Monthly Archives: June 2013

Children of the Corn?

Before I delve into the meat of this blog, let me throw myself all the way  under the bus by saying I have a bunch of shortcomings too numerous to mention and there have been many a day, when I just do not get some things right no matter how hard I try…I chalk it up to life.  I also will readily admit, that there is nothing I won’t boldly try that will serve a purpose greater than myself and have been this fearless way for as long as I can remember..So a huge issue of mine, is the lack of patience for excuses and foolishness from grown folk who should know better. I have been known to call people on it too.  Unfortunately for me and many others, we are surrounded by excuses, and more excuses with each passing day when it comes to our legacy and future; The children in our midst.

There has been a not-so-slow burn in my soul, as I watch the news and see among other things, the lack of funding for public education in the poorest neighborhoods, abject poverty among so many families, adults ” strung out” on pure misery and the children caught right in the cross hairs of it all. It is even harder to watch those with means and the wherewithal not only turn a blind eye to the “village” but seek ways to feed on and make a profit from the misery of others with ” Programs” that look decent on paper but does not hardly work.  It is a vicious cycle that leaves no stone unturned and my stomach roil at the very thought of it all some days.

It seemed not so long ago, that all adults held the children in their communities accountable and supported each other, as folks went through cycles of despair.  There was a time when the neighbor only had to level an eyeball on you to make you straighten up and fly right. Now, all I see anymore, are people wasting precious time looking good on paper while the children continue to gouge each other to pieces in the name of survival.  It feels like those who oversee the “corn” are out of sight but very much the beneficiaries of this misery with hard cold cash that they get for mining ” data” on these kids and giving ” suggestions” that hardly, if ever work.  There is a serious level of distrust amongst these adults that is beyond disheartening; the children emulate these same behaviors….

What I have found to be  beneficial, are those adults who understand the seriousness of this and stand in the gap with others by supporting the children within their reach.  These people, often are not seeking compensation but operating from a well spring of ” It’s the right thing to do.”  The level of violence and incarcerations in any urban space around the country continues to rise at a fever pitch but we maintain, quite foolishly, that it will not affect us in our homes.  Violence has no name or face.  A desperate person will do anything without remorse and that is how innocent people often end up hurt or dead.

What is it going to take for us to stop housing our children in large, empty, abandoned  structures we call adults? So many among us   are beyond consumed with the latest car and the biggest home, they forget what should be most important. Their children. When do we accept responsibility for the young lives we brought to this world?  When do we get off our moral high horse and hold ourselves accountable for the children we are not raising and giving back to those in communities that are doing all they can to make it out the corn-fields of hell called poverty?

I cannot begin to fathom knowing all of the answers but I do know this; we better start nourishing the young among us to be productive bearers of fruit or when it is time for harvest, we will gather nothing but dust….

Enough said.

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Fly birdie fly…mommy is trying….

Yesterday, I felt like my entire  life came full circle as I was fussing and cooking…. what had my knickers in knots you say?  The youngest child had this wonderful plan of spending time with some friends at the Jersey Shore; I happily agreed because they had taken him in years past and know my parenting style. He also knew the rules; Be respectful, Be kind, Be helpful, Clean up after yourself and follow all the rules they give you with a smile on your face.  He swims like a dolphin, so armed with some sunblock and a few bucks, off he would have gone…Until, the child, with a serious look on his face, said he was driving his car All.The. Way. Down. There. Two hours and some change away.  Whatever happened to being in Their car? No room says he and he is quite capable of driving there and back. Says who?

Now, God help me, because all the chatter I had been having with him and his brother  about being responsible and taking on challenges went right out my head as I saw horrible traffic, distracted driving, car accidents and the car breaking down at the side of the road.  Poor kid didn’t stand a chance with all the rational things flying in my head until he gently reminded me about the ” mother bird in the nest, allowing baby bird to eventually fly.”  Say what now?  I slowly came out of my “fog” and started at him agape in part, hell, in whole because he was absolutely right.

I am just mad he smoothly threw it my way in a respectful tone and a knowing look on his face.  My children know that I work hard to practice what I preach and he knew this one was going to spin me around.  What could I say after all logistics were worked out but “Have a good time?”

 

That was harder for me than I thought because….. Not really sure other than this is my youngest and it finally clicked that my work with him was coming slowly to an end so the bungee cord will be completely severed soon. Against my better judgement, it made me happy and sad all at once. Nope. Not even gonna lie; I was terrified. I can only trust in the divine that he will make all the right decisions and will be covered with our prayers.  How frightened my parents must have been and worried about the things I wanted to do at his age!  Hindsight is truly 20/20..

