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DISHONESTY - December 18, 2007
Have you ever been in a situation when someone unknowingly references something you know is an untruth? What do you do? You don't want to further the misconception nor do you want to unmask the person who invented it. I used to go along with the fib. I hated that but felt I had to support the deceiver in order to be loyal. However, doing such made me a co-liar. Now, instead of being a party to deception I gently redirect the conversation or simply state the truth. I often wonder whether the lie originator believes the fictional account or is (s)he intentionally fabricating a preferred scenario? At the very least (s)he is demonstrating insecurities and an inability to accept life.
No matter how creative, lying is lazy. It takes effort to avoid unpleasant topics or to directly state more interesting topics. It's even more heroic to change a situation that makes you want to fib. If you don't like a relationship, stop fibbing about it. Work on and/or change it.
There are all types of lies: family secrets, padding resumes, hiding structural damage to sell property and spending more than you earn or have saved. Inflating one's financial means sends the message that who you are and what you have is not enough. Is this a message we want to give our children? Speaking of the wee ones, if you lie about your home address so that your child may attend a school how do you explain that this does not count because the child benefits? How can we admonish kids for fibbing yet model that very behavior. That sends conflicting messages. Lying is not a privilege of adulthood.
Lying is theft; stealing the truth. Even little ones count: "I love your gift." "I don't feel well." "We're good friends." Every time one instructs a family member to incorrectly inform a person on the other end of the phone line that you're not home you send a message. By the way, it's equally effective to say one is not available. A more complicate one is portending to be sophisticated and informed. People who do this are too consumed with masquerading to notice others taking advantage of or laughing at them. Honestly represent yourself and avoid mistakes because you faked knowledge rather than admit ignorance. It's more profitable to do your research and to ask questions.
The old adage is correct, one lie leads to another and they grow with each new layer. Who can keep track of all of that? Not most. That's why lies are discovered. Habitual liars don't know they've been outed. Usually others do not tell you they've caught you in a lie. They brand you and file the information; allowing you to continue.
Some truths are best unmentioned. So don't talk about them. It's okay to say, "I'd rather not discuss that." If you can not avoid the conversation, be honest and brief. Then change the topic. That may be uncomfortable but not as much as the burden of an untruth weighing on your soul.
COUNT MY RINGS - December 4, 2007
Exactly one month ago I turned forty years young. My father noted that since my son is four and I'm forty, there's zero difference between us. This year I'm celebrating all year with small gatherings, and reminders. Why? Because I can. Plus, it gives me opportunities to connect with loved ones. Without permission I proudly quote a message on one of my birthday cards, "Take heart that your actions demonstrate your commitment to living an honest life and are an inspiration to your friends." I'm honored that this friend not only noticed who I try to be but took time to tell me.
One of my favorite birthday traditions is hearing my father and maternal grandmother sing happy birthday to me. My grandmother is in heaven but each year I still hear her make up the words to the English song she never quite learned, "Have a happy day on your birthday." If my father doesn't call early enough I call him to hear his version of Louis Armstrong singing "Happy Birthday." I'll never be too old for such pleasures.
At forty, my life is filled with blessings. I have love and resources. I'm keenly aware that many people struggle to reach this point. Poor health, poverty and/or war may stop them short. I am free of all of those. Although I've encountered challenges in the past four decades I remember that no matter how harsh they appear they are not as bad as other people's hardships.
One of the reasons I celebrate forty is that I'm a better person now than I was when I turned 20 and 30. The best thing in my thirties is give myself permission to be happy. Once I honestly committed to that it was easy. Happiness is everywhere, in all things. I've had difficult experiences since this change but I don't allow them to cloud my life. Overall I am happy. Also, happy people know how to be less than happy. When I'm in a bad mood I can say, "I'm grumpy." That alleviates a lot of the negativity.
The confidence and sense of self that come with age are great. I'm crazy about my family and I keep a safe distance from toxic people / situations. I don't wallow in sorrow. I feel something, grow from it, and then move on.
HAPPINESS = STRENGTH
I've always been a spunky go-getter. Now I'm a happy one. There are times I would have buckled if I didn't have happiness to buttress me. My happiness is fun and rooted in spirituality. Now I embrace all of me. I used to say that when I was dolled up that the look wasn't me. Actually it is a part of me; just like the women in the comfy sweats is. So are the silly me, religious me and funky me. They enhance serious, responsible, button up me.
I have friends from different parts of me, different times in my life and different areas of the world. They all contribute towards my happiness. I hope we're altogether to celebrate my fiftieth birthday.
BACK AT THE LAP TOP - November 26, 2007
There's nothing like success to pull you off track. Lately my consulting has been keeping me busier than my writing. As a result this blog has suffered. I have been writing. I always write. I just haven't been posting. What good is writing a blog if people can't read it? Well, I'm back! Thank you for sticking with me. Your support is my motivator. I hope you'll continue to be patient as I reincorporate this blog into my routine.
The good news about the consulting distracting me from the writing is that working from home is panning out. If I can do it so can others. No matter the trade offs of leaving a traditional professional environment, working from home is a blessing for those who need flexibility and proximity to the home base. It takes a while to get your grove and client load; if your work requires that. However, patience, persistence and prayer pay off. Good luck to all of you who are experimenting with alternative methods of employment. Don't get frustrated, you may need to reincarnate yourself a few times before you find something that fits your family.
HOW'S YOUR VISION? - October 2, 2007
"We do not see things as they are; we see things as we are." -- Talmud
Words fail me as I attempt to articulate how thrilled I am about being today's guest writer on the WashingtonPost.com "On Balance" column by Leslie Morgan Steiner. My blog post ends with the question: "When people see who they want you to be, instead of seeing who you are, how do you cope?"
For me this question raises others. Can two people see any one thing, situation or person the same way? Do any of us see what is truly before our eyes? Is it possible to hold an objective view of the world? Because we are the sum total of our experiences, is it possible to wholly suspend them when witnessing life? If no, what are the implications of subjective interpretations of people, places and events?
Is our judicial system fair if we accept that judges and juries come to the table with baggage? How about teachers who evaluate children? Or, reporters who spread the news? Can we trust anyone to see it like it is?
Is this important? If yes, is it possible to breed personal context out of future generations? Imagine a world where people table their "stuff" before considering another's perspective.
IT'S JUST TEA - September 24, 2007
A couple of weeks ago a MSNBC.com report caught me sharing a "grande, skim chai latte" with my son. For that treat I received serious flack on the MSNBC.com message board and related links. To the people who took time to express their opinion I say, "Thank you. And, relax."
What's so bad about sweet, milky, tea? It has helpful antioxidants. And let me repeat. It was a treat. Like a chunk of the world I grew up drinking tea. Anywhere on earth where the former British Empire rested its large feet, people drink tea. Perhaps the people who blasted me are culturally myopic. They can cure that with a lot of reading and a bit of travel.
Of all of the things I have to be neurotic about when it comes to this child, tea is not on the list. Okay I do wonder if it'll stain his teeth. But that's it. I know I'm a good mother when it comes to feeding my child. I have a four year old that is excited to bring salad to school for lunch. I must be doing something right. Contrary to some web posts, I'm not ignorantly setting my child up for obesity. Obesity has emotional, psychological, nutritional and hereditary factors. Tea is not going to make a person obese. Occasional treats are not the problem. Lack of self control and the aforementioned are.
The message board was buzzing about a lot more than my choice. There were a surprisingly large number of conversations. Topics included: Ethics of marketing to kids; Appropriate venue for children; Are treats permissible; and, Should government be involved in monitoring such things? These are all worthy of deep contemplation. I smell future blog postings.
SO MANY QUESTIONS . . . ONLY ONE CHANCE TO GET IT RIGHT - September 17, 2007
Lately I have been receiving kudos for reinventing my professional self after becoming a mother. Transitioning to a flexible, freelance career is elementary compared with doing the right thing for a child. Forget about juggling career and family. For me, the real challenge is parenting. Perhaps my advanced maternal age has given me too much time to consider life's minutia? But parenting stakes are highest I have every encountered.
