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It begs the question….

Recently, a well known radio Disc Jockey called and asked this question of me; “Do you think children are being socially promoted by schools even when it is clear they are not ready to move forward and just how prevalent did I think this behaviour was in School Districts across the commonwealth of Pennsylvania?’  What ensued was a discussion rich with data and comparisons from one  State to next, which then led to the public school system, what was being expected of the children within it and these new mandates every few “seconds.” The family that understands how to navigate their way through, will have successful children no matter what the income level and Education of the parent/guardians. It boils down to simply this; if you are visible, it makes a huge difference for your child.

 

Our discussion then led to the often perceived “low expectations” of children of color, especially if they enter a new school from an urban setting. Time and again, we see children who were tested as gifted, being questioned about the authenticity of said title  and made to go through that process all over again which is not only demoralizing, it is often wrong. We discussed how parents get discouraged an opt to leave their bright child in a regular setting instead of forcing the issue.

And then we went there.

The subject of well educated parents of color who moved into the suburban settings, bought the big home, had their children in a great school district but are never visible. Unless of course, it was football, basketball or any sporting event where they are found in large numbers, cheering on their athletes. If one tries to locate those same parents for many other activities, they are often difficult to find.

Whomp.Whomp.  We both acknowledged that not all parents are this way obviously but is incredibly noticeable.

 

I could not disagree.  I tried to, but history says otherwise.  Which begged the question; why is that?  Are we still in the ” I paid good money to live here and the schools better educate my child?” Or is it ” I am really not feeling comfortable with asking certain things or knowing where to go, so let me not show up at all?” It could even be just total apathy on many levels.  One thing is for certain; Many parents are not as visible for PTA or many school held meetings on any topic that may benefit the children but the numbers are worse for parents of color.

My youngest son has a role in the school play and when parents were asked to volunteer a few hours on a Saturday for set building etcetera, I bounced in only to see I was one of one. It stayed that way for the entire time I was there too. Oh by the way?  He is in the 12th grade.  Parent involvement should not cease at Elementary school.

 

For well  over a decade now, we have been beating the consistent drum on parental engagement and have been known to hold schools accountable when history have shown them to discourage family participation, and families where there has been apathy that leads to, in my humble opinion, unnecessary suffering of their children.  If research has clearly shown that all you need to do as a parent is be visible 30 minutes a month in word or deed, what stops us from doing so?  Can we then totally blame the schools for what is ailing our children who we clearly know, follow more of what we do and less of what we say?

Can we then totally blame an institution for our children and their lack of progress?  The old adage ” The squeaky wheel gets oiled” is still very true; we need  more of you to be visible through emails, phone calls, volunteering from home or in school and just any simple task that leads to the educators knowing who you are.

 

So while we are in the middle of holding schools accountable, take a little time to hold our own feet to the fire as well.

Enough said.

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“I Love you but you have more issues than Congress”

Happy New Year and all that jazz.

Life around here has been fun, energetic, nail biting and just so much happening , I have not blogged in a couple of weeks.. Children sat on me for no reason other than it’s the comforting thing to do, We ran around the house laughing about one thing or another and  planned the annual Holiday party.  Once the holidays are over, the next big thing is my birthday. National holiday I know, but we ran into a serious snag.  The Philadelphia Eagles won the NFC Championship and the game against the Saints was slated for, you guessed it, the evening of the national holiday aka my day of birth. So, in true diva fashion, I took to Facebook with a quasi serious experiment; Should I let Mister off the hook for dinner that evening, or should he skip the game all together and take his diva out to dinner?

Keep in mind here, that I had already decided to graciously leave him alone because I do not know another person on earth who is a more die-hard Philly fan than he is. Like, to the extreme. No, really.

Anyhow, the responses to my query bordered on hysterical.  Here are a few;

“Take one for the team!  He will make it up to you!”

