Is Today the Day?

From the day my son was born I have had a sick feeling in the bottom of my belly. Truthfully it began while I was pregnant. Pure unadulterated fear and anxiety of knowing that black mommas don’ t have the luxury of knowing the day nor the time that our sons transition from being cute to a threat in the United States. My son is coming up on his 8thbirthday. He’s an avid reader, takes Tae Kwon Do, loves to swim, has the absolute sweetest spirit and demeanor. But he’s also in the 90thpercentile for height, which means most people think he’s older than he is. That alone scares the living daylights out of me.

17-year old Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by a white vigilantly neighborhood watchman in his own neighborhood on February 26, 2012. At the time my only son was 7 months old. I remember the resounding fear that I felt for my son. I don’t know another chocolate mom that has not lived with this unsettling angst every day of their son’s lives. I understand this is a concept difficult for our vanilla mommas to comprehend. Each day when my husband and son leave my home I say an extra prayer for their safe return. Why, because 12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot by a policeman playing in the park across the street from his home for playing with a toy gun. Well guess what, my son likes toy soldiers, Pokémon’, slime and toy guns too.

Today my son participated in an away swim meet. I was there and volunteered as a turn judge. Now volunteering as a judge is a shared responsibility for swim parents. It requires concentration on the match which sometimes means you leave your own children for other team moms to look after in between events. This is the second year my children have participated on this mostly white summer swim team. Our families see each other a total of four days a week. You can’t spend that amount of time and not become loosely familiar with one another.

During the meet I glance over at a table and see my daughter, son and one of my daughter’s teammates sitting at a table sharing a bag of pretzels. I smile at the kind gesture of my daughter’s friend to share her family’s snacks. A few moments later the young girl is beckoned by the coach for her event and my daughter follows to cheer her on. This meant the bag of pretzels she’d brought was left on the table with my son.

Now remember, I’m judging so I have to watch the match, which usually takes anywhere from :45 seconds to 1 minute. When the race is over my son tugs my right leg and says “momma, I think so and so’s mom is mad at me and thinks I stole their bag of pretzels.” So I ask for more detail and he says that during the match the mom and her son approached the table, snatched the bag from the table and told him “these don’t belong to you, they are ours.”

At this moment, the next match is about to begin and I can’t address it. So, I tell my son to go get his sister and I’ll deal with it when the meet is over. This is a teammates mom. So she at least knows we are on the same team. And here’s where there’s a divide and difference among mothers in this country. I am now concerned on a level my Caucasian mothers wouldn’t have to be. It would be nice to think of this as a misunderstanding without consequence. But I don’t have this luxury. See there are Permit Patty’s out there waiting for moments like this to call the police and proclaim my son a thief. This type of implicit biased could cost my 8-year old son his life. Yes, it’s just that serious to me.

By the end of the match her well meaning daughter had explained that she offered my children the pretzels and the mom has apologized to my children. When I approach, she says “Your children are so sweet. I’m so sorry, I just looked up and saw our bag of pretzels on the other table and went to get them. I think I frightened him when I took them back.”

I accepted her apology and remind her that my children are not thieves and leave. In the car on the 30-minute ride home, I have to explain to my children why they cannot share things the same way their other “friends” can and how dangerous situations like that can be. Plus, it’s totally unnecessary because my children need and want for absolutely nothing “so if someone offers you something, just politely decline.”

So here’s my question, would the mom have reacted the same if my son looked different? Some would think I’ve put too much thought into it, but what I know for sure is that I can’t afford not to.

Tomorrow I will bring that “team mom” a super sized bag of pretzels with a bow on it.

But maybe today’s the day that my Hershey has gone from cute to a threat.

Chocolate Mothers everywhere pray for our sons

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Ripple Effect of Kindness

Corrie ten Boom said “Every experience God gives us….is the perfect preparation for the future only He can see.”

I took my babies to Walmart today for a budgeting exercise. In short, they wanted out of the house and to spend money. They have a monthly stipend for such excursions. It’s amazing how selective they are on choosing items, when it’s their money versus ours. When we got to the checkout, there was a Caucasian woman, her mom and two kids in front of us. When it was time for them to pay, it exceeded what was available on her card. She immediately removed a box of pop tarts to deduct from the bill. She then rummaged through her bags trying to figure out what else to put back. Her daughter, who looked the same age as mine looked but didn’t say anything. I tried to think back to what I’d seen on the conveyor belt. It was nothing crazy. I remembered seeing a family pack of hamburger and a loaf of bread.

I then interjected and told her to pay what she could and I would pay the rest. She asked me if I was sure. I re-assured her I was solid in my decision and then asked the cashier to give her babies their pop tarts back. And before someone says, that was a want and not a need. My children like pop tarts and so do a lot of other folks I know. She said “ma’am I only have $100 on my EBT card and the bill is $142.” I replied “that’s fine.” The mom and the grandma cried and hugged me and asked if they could ever repay me. I told them not with money, but I have no doubt her children would one day be in a position to do the same for someone else.

Her son who was slightly older than his sister asked the mom why she was crying. She didn’t respond. The grandma made sure to tell me how God would bless me. Little did she know how very Blessed I am already.

See, I didn’t help her to expedite her transaction. I didn’t help her for blog content. I helped her because I remember being in that very spot as a child and my mom having to make tough choices at the register. I remember being embarrassed and wanting to cry. I remember how hard I know my mom worked at two-part time jobs trying to provide for me and my brother on her own and thinking people would make a snap judgment about her at the register. They’d assume she didn’t work. They’d assume she was lazy. They’d assume a whole lot of stuff that just wasn’t true. So, I helped her because I wanted to grant this woman’s children a little relief. I helped her because it was an opportunity for me to sow a seed in her children.

Little did I know that one act of kindness would have such a ripple effect. See, my children were also watching. When we got to the car Morgan said “mom, you are a really nice person. That was an awesome thing to do.” In that moment I shared with them how I felt as a child in that same predicament and how important it is for us to help others when we can and to not take our Blessings for granted but use them to help uplift people. I gave my children a charge and reminded them that whom much is given, much is also required (Luke 12:48).

I’m mighty grateful for ALL of my experiences, both good and not so good and I’m grateful for moments that remind me of God’s goodness and His perfect timing.

“Every experience God gives us….is the perfect preparation for the future only He can see.”

 

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.

 

 

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