Although my motto is "everything in moderation," I can't find a comfortable parenting style. I do not want to overdo it, nor do I want to risk under preparing my son for life. It is easy to identify the absolutes: 1) No running with knives; 2) Shoes are mandatory in winter; and 3) Unlimited hugs and kisses are a right. After the obvious, I'm confounded. What's a try hard parent supposed to do?
Be involved. Do not hover. Give them your all. Avoid hyper parenting. Be firm. Have a heart. I feel like the cartoon dog chasing rabbits, "Which way did they go? Which way did they go?" I constantly remind myself that the goal is to raise a happy, healthy, spiritual, educated being. Is that overreaching? Maybe a parent's job is just to keep the little bugger alive long enough for him to take the reins of his own life?
I walk an endless, narrow, balancing beam. It's not just the question of properly preparing him for life that wakes me in the middle of the night. There's the every day stuff. How much is too much junk food? Must he utter, "Please" with every request? Do I have to point out each time he doesn't? If I go overboard in either direction will I produce an obese, toothless, cretin or, a stiff, neurotic OCD patient?
Sure. I think too much. Don't children deserve a lot thought? Like most of you reading this blog, our family lives stratospherically above subsistence. That being our reality, the least we can do is ponder what we instill in the next generation. Right? Am I mucking up this parenting thing by flexing too many cerebral muscles?
DEAR BABY GANG BANGER - September 10, 2007
A few weeks ago my husband had a minor home accident that required immediate medical attention. A beloved friend left her warm bed to stay with our son while I met dear hubby at the nearest hospital. Picture it, Friday night in a big city emergency room. I arrived along with participants of knife and gun fights. Decades of television dramas have prepared me for this. I even know requisite terms like 'stat'. What I was not ready for was to be fact-to-face with a baby gang banger. It was a beautiful milk chocolate face. My gaze was short. He had earned his bullet and police escort. No need to provoke his anger.
During the subsequent hours I repeatedly glimpsed his smooth, never-been-shaved skin. He was in charge; checking the status of his boyz, conversing with the medical personnel and ignoring the police. In him I saw my son. I saw what could be, what I am trying to prevent, what must be channeled into a positive direction. Knowing I would never see him again and praying there would be no more baby gang bangers I composed this letter.
Dear Good Man in Waiting,
I realize we differ on your status. You probably believe that you achieved manhood long ago. Perhaps the first time you beat down someone or, when you lost your virginity. When I look at you, I see the man you can be - a gentleman. One who uses his charisma to lead others in business, politics or education. A man whose influence is lasting because it is cultivated and earned not stolen, nor forced.
Why am I writing this letter? We don't know one another. We live in different worlds. Or, do we? I write to you because I love you. I love the potential swelling your proud chest and the future you hold in you hands. I am intoxicated by our shared heritage and want you to live up to all that it demands. People of the African Diaspora need you to be a strong and loving man. You don't have to threaten us so that we pay attention to you. We know you're there. We're dependent upon you to lead us forward. You have the power. It's not in your gun, car, nor C-notes. The power arrived with you on the day of your glorious birth. It is in your heart and mind.
Please take these words as a gift from a mother who longs to see all young persons soar beyond anyone's expectations for them. Your big, bright eyes shout your secret. You are eager to learn through books, experience and travel. It's not too late. There are many mothers, fathers, aunts, and uncles waiting for you to ask for their help. Anyone of them will guide you until you're ready to lead. This I promise.
NANNY TALES - September 4, 2007
Child care may be the single most significant, frightening, matter for parents. I'd rather have a colonoscopy on an express train, during rush hour, without sedatives, than contemplate it. Labor and delivery are fun compared to choosing child care. In my Real Savvy Moms essay "Nannies" I explore my family's experience with nannies and baby sitters. Ours is not a horror story nor is it a fairy tale. It is illustrative of how difficult it is to match families and child care.
What I did not address in the essay is the heart breaking pain parents feel when leaving children with another human. The age, size, birth order of the child doesn't matter. The caretaker - paid professional, day care employee, relative - is not important. Most parents agonize over the child's safety, happiness and intellectual stimulation. Sometimes we just miss having fun with the tike. No matter how secure we are with our child care scenario, in the back of our minds we all feel as if we've deserted a primal, parental responsibility. On her daughter's first day of nursery school one mother slid down the classroom's outer wall as tears involuntarily, cascaded down her face. She was immobile for half an hour. She also was a pre-school teacher.
I hear it never gets easier. What I know for sure is that no matter your decision, you will second, third and fourth guess all choices. If you have the luxury, you will keep trying new arrangements until you find the one that is least painful or until you give up. That's okay. Parts of life are hard. They're so important that they will always be frustratingly, distracting. This is to ensure that we don't take them for granted.
If your kids are safe and thriving, you're ahead of many families. The reality for those who do not have access to quality child care is uglier than my worst nightmare. Tonight when I ask God to help me do the best for my family, I'll put a plug in for those who pray to trade up to my problems.
THE LIGHTER SIDE - August 27, 2007
As a toast to summer, I've been posting fun blog entries. In keeping with this theme, here's more on the lighter side of womanist parenting.
Last week, during a civilized dinner conversation, our son announced that he doesn't need me. Then he proceeded to list all the things for which my services are no longer appreciated. Sure. Primary care taker is a temporary position. I just never expected to be dismissed after less than four years on the job. As his soliloquy ran on I fought back tears of pride, laughter and sadness. Fortunately he post-scripted by highlighting things I still can do for him. Whew -- job security! Two days later my three feet tall supervisor overheard me recanting this story to his Grampy. Before I reached the second list pee wee master of the universe summoned all of his sensitivity and said, "But I still want you around."
Our son is a proud chef. No one is allowed in the kitchen when he cooks. This morning, as he was preparing a gourmet breakfast of toast with apple butter, I caught him licking the plastic spreader.
"Are you licking the knife? There's no knife licking. It's dangerous." I warned.
After sizing me up and careful thought he responded, "When are you going to get out of here and go read?" I kissed his head and received a "Can you go read?"
I'm conducting a saliva DNA test on that spreader.
Yesterday at bed time the prince cried about not being picked to prepare snack at summer camp. He was heart broken. He believes that he raised his hand before the other children. The situation is imperative because he hasn't set up snack once this summer and this is the last week of camp.
A combination of instinct and parenting research kicked in. We validated his feelings, congratulated him on coming to his parents, and developed a solution. Tomorrow while holding my hand, he will use his good manners to tell the teacher that she hurt his feelings and that he would like a turn as snack maven.
May all his crises be this easy to address.
EMAIL QUESTIONNAIRES - August 20, 2007
Do you receive forwarded email questionnaires? You know, the ones that ask random questions that you're supposed to answer in a reply message? Then you have to forward your answers to a list of others within 60 minutes or your radiator will explode during a snowstorm, while your car is in the shop and all repair persons are vacationing in Hawaii? I stopped forwarding those ages ago, but I do reply to the person who sent the original message, just in case (s) he genuinely is interested in my response. Apparently that's not enough. Fine. For once and for all, here are my answers to the email questionnaires that are most commonly circulated.
If you suddenly came into $10,000 in spare cash, what would you do with it?
I would split half the amount between our son's education fund and our savings. Then I'd consult with my husband regarding having fun with the remaining $5,000.
What's the quality you least like about yourself?
What's the quality you least like in others?
What are you most proud of?
My spiritual faith
What did you want to be when you were little?
A pediatrician like my aunt, the pediatric oncologist.
If I had a free hour, I would write.
What is your motto?
Everything in moderation.
Chocolate or vanilla?
Mountains or seashore?
Seashore; I love the water although I barely swim.
Cats or dogs?
What's your favorite feature?
What are you really good at?
Would your rather be a little smarter or little sexier?
I'd rather be a little smarter. It lasts longer and is sexy.
What's your favorite possession?
My wedding rings.
