Back to School: We ready! We ready!

Back to School: We ready! We ready!

Welp, it’s time! This has been a much dreaded and much awaited event and it has finally made its debut. It’s back to school time and Bash is going to Kindergarten!

My anxiety has been all over the place. I have been thinking about him starting school day and night for months. I have been making up scenarios about how the first day will go. I have even struggled with sleeping some nights because it has been all I’ve thought about. Making sure that he has all he needs, worrying about him catching on to this new learning experience and don’t let me forget about how much brain power I have been using worrying if he will be able to make new friends.

Bash has never been in any type of childcare or pre-kindergarten program, so the adjustment is definitely going to be something new for both of us. My mom has been watching him since he has been home from the hospital and that has only changed recently when my mom got sick. He has not had to utilize social skills without me being around to coach him on how to introduce himself to people. He has an innocence about him that worries me. I constantly think about if he will be able to handle himself without me being able to watch him and insert myself as needed. Oh, the nerves!

I do have to admit. As the date gets closer, I do feel some of my worries slowing waning and turning into excitement. I am receiving more information and getting a better understanding of how the entire school system works which provides a great deal of reassurance.

I want to share some of the little tricks that I did to help me feel better about the upcoming big day!

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask “stupid” questions. The more you know, the better prepared you feel. At Meet the Teacher I was able to get information about supplies that he needed…or didn’t need that was actually on the list. (It saved me some money and possibly extra trips). I also got a better understanding of how the first day drop off would go.
  2. Read everything that the school/teacher sends via mail or email. This is where you will find vital information that may fill in the gaps and answer those last-minute questions.
  3. Get connected! The teacher and school will send out information regarding school messaging systems, apps to download for classroom communication, and you will even be able to connect with other parents to get better acquainted with the other children in the classroom.
  4. Talk to your kid. Ask how they feel about the upcoming big day. Filter out any concerns that they may be feeling. Talk to them about some of the new experiences they will have.
  5. Speak life. Bash has an affirmation that he says in the mornings before we leave the house. “I am brave. I am strong. I am intelligent.” He may not understand it right now but as he grows older, the words will develop a meaning for him which will help him to grow and stand strong in the person that he is. (Remind them who they are so when they leave the house they don’t forget.)

There are a number of other things that I can add to this list, like take deep breaths and remember that you can’t control what happens when you’re not around. But in all reality that will likely cause increased anxiety. What I will say is simply enjoy this moment. This will be a time that you will never get back and you don’t want to miss out on the excitement of getting ready today by worrying about the what ifs of tomorrow.

Have fun and good luck!

Because I Said So

Because I Said So

The “because I said so” ideology is a dangerous one to subscribe to as a parent. Kids are naturally curious, so attempting to use that as a legitimate reason will potentially and most likely peak your child’s interest even further. The reason why I say it’s dangerous is because as humans we are naturally inclined to do the exact opposite when given instructions. For example, you tell someone “don’t look” what’s the first thing a person is going to do? Look! When someone tells us not to do something, especially when that someone is our parent, we become even more intrigued to know why this is forbidden or why they want a desired task to be completed with urgency. In my honest opinion, I feel like there are a few reasons why parents might use the phrase “because I said so.” None of these reasons are meant to judge but merely an observation of my own upbringing and some of which I have used on occasion.

  1. It’s easy! As parents, we get tired. We don’t feel like we need to explain to a child why we want or need something done. We expect that if we tell them to do something, then our request will be fulfilled. Plain and simple.
  2. As hard as this might be to hear, I also feel that parents, myself included, use this answer out of laziness. We don’t always want to give a legitimate reason as to we do or don’t want our child to engage in a particular behavior. We want them to be like Nike and JUST DO IT!
  3. Most importantly I have found that “because I said so” exerts some type of control that parents are just not ready to let go of. This particular parent more than likely subscribes to an “old school” school of thought. This school of thought feels that children should only be seen and not heard and that children should listen to instructions without question.

The “because I said so” ideology most closely relates to the authoritarian style of parenting which is directly tied to the last reason: control. Authoritarian parents are typically seen as having high expectations of their children but do not produce the feedback necessary for the child to understand if they are meeting their parents’ expectations. They will tell their child that they expect them to have A’s and B’s on the next report card; however, when the child does there is no praise or gesture of satisfaction given from the parent. This, in turn, can result in a negative relationship between the parent and child. Check out this article form verywellmind.com that goes into detail about the authoritarian parent and the rift that it can cause in the parent-child relationship.

