Saturday, December 02, 2006

Mama's Bling

Wednesday, November 16, 12:15.

I signed my name on the time slot. But, the feelings involved were a mixture of fear, dread, pride and protection. I was bracing myself for what I thought would be my daughter’s teacher telling me how I needed to work with my sassy, active, sensitive, emotional, smart, beautiful, high-energy, brown child.

Those feelings were the result of my prejudgment based on daily observation of her new teacher, Suzanne, of whom I had decided was abrasive and judgmental. And, even though we had already had one conference - three weeks into my daughter’s introduction to her class - that resulted in me ending it with a hug because I was so happy with what she said; it was also after the two or three day interaction she had with my daughter that prompted her to ask me about her last school, because “she is waaaay behind.”

Oh, no she didn’t just question my decision, my parenting, my work! Now I know I don’t do everything right. But, if she didn’t know that I take my title as parent seriously, she’d better ask somebody! Because for me, parenting is political. Parenting is my contribution to the evolution of African Americans. And, questioning my choices, was like questioning the motives of the civil rights movement. Being born my child allows my children access to civil liberties like thoughtful education choices and spiritual grounding. And, having to defend my pre-school choice for my child, left me put-off by this white woman, her tone, her words and everything else about her for that matter. But, of course, there is always room for mother-guilt if someone makes mention of anything perceived as a shortcoming.

The day of the conference came. And, I was ready to tell her what I thought of her opinions, especially any criticism, constructive or not, suggestions or anything else I perceived as a negative comment on me as a parent or a negative assessment of my child.

And, as I rushed around, dropping my husband off at work (we were down to one car at the time); then double backing to my neighborhood to drop my daughter at school (we usually walk); then stopping at the bookstore to check out the latest magazines (they come out on the 15th); then onto to Target to get some desperately needed things for the house (once again because we are down to one car and I don’t know if I’ll have the energy to do it another evening after my husband comes home from work); then meeting my girlfriend to drop my son off as she does an 11:30a pick-up, I didn’t have much time to think of my response to any questions about my child’s lack before the conference. But, I knew one thing, I was going to keep a straight face and listen before I spoke. And try my best not to go off on this white woman of whom I had decided was a bit to callous and abrasive and judgmental for my taste. I don’t care about all of the other parent warnings that she is a great teacher. But, she’ll be the first to admit that she isn’t good with parent interaction.

But, to my surprise, the conference was the blessing that I needed just at that time in my life. I couldn’t believe my ears as her teacher talked about how my daughter was the ideal Montessori student. She’s an independent worker. She is a leader. She is pretty. She is smart. She’s nurturing. She respects the environment and others. She thinks she could be the first African-American woman president. And, she needed to hurry up because she would be at least ninety and she wanted to get to the white house when she was there.

With all of that complimenting, I had to ask, "You don’t think she’s too bossy." I can’t believe I’m the one bringing up criticism. To which she said of course she’s bossy. But, she’s not overbearing and she can get what she wants without being hurtful.

I knew it was all true. And, even talking about her perfectionism which leads to frustration when she can’t get something done right the first time, brought a mutually admiring smile to both of our faces as we talked about instances where we’d seen it rear its ugly head and how we each handle it. I shared with her that I think the problem is the genetic workings of my husband’s type A personality and my high emotions to which she said she could definitely see the combination in my daughter’s personality.

Those comments were more than enough for my ample bosom to stick out more that day. But, the icing on the cake was when I asked her if she thought there was anything that we needed to be doing at home to support what she is doing in the classroom. The response to that question is one I’ll cherish for the rest of my life. She said “No, you are obviously in tune with what’s going on with her; and with what she is demonstrating in the classroom, you guys are perfect parents.”

After that, my eyes were a little brighter, my voice a little friendlier, and my heart and blessing cup a lot fuller. Because for once, my hard work was being acknowledged - by a professional none the less. (How quickly my opinion of Suzanne changed.)