What three songs would go on the soundtrack of your life?
"We Are a Family"
"Balm in Gilead"
"We've Come This Far by Faith"
Say you had an "I'd rather be_______" bumper sticker on your car. What would yours say?
I'd rather be dancing
What was the first concert you ever went to, and what do you remember most about it?
George Benson. I bought the tickets. My father was my date.
If you could change careers now without any consequences or financial loss, what would you switch to?
I have just begun a writing career. I would write more often and stop consulting.
Who was your favorite teacher and why?
My parents were my favorite teachers. Their love plus effort taught me more than any lecturer.
High Road or Low Road?
The high road; I have to live with myself.
What is the superhuman power you'd most want to have?
I would like to give people a sense of peace with the wink of my left eye.
Craziest fashion trend or hairstyle you've worn?
I wore all of my adolescent jewelry at once; more blang than bling.
What celebrity crushes did you have as a teenager?
Todd Bridges, Stony Jackson and Prince; only Prince has survived in my heart and in the industry.
What is something that no one knows about you?
I can not keep my ears clean. They always feel dirty.
f you could change places with anyone, living or dead, for one day, who would it be?
What's the perfect age?
One's current age is the perfect age. The fun is in the journey.
What amount of money would make you feel you were set for life?
Fifteen million US dollars; hey, I live in Manhattan.
What's your idea of the perfect meal?
My perfect meal incorporates gorging on seafood, veggies, cheeses and potatoes without feeling bloated.
Favorite movie moment?
A favorite, touching movie moment is the end of Losing Isaiah. After a heart wrenching custody battle, the Haley Berry character suggests temporarily living with her son's foster parents while he transitions to her home. That's a mama!
What's the one thing you'll never understand?
Sexual abuse of children
AND THIS WE PRAY - August 13, 2007
A MOTHER'S PRAYER
I humbly ask you to grant me the wisdom and patience to nurture this family according to your will. Bestow upon me a peaceful heart so that I may meet the individual needs of each family member.
Your grace allowed my family to awaken this morning healthy in a home with an abundance of food, clothing and shelter. For this I am grateful. Thank you for our blessings.
With your help we strive to be beacons of your light. So that whatever we do, where ever we go, this family is a living example of your love.
I pray for a world where your children protect the natural environment; provide quality care for the young, old and infirmed; and, support those who are in need. Please use me to make this a reality.
This I pray on a day that you have made.
A CHILD'S PRAYER
Dear God in Heaven,
Thank you for all the things you made. Thank you for the sun, flowers, animals and oceans. Thank you for my family, my house, my toys and books.
Please bless my parents and give them time to play with me. Bless my whole family and keep them safe. Help me be good.
Thank you for the playground and my friends. Please be nice to kids who do not have the things that I have. Give them toys, food, a house and family.
I pray for no more war, and sickness. Please stop people from being mean.
I love you, God.
PARTY ALL THE TIME - August 6, 2007
During the past two weeks, our family attended five birthday parties for children. They ran the gamut of type, time of day, day of the week and kinds of kids. Some parties were extravagant, others were modest. The common element was that the revelers played, screamed and devoured cake.
The July 27, 2007 New York Times article "Cake, But No Presents, Please" is all the grown-up-talk on the playground. It reveals the trend of teaching young children philanthropy through no-gift-birthday-parties. The idea behind no-gift-parties is that instead of gifts for the birthday child, guests bring material or monetary donations for a charity the child chooses.
Parents who throw this type of party testify that it demonstrates that individuals can help make the world a better place by sharing with those in need. Little ones celebrate each other without associating such feelings with material bounties. And, it controls the amount of stuff that comes into the birthday child's house. Not everyone agrees that these parties are a good idea. Certain families object to being told where to donate their resources. Others yearn for the good 'ole days when children were children and not philanthropists. Also there's the contradiction that one is not supposed to presume party gifts therefore how can you expect guests to donate something in lieu of gifts?
The invitations to my son's first two birthday parties contained cards that invited guests to bring a monetary or book donation for a local charity that aids under-serviced public schools. During the parties we supplied art tables where children made birthday cards to give to kids that live in homeless shelters. By his third birthday, our guest of honor understood gifts but not philanthropy. We decided to host a traditional party and forgo the fundraising.
In small bits we teach him about giving to others through our actions, conversations and church school lessons. I hope that by age 8 or 9 he will be an active participant in such activities. But just in case, since the New York Times is talking about it, and he asked me about the picture accompanying the article, I tested the water.
"Do you think giving money to the fire department instead of receiving gifts is a good idea?" I asked him.
"Yes" he quickly responded.
"Would you like to do that at your birthday party?"
"Yes . . . but . . . I want presents; a lot of presents for my birthday, like Christmas."
Okay. We have a lot of work to do to engrain in him a sense of gratefulness and charity. He's in pre-school. It will take a while for him to fully appreciate his blessings. In the meantime I have to arrange his fourth birthday party. I wonder how it will go over if I include a copy of the New York Times article in the invitation with a cover note that says, "Come. Have fun. Eat cake. Forget the rest"?
YOU KNOW YOU'RE A MOM WHEN... - July 30, 2007
You know you're a mom when:
- You label your clothes.
- You hum cartoon theme songs in the shower.
- You eagerly anticipate the opening day of the latest superhero flick.
- Twenty minutes in the bath is a spa vacation.
- You lick your fingers and use them to clean a child's face.
- After a rare indulgence of reading the newspaper, you realize it's yesterday's edition.
- Kiddie birthday parties are the center of your social life.
- You tire of being the boss.
- You grow weary of the sound of your own voice.
- A neighbor says, "Hello!" And you respond, "Okay, be careful."
- Making box Mac-n-Cheese with a junior chef is more appealing than dining at a five star restaurant.
- You break into a cold sweat at the thought of changing a fitted crib sheet.
- Your Pedi-blister is covered with a Dora the Explorer bandage.
- A month without providing three meals and two snacks a day seems better than winning a holiday shopping spree.
- The best gift is a sloppy wet kiss.
REAL SAVVY MOMS - July 23, 2007To read some of Kamyra's past blog entries, Click here.
This past week, I joined the Real Savvy Moms (www.realsavvymoms.com) writing team. Real Savvy Moms(R) helps new and expectant mothers find solutions to all of their pregnancy and baby care needs. Information on the site encourages women to stay healthy and feel good about themselves throughout their pregnancy and the early stages of motherhood! "Real Moms, Real Stories, Real Savvy(TM)" the award-winning public television series celebrates pregnancy and motherhood as it informs and educates women on critical parenting, health and emotional wellness issues.
My debut momologue, "Home Work", is about my experience working from home for pay. In it, I talk about the risks and rewards of working from home. I also explain why I've chosen this path rather than a traditional professional environment. This past winter my choice proved wise. My son caught every disease from the common cold to pneumonia. I had to stay home on business days so often that I would have been fired from a traditional job. He wasn't well enough to attend day care and we don't employee a nanny. Working from home was the only way that I could meet my professional obligations and care for the little germ incubator.
This arrangement isn't always easy. Sure working in PJs in great. However, there are days I would don a suit if I could have access to on-call IT personnel. Despite the challenges and risks of freelancing from home, there are times that prove this works for me. A few weeks ago, a firm I contract with held its weekly status meeting in our apartment. I had no child care. Little master was between school and summer camp sessions and my husband was out of town. Another time, while on a magazine deadline, I conducted a telephone interview while sprawled out on my son's bedroom floor. I could hear the interviewee's kids yelling in background. Neither of us stuttered. We got the job done - from home.
A GOOD DAY - July 16, 2007
By the time you read this, today will be a fond, distant memory. It was a good day that began with therapy - my weekly hair appointment. While I was melting under the hair dryer, a network evening news reporter called to inquire about me participating in a feature segment. The topic was recalled Thomas the Tank Engine toys. The catch was that we needed to tape ASAP because it would air in a few hours.
