Tag Archives: Parenting

Musings on parenting…almost 19 years on this job

4 Jan

Well we’ve made it successfully to 2011 which is more than we can say for the birds dropping out of the sky in Arkansas. What the hell is up with that? Anyhoo, I’ve had this blog post in the back of my mind for a few days but only now have I had the time to sit down and actually write it.

I just said good bye to my eldest child as he returns to the Midwest to take care of some things though it looks like he might try to fly back before the next semester starts at the end of the month. When he was last here in August he was getting ready to transition into life as a college student and I must say after having had the pleasure of being with him the past two weeks, he is a fully functional college student. He came home with lots of bags and lots of books and Mama Santa graced him with tons of literary goodies to make my philosophy major happy. The other night I was watching my baby and realizing that while in my heart he will always be my baby he is indeed a young man, recently he gave his girl friend of over a year a promise ring and wants to bring her up to the Maine abode this summer. Big time stuff for this Mama.

It’s funny because on the one hand I have a grown child; I also have a young child with the girl who is only 5. I have spent my entire adult life parenting, I learned I was pregnant with elder boy only a few months after turning 18 and he was born a mere two weeks after my 19th birthday. I have said it before and it bears repeating; when my son was born there was no internet, for my knowledge and insight I relied on family and friends and books and a lot of hands on experience. I suppose had I not had the girl child I would never have learned just how much parenting has changed.

Parenting has happened for as long as humans have procreated but now we have a generation of parents that to be honest rely more on what the experts say and less on instinct. By all means I am glad that as knowledge has become more widespread that certain behaviors have changed. Children are in safety seats, folks aren’t smoking in front of their kids and corporal punishment is deeply frowned upon in most corners of society. These are all good things. Yet as an older Mama and I mean older in that I have raised one child to adulthood, I sometimes worry that young Mamas are getting hung up on things that in the long run are just not that important.

I fear that in the information age of parenting we are becoming overloaded on doing the “right” things we read about and less inclined to trust the instincts that exist within us…going so far in instances to cut off family members who don’t follow our party line when it comes to parenting kids. I am a believer in the village method of raising kids, I was raised with a village…some of my greatest memories are of the times spent with my Grandparents on weekends. I truly believe the time I spent with them as a child directly related to how much as an adult I loved spending time with my Grandmother. My Grandma died 6 weeks after my daughter was born; she died a few days after receiving pictures of her. I am convinced she stayed around long enough to lay eyes on her so that when she left this world and was reunited with my Mom she could tell my mother all about it.

I raised my son relying on my village as well, a village that was comprised of my parents, grandma, mother in law and others…my son is very close to his paternal grandmother who I still consider my mother in law despite the fact I divorced my ex well over a decade ago. I was a young Mama and these women (and men) guided me and yes at times we clashed but really the battle over the green army men that my father insisted upon giving my son did not scar him though I admit at the time I thought they would. Yet today’s young Mamas are less inclined to have a village made up of folks with different views instead relying on voices that mirror theirs. Frankly I think this is a mistake. To be honest if you are an old reader I have said this before but it was really talking to my son a few nights ago that made me think of this. My son was sharing that despite the rather unorthodox he was raised he wouldn’t change a thing. Which is funny because Mama Guilt often eats me alive thinking of all the things I did in raising him including letting him live with his Dad. Yet all those experiences made him the young man he is…including eating less than stellar food as a kid and having to spend Saturdays from age 3 up and hauling groceries with me and cleaning the house. Turns out in college he seems to have quite a few skills that many of his peers who were raised a bit differently don’t have. Namely survival skills since as the off-spring of a woman who was working class when he was born and later became middle class I carry a lot of working class ways into my parenting. Chiefly in that while his peers have unlimited access to funds he gets a small allowance monthly and must learn to live with it. He admits at times it’s a tad awkward when he can’t just run out and do XYZ but he is a superb user of thrift shops and bargain shopping.

In the two weeks I just spent with my son the vegetarian eating philosophy studying young man; it seems all the times I had to sit him in front of the TV so I could make dinner did less harm than I thought. Kids are not only resilient but it seems they are studying us when we don’t even realize it and they absorb our depth when we are focused on other seemingly important things. In my son’s case he saw beneath the surface things that now make me cringe (sorry son for feeding you those horrible kool-aid drinks) instead he understood I was working 2-3 jobs to create a better life not only for me but for him.

