What is your biggest fear for your child?

From Julia Olatunji, PSFM 5

My biggest fear is Trinity growing up in general. She will bump into major obstacles.

First thing is the opposite sex. I don’t want her to fill a space in her heart that her father left there in the opposite sex. I want her to be fully confident in the woman I’m raising her to be.

Second is her gender. I feel as though females are preyed upon. We are seen as sexual objects. The way this generation is going it seems as though it’s getting worse. I want her to feel empowered by who she is as a person, not by the way people see her physically.

Third is her race. As we all know the African American race is preyed upon and belittled. Even our own race is turning our backs on each other.

Lastly is education. The school system is not set up to prepare one for the real world. Yes we get our general education but they leave out what is most important to learn to live and sustain in this life. Learning financial responsibilities can be an elective; sex-ed can be an elective. Do they still teach home economics and shop class?

I know that in general I can lead her down the correct path in all of those points. The truth is, as a parent, eventually a child will stray. It is my responsibility to make sure she lives well in this life, but I would love for her to learn productivity with and from her peers.

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Fresh to Diapers

“Don’t be goin’ outside lookin’ any ol’ way.”

When I had sense enough to dress myself, this was the constant warning I heard from my Grandmother. I mean, it was said to me every time I walked out of the house. She wouldn’t even take the time to see what I had on. I would shout to her from the door, “Okay Grandma, I’m leaving,” and she would loudly prompt, “Make sure you aint walkin’ out this house lookin’ any ol’ way!”

So I got brave enough to ask her why these were my explicit instructions before exiting my home. Surprisingly, without swinging on me, she clarified, “Because people know I raised you. And I don’t want them thinking I don’t take care of you.”

***MIND BLOWN***

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It made so much sense. This woman takes damn good care of me and it should show. But she raised me practically. We were by no means living like royalty, yet I wasn’t shopping out of the discount bin either.

Parents of today…I’m not judging. I am simply curious. Why does your infant-toddler have to be fresh to def from the womb? What is the purpose of J’s on a baby when they feet are not touching the floor for at least two years? Why go high-end in fashion when your child has no clue what these clothes are valued at? Is it because they are a fashion extension of you? Did you not have dolls to dress up when you were younger and this living being is your substitute?

Now if you have the mean$, I can understand. If you’re used to that lifestyle, then of course you would give nothing less to your offspring. But if YOU KNOW THE STRUGGLE, and you are living pay check to pay check, what is the benefit of sending your kindergartener to school looking like Diddy? Does it better their grades? Do they get an extra juice box from the little cutie in class? Does your daughter’s True Religions  help her sit still and get more out of her lessons?

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And you know when it’s ridiculous. The total price of a CHILD’s assemble should not be the same as a GROWN ADULT’S WITH A JOB…or maybe it should be. Please give me your two cents.

Pregnancy Scare #13; Fearless Mom: Shamirah

Shamirah

PSFM13

Age: 28
Year you graduated high school: 2005
Year you found out you were pregnant: 2009 and 2012
Number of children: 2

The Uh Oh Moment: I was working overnight maintenance at Walmart when I found out I was pregnant; I took a pregnancy test right off the shelf (shh, don’t tell anyone, lol), went in the bathroom, and to my surprise, it was positive. I told my really good friend whom I met while working there. She was way more excited than I was.

I did not want to be pregnant but the worst part is I did not want to be pregnant by my partner at the time; he was supposed to be a Mr. Right Now, not a Mr. Forever. Besides, we were only together for only 7 months when we conceived.

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My mom was so excited that she was telling people I was pregnant before I confirmed it. I got pregnant in February and my dad turned 60 in April. She told my whole family! I was upset because I wanted to get an abortion. How could I have gotten one at this point if she told everyone?! So I guess my mom saved my son’s life and I am now glad she did because my son is literally the best thing that happened to me.

The Mom Moment: To be honest, I was not going to keep the baby, I was thinking about getting an abortion. There was not a maternal bone in me; I was not ready to become a mom just yet. But November 25, 2009 was not waiting. The tears of joy filled my cheeks upon my first sight of him, a feeling that I have never felt before, a feeling that I seem to can’t find any other place.

***Any man can be a father. It takes a real man to be a dad ***

Father/Dad: When we found out I was pregnant, my children’s dad and I had a good relationship. We went out often, rarely had arguments, and he knew my family. The only disagreement we had was the fact that he would not tell his children’s mother about me. Shortly after I found out I was pregnant, it was confirmed that there was no sexual relations between them; what a relief!

He was not excited about the baby. He was nonchalant, pretending as though I was not prego. It took about 3-4 months for me to decide that I was going to keep the baby and he was trying to convince me that I was not ready for a baby. He was not telling me to get an abortion; however, he was not telling me to keep it.