As soon as I was coiffed, I rushed home to meet my boys, who had arrived ahead of the news crew to strip the denim covers off of the living room furniture. We taped the segment in less than 10 minutes. Now I know why people in news interviews look as if they've misplaced their vanity. There's no time to primp. Wham! Bam! Off went the camera crew. It was good while it lasted. Then on to something else.
The wee one proclaimed that he needed to visit the dinosaurs. We rode a bus and walked to the museum. Along the way, we peeked into a police station. A smiling officer waved us in. We took an impromptu tour of the station. He even put us in a cell and took an instant picture. His demeanor was perfect for a pre-schooler. He engaged my son. Let him touch items and spoke to him appropriately, but not condescendingly. We were thrilled. No small admission for this African-American woman who has lived in New York City, Los Angeles and Boston. I cling on to an old school suspicion of our protectors in blue.
The America Museum of Natural History is one of our usual stops, but never on a Saturday. We're spoiled and have the pleasure of popping in on the exhibits during low traffic hours. Instead of being annoyed by the crowds, I was tickled to see families spending their leisure time together learning and playing. We co-mingled, "oohing" and "ahhing" at the sites, while swerving to avoid colliding with tourists.
After a few memorable hours, we embarked on the one-mile walk home. What a joy! We delighted shop owners with our inquisitive browsing. Half-pint made friends with every passing dog. The relationships were initiated by him asking the human walkers, "Is your dog friendly enough?" Watching him overwhelmed me with serenity. Eventually we picked up the pace in order to catch ourselves on the evening news. Shortly into the programming, I received a text message stating that we were bumped from the broadcast. That's life in the major leagues. Who needs national news coverage when you've had a day like this?
JUST GET A SITTER - July 9, 2007
I've heard it many times, "Just get a sitter." Translation, "Get over it. No biggie. Pawn your kid off on someone so that you can do what I want you to do." The idea that there's an endless supply of any ole' persons with whom I'd trust my son drives me bonkers. Like most parents, we receive many adult-only social invitations. However, we can't accept all of them.
We're hands on parents who spend a significant amount of time caring for our son. We don't outsource the mundane routine because we believe that these tasks are crucial for building a relationship with the little tyke. I understand that families need childcare so that parents can meet work obligations. I'm talking about employing people to fill in for me while I hang out, sans crumb snatcher; which we all need to do. For me being a mother means sacrificing social opportunities to meet my parental obligations. I have a self-imposed limit on number of times in a week that I miss bedtime with our son. If I've committed all of those during any given week the next invitation is declined.
When we want to accept invitations, it's difficult to find a babysitter you trust. I interview sitters. Prospects have a paid play date with boy wonder while I observe. I've seen the winces on those who think this is over-protective. No apologies. I do it with every new experience: nursery school, extra-curricular classes and church school. Schools call it a phase-in process. If schools institutionalize this why would I do less at home? I also drop in on him announced when he's with sitters and in classes. It helps me know who and what are influencing my son. Lets them know I'm watching. Most importantly, my son knows that anyone / any place I leave him has received the Mommy Seal of Approval. Thus far, only once have I objected to what I observed. What I witnessed was not what I wanted for our son and the tell tale signs were not things that he would have been able to articulate to me. That one example is enough to justify my method.
Baby sitting expenses are another impediment to "just getting a sitter." Not only do you pay the hourly fee plus a tip, you supply money for meals and taxi fare. Traditional teenage sitters are rare in Manhattan; we're talking services and off-duty nannies. Swapping nights out with other parents also is not done in Manhattan. To make matters worse, a significant portion of us don't have family networks within driving distance. Sure, friends offer to sit. But you cannot abuse their kindness. I save friends for emergencies and the occasional begging, so that we can celebrate an anniversary or milestone birthday.
Having said all of this, I'm not complaining. We get breaks more often than a lot of parents. I'm just tired of the insensitive "Just get a sitter!" pronouncements. These days, I want to reply, "Just get a clue!"
I enjoy the few grown up events I do attend. I hope the invitations keep coming and that the hosts understand that my declination is not judgment about their event, but rather about my parental obligations.
THE GIVING TREE - July 2, 2007
Publisher's description of The Giving Tree:
"Once there was a tree ... and she loved a little boy." So begins a story of unforgettable perception, beautifully written and illustrated by the gifted and versatile Shel Silverstein.
Every day the boy would come to the tree to eat her apples, swing from her branches, or slide down her trunk ... and the tree was happy. But as the boy grew older he began to want more from the tree, and the tree gave and gave.
This is a tender story, touched with sadness, aglow with consolation. Shel Silverstein has created a moving parable for readers of all ages that offers an affecting interpretation of the gift of giving and a serene acceptance of another's capacity to love in return.
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein is one of my favorite books. As a child I loved that story. When I was pregnant I skipped (okay, wobbled) to the bookstore to pick up a copy of this treasure for our blessing-to-be. I am thrilled that our son loves this book.
I don't recall what I felt as a youngster reading this modern parable but for as long as I can remember, when I glance at the cover I feel warm and fuzzy. Now that I read this profound story to my own boy I choke on tears as the tree gives all that she has to her boy. His happiness makes her happy. I've always understood that concept. Now I feel it.
There's a global debate about the meaning of this classic tale. Is it about giving too much, taking too much, the true meaning of friendship, the responsibilities of parenting, or unconditional love? It's about all of the above and more. That's why it's a story for everyone. A reader can revisit it throughout her lifetime and each time interprets new meaning in the message. It grows with you.
When a friend was blocked about his commencement speech to a homeless shelter pre-school I eagerly insisted that he read the group The Giving Tree. He did. The attendees raved that his speech was inspiring. He thanked me for the brilliant idea. I thank Shel Silverstein for giving the world something precious to share.
MITCHING AND BOANING - June 25, 2007
The more you have, the more one complains. I recently read an article which stated that people in the wealthiest countries are the most unhappy. Is this because of elevated expectations or a sense of entitlement? Who knows? What I know is that I'm tried of trivial complaints like:
- "This room doesn't have enough air conditioning." Gee whiz! Stop the spoiled moaning and think about HIV+ individuals in sub-Saharan Africa who have never experienced air conditioning.
- "I need the latest style of designer black shoes." What about the barefoot children around the globe that are lucky to have one pair of shoes which they wear only to church and school?
- "I haven't gone away on vacation in over a year." Think about your neighbors who spend their limited vacation time moonlighting to earn extra cash for basic living expenses.
Reality check: We, the materially blessed, need to think before we complain. Let's use that energy tackling under-resourced public schools, the lack of health care coverage for working Americans and the devastation of war and poverty throughout the world.
Life is darn good for some of us. Hush. Smell the flowers - not figuratively. Literally stop and smell the flowers. When we're racing to arrive somewhere not too far behind schedule, my son does this. He will stop. Pick a flower. Smell it. Then give it to me to smell. Smart kid.
A WORD ABOUT MEN - June 15, 2007
Admit it. You know women who do not like men. At least they do not trust them. These women view men as dogs or liabilities. There are personal and cultural histories at the root of these feelings. What happens when such a woman raises a boy?
As Dr. William Pollack states in Real Boys, "A woman who exudes hostility toward men can confuse her developing son's sense of his own gender...[However] a...mother with adequate self-esteem and a healthy attitude toward men can be a wonderful parent of a son."
In the African-American community we often confuse strong women with hard women. There is a misconception that to be strong you also must be harsh and inflexible and let everyone know it. You take no mess, especially from men. Being stern and angry is easy. Truly strong women - womanists like men and are forgiving, compassionate and compromising. They know that they are teaching girls how to be women and boys what to expect from women.
Womanists like men. They enjoy their fathers, uncles, brothers and sons. Heterosexual womanists like men in an additional way. They know how to be easy with men as well as women. The situations and feelings may be different but there is genuine friendship between her and a male companion.
The aforementioned harshness is displayed in many ways: telling off retail clerks, yelling at strangers and publicly admonishing our men. These scenarios are referred to as "handling" our business. Handling occurs publicly and is reported through the sister grapevine. Women, who handle their business, especially with men, are heralded as strong women.
