I’m Upset

The older I get, the more I find myself so frustrated with the structure and dynamics of The Black Family. Before you question my audacity during such a sensitive time, just continue…

Imagine having a passion and love so deep for something all the while deeply despising it at the same time. This is the only way I know how to word my feelings towards the dynamic of The Black Family. I have personally spent more than enough time with families of other races, to know that we have one of the most unique, both in positive and negative ways. Who is to blame comes with a story hundreds of years old, so instead of focusing there, today I feel the urge to direct my frustration at the solution.

While I may be no expert, I do feel equipped to help not just Black families, but all families. My choice to target Black Families this month comes directly from the fact that I myself am the product of a Black Family. And while being a product of such, there are many things that contributed to who I am today. There are also things that I saw and promised not to reciprocate when starting my own family. We do so much damage within the structure that many times outside factors bounce right off. We have confused this with “being strong” or being toughly built, when in actuality it’s the start of our trauma that we so often inflict upon our children and/or anyone else close to us.

I decided to offer my personal outlooks on things that we have accepted and found comfort in as Black family units. I don’t only offer these things by opinion, but through addressing my own trauma, attending therapy, my exposure through education, meditation practices, mentors, work training, experience, and the like.

  1. So lets start with the infliction of your own pain on your child(ren)

We often become so numb to our own pain that it makes it difficult to see when we are acting from a space created by that pain. It is not fair to your child(ren) to be the target and/or resource for your anger, pain, and trauma. I have witnessed this happen so effortlessly in our communities and have even caught myself in moments of addressing my own child. SEEK HELP. And when I say this, I don’t mean it in the comical way that we have created in the statement. I am a huge advocate for receiving therapy and addressing your mental health. You may not even notice that there is something wrong due to how much we’ve normalized putting the same pain that we’ve experienced unto our children. We hear it time and time again that child(ren) do not ask to be here. Remind yourself of this anytime you feel yourself lashing out, harming, and/or getting upset in general with your child(ren). It is more than okay to be upset with them when appropriate, but always allow yourself to reflect on those moments and question what space you address your children from when you are upset.

2. The idea that your children are “being grown,” ESPECIALLY your daughter

Can I just say I would love to know what the f*ck, “being grown” is?! This has always been one of my biggest pet peeves. Mainly because I ONLY hear it in the Black community. A child is not “being grown,” because they are mimicking the things that they see around them. This statement creates a fear and confusion for children and their learning abilities. It also teaches children that “being grown” is a bad thing, when in actuality it’s the thing we are grooming them for? Imagine how confusing that is. While I can create an entire blog for this section, I’ll just leave it here…Children mock what they see because they are looking for a place in this life. A child being able to express their emotions, openly communicating their thoughts and feelings, and repeating behaviors they see, is simply them looking for themselves. That’s not to say that children don’t engage in behaviors that they know are wrong, but it’s to offer a better way of communicating right and wrong to your child(ren). Because 9/10, that action that caused you to tell them “stop being grown,” is an act that they have seen and/or heard from adults that you’ve allowed them around. Let’s get and stay away from the, “I can do this in front of you, but if you mock it, you’ll get beat for being grown” ideology.

3. Blaming your children for your failure(s)

Your child(ren) hold no responsibility for how YOUR life is panning or has panned out. Release the animosity, the anger, and the blame and find the true source of blame for your failure(s). Your child(ren) don’t deserve the retaliation and we must let go of that natural space we created for the, “if I didn’t have you, I’d be here…” mentality. It’s not fair and whether you know it or not, it plays a huge role in all of your interactions with your child(ren). Use that energy, all of it, to ensure that your child(ren) are never put in a space where they could reciprocate your mistakes. It’d go so much further than the indirect blaming.

4. Choosing when your children are able to be people

Imagine how it makes your child feel seeing you argue with someone about lack of communication, respect, and support…Only to turn around and tell them that they are not allowed to communicate their feelings, because it puts you in an uncomfortable space. I allow my child to be a person in all aspects, even at 3 years old. Why? Because at 13 I was told that I was “too young” to be depressed and two years later, I tried killing myself. Why? Because I had NO IDEA how to properly communicate my feelings. Just because a PERSON is under 18, that doesn’t take away from the fact that they have feelings, they have emotions, they have all functioning parts of being a human. Black communities and families have created a narrative that does not support and/or allow children to be people. We have also created a culture in which we say things to our children that we wouldn’t say to anyone else in the world because of “authority.” If you would’t tell a stranger to “get the f*ck in here and do what I said, because I said it,” then tell me where you find comfortability in talking to your child(ren) in this manner?

5. Lack of equal respect

Imagine a world where we tell our children, “treat people how you want to be treated,” to turn around and treat them with ZERO respect. AND THEN, being flabbergasted when they grow up with no respect for authority and/or you for that matter. Doesn’t make a difference if your child is 0-18 years old, RESPECT them. It costs nothing to show your child(ren) what it feels like for someone to respect them. Imagine the amount of trauma your child(ren) would avoid or inflict, by learning what it’s like to be respected from the person that serves as their first safe zone…

LET’S DO BETTER!

