Funny enough, I was recently watching Basketball Wives, *insert judgement* which then sparked some internal conversation. In this particular episode, Malaysia Pargo was discussing her fear of police officers that arose after her brother was killed by a police officer because he was “suspected” of having a gun. However, it was later found out that, like so many stories we have heard all too often, he was unarmed and did not pose any imminent threat to the officer.
Throughout the episode, Malaysia talked about those same fears as it relates to her 12-year-old son. She admitted that she never told him what happened to his uncle and found it difficult to even explain to him without becoming emotionally overwhelmed. She speaks about her frustration with her son when he wears a hood while casually out and about, and indirectly correlates that to Trayvon Martin who was killed for that very reason. She goes on to express her anxiety for having to have that kind of conversation with her son, which is where I began to place myself in her shoes as it pertains to my own black son.
A mother’s worst fear is to have to bury her own child. A black mother’s worst fear is to have to bury her black son for something as vain and senseless as a police officer “feeling threatened” solely on the basis of the color of his skin.
As I watched Malaysia having this very intimate conversation for all of the world to see, it brought about feelings of fear, of dread, of sadness, and admittedly, of hate.
Why has this “black male” conversation superseded the “birds and the bees” talk? Why is this a conversation that even needs to be had? The more frustrating and anger-filled question that I have is how can I even begin to have that conversation without feeling like I’m ripping away my child’s innocence? It’s not on his mind to hurt anybody and he definitely isn’t thinking that anybody would want to hurt him. He doesn’t understand the weight that the combination of his gender matched with the color of his skin actually carries.
As I was researching about other parents who had to have this conversation or are preparing to in the near future, one consensus that I noticed among the articles and interviews is that it is never just one conversation. There are often a series of conversations that are had: some in depth and some just brief statements until the next triggering event warrants another string of conversations. Also, and probably more importantly, honesty is absolutely necessary. However, that honestly needs to be met with love and compassion without making way for fear within the mind of your child. I’m sure that there are a million and one other “suggestions” for black parents about “the talk,” but there is not one absolute answer.
This “talk” with Sebastian is one that I dread having. A part of me is hopeful that by the time he is old enough for this to be reality, that this will no longer be “a thing.” Realistically thinking, I know I will have to prepare for this sooner than later. I can’t and don’t want to fathom the look on his face or the onslaught of “whys” that I know he is going to have. And those are going to be some “whys” that I won’t have the answer to. Nevertheless, I know deep down that I am not being as protective as I can if I neglect to have these types of conversations with him.
As I type this, it all just feels like one huge puzzle that will never fit together to make a complete picture. The pieces that make up my distorted puzzle may not be the same pieces that work for your puzzle. I leave this conversation weary of what is to come and wondering if, when the time comes, I will be able to form the words in a gentle enough way to explain to my young, blameless son of how aware he needs to be of his own potential “threatening” disposition in this hate-fueled world.
I have added a few links that I found very interesting and insightful that can help guide “the talk” for you and your children.
“My name is Jasmine Boddie I’m a 30-year-old wife and mother of two children, Lynnden 8 and Lathan 3. I grew up an Army Brat, born in North Carolina and raised in Virginia Beach until 11, finally settling in Baytown Texas in the 6th grade. During my early childhood and adolescence my father was still active duty, so I spent a lot of time with my mother, in which we had a very strained mother daughter relationship until recently. I obtained my Bachelors degree from Lamar University in 2011 (year following the birth of my first child) and began a career as an educator. While working full time as a teacher and raising two little ones I was able to successfully complete the Master of Education program at PVAMU in one academic school year and receive my Principal K-12 certification. Nowadays if I’m not advocating as my mothers primary caregiver (Dementia) I spend a lot of time making memories with my close friends and family!”
What was the dynamic surrounding your pregnancy?
“Lynnden – Girrrrrrrrrl!! I found out I was pregnant with my daughter on my 21st Birthday July 28,2009! As I was preparing to legally turn up with my friends who had also stayed for summer school in BMT, something just didn’t feel right within my body. I remember driving to target on Dowlen (you know that was a little drive from campus) to get a test, well like 5 tests! I took all 5 at once and had them laid out on the coffee table just waiting for my results. I was alone at the time, too shamed to call and tell anyone and I definitely wasn’t trying to call the suspect father until I absolutely had too! So, one by one those tests popped up positive. I was in shock that I had actually allowed this to happen! Later on, that day I called my mother and told her and she said “well shit at least your grown,” which was clearly no help. When Leonard got off from work he came by the dorm and I showed him all the sticks and ran back to the store grabbed another and I took it in-front of him. We were both less than thrilled to say the least; two college students, with bright futures and no plans of them being with one another. Not to mention, Leonard had a complicated on again off again relationship with this chick who went to our school! So here I am, single, pregnant, embarrassed AF in my twin extra-long dorm! Honestly that energy was kept the entire pregnancy. I chose to stay on campus during the full term of the pregnancy. It was followed by multiple whispers behind my back. It was the lowest time in my life. Leonard and I were blessed enough to have parents who were financially and physically in a position to care for our daughter while we both returned to Lamar to finish our degrees. It worked out for us, but it was hard.
