Tag Archives: single moms

Teachable Moments; 6 things I wish I knew before my daughter’s brain injury

wp-1483807802159.jpgLife can change in a blink of an eye. It’s a phrase you hear often and never really “get” until it happens. One day my nine-year old was walking, reading Harry Potter novels repeatedly, running after her friends and swimming like a fish and it all ceased within the seconds that passed when she slipped on wet leaves, fell forward onto a wooden beam on the ground and injured her head. We have both gone through the difficult phases of grief and as a parent it’s just natural to wonder if there was something I could have done differently or sooner to help her heal. What I’ve learned with the help of my dear friends (and some strangers) who allowed me to release my fears and frustrations into their ears was that I had no control over this accident nor could I change the way I navigated my way  through the health care matrix to find the appropriate care for her. What I can do however, is share my experience so that another parent is better informed about brain injury in children than I was when this accident occurred so here goes…

6 Things I wish I knew before my child’s head injury:

  1. Keep them home from school the following day.

    Luckily her accident happened the day before a holiday and she was able to rest for three days before she returned to school. Some of her concussion symptoms did not present themselves until close to a week later but if I was aware of the protocol for children who fell and hit their head I would have taken her to the doctor the next day.

  2. Get an incident report

    In my daughter’s case no one saw her fall and I was at work and unable to see her until an hour or so after the incident. We all had to take her word for what happened. It’s best for insurance documentation to get an incident report from the school (or organization if your child is at day care, summer camp or sports). Most child care organizations are required to fill out a report and should give you a copy. If they don’t, ask for it.

  3. Even if your child has only one symptom, take him/her to the pediatrician for evaluation

    Refer to #1 above for the list of concussion signs and symptoms from the Center for Disease Control. I’ve learned that not every child exhibits symptoms in the same time frame and severity and it’s best to proceed on the side of caution and take them to the pediatrician for evaluation even if they complain of only a headache. Your doctor may tell you that protocol is to wait a week but I would insist on having your child seen anyway.

  4. Seek out a pediatric concussion specialist in your area.

    Not every neurologist or hospital ER has a wealth of experience with every age range and not every pediatrician specializes in brain medicine. It took almost a month of going to doctors and emergency rooms before I found a doctor that best suited my daughter’s needs. I am not sure why but her first doctor did not seem to have compassion for her and her immediate needs. I asked neighbors and friends in the medical field until I received a few referrals for her specialty. My next step was to check to see which were covered under our insurance which narrowed the list down further. We are located in Pennsylvania, but the Brain Injury Association in your area can provide a list of service providers. I have also learned that sometimes to connect with the right doctor, you have to be willing travel. Don’t be afraid to seek a second opinion. Our second doctor was the best fit for her.

  5. Contact your school district and county for resources

    It wasn’t until I sought out a second opinion, six weeks post injury that I was informed there was a school re-entry program specifically for children with brain injury. This consulting division of our county’s Intermediary Unit serves as a liaison between the school and families and provides you with the resources and support you need to transition your child back to school. Brainsteps, the consulting program in Pennsylvania is fully funded by the state. My daughter’s case manager has visited our home and provided such encouragement for my daughter and myself!

  6. Make self-care a priority; ask for help and don’t be too proud to accept it!

I had no idea how exhausting and stressful it would be mentally and physically to manage a household, business (I’m self-employed) and my daughter’s care after her brain injury. Luckily I have a “village” of friends who knew it would drain me and immediately offered to help. I didn’t want to bother anyone because I knew they all had families to support but my friend reminded me that there’s enough compassion in this world for everyone. She asked if she could set up a meal train which allows neighbors to sign up and bring home cooked meals to your family. I didn’t realize how much time I spent on preparing and cooking our meals until I didn’t have to! Other friends have come to visit, helped with laundry and housecleaning or sat with my children so I could go out to the movies or just sit still with a cup of coffee or have a glass of wine with a good friend. You have to find time for yourself away from the stress and strain where you can relax and release. The help is available but you have to ask for and allow yourself to receive the help. Genuine help is there ; you are better able to care for your child when you take the time to care for yourself.