If I were to talk to a young mother today who is bombarded with so many messages about what she must do, I would say turn off some of those voices and follow your own heart when it comes to your child. The occasional Happy Meal is not going to create a monster; a week with too much TV is not going to create a zombie. Too many plastic toys won’t hurt your child…worse case they disappear one day in a fit of spring cleaning. Or as I am doing with my youngest we either give em away to someone who has nothing or we save em for a yard sale. The girl child is driving me crazy asking when we are going to have that yard sale so she can earn some money.

Family members who love your child are one of the most precious gifts you can give your child. My son fondly remembers times spent with both my mother and my grandmother, women who had wicked sweet tooth’s and loved to share the goodies. One of my biggest sadness’s is that my daughter won’t ever know those moments spent with loving family members but I am thankful my son had the time and can speak fondly of Grandma S and Granny R.

As I struggle with my new role in my son’s life I realize that parenting is a journey and like all journeys you must be willing to change plans based on road conditions.  While technology allows us to know more than our parents did and in some cases create our own communities we must not allow ourselves to lose our own instincts when it comes to our kids. Above all like all journeys we must be open to going with the flow and having fun!

Evengelical Parenting

16 Aug

I am becoming more and more convinced that there are certain segments of the population for whom the act of raising children closely resembles the conversion that happens when folks become Evangelical Christians. I know because in the past I was closely aligned with Evangelical Christianity, now I consider myself a simple Christian.

Yet in the early days of my coming to Christ, I was passionate and on fire for Jesus always looking for a chance to share my story and lead folks to Christ. In the past I attended churches where the leaders implored us to testify often, where we were told that if we did what Christ and thus the Bible said then health and prosperity would be ours. Only problem with such dialogue is that if one truly reads the Bible and studies it, never once does it say that if you come to accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior that you are on easy street. Good health and financial prosperity are not the rewards for being a Christian. Yet folks like Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyers both who in my two cent opinion would be better served as inspirational speakers insist that God wants you to be healthy and wealthy. Um…that is simply not true. Now I am not about to turn this into a biblical discussion but if you want to ask me why I think this way, feel free to leave a comment or email me.

Nowadays when we choose to have kids unlike our parents and grandparents we have so many choices. Hell before the baby even arrives earth side we must decide how we want the child to arrive. Do we use the medical model and use an OB, or do we use a midwife? Do we birth at home? Hospital? Freestanding birthing center? Shit, the kid hasn’t even arrived and we have to make all these damn decisions. I must admit back in 1991 when I was pregnant with my son, I didn’t have all these choices, he was born in an hospital with an OB. Now I will be the first to say that choices are good, believe me women we need choices when it comes to how we give birth. Problem I have is too many of us put too much damn stock into individual details not realizing parenting is a journey, one that you may start off with the best of intentions but like a bad vacation, shit just happens.

Now it appears that one of the biggest choices that women face is whether or not they should breastfeed their baby. Clearly there are amazing benefits to breastfeeding, while I did not breastfeed my son in part because I knew nothing about it, I did later go on to nurse my second child for three and a half years. It’s quite funny that I nursed that long considering I was ambivalent about breastfeeding, in large part because I was not personally familiar with it. I started off with a goal of nursing 6 weeks and went on for years because I opened my mind and got informed but also because at the time I bought into some of the hype. I admit that will probably piss some of ya’ll off but the truth is that some women in their zeal to see more women breastfeed will tell you all sorts of amazing things will happen if you nurse.

Yes, there are some breastfed babies who are healthier than formula fed babies, yes some women do lose weight while nursing but guess what? I was not one of those women, hell I gained 50lbs in 8 months while nursing, see I took that you will lose weight thing way too seriously and forgot to remember that if you consume way more calories than you burn off that you will gain.

The more zealous lactivist though will have you thinking that should you nurse your babies that well, bad things will never come your way. Look, nothing could be further from the truth. I have been following this story. In case you are not up for clicking, it’s the story of Katie Allison Granju, back in the 1990’s she wrote the book on attachment parenting and some credit her for creating the word lactivist. I read her book when the kidlet was a baby and often wondered what happened to her, not realizing until a few months ago that she was still a writing Mama. Her story in many ways is tragic; losing a child is hands down one of the worst things than can happen to you. In her case despite being a gentle and thoughtful parent, her eldest got involved with drugs.

