Saturday, April 30, 2016

When the Parenting Advice You Read on the Internet is Bull$

Again, another post on parenting:

So I was just reading an article someone posted in a parenting group that claims giving kids timeouts is bad--in fact, any form of punishment is bad.

A few weeks ago before we took the Babe on her first plane ride, I bought her one of those bookbag harnesses so that she would not wander too far away from us, just in case. A few days later I read a few articles on why these "baby leashes" are a bad idea. And then there was this segment on the Today Show.

Articles tout the merits of breastfeeding, then lament the pitfalls of doing it on demand. Other articles deride mothers who send their children to day care before six months of age even though most working mothers barely have enough paid leave to stay away from work for more than three weeks. I once read an article that argued whether maternity leave was necessary since mothers have access to breast pumps (covered by insurance, just like those two days spent in the hospital after popping the kid out).

I am sure that I could find an article that encourages parents to leave their children in the backyard to be raised by wild deer, supported by the quotes of so-called experts who would claim that deer have a better track record of raising offspring than human beings. Yep, tell that to the dead fawn carcass you drove by last week...

ALL OF THIS IS BULLSHIT. BULLSHIT. BULL to the S to the H to the I to the capitol letter T to the third power!!!

I have been a parent for a little over one year. My sweet, darling little cherub of a child destroys books, bullies younger children, and has trained her father to let her do whatever she wants. She bites when she get frustrated, laughs when I sign different commands at her, and is generally a certifiable nut case. So all forms of punishment are bad? Cool beans. Inbox me your address and I will gladly send her over for a play date.

Mind you, I am not complaining about my kid. I love her to the moon and back and would not trade her for anything, not even a mild-mannered version covered in chocolate and whipped cream.

But umm, yeah you can kiss my bumper with any advice to reason with a pint-sized master manipulator-manipulatrix. No one is going to raise a perfect child. Our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents raised us just fine without the benefit of all these expert opinions circulating on the internet and most of us are fine. Sure, we have issues that require a little therapy or maybe a lot of Jesus to manage, but so did everyone who came before us.

Bad parenting advice will result in your child being featured as the lead story on the evening news, worse in a chalk outline, or much worse dancing on a pole. Not one of these folks offering opinions on what is best has the slightest clue what you endure on a daily basis from that sweet little maniac in the other room. Remember, these same folks coined the phrased affluenza.

And that is my rant for the day. My break is almost over; the kid will be back soon...

Monday, April 25, 2016

Motherhood Year One: The Birthday Party

It always rains in April.

Even when the weather reports say otherwise. And then it does not rain on the day it was supposed to rain, which ruins your timeline of tasks that need to be completed by the day that it was not supposed to rain. So you shrug and accept the updated weather predictions that the rains will come overnight, and you go to bed hopeful that you can execute your plans the following morning. But the next morning it has not rained and the weather reports have been revised again...the sky is overcast and now the weather readers are saying that the rain is expected to start soon and clear by mid-morning. Except the rain waits until mid morning to start. And not as a sprinkle or even a quick passing shower, but in a steady not-letting-up-anytime-soon kinda way. And then you react because all of your grand plans and ideas have to be rethought to accommodate the rain. (And for the record, it is not a good idea to suggest that I cancel or just get over it.)

Because you had a vision and a dream and then grand plans to make all of  it happen. Your firstborn child--la Princesa, the Diva, the Conqueror, your Mini-me will only have her first birthday party once. And you, her Busy Black Mother, who was born to plan parties (especially parties with a storybook theme), have been planning this fete since you and the Babe finished reading Alice in Wonderland back in January. And that vision included having a Mad Hatter's tea party outside in a yard that would have been decorated to look like Wonderland with activities that were carefully planned to take place in an outdoor Wonderland!

Yes, weather is always an uncertainty. Although this Busy Black Mother was diligent in checking the weather forecasts (which initially did not call for rain), there was an indoor contingency plan...but the execution of that plan was hampered by all the stuff that clutters the parents' house (and all the chaos that goes on there). And then there is Newton-Murphy's Law to the Third Power, which I have not written about in a while, but if you understand the general concept of being a Type-A, chronically over-scheduled Busy Black Mama, then of course EVERYTHING THAT COULD GO WRONG ABSOLUTELY DID!

