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.

Mother May I…

>Have you considered inviting your mother to live with you? It’s been nearly six years since my husband and I moved my 76 year old mother in with us. With idealistic intentions and unrealistic expectations, we welcomed her into our home. I’m not quite sure where to begin, but I will start by saying, think long and carefully before you take this step. We are at a juncture now, where we think we made a mistake.
At the time of  Mother’s move in- Yes, I’ve been teased by family and friends, because I call her “mother” not “mom”, but both my brother and I have always called her that. Anyway, when she moved in, our household consisted of my husband and I, our 15 year old daughter, 2 ½ year old son, and 3 ½ year foster child, whom we were trying to adopt. Oh yeah, our cup ran over! From the very beginning, she tried to take the lead role. She believed that we invited her to move in because we needed a matriarch of sort to run our home. She wasn’t even close to the mark and perhaps we didn’t make ourselves clear enough as to why the invitation was extended. We were concerned about her living alone. She’s self sufficient and still drives her relatively new car; however, she has (unspoken) tendencies that would require someone to periodically check on her.

Just as there are layers to ones personality, there are deep layers to this process and each time I think I’ve got a phase or layer down pat, another springs on me like a teenager drifting through puberty. It just never stops. Sigh… Then there are the feelings of guilt. I often think, okay, I know I gave my mother hell as a teenager, she made sacrifices for me growing up, I gave her a run for her money, and so what’s up Tanya, stop whining, bite the bullet, shut up, and do what you’re suppose to do… “Honor thy mother…” “.. and thy days may be longer…” No disrespect, but the days seem longer and longer. Ha! It sounds good, but none of that stuff is working for me.

The dynamics of a home changes when anyone moves in, but especially so, when it’s a mother. You take for granted those discrete conversations between husband and wife that occurred openly in your home. Those conversations must now move behind the closed doors of the closed doors. Spontaneous intimate moments tend to be more spontaneously planned moments. You might be subjected to frequent reminders of your inability to raise children and run a household. Your quick fixes for dinner on hectic days may be viewed as neglect. Your lack of desire to physically punish your child may be taken as “sparing the rod & spoiling the child.” There’s a constant reminder that you’re not doing things the way she does them, which really means, that you’re not handling your business the right way. You might be thinking that these moments are no different than when you have children, but there are differences; you can control the movements of your children, you cannot control the movements of an adult.

I’ve already told our daughter, who is now a junior in college, to value her education, to be passionate about her career, and if a time comes, where she has to move us in, make sure she has an in-law’s quarters at her home. We’ll need our own tiny kitchen, a bathroom, and a bedroom. I want to give her and her family their space. I have a strong personality and, with the exception of a few things, am very capable of following in my mothers footsteps. I don’t even want to go there!

The tone of this post may not sound like it, but those around me will tell you that I am an upbeat, positive, optimistic person who loves to laugh.  Perhaps for some people, as they age, they see the darker side of life; while others are thankful that they are alive and well and enjoy every waking minute.  Mother, unfortunately, is not the later.  I’m not sure why.  Yes, I’ve asked and only receive bitterness and anger that she cannot get past.

I try to look at the brighter side of life. The glass is always half full. My mother is alive, where my father died when I was age 17. Mother is healthy and can do for herself. Mother has healthy siblings nearby that she can hang out with and talk to on the telephone. My mother has 76 years of wisdom to share. Mother is happy? No. Yes, my glass is half full right now; however, the inner core of self is and has been feeling unfathomable turmoil and I cannot shake it. The home climate has changed from warm to cool. Mother, I love you dearly! Mother, may I help you find a place that is more comfortable for both of us?