shorts and a baseball cap and I have NO interest in changing. My daughter who’s 8 years-old, in the 4th grade and very bright loves any kind of shopping and was up for the quick run. For a split second I remember how often I went to the store independently at her age. I was 6-years-old the first time I walked to the corner store with a list of stuff for my grandma. I’m sure I will age myself when I tell you that I didn’t need any money. Mr. Sam was the owner and he knew all the neighborhood kids and our families. My grandma and granddaddy had a running tab.

But, this ain’t the 80s and our grocery store is a lot bigger than Mr. Sam’s corner store. So, no my daughter had never been in the store by herself. But when I mentioned the possibility, she lit up. “I got this momma.” I know exactly where it is. Let me do it. I can do it momma. You stay in the car and I can run in and get it.”

Now, to be honest I know she CAN do it. She goes with me all the time. She helps me cook and she’s very mature. So, I reluctantly agree.

In walks FEAR. We pull up to the grocery store and the parking spot right in front of the door is occupied. I look around and I see a spot within eyeshot, BUT I’ve decided I’m not ready for this and as I turn off the car, I renege on my offer to let her experience a small dose of independence.

“I’m sorry Morgan I’m just not comfortable letting you go, there’s a lot of things to consider. We’ll go together.” “Come on mom,” she says. “I got this. RELAX. We come here all the time, they know me.” I take a minute and remember that the same cashier works their almost every Sunday and has known my baby since birth. She asks about her when she’s not with me. “How’s your baby?” she asks. “Is she in dance this year?”

I look at my baby’s face and I reluctantly agree. I write a quick note: EVAPORATED MILK (Baking Isle). I hand her a $20 bill and tell her she can also get a bag of icees for her and her brother. I write on the note, Icees (Cheese Isle). I remind her not to talk to strangers and make sure she counts her change.

“Got it,” she says as the car door slams behind her. “Be right back.”

I see her walk away at 5:07 p.m. and in walks INSECURITY. People will think I am a bad mom. Lord, folks are going to think I have lost my mind. But before I could finish my insecure moment, in walks FEAR again. What if she talks to strangers? What if she gets kidnapped? What if she gets lost in the grocery store? What if I didn’t give her enough money? If she’s not back in 10 minutes, I’m going in. I roll down the window and what do I see? A fellow mom and community member coming out the same door she went in.

Lord, now it’s out. I’m a bad mom and I let my baby go into the store by herself. I wave frantically, cause I’m like at least let me let her know I’m RIGHT HERE. She doesn’t see me and keeps walking. The time is now 5:11 p.m. and I know I said I’d wait 10 minutes, but this must be a sign I need to go in.

I roll up the window, turn off the car and open the car door. As I am getting ready to jump out I remind myself how smart she is. That she makes good decisions. I think back to when I was her age and I grab my phone and begin to glance from the phone to the window, phone to the window and low and behold, it’s 5:18 and I’m out the car on my way in cause it’s now 11 minutes and who do I see sashaying out with a small cart with the biggest Kool Aid grin I’ve seen her with in a minute?

I don’t tell her I was on my way in, but I do ask “What took you so long?” She says “I’m sorry I had a little trouble finding the right brand. I grabbed one that looked familiar and then I thought let me hurry up, I know this is killing my mom.”

I tell her she did an awesome job and I am really proud of her, but I’m just not ready for all of this. She gives me a big hug and says, “well I was hoping you’d let me go back inside and get something sweet to celebrate my victory.” My face must have told her my thoughts because she immediately starts fast talking about how she wanted to come out and ask first because it wasn’t her money and not on the list. “I know exactly where it is and it won’t take me but a second,” she pleads.

I hand her $10 from the change and remind her to pick up something for her brother and I hold my breath for another 3 whole minutes.

I’m not sure there’s a magical age, where this would ever had been okay, but I can say that any second thoughts I had lessened when after telling me blow by blow what happened and what she witnessed she gave me a tight squeeze and said “Thanks for trusting me with such a big job mom. I know that was tough for you.”