Granju’s story has haunted me in part because her lovely son Henry was the same age as my boy, the same day that my son was graduating from high school, Granju was saying good bye to her son. I admire the hell out of Granju and how she continues to go on and hell even blog through her grief. I can only imagine that most days it takes such strength and courage to go on and please know that in no way am I saying anything negative about this Mama. However Granju in a recent piece confessed that she is not nursing her new baby, pretty ironic that the woman who wrote the book on parenting and breastfeeding is not breastfeeding. It was in the comment section to her piece where a nerve was struck for me where most folks let her know it was okay to not nurse after all she has suffered one hell of a loss. Yet one commenter really felt compelled in my opinion to lay a guilt trip on Granju.

Look nursing is great but its only one of many parts of parenting. Truth is I had my first kid at 19, didn’t follow any books, made a shitload of mistakes in raising him yet he is one of the most thoughtful humans I know…how we got him I do not know, but am thankful that he chose me to be his Mama. I have a 5 year old who I followed all the current protocol with and there are days frankly where I want to beat my head against the wall. My daughter is not an easy child to parent and daily my dreams and assumptions are dismantled and challenged with her.

Point is, this parenting gig is the hardest you will ever have, and folks who speak in absolutes have no idea what the fuck they are talking about. Parenting is hard enough without zealots running around making us feel bad. So I say down with evangelical parenting. Just parent your kid to the best of your ability and trust that it will all work out.

Why People Beat their Kids

26 Jun

Disclaimer, its late and Mama has had a long day. When those two things happen, I tend to get slap happy and nonsensical, so if my bad sense of humor offends you, get a coke and bag of chips and push on. Otherwise if you are a frazzled parent, who is finally catching their breath now that the kidlets are asleep, pour a glass of wine or make a cup of tea and commiserate with me as I kvetch.

Preschool ended for the almost 5 yo kidlet a couple of weeks ago and while in my mind I saw us sharing many tender Mommy-child moments together this summer, my reality has been um…exhausting. The kidlet has always had sleep issues from age 0-almost 3 she would only fall asleep if she were physically carried or attached to one of us. There was a good 2 year period where I forgot what the Spousal Unit looked like at night since around 18 months he took over nighttime duty for fear he wasn’t going to wake up one day due to his frazzled sleep deprived wife snapping. Turns out the man is far better suited to going without regular sleep than yours truly.

Even when she started sleeping in her room last year she still required a parental unit’s involvement at some point in the middle of the night (yeah, I know developmentally appropriate and when your firstborn got the hang of sleeping at oh 6 weeks getting a kid the 2nd time around who hates to sleep rocks your fucking world) so to be honest its safe to say she has always had issues around sleep. Kidlet will go to bed late and wake up early. I tried the consensual route at one point believing that she would fall asleep when she needed and get the sleep her body required. Bad idea, instead we had a kid who was constantly over tired and making our lives a living hell.

No, it took getting hardcore and regimented and having a consistent schedule that seemed to make our lives easier though we still never knew (know) when she will wake up. So imagine my surprise a couple of weeks ago when she started sleeping late, I am talking almost 9 am! I felt like a brand new person being able to sleep that late instead of hearing the call at 6:45 am…”Mommy, Daddy I am up”. But all good things must come to end and that week of heaven on earth (think about the best sex you ever had, shit so good it was like heaven, the moon, the stars..you get the point) has ended only to now return to super early wake up time and a kid who is always high energy having even more energy.

It’s that energy that brings me to today, we were out as a family enjoying our community and time together, all said we were out about 7-8 hours and after a long warm day outside we (the big people) came home and were wiped out. Yet the kidlet came home and had more energy that 5 yo triplets combined. “Mommy, let’s play store.” “Mommy, let’s play dress up”…after reading 3 long stories, “Mommy can you read some more”? It went on and on. Finally I said “Chile, how about we watch some tv (sue me, if your kid doesn’t watch tv, well you are probably a better parent than I, hats off to you now pass me a drink!). Here I was offering unfettered access to the idiot box and she said no, um…..NOoooooooooo!

