Tag Archives: Parenting

Man up. Literally.

Be a father to your child!

I’ve just got to get this off my chest.

I just got off the phone with a friend of mine who dropped a bomb on me about her (now ex-) man and the fact that he allegedly has up to 9 children that he doesn’t take care of (with up to seven different women) or interact with at all.

The madness of her situation made me think about how many other women may be in a similar situation, and the impact this has on the kids.

I watch Maury (I’m ashamed to say, but it’s social commentary), and I’m amazed at all these dudes with 3, 4, 5 (or greater) children, with 2, 3, 4 (or greater) women.

Despite their claims to ‘be in all their kids lives’ I question the veracity of such statements, and the impact these absentee fathers have on their children.

What must it be like to only see your father once in a blue moon (if at all)?

How do you feel when every other kid comes to soccer practice with their dad, and you’ve always only got your mom?

Where do you turn when you hit puberty and have questions about wet dreams or erections?

How do you learn to be a man (or deal appropriately with men), if you have no man to model that behavior for you?

As a father of four, I see how important my interaction with my children is to their development.

I’ve got lots of friends with children, both married and single, and I’ve had the benefit of seeing the great variation in personality, growth and development, which results from parental involvement (and/or the lack thereof).

At the end of the day, children need their parents.

Both parents.

And by ‘both parents’ I mean a positive male and positive female influence in their lives.

But right now, I’m speaking to the men, because women have traditionally been on the front lines rearing children (and should be commended for such hard work).

Men are vital to the development of a child’s self esteem and sense of self.

They are critical to model appropriate behavior with respect to interpersonal relationships with women.

Even if the role is not provided by their biological units, there has to be a man standing ‘in loco parentis.’

It could be a step-father, granddad, legal guardian, uncle, older male cousin, but someone has to be there to provide that balance.

If you’re going to be ‘man’ enough to lay down and make them, man up and raise them when they get here!

‘Nuff said!

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Do Black Parents Slack On Their Parental Responsibility?

Note: This is a guest post by a chronic back-seat blogger. She’s always telling me what to blog about, and I’m always like “If you’ve got so much to say, write it your damn self!” And so, without further adieu (and only the most minor edits)…

Kudos to the Nigerian terrorist’s father for trying to blow up his son’s spot before he did any real damage, even though no one listened to him.

Nutso’s father’s actions got me thinking about the difference between Black and White parents and how they deal with their children’s issues.

Of course, this is a generalization, and I’m not suggesting that my observations apply to all parents of the respective races, but in my experience it’s more the rule than the exception.

It angers me that Black parents aren’t as vociferous about advocating for their children who need help with educational or emotional issues, or act like nothing needs to be addressed with their antisocial, depressed, disturbed or special needs children.

When a White parent has a child with special needs, they form or attend support groups, make sure their children interact with other children who are similarly situated, and fight like marines to make sure their children’s educational needs are met.

If their children show signs of emotional disturbance, they take them to a therapist, seek out the school counselor or do something – anything, proactive.

Our people, on the other hand, act like something is wrong with the person raising the issue about their child’s behavior or issue, rather than address their child’s issues head on.

We don’t want to acknowledge  that anything is wrong and can’t stand the thought of airing our “dirty laundry” in a support group.  Of course it’s not easy to accept that your child is less than “perfect” but I feel that perspective is in the eye of the beholder.

Your children look to you for cues on how to respond and if your response is shame and denial then they will feel and believe that something really awful is wrong with them without you saying a word.

If, instead, you treat them like champions and fight the world for them, then they believe it’s us against the world and even if other people don’t understand or get them, they know their parents and family do.

Culturally, whether we are African–American, Caribbean or African there is a stigma associated with mental illness and disabilities that is pervasive with adults in our community, but  I think it’s unacceptable when it applies to children.

It’s almost a furtherance of our self hatred that is being passed down through the generations. It’s as though parents think  if my parents beat me and ignored my needs then why should my children deserve any better?

Like it’s part of our culture to not address our children’s needs because that is how our parents and grandparents were raised. It’s  a new day and that doesn’t hold water anymore.

Get up on your own counseling first and work out those demons so you can be a better parent. I’m sure we’re all familiar with the imbalanced classification of our children (specifically our boys) as requiring special education.

This over-classification partially goes to the failure of the parents of these children to fight for fair classification, and allowing the school system to take charge, and is partially attributable to blatant racism.

More often than not, there is no correlation between the classification and the educational or economic level of the parents.

I have witnessed professional Black parents with absolutely monsterous, troubled children that make excuses for them or act like their behavior is cute.

These same kids will grow up to be the nut jobs that people will say “we always knew something was wrong with him way back when he was a kid.”

It’s our responsibility to address our children’s issues and fight for their rights at every turn regardless of what other people within our community think.

Why is counseling and therapy something that ‘White people do’ and isn’t considered a viable treatment for helping to heal emotional and mental pain?

