Apps Parents Should Know About

Whisper App

I’ve come across articles similar to this in the past few months (see below) and since I am not tech-savy I appreciate that there are those who are concerned for the safety of our children in this new age of social media . I do have a Facebook account, and Instagram and a Twitter account, but if I have anything to do with it, my children will have neither of them until they are in high school (and even beyond depending on how the tools of communication in our society change by then). Every day you see a news blur about an abducted child, or missing/exploited teenager and I believe it is much more prevalent today with Apps that not only allow unidentified strangers to contact our children but also track them by GPS and lure them into their adult world. I see how easily my own children can be obsessed with the games they play on their tablets and it’s clear to me that the more time they spend staring at their screens, the less time they spend reading a book, riding their bikes, being aware of their surroundings and having normal, healthy conversations and relationships with friends and family.

Call me old-school, but even during the summer months my kids know that they don’t turn on the television, laptop or Kindle until they’ve read at least 15 minutes. It gets their brain going and also guarantees me at least 15 minutes of quiet time in the morning! Hey, I’m human. I am fortunate to be able to have extra time with them right now since I am working primarily from home and I know that this arrangement may not last forever which is why I try to instill the importance and love of reading in them at an early age. Of course we have fun during the summer. We all get to sleep in, we go to the movies, swim at the Y, they go to the local arts summer camp, sports camp and they watch much more television than they do during the school year. I try to provide them with memories that will last for decades, and for me it’s all about balance. I believe the more I keep them feeling connected at home, the less they will look to outside sources.

Again, I’m not judging anyone else’s parenting styles or choices but just trying to bring awareness and information. I may be the only one in my community unaware of the potential of these seemingly harmless apps, but somehow I doubt it. I hope that after reading this, one more parent is aware and checking in on their child’s social media activities and that it may lead to one less kid being abducted from their front step and if so, my work here is done.  Wishing you and your children a fun and safe summer!

Apps Parents Should Know About | Dangerous Apps for Kids – FamilyEducation.com.

 

Why this Independent Mother doesn’t want a card on Father’s Day

wpid-img_2214353150976.jpegFather’s Day has been bittersweet for me these past two years, mainly because  my father transitioned shortly before Mother’s Day a year ago. My dad was not everything that we needed a father to be, but he loved and protected his children, parented the best he knew how, always brought his check home, and although was not always connected to us emotionally, he kept a roof over our heads, food in our stomachs and never in his entire life did he miss a birthday of his children or grandchildren. I miss him dearly, mainly because as most women, I was a daddy’s girl. I didn’t always like his choices and I knew he was not perfect but he always let me know how beautiful and special I was to him and spoiled me whenever he could. I expected for my daughter to have a similar experience, and also wished for my son to have a strong, supportive man in his father to look up to.

Unfortunately, my ex-husband has chosen this year to withdraw from his parenting role and I have no choice but to raise my children independently, which means they do not have the comfort, nurturing and stability of two parents cohabiting or even co-parenting. I am thankful for the financial support but for a Mother, the emotional support and presence are much more valuable. I choose not to label myself as a single mom because their father does make an appearance from time to time at special events like recitals and most baseball games and does contribute financially, but chooses not to co-parent. It wasn’t until I participated in a live video chat with Iyanla Vanzant on Co-Parenting that I understood the true definition of co-parenting. Iyanla says that “there is a difference between being a parent and co-parenting”. If you are co-parenting , the other parent is first and foremost willing to be involved in their children’s lives, available and willing to make agreements regarding the welfare and custody of the children and willing to negotiate any agreements that are made if its necessary for the welfare of the child(ren). It was then that I realized I was doing the job of two parents. I make all decisions regarding the kids’ health and welfare alone as well as manage the household, getting them to and from their extracurricular activities and any and all correspondence with school including parent teacher conferences. I do it all alone. Not because I want to, but because the other parent chooses not to. And it’s  for that reason that I am more sad on this day than usual. I grieve not only for the recent loss of my own dad, but also for my children’s loss. It is definitely an emotional and physical strain for me, I believe selfish and unfair on his part especially since we both agreed to give life to these children. I would rather not have to be “supermom”. I practice forgiveness almost daily being extremely aware that the emotional scars of resentment are left on the children. It is for this reason that no matter how unfair it is, how angry and frustrated I become with unmet expectations, broken promises that leave me wiping away tears, I will not bash their father. I will not speak ill of him to them, I will not call him a deadbeat or any other words to degrade him or denounce him as their father. Now I’m only human and believe me when I am angry, lonely and tired and I vent to my best friends, many words I cannot even begin to write here may come out of my mouth in frustration (I’m just being honest!), but you will never see it on social media, and neither he nor his children will ever hear it come out of my mouth. Do I have the responsibilities of two parents? Yes. Could their father do a much better job of parenting? Yes. Do I sometimes do things for and with my son and sometimes my daughter that their father should be doing? Yes, but that does not make me their father. Even if I have to tell my son about the birds and the bees or take him to buy a jock strap for baseball it doesn’t make me a Father. It  just means that I am a mother doing twice as much as I would be doing if there was a co-parent. I could never take the place or the name of their Father. I believe that fathers have a place in our community and our families that no one else can fill. When they are absent, the absence is felt deeply by the entire family and especially the children and if try to assume that role then I am not allowing the children the dignity of accepting their reality, processing  it and healing from the loss. Healing. As much as I sometimes hate to admit it, the reality is that their father’s blood flows through them, his DNA is intertwined with theirs and you can see it in their features, attitude and emotions. To degrade or denounce or dethrone their father would be negating an integral part of their being and that in my opinion would cause irreparable harm. Even if he never embraced them as his children, I would not tell them that they “have no father” because that would not be their truth. We benefit from knowing the truth about who our parents are, good or bad, so that we can use that knowledge to understand the nature of our own choices and either embrace or change them. But that’s just my opinion.

