Letter to My Daughter

Hey Little Girl,
As I watch the world continue to make you promises it has no intention of delivering, I feel it’s my job to help. Not just to cushion the blow of what’s to come (because unfortunately, some hard lessons are inevitable), but to help you take in, process, and digest the world around you. I want you feasting on life. And mind you, some of that shit tastes gross, makes you sick, and gets stuck in your teeth. But don’t you pass up the chance to take a chance. Be uncomfortable. Act a damn fool. Walk where others were scared to, or where they couldn’t. Then come back and share your blessings with others who come behind you.

Here are a couple of things I know in no uncertain terms.
1. I love you. Unconditionally. Seriously, no mistake, decision, pregnancy, conviction, or stupid ass comment will change that. You may not feel you need to hear it now, but when it gets real heavy, just know that you are loved. You have den of “other mothers” that love you just like I do. And above all, God loves you already. Just as you are.

2. Nothing you wear, say, or do makes you a deserving victim of racism, sexism, rape, or oppression. Nothing. Don’t judge victims of these crimes. Rather, be their voice when you can, and call those in power to task. If your sisters and brothers are in struggle, so are you. Period. Read Audre Lorde, June Jordan, Angela Davis, Paolo Friere, bell hooks, Adrienne Rich, Cornel West, Marcus Garvey, . Take in what you are told, but ask questions. Read books. Ones with actual PAPER pages. Google does not equal an informed citizen.

Yep, that ends my list of certainties. Everything else, I’m winging it, kid. It’s a little known secret: MOMS DON’T KNOW EVERYTHING. We lead with fear and love. I’ve been scared you’d fall, scared your fever wouldn’t break, scared your Dad would hurt you, scared you’d forget to look before you crossed the street, scared you’d take the wrong bus. There’s literally no end to it. However, the only real fear I have with you is that you’ll let fear lead you. Let it rip, little mama. Anxiety and worry have robbed our people of far too many opportunities. “What if’s” always become “I wish I had’s,” and you deserve better than that. So speak your mind, own your journey, and please don’t forget about your mother when I’m on a fixed income and need you to drive me to the store. I’d also like my liquor cabinet stocked, courtesy of you and BevMo.

I love you madly, and grow every day from knowing you.

Love,
Mommy

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Love Overboard, Part 2

Ok loves, thanks for your patience waiting on Part 2 of Love Overboard. I love you for coming back.

Now, that we are all loved up and affirmed, here’s a quick re-cap:

  • My 8 year old son, Zion (aka Z), fell in love
  • I was a blubbering idiot trying to handle it
  • He wrote the young lady a letter confessing his feelings
  • I convinced him to focus on friendship and keep the letter at home
  • He was bummed
  • We both went to bed

Alright, so it’s about 6:45 a.m. I wake Z up to get him ready for school.  I’ve laid his clothes out, and pulled the SpongeBob comforter back to swing his little caramel feet around to plant them on the floor.  He’s not what you would call a morning person.  Neither am I, so it’s been a challenge to wake him up without going off my damn self.  Helping him stand up to make his way to the loo is an effective way of getting him up without either of us having to actually speak.

He’s up and doing his prep (teeth, getting dressed, watching some Disney teen over-actors), and Jaeda and I are doing the same in our respective rooms.  I’m dressed, and move on to the kitchen to prepare breakfast (the other essential component of triggering the happy parts of Zion’s brain in the morning).  No sooner have the beaten eggs hit the skillet then I hear the familiar shuffle of Zion’s socks on the kitchen floor.  I don’t bother to turn around because Zion always shows up when he smells breakfast cooking.  I rarely compare my children to dogs, but if I did…I’m just sayin.  Nothing makes children appear like the aroma of breakfast meat and/or pancakes. So, like I said I didn’t bother to turn around, until I heard the stools at our bar table being shuffled around.  I pivot on one heel to see my son sitting under one of the stools, with his legs hanging over the bottom bar of the stool.  He is determined to look as pitiful and tormented as he can.  His effort is a resounding success.  I tilt my head to silently ask him what’s the matter.