“What? are you nuts? who knows when the Eagles will make the play-offs again? At least your birthday comes every year” 

” Give him the day and then let him celebrate you all month”

You get the point.   It was a “free Mister” rant for a few days and I laughed at how interesting it all became.  When I told them giving him the day was the least I could do since he is awesome 365 days to us, Someone in boxed me privately and  said how they wished they had such a love like this, that it was difficult to find a good mate etcetera.  I did not disagree and in hindsight, maybe I should have.

There are good, kind decent people all around us and if we do not do the work on ourselves, we may never see them.  I took a look at myself many years ago and figured out that I was the common denominator in relationships that went south.  It was me who chose to accept things I knew were wrong and once I figured that out among a few other things, not two months later, here comes Mister.

He found me, I was not looking for him.  He knew we would be great friends if nothing else and when we became a couple, it was like finding the right piece for a jigsaw puzzle.  We shared the same values and took the time to really communicate through the challenging times because lets’ face it good people, they do come.  We understood it was really important to like each other before we used the “L” word carelessly.

 

One of the things I figured out about myself, is that I needed  a mate who exemplified who my father was for me as a child,  in word and deed.  A man who was not afraid to put his family first, protect us and do everything in his power to keep us safe and happy. Mister is such a  man.    What unleashed in me, was a woman who went above and beyond to put smiles on their faces through my own words and deeds.

The end result has been nothing short of hilarious around here.

Due to the recent weather predictions of 3 degrees with a wind chill of -17, I had the bright idea of making a pot of soup that would last, at least in my head, the entire week.   The pot was huge. Like enough to feed a small army huge.  I chopped veggies, threw the raw chicken in the pot and got to work. an hour later, the scent of this soup had the entire kitchen humming and I went about the business of finding large containers to store it.  Just in case I was off base ( because they can eat like grazing elephants) I also made a double batch of baked Ziti.

 

Pleased with myself, I left the kitchen and went about my business.  When I checked the refrigerator this morning, two thirds of  the ziti was gone and one half of that large pot of soup.

 

I started ranting like a mad woman that this was ridiculous, they had no sympathy that I stood for hours cooking and if they THOUGHT I was going near that kitchen the rest of this week, they had a another thing coming to them.  Mister walked into the kitchen somewhere in the middle of this tirade, watched me pointing the long spoon and said ” Dear, I love you but you have more issues than Congress this morning.”

I stopped mid-rant, looked at him like he had ten heads and then doubled over in laughter.

 

Just like that, crisis averted.  He knew just what to do and it worked.  I am still not cooking anymore this week. I mean it.

 

Enough said IMG_2006

The comment that made Harriett Tubman bones sit straight up….

Please bear with me.  Just for a few moments.

Early this morning, in an effort to make myself sleepy, I began watching   the Real Housewives of Atlanta.  I know, poor choice but I figured since they were visiting Savannah Georgia and all its rich historical content, it could not be too bad.

Oh. My. Goodness.

So there I was, listening to a tour guide tell the ladies about the Underground railroad beneath the oldest African American Church in the country and pointed to the tiny holes in the floor where the slaves would put their faces for a little fresh air on their journey. I am sitting there imagining what that must have been like back then, when one of the women, whose name is Porscha, said this;  ” How did they fit a train down there?”

I literally fell OUT my bed in horror!!!  What?

As the women were patiently explaining to her that what she thought was this

underground railroad9

is actually this,

underground railroad2

she stood there looking at THEM as if they had no sense but in my head I was thinking ” Any moment now, this will all register to her.”

No such luck.  She kept saying things like ” How did they build railroad tracks under the church?”  and “How did the trains go through without making too much noise?” My favourite? ” Who was the conductor?” Seriously?

I closed my eyes firmly and could actually see Harriett Tubman’s bones come fully to life as she sat up in her grave and said ” What the fragglenackle? Who is this chile, why is she so ignorant in this day and age and did I really go through all of this and die to have my ears offended after all these years at the end of my struggle?” The visual I caught of Harriet was this and rightly so….Pissed.

underground railroad8

I could see her ( Tubman) taking some raggedy, dusty cloths soaked in muddy water and slapping some much need sense into Porscha’s empty head. Pretty and coiffed but empty.