She’s right, but I also know there are two gifts we should give our children, one is roots and the other is wings. Let’s just pray I don’t have a heart attack watching them learn to fly.

ME.Summer.17

I Fit the Profile

I Fit the Profile

One of the hazards of having a business with products to sell is that occasionally I have to vend. The hazard isn’t in the vending, the hazard is in the travel and of course it’s always tough for a busy mom to leave midweek for a few days. None the less, I found myself packing up my 2015 Tahoe with books, filling my tank, devising alternate schedules for the kids, laying out school clothes all in preparation for two nights away for work.

Sometime, I look forward to the peaceful drive and hotel room, but for some reason, I truly wasn’t feeling this one. In fact, I reviewed the hotel cancellation policy and had I thought about it sooner, I probably would have backed out. South Carolina is a good four hours drive from my house and Tuesday is reserved for piano and violin lessons for the children. By the time I’d helped my husband feed and bathe babies it was going on 8 p.m.

The ride is smooth, barely any traffic and no rain. When I veer off I-95 to U.S. Route 501 in South Carolina it’s close to midnight and the highway signs read 55 MPH. I reduce my speed and set my cruise control to 62 MPH. I’m somewhat tired and for the first time, I turn on the radio to XM 47 and begin bopping to to lyrics from songs I partied to in college. Within 5 minutes I see blue lights behind me. At this very moment, I become fully aware of who I am, where I am and what I am driving. I dial my husband and put one earbud in my ear. “Hey, I’m being pulled by the police and I know I wasn’t going fast enough for a ticket, but just hold the line,” I say. My husband says “okay cool.”

Officer: May I have your license and registration?

Me: You can, but I’d really like to know why you stopped me.

Officer: I will tell you that after I see your license and registration.

I hand him my license and registration and he then says “You were speeding and going 68 MPH.”

Me: I’m sorry, but I had my cruise control set, so I know for a fact that I was not going nearly that fast. I was going 63 MPH.

Officer: It’s still speeding isn’t it?

Me: I suppose, but I know I wasn’t going as fast as you say I was.

He says he’ll be right back and I now feel free to speak my mind to my husband. “Ain’t this some bullshit, you know he is not going to give me a ticket and you KNOW I was not going nearly that fast.”

My Husband: “I know and you know what it is, but you have a family and children to get back home to so just keep your cool.”

A few moments pass and the officer re-appears.

Officer: “Mrs. Taylor, I’m gonna give you a warning ticket this time, but you may want to get your cruise control checked because you were going faster than you think you were.”

Me: “Thank you, but this is a 2015 Tahoe and I’m pretty sure my cruise control is accurate,” I snap back.

Officer: “Well maybe it’s your tires,” he replies.

Me: “No sir, these are not after market, they are factory, but I appreciate it. Thanks,” I say reaching for my blue written warning ticket.

I debrief my feelings about this unwarranted stop to my husband as I continue on my way. I realize that I am not angry about the stop not because of the outcome, but because I EXPECTED it. Yes, it’s a known fact that people of color are more likely to be stopped by law enforcement.

In fact, I have three African American females in my close circle that have had similar experiences in the same area. One was traveling with her elderly parents and teenage niece. She was stopped for having a sorority tag in the front of her car and asked to get out and if her car could be searched. When she refused, she was stopped less than 10 miles up the road for switching lanes. This time, K-9s were called in. None were given tickets and all felt the same as me, profiled.

I arrived to my destination about 30 minutes later and I can’t help but think about the differences people of color face every day in United States and the privileges allotted to others.

You see my first instinct when I saw blue lights behind me was to protect myself which is why I called my husband. So my natural inclination is to protect myself from those sworn to Serve and Protect??? I doubt that’s the first feeling my Caucasian friends have when stopped by law enforcement. My husband’s first inclination was to remind me to do what’s necessary to get back home safely. I also doubt that’s the first feeling my Caucasian friends have for their spouses during routine traffic stops.