Women should handle their business. Sometimes that may necessitate getting loud. However, it's not necessary to broadcast the details of "handling" your interpersonal relationships. That is sacred. Couples should address issues together and in private. Let the choir gossip. It's more important to grow in your relationship. Make it possible for your man to walk proud as the two of you confidentially work together.
I'm not advocating staying with a man who has proven to be a poor match for you. He's accountable for his actions and you're accountable for your response to them. It's easier to love some men. If yours is challenging, do as the sisters do: admonish, handle him. Please do it at home, away from the kids. Utilize help from counselors, ministers or trusted elders. The process is your business. The result will be available for the world to view.
Hold on to your Spanx, ladies. The opposite is also true. We each have flaws and our men have identified them. If he publicly points out yours handle him - in private. If he doesn't, learn from him. We must uplift each other, if together we're going to provide solid foundations for our families. It's about fulfilling relationships and parenting. Little eyes are watching. Wee minds are recording. Let's give our children a head start in life. Material resources are valuable but honest, loving families trump all.
Men are important to children. Girls and boys need them for more than financial support. Children learn by example. Kids will learn about men and masculinity by watching the men they are exposed to and by sensing their mother's reaction to these men. Not only do we have to expose our sons to men we admire; we also have to demonstrate our fondness for these men.
In Real Boys, Dr. Pollock says that "fathers have a special ability to bond with their sons through high-energy activities that teach them how to stretch their capacity for handling the intensity of such experiences." Men teach boys how to draw personal parameters. It is through wrestling with a man that a boy learns to say, "Step off of me," a critical skill for those who traverse the macho world of boys' locker rooms. This is just one example of what men offer our sons.
Since the beginning of time women have raised happy, healthy children without help from men. I admire their courage and STRENGTH. I hope that as time goes on fewer women will endure this lifestyle. Sister, examine your attitude about men. What are you projecting to your children? With many of our men absent, it's critical that we find peace with those who are available.
Happy Father's Day!
OUT OF THE MOUTHS OF BABES - June 11, 2007
There's nothing like hearing your voice spill out of the mouth of a mini-you. The ultimate is when I heard our three year old sing Prince's "When Doves Cry." Our son stops me in my tracks when he uses my worn out phrases. Are any of yours on this list?
- This is unacceptable.
- Do you need a time out?
- We don't do that.
- That's not an option.
- Yes or no?
- I'm busy working.
- I need to be alone.
- I've had a long day.
- It's my job.
- I'm proud of you. You tried hard.
- You can do it. I know you can.
- Do you need an ouchie people for your boo boo?
- That's not safe. Someone could get hurt.
- Oooh. Bummer.
- Let's get this party started.
- We have neighbors.
- Shh. The neighbors are sleeping.
- Ahh. How cute.
- This is not happen[ing].
- Load up move out. (Translation: Load 'em up. Move 'em out.)
- See you later crocodile. After while gator. (Translation: See you later alligator. After a while crocodile.)
- Don't talk behind my back. Okay? (Not mine but I had to include it. Apparently he heard his teenage babysitter say this.)
WHAT DO YOU DO ALL DAY? - June 4, 2007
When I share that I work from home and am the primary caregiver for our son, I'm often asked, "What do you do all day?" Usually I respond with a modest, "Oh. I'm at home with our son and work part-time from home." Some people go as far as to inquire, "What do you do with him all day?" The emphasis on "him" suggests that a child cannot occupy a gratifying, significant portion of an adult's time. The short answer is that I do all of the things some families outsource in addition to the usual wife/mother load and I maintain a patchwork quilt professional life comprised of writing and consulting.
Once a friend asked me to list everything I did that day. When I finished he feigned exhaustion. Then he seriously questioned whether that was an average day. It was an average day for an average woman. Every woman I know is busy, whether she's running a business, at home with children or on the factory front line. The women I know fill their days. Most are over-achievers who turn everything, even extracurricular activities, into hyper projects.
Aside from holidays and major celebrations it doesn't matter what day of the month it is. For me the important thing is the day of the week. Like many women I cook, clean and supervise our home network everyday; no vacation from that. Occasionally I attend or work evening special events. However, I mostly have four types of days. Here's a peak into my typical week; san emergency, illness, professional deadline, visiting guests and the other things that throw me off schedule. Forgive me for things I've forgotten. I don't have a comprehensive "To Do" list. I just do.
Monday, Wednesday, and Friday our son attends pre-school. These are the days I have in-person meetings with clients and medical appointments. I also run (literally run) errands, do laundry, work at my desk and make business calls. When I'm at my best I fit in family administration such as submitting health insurance forms, paying income taxes, refilling my son's asthma medication, and researching on-going schools (a NYC nightmare). Somehow I also manage to volunteer and serve my son's educational institution. At 3:30 I retrieve our son and take him to the park or a play date. The night routine includes unpacking the lunch box and school bag, eating dinner (usually I prepare dinner during the day), straightening the house, pre-treating/soaking filthy size 4T clothes, bath time and books. Post bedtime for the under age I return to the computer.
Tuesday and Thursday we have Mommy and son quality time. In the morning I hit the computer and telephone. By late morning we've eaten (twice), showered, dressed and are off on an adventure (cooking, museums, trekking, etc.). Somewhere in there we also complete the weekly Spanish homework, play a game, read and explore educational activity books. In the afternoon we return home for lunch and nap. While little mister naps, I hit the computer, cook dinner and straighten the house. Tuesday and Thursday late afternoons/evenings/nights are the same as Monday's: chores, bath time, books, bed, cleaning, pack lunch, layout clothes and other actions that keep the world spinning.
Saturdays are Daddy and Son Lollapalooza (http://www.celebratingchildren.com/article_kh_liberatingmommy.htm). My husband and son hit the road beginning with Spanish class, lunch and boys time out. While they do this I write, run errands, organize future activities, relax at the hair salon and attend volunteer meetings. Often we reunite at a child's birthday party, block fair, children's stage show or story time. Saturday night is frat night. We eat out or order in. Then the night routine begins. Saturday nights I don't work on the computer. I internet shop, download digital photos, sort research material, attack my filing, knit or read. Call me lazy but many weeks I just sleep.
On Sunday the family rests. We attend church, enjoy a family brunch, nap and recreate. Dinner is a variable. Sometimes I cook or we have a nice restaurant meal. Then the night routine begins. And we're ready for a new week.
See what I mean? It's just an average week for an average woman.
MEMORIAL DAY - May 28, 2007
As the country pauses to observe Memorial Day, I too praise those who died while serving this country. Their sacrifices are treasures. I'm pondering another loss. A woman with whom I served on the Parent Association of my son's pre-school died the Friday before Mother's Day. She suffered a five month illness and left a husband and four year old daughter. Life is difficult.
Our intimate school community rallied. Families provided school lunches for the daughter and filled her schedule with play dates. The school psychologist worked with the classroom family. Parents visited the mom at the hospital. It was an honor to witness this communal love and support. Life is beautiful.
Three minutes after I read the death notice, my preschooler tiptoed into the room. I silently lifted him. We cuddled for a record five minutes. Just the balm I needed. When junior had enough I said, "You know I'll always be your mommy. I love you even when you cannot see me." He nodded and pulled me into the living room to play. Life continues.
The memorial service was rough. After an emotionally draining afternoon, I rushed home, changed into my mommy gear and relieved my husband who was subbing for me as play date chaperone. Life continues.
Inevitably, conversations lead to the last time someone spoke with the one we miss. One mother recalls her announcing plans to cut back on a demanding career so that she may spend precious time with her daughter. The last time I saw her, she was sneaking into an already in progress meeting. We smiled at each other and waved. After the meeting I bolted; no time for pleasantries. I can't remember what else I did that day. I do remember admiring my friend's sweater. I wish I told her that. Life does continue. Let's remember to slow down while we have it.