How in the WORLD did this woman ( Portscha) go through all those years of school, had a grandfather who knew all about the Civil rights movement and made a name for himself in the work and she knew zip, zilch, zero, NADA about the underground railroad???  What else did she NOT know?  But this is the same woman that said there were 366 days in a year so….This just takes “ratchet” to whole new level…

Porscha can tell you about the latest fashions, how to look beautiful etcetera but has yet to hold a conversation intelligent enough that does not leave heads spinning in horror.  I can’t even blame public education because her family should have been certain to impart this most important information to her.  I am almost positive they did, so where was her head all those years when the stories were being shared?

That level of ignorance is beyond inexcusable and a lesson in what we all must know about History in order to be clearly present and accountable.. Not just the history of our own culture but to soak in others as well because it all weaves intricately into the fabric of present day.

As I kept watching in suicidal fascination to my poor brain cells, it all began to make sense why Porscha was so dense and had no clue about so many things that should be elementary to the average person.  Someone told her, she didn’t have to be anything but beautiful, find a rich husband and be the perfect wife.  They did her a huge disservice and the fall- out from that is playing itself out among millions each week.

All I can say is this; do not let Porscha become you.  Intelligent conversation is a must.  We all want to be examples to others.  Just not like this.  Never like this.

A child with out an Education, is like a football player without a helmet.  Porscha left her helmet at home and this is the end result.

Enough said.

.underground railroad10

 

The Red Cross, The Cucumber and the health care system…

A seemingly routine visit to donate blood to the American Red Cross, turned into a ” Lawd I’m going to die” conversation in my head,  after my blood pressure was taken. The darn thing was so high according to their numbers , I could not give blood and  I immediately made an appointment to see my Primary care physician the next day. In the mean time, I called my parents who emailed a list of natural ways I could lower my pressure like juicing cucumbers and ginger daily.
  Armed with the knowledge they gave me, I felt much better but it  was not without some trepidation that I bounced into the waiting room and cooled my jets thinking about what would happen if I had to go to the hospital. Mind you, I had no symptoms at all that would give me an inkling that I may be sick..
Anyhoo, as the nurse took me back and stopped in front of the scale, without breaking my stride, I walked right past that thing saying ” today your holiday gift  will be to not let me step on that scale because I just ate 7 days of my mother’s cooking and it’s popping up now like a bad pimple!”
I heard this guffaw and to my right, was my Doctor laughing hard and shaking his head at the usual antics he has come to expect from me.  When he walked in and sat down to chat, we began discussing in earnest the new health care law that was passed and how it would affect his profession.
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In a candid discourse, he tells me this is long overdue  and says his concern is they may not have enough Doctors to cover the amount of people who will come into the system for preventative care. He scoffed at the suggestion that it would be drain on the system to have this law and said what is draining it( system ) now,  are the people who can’t afford preventative care that end up in the E.R .which creates a much larger bill that has to be absorbed by those who can pay.
“When people can afford well visits, we will drain the system less” he says  ” But in true political fashion, the folks that can’t stand the President has created all kinds of false statements scaring people and it didn’t help that he had some idiots working for him who knew the website for enrolment  was going to crash and said nothing because it was not equipped for the traffic it endured the minute it went active. Three years from now, this will be a good thing but right now, it’s just easier for people to point fingers.”
As a small business owner, the fees I pay  for health care  now is criminal, so I look forward to this new law helping many like myself.
As I sat talking to him, he took my vitals and blood pressure, looked up and said ” I don’t know whose blood pressure reading they gave you but today, you are just slightly elevated.  It is safe to say, you will be around to torture us a tad bit longer.”
As he adjusted my medication,  I asked him if he remembered the first day I walked into his Office.  ” Sure,” he replied.  ” Here I was this barely five feet tall man and there you stood, all five feet ten inches of purpose . You told me you fired your other a doctor and if I wanted us to have a good working relationship, I had to understand that you knew  your body and should be listened to, or I would be fired too. That was 20 plus years ago. I have spilled more coffee down my shirt laughing with you and clearly, I did my job.”
 I clutched my pearls and  said “I don’t remember any such a thing!! ” *Blink, Blink*
He smiled and replied, ” you were a force of nature but I liked you instantly for taking ownership of your own health. More people should question what doesn’t feel right because Doctors do not have all the answers.” At the end of our visit, I jumped off the table, looked at him and said ” So essentially, I could have just juiced my cucumbers and ginger and saved myself from paying your exhorbitant fee huh?” He looked up a coyly replied “Yep, and your colon would have thanked you profusely!”
we hooted and parted ways like only old friends can… I guess it is safe to give my blood after all….
Enough said

