Do not enter unless you are brown

When it comes to educating children, I am a firm believer that the opportunity to learn takes place more often in the absence of a formal curriculum.

It is the everyday life experiences that present these opportunities for parents to teach children good values and to develop them to become moral, socially conscious and responsible adults.

My husband and I are open-minded and enjoy relationships with a diverse and unique group of friends.  Race and ethnicity is never a criterion for friendships.

So imagine our surprise when one of two signs on our son’s door read, “Do not enter unless you are Tailor! or brown and knock!”

Unbeknownst to us, before leaving for school, he’d taped the signs on his bedroom door.  No one else in the house has a do not enter signs on their door.

We were okay with the first sign, but it was the second sign we took issue with. Not wanting to jump to conclusions, we decided to get clarification from him after school.

When I asked our son about the sign referring to “brown” people, he did not speak.  I made sure to ask in a non-confrontational or threatening way because I really wanted to determine exactly what he was thinking when he wrote the sign.  The moment I questioned him, I think he sensed something wasn’t right about his actions.

I reassured him that it was okay to speak his mind.  So he did.

“Mom, I’ve only had brown people in my room.  I’ve never had anyone white in my room.”

That was a wow for me!  I thought about it and told him that wasn’t true and reminded him of another friend that visits occasionally.  He said, “Oh yeah!  I forgot about him.”  Our conversation continued as I questioned him about how he’d feel if he went to a friend’s house and the friend had a sign posted on their door that stated, “Do not enter unless you are white.”  He commented that he would be angry.  I asked why and said that it wouldn’t be nice or fair.  I talked to him about the importance of treating people the way that he wants others to treat him.

The conversation continued into a talk about treating everyone the same, regardless of their skin color, religion, etc…

My son’s intentions were not malice in writing the sign.  It was an innocent act based on his perceptions and realities that occur on a daily basis around him.  With the exception of the summer and holidays, most of the school aged visitors to his room, look like him; they are brown and are usually family members.

When situations like this occur, it is critical that we avoid laughing it off with the notion that kids will be kids.  It’s vital that we teach our children a better way to think and to view others.  Ignoring these types of incidents gradually and informally teach our children to develop racists and bigotry attitudes toward others.  It may seem cute when they are young (which I don’t think it is), but when we’re confronted by adults with negative, discriminatory, and racists attitudes most are appalled and highly offended.

It’s scary with our kids, because when they’re younger, we control their environment and what they are exposed to.  However, once they reach high school and sometimes before, their friends often have a greater influence over them their own parents the peer pressure can be intense.  Once can deny this if they want, but it is true.

How do we counteract this tragic trend?  I say by talking to our children every day and trying not to judge or react to their shocking comments, questions or opinions.  That’s not always easy, but if we stay conscious of this fact, it can help.

Our son knows that both mom and dad question him every single day about school.  Sometimes his response is, “fine.”  But he can expect us to probe more into his day.  In turn, he asks about our work day.  I try to remember what I expect of him and give details about my day… even when I really want to say, “Fine.”

My last thought on this post is that his action is another excellent reminder that the unspoken, our actions, are even more powerful than what we say… Stay conscious!

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A promising future

“…among his many accomplishments… made the Dean’s List in college every year… graduated Suma Cum Laude… a Master’s Degree in  Business Administration… served as graduate assistant for the MBA Program…”

The description signifies success and a promising future.  Sadly the words are taken from the obituary from a young man who was gunned down on New Year’s Day 2012. He would not live to see his 31st birthday.  I did not know the young man, but my heart aches for his surviving family members, especially his mother and father.  I cannot even begin to imagine the grief and sorrow felt by his parents.

Parents are not supposed to bury their children, but this daunting task is reoccurring more often than not.

When the story broke New Year’s Day, I cringed.  I thought,

“He made it through his teen years.  He made it through college.  He was smart.  He graduated with honors. What happened?  How do I prevent my son from falling victim to these heinous crimes?”

In my mind, he’d made it! He made it through the “high risk” and “troubled” teen years.  The local newspaper also reported that he was an Entrepreneur and was planning the opening of a new store. Could his death been prevented?  I don’t know the circumstances.  I only hope and pray that his death does not go in vain and hope that somehow something positive can evolve from his death.

This story makes me want to hold my kids tighter, tell them that I love them even more, kiss them more every day and never let them out of my sight.  I know the latter is impossible, but the words sum up my feelings.

This story and others like this frighten me.  Why?  I have a young son.  He’s a minority and the statistics don’t look good.  However, I do know that through faith in God, prayer, good parenting, a structured environment, support from my village, a solid education, steady discipline, and lessons on how to make smart choices, can help to put him in the position to succeed.

So, you might ask, “What’s the point of this post?”    The death of this young man is a reminder that tomorrow isn’t promised to any of us. And when it comes to our children, we have to clinch and act on the concept of unconditional love.  The early and late teen years are tough; both for parents and for our children.  In spite of disappointments, upsets, and whatever else we may face, we have to continue to support and encourage.

As parents, we must remember our own missteps and shortfalls and understand that our children will too encounter their own mistakes.  We can only hope and pray that their mistakes are not life altering.  Meanwhile, we should remain supportive, encouraging, and continue to practice unconditional love.

Acceptance or change?

“…A Psychologist told me that to change; I have to want to change.  Well I don’t want to change, and I’m going to stay just the way I am!”

Were the adamant words recently spoken by my mom. For seven years, I’ve lived with this mindset of hers and, although we’ve come to somewhat of an understanding, every now and then we have our moments.

