April 20, 2014

Five stars for all of us

by Catherine Anderson

Five Stars for UsMy son Sam, is a super energetic kid, who has a physical intelligence that surpasses 99.9% of the population. No, I am not exaggerating. He rode a two-wheeler, without training wheels at age two, and can hit a fast pitch baseball from a pitching machine going forty-five miles per hour. His hand eye coordination is extreme. His need to master all things physical is like a hunger he can never quite quench. Sitting quietly sorting blocks into colors and sizes, or waiting patiently in line for all of your friends to go to the bathroom is not an opportunity to master the parallel bars on the playground.

I prepped his teacher for this. I told her that Sam will be standing on the podium proudly showing his gold medal in some sport (he’ll have to pick which one) in fifteen or so years. He may well be receiving the Pulitzer too, but I wanted her to know that his physical intelligence is going to set him apart early. For him recess is not just an outlet, it is like a textbook for his body. I asked her to imagine a child who learned to read at one being told he had to be outside for six hours a day with no opportunity to crack a book. Then for twenty minutes twice a day you allowed that child to read. What would happen to them? She nodded with kind consideration, and reassured me that her husband had been the same way as a kid, and he was a tremendous resource for tips in working with energetic boys. She was only hired to be Sam’s teacher twenty-four hours before the start of the school year, so I had reason to be concerned that dealing with a physical prodigy like Sam might not be in her coveted teacher tool bag just yet.

Sam loves people, and people love Sam. He is a natural leader, and kids gravitate towards him. All kids. The quiet ones, and the outgoing ones. The athletic ones, and the uncoördinated ones. Kids like to do what the leader does. This is hard for a teacher, when your class appointed leader is doing arm farts, or jumping jacks when the expectation is to walk quietly through the halls, using only your little bird feet. She used it to her advantage though, appealing to Sam to channel his leadership gifts to help the class see how important it is to listen well like him!

It worked. We had the day with the sticker on his shirt for being a “super leader”. He came running out to me on the playground jubilant about that little smiley face sticker! Then days went by without any stickers.

My friends prepared me that the lack of communication about how your child was doing in school, was the hardest part of transition for them to kindergarten. As a teacher I didn’t want to become that parent.  But as a mom, I didn’t want my son to become the kid getting the message that  he was not doing well in school, even though I knew he was working his petunia off to do everything the teacher wanted. After all, he told me she was great, and had a beautiful smile.

When I checked in with her four days after the first sticker, I learned that he was indeed having a very hard week. Lots of reminders, and not lots of listening. As my heart sank, I reminded myself that this is all new to all of us; Sam, his teacher and me. My job was suddenly not only to support him, and remind myself how fantastic he is doing, but to remind her that transitions take time for Sam, and that he will master the expectations of school, like he can master a fast ball coming at him at break neck speed.  I asked her to tell me what was the most important thing we needed to help him focus on. And what words did she use to the class, so I could use them at home? I kept the conversation with her clear too.

The next day, Sam came out barreling out of the class (which open onto the play ground–talk about good design!) with two stickers and boasting that he was given computer time for eleven minutes! How did you earn that I asked? I listened to the teacher the first time, and got five stars next to my name. See mom, he added, I can do anything! In his take home folder for the week was a little slip of paper, with five hand written stars, next to a little image of a computer. I smiled and waved to his teacher at the door. We were all wearing stickers and stars this afternoon. It will be a great year, and a great school career for Sam, as long as this kind of collaboration and communication keeps the focus on Sam’s success.

Guest Authors

Guest Authors

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No Wedding No Womb

Maybe you are old enough to remember Grease 2. Hopefully you remember the Fallout Shelter scene in which Louis tries to convince Sharon to sleep with him. He sings to her, urging to “…do it for your country” and promising that “your mother will approve.” His musical attempt fails as she realizes that he is setting her up.

I often think what would happen if Grease 2 was remade today. I imagine Tyler Perry rewriting the movie and turning Sharon into a “Baby Momma” who is being tempted to have unprotected sex with the man who will inevitably become “Baby Daddy” number three.