It’s our ACTIONS not our Words..

A few days ago, while in a  place where I never expected this to happen, I ran straight into the adult child of  someone who, for all intents and purposes, should be my friend some almost three decades.

But we are not.

That friendship ended abruptly a few years ago.  It broke my heart, but it had to be severed at the root. Here’s why.

Her values did not align with mine and I started to see things as our children were growing up together that I had willed myself to ignore by  saying things like ” people are different” etcetera and while I was in no place to judge, my gut told me that I was in a vortex with someone who believed the world owed them something, blamed everyone but themselves for every thing that went wrong in their life and allowed the children to do things that just did not sit well with me at all.  The only time I heard her take “responsibility” it came in the form of being a fool for getting caught up with such-and-such or her life would be better.

The children being disrespectful? Someone else’s fault

Not doing well in school? Excuse after excuse.

Where she lived and how she lived? Yep, you guessed it, that was the problem of any number of people.

Here was a bright person, with a quiet demeanour and a sweet smile, who carried around a darkness quite unlike anything I have ever seen and to this day, I know she has not accepted responsibility for her behaviours.  What she essentially taught her children was the following;

If someone is doing better than them in life, those people were LUCKY.

It is easier to sweet-talk people into helping you find a place to stay, buy whatever items you may need ( because that is what REAL friends do.) When they stop agreeing with you, move on to the next person.

Life owes you something not the other way around.

They are a mess because ( name the litany of things their father and everyone else in their circle is responsible for.)

You get the gist.

One instance I will never forget:

her husband bought her a brand new car with less than 10 miles on it and as we were test driving this spanking new thing and I was jumping for glee, she looked forlorn. When I said” aren’t you thrilled?” she replied” I like it but it should have been a top model car like a BMW because such-and-such Husband already bought hers…”  The alarm bells that went off in my head that day…. it stuck with me too. took me a few more years to sit up and see just what was in front of me and that our values did not align.

I walked away when I spoke up about her children and their behaviours towards adults among other things. Of course, she did not like it one bit and that was the end-of-that after years of friendship. So, when I ran into this young person, and started to listen, all I heard was the same “tape” playing and she sounded just like her mother.  I do not blame the child as they only emulated what they saw for years.  On a whim, I called another long time friend and what I was told, sealed for me that the right move was made on my part years ago.  The level of atrocities only got worse and we are now beginning to see the results in the children who are not doing well in school, have very little respect for authority and they are bouncing around with attitudes.  When dad tried to intervene, she allowed them to curse at him and cried in a corner about how he ruined all their lives.

We now have among us in society, young adults who could have been different if only they had someone responsibly guiding them to find who they were.  I still think about this person from time to time as we had some fond memories but the Universe in it’s infinite wisdom, knew we would not remain close forever and so I treasure the good memories but keep my distance.

I have said this time and again and I will continue to say it; our actions, not our words are what we pour into our children and lord do they ever speak volumes to others in the general public, good or bad.  Many among  us had horrific childhoods and it behoves us to do the work or we will see the pathology repeat itself in our children for generations to come.  When and where does the buck stop?

What is the story that our children are speaking about us?

There is no manual for raising children but some things never become stagnant like good manners, responsibility, character and respect.

It was not my intention to write this post until I saw this video below…. SHARE until your fingers hurt… please and thank you…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KHi2dxSf9hw

Enough said

The “Scandal” of it all..

