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Who is Kamyra? Read her blog about families, parenting, and life as a 21st century womanist.


MY STUFF - March 31, 2008

Our family is a team. One for all; all for one... In reality that only goes so far. I want our son to feel comfortable and ownership for his lifestyle but I don't want him to get carried away assuming that he has inalienable rights to possessions and resources. After all, eventually it'll be his job to provide his (and perhaps a family's) lifestyle. So yes, I've said all of the politically incorrect phrases. 1) "Not in MY house" and; 2) "Papi and Mommy work for money. We use it to buy you things. We can take away those things" are my current favorites.

Within the Cosby Show comedic statements I hope to convey many messages including:

  • You must earn materialistic things.
  • You are blessed by accident of birth not because you are entitled to anything beyond what's outlined in the UN Declaration of Children's Rights.
  • We share our blessings with you because we love you and because we can; not because we have to. The Department of Children's Services will not remove you from our home if I don't buy you another dinosaur DVD.
  • Having things doesn't make you better than another person.
  • It's your job to recognize, appreciate and respect your material and natural gifts. After you've accomplished that, pay it forward.

That's the easy part. The hard work is remembering and communicating:

  • It's a parent's job to be careful not too overindulge children.
  • Parents must teach kids to earn rewards, yet, not to expect rewards. I want our son to work to earn things. The work is reward enough but being able to provide for himself is immeasurably beneficial.
  • The lessons in Madeline Levine's book The Price of Privilege. Money is not a substitute for parenting. And, to whom too much is given, nothing is expected.
  • Honest work is honorable.
  • Consequences are for everyone. With our preschooler this translates to "If you don't respect your things, I can give them to a child who will."

As with most parenting issues, I don't know how we'll come out on the other end of this. I do know that before little man moves out of his father's and my house he will have felt the pride, honor, sting and sweat of honest work. It's up to him to decide how to value those feelings.


RELUCTANT SOCCER MOM - March 26, 2008

I am trying on a new title, Soccer Mom. Earlier this week I was a Soccer Mom for 30 minutes.

During an impromptu late afternoon, post-meeting, business meeting I popped up from my seat declaring, "I have to get my kid!" I arrived at the pre-school ten minutes late to find my four year old playing soccer with the late care students. Our son greeted me with, "Mommy, I want to sign up." The coach enthusiastically assured me that I had spawned a soccer natural. With the coach's encouragement, we stayed for the lesson.

Secretly I have dreaded the prospective role of sports sideline mom. I fear unleashing uncontrollable urges to flatten anyone who touches my child. Who cares if said person is a fellow mini-Olympian?

Then it happened, half way through the session, my goalie collided with another player. My pulse rate quickened. I hyper focused on little man's physical well-being. Then I breathed and fought maternal urges to rescue hug him. He survived and I wasn't arrested.

Yeah! I passed the Soccer Mom test. However, that was an accident with a teammate not intentional harm inflicted by an opponent . . . more tests ahead.


NEW RULE - March 25, 2008

New Rule: Leave 'em Hopeful * For every piece of bad news you announce, you must share two happy news bits.


FASHIONABLE MESSAGES - March 17, 2008

My mantra is, "Most things in moderation". I exercise three days a week but am neither buff nor overweight. I partake of an occasional alcoholic beverage but am neither a teetotaler nor a drinker. I'm a modern woman with old school values; a little bit of every woman yet not wholly any. Being stuck in between and intentionally moderate is how I navigate the earth.

In this blog I write about parenthood from a womanist perspective. There's much in the news that concerns parents. There's even more we have to decipher for our children. What messages are our kids receiving? How do we help them consider these? For example, there's the seemingly harmless proliferation of makeovers and materialism in the print and television media.

These makeovers with the mandatory bling that accompanies them send the message that we should not be satisfied with who we are and what we have. That's nonsense. Each human is naturally equipped with beauty and talent. Most of us in the United States have more than enough food, water and things. Fashion, make up and hair makeovers are designed to convince us to conform to a uniform definition of beauty. The missive is that we should appear a certain way and own specific stuff in order to be successful in life. What happens when one's race or religion prevents you from living up to these projected images? Few fit the visuals and material possession level we're instructed to aspire towards. As a result people of all ages and both sexes suffer from eating disorders and relative maladies in order to resemble the 'after' images of these makeovers.