I, for one, can completely admit that this was the type of parenting style that I grew up with. My mother lived and breathed by this. She was very upfront and direct about what she did not like and very vague in what she was pleased with. It almost did the opposite of what she wanted and made me try less and care less since I knew that there would be no positive reinforcement for me to want to meet her expectations. As I think back on some of the key moments of my life, I realize how many important conversations were missed out on due to her frequently used response of “because I said so.”

With all that being said, what can we as parents say/do in place of “because I said so?”

  1. When attempting to use that answer, ask yourself what is warranting you to respond in that manner. Is it that you feel that you should not be questioned (control)? Do you not feel like explaining why you want something done (laziness)? Or is it some other unknown reason?
  2. Determine if the answer to your child’s questions are age-appropriate for him/her. Children ask some pretty deep questions at a young age without understanding or possessing the level of maturity that may need to accompany that answer.
  3. Answer the question to the best of your ability in a way that your child understands and is beneficial for him/her. Although it may seem hard and/or frustrating, answer your child’s “whys” to prevent them from getting their questions answered the hard way or from someone whose intentions are less than desirable. EX: I don’t want you going to the party because there will be no adult supervision. Or I want you to get your homework done so you will understand when it comes time for the test. Simple, yet enough to answer the question without a “follow up why” …usually.
  4. Lastly, if your child is old enough, ask them why that “something” is so important to them. This may very well tell you more about your child’s desires rather than the question that he/she asked to begin with. EX: Why do you feel like you need to be at that party? If answered honestly, you might be surprised by the answers and it can open the door for some much-needed conversations.

Where I am as a parent now is definitely different from where I thought I would be. Now, I am all about open communication and Bash being able to grow into an emotionally intelligent human being and I feel that cutting him off now when he asks certain questions will only create distance in our relationship as he gets older. So even now when I tell him “no,” though he may not fully understand, I give him an explanation so that he will grow to understand that my “no” is not just a “no” but also holds a valid reason that is for his benefit.

What is your style of parenting? Do you feel that your parenting style was adopted from your parents’ style? How are they similar? How are they different?

I-N-D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-T

I-N-D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-T

With Bash being in and out of the hospital over the first year or so of his life, he quickly became accustomed to having things done for him. I know a 1-year old is still going to be dependent; however, it slowed him down tremendously from developing at the same rate of a typical 1-year old. Granted he was not a normal 1-year old with tubes coming out of his nose and having breathing treatments every 2 hours consistently; but over time, and as the tubes came out, and the constant therapy and doctor appointments slowed down, Bash’s development was seriously delayed, and I was extremely worried.

With his increased dependence on me and my increased levels of anxiety for him, I found myself doing things for him that he should have been doing himself, like feeding himself with a spoon. I was too afraid that he was going to make a mess or not get anything in his mouth that I just did it for him. That is just one example of many. The problem with this is that it caused Bash to think that he did not have to do anything for himself and stifled his ability to learn on his own to increase his level of independence.

Now that Bash is older, I have allowed him to explore a little more on his own. Although, I can absolutely admit that I am a hover mom…to an extent. My life is so hustle and bustle that I don’t have time to wait for Bash to “figure things out,” like putting his shirt on correctly, or brushing ALL of his teeth and not just the front ones and then swallowing the toothpaste. (Le Sigh) So, I just do it for him. Horrible way to parent, however, that is the reality of my life right now.

I used to work with children with Autism and the school of thought that was used was Applied Behavior Therapy, or ABA. This therapeutic approach helped the children that we worked with learn new tasks and teach them to master those tasks within a short amount of time. In most cases each task built on the previous task in order to better teach them how to do each step independently. There were a few techniques that I took from ABA and used with Bash since I saw how effective it was with the kids that I was working with.

