All Articles Tagged "raising children"
A few weeks ago I was relaying to one of my friends about how horrible of a day I was having and how my daughter had to be along for the ride. But later, while holding my daughter I turned to her and told her how sorry Mommy was for being so agitated, and my daughter, who still hasn’t spoken beyond a few words leaned her head toward me so I could give her a kiss on her forehead (something we usually do, but usually I have to ask for it). When I told my friend she “oohh”ed and “awww”ed and said something that almost made me yell out in horror. ”I can’t wait to have kids now!”
As much as I love my daughter, I have to say, this whole picturesque baby thing is sort of annoying to me, especially now that it seems like its turning into a craze. I’m one of those (I’ll admit it, annoying) people who avoid fads like the plague. I still don’t know what “Gangem Style” is, I haven’t read Fifty Shades of Grey and I could really care less about Twilight: Breaking Dawn Pt. 2 (though I did like the 2nd movie). I don’t know, and I don’t care. So when celebrity couples started popping out children, it seemed like some people were so quick to want to emulate that.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-baby, I’m pro-truth. And I wouldn’t want you to take on the role of taking care of an individual if you don’t have a clearer vision of it other than celebrities who have nannies trailing behind them (usually out of focus from the paparazzi photos).
First, a baby isn’t a trend. While shopping two weekends ago at the mall a pregnant girl and her friend were behind me talking about how she can’t wait to be a fashionable pregnant mom, just like [insert multiple famous pregnant women]. To fight the urge from turning to her and saying: ”A baby is not like a pair of jeans, when they’re out of style you can’t just throw them in the back of your closet and wait until they go back in fashion again.” I had to fight the urge as she continued to go on and on about how she knows that having a baby is easy because she’s seen [insert misguided teen mom here] and she’s fine. The sad thing is, I feel like a lot of people tend to forget the huge responsibility that having a baby entails.
Speaking of that responsibility, yeah, it’s a little overwhelming. Though I was slightly prepared, due to a stint as a nanny a few years ago, I knew that when I had my daughter, no matter what was going on in my life, it had to come secondary to her. Whether (note: these incidences are very graphic) she was sick, vomiting and spilling diarrhea all over the floor and her freshly washed bedding, I had to tend to her, even when it was happening 3 to 4 times a night. After I caught the same bug she had and was vomiting I still had to scrub myself down and continue to cater to her; and when she wakes up in the middle of the night crying or whining, I have to tend to her no matter how tired I am or how comfortable my bed is. It’s a lot of work.
Then… ugh… you get these girls who talk about how they’ve never had love in their lives and they’re gonna have a baby to love them. Okay, if that’s your point of having a baby, you’re going to be sadly [insert expletive here] mistaken. It’s going to take a good minute before you get that “Oh, my child loves me moment,” because babies are motivated by their needs, and honestly, loving you isn’t one of them. Being fed is one of them. Being comforted is one of them. Being changed is one of them. They’re not thinking about you right now because they’re not really thinking about anything right now.
I guess I’m writing all of this because you can go to any news website and see a new story about how parents abandoned their children, or hurt them because the baby was crying too much, or how they threw the baby down a trash shoot because it was too hard. I’m just letting you know that before you have your baby, it’s not going to be as fantastic as you think. It’s not going to be as comical as your television portrays it. You giving your child a bowl of spaghetti-ohs and then they push it off of their highchair isn’t going to make you look up at the sky, chuckle and say: ”Wow. my baby is kooky!” If you’re anything like me, you’re probably going to burst into tears, because the spaghetti-ohs were the last option of food, after your child rebuffed the 3 previous meals and cried nonstop until you fixed her something that she liked. The guilt is going to set in when your child doesn’t seem to hit the same milestones at the same time other children have (seriously, I can’t tell you how much I blame myself for my baby almost being two and hasn’t started fully talking yet) and you have to read her thoughts because she doesn’t know how to properly articulate: ”Mom, I want foie gras, not chicken nuggets.”
I’m not trying to scare you, I just want you to be prepared. And honestly, reading this article isn’t going to have you fully prepared for the journey you’ll take when your bundle of awesomeness comes out of you, but just consider these things before you go on the trip.