You may have experienced brain injury, be a medical professional or have a young child who may one day be diagnosed with a concussion; either way I hope this has been helpful to you.

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Thank you for visiting. Make today great!

 

 

 

Unschooling: Month #2 The Unravelling

It’s been about a month and a half since I withdrew my eight year old daughter (now nine) from public school and it’s been a roller-coaster of emotions and expectations for both of us. I am so grateful to the homeschooling community for being supportive of my decision and directing me to informative blogs and sites such as Ask Pauline and Educated Adventures blog; Unschooling . The valuable resources and insight I gained helped our transition from her former school to home the best possible experience for both of us. Due to the anxiety and aggression my daughter now associated with learning, I came to the realization that she would need a period of time to unravel from the unrealistic expectations, anxiety and regimented schedule that we were both accustomed to while she attended public school. On her last day of traditional school, she brought home a backpack full of textbooks, folders, pamphlets, notebooks and binders which were almost a foot high. We both looked at them and sighed. She immediately felt that she should keep everything and that we had to finish the work she started until the folders, workbooks and notebooks were filled. When I reached to take the math book (the source of most of her anxiety) suggesting we burn it, she responded with a look of shock and a resounding “No Mommy, we can’t burn it!”. I laughed but she was serious. It was then that I realized the conditioning and fear that influenced her learning on a daily basis. After I pried the textbook from her hand, I sat her down and explained to her the things I learned from reading the blogs and speaking face to face with other homeschooled families; that the beauty of homeschooling was that we didn’t have to follow any one else’s methods of learning and could create our own. I told her it was okay if she didn’t like any of the workbooks and wanted to rip them apart because we were free from their curriculum and that she could now determine how she learned and documented what she knew. She started to loosen her grip and walked over to a folder and said ” I despise this C.E. folder, can I rip up the pages inside?” I smiled and said “absolutely!”. I watched as she ripped the worksheets into tiny pieces repeating how much she hated having to do them and that she was now free. My heart warmed and I knew at that moment I made the right decision and would do everything I could to keep from having to send her back into an environment that caused her to attach any level of resentment and detestation to learning.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not adverse to public school if it’s working for your child. Both of my children as did I attended public school from kindergarten. My son was awarded a scholarship for private high school and is currently in his first year and I volunteered in the schools every week in addition to fundraising. This is all new to me and I’m learning that there is no right or wrong, only what’s best for your child. I’m far from a pro but I’ve leaned on my resources so that I could answer my daughter’s questions about the unschooling/homeschooling process. It’s new to both of us, and I’ve listed some of the questions I had that may help someone else making the decision:

Has it had its emotional heart wrenching moments? Yes. I have had my “what am I doing -I have to work and I don’t have time for this-what was I thinking!” moments where I doubted my ability to carry one more thing on my ‘to-do’ list. It would be at that precise moment that my daughter would walk up to me, hug me tightly and say “thank you Mom, I am free”.

Have we both been frustrated with the transition? Yes. I have been late to some appointments or have had to stop what I was working on intensely to help her find the website she needed to play math games, or to make her lunch. There were at least two weeks of adjusting, setting boundaries, readjusting and setting new boundaries. I realized well into my second week that for me this was not just a Mom homeschooling her daughter, but it had to be a partnership between parent and child. It was especially necessary for me as an entrepreneur and one parenting independently, that she understand there are times when I cannot be interrupted (unless her laptop or hair is on fire) and times when she has to be ready and prepared to leave at a certain time so that I am not late getting to a client. It helps that this is something that she wanted also, and not just my decision. I made it clear to her that homeschooling can not work if Mommy is unable to do her work. In return we agreed that Friday is our field trip day. Aside from a few phone calls and returned emails in the morning, she gets undivided Mom time on Fridays. Some days we end up just going into the city for lunch and walking around and some days it’s a museum or a meet up with the Homeschooling Group in Philadelphia. It’s quality time where we unplug and enjoy whatever journey we decided to take, and it’s my favorite time of the week!

