More Than One Sandusky

Every night in my lengthy personal chat with God, I pray for both my husband and me to have a spirit of discernment, to keep people that may molest or touch our children inappropriately at bay. When stories like Jerry Sandusky unfold, I am reminded of just how scary child predators can be. They come in all shades, sizes and professions. Some court their prey like Sandusky. They gain their trust, they spend time, and they buy them things. Some have a family friend connection and they rely on that relationship to get them what they want. Others assault strangers; children they have never seen before and don’t plan to see again.

In middle school I befriended a Caucasian male teacher. I joined a handful of students that spent our lunch hours and after school time with him chatting about everything from family life to schoolwork. He taught me how to carve wood, how to play guitar, how to dissolve childhood drama. He was more than a teacher; he was a friend. He was married. He was kind. My parents were divorced and mom was worked a lot, but she watched this relationship very carefully. I remember her response when he asked if I could go fishing with him. “Oh, hell naw,” she said. I begged and begged and he agreed to come by our apartment to talk with her. After their meeting, she reluctantly agreed. We went fishing and I had nothing inappropriate to report. For years, our relationship remained the same.

When I was in college and home on summer vacation. He asked me to his family’s camp to “catch up.” He picked me up one early Friday morning in his blue pick up truck. It was good to see him. I missed him. He had a cooler full of snacks and lengthy conversation. When we arrived he offered me marijuana. I declined, but was shocked; he had never done that before. He proceeded to tell me that he and his wife were having sexual issues. He said following the birth of their children, she was no longer attracted to him and gave him “permission” to have sex with me. Lucky me. I declined his offer and was lucky he was at least decent enough to bring me home without further incident. But the betrayal stuck with me for years and I cried at the loss of a friend, at the fool I had been for years. It’s the shame associated with these types of events that keep you from talking. It took a long time to trust again.

Although his attempt to kiss me on the mouth was the height of his inappropriate touch, a friend of my grandmother’s took it a step further. I won’t bore you with all my personal stories with child predators, but suffice it to say I am well aware of the baggage it leaves victims to deal with. One in four African American children are sexually assaulted, molested or touched inappropriately.

Sandusky’s 45 guilty child sexual offenses are considered a victory for child advocates, but it’s a scary reminder to parents. Sandusky may be locked up, but there are so many more like him walking our streets, attending our church and teaching and coaching in our schools. So when a grown up creates situations to spend alone time with your child, pay attention. Single parent households, broken parental relationships are always a target, so be aware. Communicate with your child about inappropriate touch as early and often as possible.

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The Princess and the Farm

Last week at the library, my 3-year-old Princess was abducted by aliens and asked to take out not one but two books about big trucks and machines. At first she claimed it was for her baby brother, but then she confessed that she felt she needed to learn more about those things. I must say, I was not excited about having to read about trucks. Can’t we just get the book about the real African princesses again, I thought.

At bedtime she insisted that we start with truck books and I obliged. I must admit she was not the only one that didn’t know much about those things, I learned a lot. Who knew there were so many different categories of trucks? Okay really, that was rhetorical.

Fast forward to the weekend. I had to work in Bertie County, my husband’s hometown, on Saturday morning and our church, Zion Bethlehem MBC was having a hat and tie function in the afternoon. So we packed up the kids, called the grandparents and decided to make a day of it. Now for those of you that have no idea where Bertie County is, just know it’s a small rural county, very rural with its own unique personality. While relaxing at my in-laws, we decide it would be nice to take a ride and see the family’s farmland. After all our city slicker children had never seen the acreage and thought country living began and ended with grandma and granddaddy’s house.

What started out as just a Saturday afternoon ride in the country, ended with an experience of a lifetime for our daughter. When we pulled onto the dirt road from the two-lane highway, my daughter looked out her window gasped for air and shouted with excitement “mommy, there it is, the big truck from the book. It’s a machine, it’s a machine.” And indeed it was, her great Uncle Levi and Aunt Mildred were right in the middle of plowing a field full of wheat on the biggest tractor, either of us had ever seen.

