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.

Carpool, Competency Exams and Other Morning Rants

If we are not engaged in a steamy, love affair that commits us to passionate sessions of inexplicable pleasure to which one must follow-up with, the morning after, a text that reads quite simply ‘Damn’-don’t call me prior to 9am. In fact, nor should you text me, email me, tweet me, facebook me or utilize any other source of communication. What do you possibly need to say outside of casual operating hours (9am-9pm). Of course if I started social networking at 7am, by all means, join me; but when I’m rushing to accomplish the morning chores after oversleeping, the last thing I want is an interrupting text.

If by chance I owe the company with which you are gainfully employed money and by luck of the draw my number flashes across your computer screen in the moment that I am lathering, lubricating or having breakfast with my children-understand that I will not be cooperative. You will receive me in all my sarcastic glory; it’s nothing against you, I’m just irritated and late and you are unintentionally getting on my nerves. FYI, we sit down as a family to have dinner; give me your cell number and I will call you back at a time that is most inconvenient for you. Oh and you called me-don’t put me on hold or ask me for my personal information!

Back to morning…

If you have found yourself utilizing my school transportation service, please be ready on time. I shouldn’t have to beep the horn more than once and wake up those who are fortunate enough to sleep in, especially when you know exactly what time this chariot pulls out. Oh, I’m not out there on time you say? Sit on the porch and enjoy the morning dew or engage in a morning meditation. By the way, your kid can fasten his own seatbelt and we don’t need to have a full-blown conversation as if I am not in a hurry to drop off these ‘chillins.  

Alas, we have arrived.

There should be a carpool competency exam. Seriously. How hard is it to pull up to the curb and then pull off? Very, for some. Typically, there are about three people waiting to open car doors and release children parents into seven hours of freedom. On the rare occasion that only one, lonesome school employee is present, parents freak out! What the what? Pull up to the curb and make your kid open his own damn door. You can’t possible expect the poor music teacher to open every door that pulls up, or maybe you do-this we would know if there was a competency exam!

The carpool line is not the time to ask your child’s teacher a question about their behavior, performance or the like. I have sat many mornings, witness to a parent-teacher conference with twenty cars in my rear. Come on people, that’s what email addresses and scheduled appointments are for. If I were a teacher, I would live in the principal’s office because I would be going off on crazy parents all day long! Which brings me to another idea, you should have to take a competency exam before you get your ovaries. When a girl is born, they should come in a box attached to the placenta and the hospital should lock them away until she can prove her ability to birth, nurture and rear a child. Save the drama over ‘what about the boys’, this is my tirade and I will rant how I choose.

Once your child has been ejected from your vehicle and your door closed, PULL OFF! Why the heck are you watching Susie walk into the building? It’s May! The school year is almost over, if Susie doesn’t know how to walk in by herself by now-you both need a competency exam. If for some strange reason you need to watch her walk in, be considerate of those who don’t care about whether their kid skips school or not and park your car.

I could go on and on with more morning rants but after carpool, I head to work and seeing as how I enjoy the spoils of my labor and have no secondary means of supporting myself and my sons, I better stop here.

Here’s to competency exams (raises coffee mug) and school buses.

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…

What The Cotton Pickin’ Hell?

Today I awoke to the anticipating scream “It’s field trip day!” The hot cup of tea, a peace-offering for waking me up on my day of hookie and a token of appreciation for agreeing to chaperone his adventure, kept me from sending the offspring back to sleep. Verbally, of course; I do not resort to physical punishment for such trivial things. Now, had he spilled the hot tea on me…I woulda straight…

I digress.

I arrived at Historic Oakview (listed on the National Register of Historic Places) significantly early and took the time to catch up on some non-required reading. By the time the bus arrived I was oblivious to where we were and what the next few hours would entail. As soon as the fourth graders filed into single file line and marched up the hill, past the goats and horse stable, I was sure what we were in store for.

The first presenter went on for about thirty minutes about life on the farm around 1825. “This is the first building ever built on the land.” We stood in the ancient kitchen and the students made butter from cream, learned about fetching water and practiced doing laundry on a washboard. I remembered my grandmother using a washboard long after the introduction of the washing machine.