Recently television talk and magazine shows have been exposing the trend of teenagers and housewives prostituting themselves to pay for items marketers claim will transform one from ugly, lonely duckling to gorgeous, popular swan. Collectively we should instruct television producers, "Thanks for informing us about this. However we'd prefer shows with positive messages about those who know they are lovely and possess enough things? People who make positive contributions to the world."

How these messages affect adults is bad, what they do to our children is horrendous. Adults need to be reminded that what they have inside should be their primary concern but playing with the outside can be fun. There are times when it is important for an adult to prove (s) he understand the value of appropriate external appearances; for example, to accomplish a goal (i.e. job interview outfits). As we mature hair, clothes and make up become war paint and costume.

Evidence that Americans don't keep this in perspective, is the nation's rising personal debt. Thank you, Oprah Winfrey, for shinning a spotlight on this problem. The Oprah Debt Diet is a gift. The average person can not afford the lifestyles portrayed on television and in the movies. The self-proclaimed experts ordering us to change make up, clothes, cars, furniture and electronics are motivated by greed. They want our hard earned money. There's no need to "keep up with the Jones" Chances are the Jones are mortgaging their future to pay for their present. Keep your stuff and your money. Teach our precious children pride in saving and recycling. Reward them for showing interest in preserving their wealth, self-esteem and the environment.

Dressing up is fun and pride in appearance is important but children's primary concern should be developing their hearts, minds and souls. Manipulating their outside can wait until they're older. The adults in their lives must be vigilant about teaching youth to concentrate energy and resources on adorning their insides rather than the outsides. We can't shelter young people but we can talk to them, keep them busy, and remind them that who they are and what they have is more than enough. Let's teach them to think about and help those with fewer comforts. Most parents know this but busy schedules allow us to forget to practice it. Expose your family to positive reinforcement. Pledge to compliment each other at least once per day. Volunteer as a family at least once per year. If you're blessed with travel, remember to research and visit the non-tourist parts of a place. This is as easy as hiring a taxi (cheap in most countries) and explaining to the driver your intention to see the reality as well as the sites.

I am not advocating abstention from fashion and its cousins. I am suggesting that we should be mindful about going overboard. A moderate approach will keep this part of our lives fun and affordable. Free yourself. Prevent your kids from entering the I am not good enough realm.


ODE TO BACKPACKS and you too, Sneakers - March 14, 2008

I am writing this in defense of backpacks and sneakers. I have heard one fashion expert too many preach against both for anyone over 18 years old. What world do these people inhabit? I am an urban, pedestrian parent.

Tote bags are cute but they slip off of the shoulder, make you lop-sided and do not lie still on bulky winter coats. I've been carrying a backpack since I was six years old. These days they don't have characters but the practicality remains. Put the essentials on your back and free your hands to hold onto a child or acquire additional cargo. Backpacks enable power walkers to strut while carrying. Most weeks walking off the To Do List is the only exercise my body receives. I put in a couple of miles every time I run errands. There's no cute shoe that's comfy enough to keep up with me; not even ballet flats. Only sneakers and their ugly cousins, sports sandals and Uggs, can take the abuse without retaliating on your feet.

Could it be that the experts do not know as much as they think that they do? Perhaps they just don't run (literally) errands, coral children or carry what can not be delivered.

Of course I've mistakenly given in to the latent fashionista gene. I have the pedi-blister scars and taxi receipts to prove it. Never again. Dressing appropriately is always in style. Backpacks and sneakers are to parenthood as grey suits are to banking. There's no shame in frequently donning practical items. Just pry yourself away from them whenever you have a light load and a car.


PILL-LESS IN NEW YORK CITY - March 6, 2008

The 2007-2008 cold and flu season is near an end. I hope. Soon we'll be able to breathe on each other and shake hands. Before motherhood I dealt with airborne illnesses by sleeping and drinking water until the germs vacated my body. Now that I am not allowed sick days, I've assembled a team of symptom hiders and energy boosters that I keep stocked in the medicine cabinet. I have yet to discover anything that stops the common cold. Instead I look for what best masks the signs.