Well, the time has come for me to put up, or shut up, so excuse me while I talk myself out of the miniature panic attack I want to have until he has arrived safely…. He certainly was given the  strong route and has earned his wings beautifully….

Singing… * jesus be a fence*

enough said

img_04081.jpgcopywritten image – Denise James & Andrea Trainer. Please do not use without our express permission to do so.

 

Cocoa butter….on my heart

I am the often proud, sometimes unhappy, but full of joy mother of two boys; 17 and almost 21 years of age….  Like most parents, raising them were at times hairy;  nights were spent filled with worry when a fever spiked, an infection got worse or they struggled to learn something new and my heart broke from wanting to help, all while recognizing they had to do some things on their own. The oldest is very quiet and reserved. As a baby, strangers would stop us in the store and tell us he had such an old soul. He followed most  rules, went to pre-school at 3 and is now a rising Senior in college.

When his brother was born 8 weeks premature at 3 pounds, he stepped in at four, to try and help by washing the baby bottles ( Had to redo them but it was the thought that counted) and as his brother got older, I would peek through the window and see their heads together, sitting in the grass, colluding about something.  I even caught him one day with his brother on the handle bars of his bike admonishing him to hold on for dear life because if he fell, mommy would kill them both..The younger child looked up adoringly at his brother and promised… off they went.  Not sure what stopped me from saying anything to them; I believe now that I instinctively knew, they would protect each other.

The youngest child was the  “gift” from my mother who wished and prayed I would have a child that would drive me nuts the way she claimed I did. Hey, not accepting bad reports about my childhood for as far as I was concerned,  I was a saint. Yep, I said it. This child, is everything his brother isn’t; gregarious, climbed everything he could find, ate anything he could get his fingers on ( including my vitamin E pills) and would explore anything he thought was worth it.  I was on a first name basis with poison control and the Pediatrician. That boy kept me on these ashy knees but could charm the socks off an egg.

They will tell you, quite empahtically in fact, that ours was a household where doing the right thing saved you from all kinds of angst; Homework was done on schedule at the same time everyday, no video games allowed during the week, all chores had to be done, board games were played regularly, bed- time was the same everynight  and we could recite the lines to evry Disney movie.. The Lion King comes readily to mind.  They learned to make meals  and are both great chefs and bakers; one year, French cookbooks were a gift.  I will never forget the time a friend called me all insulted when the boys refused to eat her dinner of fish sticks by kindly saying they do not eat processed food at home…ooh, I still get a chuckle from that.

I remember days when I would be sad about something and the youngest would offer his very special hug, which always made me feel better. We had family meetings and I encouraged them to raise their point of view respectfully.  When one got in trouble, the other would quietly calm his sibling and both would not speak while working hard to not be disrespectful… As they got older, the baby became a thorn in the older one’s flesh because he had friends and did not want to be seen having to play with his brother all the time.  They fought and I foolishly thought they were not close at all until the day the oldest went off to college.

The youngest began to mope, his grades dropped and no matter how much I fussed and threatened, nothing worked until one day in exasperation, I said ” I am done. You want to fail school, it will not be in THIS house!” As I was walking away, my happy child burst into tears and between his racking sobs, I heard his brother’s name.  It all clicked, so I took him that weekend up to see his sibling, dropped him off and encouraged them to let me know when I missed something.  Turms out they were still very close and shared everything…

You know, life has it’s ebb and flow, and when days  like yesterday gets sticky with personalities, conflict and egos, I tend to feel better when bonding with my family while making them a good meal. Those two imps I call sons, happened to be both home at once and they tried me at every turn while making my heart laugh inside.. I pulled out the juicer, asked the oldest to start the grill and throw some meats on and had the youngest prepping the ingredients for a cake and drying dishes as we washed.  They kept poking fun at me and I looked up at one point, to see the oldest eating a rib while the youngest rested his head on his brother’s shoulders. Did my heart a world of good.

When they dropped the cake on the floor by accident and stood there looking at it in amazement while pealing with laughter, all the pain from childbirth, raising them and dealing with life, melted away in an instant.  They are cocoa butter on my heart.

I am sure there is much more to come but I have to say without a doubt, that raising these two, has been and will remain my proudest accomplishments to date.  Love your children; teach them but know when to let them breathe and grow on their own. Do not hinder them by being a constant crutch. let them find their way. You will be so much happier for it long term..

Enough said.

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Honey and Vinegar….