“My life is over,” he laments, eyes downward, little rosy lips poked out.  I’m in disbelief for two reasons:

1) He’s 8, this drama requires him to at least be 11 or 12

2) It’s too damn early to muster up maternal empathy

“Huh?” is all I’ve got.

“Aurora, mom?” he explains, exasperated by my stupidity. “I want to tell her how I feel, but you said I shouldn’t.  Now she’s going to be with Alex.  He is mean and dumb.  My life is over.”

Again, as I mentioned in the last post, I’m working so hard to not draw from my personal experience that would demand that I snatch Z up by his polo, pop him on the rump for “tryin’ to be grown,” and send him off to his room.  Desperate to hold on to the precarious reigns of motherhood, I choose to empathize with the little fellow.

“I hear where you’re coming from, bruh,” I say, taking him by the hand, and leading him to sit on the stool rather than under it, “but you are still great friends with her.  I have a feeling this Alex fellow ain’t gonna work out anyway.  The butt heads of the world have a way of ruining things for themselves.  Just be respectful and nice to Aurora, keep being reading partners, and pushing her on the swings, and you’re gonna end up being the guy she thinks is the coolest.”

He nods, considering the potential of my advice. I turn to the counter to put his eggs on his plate, next to his toast. I feel a little relief that I’ve interrupted the pity party.  Until, that is, I put his plate in front of him, give him a fist bump, and open the fridge to pour him some juice.

I start to freak out.  Here’s the internal monologue:  Did I just give my 8-year old dating advice?  Wait a damn minute!!! Oh hell, I’m condoning it.  No, I was just being understanding.  No fool, you are telling him it’s ok to be girl crazy at 8!  I am not!  I’m helping him talk through is feelings…yeah, that’s it.  I win his ear with compassion, and then I hit him with age appropriate boundaries and wisdom.  Yeah, that’s the ticket.

With my minor panic attack avoided, I give Zion his juice, kiss his cheek and go off to my room to finish getting ready.  I’ve just completed some masterful accessorizing when I hear Zion ask, “Can I just ask you one more question?”

Based on the most recent line of questioning, I pray that I can beam myself away.  Far, far away. No such luck. So I look over my shoulder in terror and ask, “What’s up, kid?”

Here’s the doozy.  As if he was clamoring for a 2013 MTV Breakthrough Performance Award, he asks, “How am I supposed to move forward?”

At this point, I am certain I’m being punked.   Then I realize Zion, like me, doesn’t have the short-term memory to memorize these kind of lines.  I am in total disbelief though, because I had no clue my youngest could formulate or much less comprehend such a loaded question.  Reminder to self: Never underestimate the power of little people.  Still flabbergasted, I was forced to rely on recovery lingo, and reply, “Take it one day at a time, sweetie. Just face today like the great guy I know you are, and each day it will get better and better.”

What a crock of shit, right?  If someone said something like that to me right now, they would get the original Brown Betty eye roll, and I would promptly un-friend them on Facebook. I know it was lame ok, but I’m doing the best I can, people! It was either that or crack open a Heineken and play some dominoes.

Thankfully, he’s young and optimistic, because this message seemed to encourage him, and we went about our day.  As always, I picked him up from his dad’s house after work.  I watched him skip to the car, and hop in the back seat.  He was surprisingly upbeat and grinning.  I turn around and said to him, “Wow, it looks like the day turned out okay for you, huh?”

He extends his little fist in the air and pulls it down with all his might as he exclaims, “I got her! She’s mine.”  He was so satisfied with himself I thought he was going to pull a pimp cup out of his WWE backpack.

“What does that mean?” I asked.

“It was all a lie, Mom,” he recalls, “she was never with Alex.  He just held her hand once, but she doesn’t like him.  So I told her how I felt.  I told her that I thought she was pretty and had a sense of humor, and that I really like her.”

I was so intrigued, my dumb ass asked, “Dang, Z! What did she say?”  Mind you, I’m still parked alongside the house, unable to continue without knowing the end to this saga.

“Well,” he says, “she came to the side of me, and put her hand on my shoulder.  I was so freaking out!  And then she said, she thought I was cute and funny, and she liked me, too.”

The boy’s smile is practically jumping of his face.