The bottom line is those words are the reason I do what I do. And, today I can feel good about leaving a successful career almost seven years ago. Because as much as I would love the home I dream of; and the money to do all the things I want to do and buy all the things I love, it's OK that I sacrifice material comfort. I can handle the financial stress my marriage is under. And, we all know what that can do to any marriage, but a Black marriage is even more fragile under these circumstances. I can handle it all because my son, my daughter, my husband and my family matter that much more. And as much hard work as it is to pour into them, into us, I do it so we can SHINE out in the world.

And, their SHINE is all the BLING that I need.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Loving Through the Fire

The highest expression of love is to give without expecting.
The highest expression of love is to accept without exception.

These are the words I try to remember as I patiently wade through marital problems with my husband of 7 years.

It's amazing when I think about the many women in my circle who are currently having or have had marital problems. The reasons range from financial irresponsibility and stress to drugs and legal problems. Many of us are educated, thirty-somethings with all of the benefits of our parents' hard work. The home, the cars, the private school education for our children or the public school in the best districts. And, though we are not dealing with what our mothers dealt with - physical and mental abuse, intimidation, abandonment - many of of us still find ourselves looking up at the corner of Disappointment Ave. and Frustration St. And, when looking for guidance on which way to go, we are reminded of the statistics of success, I mean lack there of. With these reminders many decide to just stay there or take "I Can Do Bad All by Myself" Blvd. instead of riding or walking a little further to find that "A Litle Bit of Lovely" Circle and the "Other Side of Through" Lane are just up ahead.

But, how do you stay focused on what seems like a "forever journey." When looking for encouragement, you are hard pressed to find it. Whether it's the words of your family - I remember "stuck on stupid" as one description for me - to the dismal conversations that always include reference to "the out clause ," there is not enough encouragement for Black marriages to stay together. The are many more examples of getting rid of him or her and doing it all by yourself. And, while that works for some people, I am trying to stay focused on the course of staying married.

My girlfriend recently said to me, "I don't see why you and your husband have problems, with all of the patience and understanding you have." Well, I do have patience and understanding. But, that does me little good if my husband can't see it and acknowledge the value in it. If he stays focused on my faults - my emotional eating problem (a gift from my New Orleans cultural heritage), my lack of financial saavy (I'm getting better though), my lack of June Cleaver homekeeping skills (I've just decided we need a cleaning service to meet his neat-freak standards), my sarcastic and flippant mouth (a gift from my family of strong women. I'm getting better though), my laid back personality (in contrast to his Type "A" personality), it's difficult to see the forest of goodness through the trees of pettiness.

But, the positive side of my faults are the these things that attracted him - i.e. I can cook a mean meal; I am a rock in a crisis; I'm loyal, always looking for solutions; I'm strong yet gentle, beautiful, intelligent; and I have a soothing, loving, comforting spirit based in faith. If he can just remember me in this struggle we can make it through.

And, if I can just remember the man that he is beyond his faults, we'll make it through. Remember who he is beyond all the frustration I see. Remember he's one of the smartest people I know. He's financially savvy. He's driven. He's focused. He has a big heart (This man was a Big Brother when he wasn't married and didn't have children as well as coached a soccer team of 10 year old girls at the Y in a Black neighborhood that was and is 25 miles from his house.) He's loyal. He's handsome. He can be so sexy. His strength. His contribution to these two beautiful babies we have. He takes care of the bills every month. Family is very important to him. And, most importantly, he loves us (even though he doesn't say it much). And hopefully, he's speaking to me after reading this. He's very private.

Don't get me wrong, he gets on my last nerve with his stuff. He doesn't listen. He tries to be controlling. He's stubborn. He can be close minded. He can be selfish, self-righteous. And sometimes, when I am reminded that he is far from my ideal physically, I think about some of the offers that have come my way.