Lathan 2014- So by the time I got pregnant with my son my situation with Leonard had done a 360. Now I won’t even lie, them years in between we’re ROUGH! Just DRAMA! By this time, Leonard has bought his first home and we were living together and caring for our daughter solely without the help of our parents. I was in love being pregnant! 11 weeks in I knew it was a boy! He was already Lathan! I was so happy! Lynnden was happy! Leonard was … well Leonard was stressed! Now as much as I loved being pregnant, being pregnant didn’t love my body! I spent about 75% of this pregnancy in the hospital and/or bed rest. I had to do an UNPAID leave of absence from work. So financially the responsibilities were 100% on Leonard. So remember them ROUGH years I mentioned? Well Leonard and I had gotten pregnant again about a year after Lynnden was born. I had 2 classes left! What did I look like asking my parents to take care of two babies. So, I decided and did what I thought was BEST for myself and my daughter. That decision led to the later complications with my son. Something must have been done wrong and it resulted in me having a dynamic/weak cervix. I was told from day one I’d be unable to carry a baby to term. Lathan Kyle came 7 weeks early.
2017- My most recent pregnancy was without a doubt probably more unplanned then the prior ones. I was away for a work training in Dallas when I felt sharp pains in my left side. My friend and former college roomie Angie took me to the ER where we found out that I might have an ectopic pregnancy. Blood work declared I was pregnant but in the ultrasound there was no baby visible in the womb. I was discharged and told to follow up with my OB when I got back to Houston. Two days later when I was back home I experienced severe pain on my left side. I was light headed couldn’t stand and felt like someone was stabbing me in my abdomen. I called the ambulance and when I got to the hospital the nurse brushed it off as just normal pregnancy symptoms. Once I got hooked up on all the machines they realized that I had a ruptured tube due to the ectopic pregnancy. I had to have an immediate blood transfusion from all of the internal bleeding which was followed by a c-section to remove the pregnancy. The doctor had to remove my left tube due to too much damage. The doctor made it very clear that if I hadn’t gotten there when I did I would have died from the internal bleeding. I was a depressed wreck for months after this.”
How would you describe your post-pregnancy/motherhood experience?
“Each pregnancy I think I experienced different feelings. Lynnden’s was most definitely the hardest for me emotionally. I had no connection with my daughter for the first year of her life. From the relationship with her dad, my embarrassment and the strained relationship with my own mother, it was just hard to fully accept and be “happy” about it. I felt like it was something I had to do. I didn’t enjoy being a parent at all. Especially the weekend parent I was that first year. My experience with Lathan was much better. I was older, more established in a better situation. I got to be with Lathan every step of the way. I had no help. Everything was on me and Leonard. it felt like we were first time parents. With the most recent, I was emotionally numb at this point. My mom had just been officially diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, even though we knew for months. I didn’t get to process my loss immediately, I had to jump right in and care for her.”
Did you ever experience post-partum symptoms or battle with your mental health in any way? If so, how did you get through it?
“I think with Lynnden I was going through some type of postpartum, which I was in denial about. I talked to my family about it. They said “pray”. So that’s what I did. I went to church. I didn’t feel better until I took control of the situation and went and got help from a professional. I have gone to counseling on and off since 2012.”
Describe your routine and activities that you do to maintain your mental health on a daily basis.
“I am currently in counseling now. I need it. I bottle in way too much and I have so many responsibilities that I would get lost in and forget to take care of myself! I also work out. Once it was determined I was done having babies my husband went and made sure we were solid on his end and I have dedicated the last 6 months to fitness. I work out 4-5 times a week. The gym is my release. It’s like “my thing” now. I plan to start journaling soon as well.”
What advice would you give mothers/soon to be/potential mothers, based on your personal experience? What advice would you give to mothers that have suffered a loss?
