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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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.

 

 

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

 

It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye

Last year was tough for me. I was full of anxiety just thinking about transitioning our then 5-year-old daughter from a small close-knit private pre-school to public school. I researched every school, the district policy, interviewed teachers and administrator friends for advice. We teetered with the idea of homeschooling, bought curriculums and even made our spare bedroom a sudo-classroom. And I definitely prayed a lot. We finally decided to give public school a try. I figured, what’s the worse that can happen? We could be unhappy, pull her out and try something different.

After her initial assessment and being in Kindergarten for two days, the group consensus was to move her up to First Grade. With this change came even more apprehension. She was transitioning to public school, larger classes and she’s small in stature. Was this the right decision? Was she mature enough to handle it and if she wasn’t would her self-esteem survive putting her back? So back in my prayer closet I went.

We were assured by her school’s administration that she’d be fine and had a great First Grade teacher and we would very soon agree. Her teacher wasn’t much taller than my daughter, she was petite, smiled a lot and kept in constant contact with me about Morgan’s progress. She was young, full of energy and seemed to be a real go getter; you know the type that looks forward to challenges. In fact, she was a marathon runner and to me that spoke volumes about her personality. Marathon runners are in for the long haul, run through cramps, rain, extreme temperatures etc… She was just what the doctor ordered, in this case what we needed.

Morgan didn’t just exist in First Grade, she excelled both academically and socially. She also fell in love with her teacher and truthfully so did I. Right before Christmas break I told her, I really think she should consider teaching Second Grade. I know, I know totally selfish move. Of course she laughed and said it was a little early to sweat Second Grade, plus she said “Morgan will be fine.” Yes, Morgan will be fine, but what about me? I guess, back to the prayer closet I go.

As the end of the school year fast approaches, Morgan has talked about leaving her teacher every day. Today, my baby cried because it was her favorite teacher’s last day in the classroom. She’s transitioning to another career. I am happy for her, I really am, as I believe whole heartedly in re-inventing yourself. The reality is sometimes you really don’t know how much a person that you may not even know that well means to you until it’s time to say goodbye.

Morgan wasn’t the only one sad today. I understand the Blessing in having a God-fearing, talented teacher dedicated to giving her all. I am eternally grateful for the memories she’s created for my daughter and the foundation she has helped to build. So before I go back in prayer closet for an equally awesome Second Grade teacher, I say thank you, thank you , thank you Kate Faulkner and may you continue to leap into your greatness.MEandMs.F

Winning

Winning

 

 

I’ve always been pretty competitive. I mean who doesn’t like to win. The older I’ve gotten or I guess I should say the more mature; winning has taken a back seat and most times I just want to finish what I’ve started. I wouldn’t say this out loud, but my 5 year-old daughter is a lot like me. She likes to win. I mean she really likes to win, if you want her to do something, make it a competition and she’s guaranteed to put forth an effort. Problem is, she can’t stand to lose. I mean she despises it. So we work hard with her on explaining sportsmanship and the idea that winning isn’t necessarily everything.

And for the record, no I’m not the parent who loses all the time to make her feel better. If she wants to beat me, she better be prepared to “earn” it. The reality is the world does not guarantee you a win, it says you can play, but to win you’ve got to put in some hard work and dedication. But when my daughter loses she pouts, she repeatedly says “I didn’t win.” Losing creates the feeling of disappointment and no one wants to feel disappointed. But what if we always thought we won? What if, even as adults we always thought we won, even if we didn’t?

My 2-year-old son is amazing. Every morning when I free him from his car seat to go into daycare, he challenges me to a race to the door. I must admit I started this competition out of desperation. He was moving entirely too slow one day, but I didn’t know it would become a part of our daily routine. Now he always lines up at the same crack in the sidewalk and looks at me and proudly announces “on the mark, get set, go.” Then he jogs, a little quicker than a walk but definitely not a full on run. He never leaves me behind when I’m in heels and a short skirt. He never falls. He never rushes when I pass him. He finds his own pace and he jogs. And when he arrives at the door, he always says the exact same thing “I win.”

Usually I can’t help but laugh because he does this in every competition, especially with his sister. She’ll challenge him to something and she’ll try her best and no matter what place he comes in he always says the same thing “ I win.” The other night my husband challenged them both to a race to the top of the stairs to get ready for bath time.

“On the mark, get set, go,” he announced. They were off to the races and running up one step at a time. When my daughter arrived first, she jumped up and down and shouted, “I won, I won. Brother you lose, I won.” By this point he was climbing the last step and grinning from ear to ear and guess what he said? You guessed it “I didn’t lose sissy, I win. I always win.”

Wow, I couldn’t help but smile. His confidence wasn’t broken, he wasn’t sad. He wasn’t crying and he definitely was not disappointed. In his mind he’s always a winner and God Bless him, because as long as he thinks it….it is so.

 

Winning 2

Sex Tape Trumps Baby

Eva

I pride myself on not watching a whole lot of television and definitely not reality television. To me, it’s always an indication that I have too much time on my hands or I am totally avoiding something I know I need to be doing. With that said, I also pride myself on knowing a little bit about everything, at least enough to engage in conversation at a water cooler.

This week the world is a buzz about the MiMi Faust Sex tape. For those who are unaware, MiMi is a regular on reality show Love and Hip Hop Atlanta. No she’s not a recorded hip hop artist and no she is not an aspiring Hip Hop MC. The father of her toddler daughter is Stevie J, a producer in the industry.

Yes, I know my regular readers, are like is she really talking about a sex tape? Yes and I will tell you why. Eva Jordan, her daughter is around the same age as my 5-year-old daughter and I am horrified that this Chocolate Mother didn’t think about her baby and her legacy or thought so little of it to degrade herself with a sex tape. And to add insult to injury, it’s with a different man, Nikko Smith, who she is not married to.

I am far from a Holy roller and I believe that what two adult people within the confines of their bedroom preferably marriage do, is truly their business. But MiMi was not the victim of a sexual escapade that was mistakenly videotaped and leaked by an ex-lover. This was orchestrated and released by her camp. As I watched the clip, I just kept saying “what about her baby.”

I am legitimately concerned for the welfare of her child and apparently so is Steve J. who is now seeking custody of their daughter. Now, I’m no Stevie J. fan, in fact, I thought his character on the show was despicable. But as a momma I’m having a hard time with this. My daughter idolizes me. She loves her daddy, but she watches and emulates everything I do. She watches me put on make-up, she walks in my shoes, she watches how I interact with people and especially my husband. She asks a ton of questions and she depends on me to teach her how to be. As mothers we have a responsibility beyond our own personal needs and goals. As mothers we don’t get to dwell on the “what about me” or “when do I get to be happy” syndromes. It’s so not about us. And in the words of Eminem “We only get one shot.” I’m really going to need for us to do better.

Oh, and did I mention Ms. Faust is starting a children’s clothing line? Really? What is it going to consist of baby leather strap ups, fishnets and whips and chains? Now for a 40+ single mother, I must admit she looks good, but I couldn’t help but wonder the pain that this 30 seconds, minutes or even days will cause Eva in the long run.