Monthly Archives: October 2013
I get some of my greatest fulfilment from being a mother. I not only take parenting seriously, I enjoy it immensely. My sons have found a myriad of ways to all at once set my teeth on edge and make me proud. My oldest is 21 and has the tenacity of ten bulls… he got it honestly though. All you have to do is look through my older posts to see that my mother should have earned Sainthood by now. Yep, I was a humdinger. A cute one that spent most of my time hanging on to my father’s legs to escape my mother’s well-earned wrath but a humdinger nonetheless.
I digress…. back to the kiddo. He was away in school on a campus that had nothing but cows and agriculture all around so for his final year, he needed to be in a place where he could pursue a solid internship. He had the brilliant thought of moving to a campus 4 miles from our home which led him to drag all his crap back to my house. Can I just say what an adjustment that has been after three years of not having him around? My poor refrigerator door now creaks between he and his brother doing “visitations” every five minutes.. feeling sorry for me yet?
Anyhoo, he landed this plum spot with Apple after pursuing them for four solid months and has made them proud they hired him… he is working his way swiftly up that chain by taking his role responsibly, while maintaining a full schedule at school. That simply means, he is either at work or school, seven days a week. I know he is tired. He never complains so this morning, when he came and laid his head on my shoulders, I asked if he was exhausted fully expecting confirmation.
He looked up at me and said ” No, I am just really feeling the need to do something big with my life.” I explained that at his young age, the sky is the limit and he will do very well long term. He smiled and got up to leave, when I stopped him with this; ” look, I have no doubt you will be a millionaire at some point in your life so when that happens, please send a cool million my way for every ten million you earn.”
” A whole million? that is ten percentage mom… We need to negotiate here” says he. ” I will give you $500k for every ten million I make and $1 million for every twenty. It is a fair deal since you gave me life after all” ha!! I wish you could have seen the cheeky look on his face as he said all of this. We laughed heartily and he left the room…
Next thing I knew, he was back… “Oh by the way, I almost melted the kettle because I fell asleep so the element may need to be replaced and I will cover the cost ok?” I looked at him and said ” You ever hear of just good old fashioned scrubbing? Are you SURE you want to replace it?” He nodded yes and turned to walk away…. I started counting in my head… 10-9-8-7-6-5… ” Mom!! On second thought, I think I will scrub it first and save my money!” hmmmm… I THOUGHT so… Kid hates to part with anything and will save all his cash.. who was he kidding?
We looked at each other and laughed until we cried… Love him…
Growing up in Jamaica, it was not unusual for my parents to leave home and return with a cousin, friend of the family or any other person in need they could ” Adopt.” These people would stay as long as needed and we would make room without a word as if they were always there. My sisters and I would wonder who was next but not once did we ever feel put upon because we were raised to be thankful for all we had and to go one step further by giving to those not as fortunate for whatever reason.
I do not think any of us however, thought we would become adults and do the very thing our parents taught us through their stellar examples;
It started innocently enough for me. I was living next door to a single mom with two girls years ago and they spent so much time in my house, one would think I was raising them. One afternoon, the older child came home in distress and asked if we would chat confidentially. She was very concerned for a friend who was 15, pregnant and facing eviction from her parents’ home not because she was with child but rather the father of said child was black. I was stunned but remained calm and asked if I could speak to the young lady.
We met a few days later and sure enough, she repeated what was told to me. I then went to see her parents and while her father seemed concerned for his child’s welfare, her mother was adamant that she was not living in their home with a black baby and she had to reside elsewhere once the child was born. Without thinking too hard, I made the decision to give my son’s room to her and had him sleep on the sofa. She stayed with us for a year and in that time, I made her promise not to have any additional children until she felt secure enough in several ways to do so and walked her through a couple of promotions at a local bank.
Today, she lives in a beautiful home, is a successful money manager and the mother of three beautiful children with her mate by her side. I often think of her as we lost touch over the years but I still believe it was just the right and humane thing to do.
As my kids grew, their friends all knew I was “no nonsense” and would knock on my door knowing their behaviour had to be “up to snuff” and it started with a proper greeting. So many young people came through our doors that were challenged with family life, dad missing or in prison and mom was over whelmed. I also saw many children who had both parents in the home but for whatever reason, they struggled. I only had two things to give them consistently.
Structure and Love.
It worked like a charm and continues to work to this day. Young men were sent to me over the years that the parents later confessed, they had lost control of their child and just knew they would be imprisoned or dead at a certain age. In retrospect, I am glad I found out after the young men went on to college and made decent lives for themselves because I never saw anything but greatness beneath their struggles.
I remember the young man that wanted to be able to visit my home and knocked on the door to ask what did he have to do to make that happen. His grades were lacklustre and dude was well on his way to 200 plus detentions for the school year! I rolled my eyes, put my hands on my hips and laid down the rules. He met them and to this day, he is one of my favourite “sons” who will be someone to watch in the near future. His leadership skills flow naturally, he just needed a way to put it in proper context.
Then there is the one who pulled the fire alarm in the middle school on a dare with his other friend… sigh His Thanksgiving was spent in a soup kitchen begging for mercy. Fast forward, he is in California now doing great things….
I did not ever expect them to be perfect; what I required was deliberation before they did things they would later regret.
When I was tagged to lead a parent group in an effort to support a new program in our middle school, we took that challenge on with vim and vigour. Nine years later, hundreds of young men and women call us MOTHER.
The act of mentoring is a simple one. It requires no money to love and very little to nourish a child. The rewards are indeed priceless and yet, we find so many who speak of it, see young people struggling and refuse to step up and help in any way they can.