But, my squad came in and they worked it out. And the Hub only irked me a little. And the Conqueror had a great time, along with the other kiddies.

And yes, the sun finally came out.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Sign of the Times

It was 1:23pm yesterday when my BFF sent this text:
Prince died?!
And 1:24pm when I responded with:
Then I opened a new window on my browser to check the headlines, and by the time I had changed the channel to see a sober-faced Brian Williams confirm what I had just read in the headlines, the Babe awoke from her nap. Then the rest of my day unfolded in the familiar way that we have come to expect when an iconic presence transitions--we publicly mourn. I read every update on my FB feed, scrolled through my Twitter timeline and watched Prince videos late into the night.

Now that Prince is gone the obligatory thing would be to write about my fandom and how it has ebbed and flowed in intensity since my childhood. I could try to compile an unwieldy and perpetual list of my favorite Prince songs. I could recount how I first saw "Purple Rain" while waiting for a bus outside the window of a video store. I could recall how everyone in college claimed to have made the ultimate Prince mixtape. I could admit that I was envious of Vanity, Sheila E, Mayte and pretty much every other woman he loved. I could share the story of how I got to see him in concert at Verizon unexpectedly about ten years ago. I could truthfully say that I have never seen "Graffiti Bridge"...

I could write about all of that and lament how mortal/melancholy/unaccomplished/inspired I feel at the transition of yet another cultural icon from our midst. And perhaps I might say something witty and memorable, but honestly (and forgive me for re-posting what I initially wrote on my FB page): I cannot even...

Instead, I will return to the topic I was working on before the music died--my excitement about the Harriet Tubman twenty dollar bill. In the moments before I received that text, I was trying to be productive. The Babe had been napping for more than an hour, so in addition to working out a few details for her birthday extravaganza (that I will tell you all about once I've fully recovered), I wanted to post a belated, yet quick editorial on the matter to the Busy Black Woman FB page.

My initial reaction was excitement at the very idea that the image of a woman would actually be printed on money that we use and not merely engraved on coins that we save and never spend. I get the irony of Harriet Tubman, an escaped slave, replacing the image of President Andrew Jackson, a slaveholder. I appreciate the argument that this is mere window dressing and does not atone for the injustices of slavery and its legacy of racial inequality. I respect the opinion of those who are offended by the idea that Tubman will now become a symbol of commerce. I am amused by those who complain about political correctness and historical white-washing (actually it is historical color-correcting, but I digress). Still, I celebrate that I [we], too, sing America.

And to tie all of this together in the clumsiest way I can to bind the spirits of Harriet Tubman and Prince...this is all a Sign of the Times in which we live. We exalt, denounce, memorialize, and navigate our way through this thing called life in a different world with less distinct boundaries and hierarchies. In another time, it was inconceivable that we would elevate the story of an escaped slave to a place of honor and reverence. It is a sign that we continue to evolve as a nation that strives to reconcile itself to shortcomings of its lofty promises. It is a sign that within a 24-hour span of debate and divergent opinions on any number of topics, we can unite in disbelief and grief over the death of a musician (who once called himself a slave...and in a few years we will still be buying his music, with Tubmans).

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Year One

The Babe had a birthday over the weekend and I guess until she is old enough to understand, it was just another day in a white dress at an adult event for her...

We spent the weekend in Atlanta to celebrate Founders Day at Spelman. Almost no one was there, even though it also was the installation weekend for our new president. So the Babe got to run around and play on campus, while her father insisted that Cornell was still an option for her higher education...(silly rabbit).

Anywho, I had intended to write a post in the days leading up to her big day about all the things I learned this first year as a mother. Well, I don't remember everything that I planned to say, but here goes:

1. The first year will go by in a flash. But not until after you've passed that crucial three month mark, because I think that in the first three months I was out of my mind (the kid was too), and then all of a sudden, each month went by rather quickly and before I knew it, I was dressing the Babe in a white dress and watching my Hub crumble into a million pieces because it was so hard for him to believe that his sweet little girl was no longer a baby but a little headstrong child, chasing kids dressed like superheroes through the park.