Is it as easy as it appears? Heck no! But it’s much more manageable than I thought it would be. I would highly suggest you reach out to others and connect to a “tribe” of supportive parents, families and educators to help you stay afloat. I responded to a flyer about an African-American Homeschool group meet up in Philadelphia initiated by Maleka Diggs founder of the Eclectic Learning Network. The group meets every other week and even though it’s a 25 minute drive, it is well worth the trip for me to be in a room full of people who not only support your decision but provide resources and wisdom to help make the transition easier for you. I’ve found especially in the suburbs that un/homeschoolers are judged because the school districts are more privileged than those in urban areas and people assume that the only rational reason to remove your child from such a great school would be that your student has some type of disability, or you’re weird or snobby. Neither was the case. I’ve found that those assumptions have more to do with the mindset of the person making the judgement than the person making the best choice for their child.

 

How can learning happen if there’s no curriculum? I have to admit this was a huge adjustment for me as a new “unschooler”. I thought similar to my daughter that to just continue where her school left off with the curriculum would be the easiest method for me since spending money and time researching the right curriculum for her seemed insurmountable! I would hear myself saying “ok you need to stop that and get some reading in” or “we didn’t do any math this week, log into Kahn Academy” and she would look at me as if I had two heads and I would let it go. Yet still I felt like I was failing at being her educator until I attended the Homeschool Meet up group at the Joseph E. Coleman Free Library. I was able to express my feelings of inadequacy in a non judgmental space and left with the assurance that it would happen naturally because children are natural learners. I had heard those words before, but still thought I had to make it happen. As we left the library my avid reader noticed some books she wanted to buy from the library sale. It instantly occurred to me that this could be a teachable moment. We talked about the price of the books, and asked her to tell me how much she needed to buy all five books. We had the time to sit and break down the numbers into monetary value for her to get a solid understanding of the relationship between money and math. With a tiny bit of help, she figured it out. I then noticed one of the 5 books in her hand was not a part of the series and asked her to figure out how much we needed if we didn’t purchase that book. We walked out with not only the four books but with a lesson in money, addition and subtraction all without coercion, forethought or strain. It was at that moment I understood my role in this process; let go and just wait for the teachable moments to be presented. Two days later we attended a  Fresh Baked Theatre Company play at Widener University. When we left the performance she noticed there were eight flags in the courtyard. Janai turned to me and said “Mom, there are 50 stars on each flag, I bet I can figure out how many stars in total!” She was starting to see that learning can happen outside of a classroom and that math was everywhere. I smiled and watched as she counted the stars (see picture below).

Does she wish she was back at school? I have to say that for the first day she was sad about not seeing her friends every day and wondered if she would be just as happy at home, but that’s how long it lasted. One day. We are fortunate that for now we live across the street from her former school and she enjoys greeting her friends and getting hugs as they head to their bus or walk home from school. She is very sociable and her friends are special to her so we have lots of play-dates and have even hosted her Girl Scout troop at our home. The great thing about Pennsylvania is that although it’s tightly regulated, you are allowed to continue participation in any and all after school activities including sports and girl scout meetings when you homeschool. My daughter gets quality time with her friends now instead of just the 20 minutes they were allowed to chat and play freely at school.

Do I regret the decision to pull her out of school? Not in a million years. When you’re an independent parent and self-employed it takes a lot more planning and juggling, but it’s possible. The only thing I regret is not pulling her out much earlier in the year!

I’m happy to answer any questions in the comments below or feel free to contact me via email at africanamericanparenting@gmail.com. EnJOY the journey and make it a great day!