"Truth is, I'm not the reason you're so angry. Truth is, you're not the
reason I'm so passive."

And, even though we are not the picture perfect couple right now, I look forward to the other side of the prayers and tears, which is waaaaaay past the fights about money, the emotional disconnection, the power struggles.

I can't say how that will happen. Sometimes the divide seems too wide. But, I know that I stand on the faith that "God ordained marriage and He can sustain it." So, if I can remember the highest expressions of love that india.arie speak of and work on self love while praying us both past the generational curses of our familes and communities - single-motherhood, father abandonment and divorce, financial divide and others - we will stand as an example and testiment to God's will for marriage and family. I think that is a worthwhile cause. So, I'll stand

"We're only human. Let's shake free this graviy of resentment and fly high.
You're only human. Let's shake free this gravity of judgement and fly high on
the wings of forgiveness."

In the meantime, I'll continue to search out whatever encouragement I need. And, I'll gladly continue to share it with those that need it and are interested.

Here are some articles that refer to the state of marriage in the Black Community.

Turning the Corner on Father Absence in Black America

Can I get a witness?
Write your comments, below by clicking on the comment icon (with the number next to it).

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Black Like Me - A Mother's Life and Story

I do not even know where to start. There is so much to cover and so little time. (I have to pick up the kids by 3p and I have to do marketing consulting work - my paid gig- before that also.

The challenge with this blog is that I have so much to say. I wake up in the morning looking for the news of the day and I find the news of the millennium for us. So much important information for me as a black parent; so much out there for me to respond to on being a Black woman, wife, mother of a black daughter, mother a black son, hip-hop momma, sista big-bone, sista red-bone, professional woman with ambition, old fashioned lady loving - and trying to stay married to - a too-tough Caribbean (Haitian) man; a lover of music, movies and all things Black that I identify with; all things me, the black striver with Starbucks taste trying to live on a Community Coffee (New Orleans Blend) budget so that I will gain some wealth to pass on to my little Black children. But in the meantime, trying to show them the beauty and challenge of our present.

Take a read of this article by Natalie Hopkinson. She is joining a list of beautiful women and men giving voice to what I consider "Black Like Me." And, as I figure out the workings of this blog, I will continue to expose you to important articles like this that acknowledge and enlighten our experiences as Black parents.

The Hip-Hop Generation, Raising Up Its Sons
By Natalie HopkinsonWashington Post Staff Writer Wednesday, October 18, 2006; Page C01

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

being you being me being us being we - The African American Family Lifestyle

Posts in this blog will be related to my perspective as an African American mother on this journey of raising kids while continuing to learn about me and my roles as a mother, wife, daughter, friend, aunt, woman, and all other roles of my BEING.

This blog is important for me as I work toward the publishing of my my magazine that explores all facets of my lifestyle - one which I am sure that I share with the millions of other mothers, fathers and loveed ones invested in contributing to our future generation.

About being family Magazine
Atlanta based Being Family Magazine, the premiere African American parenting and family lifestyle magazine targeting America’s 8.9 million Black Families explore in its pages the rhythm of African American family life, “sharing with the world who we are; how we are doing it, and doing it well.

Being Family will celebrate the everyday life realities of the whole family lifestyle; the everyday stuff that makes healthy families - individually and collectively. Things like involved fatherhood, balanced motherhood, childhood achievements, family time and community connection. We will highlight the understanding that it is in the music we listen to, the TV and movies we watch, the clothes we wear; how we spend our money; how we save our money; what we say, how we say it; where we go, what we do, how we do what we do; when we do what we do; and why we do what we do.”

“In many ways, Being Family Magazine will serve as the “go to” resource for parents, families and the village that helps to raise our children. We will offer a forum, serve as an advocate, seek to understand the needs and provide answers to the many questions that are arise on the parenting journey. “More than a magazine, we are launching a movement,” laments Valsaint, “to celebrate and support African American families.”