It was in that moment I realized just how easy it would be for a parent with less resources and more pressures to just snap on the kid. It’s the reason when you are in places like Target and the evil Wal-Mart you see parents just snapping on kids. Kids push our buttons, thankfully the Spousal Unit came in and ran interference and after being left alone for an hour I was happy to hang out with her. But dammit for a split second it ran through my mind how easy it would have been when she was having that whine fest to do as the ole folks would say and just pop her and tell her to shut the hell up.

So while I am not proud of the thoughts that ran through my mind, I am glad I had the ability to get back on track and be the best parent I can within my reality but at the same time I realized why some parents spank their kids. Its less about the kid and more about how we handle stressful moments.

Is it harder now?

16 Jun

Technically I am off of work this week but that is really just a technicality as my phone is still ringing, emails are still being sent and basically no one seems to have gotten the memo that I am closed for business despite the fact this is my week to decompress before we hit the busy season. It also happen to be the week between preschool ending and day camp starting so I get to pretend I am a stay at home Mom rather than a work out of the home Mom. Can I tell you that I am plain fucking exhausted! The kidlet has the energy of triplets rolled into one body. To say I am exhausted is a understatment but hey what can you do?

Yet I find myself wondering if modern-day parenting is harder than it was say 30 years ago? I was taking a stroll down memory lane yet without my Mum around to ask questions of, maybe I am wrong but I swear my Mom didn’t work nearly as hard as any of the Mamas’ that I know. Play just happened, no dates to arrange, I was mostly left to my own devices. If we played together it was the occasional board game but she never spent hours on end in the floor with me, perhaps it’s because one puzzle and multiple games of dominos later and both the Spousal Unit and I are sore as hell after playing on the floor. So this stuff is on my mind. Yet its in these moments I long for the days of yesteryear in parenting , when I felt less like the manager of child activity and more like a parent.

Today I ended up talking with a woman who initially thought the kidlet was my only child until I explained that I also have an adult child as well and it turned out she had a similar situation though in her case her kids were 17 years apart. We had a good laugh talking about how our parenting evolved, in some ways it was the type of discussion I needed as the woman I was talking to was also African-American. She instinctively seemed to get how with the kidlet I had flipped my parenting script 180 degrees to the point even elder boy has told me that if he tried half of what his sister does the old me probably would not be as gentle as I am now.

Yet lately as I see my girl grow as much as I love her I admit I now question some of the parenting choices we have made but more importantly I wonder if parenting these days is simply harder than it once was? We have so much more as far as activities, technology and the list goes on…you would think our parenting lives would be easier yet it seems we work so much harder to parent than our parents and grandparents ever did. Why is that? I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter.

Say no and parent your kid

14 May

Dear Fellow Gen X parents,

Ours is a pretty cool ass generation, I must say. After all we know that we won’t ever have as much money as our Boomer parents, we pretty much know the man is full of shit. That’s why so many of us even as we start to hit the 40’s threshold are still freelancers and consultants. We may not have nearly as much financial comforts as our folks but damn it we have time to chill and time to raise our kids. So many of us were latch key kids that as we started having babies we totally embraced parenthood in a way that our Boomer parents truly cannot understand.

Fueled by the internet, we love to research any and everything especially when it comes to our kids. Many of us if our resources allow want nothing but the best for our kids, best car seats, best food (no Wonder bread and bologna for our kids, tofu pups baby!). Now I know I may seem like I am making fun of my fellow Gen X parents but I really am not, hell I am just as guilty as this. I also am married to a guy who still rocks out in his t-shirts and Chuck Taylor’s and he is 42. Seriously today’s 40 year old parent never looked so good, as a friend told me recently when I alluded to being almost 40 and middle aged, she said we are not middle aged, late 30’s is the new 20’s. See we take this staying young and being cool thing really seriously.