When our son was first born, he was supportive and very hands-on. He ensured that Shakim had everything. He woke up in the middle of the night to feed him, would give him to me to nurse, and he made sure I had my pain meds (I had a C-section). He was a great dad and father…but the worse boyfriend ever!

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I thought our only problem was that he had not introduced me to his family, (he claimed that he told them about me…not good enough). It was a hot August day when my world came crashing down and I was outside with the girls from my block. They were so eager to tell me that my man was cheating with a girl from the projects; apparently she was going around bragging about having my man. So since that day, the relationship was strained. I was celibate my last 3 months of pregnancy, I was depressed and crying every day.  He was not supportive at all; it was the worse feeling in the world! And he kept cheating and lying.

Them vs. You: I parent somewhere in between how my parents raised me and my brother. My parents were total opposites.

My mom was mean as hell and my dad was an angel.

My dad did not yell, scream, or hit us. [He] made my mom stop beating us, except for if we fought each other, which was the rule.

My mom had a little wooden bat that she wrapped in black tape that she used to tear us up with. I remember my mom used to come up to the school with her bat to tear me up. Thank God she never had to use it. See I told the truth before we even got there so the teacher could get in trouble. Oh yes, my mom did not play that. The teachers got cursed out for not having discipline in place and were told not to call her because I was on their time

My children are 2 and 5, so they’re not even beating age, however I pop them when they get out of hand. I put them on time out most of the time though. My parents valued ensuring that we had a fun childhood and tried to shield us from the real world to a degree.

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Fearful Moment: The scariest moment as a parent was when my children’s father was incarcerated. I was in college and he was supporting us financially. I mean this man bought everything for the kids and he looked out for me too. I could have saved my money and spent his money on myself, but I chose not take advantage as he has other children to care for as well. Choosing to continue earning my degree with 3 semesters left over quitting school to find a job to support my minies was a tough decision. I chose to stay in school and allow public assistance to help me. It was so frustrating because they’re not supportive of individuals earning a bachelor’s degree; I had to do extra work to continue getting my benefits.FB_IMG_1434464505368

We never stop to think about how the choices we make will affect others, so this taught me to take every little decision as a big one because one never knows what’s going to happen. I had to make another decision on what I was going to tell my kids about the absence of their dad. I decided to tell the truth. I dreaded taking my children to see him in jail. My daughter does not even know him; she thinks my dad is her dad, although she calls him grandpa. My son misses him so much. Nothing helps me feeling bad that my children have to experience this. This is worse than all the cheating and lying he did to me. I just hope he sees now that everything he does affects the children. Hopefully he comes home and gets himself together, if not for himself, for his children. He’ll be home from doing 3 years in January 2016. I wonder what that will look like…I feel anxious and nervous about that.

Fearless Moment: Now that it is over, it was worth it because now I have a degree and a job that pays decent salary and great benefits. My children have everything they need and want. I had to depend more on my family for support with the kids and that caused friction in my home.

Support System: When I got pregnant, I had no friends, and that was why I was hanging out with the girls from my block.  My family on the other hand was excited, except my dad. My dad was happy that I was having a baby; however he was disappointed that I did not choose a better guy. My children’s father was what they call a ‘hood buggar’ lol. He hung out on the corners and knew everybody; he was not your typical family man.

Final thoughts: I want my kids to look back on their childhood and be able to say that their childhood ROCKED!! Now that I am a parent I learned that you can do something simple for your kids and it means the world to them. I say that to say, my parents made my childhood fun on a budget. I want upward mobility so I could take my children to places my parents could never afford to take me; like Disney World!! My parents have prepared me for parenthood.

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Like I said, there was not a maternal bone in my body until November 25, 2009. My IMG_20150322_143922maternal instinct kicked in spontaneously. I still don’t know where it came from. I am traditional and family oriented and I will carry those values on to my children. I will teach them honesty, loyalty, the value of an education, a righteous way of living, and eating the right foods. I will pass down those family values that were passed to me and continue being the great mom that I know I am.

Spare or Spoil?

It’s been a while beautiful people. Work has been crazy, and I’m cheating a little because I am prepping this very piece while on the clock. But our 13th story is in the works and a timeless subject has been brought up.

DISCIPLINE.

In the age of video phones and instant uploads making everything a must-capture moment, we need not do much accept type “bad” in YouTube’s search bar and be flooded with cursing tots, sagging teens, and the reckless transit antics of our youth.

The question I pose; how do we stop it at home? Parents cannot control their child’s EVERY action and influence, but they can instill and reinforce how they expect them to behave and conduct themselves outside of the home.

I received pops and beatings as a child. I’m not anymore prone to violence than the next educated, law-abiding citizen. Growing up, I learned there were consequences to my actions. If I didn’t want to get popped, I wouldn’t do the action I got popped for.

