These are my Confessions: Making Friends with your Kid’s Friend’s Parents

birthday partyOne downfall of parenting is the many conversations I have with people I otherwise would never even talk to. Countless times, I have found myself at a birthday party of some kid in Nina’s class, where I was forced to have some of the most mundane, most pedestrian conversations with people I am not remotely interested in getting to know. But, I endure these painstaking chats, in hopes of not making my child a social pariah.

The more I think about it, though, mundane conversations are probably the safest way to go because any conversation on religion and/or politics is certain to create a situation where my child is alienated on the playground.  In the end, though, I always chastise myself for forgetting to take a shot of Jack and for forgetting to sing Public Enemy loudly in my home in preparation for what is certain to take place. (Don’t judge me, I know that I am not alone.)

One time in particular, I remember a woman going on incessantly about how much she misses her husband when he is out of town, because it forces her traipse their children around town all alone to do the necessary shopping. “People must think I’m some poor single woman!” she blurts out before a chuckle. Everyone else lightly chuckles and nods as if they agreed that being a “poor single woman” would be an unfortunate label for the story teller. Meanwhile, the real single mother in the crowd backs away, feeling alienated and wondering what exactly did she mean by “poor.”

Very recently, I took Nina to another birthday party and was hemmed up in another unfortunate conversation. The basketball court in our neighborhood was caught on fire and it melted (don’t ask me what it was made of, I was just as shocked as you). This became the topic of conversation among a few parents. One of the parents said, “Well, you know, there has been a lot of issues on that court. Since they opened, there has been nothing, but . . .” She looked at me and continued, “let’s just say, thugs.”

Did I mention that I am almost always the only black parent at these parties? So, it was clear that she minced her words in my presence. There was talk in the neighborhood of all of the black boys that play on the court since it opened this summer, and that they were not from the neighborhood. This is problematic for a number of reasons: 1.) They could not imagine that these boys were from our neighborhood, when in fact, many were. 2.) They immediately considered the boys seen on the basketball court as thugs. 3.) The picture shown on the news of the suspect who was videoed committing the crime, was indeed a white boy.

The conversation reminded me of my earlier post, “From Don Imus to Zimmerman: Tracing Conversations on Race & Victimization,” that addressed the court’s inability to consider Trayvon Martin as a victim. So, I was boiling hot at the assumptions made by the parent. Luckily for me, the party ended shortly afterward.

So, when your parents tell you all they sacrificed for you: 18 hours of labor, all of the money they contributed to your wardrobe, your violin lessons, dance classes, gymnastic classes, cheer leading uniforms, etc., be certain to add all of the countless times they were forced to engage in some of the most pedestrian, oftentimes obnoxious and offensive conversations with people they would otherwise never talk to.

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These are my Confessions: Making Friends with your Kid’s Friend’s Parents

birthday partyOne downfall of parenting is the many conversations I have with people I otherwise would never even talk to. Countless times, I have found myself at a birthday party of some kid in Nina’s class, where I was forced to have some of the most mundane, most pedestrian conversations with people I am not remotely interested in getting to know. But, I endure these painstaking chats, in hopes of not making my child a social pariah.

The more I think about it, though, mundane conversations are probably the safest way to go because any conversation on religion and/or politics is certain to create a situation where my child is alienated on the playground.  In the end, though, I always chastise myself for forgetting to take a shot of Jack and for forgetting to sing Public Enemy loudly in my home in preparation for what is certain to take place. (Don’t judge me, I know that I am not alone.)

One time in particular, I remember a woman going on incessantly about how much she misses her husband when he is out of town, because it forces her traipse their children around town all alone to do the necessary shopping. “People must think I’m some poor single woman!” she blurts out before a chuckle. Everyone else lightly chuckles and nods as if they agreed that being a “poor single woman” would be an unfortunate label for the story teller. Meanwhile, the real single mother in the crowd backs away, feeling alienated and wondering what exactly did she mean by “poor.”