Kendra Koger has been a mother since 2011, and awesome since the ’80s. Hit her up @kkoger.
If black Friday deals happen on a Thursday, are they still considered Black Friday deals? Shouldn’t it be grey-area Thursday?
While I contemplated whether I should go out to the club or stay in with the family (the club won out), I know some of you were lining up outside of some big box store for 10 $200 LCD HDTV or the five available $19.99 Blu-ray Disc Player, to go along with the other HDTV and Blu-ray you got last year (seriously, it is the same deal year after year). Or maybe you are standing in front of these stores in solidarity with the striking workers of Walmart? No I didn’t think so either. No wonder we can’t have nice things like livable wages and benefits.
You would think Americans would learn from the recession, the recent austerity measures in Washington and the overall Republicans hatred of the 47 percent that our rampant consumerism, in particular our addiction to new stuff, keeps us hostage to debt, co-signs social inequalities and contributes to the further erosion of our environment. Yet every year there is never a shortage of viral videos of Black Friday shoppers, drop kicking each other in the chest to be the first to get their hands on a Furby. And although there has been no report of serious injuries, give it time, the day is still young and the Nintendo Wii U has just been marked down at some store by another 40 percent…
I don’t know why we continue to do it to ourselves. Oh yeah I do. Love for our family and friends and guilt – mostly guilt. This guilt is particularly profound if you so happen to be a parent. Although I have no children of my own, as an aunt of six, I can certainly empathize with the sensitivity and insecurity some parents feel about depriving their children of things they didn’t have growing up – or over compensating because you haven’t been the most attentive or financially secure parent (or in my case, auntie) throughout the years. So we stand in a long and sometimes volatile queue for the pleasure of not looking like deadbeat adults – at least for a few weeks.
Why can’t things be like they were back in the day? In our day, we didn’t need to have all those toys and gadgets for Christmas. We were content with being with family and grateful for whatever gift our parents could afford – even if it was just a stick on a string. We played with that stick on a string like it was the best damn toy in the whole wide world. Of course I’m being factitious. As long as I can remember, parents have been going all out to make the holiday season something special for the youngins. Before the iPads, Kirbys and Playstations, there were Tickle-Me Elmos, Ataris and the Cabbage Patch Doll.
We didn’t have much. My mother, my brother and I shared a small one-bedroom apartment in the Germantown section of Philadelphia. My brother and I learned early on about our financial situation and therefore knew not to ask mother for anything. That’s why it came as a surprise when one morning, my mother asked me, “What do you want for Christmas?” I didn’t even hesitate to tell her what had been on my mind for months, “cabbage patch.”
For those born after the craze, the Cabbage Patch Kid doll was the most coveted toy on the face of the earth. There were kids in my class, who already had several of the cherub face dolls, which came with their own birth certificates. According to the official Cabbage Patch Kids website (yeah the makers are still around) by the end of 2983, almost 3 million of the Cabbage Patch Kids Toys have been “adopted” but demand has not been met. All around the country, there were Cabbage Patch doll shortages and crafty entrepreneurs were selling them at inflated and often egregious prices to desperate parents. My mother scrunched up her nose, “I don’t know if a cabbage patch is in the cards right now but we’ll see.”
The dreaded “we’ll see” was the usual disclaimer for, “odds are, this it ain’t gonna happen kid, and so don’t get your hopes up.” But I felt almost defeated. For days before Christmas break, I had to listen to the other girls in my class brag about finding the Christmas present hiding spot around their house and seeing that familiar yellow and green box. Going back on the “never ask for nothing” rule, I gave my mom my best sad eyes and delicately reminded her of the importance that this doll was to my social life.
“Maybe you should ask your grandmother.” That was a great idea. Every year my grandmother would send to me the big Christmas lookbook from Sears with its pages and pages of toys. I would go through with a black and white composition book and pencil, writing down all the toys I wanted. And then she would edit it with more realistic expectations. But that particular year, I didn’t need the book as I already knew what was at the top of my list. “We’ll see,” she said, as she sighed.
The night before Christmas my grandma called me on the phone and confessed to me that despite her best efforts, there would be no cabbage patch for me under the tree. “It is a shortage everywhere.” I was devastated and moping around all evening. My mom asked me what’s wrong. “If I didn’t have the cabbage patch, what else was there to be excited about?” She rolled her eyes and slapped me in the back of the head, “You getting on my damn nerves.” On her orders, I went to bed early that Christmas eve.
