Monday, May 23, 2016

Busy Black Baby

I am writing this at the end of a very intense week of over-scheduling myself and the Babe, with moderate success. If you are reading this on Monday when it posts (or thereafter) it is entirely possible that I will not have learned my lesson and will either be at a library story time or a funeral. In either event, the entire month of May has been one grand experiment at trying to be that perfect, always-have-a-plan Mommy.

Let me rewind to the beginning of the month when I was having one of my self-pitiful panic attacks about being a bad mother. This was how I comforted myself after the Babe's birthday fiasco and how I chose to address some of the conflicting emotions I was experiencing at the approach of Mother's Day (still writing that piece) and well, whenever I convince myself that I am under-doing it...

I began plotting and researching ways to enhance the Babe's social development. I investigated home schooling; purchased tickets to child-centered performances; populated my calendar with free cultural events for us to attend; finished her passport application; am taking an eight-week class on baby language development; am also learning some American Sign Language to teach her so that we can communicate; and plotted every library story time within a 15 minute drive from our home. And I still have another full week left in this month!

Mind you, no one has suggested that I am over-doing it, yet.

And no one will because I have learned that motherhood is a competitive contact sport (like roller derby without the skates and the skimpy outfits, but in heels/sneakers and classy sweater sets/yoga pants). The goal may be to raise a decent, honest kid, but there are so many, many ways that simple plan can be derailed. No one expects half of this effort from fathers, but we all recognize that the success of one's child(ren) is wholly dependent on how intensely the mother pursues every possible opportunity to gain an advantage. Do not be fooled into thinking otherwise.

For example, the husband and I took the Babe for her 9-month checkup and let's just say, we left that appointment feeling like illiterate teenage parents. The doctor suggested that there might be some language delays and it immediately tripped the Hub's inner defensiveness switch, which led us to investigate a variety of services and programs for which we were ultimately deemed ineligible. And that might have been the end of that line of inquiry, except by chance we took advantage of another opportunity that convinced me that we have been seriously slacking!

Of course which is not true, but clearly my job as a stay-at-home-parent is not merely to keep the Babe from killing herself. It is to expose her to any and everything she is missing by not being in day care, which in addition to communicable germs, is pretty much everything. So she goes to play group once a week to see and play with other children. And upon that foundation I began formulating a master plan which is what led to the creation of a massive color-coded wall calendar in my kitchen filled with daily Babe-centric activities and events.

The fact that I am exhausted is irrelevant. The fact that she might be overwhelmed is too bad since she cannot protest, yet. The fact that this is only the beginning and that things will become much more complicated and involved as she gets older is well, LIFE.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Mother's Day 2.0

The first year of motherhood is behind me and now that the second has begun, it is once again time for me to decide how I feel about Mother's Day, the Hallmarkiest of holidays.

My decision is to make peace with it. No grand expectations, no drowning in a sea of overwrought emotions. Dress up, go to church and treat it like any given Sunday.

I started on this piece several days before the big day and had all kinds of internal battles: should I focus on my history with my own mother and how she made the day feel like a grand test of how much I loved her, or should I write about my ambivalence in seeking to celebrate myself? Should I mourn the slow loss of my mother or the actual loss of others who had been like mothers to me?

Or should I just let the day pass, the feelings recede and just come back to it later?

I chose to revisit this piece to address some of those emotions. Yes, Mother's Day was bittersweet for years when my mother was well and made me feel like I was the only child who really did not appreciate her. Perhaps that was all in my head, except it was not when I think back to the last Mother's Day before we I really began to recognize that something was wrong. She refused to speak to me because of an argument over something trivial and stupid, and then she repeated that same behavior several times that year...and it took another year for anyone else to believe that this was unusual.

Then there is the irony that as I should be excited to celebrate my first year of motherhood, she continues her slow decline. Milestones that I might want her to acknowledge with me, she cannot even notice. In the years since her diagnosis, but more intensely this year, I have missed her.

But she is still with me, so that is what I chose to celebrate. Every year I could lament what has been lost forever, or every year I can chose to remember for her. So that morning, we made it to church on time and that evening at dinner, she ate all of her meal. Best Mother's Day yet.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Happy Belated Anniversary...

This is not really intended as a new post, but it is for the sake of posting something that has been on my mind for a while as I contemplate how to move forward with this blog. It was five years ago this past week that I bought the domain name for my blog. And as you already know, these past five years have been a little rough for me...so as I have been trying to re-engage, I am on a mission of sorts.

I need lots of stuff in order to make the Busy Black Woman concept more than just a blog I post to whenever I find time and energy (which is essentially when the Babe is asleep and I am not totally exhausted). But I want a cooler website, a better tee shirt design, a way to actually take and process orders for those snazzy new tees, and possibly the expansion into other media platforms (like a podcast, perhaps).

I want a lot. I need help. I have no idea where to start.

So, I am just putting it out there. And admittedly, I am no good at asking for help. But if I were creating a vision board (ha, as if), I would put improving my blog and all of its possible future incarnations at the center. Along with making my bed, getting my child to eat off a plate instead of the floor, and finding a way to teleport.

But none of that in any particular order.

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:
What????!!!
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!