A PINCH OF THIS A DASH OF THAT - May 21, 2007
Our backyard is a wonderful public park. We use it for picnics, exercising, parties and playground romps; pre-schools even use it for recess. For the past few years I've loaded up the stroller with provisions (toys, snacks, blankets and sometimes the kid) and hauled everything across the street. Although my son is beyond stroller age, recently I've considered dusting it off so that I can stop carrying things on my back. Then the light bulb went off over my head - idea - use a shopping cart. That's practical, but does it get any less chic than a giant red shopping cart? I've already sacrificed style and career for motherhood. Do I have to resort to a pedestrian version of the minivan? Just call me Cart Lady. What can I say? If I owned a vehicle it would be a minivan. This concession is just one of the ingredients in a Parent Brew. The rest of the recipe follows.
PARENT BREW RECIPE
9 months or adoption cycle
Remainder of life beyond preparation time
Immediate family; can be stretched to serve circle of loved ones
- 1 Beaten Ego
- 1 Bushel of Boundaries to Draw
- 1/4 Clump of Me Time
- 4 Cups of Finely Chopped Creativity
- 2 Cups of Teacher
- 1 Dash of Doctor
- 2/3 Cup of Dork
- Endless Supply of Money
- 7 Gallons of Energy
- 1 Quart Home Maintenance Officer
- 1 Trillion Hugs and Kisses
- 5 Loads of Humor
- A Pinch of Humility
- 3 Pints of Patience
- 2 Tablespoons of Quick Thinker
- 6 lbs of Rules to Enforce
- A Pinch of Self-Sacrifice
- 1/2 Slice of Psychiatrist
- 1 Sprinkle of Crazy
- 1 Tablespoon of Upper Arm Strength
- A Tad of Chauffeur
- 1 Teaspoon of Chief Executive Officer
- 15 Tiny Homework Buster Solutions
- 1/2 Cup of Tolerance for Embarrassment
- Unlimited Supply of Love
- 1 Week's Supply of Inner Chef
Blend in an industrial mixer. Top with whipped sleep pattern. Add ingredients as needs dictate. Feel free to substitute ingredients.
- Swallow in one gulp. Parents don't have the luxury of lingering over quiet meals.
- Drinking this concoction will gift you with love, blessings and hope not found in any other substance.
A MOTHER'S WAR - May 14, 2007
Violence has found our home. I first recognized violence when my pre-school son's stories became tainted with thunderous endings like "and he pushed him out of the way!" Now he has added sword fighting to his play repertoire. Without understanding the power of his game he slashes the air yelling, "I sword you!"
I'm conflicted about if and how to handle this so I've been coaching myself. My internal conversations waver between allowing this developmental stage, encouraging politically correct talks with my Action Jackson, redirecting his attention, and praying that this phase will pass without leaving a scar.
I'm a product of USA popular culture which portrays warriors as male. Each evening, news programs show women crying for dead men. Every time I see a fatality report I cry tears of sorrow and anger. I cry for the sons who die, the families left behind, and the possible future chapter in our family's story.
Every day mothers lose children to violence. It may come from a drive by shooting, the war on drugs, domestic violence or military service. It's all war.
I'm a combatant in each battle. I've enlisted with the side whose mission is to end all fighting. In my dreams I serve in the "army" that brokers a sustaining, global peace. After the armistice, this same force ends poverty...then I wake. Although war continues, I know I am not alone. This is a tragedy of humanity. All mothers weep when violence invades a child's heart.
ALPHA, BETA, GAMMA...WHERE'S THE MILK? - May 12, 2007
What's with these Mommy Wars? Who's fighting? I hear the sides are: Work Outside the Home for Pay Moms vs. Work at Home without Pay Moms, Urban Moms vs. Suburban Moms, Single Mothers vs. Married Moms, and Mothers of Only Children vs. Moms with Clans. Now there's a new battle: Alpha Moms vs. Beta Moms.
In the May 11, 2007 USA Today article "Slacker Moms Urge Alpha Mothers to Chill," Sharon Jayson describes Alpha Moms as modern Super Moms (soccer moms on steroids) and Beta Moms as their relaxed counterparts (flower children with mini vans).
From what I gleaned, Alpha Moms have been dominating the spotlight and Beta Moms are brewing a backlash. Because I'm a mom period, I don't have time to delve into the psychology, sociology and economics that play into these titles. I'm pretty much a Whatever Works for Your Family Mom.
The above wars may be media created, as some suggest, but I've met people who've bought into the hype. Relax. No one is judging you except YOU. The rest of us are busy second guessing our own choices.
EVIL BOOB TUBE - May 7, 2007
I enjoy TV and not just the news. Mostly I watch decorating, cooking and situation comedy programs. I know you're horrified but hold on, even worse, we allow our son to watch television and DVDs. We're not the only family that partakes. Lately I have been overhearing children of politically correct parents humming cartoon theme songs and repeating irritating catch phrases.
We don't engage in this evil act because we're ignorant. I am an informed violator of the Child Development Anti-Television Laws. That's why we have TV rules: 1) No television on school days; 2) No eating in front of the magic box. Yep. I've read the obesity research. I am aware of the connection between television and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). So that you know I'm over-educated, I'll admit also to understanding the imagination vs. fantasy argument against television. I realize that fantasy bashing is popular in some child development circles -- I wonder how this anti-fantasy brigade explains the power of fantasy exhibited in fables of non-Western cultures. Anyway, also I've read about television's negative impact on memory retention. I'm just not convinced that a small amount of viewing will do more damage than neurotic parents who insists on only educational play.
Our son's television viewing is not a family event as experts recommend. Judging by the impracticality of their suggestion, I doubt these experts raise children. When my kid watches the evil boob tube, I cook, clean, check email, sew buttons, and sort postal mail . . . anything I cannot accomplish while engaging in cooperative, interactive play with a pre-schooler. Yep. Mind building happens in our home but not during all of our awake hours.
Occasionally our little prince zones out in front of the set. When I notice this, I refocus him by asking questions about the show. Mostly he parallel plays with the television set. "Then why not turn it off?" The experts are shouting at their laptops. Because sometimes music and audio books aren't enough to keep him busy. Without the TV's visuals he'll need a human to keep him company and as I mentioned I'm flying around the house taking advantage of "free time." "Why can't kids vegetate?" I shout back to the experts.
We're responsible with this vice. My husband and I preview shows before the little one sees them. We nix anything with unwanted violence, materialism and stereotyping. We favor educational, nature and culturally diverse programs. But sometimes our wee one watches plain old age appropriate cartoons.
If you're not totally disgusted by me yet, hold on, there's still a chance I can turn you off. I have bribed my son with television. I once made a deal that he could watch the huge TV in the gym while I exercised. Usually he plays while I work out but this time he spent 40 minutes with his eyes glued to the tube. Sorry. It's true. I set a precedent and am prepared for him to use this bargaining tool against me.
Recently I was at the end of my rope trying to correct an unacceptable three-year old behavior. My solution: I banned television for a week (which translates to four days since he doesn't watch it on school days - M/W/F). The punishment didn't stop the behavior; one for the positive discipline experts. It did wean him from the box. Now he asks to watch it a fraction of the time he used to and mostly wants animal/nature shows.
HOUSE AND HOME - April 26, 2007
It feels good to be back on the blog track. One of the reasons I fell behind is that we've just completed an involuntary home renovation. Our condo bullied us into upgrading it. Hence I found that . . . well I found that I could not find anything, especially a clean, quiet place to work. As we spruced up the digs, I pondered how to keep our house a home.
A house is a residential edifice. A home is where lives intersect, engage and sometimes collide. As Luther Vandross sang, "A house is not a home." Our house is practical and functional. Every square inch has a purpose. Each piece of art we own is associated with a personal memory. To us that is more important than whether they aesthetically complement one another. Although our home is not a showcase, it is our sanctuary.
Our son notices that some of his peers have fancier and/or larger homes. I want him to be comfortable knowing some people have more, many have less and he has enough. Fortunately, for now, his own bedroom filled with toys and books is all he needs to declare, "I like it here."