Very recently, I took Nina to another birthday party and was hemmed up in another unfortunate conversation. The basketball court in our neighborhood was caught on fire and it melted (don’t ask me what it was made of, I was just as shocked as you). This became the topic of conversation among a few parents. One of the parents said, “Well, you know, there has been a lot of issues on that court. Since they opened, there has been nothing, but . . .” She looked at me and continued, “let’s just say, thugs.”

Did I mention that I am almost always the only black parent at these parties? So, it was clear that she minced her words in my presence. There was talk in the neighborhood of all of the black boys that play on the court since it opened this summer, and that they were not from the neighborhood. This is problematic for a number of reasons: 1.) They could not imagine that these boys were from our neighborhood, when in fact, many were. 2.) They immediately considered the boys seen on the basketball court as thugs. 3.) The picture shown on the news of the suspect who was videoed committing the crime, was indeed a white boy.

The conversation reminded me of my earlier post, “From Don Imus to Zimmerman: Tracing Conversations on Race & Victimization,” that addressed the court’s inability to consider Trayvon Martin as a victim. So, I was boiling hot at the assumptions made by the parent. Luckily for me, the party ended shortly afterward.

So, when your parents tell you all they sacrificed for you: 18 hours of labor, all of the money they contributed to your wardrobe, your violin lessons, dance classes, gymnastic classes, cheer leading uniforms, etc., be certain to add all of the countless times they were forced to engage in some of the most pedestrian, oftentimes obnoxious and offensive conversations with people they would otherwise never talk to.

The Good, The Bad, and The Hebetudinous!

Somewhere between “Mama” and “actually mommy” my five year old developed a pretty decent vocabulary. I never used “baby talk” when speaking to her and was often accused of talking to her as if she were an adult. So, she happens to be my favorite conversationalist.

I became perplexed last year, her Kindergarten year, when she began to chastise me for using bad words. Each time I used what she would describe as a bad word, she would let out a resounding, “awwwwwwwwwww, mommy, you sad a bad word!”

I was confused!

First, I was confused because I knew for certain that I had not said sh*t, d*mn, b*tch, or the mother of them all around her, so I had no idea what I could have possibly said. To my pumpkin, “bad words” were determined to be “dumb” and “stupid.” To my credit, I was pretty proud of myself that my little darling’s world of “bad words” were limited to “dumb” and “stupid.”

Let’s face it: many of us worry that they’ll pick up a word we say when we stump our toe or get stuck in morning traffic, dropping off our kid and the crossing guard puts that hand out just before s/he gets to you, making you late! At that very moment, all you think is, “Ain’t this a b*tch!!! I have to get out of the car and sign her in to school on the one day that I did not brush my teeth or comb my hair because I thought I would be right back!!” You look in the mirror and notice lint in your fro and a Fruit Loop stuck to your forehead. On days like this, you are liable to say anything.

Anyway, my point is that, I am thankful that her definition of bad words are limited to “dumb” and “stupid”, but if we are looking for a culprit to the usage of these two words, I am guilty as charged! I never call people stupid (around her), but I am always calling things and ideas stupid . . . always. I do not use stupid for lack of a well-rounded education. I use stupid because that is the most polite word I can come up with.

The second reason I was perplexed is because, while I always call things dumb or stupid, I limit my usage of the words “good” or “bad” as much as possible. I seldom attribute the label good or bad to words when engaging her in conversation, well, because . . . what the hell does that mean?

Should there be a word that I don’t want my daughter to use, I would simply say that the words she is using is inappropriate. For me, that is easier to explain. It allows me the opportunity to introduce context when necessary. I can easily say that thus word is appropriate to say at home, but not school. For me, not only is “bad” vague, but it is also subjective and more difficult to challenge in a disagreement.