It’s not too far-fetched of an idea. It’s impossible to believe that it is when staring at a glaring statistic such as 70% of children born in the Black community are born out-of-wedlock. The status is glorified in movies, in videos, and by newspapers and other media outlets. We have to admit that having children out of wedlock has become so synonymous with Black women, that it is assumed we all wear the title of Baby Momma  even when we don’t. Remember the  FOX- First Lady Michelle Obama drama during the campaign?

But how do we change this? What do we need to do as a community, a culture, to ensure that our children do not repeat the damaging behaviors of their elders? How do we protect our children when we are so lax in protecting ourselves?

These are tough questions, I suppose. Single-parenthood is not new nor is it isolated to the Black community. The stigma, however, is gone and what we have gained is a legacy of negative statistics that have plagued the Black Community more than racism ever could.

The fact is that we have been fostering a culture of “love ‘em and leave ‘em.” We encourage our young Black boys to play the field and to explore. We tell our young girls that they are responsible for their own sexual actions as well as those of their male counterparts. Butfinding someone to blame is not important.

What matters most are the children. What matters most is that children need two parents to guide, love, and provide. They deserve to feel love from those who created them. They deserve to have a chance. If we want to escape this cycle of poverty and anger, we have to stop the cycle of acting without thought.

This is OUR problem.

Check out the No Wedding Now Womb Movement. It only takes a spark …

Kristina Daniele

Kristina Daniele

Kristina, Founder and Oz of We of Hue is one of many doing it across hues-homeschooling, wifing, mothering, and business building. She is a web designer and social media consultant with a love of building communities on line. She looks forward to intelligent conversation that is eye-opening and statement-making.

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Screaming children will NOT be tolerated

I like to consider myself a cool mom… and despite the innate uncoolness of that previous sentence, I really do.  I married fairly young at 24 years old and had my first child at 26.  So now, at 29, with one foot in my twenties and most of my girlfriends still doing their “Samantha Jones” thing, I like to think that I am still aware of the world outside of my married-with-kids universe.  However, an article I recently read on MSNBC has finally forced me to choose sides.

According to the article, the owner of a restaurant in Carolina Beach, North Carolina is raising controversy after posting a sign saying “Screaming Children Will NOT Be Tolerated”.  The restaurant’s owner claims that since the sign has been up, the restaurant has seen a noticeable increase in business.  Naturally, the article has sparked a great deal of controversy with debates heating up all over the internet.  One article on Shine, notes that movement spreads far beyond North Carolina borders.  A restaurant in Brooklyn, New York recently banned babies after 5.p.m.   As further evidence of the growing anti-kids sentiment, the article points to a group on facebook titled, “Ban Kids From Restaurants!” where it seems extremely bitter individuals lament about how the behavior of children has yet again ruined their peaceful meals.  The group has over two-thousand members.

Now, the empathetic side of me understands that there is a certain degree of unspoken etiquette I must practice as a parent.  No. I won’t be taking my children to a 9pm six-course meal at a wine bar.  Moreover, I have even been known to leave a restaurant early if I think my three year old has a tantrum brewing.

However, what strikes me the most about the ensuing debate is the bizarrely heightened degree of passion from the “movements” supporters.  I was stunned at how easily words like “brat” and “bastard” were thrown around.  I made the mistake of visiting the facebook page and was disgusted at how easily the sites creator referred to one such disruptive child as a “little sh#tbag” and a “wailing little insect” among other things. 

Reading these comments brought back memories of last year’s controversy over the stranger who slapped the crying two year old little girl in Wal-Mart.  Remember that? Apparently, the child’s mother wasn’t handling the situation – which seems to be another complaint of these individuals.  Bad parents.  You know… because the children of good parent’s never have tantrums. 

I am being ridiculously sarcastic.

Legal arguments aside, what is it about children that makes these self righteous, grossly misinformed individuals so intolerant? Why is it so socially acceptable to engage in anti-child rhetoric?  Why are children who act out and the parents who raise them last on the list to receive a little dose of empathy? What about the group of drunk and belligerent twenty-somethings whose loud and profane antics at their table interrupted my family on our night out? Or teenage girls whose cell phones went off again and again throughout my meal? Or that family at the table beside mine speaking loudly in another language? Or that blind man whose walking cane hit the side of my chair on the way to his table? Or that guy who can’t stop sneezing? Or hey, how about that ugly couple facing me from across the room?

