Spare the Rod…At Least In Public?

I can recall several times when seemingly poor parenting skills caused an irate mother to openly and loudly scold her child in a public place. There was the blonde, middle-aged woman in Wal-Mart in Texas who was accosted by store security after her episode. Then there was the young, African-American mother in Maryland in the shoe store whose language made me, a grown woman, blush. Oh and I dare not forget the mother of three little girls who caused a riot in my favorite North Carolina Target store when an onlooker reprimanded her for her exaggerated instruction.

Seemingly poor parenting.

I cannot recall ever having such episodes. I remember chastising my God-son for stealing a band-aid around age four or for speaking disrespectfully to me around age six but even that was discreet and contained. I cannot recall a time when I jumped outside of my introverted self to discipline my sons in an extroverted manner and chance public scrutiny.

That is until yesterday when I became a victim of seemingly poor parenting.

My sons and I, along with my mother, were enjoying one of our favorite pastimes and strolling through the flea market aisles. I was gawking over Nehi peach sodas (which are not on my current diet but reminded me of my childhood days in Tuskegee, Alabama) as my mother reminisced over the “penny candy” section (which coincidentally no longer cost a penny). My sons were joking and laughing as tweens do when I noticed the younger holding what appeared to be a bag of candy under his shirt.

In a speed that would shame light, my arm reached across the row of peanut butter bars and chick o sticks and pulled him into me by the collar of his shirt as he held up his hands in defense and to show me that no crime had been committed. Fear held my voice hostage as I thought of young black boys shot and killed out of mere suspicion. Fear paralyzed my legs as I remembered young black boys murdered for walking down streets and whistling…or not. Fear held my hands hostage as I remembered young black boys whose hands were bound by silver bracelets and whose minds remain in iron shackles.

I choked the life out of his threads as my voice escaped and fear unleashed itself.

I became a seemingly poor parent, yelling at my child in front of strangers. Strangers who would have thought I was a poor parent if I had yelled or if he had stolen. Strangers who would have whispered about my lack of ability to control my children or control myself. Either way, I am a seemingly poor parent. Stares scorched my back as my mother and first-born stood by watching and fearing; my mother for my truth, my son for his brother.

When my voice escaped, unrecognizable and shaking, I reminded my son about Trayvon Martin, Emmit Till and Brian Banks and how close he is to becoming a statistic, a case, a victim, a point of reference every time he seemingly does something wrong.

Seemingly poor parenting became a fight for survival and I care not what anyone else thought in that moment, only that my son understood the severity of his actions and the sincerity in mine.

Tonight I’ll pray an extra long prayer for the mothers and fathers fighting to save their sons even through seemingly poor parenting and I’ll reward myself with a few extra mary janes because I refuse to let myself or my sons become a statistic, a case, a victim or a point of reference no matter how hard I have to fight or how crazy I appear to be. I am not a seemingly good mother…

I am.

 

 

 

Cup A Joe

Photo by JElite Photography

I’ve waited months to write this article. Since the conception of this space to share my expertise on my own ideas, I have prepared for this post. I always imagined calling it Happy Mother’s Day, but it is not Mother’s Day. It is Father’s Day and I have but one thing to say to that…

I am not a father!

I appreciate the text messages, telephone calls, Facebook tags and the like wishing me well over the years with “for the single moms holding it down and playing both roles, Happy Daddy’s Day.” I understand the thought behind your sentiment but there is a fallacy in your expression…

I ain’t no damn daddy!

I am a mother. I am a woman. I am a lady (why can’t you say that without a Shanaynay accent). My sons have a father. I do not now, nor have I ever been a father and unfortunately for the two little boys under my care, as great as I am, I cannot fake that. I know what it means to nurture a living being in my womb. I know what it sounds like to hear that first cry. I know how it feels to nourish an infant with my bosom (and FYI, no matter what they say about how good it is for the baby-it hurts like hell).

I am a mother.