Christmas morning, I awoken, still disgruntled yet ready to tear into some presents. My brother and I ran into the front room and there it was. Beneath the tree was that familiar yellow and green box. Say Word! Suddenly I became the happiest kid in the entire apartment complex. Apparently, when we were sleeping, my mother snuck out to a toy store, which had just announced that it had some Cabbage Patches they had been holding until Christmas Eve. She stood in the cold for hours, with hundreds of other folks, waiting for the store to open its doors for this special sale. When the doors finally opened, all order was abandoned and it was every man or woman for him/herself. People were fighting and shoving and knocking each other down. Store clerks had abandoned their post and let folks do what they were going to do. “I had to fight and crawl over people just to make it to the display where the dolls were at,” she said. I listened in disbelief, clutching my newly acquired Cabbage Patch doll, as my mother told me how she had to physically wrestle the doll out of the hands of one woman, while beating off the grabby hands from other shoppers, who were equally as desperate to lay claim to the doll. “I thought I was going to go to jail that night.”
The birth certificate in the box said his name was Gilbert. He was dark brown skinned with brown hair made out of yarn. I signed the birth certificate in the box; to acknowledge that I had officially adopted him. I cherish that doll to this day but not as much as the thought that my mom was ‘bout ready to beat somebody down just so she could get me this doll. That was love – and a little bit of guilt too. Our living and financial situations weren’t always ideal so Christmas was probably my mother’s way of saying, see, I try. Underneath the tree and behind Gilbert was another doll, which looked like a cabbage patch but it wasn’t in its proper packaging nor did it have the authentic birth certificate or official signature on it. “Oh yeah, earlier in the week, this guy on the Avenue was selling these Cabbage Patches on a stand. I figured just in case. So now you got two. Merry Christmas.” Best Christmas ever.
Don’t marry a man unless you would be proud to have a son exactly like him. I read this phrase and thought it was important to remember. So often, women create a list of things they want in a man, be it long or short, and fail to include this very stipulation. Some say they want a man who is accomplished, good looking, religious, smart, but fail to assess character.
I’m in my late twenties and single. I don’t rush into relationships because I’m keen on what I want in a man, but still, I tire of a question that I’m sure many women in my position can relate to. “Why aren’t you married yet?”
I’ve met many men from different walks of life, but I’ve been slow to label my relationships. I’m interested much more in who a man is when the date is over and he returns to his corner of the world, than I am in his resume. Who is he in those moments when no one is watching? Who is he when his character is tested? I’m interested more in what is driving him than his destination. Years ago, my older sister told me that women are given a power over their children’s lives that we sometimes forget to exercise. We get to choose the father for our children. We get to decide who will be a part of their life, who will influence them, who will essentially raise them. We have the option to choose, and considering the staggering divorce rate, the percentage of single mothers, incarcerated fathers, and number of cases in child support litigation nationwide, it’s sad that so many don’t choose wisely.
No, I’m not saying that we, as women, should be seeking absolute perfection, but I am saying that we need to remember to place priority on the things that matter to us, because ultimately those things cannot be ignored. Many women I have talked to want to get married. They’re eager to start the life they have planned for themselves with a husband, two and a half children, and a beautiful home. When it doesn’t happen fast enough, they fear they may end up alone and unhappy. The truth is, we can be married and more alone than we were as single women. In all of that planning, we focus on a new last name instead of a life. It is important to ask the right questions.
In the unfortunate chance that a marriage is broken, will he uphold his responsibility as a role model for his children, or is his willingness to be a father contingent on the success of the marriage? I want my son to grow up loving and respecting women. I want him to value hard work, and be persistent in those things he desires. I want him to be confident and humble. I want him to love God. I want him to grow up to be a good husband and father, accountable for his family.
These traits are learned over time and so if I have all the power to decide who will be the one to teach him, I want to choose carefully. I’ve heard it said that children learn more by a parent’s actions than by their words. Just imagine the little boy on the stepstool pretending to shave like his father. Or drawing a picture for his grade school crush. What better way for a father to teach his son than to be the man that he wants him to be. So if we settle for the husband who is not everything we cherish but will do just fine, we’re potentially setting ourselves up for disappointment in our children and, needless to say, a miserable life for ourselves, always wondering if we should have done better.