Should she call someone stupid, we could discuss being impolite, rude, mean or obnoxious and how obnoxious kids are generally disliked by other kids. No one wants to play with a mean kid. For me, that conversation means more to a child. They learn exactly why the word is problematic and the ramifications of using it. What would she learn if I simply tell her that “stupid” is a bad word? She would only learn to avoid saying that word around me.

Once, Nina was playing with something that she shouldn’t have played with and I was so busy that I didn’t engage her. I simply told her to stop playing with it. A month or so later, she played with the same item again, but this time I had more time and told her the dangers of playing with that item. Her response: I wish you had told me before why you didn’t want me to play with it. I wish parents could tell kids everything so that we would know what was dangerous.”

How astute, I thought. Although I know that it is impossible to tell her all that she needs to know at once, I do know the importance of telling her why because the “why” is very much a part of the learning process. One remembers the reason they need to “look both ways before crossing the street is because they could get hit by a car” much better than if you simply tell them “don’t walk across the street without looking both ways.”

So, I have learned a couple of things from this exercise:

1. When engaging my child, the “why” is an important aspect of the learning process.

2. To substitute the word “hebetudinous” each time I want to call someone/some thing stupid.

Noticing the Daisies: Lessons from a Five Year Old

daisiesMy five year old, who I will call Nina, has a busy schedule. Within a calendar year, she takes dance, gymnastics, and swimming. She also plays soccer.

At five, she is fearless in trying new activities. She always gives each activity 100%, has a great time while doing them, and is determined to meet new friends. She never worries that she looks silly–she is silly at the appropriate times and is unapologetic about it.

There are a bunch of other activities that she enjoys. She writes books, for example, where she asks me to staple pages together. Once, she decorated a piece of cardboard by coloring it and placing a blue ribbon on it. She then placed the cardboard on top of the pages where she wrote her story and asked me to staple it together. That work of creativity was the cover of her book.

She is also a singer, writer, and composer who creates songs that sometimes make absolutely no sense to me, but songs that are always funny. My favorite song is “Sparkly Doodie.” It’s about a Princess who ate glitter and poops sparkles. That is both clever and hilarious! (And, the tune is catchy.)

The other night when I put her to sleep, she threw what I thought was her normal before bedtime fit, where she tried everything in the Kid’s Book of Avoiding Bedtime to stay awake. This night was different, though. On this particular night, Nina did not ask for another drink of water or one more goodnight-kiss from daddy. She did not beg for the opportunity to re-brush her teeth or watch another episode of Doc McStuffins. This time, Nina argued that she had not been given a chance to write ALL day. “Mommy,” she cried. “I cannot go to bed before I write!”

Now, that was music to a writer-mama’s ears. This night, I gave in to her desires to stay up simply because she was staying up to write. After all, I, too, know how important it is to sort things out in my head through the motion of putting pen to paper.

The lessons I have learned from my 5 year old:

1. Try absolutely EVERYTHING, and have a good spirit as you do.

2. Always give 100% and have all of the fun that you can possibly have while doing it.

3. Be open to meeting new people; it makes participating in the activity even more exciting.

4. Do what makes you feel good as much as possible. It keeps a smile on your face.

5. Don’t lay your head on your pillow without haven written something for the day.

kids playing soccerWhen my husband suggested that Nina play soccer, I insisted that she wouldn’t be interested. She is a Princess and loves “Princess Things!” This child refuses to walk down the stairs in the morning for breakfast until she is has on her princess dress and tiara. Surely, she would be on the soccer field picking daisies.

I was wrong. I had a limited view of princesses, particularly my princess.

So, her first soccer game was finally here. She played well; she stayed in the game and was very focused. When we left, she noticed some flowers outside of the sports complex. “Look at the beautiful flowers mommy!” She then proceeded to pick them, never thinking that playing soccer and enjoying flowers had to be mutually exclusive activities.

The most important lesson I learned from my five year old: Doing the things that interest you most doesn’t have to be in conflict with each other when you have fallen in love with all you are doing.