“Can I ride on it? Please, please, “ she begged. At this moment, I am glad I didn’t talk her out of getting her books about machines and my husband is obviously proud at the excitement of her request. He jumps out to meet his Uncle and asks him if she can take a ride. Without hesitation, Uncle Levi emphatically says “she sure can.”

The next thing I know, my prissy, nails done hair done everything big daughter is climbing these mountain high steps to get into the cab of the truck. I learned that terminology while reading a children’s book. She is grinning from ear to ear and I am thrilled at knowing that she will NEVER forget this moment when her book came alive and her great Uncle and Auntie let her ride in the tractor.

She was up there for at least 30 minutes. She was watching everything and even got to drive, to let her tell it. Every time they would stop and bring her back to us, she would ask to go again and they would oblige. Her excitement never wore off, but the sun was setting so we finally managed to get her down.

When she climbed down, she said “that was so much fun.” Aunt Mildred, a retired educator, provided a wheat lesson during the tractor drive and as my daughter put it, “it’s in everything, it’s in cakes, and bread and everything.” She then insisted I join her on a trot down the dirt road to see the “little” truck Uncle Levi used to put the wheat after plowing. “See, look,” she said kneeling down to pick some up from the ground. “This is what it looks like after you cut it.”

As the sun began to set on a small dirt road in the middle of nowhere, a princess turned into a farmer. I have no idea what the future will hold for Morgan, maybe she’ll be a doctor, maybe she’ll be a teacher or maybe even a farmer.  Thanks a million Uncle Levi and Aunt Mildred for expanding her mind and allowing me to watch it!

A Toddler Bucket List?

This year Mother’s Day was awesome. I received all sorts of good stuff, flowers, cards, plants, and handcrafted art, but one of favorite gifts was the child free weekend trip to Miami. What great motivation for sticking to my diet and working out.

As excited as I was to go to Miami, the preparation was exhausting. Pre-kids we traveled all the time. But I am out of practice. I had to update my travel attire, clean my house, new suitcase, prep grandparents with schedules and pack up everybody. Two weeks of preparation for a four day weekend just didn’t seem fair.

In the midst of all the hectic packing and cleaning the princess asks me where we were going. I try my best not to tell stories, so I came clean. “We’re going to South Beach,” I said. “Yeah,” she says. “I love south beach. When do we leave?” So at this moment  I have two choices, I can break it to her now that she ain’t going or wait until she is being kicked out of the car at grandma and grandaddies to tell her she ain’t going. I opt for first choice.

“Morgan, you are not going to South Beach, it’s just for me and daddy.” With her head slightly tilted to the side and a confused and puzzled look on her face, she asks “just you and daddy? But I like the beach too.”

So I try my best to explain that we know she loves the beach and we will gladly take her this summer, but not this time. “This time is just for the adults.”

“So, there are no kids at South Beach?” She asks. And I feel like this is a test. If I say there are no children in South Beach, that’s not exactly true, so I choose to reiterate that sometimes me and daddy need alone time and we have a lot of fun stuff planned for the whole family for the summer, but this trip is just for me and daddy.

Well, it becomes obvious real quick that I am now is the midst of a debate with a 3-year-old. “Is is far?” she asks and I tell her it is. “Will you drive?” she asks and I tell her we will fly. “On a plane?” she asks, “yes ma’am on a plane.”

“Well I like planes too. I like the beach and I like planes, so I should go, right?” At this point, I don’t see a way out of this, my only card was that we will go the beach later this summer. “No, babe I’m sorry but this trip is just for me and daddy, but you will have so much fun at grandma and grandaddy’s house. You will get to play with your cousins and everything,” I say with excitement.

She looks at me with a straight face as if to say did you think that would make me feel better about being left at home while you guys party it up in South Beach? And I am smiling with anticipation of what she will say next.