2. Only other mothers understand your pain. So do yourself a favor and join a group of mothers. If you can find one that services the mothers in your neighborhood. And well, since I have yet to find a group, then go with whatever you can find, even if it is on Facebook and half of the posts are (insert your own assumption here).

3. Never say never. There is a cute commercial with a guy who goes through a list of nevers and then he finally settles on accepting the fact that he is that Dad with two kids and life is actually not that bad. Realize NOW that whatever you said you would never do, you probably will (except maybe something really bad or extreme...but then you might have the odd fantasy #ijs)

4. Wine is your friend. Period.

5. You ARE your mother. Whatever childhood trauma your mother subjected you to, you will repeat on your child in some spectacularly different, yet surprisingly similar way. It will not be apparent until after you have done it and realized, oh my goodness, my mother did/said this exact thing to me when I was (whatever age). It is the real Circle of Life.

6. Your child is a maniac. For whatever unknown reason, s/he will do unexplained crazy things, like eat Cheerios from the floor or carefully discard undesirable snacks in favor of something else (probably Cheerios, because they put something in them that all kids love) and it will only make sense in their own rationalization. Why my daughter prefers her snacks from from the floor, I have no idea, but if I tried serving them from the floor I have a feeling that would not go over too well...

7. Sesame Street is the GOAT. If you don't already know this, SMH.

8. Disney is the devil, but you will make a deal with the Mouse. Just accept that fact. You will begin planning the trip as soon as your child stands too close to the TV during an episode of Doc McStuffins or Sofia the First or Jake and the Neverland Pirates or even one of those really stupid shows aimed for older kids like Jessie or Liv & Maddie. The fact that I know about these shows kinda proves my point (and yes, I am plotting to take the Babe by 2020).

9. Your kid has way too much crap. There are clothes s/he will never wear. There are toys that s/he will never take to. S/he will receive unexpected stuff during this first year that you will struggle to figure out where it should go. S/he will destroy some of this stuff; s/he will ignore half of this stuff. My child now has an extra table and chair set, for example...

10. They are beautiful when they are asleep. But that only lasts for a few hours a day...Buckle UP!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Feeling My Age

It has been a rough few weeks. February began with the infamous car theft and ended with the funeral of a friend from college. March finds me reflecting on my mortality because as I attended yet another funeral recently (my fourth this year), I realize this is what folks my age do.

We mourn the passing of life. Not just the physical transitions of friends and loved ones, but also of dreams and aspirations. We reflect on what could have been, what was, and what was not.

The first funeral of the year was my bff's mother, Mrs. J. I had known her half of my life, which is now a lifetime. I was and still am trying to reconcile my emotions to how that must feel--to lose one's mother, even as I come to terms with the realities of my own mother's decline. I am also mourning because Mrs. J was very much like a mother to me as well, celebrating my accomplishments and various milestones as she did for her own children.

The second funeral was for someone else's mother whom I did not know, but I attended the service anyway because it was held at my church and my father was one of the speakers. That is something I do quite often now--provide support to my family in place of my mother. Not that she would have taken off in the middle of the day to attend a funeral, but somehow it seems appropriate as one of my many duties as the unexpected matriarch.

The third funeral was for a friend from college whose death was unexpected and yet not entirely because he had been ill for some time. Roughly two-thirds of the people I know at this point in my life I met in high school, college or law school and I have been out of school for nearly 20 years. So it is unbelievable when I tally the years and reflect on the fact that my parents also began to lose friends when they were my age. It still feels surreal to say that.

This last funeral was for the child of a high school classmate. We had not really been in touch since high school although Facebook allowed me to catch up on how much had occurred in her life since then. I had never met her child, yet I was so moved by her loss that I went to the services. I never cried more for someone I had never known and now that I am a mother, her loss is unimaginable.

Just this morning my timeline filled with RIP notices for Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest, one of the greatest hip hop groups of all time. I am saddened not just because his life is over, but because of the era in my life that he represents. We were young and idealistic, cavalier about our health, unaware of how friendships could change, and living like tomorrow was so far in the distance. Back in the day was a phrase we got from ATCQ lyrics (look it up) and it referenced childhood we use it to access our young adult selves, or who we were before we got married, had children or began losing our parents, peers and musical contemporaries.