“My advice to anyone who is or will be a mommy soon would be to have a tight circle of other mothers in your corner. Having kids so young, I didn’t have any other mom friends. But now with my son my cousins/friends with small children are my release. I’m able to talk to them free of judgement. They understand my struggles, we encourage each other and lift each other up when needed. I would also say to never be ashamed to put yourself first as long as it’s not at the expense of the well-being of your children. Your kids need the best version of yourself, feel comfortable having someone you TRUST to talk too. Those conversations can make all the difference. Mothers who experience loss, my heart goes out to them. I would advise them to seek counseling or a grief group. Prayer helps as well, however; as taboo as therapy may be in our community, it is definitely necessary at times and nothing to be ashamed of. Once you’ve dealt with the grief, I encourage you to share your testimony with others. You never know how your story could help someone during their storm!”
Is it just me or does the thought of dating make you cringe? Making that first awkward exchange, trying to figure out if you should text or call, twiddling your thumbs wondering what you should talk about: it all makes me cringe! And I REFUSE to tell anybody else what I like to do for fun. The agony! What’s worse is that I don’t go anywhere…like at all. If I’m not with Bash, I’m sitting at home attempting to mentally recalibrate from the work week, and too physically and mentally drained to even entertain the idea of socializing. So, what does that leave? Online dating? Hell no!
So, laughable confession: I tried online dating once because I let someone talk me into it. Let’s just say, it was exactly as expected. I was completely underwhelmed and the hundreds of “hey beautiful” messages from these *clears throat* gentlemen, left me wondering “was this what I had to look forward to?” I did make attempts to converse with a few of them within the app while dodging those “can I call you?” or “what’s your number?” questions. The conversations were mediocre, at best, and I eventually deleted my profile and vowed to never try online dating again. Annnd here I am now: wondering how I can possibly date without having to leave my house to meet “potential boos.”
Honestly though, I think I’m at the point where I like dating myself. Corny? Yes. Necessary? Hell yes! Recently, and whenever possible, I have been going to places by myself, looking on Yelp to see what cool spots are around, and driving to different parts of town just to explore. Those have been some of the best times that I have had. I move at my own pace. I kick back and observe and just take in my surroundings. When going out with other people, I feel like we get too focused on engaging with them, that we just forget that we’re there to engage with other people and enjoy the atmosphere around us. Also, taking this time for myself allows me to explore what it is that I need and require without someone else being attached to that. And it feels SO good!
On the other hand, I love making “moments.” You know that spark when you first meet someone and y’all are both hesitant about stating a preference about going to a particular place, so you kinda just go with the flow? I would be all for it! For example, I go out by myself, randomly connect with someone and we make a day of it by finding other cool places to go. It’s so simple but there is something about the authenticity of connecting with someone on another level, and on a whim, that seems more meaningful to me than scrolling left or right in an app. I get that for some people that is ideal, and I am not mad at it. As for me, issa no. I just like human interaction as opposed to technology. Again, corny, but hey I love a good vibe.
How would you describe your ideal first encounter with someone or even your ideal first date? Do you prefer online dating? If so, why? I’d love to hear your perspective!
“My name is Joeana and I am a mother of 2 boys: 1 and a half and almost 2 months. I am from Venezuela but lived in Aruba for 7 years, but I have been living in the US for over 18 years. I have 3 siblings and we all have boys except my oldest brother only has the girl! I am hoping the next time I have a girl! I am 28 and will be 29 this November. I graduated college in 2012 and now I am a social worker for Baker Ripley. I am thinking of going back to school to get my CPA license next year and changing my career path back to Accounting. I love traveling and hope to start back going on trips this year because my kids will be older.”
What was the dynamic surrounding your first pregnancy?
“I was pregnant when I was 18 and had a miscarriage that really devastated me because I wanted that baby so bad. Honestly, I feel that due to that miscarriage it put a wedge between me and that “could have been child’s” father. Our relationship had changed, to the point that he cheated on me and had a baby with another girl a year later. That completely broke me because I felt like I was not good enough to have a child and that he blamed me for not having one with him. I had other relationships after him and I feel like I was in search for another child instead of a new relationship and I didn’t give myself time to heal from that entire situation. It took until I was 26 when I got pregnant again (8 years later). I was with my boyfriend for 1 year, and we weren’t really trying but we weren’t really preventing either. We went on a cruise in 2016 for 1 week which was amazing! On the cruise, like the last 2 days my cycle started, and we were laying in the bed and he was rubbing my stomach and said, “man I thought this time would have been it “, and that hurt me. It made me feel the exact same way I felt the first time like I was not good enough to be a mother or to even get pregnant again. So, after that I put in my mind that I would never get pregnant again or have children. In April, my cycle was late but I didn’t think anything of it because I had been late for a couple of months before and I wasn’t pregnant. I told my boyfriend that it was late, and he wanted me to take the test right away but I told him I would wait and if by May it doesn’t come then I would take the test. Low and behold, May came around and my cycle DIDN’T! So, I bought a test and took it at home, and I swear in less than a minute it said PREGNANT! I could not believe it. I cried with excitement and enjoyment like could this be real. I told my boyfriend what it said but I told him that we wouldn’t tell anyone until I go to the OB and see if this is true. When I went to the OB and I got an ultrasound. there it was my already 8-week baby growing and living inside of me! Now he is 1 and a 1/2 and couldn’t be happier to be a mother, something I thought would never happen happened. Like they say it’s never on you time, but always in GOD’S TIME!”