Since I am a stickler for the rules, I want to be clear that my issue was not that Officer Lewis stopped me. My issue is that I don’t believe he stops everyone going 7 miles over the speed limit. I also don’t believe he gives them all traceable written warning tickets. My issue is that I live in a country that my daddy fought for, I work in, pay taxes in and I am still not allotted the same privileges as everyone else. My issue is that I have neighbors and friends that refuse to sympathize with real issues, feelings and challenges that people of color face in our country every day.

 

He Won’t Be Re-elected

The best thing about our nighttime routine is the private, last minute conversations I have with my soon-to-be 7-year-old Princess. I know, I know, part of it is her stalling and trying to delay the inevitable. But I must admit, as long as I continue to get the skinny on all that happened that day in class, at recess and all points in between…. I’ll take it.

My other truth is that, sometimes, I envy my husband’s quick retreat to his recliner downstairs. You see he puts our 4-year-old pint size super hero son to bed and I usually hear him exit about 5 minutes after lights out. In five minutes our daughter hasn’t even begun to scratch the surface on her day.

But here’s the thing, our conversations…I mean her conversations are priceless. Don’t believe me? Read for yourself:

ME: “Mommy is it true that teachers don’t make much money?”

“Yes, ME it’s true. I hope that will change one day. They deserve much more.”

ME: “Well when I get big, I’m going to change that.”

“Awesome. ME I think that’s a great goal.”

ME: “I changed my mind, I want to change it now. What can I do?”

“I don’t know ME, maybe you can write the Governor(NC) a letter about how you feel.”

ME: “Governor, who’s the Governor?”

“His name is Pat McCory.”

ME: “Pat who?”

“Pat McCory.”

ME: “He sounds mean.”

“Well some people think so.”

ME: “He sounds like he’s related to Dumb Donald (Trump that is. By the way, I do not approve of the nickname she’s given him).” She then pauses for a moment.

“In that case momma, I’m gonna write him two letters. One for more money for teachers and one to tell him he won’t be re-elected. He don’t need to be Governor if a kid has to tell him to give teachers more money.”

At this point I choose not to respond, which is how we end just about every night; with her having the last word. I silently chuckle and I think to myself, Ummm, ME, can you send the letter about giving the teachers a raise first? I’m Just Saying. Plus technically I’m sure he considers their additional $750 a year a grand gesture. It’s simply not enough Governor McCory, just ask my second grader. #watchoutPat #MEforGovernor

Fact check: Examining raises for North Carolina teachers

 

MeandMinime

KidsVote

 

Vanilla or Chocolate: Not Bad, Not Better; Just Different

When I was a child my birthday parties always ended with a cake and a clear gallon bucket of ice cream. The bucket always had three flavors in it, vanilla, chocolate and strawberry. The premise was that you could enjoy whichever flavor you preferred. The ice cream always started out nice and neat, but you could never have a whole scoop of one without remnants of the other flavors on it and by the end it seemed like all three flavors were completely mixed up.

It’s amazing what you can learn from a bucket of ice cream.

My 6-year-old daughter Morgan recently co-authored a book that educates and excites young people with her dad and my husband. Daddy’s Little Princess is a one of kind book that introduces real Princesses and Queens of color from around the world on an elementary level. If you ask Morgan as one reporter did, why she wrote the book she will say “My daddy always calls me Princess, but I didn’t think I could be a Princess because I didn’t see any that looked like me. I thought only “vanilla” or white people could be Princesses. When I found out that anyone could be a Princess, I wanted to let other little girls know that too.”

Awe, sounds sweet to many, but clearly a few were bothered by her “Vanilla” label and took to the comment section of her news story to say so. Which brings me to the reason for this blog post. One comment in particular said that the label “vanilla” or white people is early indoctrination. I’m guessing he meant it to be a disparaging comment, but I actually completely agree. You see the Latin word for “teach”, doctrina is the root of indoctrinate. As parents it’s our responsibility to indoctrinate or teach.

I’ve had this blog since my daughter was an infant and rarely do I give parenting advice. I wholeheartedly believe that parenting is the toughest job you can NEVER prepare for. You can read books, you can read journals, you can ask other parents what to do, but in the end we are all just trying to do the best we can. However, there are a few things we just should not and cannot do and one of those is to shy away or ignore important questions from our children.