 

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Widener University, Chester PA

Walking Away: My Unschooling Journey

Today would be the last day I walked my eight year old daughter to her school and walked away. I live directly across the street from her elementary school, the same school my son, now thirteen, attended when he was just six years old. As I walked away today, it occurred to me that not only have my children been a constant fixture at the school, but so have I. For the past eight years I have volunteered almost every school week in either of their classrooms. In addition I dedicated several weeks each year as chairperson of their MLK Day of Service, Co-facilitator of parenting workshops and for several years held positions on their PTG (Parent Teacher Group) Board. I am a staunch supporter of the public school system and I adore the children that I have had the fortune to cross paths over the years, yet it is time for me to walk away and take my daughter with me. I am walking away from the beautiful, dedicated

++teachers, parents and administrators I’ve met over the years as well as the snobby suburban self-righteous and often underlying racist ones. I am walking away from seven hours of free child care each day of the week as well as the teachers who sometimes send my child home in tears because they just “don’t have time to ” help her understand a concept in the way that she needs to learn it. I’m walking away from the convenience of sending her walking to school as well as the anxiety-driven nausea and headaches she is sent home with like stale lunch in her backpack. No one cares about the quiet trauma that is brewing in the psyche of these young children when they are pressured with more homework and testing than I’ve seen in eight years.

I never thought I could do this. As a single parent with no parents or grandparents to lean on, I didn’t think I had an option. I didn’t see any way I could have her learn at home when I had to work at least part time outside of the home and maybe even more if I was to afford the child care and/or alternative school that she would now need. I felt selfish because I didn’t want to give up my free time during the day when I had no clients and could pamper myself. I couldn’t afford to send her to an alternative school because they were expensive and seemingly out of reach for someone self-employed and a full time mom. And then the day came that my daughter came home and asked me the question “Mom, do you think I’m stupid?”. And I knew that it didn’t matter what I thought I could or couldn’t do, I had to. To be continued….

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Compassion fatigue ; even Superman takes a break from saving the world!

wpid-img951416.jpgMy former sister in law once told me while I was still carrying my first born in my womb, that being a parent would be the most difficult yet most rewarding job I’ll ever have. She was right. I think even the most seasoned of parents question the choices that they make for their children, wonder if they’re doing everything that they could for them, stay up at night worrying about them when they are away, worry if they’re being over-protective or not disciplining them enough, and we all hope we are not causing irreparable damage!  Believe me, I have witnessed many who have raised children without an ounce of compassion and nurturing, but when you put your heart and soul into your job, whether as a parent, nurse, doctor, teacher, politician or first-responder, you utilize an enormous amount of physical, mental and spiritual energy and  risk suffering from burnout or as my pastor so eloquently phrased it; compassion fatigue. Those of us who are natural givers can suffer from depletion if we do not take the time to step away from all of the giving and allow ourselves to restore our energy levels and rest our weary minds and hearts.

My typical day starts at 6:30 am, getting my son up and out the door to make his 7:15 bus. He is a morning person so there isn’t much struggle there.  I then have about half an hour to check email/facebook/wordpress before it’s time to get my not-a-morning-person-until-you-turn-on-music-and-dance daughter out of the bed and ready for school. While she’s getting dressed, I’m making her lunch, packing her snack, filling her water bottle and making breakfast for her so she’s out of the door on time. Now that half of my normal daily energy level is spent, I try to get in an hour of either meditation and/or exercise  before I head to my client’s office to work. If it’s a good day there are no phone calls from school nurses or other clients who need my attention while I’m working. After I squeeze a day’s work into four hours, I rush home to meet one or both kids, start dinner, then head out to pick up or drop off my artistic one to some type of lesson, try to get work done while I’m waiting but am usually distracted and then commence to getting her home and finishing dinner. If I’m lucky enough to finish dinner in-between helping with homework, reading and completing paperwork sent home from school and phone calls, we may eat before 7 pm which is usually the first time I’ve sat down all day.  I then try to squeeze in a little family time during dinner either at the table or watching one of the few shows we all agree on; Family Feud or Chopped if there isn’t a good family movie on cable. The next hour is spent getting my seven year-old bathed and ready for bed, trying to stay awake long enough to read her a book and tuck her in. I walk back downstairs to the living area, take a deep breath and prepare to spend an hour of quality time with my son. If I can keep my eyes open through the latest episode of Ninth Grade Ninja or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, it’s a miracle, but he only cares that I’m there and he gets me all to himself for a while.  At about nine I send him up for his shower and check on the younger one to make sure she’s asleep. It’s at this point that I feel the exhaustion setting in, but I have to get a second wind, put away leftovers from dinner, respond to any client emails, do laundry, stock the dishwasher (I hate to do dishes) and connect with friends and family I don’t get to see or talk to on a regular basis. On a good night I’m in bed by 1AM setting the alarm for five and a half hours later. This is the life I know. Don’t get me wrong, I love being a mom, and as difficult as it is parenting solo, I would not  trade it for anything! I am fortunate to have the time to spend with my children day and night. However I truly believe that the only way that I can be a so-called “great mom” and serve my family, friends and my clients with the care and attention that they deserve is to make time to retreat from all of it every once in a while. It’s not easy when you are the sole parent to remove yourself from your children without an incredible amount of guilt, but I am learning that if I am at peace, my state of being is transferred to my children and they are much easier to parent! Simply put, if you spend most of your hours giving, you have to take a fraction of that time to allow yourself to be on the receiving end. If there is no one to take care of you, you have to make the time to care for yourself.