I am not a fan of television so when folks around me began moaning and gnashing their teeth about this new series called “Scandal” starring Kerry Washington, it was summarily ignored until the final episode of season 1 where I saw it accidentally one Thursday evening.  I was so floored by what I was watching, I decided to take another peek the following season.  I was hooked like a fish to bait.  Many follow it for the illicit affair between the President and The “fixer” Olivia Pope but I was fascinated by the politics behind the scenes and the levels of depravity people will go through to attain power and keep it.

Follow the bouncing red ball and take a ride with me…

There is the President who hated his father but allowed himself to be put into an arranged marriage with a woman who is considered a “blue blood” so that he could increase his chances of becoming a politician that would be taken seriously. He is placed in the path of two people who are there to be great publicists, guide him and “fix” any scandals that may surface from his past.  He fell in love with one young lady on the campaign trail and that is where most of his troubles began. I never knew there were so many places in the white House to have dalliances but it clearly proved what lengths people will go through to do what ever they want.

There is the blue blood wife, who fell in love with her hubby despite the circumstances surrounding her crazy marriage and after her father-in-law raped her, decided she would keep the pregnancy and her ‘payment’ would be her spot in history sitting beside the most powerful man in the free world.  She has found that was not such an easy decision as she has been running around trying to stop the relationship her husband is having in one breath, while encouraging it in another ( to keep him happy) so that he will win a second term in the white house.  Are you confused yet?

There is the president’s right hand man, who  happily calls himself a monster because he will got to any lengths to keep his power as the ‘king maker’ in the White house and that included putting a hit-man out to kill his lover who was about to leak a story that could destroy them all. They adopted a little black baby that I barely saw but lord knows, they need someone to comb that child’s hair.

There is the “fixer” who runs a business to help people manage their scandals. It has been indeed a profitable one for her but her private life needs some fixing of it’s own.  Her daddy runs a secret organization in government that is so powerful, it takes orders from no one, including the President of the U.S. Added to her woes, she fell and bumped her head by falling in love with the President himself and cannot seem to stay away from him despite the war within her that says she shouldn’t be with this man for a million reasons.  The people in her business are dangerous with secrets of their own.

The craziness of the last episode, made me write a recap here https://www.facebook.com/groups/442371479122210/permalink/777743435585011/

What you read above  is enough to make you cringe each week but that is just the tip of the madness in the plot around these folks.  I sat back after watching that episode a few days ago and began to really think about why do so many tune in to watch this each and every week without fail and literally have a serious dialogue for days and weeks after. It dawned on me after some soul searching:

What they are watching allows them to not focus, at least for a few hours on their own lives such that it is and makes them feel their level of  ‘hell ‘ is nothing compared to what they are seeing.  Let’s face it, life is never how we fully portray it on social media. No one in their right mind, would let all their baggage hang out for the world to see and they shouldn’t.

In the limited scope that is called my life, I see things like long-term friendships ending badly, people who are smiling and making a life in what they know are really bad relationships, others who are struggling with their families and childhoods that would make you fall to your knees in tears, The Public Education system imploding as each school district hold tightly to their corner of the universe, Politicians, Pastors and Police officers making deals and doing things in secret that is seeping through their tightly woven shrouds of confidentiality as the public gets tired of being abused in a system they trusted and the list goes on.  It is called in simple terms, the human condition but for one hour every Thursday evening, I get to watch  in morbid fascination, a show that emulates real- life more than many are willing to admit, and forget just for 60 minutes, the real scandal of it all called our daily lives……

With that thought in mind, seek with intention, the things you can be grateful for, enjoy the simplicity of life( like the hug my 21 year old dispensed upon me with no provocation on my part) and if all else fails, be thankful for being able to take one breath at a time. Just above the clouds of darkness is light; breathe long enough to see it break through and  when it hits your face, enjoy it for life will eventually bring you to a place of test again.  Fortify yourself in the good times and when you find it difficult to breathe, go ahead and lose yourself in the show that reminds us that things can ALWAYS be worse..