On Thanksgiving Day, mom stepped, what I refer to as, out of her lane.  Mom didn’t like the way her niece (my cousin) had styled her 12-year old daughter’s hair and felt compelled to tell her niece so.  She delivered an awfully harsh and cruel opinion that was unsolicited and inappropriate.

I politely reminded mom that if she didn’t have anything nice to say, to say nothing at all.  Mom feels as though if she sees something that’s “not right” it is her duty to comment.  As tough as my response may sound, I have continually asked her, who deemed her judge and jury?   She dislikes my response, but cannot understand how her comments adversely affect others.

She has an abrasive and strong personality that can strike you in the jaw like a stiff upper cut.  I know how to weave and bob and respond to her blows, but not everyone can say that.

Mom knows most of my friends, and for the most part, is pretty cool with them.  Thankfully, they’ve come to know and love “Grand-mom Dynamite,” as she is affectionately called.

The recent passing of my mother-in-law and hubby’s wonderful relationship with his mom got me to thinking about me and mine.  When are we going to click? Will we ever mesh?  It’s not like I’m not trying.  Lol!!   We disagree on everything and I mean everything.

Although there’s no animosity, our daily conversations are limited to the pleasantries of “Good Morning,” “Good Afternoon,” “Good Night,” “How was your day?” “Dinner is ready,” and a few other light exchanges. I would like more from our relationship, but perhaps this is as good as it gets.

She already said that she’s not changing, so I guess the ball’s in my court.  To be fair and to bridge the gap, I’ve looked within myself to figure out where I can make change.  I have and continue to work on my patience. Her childhood was difficult and I try to be mindful of that.  I’ve forgiven her for past actions and for whatever the future holds.

I think I am at peace with what we have, but a small piece of me still wishes it could be better. Who knows, maybe our relationship will change…maybe it will stay the same… maybe it will get better.

Our present relationship is certainly an improvement over our past relationship, so I’m trying to preserve what we have.  The deficiencies in my relationship with my mom is certainly compensated in my relationship with my children and for that I am thankful.

Lessons in Motherhood

There is no doubt in my mind that the dynamics of a mother-daughter relationship has many layers and  at some point in time, it all comes full circle. My relationship with my mother is complicated, and has been since my early teens.  Is it the same for all mother-daughters?  I hope not, but I do realize that both mothers’ and daughters” go through phases that can bring about conflict. Is it the same for father-sons relationships?  I don’t know.

Anyway, with regards to my mother, the subject of “Respect” is an issue.  The question/challenge/issue is, that there’s a very fine line when it comes to respecting your mother, while politely- encouraging— then demanding that your mother respects your adult child, who by the way, is quite respectful to grand mom.   Whoa!  That’s a mouthful, but it is some serious stuff and I know, that I cannot be the only daughter on this planet dealing with this nonsense.

About a week ago, I found myself engaged in serious discussion.  Ha! Ha!  I’m laughing because the “discussion” is the politically correct term.  The truth of the matter is that, the argument was a scene that was ideal for one of the many current outrageous reality TV shows. I know that some people might ask, why am I airing my dirty laundry out there for all to know.  And my answer is quite simple:  People need to know that they are not alone in the challenges that they face in life.  I truly believe that when you’re going through a difficult time, it helps (at least for me) to know, that you’re not the only one having gone through it.  I have learned so much from others and hope that someone out there can learn from my experiences.   My personal opinion is that all too often, issues are kept a secret (especially) in some families- and some secrets do more harm than good.  Note that I said some.

All right, back on track now.  So right in front of hubby, our young son, and me and without cause, my mom rudely insulted and disrespected my daughter.  When I attempted to respectfully correct her, she shifted into high gear and vehemently defended herself.  At one point, I felt like I was having an outer body experience.  I felt myself looking at the situation as though I was viewing it from a cloud or somewhere high above.  At that moment, I realized that I needed to take a stance, make my position clear and just deal with the consequences.  I dug deep inside and told my mother all that has been on my mind.  We visited some places that we hadn’t visited in a long time, but with a much different perspective.  She tried to walk away, but I wouldn’t let her; because she needed to know how her sharp words impact and hurt others.  My daughter tried to respectfully defend herself to her grand mother, but I told her that this was my battle, not hers.  The dialogue continued but I don’t think my mother really heard or understood anything I said, which is how it’s always been.  In the end, we (mother and I) agreed that alternative living arrangements should be made.  We’re working on that now and it really was inevitable.

Meanwhile, as I look through the glass that’s half full and reflect on my relationship with my mother, I realize that I’ve learned some important lessons from her.  I’ve learned:

1.    That my mother is the kind of person who needs her own space.  She cannot live with others.  It doesn’t make her good, bad, or evil, it’s just a fact
2.    To credit my mother for giving me the thick skin that I’ve grown over the years
3.    To thank my mother for teaching me how to be a genuinely nice person
4.    To always tell my children that I love them and to hug them several times each day
5.    To allow my children a look inside my heart and soul so they may understand the person that I’ve become
6.    To forgive and to never hold grudges
7.    To apologize when I’m wrong
8.    To see the good in people
9.    To get to know my daughter; go to the beauty salon, movies, nail salon, etc… with her
10.  Don’t be a part of racism and prejudice; instead treat people the same way that I want to treated

Have my mother and I gone full circle yet?  I don’t know for certain, but I don’t think so.  My heart tells me that there’s more to this story, but only time will tell.