I have a ritual that began over four years ago when my children’s father and I separated, that I still continue religiously to this day. Every few months I take my mini-retreat. My budget is tight so I can’t do it often, but I make sure that I save enough each month so that when the time comes, I am ready to book the room. At first I did it because I couldn’t stand being in a quiet house when my kids were with their father on Christmas night, and I wanted to get out of the house to keep from missing  them. I had a discount coupon for a nearby hotel and decided to reserve a suite for the night. The best thing about my private is that for a little more  than the price of a tank of gas and a mani-pedi, you get a full suite to yourself, a two hour manager’s reception (yes, that means open bar) and a hot breakfast in the morning. Aside from those perks, I get to enjoy a bubble bath without anyone banging on the door to get in, I can watch one of the two flat screen televisions on any channel I want whenever I want, I can relax on the couch and read without anyone yelling “Mom, tell my brother to give me back my “fill in the blank”! And after my glasses of wine, snacks and bubble bath, I can sink deep into the plush pillow top mattress and the down pillows, and coast into a deep sleep, assured that no one will knock on my door and interrupt my slumber unless of course I sleep through breakfast and the maids are ready to clean the room!

After my meditative breakfast I head to the pool area which is almost always empty at 10am in the morning and take advantage of the late checkout I requested by going for a swim and an extended relaxing and dreamy float in the Jacuzzi. I can’t  tell you how refreshed, relaxed and renewed I feel after just twenty-four hours away from it all. The hotel is only about half an hour from my home and at first it felt silly to pay for a room so close to home, but for someone who has the exhaustive task of taking care of not only my children, my home, my business and clients and myself it is an oasis!  Yes I could stay home and take a bubble bath or sleep late but as a mom, I would spend more time feeling guilty about the dishes in the sink, the floor that needs sweeping or the laundry piling up around me and I wouldn’t be able to relax or feel the freedom of escaping from all of the normal day-to-day duties.

I encourage you to think about the definition of compassion fatigue and if you’re affected. Stress can have a major impact on both your spiritual, emotional and physical body so I urge you to take the time to renew your compassion and challenge you not to feel guilty about it, at least until after you slip into the bubble bath. Try it and share your experience in the comment section below.

Even Superman retreats to the Sun to renew his strength after a day of saving the world!

 

Who are you trusting with their brain?