Enough said.

The Pathology of Parenting…

I saw commercials recently for an episode of Iyanla Vanzant’s  “Fix My Life” that caught my attention.  It seems Mr Terrell Owens, ex- super star of the NFL, was the subject of the moment and in my head, all I heard and saw was this;

Release the Kraken!!

cracken 2

I have watched T.O. for years and each time would shake my head and ask where IS his momma? While arguably one of the best players the NFL has seen, his antics on AND off the field made me cringe. What was worse, were the people who watched him destroy himself and took full advantage of his “fame” knowing all too well it was fleeting because let’s face it; one cannot survive on an ego that large for too long.

Sure enough, things started spiralling out of control and the once celebrated athlete/ diva went  down the drain in the vortex he created.  I also knew most assuredly, there was some seriously bad pathology behind that, shall we say, less than stellar behaviour.  I was soon to find out it was worse than I thought.

If you watched the show, you learned that Terrell’s mom was a teen who slept with the married father of two across the street from her momma’s house, got preggers, somehow left her child with his grandmother and he had NO idea his dad lived across said street from him until he was eleven and liked a girl who turned out to be his sister.. Sweet mother of God… That, sweet pea, is how he found out who is daddy was.

whomp whomp

Say what now?  Oh but it got better.  Daddy lived across that street from his son for all those years AFTER his kid found out and never fully acknowledged him.  Terrell watched the family across that street and wondered why was he not special enough to have that kind of acceptance and the thirsty desire for attention was born. The NFL became his family and the fans his arena for gaining the “love” he sought.

Lawd, did he EVER take advantage too.. It was almost painful to watch and see what he was going to do next. I will spare you the gory details of said drama because one would have to be in a cave, Under a boulder to not have experienced the beast he was. As the story unfolded and the pieces came together, one could visibly see a new T.O. being born. The Terrell that was robbed of a childhood where he felt loved and wanted.  The Terrell who  was treated ( in his head and heart) like he was an “issue” that his grandmother took on. The Terrell who never saw his parents together in a room being decent to each other until he was darn near forty years old. That Terrell was being replaced with one who began to fully recognize his “stuff” and saw his  responsibility in his downfall. Not the media, not the NFL, not his baby mamas but HIM.

That could ONLY happen once his own father acknowledged he failed him and that paying child support was not enough to raise a child. I believe T.O. has turned the hard corner into becoming who he really is and pray that he will be a better man to his son than his father was to him.  That took work and humility but kudos to the brother, he did it. I wish him the best moving forward.

Which leads to my next point.

One of my biggest passions beside writing of course, is parenting and as a direct result, I travel and am contracted by School Districts to work with families on how to navigate schools while being a collaborative partner.  What I have found is that in order to discuss  being a parent, schools, how they operate, the chain of command, how to navigate their child’s formative years and work with educators etcetera, we had to go all the way back.

To their childhood.

What has happened as a result of doing this crucial exercise, has been powerful beyond words and opened doors to their collective hearts in minds in ways that still leaves them and the School districts astonished ten plus  years later. it never ceases to amaze me just how powerful this work is and until more Districts fully authenticate the need for solid parent work and development as partners with them, we will continue to struggle with the charges we both love dearly; the children. No matter how educated/ uneducated a parent is when they walk through a school door, navigating school systems continues to befuddle them. Heck to be truthful, the continual changes befuddle many educators too.  Parents need help, not ridicule.

But I digress.

Parents, raising children is never an easy task. It is understood that your own childhood may not have been  perfect and trust me, in my years of doing this work, I think  I have heard it all and then some.  What I am going to implore of you is this; do the work to heal and forgive as much as you possibly can, so that your off – spring can have a fighting chance in hell not to repeat the pathology that was given to you. It is the only way to start breaking the vicious cycle  that abounds.  Try to find someone who you can trust to speak with, to release the anxieties you may be experiencing.  It requires WORK on your end but the rewards are plentiful. You only have to look in the eyes of your children to see that it is worth the effort.