Of course none of these deaths are about me, but mortality is a scary thing. We are each allotted a very specific amount of time, a unique set of circumstances, and a select group of folks to journey with us at various points along the way. We get to make an impact. We get to celebrate, reminisce, reunite, travel, create, interact, participate, thrive, suffer, complain, change, grow, nourish and perhaps in all of that, leave some sliver of a legacy. All of that in a lifetime.

The Mayo on the Sandwich

I took my mother to church on Palm Sunday. And this is not an exaggeration, but I must have told at least 50 people that the Babe was at church with her father, which was met with looks that ranged from disappointment to disbelief. The one notable exception came from a woman who declared with a sigh of understanding, you are the sandwich--between baby and mama. I smiled and led my mother to a seat.

But I am not the sandwich. I am the mayo (or mustard if you are counting calories).

I have read all about the struggles endured by women in my generation, those caught in the middle of being caregivers for older parents while raising children. My own mother faced this same situation some 30+ years ago when my paternal grandparents got ill as I was entering middle school. It was a lot to manage, but we were old enough to help out, which is exactly what I did through my junior year of high school. The Babe is almost a toddler.

For all the cute jokes about how the Babe began walking to make way for the next little one (ha), methinks she realized that she needed to become independent sooner in order to keep me from going insane. She seems to instinctively know that Mommy is all over the place (spread thin like mayo or mustard), despite how helpful as her father tries to be...

I get all kinds of advice from well-meaning folks who suggest that my load would magically lighten if I simply: told others what to do; hired folks to take on certain tasks; adjusted my expectations; etc. All of that sounds great in theory. It would be nice if I could issue edicts that went unquestioned and were fulfilled according to my standards. But that would be akin to assuming that appointments could be made with just a simple phone call or that plastic could get clean without any greasy residue--impossible unless I do it.

This too shall pass and before I know it, the Kid will be old enough to read and appreciate this. Hopefully, she will remember that I did my best...and that the spread does more than just keep the sandwich from being too dry.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Bag Lady

My car was broken into earlier today and the thieves took a purse and a tote bag from the back seat. Even though I should not, I feel like an idiot because I should have done so many things differently, but in the end, my stuff is gone.

The purse was a gift from my mother. It sucks that it is gone because I had just recently begun to carry it again so that I could stop toting all the shit I keep kept in the tote bag. It also sucks because it was among the last gifts she gave me before the dementia. And it sucks because I only got sentimental about the purse today after it was taken.

The tote bag was a recent acquisition, purchased to carry all my stuff. I carry carried a LOT of stuff. And in hindsight, half of that stuff was makeup. So the thieves got a tote bag full of makeup. And a rain hat that I just wore the other day. And a wallet that held a bunch of business cards, my expired library card, and two (cancelled) credit/debit cards. And my journal that I had not written much in lately, but still. And some snacks including the Babe's Cheerios.

Sometimes you get premonitions that shit is going to be bad; yet, I decided to proceed with my plans for the day in spite of ample warning in the manner of giant flashing fluorescent neon light signs telling me not to go there. It started when the Babe was too restless to sleep and thus, I was caught between consciousness and delirium this morning when I should have been in the shower. It continued when I realized that I was running way too behind and left the house way too late to travel across town to get my mother ready for church but went anyway. Then she was uncooperative and I considered my options--continue ahead with my plans to take her to our church an hour after service began, or go somewhere else. I chose to go to our church and ran into massive traffic in the tunnel, delays driving through the city, and then had to circle the neighborhood for a parking space, which I found and considered myself lucky as I escorted her from the car and set the alarm (which after malfunctioning, earlier, miraculously worked as usual).

I told myself as each obstacle presented itself that while my morning might be going poorly, this morning was not about me but about God. And as we walked to the church, and as Mom seemed quite animated during service, and even as we approached the car and I noticed that my drivers' side door had been opened...I still believe. I do. I just lost a lot of stuff.

I have lost a makeup bag before and though it sucks, ALL of that stuff can be replaced. The rain hat can be replaced, and I have a similar purse that my Mom bought me. The iPod was old and so was the phone charger. The Cheerios will soon go stale and I have another snack bag. Locks can and will be changed. And that Macy's gift card that I was saving, well buy yourself something nice.

And God Bless You. Seriously.