We all have friends whose homes are inviting and comfortable, those that are stiff and beautiful, and some which are messy and disarming. Our abode vibe is homey, fun and neat. Not compulsively clean but organized. I can't function in an untidy atmosphere. Yet, I recognize that cleanliness is not a measure of worthiness. As long as I can find what I need and systems are maintained, dishes can sit in the sink overnight.
I want people to be themselves in our home. When we began outfitting our flat, the wedding gifts and furniture placement made it feel more formal than our personalities. Now it is unapologetically us. There are formal elements mixed with practical pieces and toys. Guests are comfortable sitting on the floor or dining with our good china.
When I get caught in excesses, I take a breath. Then I meditate on the truth that within walking distance multiple families share less square footage. This reminds me to thank God for the abundance of my life. When you consider societal issues one can't help questioning your priorities. Do we really need more space? Or, should we remember that others lack food, shelter and heat? Ours is a grateful home. Yes. We're willing to upgrade the physical investment but not at the risk of exchanging a home for a nicer house. That's why we remember to be thankful and to help those who have less.
OVERSCHEDULED KIDS - April 19, 2007
Recently I was honored to participate as a panelist on the local public affairs show, New York Now.* I spent 30 minutes discussing overscheduled kids with two PhDs and the learned host. Whenever I mentioned this show topic people have oodles to say. Here are my thoughts:
- Yes. Kids are overscheduled. So are most adults. We are part of a culture of overdoing things - activities, eating, buying...
- Most parents are just keeping up. They're trying to give their child a solid foundation. If everyone does this and schools value it, parents must participate in order to keep their children competitive, especially in places like Manhattan where there are multiple children per public and private school kindergarten seat.
- For middle and high schoolers the formula is:
- School + activities + sports = home at 9pm then dinner and 4+ hours of homework.
- Increased school loads = decreased free time. Where's the happy medium?
- Rich kids always have been overscheduled; hence, they play chess, speak French, ride horses, ski and swim by fourth grade. Does this make it okay? Or, is it now a bad thing because the middle class has caught up?
- While we're scheduling our families, purposely schedule family time even if that requires eliminating an activity. It doesn't have to be Sunday dinner. Find what fits your lives.
- Unstructured play is valuable.
- Many adults are keeping kids busy enough to stay out of trouble while parents work.
- The theory is that structured activities are better than TV.
- Some guardians regard scheduled activities as safe substitutes for unstructured time during which kids may encounter pedophiles, drugs, premature sex and other problems.
- One must know your child in order to ascertain how many activities are too many. Each has a unique load capacity. However, there are a few guidelines:
- Limit number and types of activities - too many academic?
- Activities may not interfere with mandatory family time (i.e., weekly meals and worship).
- The child should pick the activity.
- Tiger and the Williams sisters WANTED to play their sports and bond with their fathers.
- The child must fulfill required attendance for the whole session of the activity.
- No slacking and/or quitting but when the child asks to slow down, the adult must make it happen.
- We need community-wide revolutions against over scheduling (including too much homework). Denounce crowding kids' minds and time. Mandate recess and homework-free times. For ideas, visit Stressed-Out Students at http://sosconference.stanford.edu/.
- Help children destress and allow them to be kids. They'll find fewer reasons to test and/or act out to get attention from the adults in their lives.
- Appreciate the value of peace in stillness in the development of human beings.
Watch Kamyra on New York Now:
*New York Now airs on Fridays at 1pm and repeats on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 3:30am. In New York City it airs on channel 54. Please check your local TBN listings if you are outside of the New York City area.
- WTBY TV 54 (NYC area or check your satellite listing for your TBN station) - Fridays at 1:00pm EST
- Time Warner Cable - Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 1:00pm EST and 3:30am EST
- The Church Channel - Thursdays, Sundays at 4:00pm EST and 7:30pm EST
- WLNY TV 55 (NYC area) - Sundays at 11:30am EST
- WIAV TV 58 (Greenbelt, MD) - Sundays at 11:30am EST
- TBN - Sundays at 12:30pm EST
Go to www.arb.tv and watch a few of the previous shows that aired.
SOPHISTICATED METROPOLITAN MOMMY - April 12, 2007
Recently a four day conference gave me the opportunity to leave my boys (husband and son) alone for the first time. In anticipation of this rite of passage I slipped into stress mode. I over-prepared. I made days worth of meals, packed lunches, laid out clothes and arranged activities. I even slipped in a manicure; a luxury reminiscence of my pre-mommy days.
Knowing my first meeting was Wednesday, 8:30am, I decided to take the 6:30am shuttle plane to Washington DC rather than sleep away from my boys Tuesday night. Wednesday at 4:00am, my alarm sounded and I was pure business. I dressed, cleaned and left the house without waking a soul. This old time frequent flyer was beginning to feel like her pre-Mommy self.
"I can be a sophisticated metropolitan mommy" I thought. "Who cares that I haven't blogged since January? Who cares that my muscles are atrophying from lack of exercise, or that I haven't touched my knitting needles since posting my last blog? I can handle this."
Everything worked according to my meticulous planning. I arrived at the hotel with 30 spare minutes. A recent high school graduate registration desk clerk searched the computer for my various names and began to sweat. As the words timidly tumbled out her mouth I knew what she was going to say - my registration was for the following week. The conference is next week!
If the hotel wasn't completely booked that night, I'd have stayed and gotten the sleep I obviously need. The glass is always half filled. Since this was too good to keep to myself, I'm blogging. Now on to the 17 blog drafts that I haven't posted.
DISCIPLINE - January 23, 2007
This week my son's school is hosting a parents' coffee chat entitled, Positive Discipline and Sibling Rivalry. The topic should be a required parenting course. It seems as if 'disciplinarian' has been omitted from the parent job description.
Each generation complains that the succeeding one is ruder than the previous. This is true today. Not for the reasons pundits spew. Every generation has had mothers work out of the home, single parents and affluent families. Yet, children were expected to obey rules. When we discovered that positive motivation prevents psychological trauma parents were told to change how they enforced rules. Now some families neglect instruction because they're afraid that it may damage a fragile ego.
Disciplining children is not easy. It is child and situation specific. Some kids require firmer guidance than others. Normal, healthy, children occasionally . . . seasonally . . . constantly tests boundaries. The adults in their lives have to reinforce behavior codes by routinely dolling out positive and negative consequences for behaviors.
In some circles discipline is analogous to child abuse. I'm not talking about breaking your child's spirit. Nor am I merely referencing punishment. Kids must be taught that they are expected to uphold accepted societal norms. Discipline is a loving, consistent and appropriate training that corrects / molds personal conduct. Punishment must match the level of a grievance. When outlining preferred behavior let's remember to account for the child's maturity. Kids need to develop their personalities. Parents facilitate this by providing nurturing environments and boundaries. These encourage growth, within the context of good manners and respect for others.
It helps to be prepared with a potpourri of correcting techniques. Don't lose control or you will turn power over to the child. Remain calm and reach into your bag of tricks. When your little angel loses its mind and does something that makes you want to hurl her into the cosmos, stop. Send the offender to a predetermined spot. Collect yourself. Then design a disciplinary response worthy of the violation. Save the space toss. You may need it later.
It is important to respond thoughtfully to our children rather than to impulsively react to everything they throw at us. Be creative. Keep them guessing. The smarter the child is the harder your job. I keep my edge by making my kid think that I'm on the wrong side of crazy. In the future that may be the only thing that prevents him from making disastrous choices.
Discipline can be painful for parents. It's a bummer when you have to cancel your weekend plans to stay home with a teenager that you grounded. It takes time to repeatedly place a screaming toddler in the time out chair. Go ahead. Walk out of the grocery store without your purchase. Leave the birthday party. Today's inconvenience shapes tomorrow's global citizen.