If you had a wonderful childhood, my ask of YOU is simply this; try not to stand in a place of judgement for those who are doing the best they can.  You can even go one step further and be a helpful presence through kindness and deed.  Be careful not to make people feel like you are “wonderful” for doing such a thing. Come from a place of authenticity or it most certainly will back- fire.

Above all, remember that children are innocent in  the idiosyncrasies of life and need us to shield and raise them with the very BEST we have within.

Enough said.

the “torture” that became valuable…

Growing up as the eldest of four children at times felt like pure torture in my childhood home with a splash of hot sauce to boot.. I tease my parents now, that they “experimented” on parenting with me and one of them must have been a doozy as a child because I was no walk- in- the- park to raise, let  me tell you… I was born curious and not afraid to check something out to satisfy said curiosity.  Not different from many children you say? True.. I however, would keep going back to whatever it was that held my curiosity, no matter how much I got in trouble, until it  ( curiosity) was duly satisfied.. drove my mother nuts and earned my father’s silent admiration for tenacity unlike anything he had ever seen.

To give you an idea of just how tenacious I was, when I met one of my younger cousins a few years back who was a newbie at the University of Pennsylvania, I took  my boys and sat in a restaurant so we could all get to know each other.  She was so silent, I finally noticed and she blurted, ” I am sorry but the stories about you as a child are legendary!! I am looking at you in awe and wondering how you survived Auntie!”  My boys perked right up and began asking for details of said stories and I shut them all down with ” Do not believe everything you hear as I am certain they were mostly fabricated!”

Suffice it to say, I thought my parents had way too many rules and that we were the only children on our beautiful block that had to be home before they ( parents)  pulled into the driveway like clock-work at 5:30. We watched our cousins, green with envy that they had way more latitude than we ever could. While they were allowed to attend parties, we were allowed to attend one and had to be home by 10 p.m. I know… what was the point of going right?  We knew better than to question our father, who became the strict one as we got older.

Here are some of the rules we had as children:

  • Speak when spoken to with manners.. ( there was NO getting around this rule at all) to this day, I address an adult formally until given permission to do otherwise.
  • Do not slouch when standing or sitting
  • Eat with our mouth closed and chew carefully. Know the proper way to handle eating utensils.
  • Ladies walked with their backs erect and with decorum. Planting your feet just anywhere was a sin worse than death.
  • clothing must be “classy” not “trashy” and fit our body types.  We learned early what types of clothing did not flatter us thereby avoiding them.
  • Ladies were not to be caught raising their voices ever. This one was tough for me…
  • Reading was a necessity like breathing.
  • Teeth were to be brushed morning and evening with regularity
  • If anyone caught us doing ANYTHING we had no business doing… well, we just had to pray for mercy. This was easy for my sisters to follow from  watching my near brushes with ‘going to heaven’ after having to deal with my mother for one infraction or another.

As we looked back on what we considered unnecessary torture back then, it has been invaluable to us as adults and landed us in places and positions that would otherwise escape our grasp.   When my parents realized that I was just going to be tenacious, they taught me how to use it to my advantage instead of peril.  In retrospect, we had idyllic childhoods; while my sisters stayed home and did what they were told, I was climbing mountains with my friends, going to the beach, riding bicycles, hanging at my friends homes but being certain to get back with enough time to spare before that car came down the street.  I got caught once or twice but it was worth it.

I did have enough sense to not do anything egregious that would bring shame to my family but like most teenagers, I found ways to buck the system they had in place.  As a parent now of two children, I recognize they will try things but they too are left with this sage advice; ” You get yourself in trouble, tell the authorities it is easier for them to keep you than to call me because it will not be pretty”  It has worked so far and each time they prove to be responsible, I gave them some more room to grow.