I choose to protect my children from unsafe environments and I am honest as I can with them about how their father’s choices have caused him to distance himself, but I cannot allow the anger, disappointment , hurt and frustration to consume me or them. I always leave the door open for their father to enter their lives as long as it is safe for the children. Many women unfortunately choose to distance their children from an unsupportive father, but I believe that the choice to reject them is often a result of prioritizing the hurt feelings between parents over the needs of the children. Good or bad, they will love their father for life. I am so blessed to have three brothers who are strong, loving and supportive and many “play-brothers”  and friends who step in and help provide the male role models that both my son and daughter need. Some may disagree but I believe in the village and I have learned to accept that no matter how strong and loving I am, children need a male influence in their lives and I am not a man.

Well, I did something this Father’s Day that many of my independent mom friends would have never done, but I believe that hate doesn’t solve anything, and only compassion can heal. I received an email a few weeks ago from the Franklin Institute about their new Brain exhibit (which is fascinating by the way!) and  made plans for the kids to attend a hands on workshop. When I made the appointment and realized it was on Father’s Day, I added an extra person to the reservation. Did I have to include him? No. Did I want to spend father’s day with someone I don’t even like especially while still mourning my own father? No. But in that moment I put my feelings aside and thought of what would be good for the children. Normally he doesn’t make plans to spend time with them on Father’s Day but I decided for their sake I would extend the invitation. So with no consideration of if he would even respond or accept, I emailed the information and let go of the outcome. I knew that I wouldn’t tell the children so as not to set unrealistic expectations, and I knew that if he didn’t show, we would still have a fun day and that his choice would be left as an impression upon him and not me. Thankfully he showed up  for the children and I was happy for them. I honestly would have rather been in the dentists’ chair (I know many of you understand!), but for the first time in over a month my daughter spent  some quality time with her dad and didn’t burst into tears when he left. In those few hours she was daddy’s girl and those few hours I believe his presence provided a balm that only a father could apply to her heart. I can hug her, kiss her, wipe away her tears but I cannot give her what she needs from her father. I set aside my feelings about him for a few hours for the sake of the children and the small sacrifice was worth it.

That’s why I say thank you to friends who applaud me for doing the work of two parents and even want to acknowledge my efforts on Father’s Day, but I respectfully decline that title of “surrogate father” because it will never be mine. Our children are aware of how much I give to them and do for them and I get twice the love and hugs which is the supreme acknowledgment . I do hope that one day they will have a Step-father in their lives to be a consistent source of male support, love and encouragement in their home, and I hope for their sake that one day their father has a change of heart and becomes more involved in their daily lives. But just for today, I accept my role as an Independent Mom.  Give me twice as many flowers, gifts, kisses, hugs and chocolate on Mother’s Day, but this mother does not want a Father’s Day card.

Expand your village; get support for your young male warrior!

BMDS 2014

BMDS 2014 my son (l) James and his cousin, Hammad.

I grew up with three brothers so I admire and understand men more than many friends of mine who didn’t grow up with brothers.  But as much insight I may have into them, I am not a man and cannot provide my son with all of the tools he needs to thrive in school, in the community and in social media. My son’s father is not as knowledgeable , so I search for outlets and resources for my soon to be teenager so that he can get the support he needs as he begins to navigate through this maze of  hormones, peer pressure and girls!

Thank goodness I came across the Black Male Development Symposium. I believe I read about it on someone’s Facebook post and was intrigued. I visited the website and immediately got excited about all of the different workshops that they offered. For an extremely low price (and some attended for free if they were members of a community-based tutoring or development program), your son is able to attend a full day of workshops AND receive lunch! There were close to 400 young black men in attendance from middle school through college age, and extremely popular concurrent workshops for parents. The unconventional workshop subjects for the young men ranged from learning to play the drum  and navigating rap music lyrics to  managing social media, creating your own black superhero, creating your own comic strip and what to say and what not to say if you were stopped by the police. There were also the typical workshops geared towards college preparation and navigating the college campus as well as peer pressure and bullying in middle school.

I was so impressed with the quality of the information provided as well as the experienced workshop presenters and I am already looking forward to going next year and getting someone to take care of my daughter so that I can attend the parent workshops! My brother facilitated a workshop on Mothers raising boys, and there were other workshops to help with college applications and educating parents on the safety of the social media sites that are popular with our youth. Even if my son’s father were more involved, I would still have urged him to attend this symposium. I try to allow him to make his own decisions, since he is twelve so I showed him the website and let him have the final say (even though I had already signed him up!) He did have a baseball game and Mandarin Chinese class the same day as the Symposium, but he chose to forgo his normal Saturday activities and I supported his decision. And as one friend reminded me, “this happens only once a year.”

The organizers have posted a few pictures and videos from this year’s Symposium and plan to post more so I would visit their website  www.blackmaledevelopment.com or their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/BlackMaleDevelopment to get an idea of the quantity and quality of information available. My son is still talking about it.

Hope to see you there next year!