Herina Ayot is currently working on a novel based loosely on her own life, “The Content of Things Undone.” She tweets @ReeExperience.
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Whenever women congregate, the conversation may easily turn toward endless tales of “no-good men.” You know, the liars, cheats and heart breakers. Chances are, you’ve dated, been in love with, or even married a man before realizing he was of the “no-good” variety, without considering how he got that way.
Society’s unspoken secret is that parents influence your habits, tendencies and relationships, for better or worse. No one’s perfect, including mom and dad. The most many can hope for is that your parent’s imperfections balance each other out so neither screws you up too much.
Far too many boys in black communities are being raised by single mothers, which throws the whole balancing act off. It also puts all the child-rearing on moms shoulders. Many of the lessons children learn from parents are informal and so subtle that you can teach plenty of bad lessons without even trying.
Fast forward a couple decades and your sweet little boy is the grown man women love to complain about. Clearly, grown people are responsible for their own actions, but it’s a lot harder to make better decisions when you’ve been weaned on no-good habits since birth.
Parenting is a challenging job, with far too few displays of recognition or positive guidance. But no one wants to raise a child who causes heartbreak and suffering to others.
If you can identify with any of the following, stop, think about your goals for your child, then take action.
I spent the summers of my youth stuck to the plastic couches of my grandmothers’ homes. I was thrilled by the idea that my other cousins would be there, waiting to cause mischief alongside me. We drove our parents’ mothers insane, wrecking havoc upon their pristine living rooms and glass cases stacked with China.
Grandma frowned from her throne. She’d get to her knees and pray loudly from her room for all of us to hear, “…and for the babies who are going to get it if they don’t quiet down, down there.” Out of fear, we would fling ourselves back into the stickiness of the sofa’s plastic and wait until she was ready to cook breakfast and watch our shenanigans once more.
At ten, Grandma was slightly annoying. There was always a Jesus and My-God flung in the air, we couldn’t leave the table unless we’d eaten everything on our plates (okra), and we were forced to endure all of her concoctions.
Although their love was never taken for granted, their unorthodox methods, morals, and values irritated my more Americanized self. Cod-liver oil and honey replaced Robitussin and the mention of boys were forbidden until I was well into my twenties. When I complained to my parents about their unconventionalities, they nodded with understanding but never sought to correct them. They too were raised by the mothers of my grandparents and understood the embedding of the memories and principles, no matter how outlandish they might have been, for the children. I was angry with them and promised myself that I’d never subject the youngsters in my life to these practices. Foolishness.
I don’t know how it happened, but the silly things I’d dismissed with the wave of my hand stuck with me. I now reiterate my grandmother’s advice to my fast paced little girl cousins. I’m peeved by the sagging of their boyfriend’s jeans and angered by their defense of idiots. I have flashbacks of my grandmother chasing those same kinds of boys from her steps, with a broomstick, as I watched my cousins cross their arms and roll their eyes—as I once did.
I also find myself patrolling the pharmacy for cold medicine and thinking of the blends my grandmother united in her pastel kitchen. I began longing for the rum/alcohol mixture she’d slapped across my chest and the blankets she wrapped me tightly in—resembling a cocoon. Moments later, I’d be pulling up to her brick home to devour remembrance and rid myself of ailment.
Second mothers are often overlooked. A lot of the parents of my middle school students are either passed away or too busy with their own realizations to pick them up from school. I witness women, 55 and up, trudging in with sagging purses, candied mints and weighed voices. They stand in for their daughters and sons; instilling their old school morale in their grandchildren on the long/short walks home. Many of my students are raised with a live-in grandparent, spend their weekends in their homes or have substituted their biological parent for an older version. They complain about the overprotective nature of these women, angry about their pulling of ears and firm stance. I can’t help but smile—as my parents once did—at the grievances that will one day evolve into gratitude.
Everything Grandma did/said wasn’t always accurate:
1) Rum across your chest rarely cures a cold.