However I think it also goes too far especially when it comes to raising our kids. Most college educated Gen X folks would never dream of disciplining and treating their kids the way most of us were raised. No one except the most uneducated will ever fess up to smacking a child, and if you do, you can fully expect to be shunned. We are the generation that strives to be consensual, to be gentle, hell we want to be cool with our kids. Harsh words exchanged between us and our kids are almost more upsetting to us than to our kids. Little Janey dear, lets see if we can find a way that works for both of us. How many times have I heard these words or some variation in many of the parenting books that were recommended when the kidlet was born. See when elder boy was born he was raised in a style similar to how I was raised except that there was little in terms of physical discipline and he was always allowed a voice. I couldn’t always accommodate his desires but he was heard.

The thing is though we are living in a different world, a world where kid’s especially little girls are being sexualized so much earlier than our generation and previous generations. Yes, we had Barbie with her unrealistic body but no one and I mean no one I ever knew walked around before the age of oh say 18 with words like “Juicy” and “Sexy” displayed on any of their clothing. Yet these days take a trip to any Middle America shopping emporium and take a look at the clothes that are marketed on size 6X and up. Most of it looks a lot like mini versions of what adult women wear. Hell, it can actually take some serious effort to find clothes that looks like something a little girl should be wearing. Just a couple of weekends ago, I went to get the kidlet some sandals, a pretty easy one stop shopping trip I figured. Oh no, turns out Famous Footwear has all sorts of thong sandals and heeled sandals but no good sturdy play sandals. Mind you the kidlet is in preschool!! Why would a child between 4-6 need a pair of one inch heeled sandals?

Yet at the kidlet’s preschool and dance class which has a fair share of middle income Americans these are the clothes her peers wear. People have commented that my kidlet dresses more old fashioned with an emphasis on dresses that fall below the knee. Um…maybe it’s because I think a kid should be dressed age appropriate and not merely in what is cool.

Which brings me to this video, take a minute and watch it. In case you can’t watch it, you basically have 6-7 year old girls dressed provocatively while dancing to a Beyonce song. Six and Seven year old girls!! One question, where are the parents? I lied I have another question, why didn’t anyone say hell no to this idea? My girl takes dance class and you can best believe that if provocative dances were being taught she would be pulled out and next I would be making others aware of what the dance school was teaching.

It’s easy to lay blame about the sexualization of girls at the feet of the media, but the fact is as parents we are the folks in charge and responsible for our kids. Turn off the TV, don’t buy the clothes, and say no you will not be in the dance recital. At times it feels as if my generation is so stuck on being cool and hip that we have carried that attitude and view into our parenting. I figure while I want my kids to like me, it’s my job to raise em and hopefully do so in a way that they will be dynamic adults. What kind of messages do we send our kids when we cannot be parents instead choosing to be their pal? Truthfully there are times in parenting when you may have to play the heavy, it sucks but parenting like any other relationship has those moments. What are we saying when we cannot bear to stand for something? Instead allowing our kids to be shaped by forces beyond us.

Seriously there are times when as painful as it is you just have to say no.

Accepting My Limits

29 Dec

This is a rare week that I have off from work, I love the end of the year since with my job it’s time off without me having to use up my vacation time since we are closed. Granted I still have to make sure certain issues are addressed but an hour or so of work every couple of days is still a vacation.

Now that the holidays are done with and I have some time off, I have time to catch my breath and think…no good ever comes from thinking. Anyway, I have had to face the fact that while its been a great money saver to take girl child out of fulltime daycare, fact is it’s really not working for us. There are days I like to pretend I am a stay at home Mom but the fact is my job is pretty damn intense. Yes, my schedule is flexible to some degree but the reality is the last few months I feel stretched….the result is the girl child has learned to play by herself. Big yes to that! The downside is she is an official television junkie.

Now, I have never been anti-tv but I believe in moderation. Problem is when the Spousal Unit and I are thigh high in work that pays the bills, the fact is there is little time to do all that nifty creative stuff I dreamed about back in late summer when I hatched this plan to save money by taking her out of childcare.

Yeah, she goes to preschool three mornings a week, but just as I am hitting my work stride it’s time for the girl to come home and then two hours later I put in appearance at my office. Then there are dance days and then days like today when nothing is going on and the Spousal Unit and I juggle the child and our work. The end result is I look forward to her bed time the way a prisoner looks forward to their release date. All this time together has resulted in a lot of good times as a family but it’s also come at the expense of the quality of our work. My personal work style is rather peculiar and when I am in a grant cycle which I will be in soon, I need a lot of time to work and think.