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My children started school today, and all around the country there are parents buying school supplies, new clothes, bookbags and countless electronic devices in order to prepare their children for the new school year. We spend so much time and money getting the “things” we need, but what is just as important for me is knowing the teachers, administrators and other support staff who influence the intellect and emotional health of my children for the majority of their day. As fortunate as we are to have access to a noteworthy school district and staff, I am still very aware that my children will be surrounded by children who will not look like them, teachers who will not look like them and more than likely the only people of color they will see are in the cafeteria or cleaning up after them throughout the day. It’s unfortunate that most of those in the schools they attend have never had the experience of being a “minority” or having a close relationship with someone of another ethnicity or religion. These truths concern me more than whether they have the correct number of sharpened pencils. Each year as August comes to a close, I being to make my presence known to those who will hold my children’s hearts and brains captive for six or seven hours each day. I have had enough experiences throughout the years with school systems (both public and private) and have learned the hard way that everyone hired as a teacher/administrator does not necessarily have my child’s best interest at heart. I will share a few tidbits of wisdom I’ve learned that have helped me get the school year off to a great start:

  1. Take advantage of your access to teachers the week before school starts : Most of your child’s teachers are at school the week prior to the first day of school, preparing their classroom for the kids as well as any open house events happening in the school. Take advantage of this time that they will be able to read email without interruption and send a quick “Hello, I’m XYZ’s parent, nice to meet you” email. This is a great time to quickly mention any emotions your child has about the new year as well as any emotional, intellectual or health issues that may challenge the teacher, good or not so good. The email I send for my middle schooler is much shorter than the one for my second grader, and if it is a new teacher,  I also will attach my “This is My Kid” note to the email which I’ll explain below.
  2. Type up a one or two paragraph note about your child that you can update from year to year: I started it in Preschool because it was requested by one of the teachers, and I’ve kept it up each year. Some people may think it’s too much but I believe that someone who has my child’s time and attention for the majority of their waking hours should know more about them than their name and address. I include a little about their favorite things and subjects, but more importantly, what helps them transition, how they handle change, any allergies or health issues, any extraordinary emotional issues that may distract them as well as what motivates them to learn. I have found that their teachers have really found the information to be extremely helpful. 
  3. Make every open house and/or back to school night: I know, who wants to work all day, fight traffic to get home to get dinner and then go back out at night to the school. Ugh! Not my favorite thing to do, but a great way to show not only the teachers, but your child that you have a vested interest in their happiness and success in school. You’re showing them that you care about where they sit, who they interact with, how long it takes to get from class to class and what books they use. You get to put a face to the teacher’s names, see how their teacher interacts with their students and feel their energy (yes, I said it…but energy transfers to your kid). It’s also a subtle message to those who interact with your student that you care about what’s going on at school and that you are ready and willing to work together as a team to make sure it’s a good experience for your child. I can’t stress how important this is. Your presence is a powerful statement.
  4. Keep a folder for each child: The beginning of the year causes an influx of paperwork and procedures that make my head spin! When I purchase their school supplies, I also purchase a two-pocket folder for the year that I use to keep track of all of the correspondence from their school. One side has paperwork etc that I need to act on and return to school, and the other side has information I need to keep such as school procedures, daily schedules, calendars, teacher contact information, report cards and any other teacher correspondence that I need to refer to throughout the year. Whew! I get exhausted just thinking about it, so the folder helps, believe me!
  5. Don’t assume everyone has your child’s best interest at heart: I can’t stress this one enough. I was paying for my son to attend a Montessori school that refused to customize his educational goals even after he achieved a 99 percentile on the IQ test administered by the State. The director wouldn’t even discuss his score with me and that was the last year he attended that school. Don’t assume that your child’s teacher is not biased just because he/she is a teacher; don’t assume your child’s teacher has ever had diversity training, don’t assume the social studies class will teach the truth about American History, don’t assume that your child will be treated fairly or even better because he/she is gifted or “bright”. Don’t assume that your child is being treated fairly. Talk to your children about their day, let them know how they should be treated and teach them to have the same expectations of their teachers. Hold their teachers accountable and make them aware of your expectations, just as they make their expectations clear to the students at the beginning of the year. Stay abreast of your child’s progress and don’t be afraid to make a phone call or send an email if you feel they are not receiving the help/support or enhancement that they need to succeed. Check out the school website, and take the time to get information about any awards, special programs or scholarships for which your son/daughter may be eligible. I have had several situations where their teacher did not nominated them. I must say that I have been fortunate to have had wonderful experiences in our school district, but there have been a few who have been a challenge. 
  6. Help your child look forward to their first day: Both of my children were nervous about their first day, but I try to set up some fun activities the week before school starts as an attempt to lessen the anxiety. If there is an Open House at their school, I attend it with them. If their teacher sends a welcome letter, I share it with them and ask them how it makes them feel. We go to the store and they each get to pick out a “have a great school year” gift or other small token; it serves as a constant reminder of my support of and belief in them. Of course there’s the back to school day outfit that they get to pick out and on the morning of their first day of school, I add something special to their breakfast. The evening of their first day, we go out to a celebratory dinner, whether it be pizza or someplace a more classy, they get to pick and even dress up if they’d like. It gives us a chance to talk about their day and serves as my way of showing them how important their education is to me and that I share their excitement. 