In recent weeks, I have watched what would otherwise be considered successful people, tear others apart, with little side comments that they hide behind with a smile, or an explanation of what they “really’ meant. It dawned on me, that no matter what, there are those who will always compare their success or failure, based on what they see others doing even as they are not willing to take the risks to get there themselves. A young man I greatly admire, called me recently in distress because he was summarily ripped apart for no apparent reason, by one of his peers who had everything negative under the sun to say to him.

I explained to him, that he is young, passionate and hungry enough to be the change most people only talk about or worse,will wait for him to take all the risks then jump aboard seeking the rewards.  I know. It is happening to me and with each passing day, I become more annoyed and find myself feeling resentful in ways that is ultimately no good to my own well- being.  What is really distasteful though, is the fact he is considered an outsider amongst his own people for daring to be bold, brave and working while others yet sleep.  He is also the hue of molasses with roots in another country, which leads me to the ultimate purpose of this blog;

Skin color among people of color.

I am what I would consider to be a dark complected woman, yet not once, in my almost fifty years on this earth, have I felt my hue has been an impediment to my growth. I have not allowed it to be as I consider that to be other people’s problem, not mine and as a direct result, no one has ever made a comment to me like ” you are beautiful for a dark-skinned woman” among other things.  I suspect it is because as a young girl growing up, my parents, in particular my father, taught us to love our varying hues and likened us to beautiful trees.. I did not realize what a gift he gave us, until I landed in this country and watched far too many  black people rip each other apart, over the very thing we should be celebrating about ourselves. I understood from my impressionable childhood, that my hue is but a small part of who I am, and my soul and heart were going to be far more important in my life’s journey.

It breaks my heart to see a young child with a molasses tone hang her head in shame as she feels the visible and not so subtle stings of not being ” acceptable”, or the honey child feeling defensive about her color and having to define who she may or may not be.  exacerbated by all of this though, are the parents.  At one point, do we recognize our roles in how our children feel about themselves?  It is so easy to walk around with the excuse that the world is cruel but too many among us treat our own children differently depending on their hues.  When does it change?

The bigger problem is this; it does not just stop at the hues.  we fight about who has earned what over who.  Are you kidding me?  Happy is the man who works his fingers to the bone for what he is passionate about, he reaps the rewards and apparently, the jealousy.  Who stops you from stepping out of your comfort zone and doing what you SAY you are passionate about?  Why do you think it is ok to hide behind allowing others to take all the risks to their health, family and well-being while you sit comfortably waiting for a breakthrough you can hitch your wagon to?

When people like this young man put in the work, has the drive and determination to step beyond his comfort zone time and again, often hungry, often worried about how he will survive only to see jealousy coming from all ends, where do we expect him to go? When will we get to a place where we support folks without looking for “what’s in it for me?”  When are we going to stop belly aching about the wrongs being reaped upon us and start supporting each other to do what is right?

Honey or molasses is really just a symptom of much bigger issues and we need some fire to our souls to melt our hardened hearts towards each other for no other reason other than we can.  The Universe has shown us time and again that we reap what we sow.  If you have ever wondered why you are stuck doing the same thing for decades while others are moving along, let me kindly suggest looking at yourself and the intentions you are putting out with your behaviors.

So will you be the honey that flows beautifully and breathes life into others or will you be vinegar that is harsh and strips people to the bone?

Do the work on your soul and the rest will follow.

Best Father’s day Gift ever…moms listen up!!

It is no secret, that I am a product of a two parent home where both mom and dad have been a couple since Jesus was a boy… Their relationship and all that it entails, has been the marker of who I ultimately became as an adult.  Not perfect by any stretch, but there were things I gained from watching them interact and the love they bestowed on their four daughters, that cannot be replicated anywhere except in how we choose to live our lives and raise our own children.

My father in particular, is my first hero; it is through his examples, that I chose the kinds of people with whom I have close relationships with and a mate who so emulates my father’s behaviors, it is almost scary.  With that thought in mind, I am choosing this Father’s day to give a gift to all the men out here who would die for their children and find themselves in the cross hairs of a hellion of a woman who cannot get past her hurt feelings, even for her children, all while using the kids as the excuse for  why they will not allow them access to you.

Before I excavate a bunch of hurt feelings, let me say this;  I was divorced and found myself raising two young boys on my own.  Aside from the shame I felt of failure at not being able to make my marriage work, I now had the daunting task of child support, visitations etc.  I remember feeling hurt and so angry for what felt like months.  It took prayer, love and COMMON SENSE to get past my ego and begin thinking of the children.