No matter how much courtesy we all exercise, there is a certain amount of discomfort one must expect in public.  Unpredictability.  Diversity. Strangeness.  If you want to eat a meal strictly on your own terms, stay home.  Until then, my money is just as green as yours.  So if I am at a restaurant at the table across from yours and my kid starts to cry uncontrollably because his chicken nugget fell on the floor and for some reason this means you can no longer enjoy your meal.  My advice? Take a bite of your Caesar Salad, quit whining, be a grown up, and suck it up.  At least my kid has an excuse. What’s yours?

Tiara Faith McCray

Tiara Faith McCray

Tiara is native of New York City and reluctant resident of the DC Metro Area. She is a writer in her heart but a lawyer by profession. She is a wife and also a mom to two boys. She is a self proclaimed and self loving oddball. She is determined to find both spirituality and happiness and like any true totalitarian matriarch, impose both on her family. She is wise enough to know that this may not happen simultaneously.

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Sweet Tea Tuesday: Peer pressure for parents

I’m sure we’ve all been there at one time or another, visiting with friends or family who don’t exactly subscribe to our parenting ideology, yes? The day is idyllic, the children are frolicking about in sheer jubilance, when from your well-trained periphery you see someone else’s child approaching you. Now, let me digress for a moment to ask if any of you know the method to the have-the-other-child-ask-your-mother-something-of-which-you-know-damn-well-she’s-going-to-answer-with-a-resounding-no madness? Why did we/they do that? The jury is still out on whether it’s actually worked before. Perhap, it is some retaliatory payback scheme for the “pushy kid”, as your mom shuts him down with the seamless and simultaneous execution of the side-eye, lip purse, teeth suck, 360 eye roll, segued into the “Jedi death stare” which holds you both paralyzed whilst she untangles her hand from her purse strap to deliver the stern index finger finale accompanied by the unapologetic and painstakingly curt, “No”. Then , you smile over on the sidelines thinking, “Go on ask her again, I double dog dare you”. Miss, [Insert your child's name] wants to know if he/she can go/do/see/eat _______ with all of us. Sigh.

But, what happens when the other parents chime in and offer their opinions? “Oh let ‘em go, my children go all the time”. “Girl, nothing is going to happen to them kids”. Then there’s the one parent who volunteers the supervisory services of her child whose antics you and your significant other (or not) have already discussed at great length. Raised eyebrows. Yeah, that child. So, what do you do?

I’ll tell you what I do, see above reference for coinciding body language directive. I say, “No”. Then, I assertively, albeit politely…Okay, well I’m still working on the politely, but have gotten better. Boy have I gotten better. -ask them not to undermine our plan, because I know my child/ren. And, it works! But, y’know, I’ve seen some times when it hasn’t worked; when an attempt to stand firm isn’t even made, when solid parenting falls victim to peer pressure.

There are two main ways this plays out. The first is textbook transference: when the other child approaches, the parent immediately turns to their own child and sternly states, “You know we do not do_____”. When the other parents chime in the parent becomes increasingly frustrated but still directs the statement to their child, the co-pressuree rather than at the parents who are now the co-pressurers. You do see the pattern here, yes? Lead by example, parents.

Then the second way, and equally as likely to play out in these instances, is the blame game. The parent will initially say, “no”, followed by a reticent, “yes”, either at the behest of the other parents, children, or, a combination of the two; with their own child’s puppy dog eyes thrown in for good measure. You caved, and when your child returns/experiences some level of the horror you imagined would come of the experience, you blame everyone up to and including The First Family. You bet, equally uncool.

Has this happened to you? Someone you know? Did you even notice it happening or realize that parents do indeed experience peer pressure at some level? Please share your experiences, or take heed if you’ve yet to experience it, peer pressure for parents is undoubtedly coming to a family/friends gathering near you.

T. Allen-Mercado

T. Allen-Mercado

T.Allen-Mercado is a mixed media artist, award-winning essayist, student of anthropology, blogger, wife and, mother of two.

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Clean your room!