Now that my sons are  17 and 21 respectively, I can call my parents and thank them for not only raising my siblings and I responsibly, but giving us the tools to be responsible, loving parents ourselves.. I have done many things thus far in my life, yet none of it comes close to being a parent and when you feel like all is lost on the days when your children are trying every bone in your body, remind yourself that one day, they will have children and the roles will be reversed in your favour…

My siblings and I have a mandate from our father to email him and mommy each Saturday morning, our “weekly report” which includes our children and mates. At first we found it tedious and gave three sentences, but as the months flew by, we have found it a great way to slow down and really catch up with our lives since some of us  live in different countries.  The hilarity that flies back and forth has left us totally appreciating each other and reminds us once more that we are fortunate to have such a bond.  Our parents quietly struck again….

enough said.

Happy School Year!! ( now listen up..)

Summer is coming to a swift end…

All around me, I see signs of young people being dropped off at dorms for their first year in college and the younger children skipping happily through the aisles of stores buying cool clothing and back-to-school supplies in anticipation of starting a new grade.. Somewhere behind all these young people, are the parents who either can hardly contain their own urge to click heels that summer is over, or feeling melancholy that the years have all gone way too quickly- and are now, saying goodbye to young adults going off to chart their own course…Whether you fit in one category or the other, here are some key things to pay attention to as they are crucial for you and your offspring.

Ready?

Fail-proof things to do in schools (Ages 3-18 )

Look, I know you read all kinds of books, asked all kinds of questions and yes made all kinds of mistakes in an effort to navigate your child’s classroom but here are things that truly work when done with savvy integrity:

  • Assume the best of your child’s teacher because believe me, they are just as  nervous each year about who will be walking through their doors and await your arrival with much anticipation.
  • Smile…yes, smile and let it reach your eyes.
  • Ask how you can be of help.  If the teacher says “nothing” observe and do little nice things where you may notice a need.
  • When the time arises to send an email or note questioning something, start with a positive, ask your question and end with a positive always.  There may be a perfectly good explanation about why something is happening so never assume. It is the difference between a good working relationship or a contentious one.
  • Choose wisely how you express anger and where. If you are writing an email that would make YOU upset, do not send. Rather, mull it over, cool down and then re-write.
  • Educators are not perfect. they are human. Therefore, should the need arise to make a formal complaint, please start with the immediate supervisor, not the school Board or Superintendent. Most things can be solved at your building level.
  • Volunteer wherever you can and do NOT stop when your child gets to middle and High School.  If you are not able to volunteer in the building, volunteer to send emails or post happenings on a Facebook page etc. You will feel useful and it will be appreciated.
  • Our kids are not perfect and will make mistakes.  Be open to hearing them when that dreaded call comes
  • Set aside time for homework each day but as your child gets older, wean yourself from wanting to do the homework/presentations. There is a valuable lesson in this for you and them.
  • Help one other family in need if you can.
  • Pray for wisdom, strength and grace. You will need it as the only thing constant in Education, is change.

Semi- Fail-proof advice ( Ages18-22)

  • In the beginning of College, you will hear from your child regularly.  They may even get home-sick.  But once they find their stride, all of that goes out the window.  Be thrilled for a call once a week and the texts that has five words maximum. If you are lucky.
  • Allow them to find their way such that it is, while keeping a watchful eye out for their safety. We all know parties are a huge thing on campus so advise on the dangers of excess, having someone put an illegal drug within etc. are serious conversations to be had and reminded lightly of, as the years go by.
  • Pay attention to changing moods that may seem out of the norm. Whether you believe it or not, you know your child.  Using your intuition, may prevent disaster from happening long term.
  • Send money when they need it but encourage them to have jobs on campus so they can fully appreciate the value of a dollar and stay out of your pockets like a leech.
  • Remind them there is no magical money tree in your back yard so an under-graduate degree should appear in 4-5 years not 10.
  • Set boundaries and stick by them when they come home during the holidays. They gain so much freedom at school, they tend to forget that walking through your door at 4a.m. is a deal breaker unless they are paying for the rights to said house. ( Just saying)

I could go on forever but you get the point… parenting is a lifetime job but one that lessens in intensity as our children grow into the people we raised them to be.  So as this new school year begins, take a deep breath, hunker down and be the best parent you have within. The Universe thanks you in advance…

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