To that end, while there were court ordered visitations, there was never a time when I was asked or even told that the boys were being picked up, that I said no.   I spent many a weekends by myself and we split holidays.  Dad was involved in school from day one: that meant access to all school records and the ability to walk in the building at any time to attend any meetings or functions being held.  We treated each other with dignity in front of the children and when the natural animosity faded, became friends for our children.  The end result of that conscious decision on my part, has been priceless for my sons, with the added bonus of my ultimate peace of mind.  My role as mom and nurturer was in  no way negated by dad who taught them how to be men.

I have just been horrified, by the amount of moms who have chosen to publicly lambast the fathers of their children in front of the kids.  Can we try to remember sometimes that while dad may not be perfect in behavior and let’s face it, can be a total nerve- wrecker, he still deserves the right to see his children?  Can we remember that once the relationship is over, it ceases to be about us and more about the kids you brought into this world?  Can we remember, that what feels like vindication on the front end, will ultimately bite you on the back-end because the child does NOT care about your feuds but would rather see their father?  Can we remember that as we are fussing and throwing expletives around about this man, this was the same person we chose to give the ultimate gift of a child?

If the man wants to see his children, swallow your pride and LET him.  With all the dead beat dads abound, why would you choose on purpose to keep a child from having access to a parent that cares?  Why would you put your child in the middle by forcing them to choose?  Why would you have open discussions with your child about the hurts you had to deal with in your relationship?  Is it really any of their business or are you just twisting the knife a bit by trying to make dad look worse in the child’s eyes?  I have news for you; no matter what you say and do, if dad remains consistent and bide his time, that child will find their way back to him.

If any of what I said above pertains to your behavior past or present, do us all a favor; save your child by allowing them to call and spend time with dad.  It is the Father’s day gift that will keep on giving. Long term, it produces an adult who learns to live through mistakes, be love and deal with life’s trials with a level head.

Happy Father’s day to all the Dads who are missing their children…. please know, you are thought of and appreciated beyond measure. Keep your head and your faith up; NEVER give up trying to gain access to your children for they will thank you for it.

Enough said.

Musings of a savvy teenager…

What a day… I met for the first time, a young lady who I had been hearing so much about and wanted to bend her ear a bit about what we as parents could learn from teenagers and how they thought at this age… I was floored when miss 15-year-old said………” As Teenagers, we  do not understand our parents but the truth is, we  know we need guidance and  really want it.  So much stuff is swirling in our heads all the time and it is always crowded.  School is an interesting place because I feel like my peers make stupid choices on purpose.” 

This is where I turned on my recorder because I truly did not want to miss a morsel.. goodness, the things I learned!!!

When I asked what it was like to be a teenager in her middle school, she said it was amazing how many teenagers were doing drugs and into sex because of what they see in social media. They think it is cool because TV makes it seem great. To make matters worse she says, parents do not stop the behavior because they choose to live in denial… My mouth dropped… she then said when parents are forced to acknowledge the behaviors of their children, they go about it the wrong way by yelling and screaming.  this confuses teens, partly because they never really had any parameters to begin with.  She was especially concerned with parents who allowed their kids to do anything as young kids, then got mad when they did more awful things as teens.  In short, she says, if you set no parameters, then you should not expect any.. out of the mouth of babes… she thought there HAd to be a better way for parents to handle teens but she doesn’t know what that is because, well, she’s a teenager!!  we got a great chuckle from that one..

She went on to say she has not tried drugs or been sexually active but feels it is a rite of passage for teens to experiment.  It really depended on the family values at home.  That would dictate in large part, what some kids will or won’t try.. She firmly believed being a teenage mother was a crazy concept, so that was not an option for her… I became more intrigued with each passing moment and really began to listen in earnest without forming an opinion because I recognized it was a “gift” to have a teen speak so openly to someone they just met..

I encouraged her to go on.. she began giving me examples of what was happening in school without names.. there are two kids in one of her classes that spoke often of doing marijuana; She finally asked if their parents cared….  the one kid has a horrible home life but says his parents would kill him if they found out, while the other child’s parents were aware and told him as long as he didn’t smoke it in the house or use their monies to purchase it, they were fine.  Now, take a deep breath here.  I know she is telling the truth because I have experienced this same scenario with parents  who just fell and bumped their heads by telling me, all the kids are doing this now and they cannot stop it…sigh… fifteen, is the new 25… These boys are in the bathrooms at home smoking pot and parents are oblivious at least in one case.