After you do all of the above, go to your nearest coffee shop or masseuse (or both!) and celebrate yourself for the amazing job you’ve done to get them and their brains in good hands! I hope these tidbits have helped. Please feel free to comment and add any methods that help your child/ren get off to a positive start.  Wishing you a successful school year! 

SaveBlackBoys.org

James Hilley_Art Exhibit 2010

My son recently had the opportunity to attend the summer science institute, a program at The Franklin Institute. He LOVES science and math and thrives in those environments so although it would have meant a 40 minute drive into the city and back each day, I was willing to make the sacrifice for him as an investment in his future.  By God’s grace, my youngest brother, who also travels into the city every day for work offered to have him stay with him during the week and he would be responsible for transporting him back and forth to camp. What a relief! If my tween was going to experience being away from home for the first time, I couldn’t have asked for a better situation than for him to be with a family member who just happens to have a houseful of boys for him to hang with. Win. Win.

Well, he had the time of his life visiting waste management plants, meeting kids his age, working with petri dishes and laughing with his Uncle “T”.  I missed him but as an independent mom,  I am learning to let go and trust the village and accept that there are lessons that I cannot teach him. Sometimes the village is family, and sometimes it comes in the form of an unexpected phone call from a major museum about a  subsidized science program that is the perfect fit for my kid. I accept it all and give thanks.

In the meantime, I spent some much-needed quality time with my daughter. We have a special bond, but because of some other issues going on in her life she has a yearning for nurturing that I normally have to divide between the two children. We did the typical girlie things and talked about her beauty, her gifts and how to respond to girls who laugh at her hair when she wears it out in a curly natural style (I’ll tackle that subject in another post!). We took ‘selfies’ and the Black Girls Rock t-shirts that I ordered the previous week came in the mail and she said that she felt like we were sisters. Win. Win.

When my son came home, full of testosterone and erupting with information about his two weeks at science camp and spending time with his uncle, aunt and cousins he was surprisingly clingy. He had a ball but actually missed his nagging mom and his overly dramatic sister! We’ve since spent many an evening with him huddled up next to me on the couch after I tucked his sister into bed, watching anything from Transformers to the Cooking channel. He is really a great kid, and extremely bright but the reality is that too many kids just like him go missing, get lost in foster care or the criminal system, or just expire on the streets. And although we live in the suburbs which lowers his risk somewhat he as a young, gifted black boy is still very much a target. So when I recently came across this website, Save Black Boys.org, and saw the t-shirts, I thought of the matching shirts worn by my daughter and myself the previous week. What better way to show my love and support of my son and to keep our boys in the forefront of the minds of all that meet us, than to get matching t-shirts for my son and I as well. We all need to save our black boys;  they too are America’s promise. They too hold the key to making this a great nation. Each time we lose one, we lose  ourselves because we all are one. We need to save them from being racially profiled, save their minds, save their souls, save their self-esteem, save their pride, save their brilliance, save their masculinity, save their lives. What will you do to show them that we care? How will we save them? If you don’t have time to write your congressman, mentor, start an non profit or teach, you can show your solidarity. I am not connected to this program in any way, I just love their boldness and the shirt is nice too! 🙂

Get yours here:

http://saveblackboys.org/pages/about-us?customer_posted=true

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.