Mother & son-ballin' by JElite Photography

I don’t know how to teach sons to grow into men. I cannot fathom the spirit of brotherhood. I have no idea what it means to be the paternal member of the household. I misrepresent concepts like hollerin’ at girls, developing swagga, marking territory, pissing standing up or hocking up phlegm. Sorry to burst your bubbles out there but I have my limitations-fatherhood happens to be one of them.

I know there are many women who profess to be momma and daddy, but I am not disillusioned. I completely comprehend the concept behind the differences behind males and females, and there are significant differences beyond the physical. I get that you are holding things down in the absence of your child’s father, but you are holding it down as a mother, don’t get it twisted. You are a single parent, specifically, of the maternal order. You are not a father, please stop pretending to be both and stop discounting the need for male (real male) role models in the lives of our children.

I’m thankful for what keeps me going, and it’s not just my cup a joe, it’s also my cup a joe. My daddy, Joe, gets that I am a mom, a real mom, a girly mom, a take-a-book-into-a-NBA-game-and-look-up-once-to-ask-did-we-get-a-touchdown-kinda-mom, and he acknowledges that my sons need regular influences, fatherly influences. He steps in without request and handles the paternal roles placing us in an informal co-parenting relationship. 

My dad, always the character...

I love that my sons can call Joe and ask “why does one testicle hang lower than the other?” and sit locked in the bathroom, as if security locks out sound so I cannot hear the answers. I love that they can send him a secret text after one of my “Michelle Obama dinners” that is followed up with a rib dinner delivery as they sit in front of a game or WWE exhibition and pig out on meat with a side of meat and wash that down with a cup of sauce. Sure these are questions I could answer, things I could do, but I am not a father and I just don’t get it.

Tomorrow while I’m boarding an early flight with what is sure to be my second cup a joe in hand, my boys will be basking in the beginning of their ten-day stay with their cup a joe and for that I am happy.

Happy Father’s Day to all the father’s out there…

…and to all the mothers out there holding it down as a single parent, have a great day.

A Warrior Of Black and White

Black and white. Adopted. Food enthusiast. Could Po and I have more in common? Oh yeah-martial arts! It was recently brought to my attention that I have failed to mention that I am a first degree black belt in Kuk Sool Won, a Korean martial art that intertwines physical techniques with mental and spiritual development. I have been out of practice for some years, but don’t get it twisted-I still got it! 

He is the panda reflection of myself, a warrior of black and white.

One element of the first movie was how there was no mention of how a panda came to be the son of a swan goose. I appreciated the mystery that surrounded that story and the inevitable truth behind it. I recall infinite moments under the questioning glare of one who has just come to the realization that those really are my parents, both of them. “Did one of your parents remarry?” To which I would answer in the negative, undoubtedly leaving the investigator questioning my mother’s fidelity.

In Kung Fu Panda 2, the mystery is solved when Po and Mr. Ping have a conversation 30 years in the making and it is revealed that Po is adopted. Gasp! I remember having this conversation with my own parents. “Mommy, was I adopted?” To which she responded, “Go ask your daddy.” I was about a tenth of Po’s age and I had just watched a Lifetime movie about adoption. I would encourage every parent looking to have “the talk” with their child to watch this film with them. Sometimes, a movie or a book can explain ideas in a way that our poor, uncreative and emotionally clouded minds cannot. My father (and mother) did have that initially uncomfortable conversation with me and I am appreciative of their honesty. I cannot imagine having found out as an adult that such an important piece of my history was neglected. It’s tantamount to lectures on cotton picking negating slavery, or textbooks dismissing the Native American experience in US history courses.

SN: Isn’t it interesting how the talk can vary from family to family. To most that refers to the birds and the bees, to some a conversation about some hereditary disease, and yet to others a deep, dark family secret about how your great-great-great grandfather was Jack the Ripper!