How would you describe your post-pregnancy/motherhood experience?
“With my first pregnancy, I lost weight very quickly and it was hard adjusting to parenthood because there was a lot of drama at the time. I was living in my parents’ home and they did not like my boyfriend so there was a lot of unnecessary issues that would arise while I am adjusting to being a parent. So, majority of the beginning of my sons’ life I did it myself because we lived in separate homes. But don’t get me wrong my family was amazing to me and helped me out a lot, especially my sister and mother. I was working for my father at the time, so I got to spend every day with my son, which made me bond with him a lot and learn to juggle work and motherhood. With my second pregnancy, it is harder to lose the weight and my boys are 16 months apart, so in a way I am raising twins. It is harder this time around because I have 2 and they are close in age. Now I live on my own with my boys and had gotten a new job when my first son was 9 months. So, I had to go on maternity leave for my second son and not I had not gone back to work. It is so different because I was with my first son every day until 9 months and now with my second son I had to go back to work and he is not even 2 months yet!”
Did you ever experience post-partum symptoms? If so, how did you get through it?
“I have not experience post-partum with my first son. I guess because I wanted a child for so long and had time to bond with him it didn’t happen to me. With my second son, I wouldn’t say its post-partum, but I feel as though I am not bonding with him enough because I had to go back to work so quickly. So, I make sure to spend more time with him when I come home from work and especially on the weekends.”
Describe your routine and activities that you do to maintain your mental health on a daily basis.
“I work, not only to pay my bills but also to have some alone time. I love my boys to death but because I live with them by myself I never get a break to just do things for myself. I also have my family come over a lot just to break the monotony of just being us three. And their father comes over every weekend and spends time with us as a family, which also gives me time to do simple things like take a bath longer that 5 minutes and just relax!”
What advice would you give mothers/soon to be/potential mothers, based on your personal experience?
“Make sure that when you have a child, whether planned or not, make sure that you are doing it for yourself and not anyone else. Because when you become a mother it’s all about the child/children! Simple things you used to do, you can’t any more. Also, with this society that we live in, a lot of relationships are not lasting, so you have to be able to be ok if you and the father do not make it and that it will be mainly your responsibility to take care of your child/children. Also, make sure you take time to do things for yourself to give you a break, so you don’t feel overwhelmed. But also enjoy your child/children because they really do grow up so fast and you don’t want to miss out because you may have been working too much. Children are really a joy and blessing to have and they will change your life. You just have to choose if it’s for better or worse!”
This week, I have been completely blocked. I have had so many thoughts running through my head. I knew what I wanted to say, but for the life of me, I could not seem to formulate my words in a way that made sense on paper. I attempted to yoga, meditate, sit in silence and process it out, but none of it seemed to work. I even thought maybe if I wash my hair, do an “extreme clean” of my home, and burn some essential oils, then it will help declutter my mind. So close, but it still did not seem to loosen that ball of cerebral chaos that continued to plague my thought process.
After my many efforts to decompress, I finally sat and thought to myself, “what could it really be that is preventing me from being mentally free?” Each one of these thoughts that I was having were intertwining into the other, which was causing me to lack confidence in my understanding of my own purpose and passion, and placed holes in my decision-making. I began to sink back into that forbidden place of doubt and insecurity that I found myself in not too long ago. I had to remind myself of my abilities and reaffirm my strengths. This is some of what I reminded myself:
I am strong, but I am not superhuman.
My vulnerability is not a sign of weakness but a sign of growth and maturity.
I am intelligent. I am educated. But I still have a hell of a lot to learn.
With growth comes discomfort and irritability. However, the way in which I embrace it will only make my experiences more worthwhile.
Just because things are not going as planned does not mean that they are not working together for the better.
Where I am now is not an indicator of where I am going to be. This era is simply a stepping stone to set the stage for my future success.
I will not let time be a determining factor of my progress. However, I will measure my progress purely based on my comfort in my growth and my experiences. Time will only be a measure of duration.
If I remain open to change and positive progress, the possibilities are endless.
I will not succumb to my negative thinking. I will use those thoughts as motivation for understanding of myself and my circumstances to push me to the next level of my awareness.
What are your “I” statements? How do you affirm yourself regularly? When you are stuck in a mental rut, what pulls you out? I would love to hear your process!