“But it’s on my bucket list,” she said. “Your bucket list,” What do you know about a bucket list,” I laugh. “I just know it okay and South Beach is on my bucket list.” My husband, the silent observer, looks at me and laughs hysterically.

So for days, I am trying to figure out, where on earth my child has heard about a bucket list and how would she possibly know in what context to talk about one. I mean, I monitor what she watches on television, what she hears  on the radio, the people she hangs around and the places we visit. I hadn’t even heard of it before watching Morgan Freeman’s movie about he and his friend’s adventures to complete a list of things they always wanted to do before their demise.

And then I remembered my excitement when I opened my Mother’s Day package weeks earlier and was greeted with tickets to South Beach. “Wow, honey thanks so much, I’ve always wanted to go to South Beach. It’s definitely on my bucket list.”

All I can say is, I am glad I stopped cussing before I had my babies. Who needs a tape recorder when you have children listening and remembering everything we say?

So my advice, be careful what you say or be forced to explain it later and if you haven’t been to South Beach….make sure you add it your bucket list.

Nailed it

Every morning for the last three weeks, my daughter has insisted that I paint her fingernails to match the color of her outfit. Her latest fashion request includes at least two colors and some polka dots on at least one finger or toe. When time is an issue, I deny the request, but on most mornings and as small as her fingernails are, it’s easier to just paint the nails. This is funny because I can’t remember the last time I painted my own nails. I mean what’s the point? By the time I made bottles, washed dishes, prepared meals and bathed my children, even the best polish would be chipped and then I would complain about not having time to sit and remove it.

But my 3-year-old absolutely loves nail polish and I could kick whichever loved one felt the need to indulge her hobby that demands so much of my time. Last Tuesday, she wore blue and her nail polish was blue and pink. I dropped her off at my mom’s and she was excited about her weekly afternoon jaunt to a children’s gym filled with jumpies and slides. A little before 4 p.m., her scheduled pick up time, I get a call from my husband asking about our pediatricians office and an updated insurance card because she’d had an accident and her fingers were hurt.

During the conversation he relays that her fingers got stuck in the bathroom door and I hear her screaming to the top of her lungs in the background. So, I’m not panicking because he’s with her and the doctor’s office in less than a half mile away. I meet them at the doctor’s office and she’s quiet in the waiting room until she see’s me and then the she starts boo hooing not about her fingers, not about the blood gushing through the homemade bandage, but about what? Yes, you guessed it, her nails.

After the nurse calls us back and asks the standard questions about what happened, the pharmacy we use, her weight, blah, blah, blah, we’re escorted to a room to wait for the doctor and I finally get to ask her what happened. In between tears, she says “I was coming out of the bathroom and a boy pushed the door on my fingers.” So I ask, was it on purpose or an accident. She emphatically says “on purpose.” Just then the doctor walks in and I finally get to see my poor baby’s fingers.

No broken bones, but she has lost not one, but two complete nails and her skin is completely exposed. I cringe just looking at it. I feel so sorry for her and all she keeps talking about is her nails. So of course the visual has caused me to get a little warm. I mean where was the supervision? Was there an incident report? Was the boy reprimanded? Did he at least apologize? Why didn’t they call me? And the list goes on. It’s official. I’m pissed.

On the way home, I told her I was glad she was okay but I was a little upset and felt like I needed to stop by the place of her injury and let them know I was angry. Her response was “mommy please don’t do that.” I then asked her to tell me what I can do then and this was her reply,  “you can write about it and tell all the mommies that read it not to fight when kids get hurt. It’s okay to be upset and they can call somebody, but don’t fight.”

So according to Morgan us mommies need to chill out when our children are injured and refrain from taking out an old fashioned can of whip ass on the responsible adults. Ding, ding, ding, she nailed it. How noble of her to say so, but until I reach the same conclusion, her days at that particular venue are over.