I do believe in teaching moments, but simply taking away a material object or a privilege doesn’t seem to work in this day and age. Kids just get their rocks of somewhere else. “I got caught cursing out my teacher, so my dad cut off my 4G. I’ll just make a video cursing the same teacher out over wi-fi so my friends KNOW it’s real in these streets.”

I ask you parents and caregivers, how should we discipline our kids to prevent Tom Foolery such as this:

Savage(s)!

Hurt. Disgusted. Sickened. Baffled. Ashamed. Appalled. Hurt. On the brink of tears.

I woke up and turned on the news. Bad mistake. Two cops shot in Ferguson, one cop shot in NYC. So I turned and took to social media for some morning humor.

Came across a NY Daily News headline for March 12, 2015.

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SAVAGE! A picture of young African American girls with the longest headline in history and the most eye-catching word is SAVAGE!. They labeled these girls’ (actions) savage.

Quick back story. High school girls have beef. It escalated and exploded in a McDonald’s in Brooklyn. But, because we are in Generation Punk-Ass, they did not shoot a fair one. It was one girl against five and she held her own for as long as possible. She was taken down and badly injured after. Once it was clear she was down, she was still kicked and berated. And the other students…filming until they have enough footage to get likes and hits. Only one adult stepped in when it was too late. Cops were called twice within six minutes but showed up after the fight was over.

Fuck you New York Daily News. There is plenty of blood on cops hands. Men and women fatally shot because a trained individual was scared. In the aforementioned news reports, they did not release the name of the cops as the investigation is ongoing. They’re handling it very delicately. That blue line must be a blessing. Cops associated with unjust killings get to RESIGN with benefits or are suspended with pay. YET LET’S PASTE THESE GIRLS ON THE FRONT OF A CITY-WIDE NEWSPAPER AND LABEL THEM SAVAGES.

Grant it, the story’s goal is to point out that we live in an age where people would rather film than help. That’s disgusting. And I know they did not DIRECTLY call the girls savage, but instead was highlighting their violence and the audience’s indulgence/encouragement; but the juxtaposition is painfully obvious. Law enforcement, those who have the tag line of, “Courtesy, Professionalism, Respect“, are the POSTER CHILDREN for corruption. They wrote the book on how to get away with murder. Rural kids riot over pumpkins. Yet we are savage.

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Those girls should not have been fighting. Their parents should be held accountable. The (lack of) action of the bystanders is incredibly insulting to the credibility of the human race. But many other adjectives could have been used on this front page story. Tragic. Unfortunate. Sad. Horrible. But you choose “Savage”. You choose a word which has been used to insult people of color by many generations. You choose to use a word that equates us to wild animals. Please believe, there is a long history of savagery and it doesn’t start with us; but almost always ends with us losing….

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No Mirror

I can’t tell if I’m repeating the sins of my father because I’ve never seen his sins in person. I wonder how differently I would have turned out with his influence? Do I have the will in me to leave something I care about behind? Is abandonment embedded in my DNA? Is it a dormant beast waiting to be unleashed? Or have I already beaten these sane-less urges. Twenty-seven years in and I haven’t left too many shattered hearts behind. And those I might have, I know for a fact have mended. 

Would he have held me back from my potential if he was around? Or is he holding me back by not being here? I usually take his absence as encouragement to be better than the thing that was never there. I’m essentially working with a clean slate; a blank sheet for my own blueprint. But still, a slight muse would have been amusing.

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Suspended

According to Dictionary.com, suspend means
to attach so as to allow free movement.

The definition that is relevant here is to keep from falling, sinking, forming a deposit, etc., as if by hanging.

In the interest of growing and experimenting with my style, I decided to invest in a pair of suspenders. suspenders-11-5

Being raised in the church, I learned early on the value of a belt (even though at one point, Monday – Saturday, I was a Baggy Saggy Barry myself). Especially now, if I walk out of the house and forget to put on a belt, I feel like less of a man; incomplete and juvenile. I feel improper and unkempt. As if I have no type of act right and home training.

But now that I know my pants size and I refuse to go even one waste size too big, I am ready to try a different anti-sag style/method.

Hence the suspender search.

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As I am in the men’s clothing store, checking out the variety (which I found by the belts) I realized something as I looked at what seemed to be pieces of a D.I.Y parachute set; I don’t know how to put these on.

I thought about bothering one of the employees for a quick tutorial, but once I receive their assistance, I feel this moral obligation to buy something. I wasn’t sure if I was walking out with these straps yet.