Discipline has benefits beyond keeping dependents in line. It builds character. Our offspring need to acquire patience. One way to accomplish this is by teaching them to delay gratification. "No. You can not have everything you want the moment you want it." "Yes. You have to practice this new skill. I will not do it for you." Do not worry if (s) he becomes frustrated or angry. Children should experience these emotions. The sooner they learn to manage them, the better equipped they will be to participate in the greater world. Worried that your child will despise you? Welcome to the club. If you're lucky you'll get the silent treatment. It won't last forever. Stay vigilant. You're a parent not a peer. Somewhere between friend and dictator there is a critical role for parents in kids' lives.
Don't get me wrong. I realize parents are subjected to on-the-job training horrors. How are we supposed to know what to do all of the time? I'm grateful for coffee chats and support groups. Later this week I'll be up front and taking notes.
WORKING CLASS VALUES - January 16, 2007
Prosperity depends more on wanting what you have than having what you want.
- Geoffrey F. Albert
Americans have money problems. The statistics are frightening:
How did we arrive at this place? I blame an excessive popular culture that idolizes celebrities; and, satanic marketers whose purpose is to convince us to exchange our hard earned money for goods. In the United States we have inflated expectations concerning creature comforts. To keep perspective we should remember that most of the world does more with less. There is no inalienable entitlement to material possessions. We do have the right to enjoy what money buys. Yet, we should be careful not to waste that money.
- The average household's personal debt is $84,454.
- Financial difficulty is the number one cause of divorce.
- Seventy percent of people in the U.S.A. live paycheck to paycheck.
- The personal savings rate is under two percent of income.
The average person can not afford the lifestyles portrayed in the media. The self-proclaimed style experts who order us to change makeup, clothes, cars, furniture and electronics every season are motivated by greed. If we don't spend, they don't get paid. There is no need to keep up with the Jones. Chances are the Jones are mortgaging their future to pay for the present. Keep your money and the stuff you already own. Let's teach our precious children pride in saving and recycling. Reward them for showing interest in preserving wealth and the environment.
I admire old school working class money values. Two generation removed, working class people were realistic and practical. Other income levels may have overextended themselves but the working class lived within their means. They stayed true to their financial abilities while working toward their aspirations. There was no keeping up with the Jones. "Before the 1930s, most middle and working class people had no major debts. Banks would not lend to them; they rented their homes and if they did own a house, it was paid for as it was being built." (Paul Bannister, 25 Fascinating Facts about Personal Debt) These are the people who strained to provide for their families. They defined success as exiting the earth financially better off than one arrived. Homeownership was the key to their kingdom. Working class households always possessed an emergency cash reserve. They purchased what they needed not everything they desired. All socio-economic groups can benefit from this example.
"Today's young adults represent one of the fastest growing segments of bankruptcy-filers." (The Wall Street Journal, "The Banks Want Your Kids," July 29-30, 2006). How do parents teach kids to value the work they put into earning money and respect what that money can buy? There has to be a moderate method between financial binging and cheap-skate syndrome. Something that tells young people:
There is good news. Some financial services companies and not-for-profit organizations have money management curricula for children. Many have developed savings and investing services tailored for the less than 21 years old crowd. Also, young people can learn how money accumulates by investing in penny stocks or using imaginary money to "play the stock market." In the meantime there are things we all can do to curb spending. Here are a few tips for saving money while enjoying life:
- Don't let marketing sway you. Decide what you need then work hard and save the money to purchase it. Forgo impulse buys and the immediate gratification of credit cards. Saving for something makes it a treasure. This strategy serves you well in other aspects of life. As Theodore Roosevelt said "with self-discipline most anything is possible."
- Once you decide you want something remember that you don't need every variation of it.
- Inexpensive treats are as pleasurable as expensive ones. Reminding yourself how little it costs increase your enjoyment.
- Material items do not define you. They can not fill emotional holes and will not make people like you.
- It's not a sin to repeat outfits. Instead of closets filled with clothes you marginally like, buy a few favorites. You'll save money and always like what you're wearing.
- Eating out should be a treat not a usual means of sustenance.
- Vacation less frequently. Explore local jaunts.
- Treat yourself to home spa procedures rather than salon services. Rotate hosting home spa parties with friends.
- Inventory your belongings two times per year. This reveals what you actually have and need. If you do need something, donate an item to charity for every new piece of clothing you purchase. Different rules apply for children's clothing since they outgrow sizes before seasons expire.
- Ritualize home movie / fun nights instead of seeking outside entertainment.
- Track your spending. Seeing where your money goes motivates you to stay within a budget.
- Beware of revolving debt. Ask yourself, "Do I really need to purchase this with a credit card?"
- Use the good dishes. It will give your home a restaurant atmosphere.
- Buy low cost themed paper products to make meals festive.
- Create in / outdoor picnics, fondue meals or buy gourmet deli takeout instead of dining in a restaurant.
TO RESOLVE OR NOT TO RESOLVE - January 8, 2007
New Year's Resolutions are the small talk of January. Do you make them? Why? Why not? What are yours? I am a resolver. New Year's Resolutions fit my goal-oriented personality. This year I am taking a new approach. Instead of creating a list of things I need to fix, I have decided to concentrate on my strengths. With these in mind I resolve to work on intangible gifts that I can give to myself and others. Nope. I'm not announcing them. I work better in a cloud of mystery.
However, if you're looking for resolution ideas, how about one of these:
- Be optimistic
- Memorize a poem
- End the year better than you began (in any area of life)
- Stop saying how busy you are. WE ALL ARE!
TAKE CHARGE GIRLIES - January 2, 2007
My son's taste in women used to problematic for me. Fortunately for our family harmony I resolved this shortly after his second birthday. It's amazing how quickly I'm maturing under his guidance.
When he was 18 months old this womanist's son shocked her by spending most of a church nursery session running from and crying about an adorable, aggressive girl as she relentlessly turbo-crawled after him seeking kisses. When he finally escaped my son set his sights on a quiet girl. Cutie number two didn't challenge him. He brought the tamer girl a coveted toy and "read" with her. She let him lead.
How could my kid not appreciate the Take Charge Girlie?! This bothered me so much that I spent months in public therapy wondering if male beings are genetically disposed to gravitate toward low maintenance followers. When I finally took ownership of the silliness I was projecting upon him, the boy did it again.
For weeks he had been moaning the name of a new love. The look in his eyes when he uttered her name confirmed the depth of his affection. I was annoyed with her existence. Okay. I was jealous and convinced she wasn't worth his admiration. When my green eyes returned to brown I worried that I was destined to be a monster-in-law. Then I met her; the mousiest, quietest kid in his class. After an all class family gathering her parents expressed how grateful they were that my extrovert befriended their shy Goddess-In-Training.
Shy! Of Course! How could I miss it? I know all about that. I still become physically ill every time I enter an unfamiliar situation, even minor ones like visiting a new playground. Often people mistakenly assume the quiet one is coy, snobby, serious, depressed or even an unchallenging follower. I've been labeled all of these.
Shy - adj. 1: easily frightened: timid 2: wary 3: bashful
We've all experience some level of shyness. Perhaps when you're the new person in a setting or when you're asked to exhibit a special talent. However, some of us are born shy. We're the babies who don't giggle at everyone's funny face nor perform cute new skills on command.
Shyness can be an asset. You take your time and observe situations and people before jumping into activities and relationships. My favorite is that shy children are less likely to speak with strangers than their outgoing counterparts. If your child is shy, don't push or overwhelm. Highlight the child's talents, empower him or her to discover his/her own coping mechanisms and most importantly provide a comfortable home atmosphere.
My offspring and hero is deep enough to appreciate the beauty of still waters. He enjoys shy companions. He doesn't command they change in order to be accepted. These little girls may outgrow their shyness. Or, it may be the cornerstone of their personalities. Either way I wish them a life filled with clear eyed, true friends.
I'm proud of my sensitive son. Not only has he humbled me with this lesson, he's proven that extroverts can be deep. Perhaps his picks are reserved, soft spoken Take Charge Girlies. All that matters is that they are his choices.
Photo Credit: John Oko Nyaku, Photo Works