Coming back to earth, I say, “Well I’m glad things worked out, sweetie, but please remember to keep your hands to yourself.  Keep your lips on your face.  And when you’re pushing her on the swings, make sure your hands are in mommy approved places.”

“Mommy, I know, I know,” he assures me, “I know what’s appropriate.”

Appropriate?  Really?  Why would I expect anything less from this guy:

 

Zion at age 5
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See what I’m sayin’? I’ve gleaned a couple of lessons from this one.

1)      As a mom, I’m feeling a whole lot better trusting my instincts.  I CAN indeed do discipline and caring simultaneously.  As adults, we often remember the punishments and break offs we suffer, but can’t always recall any real conversations with our parents.  I want my kids to remember both.

2)      I should probably hire my son as my dating coach

Thank you for allowing me to share this saga with you.  Please tell me your moments of complete parenting confusion.  How did you handle them?  Who did you call on for help?  We’re all in this together, after all.

BB

Love Overboard: When Your Kid Has More Game than You Do

My son is an extraordionary human being.  I know what you are thinking. Every parent says that.  But I’m going to tell you what I mean.  Let’s take a little journey, shall we?

I picked Zion up from his father’s house in the usual hurried pace, eager to get home and whip up a typical protein, starch, veggie combo, check homework and baths, and squeeze in a cocktail and some Nurse Jackie (that workout shit can wait until tomorrow). Zion hops into the car, full of man child swag and his general state of curious contentment.  We exchange greetings and then he says to me, “Mom, I need your advice. There’s this girl I like.”

I immediately consider driving into a telephone pole.

Let me tell you a little something about Zion. He’s 8. He lives for a hot breakfast, preferably one that includes cheese eggs. He lives for battle. Dance battles, sword battles, basket shooting battles, air guitar battles, dish washing battles, bubble gun battles. Are you seeing a trend here? Now, juxtaposed with this thirst for competition is the soul of a poet. The kid is sensitive. Every feeling is experienced to the fullest. For better or worse.  Never slightly embarrassed, he’s mortified.  Never amused, he’s laughing uncontrollably. He’s not concerned, he’s fiercely protective. Here’s a montage to give you an idea of what I’m working with here:

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So, when he mentioned that he “likes” a girl, I knew I was in for a ride.  The kind that leaves you with whiplash.

Recognizing the limits of my health insurance, I decide to keep on course to our house, turn down the radio, and ask in the calmest tone possible, “What girl?”

And with a dreamy look in his root beer brown eyes, he gives me the run down of this delightful young lady. Her name, how he loves the way she flips her hair, her bright smile. I’m doing that motherly nod and glance in the rear view to ensure he knows I’m engaged.  However, my blood pressure is rising.  He’s 8! Shouldn’t he be making a damn mud pie or something?! I shake off my quiet panic just in time to pull up to the house. I was sad leaving the safety of the car. Now I’d have to face this little dude.

The evening continues with a series of questions because he’s decided that he has to tell her how he feels.  Um, hell no you don’t! I take the stance that they can be friends, but he’s too young to be thinking about a relationship. Second grade is far too early for a girlfriend. He assures me (almost as if I’m 8, and he’s 36) that he knows he’s too young, he just wants to tell her he likes her.  And, he adds, I always tell him that it’s best to express your feelings.  Damn it! Foiled by the parenting boomerang. Not only do these little people listen, they use the nuggets of wisdom against you.  Note to self: shut the hell up next time.

He also mentions that he’s concerned that there’s another suitor in the picture, a classmate he has never gotten along with. Boo yow, the competitive nature kicks in. His rival has mentioned that he’s held hands with Zion’s dream girl. And I quote, “Even though she might hold his hand, I KNOW she likes me, because she asked me to push her on the swings.”

He goes on to say that when she first came in to class, his chest twitched, and he got a little cold.

“Why?” I asked.

He looks at me like he’s grown tired of explaining himself. “Because she was so beautiful, Mom.”