2) God wasn’t going to strike me with lightening for breaking the lamp.
3) I could fall in love before 25.
However there was something about the WAY she did or said things that made them feel right. It’s the warmth within her touch and tone that brought me back to her home. Although extra-strength Tylenol and Vicks are far more successful in the curing of a cold, the balminess of her special mint tea and her map resembling hand on my back are far more comforting. Her cocoon-like blankets and repetitive nature are the only things that will keep me in line from heading back to work when I’m not fully cured. Her laughter at Oprah and anger at the news, witnessed from my sick bed, heal faster than any other humorous thing in the world.
It’s within these junctures that I realize that her old school traditions are sifting inside of me, waiting for instances where they can materialize.
Perhaps it’s the guilt from the mayhem I caused at an early age.
Perhaps it’s a beckoning—in the soul—to come home.
Perhaps tradition is something second nature that we simply cannot deny.
Or perhaps, Grandma just knows best.
As Mother’s Day rapidly approaches, I find myself reflecting fondly upon the woman I will be eternally grateful to have called mother. As I grow older, I appreciate her more and more, and even her antics become more endearing.
My childhood was probably not the most typical for the time period in which I grew up. You see, my mother was 44 when she gave birth to me. Which means that while I was busy growing up in the 90’s, my mother was comfortably settling into her 50’s. My friends had young, urban parents who were still trying to find themselves—not to mention most were also trying to figure out what the mom thing was all about. Me, I was being raised by a woman at least 20 years their senior who had already raised most of her kids (I’m the youngest of a large family) and knew the major pitfalls to avoid. Let me add that my mother was from the South. Now, I’m a city girl and would not have it any other way than to be born and bred in my native Chicago all over again. But, I’ll be the first to admit that there are probably a few pointers that us Northern women can take from our Southern sisters. But I digress. I said all of this to say that despite growing up in the 90’s in the inner-city of Chicago, I had an old-school Southern upbringing. For that I am tremendously grateful and this is why…
There’s this certain cry that children do that makes a parent feel that if they don’t give that child exactly what they want, they will surely suffer from paralyzing pain. If it’s not a cry, it’s a look, all bright-eyed and bottom-lipped, that demolishes your defenses and makes you completely forget anything your little one has done wrong. As I see my thirties anxiously approaching, I am surrounded more and more by friends who are falling victim to that cry or that look. As the holidays approach they break their backs working overtime to afford Christmas presents so that their kids can live the holiday fantasy sold by Macy’s and Target commercials. Instead of implementing a routine of rewards and consequences, some children are being taught that any and everything is worth celebrating and regardless of what behavior they choose to display, in some way they will be recognized and rewarded. I’ll never forget a student I once had who received a party bus celebration to the Jersey Shore, despite the fact that she had been suspended from school several times during the year. When I asked how she managed to pull off still getting a Super Sweet Sixteen type of bash despite her disobedient behavior, she and her girlfriends responded, “But it’s her Sweet Sixteen!?”
In some ways, I understand the want for parents to provide their children with a lifestyle they’ve never experienced. Some single parents, especially burdened by the guilt of a “broken family” feel the need to make up for the absence of the other parent, and end up overcompensating for this absence materialistically ignoring the reality that all the Air Jordans in the world can’t replace an in-the-flesh father. What some parents fail to realize is that by buying and doing everything for their children, even when they are young, they are doing them a huge disservice in the long run.
I can appreciate that my parents raised both me and my sister with a healthy balance of comfort, work ethic, and responsibility. We had nice things and never had to worry where our next meal was coming from or fear being embarrassed by our clothing. But we also witnessed how hard our parents worked for all of the nice things we possessed and we had a decent understanding that our behavior had a direct influence over any “extras” we received.
It’s important to encourage your children’s independence and allow them to make mistakes because this is how they learn to make positive decisions and navigate the real world without you. It troubles me when I see mothers out job-seeking for their teenagers and filling out job applications on their behalf, but it explains why we have a generation of young adults who don’t know how to write a check, fill out a form or advocate for their wants and needs.
Many parents spoil children out of worry that their children will hold resentment or not love them if they don’t give them everything they want. They fail to find a balance and either give their children everything they ask for or giving them nothing at all.