We are looking at the possibility of seeing an increase in our income and while I want to save it all, remember I want to get out of debt. I am also thinking 3 days a week back at her former center will save my sanity and ensure that I get my work done so I can stay employed. Mind you my employer is very happy with my efforts at the moment but I know me and know that I am burning out. The thing is elder boy graduates from high school in a few short months and college is the next stop, being a single income family is not in our cards. So one could say I have the best of both worlds, since I have a job I love that is pretty flexible.

But the fact is while I grapple to accept my limitations, I cannot help but feel a tad like a bad Mama for even thinking of sending the girl child back to daycare but I am at the end of my rope. Hey, guess this is what being an adult is all about, accepting your reality and making the best choices you can.

One of those days…

18 Oct

I wish I could say I have something profound to say but the truth is this is one of those days where I am hanging on by a thread. Its one of those days when I want to grab a bag and run far the fuck away from my life. A day when I wonder if I am kidding myself by staying in Maine where I have no extended family versus heading back home where at least I have my Pops and my brother and a whole lot of extended family members. Admittedly many of them are not on my I like you a lot list ,but they are family.

So what is the problem BGIM? You may wondering….its a lovely child whose energy level even sick exceeds my energy level. See my daughter is a true blue extrovert, but the Spousal Unit and I are introverts to varying degrees. Don’t get me wrong, I like people, hell I struggle with the fact that getting together with folks face to face in Maine is like pulling teeth. Everyone is so busy, gone are the days when you can just call and say hey lets connect…nah, its all gotta be planned. I like people, I need a certain amount of time around people but at the same time I need alone time. I must have time to re-charge preferably alone or in silence.

Even elder boy who people are drawn to is an introvert at heart, when he was a wee lad, he understood that quiet rainy days were days that we snuggled up and watched tv or played a quiet game. However girl child is not her brother and while I love her energy and  courage, the fact that even at 4 she can argue a point like a young prosecutor can at times wear you out. Today was that day. Today was the day that it took everything not to turn her over and spank her, it was not my best moment as a parent. I won’t beat myself up since most days are good but at the same time I feel bad that I lost my cool, and no there was no corporal punishment, instead she was left in her room for 10 minutes while I cooled down.

I am reminded that this parenting in isolation is a bad thing. For the first time ever, the idea of being closer to extended family even ones I don’t know well almost feels preferable to living in isolation here in Maine. For a good half hour I was on edge and realized that while people say I can give em a ring, there was not one person I can call here and say I need a break, help me out. I realized that if I were back home I could have called someone but here there was no one and that was a truly lonely feeling.

So may tomorrow be a better day, but today was one of those days. Thankfully the Spousal Unit is taking a break from work at the moment and overseeing night preparations with the girl child so I am thankful for small things.

That’s right…I am a Black Girl in Maine

11 Sep

Its been a strange day. Today was the last day of girl child attending the program she has been in since she was 13 months old. When she started at the center, over 3 years ago I was teaching part-time and after having spent the first 13 months at home being a very attached parent, to say I was nervous about putting her in daycare was an understatement. Yet very quickly the lovely staff at the center became like extended members of our family, for months they held her while she fell asleep, dealt with cloth diapers, and never once seemed put off with my overbearing ways.

Needless to say in recent weeks it was one of the hardest decisions we made when we had to face the reality that our finances could no longer support girl child staying in their wonderful preschool program. Actually last year we couldn’t afford it but sacrified everything to keep her there in hopes that our work situations would pick up, instead after landing my position last fall, things got worse. A month ago it hit me that we could not continue to live so close to the bone. Yet for the past several weeks, I kept hoping somehow things would work out, that someone would contact either I or the Spousal Unit for a contract position but it didn’t happen.

So we awoke this morning once again reminding girl child that today was her last day, we sent notes to her closet buddies and hope that they take us up on our offer to have some playdates. Truly a sad moment though we may be able to volunteer a few times a month and girl child will be able to go and play with her friends. What is unique about this center is that for being located in Maine which is a really white state, there were other children of color there. In fact her class was about 40% non-white and her closet friend is also biracial. Due to the make up of the school, I have been insulated from the reality of how white Maine is and how that might impact girl child but tonight well…we got the wake up call.