Armed with this new information, Po sets out to find from where he came. It is as important for people to know from where they came as it is to know where they are and where they are headed; however, how your life begins does not dictate your present nor your future (as frequently told in the animated feature). When I set sail, via the internet not the sea, to unearth my parentage I just needed information. Being adopted is like having a puzzle completed and missing one little piece that you can’t find anywhere; you search under the bed, between the sofa cushions, you even try ordering it online but it cannot be found. You can go on living a successful and happy life without the completed picture, but it’s freaking annoying! I was extremely blessed in my search, unlike our Dragon Warrior. I connected with my biological mother and father, a step-mother, a step-father, two grandmothers, a grandfather, four sisters, four brothers, four nieces, three nephews, two brothers-in-law and one neph-dog (these in addition to the three brothers, three nieces, four nephews and one sister-in-law I already owned).

I won’t spoil anymore of the film for those who may be intrigued by the story line and I encourage everyone, adopted or not, to go. There are concepts of identity, acceptance and loyalty that supersede animation and 3D glasses and convey as plain ol’ truth. I’d love to hear your thoughts. In the meantime, I’m dusting off the old nunchucks…”Kiyahhhhh!”

Lost In The Male

The idea of this post came to me while writing this post: It’s not my fault, my professor don’t speak English! For USA Today College, that’s right, I’m published ya’ll. You better subscribe to me now, before I start charging for subscriptions!

I am waiting for a specific piece of mail. It is imperative that I am in receipt of the parcel. I have been told it is in the mail. I have heard this lie twice. My certainty of this untruth is due to my own lies, “The check is in the mail.” “I just sent the invitation off today, it’s in the mail.” “I sent the email hours ago, I must be experiencing technical difficulty.”

Of course these aren’t always lies; sometimes they are actually the truth. Recently, I discovered that I had never sent off a check that I’ve waited months for someone to deposit. I can only imagine her facial expression as I apologized for my oversight (note to self: send off the duplicate check) but it was a genuine mistake.

I have come to realize that just as things often get lost in the mail, they also get lost in the male. Species, that is. Specifically, the younger ones; or maybe not (I just threw that jab in for fun).

Mothers of prepubescent sons often marvel over how concepts, truths, actions get lost in the space between their ears faster than the flash of light. For years I have heard these complaints in amazement at the struggle of others, and thought, that won’t happen to me!

Until it did…

Memory escapes how or when I noticed it, as I am currently suffering from Information Overload Disorder (see previous post here) but somehow it happened that my sons have become members of the typical pre-teen, male species.

It started with small things. I would give a command and before they were two feet away they would ask me to repeat the order. Then it progressed to them fetching the requested item only to return with something completely off base. “Son can you bring my brown jacket off the black chair in my bedroom.” Son returns with the black dress from the floor of the laundry room and a pair of brown shoes. Then it was the empty handed return twenty seconds later because it wasn’t there (I always happen to find said item exactly where I said). Now we have elevated to negating that I ever even asked for something to begin with (and they look at me with squinted eyes will humming the theme to the Twilight Zone).

There are other issues…

Gradually, they started doing little things that weren’t bad but just plain stupid but luckily they were confessing their idiotic behavior in an attempt to maintain my trust. “Mom, I washed the whites with a pen in my pocket.” “Mommy, I accidentally left my [car] window down all night and it rained.” No we have graduated away from telling and I happen upon the evidence of their actions: my favorite sweater poorly hidden in the trash can after being consumed by the dog, my red floor length lamp in twenty pieces under the couch (obviously the victim of a UFC match), and the latest-the cable prongy thingy that was magically sucked into the wall by sheet rock fairies and won’t come back out!

Will my boys always be lost in the male, or is there hope that once they hit puberty, teendom and then adulthood they will return to the pre-senseless senses?

Luckily…this temporary (fingers crossed) lapse is not affecting their schoolwork…

Black Sister, White Sister

I recently devoured Caucasia by Danzy Senna and all of its biracial glory. As best reviewed in Soul Mates by Elizabeth Schmidt (no reference to a previous post entitled Sole Mates and Soul Mates), the work is about the maturation of mulatto Birdie Lee and her ability to identify with herself and within familial relationships.