Now I just want to give my oldest the bank account numbers, grab my wallet, some string cheese, and dart out the back door. Hell, I’ve always wanted to join the circus. Every circus needs a curvy, smiley woman with big hair, right?  However, a merciful escape is in sight as I realize it’s time for me to go see one of my favorite poets at a local university (Staceyann Chin–if you don’t know, you better ask somebody). I leave Zion with his big sis, telling him to sleep on it, decide how he can be a good friend to his crush, and take his mind off of the drama by reading his wrestling magazine. He lets out a sigh, says ok, and I head out.

I return home two hours later, sublimely happy.. Staceyann is magnificent…inspiring, unapologetic, hilarious. I’ve shaken this siren’s hand, she signed my book, and gave me a fist bump. Legendary night. I’m excited to disrobe and hit the hay. I enter my house, and go straight back to my daughter’s room to see how Zion behaved. Recognizing 15 year olds specialize in one word answers, I was surprised to hear her say, “Z was fine, but he refused to go to bed until you got home. He wants you to read his letter to Aurora.”

My literary high disappeared as quickly as it came. A letter? Seriously?! My daughter smirks and returns to her iPod and homework. I want to strangle her. I want her life. No, I actually want a cocktail. I stop myself though, as I had vowed to limit my alcohol intake to the weekends to combat some weight gain. Second note to self: find a calorie free, yet naughty and tasty vice.

I head to Zion’s room, however, we meet in the kitchen. “Hey Mom,” he says, “can you proofread my letter to Aurora?” GULP.

Before you ask, yes, he said proofread. I hold words in the highest esteem, so I have trained my kids to review their work before they turn it in. Again, parenting boomerang. Its real, and its just wrong.

I can’t say anything but, “Ok, love, I’ll have a look at it.”

Z passes me a carefully prepared love letter.  It’s folded in eighths, and every surface contains a message of affection and admiration. First you see a cluster of hearts below the phrase, Really Love You. Unfold it further, and you are faced with the question, Could we be better than friends?

 

Unfolding the page all the way, I delve into Zion’s big old bowl of love gumbo.  I call it that because it is one the most fascinating combinations of devotion and ultimatums. He says he likes her because she has a great sense of humor and that she’s pretty, yet also says if she doesn’t like him back, he will be forced to leave the Wolf Club and never play with her again (don’t ask because I don’t friggin know). He wraps up with “by the way, can I have your number,” and a facetious little closing of:

“Just say these two words:  girl friend.”

I conceal my panic as I look up from the letter to see his handsome little face, so proud yet self-conscious. All I can eek out is, “Wow, sweetie. You really put it all out there, huh?”

He nods, biting his bottom lip, like he just closed out the hottest hip hop show of the year. if he was someone else’s son, I might admit that

  1. The kid’s got some game
  2. He expresses himself better than most adult men
  3. I might enjoy opening a letter like this (minus the threats to never talk to me again). Don’t judge; it’s hard out here for a pimpstress.

I feel utterly useless and so damn ill equipped.  I have taken on racism, sex, drugs, faith, but this shit? Just call me Rain Man.  Calories be damned, I make myself a rum and coke and meet Zion in the living room to talk through his letter.

I know he has no business writing love letters. I know professing his love is so not what he goes to school to do. But I know my son. His brain is big, but his heart is even bigger, and I couldn’t risk crushing his little spirit in the name of prudence. I would have got popped for this kind of thing when I was 8, but he ain’t me, and I ain’t my momma. So I walked the super fine line so many parents do of breaking age old traditions, but maintaining rules and boundaries.

I affirm the letter, but tell Zion he can’t give this to Aurora as it’s inappropriate and that school is for learning and friendships, not grown up stuff like boyfriend/girlfriend relationships. Be a great friend to her, play together, be reading partners, but put this love stuff on the back burner awhile. Be a kid.

He’s sad. He sheds a few tears, but agrees to give it a try. Recognizing Zion could use a male point of view, he talks via phone to a great male friend of mine, who reinforces the importance of laying back and just being friends with Aurora. Again, Zion is discouraged, but he takes it like a champ and goes to bed.

I go to bed feeling shell shocked and exhausted. First off, I never had conversations like this with my daughter when she was eight years old. Secondly, there are no words for how friggin unprepared I felt to tackle this one. Lastly, and most importantly, WHAT THE HELL JUST HAPPENED?!!!

Well, no one could have prepared me for the morning after…