This is why I was not shocked by the pronouncement that cold and cough remedies do nothing for children under six years old. Instead I felt vindicated. To the chagrin of pill worshippers my husband and I have avoided filling our son with these useless chemicals. We were convinced that they were unnecessary and suspected that they didn't work.

Okay. In desperation, we tried highly recommended over the counter medicines. All failed our test. The best thing we found was a pediatric night time cough syrup that relaxed our barking lovely enough to allow him to sleep. Yes. We used that. We're not homeopathic saints. Since the big warning we've tossed even the bedtime syrup. Today we solely rely upon kisses, chest rubs, humidifiers, vaporizers and steam treatments. So far the only difference is that it takes longer to get him to sleep.

A magic pill would be nice for children of all ages. Until it's discovered I'll continue to drug mommy and cuddle our germ monger.


MEMO TO THOSE WHO NEED TO READ IT - February 20, 2008

To: All Who Think It's Ok To Insult / Hurt In The Guise Of "I'm Entitled To My Opinion"
From: The Rest Of Us
Date: From Now On
Re: Be Helpful

-----MEMO----

This memo is for people who insult others or hurt their feeling with words just because they can. You know who you are. You use the excuse that you can say whatever you want because you're entitled to your opinion. Well those of us who are forced to hear your opinions have few things to express.

1. Yes. You are entitled to your opinion.
2. Yes. You may express your opinion.
3. No. You may not use your opinion to hurt others.
4. No. You may not crowd others' minds with your meanness, critiques and other nonsense.
5. By the way, your opinion is not the law. It may not even be correct.
6. Hush!

If you can not forever hold your peace, here are a few things you should tell:

1. That you've been diagnosed with a contagious illness.
2. A woman that her skirt is caught in her belt.
3. When the news / research indicate that you were wrong one of the many times your imparted incorrect, unsolicited advice.


ON DEATH AND DYING - February 4, 2008

Death does not upset me. This about me bothers others. I can't help how I react to death. To me it is a part of the universal cycle of life. Each person's individual life continuum includes death. But that's not the end. Then we move on; to what I'm unsure. I have devised my own vision of death and a heavenly afterlife; mostly formed by childhood ideas. This afterlife includes God, heaven, love and a whole lot of fun. I believe each person I know who dies leaves me a tiny piece of his / her personality that I admire or need. Whether I'm smart enough to take advantage of that gift is another story. I also believe that each soul becomes a guardian angel.

My heart is not calcified. I experience sorrow when a loved one leaves this realm, especially when it's tragic, unexpected and / or someone young. Mostly it's for we who remain on earth. Funerals are for the living. I make a point of attending them because it helps to grieve in a group, saying goodbye in the presence of others who loved the departed. I cry during every funeral. The tears are for our earthly loss and the fact that this person will no longer create happy memories. They are not because the best is over for that soul.

I've noticed that each death coincides with a birth in my social network. There's a balance of joy and sorrow, beginning and end. One makes room for the other. I admire those who embrace their death. I hope to get there one day. For now, I may be okay with other's transition but I still have work to do on earth.


FORCED OUT - January 28, 2008

This past summer I had the pleasure of meeting sociologist Pam Stone author of Opting Out?. The occasion was a lovely lunch for four women in the midst of different life seasons. We laughed, learned and talked about things / people we love. As is the case in these situations the conversation meandered to our experiences being professional women, wives and mothers. It was a cathartic and affirming afternoon.

I've just read Opting Out?. It is a well-written book that investigates why professional women are leaving paid employment to become stay-at-home mothers. Ms. Stone uses scientific research to prove what my contemporaries and I learned the hard way, the business world is hostile to parents. Sure a woman can compete in corporate America, as long as she doesn't have a family that she prioritizes. The paid work arena still is structured for men who have wives and domestic staff to alleviate parenting and home concerns. Most women who want to be involved with their families (children, parents, siblings) and maintain high powered jobs find it impossible to combine the two. Those who manage this miracle do because they have been granted special status in their work place; not because it is routine in a professional environment.

Inflexible workplaces are hostile environments and should be changed for the sake of all employees. If men were as supportive of wives remaining in the workforce as they are of them staying home things would look different. Husbands would genuinely share childcare and domestic responsibilities, not occasionally, not only the fun stuff, not just as a treat for mom but truly share. Then they too would need flexibility in the work place. Also, since men are largely making human resource decisions they'd understand the importance of flexibility.