The book follows the young woman throughout childhood and into adolescence and with each turn of the page I see myself in her experiences. Her rare, rebellious, red-headed white mother is the dead on description of my birth mother. Her black father’s lifelong search for his personal connectedness is symbolic of my birth father. However, I am most intrigued by her relationship with her sister.

I am infatuated with the bond between sisters, a union of which I do not quite understand. It was not until three years ago that I even learned that I had a sister, a few sisters (but for the sake of this post I will focus on two). While Birdie Lee had a sister who was both black and white, I have a sister who is black and one who is white.

I smiled at the thought of writing that last sentence.

Let me tell you a bit about my sisters. One is a wife and super mom, in every sense of the phrase, and if ever a ‘S’ was tattooed on someone’s chest-it was hers. She is the full-time, stay home mother of four beautiful little people under six! She plants things that she actually cooks (!) and does yard work, hikes, and camps. She is dedicated to the lives of her children, but recognizes that she is a woman outside of being a mom. My sister is full of creative energy and intellectual conversation and she is the absolute life of the party.

The other has taken the professional track, finishing undergrad and graduate school and moving up the corporate ladder at her job. She is a member of a sorority and is a dancer (in a troop not a club). She is a huge supporter of the arts and enjoys frequent cultural travels. She is four months shy of her first anniversary and her only child walks on all fours and is of the canine persuasion. She has a plethora of food allergies and her husband teases that she should have come with a manual.

I fall somewhere between my sisters. I am juggling familial and professional careers. I am creative, a self-prescribed intellectual and often called on to start a party. I am currently in graduate school and I love all things artistically stimulating. I also am the owner of a Schnoodle (same breed as Grady, my neph-dog). With one sister I share a mother; with the other I share a father. We all share the inability to shop for brassieres in cutesy stores for the less blessed like Victoria’s Secret.

It’s been three years and while my relationship with my sisters isn’t strange (as in the Braxtons), they aren’t strong (as in the Mowrys) either. We’re working on building them and I’m working on my understanding of all their intricacies. If Birdie Lee fights through life and strife as a young, teenage woman to find her sister and chooses to live with her, surely the bond is worth building.

Just before posting, I had a thought…I wonder if you made any racial recognition to my sisters as they were described.  I realized I didn’t give any identification to them and I guess that is because the definitions could apply to either of them as easily as neither of them and quite honestly it doesn’t matter if the mom is black or the professional is white. What did you think?

Why I May Never Be Invited To Another Baby Shower

Year round school is a dream come true for a single parent such as myself.

While everyone is writing parenting advice on cardstock decorated with foil embossed booties, everyone tells you the surface stuff. Read with sweet, innocent voice: “Get plenty of rest.” “Let your husband do the housework.” “Take people up on their offer to help.”

Screw that. What we should have been writing on those cards was the true stuff. The stuff no one tells you when you’re glowing, happy, filled with maternal joy and cake for four. Read with hard, militant, voice while using hand expressions: “It is scary as hell the first time you take a crap and yeah you may have to assist your body in the process. Don’t ask-instinct will take over.” “Your nipples will crack and bleed during feeding and those objects of sexual stimulation will be reduced to objects of nutritional satisfaction. There ain’t nothing sexy about smelling like spoiled contaminated milk.” “After the baby comes out you will spin the rest of your life wishing that crying, little brat would crawl back in there and give you a moment of peace.”

Peace. Ahhhhh. Do you know what peace sounds like? It sounds like three weeks of track out while the offspring spring off to the home of the noncustodial parent, at least that’s what it sounds like to the divorcee whose kids attend year round school. It sounds like a book being read without interruption. It sounds like being called ‘Shannon’ instead of ‘Mommy’. Do you know what it looks like? It looks like a clean house. Every shoe is in place, there are no toys in sight, and the one little pile of laundry that has accumulated sits patiently waiting for nothing at all. Do you know what it smells like? It smells like take out from exotic restaurants that don’t list chicken fingers and kids menus are comical. It smells like girly soaps, undiluted by too much cologne in an attempt to hide the signs of prepubescence.