As kids, we have grown up being told to keep our rooms clean.  As girls, it was imperative to have a tidy room because females aren’t supposed to be messy.  That was a statement my mom always told my sisters and I.  I guess that’s why she always by-passed my brother’s room.  As a mom of three girls, I use that statement all of the time.  However, their room continues to look catastrophic. It’s not that their room is dirty, they just have an abundance of stuff that needs to go.  From clothes, to toys, to books my girls have so much stuff, no matter how clean the room it never looks clean enough.  My oldest  has gotten the point and her room, I must say is immaculate.  But my two younger ones share a room and between the two of them there is a toy store full of things to play with,  clothes to last a lifetime, and books everywhere.  I’ve tried helping them get rid of things only for them to tell me with each thing I  pick up, that they NEED this and CAN’T GET RID OF that.  So we end up with a load of things not used in the box in the corner of their room. I have even tried getting rid of some of their things while they were away at school and I still don’t get very far.

The kids never want to get rid of their old junk.  They some have toys from their first birthdays, and past Christmases, toys from friends, and toys of friends.  I am begin-ing to think they are becoming  hoarders, I’ve seen that show and it’s not pretty.   I have decided that as soon as the kids go back to school, I am going to take a weekend to wash clothes and toys and gather the books they do not need any more and donate them.  I think that if they give their toys and old clothing to children in need it will make them feel better about getting rid of their old stuff. They will also feel good about their room looking and actually being clean.

The damsel conundrum

Scoots forward in chair, adjusts eyeglasses and smiles. The Damsel Conundrum, breathes. Some time ago I touched upon hueism and sexuality in my The Blacker the Berry post. It was from the male perspective, and for the most part is was second hand knowledge, my thoughts on the experiences of my son-a fairer hued Black man. This time, it’s “T” time, a little y’all and me time.

The Damsel Conundrum, is a phrase I came up with in response to a conversation with a girlfriend about the casting in one (or all, they’re pretty much the same I bet, although I haven’t subjected myself to all of ‘em) of Tyler Perry’s films. I pointed out to my girlfriend, who is white, that I took issue with the media’s portrayal of women of color, specifically darker hued women. It led to some very interesting conversation and observations about the way dark-skinned Black women are viewed and valued in society as a whole. I noted a dearth presence of princess and damsel-like roles for women who look like me. She agreed and likened it to the stereotype of the ditzy blonde. “I guess, sans the historical context”, I added.

Some time ago, my daughter was teased in the playground about her “bi-racial” make up. When she entered the house, the child who accompanied her came to me all aglow and proudly announced that Yael had just warned the children who were teasing her about her lack of qualifying Blackness, to not make her “Get black on [them]“. Blank stares abound, as I nearly wipe the skin clean off my hands with the dishtowel. Knowing full well that Yael knows not the gravity of this statement, I evict the beaming friend and initiate a discussion about what being Black and moreover what “getting Black on folks” means to her. The discussion led me to Nickelodeon’s True Jackson VP, of all places. True, as Yael tells me is, “like you mom, she’s brown and smart and tough, she sticks up for herself.” Nods head in equal parts understanding and befuddlement. Intelligence and assertion, sounds fair enough, but is that really what she was receiving? Much like the conversation I’d just had with my girlfriend about all the neck-rolling, sass and ‘tude, here it was again, “angry Blackness”.

I suppose Yael’s statement in and of itself should have made me feel better, y’know the part about being smart and sticking up for herself, but it didn’t. When I sat down with my husband later that evening, I surprised myself with what I expressed. I said to him that I was bothered by the invincibility clause assigned to my Blackness and that it reminded me in some ways of the racialism that plagues Black males and renders them scary. It felt like an affront to my womanhood, it demeaned my femininity and moreover it grouped and claimed me; I felt beholden to an ideal, that Black woman is different from woman, and the damsel conundrum was born. I expressed to him how often I felt Black womanhood came with a separate, unequal set of ideals and expectations.

There are many facets to the conundrum, and the problem of hueism as a whole, but before I go into more examples in the next week or so, I wanted to open the discussion for my readers to share their own experiences, personal and/or professional. Do you feel or have you experienced situations where you felt your gender/womanhood/femininity or worth was measured on some gradient scale of race and/or hue? Can you name a film or literary damsel or princess of color? Are we beholden to the stereotypes of perpetual sass, ‘tude and bad assery? What are your thoughts?

T. Allen-Mercado

T. Allen-Mercado

T.Allen-Mercado is a mixed media artist, award-winning essayist, student of anthropology, blogger, wife and, mother of two.

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