Then something a little bit more unsettling came to me: I was never taught how to put these on….
90% of my hygienic habits, pride in appearance, impeccable fashion sense, even my growing self-awareness came from the influence of women. How to tie a tie, the proper color belt to wear, how to fold and wear a pocket square, what side of the street to walk on, all came from various male figures in my life. My knowledge of chivalry and etiquette is a gumbo of different dudes and old heads that have been in my life. I have a conglomerate of tips and tricks on how to be a better man from all walks of men. I have a plethora of “son do this” from everyone but one person….

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I grew up thinking my father was dead. Some years ago I learned that my father was alive and well. When I was younger, he used to be around a lot and the family loved him. Then all of a sudden, he’s somewhere in the Baltimore/Boston area; possibly with another family.

As I figured out the D.I.Y straps in the security mirror, I felt suspended; to hold or keep undetermined; refrain from forming or concluding definitely. There was no primary instructor on my male know-hows. I was robbed of having an exclusive source on gender definition. I taught myself how to shave when I was well into my twenties. My grandmother introduced me to the two barbers in my life. A deacon in my church showed me how to tie a tie. I Googled different knots. I figured out how the right watch can set off the right outfit. And at well over 25 years of age, I STILL struggle with the whole black vs. brown wardrobe conflict.

Men. If you made it, you need to be there. The only excuse for not being in your child’s life is death. Everything else, you need to work through. In this day and age of easy access to ANYTHING, children need their primary teachers/filters. That’s Mommy AND Daddy. My Grandmother did a damn good job but as you see, there were some quiet assists. I’m grateful for the men that stepped in when needed, but where was my head coach?

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So I DID end up asking a floor staff in a different menswear store about the suspenders. And I boldly took my new found knowledge to the first store because they were $2.00 less there. Now guess who has another option in is growing repertoire of style. THIS GUY. Yet another random man helping me out….

P.S. My sister randomly sent me this one day.

Pregnancy Scare #7; Fearless Mom: Jane Smith

Jane Smith

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Name: Anonymous
Age: 16
Year you graduated high school: Still in high school
Year you found out you were pregnant: 2012
Number of children: 1

The Uh Oh Moment: I was 15 when I found out I was pregnant. I was at school with an old friend in the bathroom; she had brought me the test. [I thought], “This cant be real.” I started laughing because I seriously thought it was a joke.

The Mom Moment: I had a hard time “connecting,” if you will, with the baby while I was pregnant. I had heard so many women talking about how they read to their bellies and how they would feel such a connection and what not. Sad to admit, but I did not feel as if I loved my baby during my pregnancy. There were many reasons for this, but overall it was hard for me to enjoy pregnancy. I never thought of myself as a mom. It wasn’t until the moment I held my son for the first time that I thought “Wow, I’m a mom.” That was the moment it all became real for me.

***Any man can be a father. It takes a real man to be a dad.***

Father/Dad: There is no relationship whatsoever with my son’s father. No contact.

He was supportive. We were trying to work things out in the beginning (we had broken up almost 3 months before I found out I was pregnant. I found out very late). It didn’t work out, but we stayed in touch and talked once in a while. A month before my son was born he decided he would rather choose drugs and partying over seeing his son. So, once the baby came he only saw him a few times for a quick visit and we have had no contact; besides recently dealing with mediation and soon, court.

Them vs. You: I do some things the same as I was raised, but I do many things differently. My son is very much like me, so things that didn’t work with me, I do not do with him (example: spanking) and things that worked with me, I do with him. I appreciate the fact that my parents raised me in the church. I am raising him in the church. He just got dedicated a few weeks ago 🙂 (this past Mother’s Day).

My parents never said anything that was hurtful or harsh. They were very supportive. It helped me greatly that they never said anything negative, because I was hard enough on myself.

Fearful Moment: My lowest moment(s) was the first few months of my son’s life. He was very fussy and never slept. It was very stressful and I was very sick, so it was hard to enjoy my time with my baby, but that didn’t change the love I had for him.

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Fearless Moment: His first step; just because my son was so dependent on me for everything. It made me so proud to see him starting to do something on his own. Before, he wouldn’t even sit down to play with a toy. He was always in my arms.

Support System: My closest friend was shocked, but one of the first things she said was “WE will get through this.” That meant, and stills means the world to me, knowing she will always be by my side through this journey.

We talk all the time and she still tells me the same thing, quite often. She is the person I go to for everything. images

I find my strength in the Lord. Some days it is so hard for me to do anything, but I know that the Lord will carry me through, because he always has. I also find my strength in my son. Everything I do is for him. When I feel like I can’t go on, I think about him and I know I have to finish school and work hard for my baby.

Final thoughts….
Parenting (especially being a single parent, and being this young) is tremendously hard. But it is so rewarding. I have been through a lot and I have completely turned myself around for my son. I am thankful the Lord gave me my boy, because without him I wouldn’t be who I am today. He saved me.

J. Smith hopes to graduate early by the end of this year and plans to go to community college for 2 years and then go on to law school.