So, if your child is depressed because they are ADHD or struggling with autism and are ostracized by other children then he should just suck it up?  How is that helpful?

If the school is trying to classify your child and you haven’t already taken him to see a doctor to diagnose the issue, how can you have an effective dialogue with the teacher?

I don’t have a degree in early childhood education but I can read, I have access to  the internet and a library card, so I research the matter as best as I can, instead of being all “yessum boss” when called in to discuss my child’s needs.

As a parent, I have a ‘challenging’ child, and not only do I fight for her at every turn, but I let everyone know that she is hyper, talkative and energetic before they interact with her.

She has told me that she feels  “wild inside” and I have to deal with her in a very patient, measured way and so do all of her teachers and everyone else that interacts with her.

If she says something rude at a playdate, I make it a point to give that parent permission in advance to reprimand her, so she learns that it’s not acceptable to say every little condescending, tactless comment that comes into her head.

I make sure she feels good about herself without indulging bratty behavior, or turning a blind eye because it’s easier.

When I come across disturbed children (more than just bratty or ill mannered) and I see no action on the parent’s part, I no longer allow our children to interact with them, because that off-the-chain behavior rubs off on other children.

I can’t stand when one of mine comes home sassing me, or asking me why can’t they play video games until their eyes bleed, like so-and-so. Or worse, that this other child said or did something really disturbing and their parents blew it off like “kids will be kids.”

I don’t play that with playdates on home turf.  You can show your little behind all you want when you’re at home, but when you step up in here I demand magic words ( I don’t work for you) and polite demeanor with me and my  children  or you won’t be asked back (they usually comply).

If you’re not going to take care of your kids, who will?  Who’s responsibility is it, the judicial system?

As I said at the outset of this post, ‘Kudos’ to the parents of the Nigerian would-be bomber, for having the guts to alert the authorities to their disturbed child.

More of we, Black parents, need to take a hard look at our own children to make sure we’re getting them the help they need before we have to turn them in.

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Stephen Chukumba says: “I know how Homer Simpson feels”

What No Parent Should Do To Their Child (Unless Adequately Provoked)

What No Parent Should Do To Their Child (Unless Adequately Provoked)

I just came from a 7:45 a.m. appointment with my daughter’s second grade teacher, Mrs. Caldwell, and I can truly say that I know how Homer Simpson feels when he’s trying to choke out his son, Bart.

Last week, we received a note in our daughter’s backpack, requesting a conference with her teacher, and we feared the worst.

For those of you unfamiliar with the ways of the Asha Ming, our eldest daughter is no joke. From the moment she arrived in the world, she let it be known that it was her way or the highway.

We’ve been trying (with limited success) to acclimate her to the ways of civilized society. For example, we’ve tried to teach her that when she’s bored, yelling ‘I’m bored!’ in the middle of class, is not acceptable behavior.

Similarly, if she see’s someone with any type of physical impairment, we’ve tried to teach her that saying ‘What’s wrong with his hand?’ or ‘Why is she walking funny?’ aloud, is also inappropriate.

So it was with great trepidation that we entered Mrs. Caldwell’s class to learn the motivation for the invitation.

Mrs. Caldwell informed us, that (true to form) Asha had shown her ass (figuratively, thank God) in class, and Mrs. Caldwell wanted to know what strategies we employed in the home to address Asha’s extra behavior.

I didn’t feel comfortable telling her that I’ve beaten her like a slave (not really, but I want to), so Chanel and I offered the PC solutions of applying consequences to Asha’s actions, to clearly express our dissatisfaction (when Asha behaved out of line with our expectations).

We told Mrs. C that Asha had to get used to the new environment (of 2nd grade) and that she’ have it together within a few weeks. (My fingers were crossed behind my back when I offered this assurance, and I think Chanel’s were too).

We talked about last year (and in kindergarten, and in pre-school) when we had a similar conference with Asha’s teacher. We came up with strategies that did, in fact, work out well, and Asha excelled, both socially and academically.

We shared some of these strategies with Mrs. C., who took it all in stride.

Ultimately, her teacher wanted us to know that she was looking for effective strategies so that Asha would not have to spend the entire academic year in the principal’s office. I’d be glad if she only spent half of it there. But I dare to dream.

At least everyone says she’s brilliant.  I know that one day Asha Ming will get it together

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Dad’s First Rule of Parenting: Protect the Family

I frequently complain that there is no instruction manual for being a parent. I mean, we all have some innate parenting abilities (baby crying, go to baby) but some parenting skills come more naturally than others.

As I was making sure all the doors and windows were closed and locked last night, it dawned on me that parenting is not about the grand gestures, but the simple things we do: checking the doors and windows before you go to bed at night.

I started thinking about the myriad of little things, that, in the aggregate, truly make us parents: tucking them in to bed, reading stories, playing together. These little events create a rich fabric of experience through which children find themselves and develop.

Children thrive on security, so as I walked my beat, through the house, I came up with the first rule of parenting for dads: protect the family. Do what you’ve got to do to ensure their safety.