Through my consulting I work with a group of women who each left a rewarding professional career because it didn't allow them to be active in their children's lives. No one wanted to leave. We all proposed alternatives to our employers; flex time, job sharing, part-time schedules, telecommuting etc. We all were denied. Today we have varying responsibilities in a consulting firm. We make our own schedules and allow for each to have a life outside of the office. It's not easy or always smooth but our intent is pure.


GOSSIP - January 22, 2008

Six or seven years ago I made a major life change. I stopped gossiping. I was a big gossiper and never respected that part of myself.

How did I do it? One step at a time. I announced my intention to the few people I hoped would understand, even if they disagreed. Slowly I kept silent when gossip was slung or I walked away. Soon I worked my way up to guiding conversations into other fun areas, usually by offering a humorous personal anecdote. One personal story leads to another. Eventually everyone's sharing. I think all is fair if the gossip is about you.

I do slip. When I notice I'm gossiping, I say that and end my participation. However, I Portending to be sophisticated and informed. Too consumed with masqurading to notice others taking advantage of or laughing at you. Honestly represent yourself, avoid insecurity and mistakes because you faked knowledge rather than admit ignorance. Do your research, Ask questions. stay in the conversation by discussing the general theme (i.e. how adultery ruins families) not individuals. I'm not sure I'm more fascinating these days. I do know I have recovered self-respect for this part of my personality.

This change didn't happen all at once. It was easiest in my personal life. In my professional life gossip equaled power. I eventually left that situation. I thought I'd lose friendships when I gave up gossip. I didn't lose one friend. My relationships now are richer and more interesting, not necessarily deeper (benefits of gossip is that it can be light and it's not about you). But light can still be found. I once spent almost an hour laughing with a girlfriend about the perils of doing laundry.

After all of this time there are a few in my life who make negative comments when I side step gossip. Mostly because they haven't defined what they're saying as gossip and thus don't believe they're partaking. Once I found myself gossiping about a friend to a third party. I stopped and said, "This isn't my business to tell." The other person replied, obviously annoyed, "It's not gossip. She told me this herself." What my fellow conversant missed is that spreading the news is gossiping, no matter how you acquire it.

It's hard to educate young children about gossip. Instead I concentrate on teaching mine to mind his business. Not easy since kids believe that the world revolves around them and all is their business. This is definitely where adults must lead by example.


MONEY SMARTS - January 8, 2008

Is it ever too early to teach kids about money? My answer is, "No!" Of course my familial history is coated with teaching children all types of responsibility. I don't advocate playing penny stocks with a toddler, but the principles of saving; sharing and spending versus wasting may begin this early. A child doesn't have to understand valuation to know that keeping her coins in a bank is smart.

Children witness adults making purchases and quickly catch on that money equals stuff. The abstract ideas evade them but there are easy lessons. Kids understand saving (investing), spending and sharing (donating). Beginning with these basic principles builds the foundation for responsible financial stewardship. I've read that parents should refrain from speaking to children about money until they have reached six years old. This is too late. Three year olds ask for money to buy things and hide their coins from siblings. They may not know how to assign values to those coins but they realize that they're treasures.

Another money lesson to impart is smart consumerism. Teach the young that they do not need everything that is advertised or stocked on a store shelf. Again, this is something we can begin early. I began hearing, "We need/ should buy . . . " when our son reached age three. At four he now knows that some people have a job which is to get others to buy things. He understands that it is up to each person to decide if (s)he needs the item. Although this hasn't eliminated the "We need" whines it has reduced them and allowed for responsible talks about needs versus wants.

For my husband and me this is on-the-job training. We were helped when a fellow class parent volunteered a money discussion at our son's pre-school. She even supplied piggy banks that the kids decorated and pretend money. Because we believe everyone in the house must contribute, our family does not offer money for chores, however, we do supply opportunities to earn extra money. When our son has filled his bank with coins we count them and take a field trip to the bank where we deposit them in his savings account. He is allowed to spend and donate portions but the majority is saved. I love these days; not for the lesson but for the pride that swells within him while we engage in our high finance transactions. That feeling forever will be associated with saving, donating and reasonable spending.

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Photo Credit: John Oko Nyaku, Photo Works