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24

How can you teach your child(ren) who they are, if you have no clue who you are? A question I struggled with answering since separation from my child’s father. As shared before, being alone is something I never had to experience. From teen-adulthood I formed an identity around my relationship further losing sight of a person I didn’t know in the 1st place. Being able to recognize an identity struggle comes from a place of pain. It isn’t easy and I’ll be the first to admit that it may come with extreme breakdowns. I’ll also admit that this is not my first time trying to explore who I am. However, in order for me to teach my African American son who he is in this world, I know the importance of this personal journey I’m exploring.

One would think that spending 48 hours with no human contact in 2019 is next to impossible, but I made it my reality last month. I spent time going back through the last 24 years and beyond. What was learned is that I have struggled with who I am because I was not taught how to be who I am. Instead, I spent most of my child and teen years covering up certain parts of me to avoid judgement. When your friends and family spend time criticizing you “acting white,” or “being weird,” or the world criticizing you “being  ghetto”, as a child it is easy to revert to hiding. As I have struggled, it has led me into a space of knowing how important it is that I help and support my child as he finds who he wants to be.

Year 24 was undoubtably a great year for my personal development as a mother. As I walk into the milestone year of 25 in the next 17 days, it feels amazing to finally be able to accept myself. I know exactly who I am and can embrace every inch of me. It isn’t for anyone else to understand and knowing that, makes this journey so much easier. Sometimes I like twerking and rapping songs that correlate to my life in no way. Sometimes I’m a book reading nerd who gets fascinated by learning. Sometimes I irritate everyone around me because I don’t know when to stop playing. And sometimes I like walking around in oversized clothes, meditating, and thinking about how I’m too deep for any living being. I am all of these faces and I wear all of them extremely well.

I no longer feel the need to go out of my way to prove  that I was born on the south side of Chicago, I grew up in the struggle, I fought on a regular basis, and that I came from a toxic household. I no longer feel the need to go out of my way to prove that I read for fun, I’m fascinated with school, and that I enjoy conversations about social change. I no longer feel the need to go out of my way to prove that I meditate or that I’ve experienced out of body experiences connecting me to the universe. I am all of this and more. It’s so easy for the world to tell us who we are and what’s wrong with who we are, because the world only sees one body. This entry was so important for me because I am the groundwork for everything as it relates to parenthood. So I challenge not just mothers, but any parent going into this next decade, ask yourself, how can you teach your child(ren) who they are, if you have no clue who you are?

 

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“Oh Sh*t!”

Your kids trying to be like you and mimicking your every move can be the most adorable thing. That is until you’re in the car, police sirens go off, and your two year old is throwing his hands up yelling, “oh sh*t, it’s the police.” Or when that same two year old is shocked by your action and responds slowly asking, “what the hell?!” And while some may find humor in this, I wanted to use my experience to remind mommies this month to be mindful of what you say and expose your children to. Having a potty mouth is not the only thing I have unconsciously rubbed off on Aiden. He has also threatened to “whoop my butt” for saying things like “shut up,” and has even started telling me, at two years old, what he doesn’t care about. Of course his every action is not necessarily something that he got from me or even his dad. However, seeing that parents are the closest and most influential for their children, I think it is important to remember they are watching and learning from us on a daily basis.

When I first noticed his sponge like behavior it was during moments of him saying things like, “are you kidding me?!” or “I’m dead,” to insinuate that he thought something was funny. This did not cause me to be more mindful because I was trying to convince myself of him being too young to start reallytesting the waters. It was not until he started doing things like telling me to lay down before I get in trouble or telling me what “gets on his nerves,” that I paused and realized that I should start taking what he’s exposed to just a tad bit more serious. He has slowly but surely fell into his phase of repeating everything he sees. He is learning independence and in that process, both appropriate and not so appropriate behaviors are being copied as he finds his way into who he’s going to be.

I did not believe that at two he’d start wanting to brush his own teeth, wash his own face, put on his own clothes, and at least attempt to make his own bed. Let alone, would know how to use cuss words in the correct context or repeat stories with extreme detail. I truly thought that I had a couple more years, which I’d assume many parents make the mistake of thinking. And sure, I have always been told “they are watching” or that “kids are sponges,” but it’s not something that resonates when you’re going through the motions of day to day living.

They are not too young to understand and on the other hand, it’s not fair to punish them for things that YOU are teaching them, whether unconsciously or consciously. My experience these last couple months have made me think about how I always hear parents say things like kids are being “too grown,” or punishing their kids for behaviors that they have only learned from adults. I want to challenge parents to instead start thinking about and looking at their behaviors and where they are learning them. It may be time for you to take the exposure more serious. From yourself, the people you allow around your child, as well as what you’re allowing the media to expose to them. It is great when Aiden’s asking to wear my glasses to read, when he’s asking if I’m ok when distressed, and telling me “it’s ok” when I apologize. But, as parents it is important to remember that those cute things are not the only things that they are soaking in.