Before year round school I often wished they would crawl back into the womb and give me a moment, a single glimpse of my pre-maternal self.

But Joanie Mitchell said it best. I had an undeniable craving for chicken nuggets today, from Chick-fil-a especially, on kid’s night. In the drive thru, I sat watching kids run wildly, laughing, barefoot. They were taunting the costumed cow and I can only imagine his thoughts inside the fortress that protected their sacred ears from his secular mumbles. My womb ached for my own little torturers watching them. My stomach was playing tricks on me.

There are only three days left in my kidcation and between you and me (assuming they are having too much fun to read my blog tonight), it’s a little too peaceful around here. I keep hearing things in the middle of the night. The sterile environment is freaking me out! And four-day old sushi stinks! If nothing else, they better get home and take out this trash. That’s another thing we should be writing on those cards “If it’s a boy, by the time he’s 8, you’ll never have to take out the trash again. Just remember to bag it up in your bathroom during that time of the month.” Besides, they both crushed my sciatic nerve when I was carrying them, I can only imagine the damage they would do now.

I should probably look into a traditional calendar.

Don’t Forget to Wear Your Green

So I’m sitting in my favorite Sunday afternoon position (and no, it’s not on my left side atop two pillows, wrapped in my favorite fleece blankie in my bed-that’s my second favorite). I’m in the pedicure chair with my feet soaking in some crystallized mint-infused, bubbling, hot concoction as the motor of the vibrating chair rattles my entire upper body, just missing my neck. My eyes are sealed as I attempt to tune out the sights and sounds around me. The merlot chairs and saffron bowls make a delicious contrast but not next to the celadon walls.

Thirty seconds into the soak and I realize I have found myself the cream in a cookie. The wife, to my right is chatting up the husband, to my left about what color they should paint their toes. Yes, they.

We did blue last time, remember, it matched the color of that shirt you had on. The one with the hole in it.

The collection of dead skin on the cheese grater was evident of the wife’s disdain for shoes. The heavily worn Crocs beside her chair supported my assumption. Her thick southern accent and overalls suggested they lived in a rather rural part of North Carolina, along with her exasperation over forgetting to do something with the horses before heading into town.

I thought we did red. Didn’t I wake up in the middle of the night, yelling ‘cause my feet were bleeding?

Eyes wide open. I have heard this story before. My step-birth-father had a similar situation, before switching to black polish-and no, he doesn’t wake up thinking his feet are rotting. For the first time, I looked over at the husband and realized he very much favored my relative.

To call Adam, peculiar would be justifiable in many worlds, especially the ‘hoods I’ve lived in. He wears a half bald, half shag hair-do and a braided beard. He has ear piercings you can literally see through and others that some have only seen on episodes of Ripley’s Believe It Or Not. But image aside, he is probably one of the warmest and caring men I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. His type of concern and compassion for others cannot be fabricated.

Oh yes, that’s right! You ‘bout near gave Tinkerbell a heart attack. She ain’t slept with us since!*

For the first time I look at husband, their similar hairstyles (both head and face) are the only commonalities I see between him and my step-birth-father. Husband also has piercings, about five in the lobe alternating between pink ice and peridot and two gold hoops in the scapha. He has a choo-choo train tattoo wrapping around his leg with teddy bears, presents and toys in the cargo wagons.

We really should do green in honor of the Irish and all. Thataway, I won’t get pinched this year.

When husband stands, he looks to be about 6’9” and nearly 350 pounds. He walks through the salon void of shoes and sits at the nail station for part two of his spa day. All the other women are bewildered by the contradiction in his persona and how he is spending his Saturday afternoon. I am not, I have Adam. I am a bit of a paradox myself.

On my way out, I turn to the husband and say “Don’t wake up in the middle of the night thinking you’ve got gangrene.” He laughs a big, ole’, teddy bear laugh and his wife sighs, “I better put away the Samurai swords again.”

*I hope Tinkerbell is a cat or dog, I fear she could be a second wife.