  1. Model the task for them. Show them how to do the task by watching you do it. Children will have a better chance of doing the task correctly if they see it being done correctly.
  2. Hand over hand. When you give your child a new task that you know they do not know how to do, physically guide them to show them exactly how to do it. This allows for you to show them the correct way to complete the task and also gives them the opportunity to do it themselves which will create muscle memory and will increase the likelihood of them being able to complete the task on their own the next time they are presented with it.
  3. Allow them to do simple things and praise them for it. When children are reinforced for behaviors, positive or negative, it encourages them to want to do again. Giving your child small tasks that they know they will easily accomplish and rewarding them for it will encourage them to continue positive behaviors. It will allow you to build towards more difficult tasks while instilling confidence within your child.
  4. Ignore them! They depend on you because they know you will come running. When you ignore them, it forces them to figure it out for themselves. Though this may seem harsh, but this seems to be when I have the best results with Bash.

In all honesty, I still have a hard time stopping myself from running every time Bash yells “mommy,” which happens at least 475042830270 a day. These tips just help with him learning to do every day, age appropriate tasks for himself.

How do you get your child/children to be more independent or do you? Let me know your thoughts!

Black Boy, Black Boy

Black Boy, Black Boy

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.

How Mothers Talk To Their Sons About Race

A Conversation With My Black Son

Dear Child – When Black Parents Have To Give “The Talk”

What do you feel are some key pieces of information to keep in mind when introducing this type of conversation to your children?

Link some articles or interviews in the comment section. Let’s build with one another!

#MelaninMomMCM 8/13/2018

#MelaninMomMCM 8/13/2018

“My name is Jerri Thomas, 33 from Houston, Texas. I am the youngest of 4 children. I was raised primarily by my mother after my mother and father separated when I was in the 3rd grade, which was very hard for me. I was really close to my father, and after he left our relationship was non-existent (his fault when I was a child, mine when I was an adult). I was the first high school and college graduate on my maternal side of the family. I started working at 15 years old to help my mother with bills and buy the things I wanted so I wouldn’t burden her, who was also raising my nieces and nephew. I am happy and grateful mother of a wonderful, smart, and loving 9-year-old boy.  I love God who is the head of my life (but I cuss a little).  My drive comes my mother who I saw work hard to give me everything she could in life. I strive to be a better person every day, even though I fall short sometimes. I have a genuine love for people and I tend to see the best in everyone.”

What was the dynamic surrounding your first pregnancy?

“I remember it like it was yesterday. I was leaving school (UHD) walking down the hill and I almost passed out. A few days later I found out I was pregnant. Unlike most people I was not happy, and I was not excited to tell anyone. I was 23, I had not finished college and I didn’t have the job I want. I lived in a 1-bedroom apartment in Greenpoint and I was not married. I was not sure if my son’s dad was happy or not since he was on child number 5 at that point. There were points where I felt like he didn’t want me anymore and did not think my son was his. He later asked for a DNA test which hurt me to the bone (YOU ARE THE FATHER). I was about 5 months pregnant before I was happy with that fact that I was pregnant, but I battled with myself mentally my entire pregnancy because my life was not going who I planned it.  I had my son 2 days before Hurricane Ike hit Houston. I had to beg my doctor to release us from the hospital.  I remember being on the floor in the closet with my 3-day old baby as a tornado passed our house. My house was full of my son’s paternal side of the family (for storm coverage) which made it very hard to bond with my son.”

How would you describe your post-pregnancy/motherhood experience?

“Tough and emotional. I was not sure if anything I was doing was right. Everyone had a say in what I should do and how I should do it. Being a mother did not come easy to me. it was hard for me to become a nurturer.  You know there’s no way for an infant to tell you, you’re doing a great job. Being a new mother was hard for me, but it taught me how to love unconditionally.”

Did you ever experience post-partum symptoms? If so, how did you get through it?

“I think so, I was never diagnosed with it, and I remember lying to my OB when she asked me the post-partum questions. I did not want people to think I didn’t love my son, because I did…I just didn’t love myself.  I got through it by focusing on positive things in my life and by praying for self-love.”

Describe your routine and activities that you do to maintain your mental health on a daily basis. 

“I work a lot. I am active in church and spend a lot of time with my son. I travel a lot as well.”

What advice would you give mothers/soon to be/potential mothers, based on your personal experience?

“You are not going to get it right the first time. Love yourself and don’t beat yourself up. It’s okay to be a single mother. Keep God first. Pray over your child daily. All remember your actions will affect your child so do everything with your child in mind.”