After saying our good-byes this afternoon, we had to rush off to the open house at the new and affordable preschool she will be attending. The new preschool is actually affiliated with the daycare/preschool she has been attending since they are both part of the YMCA but the daycare is a full-time program that runs full days whereas the preschool is only a few hours a week and they are in separate locations. Demographically the folks who send their kids to the full-time program either work or are in school whereas the new program is generally kids who have never been in a program.

So we (that would be me, girl child and Spousal Unit) roll up to the open house, walk in and well lets just say it was um…interesting. Every kid and corresponding parental unit was white, ok its Maine, that’s not the end of the world I say to myself.

Well as I noticed parents glancing at us and not making eye contact I started to get a tad uncomfortable but what really has me writing a rare second post in a day is the fact that girl child being the outgoing character that she is walked over to another girl and started playing, the little girl looked tentative but the child’s Mama looked bothered. She actually at one point grabbed her kid and when I started talking to her looked like she really did not want to respond to me.

Thankfully girl child was oblivious and the woman did eventually allow her child to play with mine, but that scene has me disturbed to my core. As my child went to wander and play some more, I noticed the looks of the kids and parents and it took everything for me to not cry…the Spousal Unit saw the look on my face, the one that generally means I am about to lose my cool and get gutter. Thankfully I did not, instead I brushed it off and put on my best damn snooty voice and held my head high but tonight as I write this the tears fall. They fall as I remember every miserable fucking year I spent as the only Black kid in the class, that was hard enough but at least I went home and saw Black folks.

I cry tonight wondering about our future and how long we will be here, truth is unloading this house would take an act of God so leaving is not an option. It’s funny because tonight I am reminded that Maine is a really white place yet whiteness has so many levels. I generally operate in that space here where I am surrounded by more liberal open types who embrace diversity which while at times as its drawbacks, it generally means folks who if they have beef with me, it’s because I am an asshole and not because I am Black. On the flip side are those who have less exposure to folks from different backgrounds and like tonight it shows.

So I have no idea what the future holds though girl child was oblivious which is a blessing and wants to go back and I have cautiously agreed to try it next week while we explore our options. But tonight I am reminded that I am a Black Girl in Maine raising a Black girl and at times it’s a lonely road.

Non-custodial Mamas…we are coming out!

29 Jul

I have often thought about writing about my life as a non-custodial mama but chose not to since its deeply a  painful and private thing for me. My son aka elder boy went to live with his father when he was six, when he went to live with his Dad, it was like my guts had been ripped out. Yet I decided that while drinking myself into a dark hole was what I really wanted to do, that instead I would make good use of the fact that I no longer had to rush home to my boy and instead went on a quest to get an education.  My son at 17 now tells me how proud he is of me, how I went from being a high school dropout to having a college education and even an advanced degree. Its funny because the other night he said to me “Mama, you were so young when you had me…you were only a couple of years older than me”. So very true.

So why am I sharing this story now? Well I have been noticing that its no longer a hidden thing to be a non-custodial Mama. This is a great website for non-custodial patents, ran by a non-custodial Mama. Apparently the Today show had a segment on the rise of  non-custodial mothers. Its funny because now that we have the internet, there is a place for us to connect. In my early days of being a non-custodial Mama, the net was still pretty is  young and lets just say mine was a lonely existence. Fact is I have encountered a lot of judgement about my son not living with me, its funny because when people see me and girl child, they assume she is my only child and are stunned when I explain I have a much older child. Of course living in a small town, there are folks who immediately launch into does my boy go to the high school, yada yada and I have to explain no he lives with his papa.

I admit now that he is older it’s not so bad, it was worse when he was 7, 8, or 9 and people would go oh….of course there are also the looks folks give you, that pretty much show the what the fuck did she do look as I call it. Funny thing is now while we have many younger Moms who are the non-custodial parent who have made that choice and are okay with it, for me it was not a choice. It was a mathematical choice I should say, the fathering unit had more money to bury me in court and in the end I got tired of fighting and thought it better to agree to this joint parenting thing than it was to fight a man with deeper pockets.