I pulled the young woman aside at the end of her message as the students sniffed through the herb garden and politely asked her a few questions about her work on the farm. Then I got to the point. Why isn’t this referred to as a plantation? She replied that plantations needed to have at least twenty slaves and 1000 acres, they only had 900 acres.

If sleeping with 100 men made me a ho, but I only slept with 90, what would I be?

“So you did have slaves?”

“Yes, but just ten.” Before I could reply, I caught the eye of my dependent and decided to drop it. He had already given me a lecture on approved behavior in the presence of his friends.

The second presenter was given the daunting task of delivering a message on cotton picking on the farm around 1860. She gave me an awkwardly forced smile as I entered the gin house and I wondered if the presenters had walkie-talkied each other like Joe Clark in Lean On Me (code black in the orange shirt, I repeat, code black in the orange shirt). “Who wants to be a cotton picker?” My soul shivered at hearing this question and the way the words sounded coming from her mouth. Of the twenty-five students, all minority, one elected not to be a cotton pickin’ cotton picker.

One.

“First I have to tell you about the five B’s to picking cotton.” Back-your back is going to hurt from all the bending. Bugs-mosquitoes, wasps, hornets, beetles, worms, spiders…there are all kinds of bugs in the fields. Burn-it is awfully hot and you are going to get sunburned because you have to spend long hours in the fields. Blood-there are thorns and seeds and hulls that cut your fingers and cause them to bleed and blister. Boring-it is so monotonous doing the same thing over and over again, day in and day out. “So who still wants to pick some cotton for me?”

Am I missing something here? Can I add a few B words to this lecture?

Beat-you are subjected to beatings if you do not comply with your work. Broke-this is not a paid position; you are not applying to be a farm hand but a slave. Bondage-need I say more. Black-look around at the pictures of the people picking the cotton and tell me what they all have in common.

When I tucked Cameron in bed tonight, I asked why he didn’t raise his hand to be a cotton picker.

“Didn’t Lincoln abolish slavery?”

“Yes, but you don’t have to be a slave to pick cotton. You can do whatever you want.”

“Exactly. And I do not want to pick cotton.”

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.

On Sharing…Or Not

Please accept my apology for not posting in over a week.

I’ve been a bit under the weather. That tends to happen when your children are as sharing as mine. I appreciate Jordan sharing with Cameron and then Cameron sharing with me.

The problem in being sick with your kids is that no matter how horrible you feel, you’ve got to get up, make soup, check temperatures, administer meds, fix hot tea, clean bodily fluids etc. etc. All of this after a night full of kicks and elbows and a knee to the boob from the little one who can’t sleep alone when he’s ‘under the weather’. What exactly does that phrase mean anyway? Let’s not even mention the drowning sensation you’re experiencing because you can’t breathe through your nose and his arm is covering your mouth.

You’ve had a headache since the day before and you’re exhausted to the point of reneging on your “no PS3 on school nights rule” just so they can leave you alone long enough to catch some sleep. After a stern threat of bodily injury should an argument arise, you fall into a z pack induced coma. However, just as sudden as you fell, you’re awakened by a loving French kiss…from the dog. Moment ruined. Where’s the Listerine?

By the end of the night all you want is to curl up in your bed with a hot cup of coffee and some ginger snaps and marvel at the side effects of Children’s Triaminic Nighttime formula. By the way, it works during the day too. So there you are, freshly lathered in Vicks tossing the tissues from the night before onto the floor, ready to take that first sip. Horrified, you realize that you mistakenly purchased Sugar-Free French Vanilla International Delight. Moment ruined. Where’s the tea?

Sigh.

It’s in times such as these that you discover you are loved. In the text messages from concerned friends. In the calls from coworkers (who don’t want you sharing in the office). In the young neighbor who pulls your trash to the curb. In the brother who drops off soup and juice (even if he is covering his mouth and nose with his shirt). In the father who cooks dinner and cleans your kitchen. In the mother who offers herbal remedies. In the visit from a special friend who doesn’t care that your hair is reminiscent of Don King and your breath smells like you’ve been kissing the dog.

Thank you.