This doesn’t mean packing a Smith & Wesson, but it does mean that as parents, we take whatever steps are necessary to keep our physical (and emotional) surroundings free of hazards (both internal and external).

I’m going to compile a list of these little jewels and share them with you from time to time (I know my six readers can’t wait!).

My goal is to be a resource for dads (and moms, but mostly dads) so that the fellas get some parenting guidance too.

BTW Oprah, I’m available for interviews.

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The Best Year of My Life

 

Duran preparing to present her speech on Parallel Universes

Duran preparing to present her speech on Parallel Universes (after she takes a call)

I groan every morning when I get up and get ready for work.  It’s not an audible groan, per se, just an internal ‘here we go again’ groan. It’s not that I don’t enjoy my job either. I work with pleasant young people, and the demands of the day aren’t excessive.

So ‘what’s the problem?’ you ask. Well, I leave so early each morning (6:25 a.m.), and get back so late (7:15 p.m.) that I rarely see my children. They’re still asleep when I leave, and it’s bedtime when I get home. I get a few kisses and hugs before bed.  I might even get in a quick breakdown of the day.  But I’ve usually got to content myself with peeking in on them as they slumber.

I was definitely spoiled by the year I spent “working from home” while wifey brought home the bacon. At the time (my glorious ‘consulting days’), two of my kids were in pre-school and kindergarten, and the baby was at home with me.

It was unquestionably the greatest year of my life. Wifey hated it. But hey, you win some, you lose some. I got bonding time that I would have never had if I’d been working (and that I don’t get now because I am working).

During that year, I developed unique relationships with each of my children.  Asha (aka ‘the Diva’) and I acted and performed plays.  Chima (Pele-in-training) and I played soccer. The baby (‘lil genius) and I engaged in regular discourse on the state of the world.

The impact of that year is felt each time I come home and the kids rush to greet me.  When I’m home on the weekends, the kids are always up underneath me. In fact, I think mommy might be a little jealous of our closeness (hey, what can I say, I’m the shiznit).

I firmly believe that the closeness the kids and I share is a direct result of the time spent at home with them. I get nostalgic pangs, from time-to-time, and wonder what they might be doing at various points of my day. 

I finally understand what parents mean when they say that kids grow so fast.  This fall all my kids will be in school, and it was just yesterday that I was nearly passing out in the delivery room (good times, good times) with the birth of my first (I subsequently got it together for 2 and 3).

If I wouldn’t be perceived as a trifling shiftless Negro, I would happily put wifey back on the track and chill at home with my chillens. But I’d also take a few days telecommuting as an alternative (Ali G?)

Hopefully the kids will still be up when I get home (fingers crossed)…

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Brand Dad

picture-31

Everywhere you look, there’s stuff for moms. Parenting books and magazines, like Parenting and Cookie, are geared towards mothers. Pregnancy books, like the Girlfriend’s Guide to Pregnancy and What To Expect When You’re Expecting, are focused on mothers. Television shows about families, like The Duggars, usually highlight the moms. Mothers have numerous networking and support groups, like Mocha Moms. They even have their own Twitter (TwitterMoms)!  

Resources for moms seem to be everywhere, and are particularly well known. For dads, not so much. I was inspired to write this post because one of my colleagues (a non-parent, I might add) suggested that dads need the same kind of resources and visibility that moms get. What about the dads? Where is the Boyfriend’s Guide to Pregnancy? Where is the dad’s Twitter? Mocha Dads Who is our Oprah?  

I was on a mission. But now that I’ve done some research (albeit superficial research), I see that the premise for writing this post (the lack of resources for dads, and our general second-class-citizenship as parents) is a little inaccurate. We are second-class citizens when it comes parents (moms are still tops), but we are citizens none-the-less.  

While there’s no ‘Boyfriends’ Guide to Pregnancy, there is The ‘Blokes’ Guide to Pregnancy. In fact, there’s also a Twitter Dads and Mocha Dads (a local husbands/spouse/significant other offshoot of the DC chapter of Mocha Moms). Virtually all mommy resources have (some sort of) a daddy compliment to them.

Hmmm…well why don’t I know about all these resources? Why aren’t the resources for dads as well known or publicized as those for moms? (Gotta save face!) For example, with this whole Nadya Suleman octuplets thing, I haven’t seen one interview focused on the challenges dads face raising multiples (and I realize that there is no ‘dad’ per se in the cut). I’m just saying, can we get a sound bite?

Actually, forget a sound bite! We need our own branded (non-offshoot-of-some-better-more-highly-pubicized-mom-version) ish! I want a magazine! I want a television show! I want a convention! All fathers tired of second-class citizenry, rise up! Let your voices be heard! Let us unite for a common purpose–the upliftment of daddies everywhere! Let us throw off the oppressive yoke of parental obscurity!

Ummm…but let’s keep it down…I don’t want the women finding out, stealing our thunder and pimping ‘Brand Mom’ before we get organized.

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