I asked her what she thought works best on teens for punishment;  She says they all feel pretty badly when their parents say they are disappointed and walk away. That hurts  way more, she says, than screaming. Teens may never admit it, but there it is. She says it works like a charm as they discuss it among themselves… well I’ll be. She said if we teach our children to be respectful of others and themselves, it is so much easier to reprimand them as teens… it got really good here….

I almost fell out my chair when she said She hopes to not offend me by saying this, but she believes Black parents do a better job of disciplining their children and teaching them proper manners at a young age. She marvels at how these parents can make their kids listen but feels it is due in large part to the way the family structure is for them culturally…  As a caucasian child, she thinks her peers get away with much more  and their parents are way too lenient when they are babies.  the end result is the teens fussing right back at their parents because they feel they have no right to try to discipline them now when they barely did it before…. well!!!  She believes a balance of  total respect and fear of parents allows  teens to listen when reprimanded but also feel safe enough to share issues in their lives as they arose..

She also gave me the example of another child who abuses the girls in the school is awful and sexist, snorts cocaine and is just awful.. when I asked if teachers were aware, she said yes but felt teachers were conditioned not to react or have an opinion, just to report… A word to the educators.. these kids are really watching…

I thanked Ms. Awesome for being totally candid with me and told her she gave me so much insight into a teen’s mind… We as parents, always want perfect darlings for children but they only become productive adults through our teachings… you literally get, what you put into your children.  We are not perfect and will miss the mark in many areas but if we stick with the basics like manners, respect, accountability and kindness to name a few, we will begin to see the fruits of our labor..

I immediately thought of my two sons … made me feel like maybe, just maybe, I was doing the right things after all..

Whatta day….

Enough said

To coddle or not to coddle…..what was the question?

Today has been interesting in so many ways and yet, I learned quite a bit too. You see, what started as a day of volunteering at a Career day in my Church, became one so fascinating, I began in earnest to record some of what I was hearing.  So parents, I need you to grab that cup of  your favorite liquid, put up those feet,  and really pay attention…. Ready?

It is Saturday morning and like most adults, life would have been grand if I was  allowed to sleep in; but when it applies to helping young people, I find the spring in my step and soul to galvanize me out the door in anticipation of what I would learn and find.  Well, I was not disappointed. Not even a little bit.  As I roamed through the rooms, I began having an earnest conversation with an educator about one of my sons and was interrupted by a college recruiter who wanted to know, how was I able to send this child to college and LET him navigate his way through with counselors, housing, etcetera without getting involved?

I responded that as my children got older, I made them shoulder a bit more responsibility each year, in an effort to make them totally self reliant by a certain age, all while keeping an eye on them from a distance.  With that response, yet another recruiter joined the conversation and asked if there was a way for me to convey this message to other parents because they ( Colleges) are STILL receiving calls from parents while their children are in the MASTERS  programs asking things like, ” when is their application due, how much time does their child have to turn in work and is it possible to adjust grades.”  Say what now?

I was beyond stunned at what I was hearing… young people in the mid twenties with parents still hovering and making decisions for them…. This gave me such a chuckle and then it got serious and began to make sense.  This is why we have so many college educated people who are socially inept  because their parents continued to hover, make decisions and ” fix” any problems perceived or otherwise.  How are your children to survive like this?  Where do we draw the line and allow our young people to mature by making decisions and learning through trial and error?

But it gets better.  One recruiter said she has a brother in his late 30’s, college educated, has a job, but continues to run home to their mother to get him out of debt and fix all his problems.  Mom does it, she says, because he is the only boy and he is special…  I could clearly see this young man was not boyfriend, never mind husband material for anyone, because the lesson he has learned is that someone will always take care of him.

So parents, here are some hard truths we have got to embrace:

  • We made mistakes as teenagers and as much as we want to keep our children from going through what we did, chances are, they will repeat some of those mistakes and sometimes worse.
  • Allow your children to learn from their errors. If you fix everything, the message they get is an erroneous one that you will have to deal with.
  • Make them responsible as they get older.  Coddling children into adulthood is counter productive in a myriad of ways.
  • Teach them how to work for,and earn things they want
  • Teach them the value of money through your examples.  Nothing comes easy. They need to know that.
  • When they get to college, allow them to find their way as much as possible.
  • When they leave the nest, let them stay out unless they have a great reason for returning or you will never get rid of them
  • Teach them how to set goals and to be grateful for what they have.

When we coddle our children into adulthood, we have essentially raised whiney, over reliant people who cannot function among us, and who wants to deal with that other than you?

Spare us please… turn off the Helicopter blades and come in for a smooth landing…

Enough said