Sleepless Nights

Imagine having to deal with everyday stressors of parenting, on top of having a black son in this life we live in. There is something different in me as I began to write this entry. Something I don’t usually feel when I set out to publish. I usually try to go in with a clear mind and in a peaceful state. I am not at peace at this moment and my mind is totally disrupted. 

When I first got pregnant, I begged & pleaded to the universe that I needed a son. When he was still an infant, I remember my family joking that I might as well put him in a life size plastic ball because I was SO obsessed with protecting him. I was SO obsessed with the idea of not allowing him to feel pain. I begged the universe because I needed to fill a void of my brothers belonging to me, but not being mine. I needed to feel the same love for a black boy & know that no one could take him away from me. But I guess I never thought about the fact that in this cruel world anyone or thing could take my baby from me. The fact that my baby would have one of the most easily disposable bodies in this place I call life. 

At the point that I split with my child’s father, I knew that statistically speaking, I would be running a higher risk of losing my baby in some form by separating him from a two parent household. & over the last year I have struggled in silence with forgiving myself. I have wrote it out, I have stared myself in the mirror, & I have spent many nights fighting tears because I have struggled to forgive myself. Forgive myself for begging for & being granted with a boy with brown skin. Forgive myself for creating unfair circumstances for him. Forgive myself for the stress that me & his father had to go through, effecting our ability to love him, to be present for him, to focus on him. Forgive myself for not being as ready for him as I thought. Forgive myself for disrupting his innocent life. And MOST importantly, forgive myself for bringing him into a world that is not equipped for him to survive in. The scariest element being that I could lose him to this world. & of course I am aware that the one thing that is inescapable in this life is death. But there is something different about the death of black men & boys who are murdered. Connected or not, I ALWAYS feel physical pain in my heart. 

As I have come closer to terms with accepting it & doing the best that I could to forgive me. Death has taken me back to that space that I was starting to crawl out of. Knowing that if I do not educate him on this place I have invited him into, that creates a target on his back & if I over educate him, that too will create a target on his back is an extremely overwhelming feeling. I had been doing so well, so well that I have not had to hear myself say “I forgive you for bringing a child into this unfair world.” Something I had to hear myself say to stop tearing myself apart. & now as I lay here with my baby, I do not wish to move. I keep replaying the conversation with my family about placing Aiden in a life size plastic ball. Because along with that unforgiving feeling, fear lives within me. 

This goes for not just mommies, but parents in general. Forgive yourself. For any reason associated with bringing a child into this world. I share my personal struggle to let all know that you are fighting a fight that many of us do as parents. Although, you may not even be able to identify what it is you’re feeling. We all go through it. & I’ll share what my therapist tries to drill in me in hopes that I could get another parent to believe the same thing. Along with identifying my feelings, I also am able to identify how my ability to parent is effected. When I focus so heavily on self destructive thinking because I can’t forgive myself it blurs the vision of what my role is. My role is to love Aiden unconditionally, reciprocate the peace that he brings to my soul, & to guide him to the best of my ability. Identify your parenting purpose & make that a starting point. Let’s forgive ourselves together! Imagine having to deal with everyday stressors of parenting, on top of having a black son in this life we live in. 

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Co-Parenting; Just do it.

When I decided to bring a child into this world, I had no thoughts of what it would be like to co-parent. In fact, the idea of co-parenting was almost like a foreign thought to his father & I. As we know, things happen & life unfolds in ways that aren’t able to be controlled at times. 

From what I saw between friends & family, I knew that co-parenting could be messy, stressful, & unhealthy. This month marks 10 months since I have began the journey of co-parenting. Like all, I have experienced rocky moments, but me & Aiden’s dad have had to communicate throughly & throw the individuality in parenting out of the equation, in order to do what’s best for not only Aiden, but for us as well. 

Of course, there has been times that I have wanted to make my point or ideas behind parenting more important or dominant than his, but it comes down to really talking to myself & reminding myself that this parenting ordeal is bigger than me. There will be things that we don’t agree on & there will be things that we have to make sacrifices & compromise for, but if there is no middle point, the only person/people that suffer are the child(ren). So often, parents think that kids are unaware of their unhealthy relationships, but THEY FEEL IT. 

Co-parenting in itself can be a very contriversial & an easily avoidable topic to discuss, but it’s worth it. My advice to all parents together or not, when it comes to co-parenting, stop making it more complicated by acting off of emotion. It helps to put logic over emotion when considering two different options & ideologies. I can’t count how many times I’ve had to apologize, stop, sit back, & THINK about decisions that we need to make together. The key to co-parenting is “loving your child, more than you hate/dislike their other parent.” Look at your own behaviors during interactions instead of being opt to shun the other for what they’re doing wrong. Parenting in itself is an extremely difficult task, make this one of the easier elements behind it.