Yet lately as I sit and marvel at how amazing my son is, in the end he has thrived despite the madness he has risen above both his father and I and the years that were complete and utter hell…so in celebration of that I share my tale of being a non-custodial Mama to encourage any other Mamas out there who are in this place and to say it can work out. I have also learned in this strange journey of parenting that being a successful parent can take many forms and its up to us to decide what our families will look like not society. Over the years, I have often been asked “It must be hard, to not have your son with you daily”…without a doubt its been hard but at the same time, I know our time away allowed me to grow and become who I needed to be.

As I am fond of saying “Mothering is one of many hats I wear…first and foremost I am me”

Let’s be honest, it is hard work

7 Apr

Time to revisit that parenting/motherhood thing. Its been a rather challenging few days up here in my corner of the world. First off Mama is dealing with PMS and it seems with each passing month that mothering and PMS do not go together…all I want to be honest is to be left the fuck alone. Seriously, I just want to relax and veg out on bad fiction (re-reading VC Andrews first books at the moment) and bad TV (silly programming on Bravo and maybe Lifetime for real cheese-ball factor). I want to eat junk food and generally just be in the zone.

The problem though is that I have a super active almost 4 year old daughter (known to regulars as mini-me, for she looks a lot like me and acts like it too) and despite having a uber helpful husband, mini me is just not wanting  to hang out with him.  As you can imagine, this can create a lot of tension, it meant this weekend, I helped my girl create construction paper eggs and other Easter decorations when all I wanted to do is sleep. In the end it was fun and I enjoyed myself but I am still tired and extra cranky.

Thing is this parenting gig is hard work, I have said it before but I will keep saying it, parenting effectively is not for the weak. There is nothing that can prepare you for parenting, I did it the first time as a young woman and figured it was my lack of education and maturity that made the job hard at that time. So I waited almost 14 years before I tried again, in that time acquiring an education, skills and a solid marriage. So I was sure this time it would be easy since the first time it must have been hard because I was woefully unprepared. Nope, this time I got a kid whose energy level is insane…..seriously, mini-me came out the womb requiring little sleep and demanding 150% of my efforts. No mere 100% was good enough for her. There are days I look back fondly on when I was a single Mama with my son, at least he was a mellow child and my concerns were on feeding us and keeping us housed.

Let me say it again, parenting is not for the weak. Which is why I get amused with the writings from fellow Mamas and how when they strive to be truthful those who live and die on the altar of motherhood, get all up in arms. Check out this blog piece by the NY Times Judith Warner. She talks about an article in another publication and about the downside of pumping breast milk. In the past few days I have seen Judith and the other author get roasted, my goodness we all know breast milk is best at least that is what they started telling us after I had my first kid in 1992. In 1992, there simply was not the push to or rush to make women breastfeed.

Now before anyone gets ready to roast me on breastfeeding, let me just say I have proper breastfeeding credentials, I won’t get specific other than to say I nursed my daughter for over 2 years, so I am above the national average when it comes to nursing. So I feel that I am in a place to comment but truth is nursing is hard work. The first 18 months of my daughter’s life I never slept longer than 3 hours at a time. I thought was going to die, I was so tired and run down that my husband put his foot down and took her out of our bed so that I would sleep. See, this is the shit folks don’t tell you about….that at 18 months you still won’t be sleeping. New mothers expect that they won’t sleep in the first weeks after a baby’s arrival but a year and a half later? No one tells you that and in my case I had done this mothering gig before. You have no idea how many times I blamed breastfeeding with my girl’s inability to sleep, my son slept through the night early on, so I expected the same thing.

No, its easy as to idealize motherhood when you aren’t in the trenches or you have the mellow kid but for those us deep in the trenches with a high maintenance kid, our eyes are wide open. Which is why Oprah’s most recent show (disclosure, I didn’t watch it but a friend told me about it and I saw some clips and read up on it on Oprah’s site) about Mamas being truthful really struck a chord with me…why don’t women ever talk about the bad shit and why is it bad when we do. It doesn’t mean we don’t love our kids but my goodness sometimes you wish you had a mute button or a pause button to hit when your kid is driving you ape-shit. Shit, sometimes I wish I had that button for my Spousal Unit and I bet he wishes there was one for me as well.

Yet while its a hard job, the love we receive back makes it oh so sweet and I would trade my girl for nothing in the world.