We have all heard the excuses;
- We can’t say anything to these kids because their parents are out of control too.
- I do not have any time in my day.
- They are heading straight to prison so why bother?
- What’s in it for me?
I could go on but you get the point. Let me say this; mentoring is not a way to feed your ego and if you feel the ONLY way you can address it is if you start an organization and secure all kinds of grants, don’t bother either. There are far too many large mentoring organizations that sound and look good, yet we still have too many children in need of one. The best mentor truly is the person/persons that lives among the young people and have ways to see and speak to them on a fairly regular basis.
As the young people gain confidence, you will hear from them less but they will never, ever forget what you have done for them.
At my ripe old age, I have a few mentors of my own and they have been the backbone when life deals things that are challenging to manage. I have my village and I am certain many of you do too. No man is an island.
Look around you and make the effort to work with one child who you know may need some help. I will not be easy, but it most certainly will be worth it.
It has been so long since I blogged, my site has flat lined… that will not do!!
So much has happened in the last few months and there is much to discuss but let’s start here shall we?
My business partner and friend was given two tickets for us to see the movie “12 years a slave” at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia and told we only had to pick them up at the box office.. Therein began the journey of “12 lessons in one experience”
Lesson 1: We bounced up to the box office just as cute as we pleased and requested the tickets as told. They searched for them to no avail. As my partner began in earnest to make a few calls, I noticed a woman in the background moving forward with a “look” on her face that clearly spoke ” here we go again with THESE people looking for things they didn’t earn” ( you had no idea I was psychic huh? Stay black long enough and you too will become an expert in facial expressions) Anyhoo, my friend quietly explained who the tickets were from and Ms’ Lady darn near rolled her eyes when she responded with ” I know who she is but I still see no tickets” She then turned to another person and told them to call the woman in a manner befitting that of someone who did not believe us. I was too through at that point and would have gladly flounced my Diva-self right back through those doors, but could sense my friend was determined enough and not moved by the foolishness to get to the bottom of it, which she did and we got our tickets. She laughed at the look on my face, patted my hand and told me all is well… mmm hmmm….
Lesson 2: We went in search of a few chairs and found the spot where we would enter the theatre. I sat down because my ankle was throbbing and the Usher told everyone, the line formed behind us since we were the first ones there. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see and smell trouble coming in the form of this tiny woman that looked like she was on a mission. She marched straight to the front ignoring us all and said to the usher ” excuse me but is this the line for the movie? I should be the first in line because I got my tickets even before that woman sitting there.” Usher looked at her and said “Ma’am, if you are not a member of this Kimmel Center, you get no special privileges and must join the line back there like everyone else. She spun on her heels and flounced of with an attitude of ” As if!!” I sensed she was not hardly through and sure enough, she tried two additional times with the same results and raised the ire of more than a few people in line. We were all too cultured to make asses of ourselves as she was clearly doing and I also recognized her as a leader in Philly Government which made things worse. No matter how many degrees one may have or how powerful one may think they are, attitude and good manners still means something…
Lesson 3: While Ms Diva was trying to convince anyone within range of just how important she was, in another line directly across from us, were the people who were members and as they stood patiently waiting, an older gentleman walked up, queried on whether he was in the right place for members and when told yes, instead of joining the line behind the people who were already there, he promptly walked over and planted himself in front of the lady who was at the head of the line as if it were his God given right to do such a thing! The lady who happened to be black, rolled her eyes but said nothing and gave me the look that said ” happens all the time. No matter how much money I have, some folks just will see me as not worthy” I admired her for remaining calm as she totally understood the issue was within him not her. Bless her heart…
Lesson 4: The doors opened and as is their custom, members got to enter first for choice seating so when it was our turn and we handed in our tickets, I could feel “Ms’ Important” coming behind us and she rudely pushed by people in a rush to enter for what, I was soon to find out. As we got settled, I looked for her and there she was sitting beside an older gentleman. I had to do a double take because this woman was behaving as if she was sweetest person on earth to the point where I began to look harder…it sure enough was her but I noticed something else too; the man was pretty much barely tolerating her and not returning the affection… a lesson in not giving too much of yourself to people who were not deserving.. I actually felt sorry for her as it was a pitiful sight…
lesson 5: We settled in to watch the movie and as the first images opened on the screen, I knew I was in trouble. What I saw was so raw, visceral, real and heart-breaking, it was ALL I could do to sit in my seat. If you can believe this, I was struck mute. What was even more surreal though was this; White people were crying, moaning, gasping and talking throughout the scenes while people of colour almost seemed frozen in their seats only shifting their eyes to look at each other with such pain. I do not think I have ever seen a movie that called to the very core of my being and laid me as raw as this one has..
Lessons 6 -12:
That movie ended and as we filed out, I noticed black folks walking out like zombies and I understood because I felt the same way. I questioned every notion I have about us as a people, this country and why were still in such a predicament even with all the freedoms we now enjoy. I could not sleep and twisted in anguish about solutions…. I do know this for sure: We Must stop looking for people to lead us to the promise land and collaborate in our own communities to be the leaders we are always so desperately seeking. We must understand and continue to be mindful of those before us that bled and died for these liberties we sometimes flit away in sheer ignorance. We must continue to collaborate with anyone who wishes to be allies in civil liberties and justice. We must be thankful for what we have and be an example of excellence in all we say and do. We must lift up those who are working hard to keep their heads above water. We must remember our history so it will NOT be repeated.
All of these lessons came from one experience….. cheese and crackers…..enough said.