So where do you draw the line between attending to your child’s wants and needs and not getting taken advantage of? It’s important to realize that children are needy by nature. You are not spoiling your child by showing them affection; there’s no such thing as too many hugs and kisses. A big part of being a nurturing parent is comforting your children when they are upset or in pain, feeding them and playing with them. You shouldn’t substitute these basic duties with money or material items.
Think you may be creating a monster? Here are few clues that you are spoiling your child rotten:
Black mothers are the glue of the black family. They take care of business and hold it together for the children. Whether she is doing it by herself or with her partner you can’t deny her strength and conviction. For some odd reason it seems like black mothers all have the same sayings. I have been out and overheard a black mother reprimanding her child and I smiled to myself a little bit. What she was saying to her child reminded me of what my mother, aunts and even grandmother would say to me growing up. I’m the last person to want to be cliche and group all black mothers together, but we all know if our mother never said one of these phrases, we know a black mother who has.
What did I tell you about __________!?!?
You can insert anything into this blank. Mothers tell you something ONE time. If you don’t get it the first time, be prepared to be held accountable the next time you mess up. This could range from “What did I tell you about jumping on the couch?” to “What did I tell you about playing in my makeup?”
Last summer my husband and I decided to travel from Southern California to Yosemite–about a six hours away. In a car. With our four kids–13, eight, six, and two. I briefly contemplated drugging the little three with Benadryl. With the holidays coming, parents all over are biting their fingers, having heart palpitations and wringing their hands over what a horror story a day in the car with their kids might be. Here are a few tips guaranteed to keep you sane in a car full of (potential) crazy.
There’s really no way to half-A$$ it: Your kids are incompetent.
As I ease into life as a first-year teacher for an under-funded, shoddily-staffed, failing charter school on Chicago’s Far South Side, I’m learning the myriad ways in which young black children are being bred for failure – if not general insufficiency – in an economically crippled society that increasingly demands competition.
I could write a long thesis paper about the socioeconomic failures of our government and society when it comes to how we handle poor minorities. In this case, however, I’d rather focus on things that I think you, dear reader, can actually control:
Raise ‘em old school: It sounds prosaic when older people say that the new generation doesn’t have the respect that they had when they were kids. But dammit, it’s all the way true…mainly because parents are getting younger and younger. If grandma is 39 years old, how much can you reasonably expect from students who literally, unabashedly curse out their teachers? Since I can’t pop ‘em in the mouth like I’d like to at times, perhaps you should make them a bit more respectful. Just a thought.
Bathe them: I teach freshmen. By the end of seventh period every day, it’s a safe bet my classroom will smell less than stellar. I have certain students I can’t even stand next to. I was a grubby kid (and some might argue I can be a grubby adult at times), but I was at least acquainted with a bar of soap. Get them familiar just the same…do you really want your boy to grow to be a man without ever having a woman within a reasonable circumference of their person?
Help them with homework: I was not the class valedictorian, by any means. And though I had very educated parents, they didn’t ride me to study and perform well. But boy, I knew the value of getting my homework done. Too many of my kids look at me like I’m speaking Mandarin Chinese when I ask them to get homework in. So many are failing for that reason alone. Your average 14-year-old needs to be ushered into high school the right way, so do your best to help them with the basic algebra at home. And if you don’t remember it, pay your nerdy cousin with free sixers of MGD to tutor your kid.
Have frank sexual conversations: As of this writing, I’m dealing with a student who is now the rumored Amber Cole of the school because she got busted in the boy’s bathroom. Twice. Servicing two different boys. As can be expected, her name is buzzing around the school in a major way. Make sure you don’t have that daughter. If you have a son, give him the common sense and wherewithal to see that he is not the teenaged sire of a child destined to be one of the many students I have with no papa at home.
Teach them the true value of material items: It’s funny how many students I have who think that I’m paid because I wear an $80 pair of Cole Haan shoes and a nice leather motorcycle jacket. If only they knew. I went to school with a bunch of materialistic hood ferrets who valued Tommy Hilfiger and Nautica more than they did bread and water, so I know what misplaced priorities look like. Teach them that a brand name is just a reason to exponentially increase the price of a sweatshirt. The sartorially awkward geeky kids will thank you for it.