As a Communication professional (I have a few degrees that say so) let me just say there will never be a colorblind society. If you have the gift of sight, you see color. That’s why toddlers touch each others skin and hair. Our goal should not be to be colorblind. Our goal should be to treat each other the SAME regardless of our differences. Acknowledging differences is not the problem. The problem is treating people different because of them. Yes, our skin is different, not bad, not better; just different. Yes, our hair is different, not bad, not better; just different. Yes, some children are handi-capable, not bad, not better; just different.

So when our very bright 2-year-old was in pre-k and really began to notice these differences we did what parents should do; we talked about them and since words like African American, Caucasian and Asian were a little difficult for her to grasp, words like vanilla and chocolate were easier for her to understand. The concept that vanilla ice cream and chocolate ice cream were different, but both delicious was easier for her to understand. It’s like that gallon of ice cream. But when we as adults shy away from having conversations with our children because it makes US feel uncomfortable, we are leaving our children to figure out something extremely complex on their own. That’s not fair and that’s not good parenting and when they don’t get it right we have civil discourse and racial prejudice.

So yes, both my daughter and my 4-year-old son have been “indoctrinated.” We acknowledge differences, we share information and treat everyone the same. One of my favorite parts of my daughter’s Barnes and Noble book signing was seeing all her friends, vanilla, chocolate or butter pecan all come out to support her and to learn about Princesses they had not heard of before. She was genuinely happy to see them and they were genuinely happy to support her. So, it may be easier to get caught up on the label than to deal with the reality that yes we have differences and they are not bad, not better; just different.

Visit http://www.taylormadenc.com to learn more about her book Daddy’s Little Princess

 

Testicles and Boobies

My children are growing up and at ages 6 and 4 there’s a little bit of independence that comes with that. Although, I still wash them in the bathtub just to make sure all bases have been covered, they do bathe separately and dress themselves when they get out.

Having a boy and a girl has created balance for me. My daughter, Morgan is all things girly girl including scented lotion and pink pajamas. My son Garrett, who we refer to as Lil G, is a ladies man. I’m not just saying that, but he really knows JUST what to say. For example, today Morgan decided to tell me that Lil G has SEVERAL girlfriends. When I questioned him about it he said “no momma, just one and it’s you.” He’s smooth, so smooth in fact that between his lines and his complexion I’ve nicknamed him Hershey Kiss.

Well not only do these kids have quite the personality, they also happen to be quite funny. Tonight when Lil G got out the bathtub he runs to his room and grabs the men’s lotion he took from my husband’s side of the bed and begins to moisturize. He slows down almost to a crawl when he gets below his waist and pays more attention to his genitalia. And the rest is straight comedy:

Lil G – “What’s this ball thing below my penis?”

Me – “Go ask your daddy”

Morgan – “It’s your scrotum and it holds pee.”

Me – “Morgan you don’t have a penis and you’re wrong so please let him go ask daddy.”

Daddy – “They’re testicles son.”

Morgan – “What are testicles?”

Daddy – (trying not to laugh) “They’re something cool that hang from our bodies.”

Morgan – “That’s not fair, we don’t have anything cool hanging from our bodies.”

Daddy – “When you get you older you will.”

Pause….

Morgan – “Are you talking about boobies.”

Me: (laughing hysterically)

15 minutes later just when I thought we were done…

Morgan – “What if mine don’t grow when I get older.”

Daddy – (laughing) “Then you can go to the boobie store.”

Lil G – (serious) “There’s no such thing as a boobie store.”

Morgan – “How do you know, you have a penis.” (rolling her neck)

Lil G – Now smiling “because I just do.”

Morgan – “Well what if they run out of boobies by the time I need some?”

Me – “Okay Lights OUT. It’s Definitely Time for Bed.”

So now I know exactly what Bill Cosby meant “Kids say the darndest things. Oh, the joys of parenting.

Them